Saturday, December 29, 2012

It's not about power (Holy Family homily)

That second reading--about husbands and wives--
sometimes bothers people.

Now, everyone can relax--
I’m not going to advocate anyone having power over others.
Because that’s not what Paul is advocating.

You can’t understand what Paul is saying, 
without remembering that for him, 
it’s all about the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And, in fact, when Paul addresses husbands and wives elsewhere, 
he says, point blank, submit to one another “out of reverence for Christ.”

Paul understood as well as anyone that our sinfulness 
leads us to put our ego out there, to lack trust, and so to grasp for power.

So when Paul talks about putting Christ in control, 
and being crucified with Christ, 
he’s driving a stake through the heart of that grasping power-trip.

When he became a man, and when people wanted Jesus to take control--
and he, of course, is the Creator!--what did he say?
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve--
and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

OK, I think we can agree, no one is supposed to be a dictator--
but that doesn’t mean we don’t need parents, 
especially fathers, to be leaders.

Especially spiritual leaders.

Fathers, your spiritual leadership--at Mass on Sunday, 
and in the home during the week--is so important. 
Not only by setting an example: 
your children will learn how to pray mostly from their parents.
But even more, by being a leader who is, himself, “under authority.”

Now, last night someone noticed 
I mostly talked about spiritual leadership from men--
and he asked why. 
And my answer is, our mothers have been 
providing that leadership. 
But what’s needed is more men to do so. 
(Added after the Saturday evening Mass.)

If I can speak to the men here for a moment.
Do you know why it is so critical that we’re here every Sunday?
Why we desperately need to learn about Jesus, and to learn from him?

There is no stronger man I can point to.
He knew what he came to do. He never flinched.
Even when his friends lost their nerve, not him.

He endured hours of torture. And he chose that. 
He refused every escape.

A man of peace who was no weakling.

Now here’s the thing.

Show me anywhere else our society gives us anything like this?
Every other example of manhood in our society falls short!

Everywhere else, we’re told to seek comfort, to seek pleasure, 
to seek power, to seek adventure; 
yes, to seek challenge, but above all, to keep control.

Our culture tells men either to be thugs or con-men or wimps.

Only in Jesus Christ do we have someone really worth following. 
And only then will we--as men or women, children or adults--
deserve to have anyone follow us.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Making Egg Nog...

I'm having some of the seminarians over, and I'm making egg nog.

I long ago misplaced my mother's recipe, which I kind of remember, but I can't recall exactly. It wasn't complicated. So every time I make this, I find a recipe that is similar, and go with that.

Today I found Martha Stewart's--and despite what you might expect, it's not complicated; it's the same basic recipe, with three notable divergences: first, it called for the liquor to be added after the milk and cream, not before. I distinctly recall mom saying you add the liquor, slowly, to "cook" the eggs (which are raw); and the milk and cream goes in next.

Martha suggested a mixture of rum, cognac and bourbon, whereas I always just used bourbon, so I went with her mixture. It seemed like a lot more than I remember using, but hey! It's from Martha Stewart! She's not Catholic, as far as I know, but more of a Wasp-y type, so surely she wouldn't be too boozy?

The second divergence was that she suggested waiting until just before serving it, before whipping up the egg whites. That's a good idea; because when you whip up and stir in the whites, it all separates while it chills, then you break it up again. This way, it won't have time to separate again.

The third variance was her suggestion of adding a bit of whipped cream as well. I'll try that too.

It's supposed to be enough for 13 people, but I doubt it will go that far. We've got six folks over, and I think it'll disappear rapidly. We'll see.

If you're wondering what else we're eating, one of the seminarians--who likes to cook and can't in the seminary--will be making some pork loin and broccoli and acorn squash soup.

We're going to eat well on the Fourth Day of Christmas!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

How does giving up on Christ help? (Christmas homily)

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we all notice the lights. 
House after house. Shopping malls and offices. Everyone puts up lights. 

On the radio I heard about an extravaganza in New Jersey 
featuring “synchronized lights, lasers, fog machines, strobe lights, 20-foot flames.” 
And, of course, pounding music as the soundtrack! It’s all lots of fun. 
Some of it is marketing; not all. But does it have much to do with Christmas? 

There are two things at work worth contemplating. 

 First, there is something here that has little to do with the intellect or a conscious act of faith. 

When I was in the seminary, I spent a year as an intern at a parish up north. 
And while there, I spent a lot of time teaching lessons to children of various ages. 
One time, the principal asked me to explain our beliefs about Mary to a group of first-graders. 
So picture that: I’m a theology student--no kids! 
And I’m trying to explain the Virgin Birth to 6 year olds. 
How do I do that? 

Here’s what I did: I created a skit. 
One child was Mary; one child was Gabriel, 
coming to tell her that God wanted her to give birth to Jesus. 
And one child was supposed to be Jesus, waiting to see what Mary would do. 
With a lot of coaching, I had Gabriel say his few lines, 
and Mary gave her “Yes, I’ll help with God’s plan!” 

But the best part--that involved no lines at all-- was what the child playing Jesus did. 
He was told to react--without words. 
And that 6-year-old jumped and jumped for joy! 
The mature reflection and grasp of Faith would come later. 
But long before that there is a profound experience of joy. 

Second, there’s something curious: 
lots of people celebrate Christmas, 
without much conscious attachment to the Faith. 

As Christians, we know it’s more than a baby; 
The baby became a man; and the shadow of the Cross was always there. 
For folks who don’t observe the faith, it’s not hard to skip over Good Friday; 
yet not too many people skip Christmas. 
They put up the lights, even if, for them, it’s not about His Light. 

So what’s going on? 
Is it possible there’s something deep at work? 
Of course there is--that’s obvious. 
What’s not so obvious--at least to everyone--is whether it’s God. 

You see, the act of Faith isn’t that easy. 
The problem is plain: if there is a God, 
why does He show up on this Day, 
when there are plenty of other days he seems absent? 

I. Don’t. Know. 

But putting out the lights doesn’t seem to be an answer. 

And if we say, “because there’s so much evil, I can’t see how there can be a God”--
Let’s take that one more step: “Therefore, there is no God”--
but you still have evil. 
How has giving up on God helped? 
It’s just putting out the lights. 

I don’t know why God waits--but I know he’s waited for me. 
I’m an ordinary man, not great either in virtue or vice--
but there are things I needed him to forgive, and he waited for me to ask. 
I have taken a lot wrong roads--he always offered a way; 
and he waited patiently for me to take it. 

And when I was ready, he was waiting, in a church in Virginia, 
in a priest hearing confessions. 
I thought: how long would it take, to go to confession after ten years? 
Not so long; no so bad! Not hard at all! 

I say that, as the one--then--seeking to be reconciled with my Faith; 
And I say it now, as a priest who gives God’s response of forgiveness. 
It’s not hard at all! 
The hardest thing was my head! And my pride. 

There is great darkness at work in the world. 
It is horrible and yet it draws. I don’t know why. 
But I can’t see how giving up on the light of Christ helps.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Too little...but not too late! (Homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent)

Bethlehem was too small.
Elizabeth was too old.
And everyone involved was poor.

A lot of times, it seems as though what Christianity preaches is conformity.
And folks who don’t fit in well,
stay away because they expect they won’t fit in with us.

Like all stereotypes, there’s some truth to this.
There has always been the temptation to worship God for the wrong reasons.
Sometimes we think of religion as a kind of insurance policy.
If I do the right things, God will reward me.
So, when bad things happen, it calls the whole thing into question:
what did I do wrong?

This is what the Book of Job, in the Bible, is about.
Job figured that wealth and prosperity
were what he got in exchange for drawing close to God.
Only after he lost all those other blessings
did he understand that what he got for drawing close to God…
was God himself!

Our goal in sharing our Faith isn’t that those who join us here
come to be more like us;
But to be like Jesus Christ!

If our Savior walked into our church this morning,
I don’t believe he would have purple-streaked hair, or earrings, or tattoos.
But the people coming in with him might!

Now it is true that we Catholics make bold claims:
God spoke to us; God said, this is how to live.
It’s not because we are so close to God--
but because God chose to come so close to us.

Every time someone says, “this is too much!”
We remember Him who said, “Take up your cross.”
And when someone says, “you Catholics don’t live it!”
We admit it, remembering the sinner who begs for mercy, is us.

Yes, we are very bold to say that Christ invites us
to live by values that are cattywumpus to the values of our world.

Guess what, Christians: we are the misfits!

We believe in law and justice--but never vengeance.
We aren’t communists: wealth and individual freedom are good;
but we aren’t soulless capitalists, either: we don’t worship the Dollar,
And the marketplace doesn’t solve everything.

We enjoy the good things of life: wine, women and song!
When we do penance, we don’t give up bad things, but good things:
chocolate, meat, movies and beer.
They’re so good—because they reflect God’s goodness—
that we may be tempted to love them…too much.

In a world that worships power, popularity and success—
And we Christians bow down to them, too!—
We need to come to Mass each Sunday and holy day
to humble ourselves before a God who was humiliated, cast out, and killed!
So for all the folks who are too young, too old,
Too many sins, too many scars,
Too many failures, too many burnt bridges,
Too late…

Christmas—and Christ—is for you.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

'Baptized in the Holy Spirit' (Sunday homily)

John the Baptist says that Jesus will baptize us
“with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
What does this mean?

Well, consider first that the word, in Greek, means to wash or to immerse.
When John was baptizing, he was using an existing Jewish ritual called mikvah.
In that ritual, the person had to be completely immersed in water.

So to be baptized in the Holy Spirit
is to be drenched and completely soaked with the Holy Ghost.
That’s what Jesus offers us.
That’s where true joy comes from.

One of the temptations we face is to tame God.
We like being in control.
If we show up for a meeting, for an event, for Mass,
we want to know what will happen, and how long it will take.
We want to know exactly what’s going on.

Well, the thing is, God won’t force himself on anyone.
But if we were really willing
to yield control to the Holy Spirit, what might happen?
For you? I don’t know. But for me, I admit it makes me a little nervous.
Now, in the end, we’ll get that immersion: that’s what Heaven is.
If we want to go to Heaven, the Holy Spirit wins.
It seems to me that a lot of my struggles in life
are that tug-of-war between the Holy Spirit and my own will.

I’ve noticed, when you go to restaurants and order an unfamiliar wine,
sometimes they’ll bring a little for you to taste.

The Holy Spirit does that, too.
That’s a way to think about the sacrament of confession.
We first received the Holy Spirit in baptism—
but when we break our baptismal covenant through sin,
we renew it in confession.

A reminder: we have a penance service
at Saint Rose Monday, December 17, at 7 pm.
Also, I hear confessions here at Saint Rose
on Friday and Saturday mornings at 11 am.

And, how about this?
On Christmas Eve, I'll hear confessions before the Masses,
starting at 2 pm.

Give it a try. Take a sip!
You might find you like the Wine of the Holy Spirit.
Drink all you want!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Our Lady of Guadalupe (homily)

There are so many things to say about this feast.

First, let’s talk about what happened on this day in AD 1531, 481 years ago.
Mary appeared to an ordinary person, 
who was, in turn, sent to the powerful, who didn’t believe the message. 

How often that is how it works! 
Think of Joan of Arc, or Bernadette at Lourdes, 
the three children at Fatima, or Gideon in the Bible, 
or Mary and Joseph themselves.

How about you? Have you ever had someone come to you,
Who maybe didn’t dress or speak well, who seemed…a little off?

Second, let’s talk about the image of our Lady of Guadelupe.

So much has been written on this, 
and I encourage you to read more about it. 

The image appeared on the cloak that Juan Diego was wearing; 
he had used it to gather up roses he found on the hill--
just as Mary said he would. 
When he came to the bishop--who asked for a sign!--
he unfolded his cloak, and there it was!

That image is on display in Mexico City. I’ve seen it.

She stands on a moon which seems to be made of snake-skin. 
That seems odd to us; however, in Juan Diego’s time, 
Mexico was under the influence of Aztec worship--of a serpent. 
That worship involved human sacrifice.

We in North America, almost 500 years later, 
see a fascinating image of our Lady. 
But the people of Mexico saw much more.

They saw God telling them they were valuable to Him.
They saw Mary, not as a European, but as someone of mixed-race.
They saw a message to reject paganism and embrace Christ.

I visited Mexico in 2008, and I was there on this feast.
It’s very hard to explain how important this event 
is to the people of Mexico.

Which leads to a final point. 
Why did our bishops make this a feast day? 
Neither Fatima or Lourdes are ranked as high as this day.

Our bishops are calling us to see ourselves 
in solidarity with the rest of the people of North and South America.

So often, those of us whose ancestors were European, or African, 
look at the people of Central and South America 
as very different people from us. Too often, we look down on them.

But we might remind ourselves that this key miracle 
didn’t happen in the United States.
God chose Mexico. Long before any settlements happened up here.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Baruch says, get up! John says, go to confession! (Sunday homily)

We heard from the Prophet Baruch today.

Baruch was an associate of the Prophet Jeremiah.
Along with Jeremiah, he saw God’s People taken into captivity.
Everything was in ruins, including God’s Temple.

So when Baruch talks “mourning and misery,”
that’s what he’s talking about.
When he says to look up and rejoice, he knew that wasn’t easy to do.

This isn’t a joyful time for everyone.
If we’ve lost someone we love, or if our economic situation is bad,
it can be hard to be festive.

I often think of how, as a boy,
we always expected there would be presents under the tree;
and there always were.
Looking back, I marvel at the sacrifices my parents made
so we kids wouldn’t have a sad Christmas.

And then I think of parents who have to see their children not have what I had.
Out of work. Powerless. It breaks my heart.

So here’s a thought. If this is a tough time for you, know you’re not alone.

Second, if God has given you the means to help others,
Maybe help some of those families I described?
Knowing you helped lift someone else’s suffering
Is a pretty nice way to feel good, when you don’t feel good.

Something else occurred to me as I thought about Baruch.
I thought about it, this past week, after going to confession.

You do realize we priests need to go to confession too?

And I’ll confess something else, here: I was slow in getting there.
Yes—I make excuses too!

But the sacrament always works!
Having God remind me that his mercy is always greater
than the force of my sinful habits never fails to lift me up with hope.

There are folks running around to get “highs” from all kinds of stuff,
and this is free! No bad side effects!

I’ll tell you what I heard another priest told his parishioners.
If you want to give a present to a priest, go to confession!
I can’t tell you what a joy it is, especially—especially!—
when someone says, “It’s been a long time…”

To be a Christian is to have Christ be born in your heart.
And yet we know—we go back on the invitation.
We become like the inn-keeper who says, “no—no room.”
How sad and dispiriting is that guilt we feel.

Let it go! Rise up! Get up! Be filled with the glory of God!

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Little Christmas

Last night, after the Vigil Mass for the Immaculate Conception, I was reflecting on how this great feast fits in with the Advent and Christmas season. Of course, many get confused about just whose conception is being celebrated; and December 8 seems like a good time for many to put out lights or put up Christmas trees. Last night, I surprised our veteran altar server-cum-sacristan when I opted for a gold vestment, instead of a white one. But these are Marian vestments, he said; I said, nothing is too good for our Lady!

This feast is something like a "little Christmas"--even in the readings, and prayers for the day. Consider this quote from Saint Anselm, which is part of the liturgy of the hours for today:
"The universe rejoices with new and indefinable loveliness. Not only does it feel the unseen presence of God himself, its Creator, it sees him openly, working and making it holy. These great blessings spring from the blessed fruit of Mary’s womb."

So, even though we aren't directly celebrating the birth--or even the conception--of our Lord, yet this is a feast directly tied to it.

It got me thinking about something else we do this time of year. We anticipate Christmas for several weeks--we can't wait for it, and increasingly, we don't. As a result, Advent kind of gets swamped by ever-earlier celebrations of Christmas.

Not that I'm endorsing that; but in a sense, that's what happens when we celebrate this feast: and in a way, that's what we are celebrating. The glory of Christ is so great, that it shines out in all directions--even in time; so that the glory of the Incarnation shines backward in time, to the first instant of Mary's conception. The brilliant light of the Logos completely filled our Lady, so that no moment of her life was left in shadow.

Well, I'll have to continue these thoughts in the confessional! Merry (Little) Christmas!

Friday, December 07, 2012

'Our tainted nature's solitary boast' (Immaculate Conception homily)

Before going any further, I want to explain something very clearly,
because I know many people get mixed up about this.

Today, the “Immaculate Conception,” is not the conception of Jesus, our Lord.
Nine months before Christmas is March 25—the Annunciation.
That’s when we mark the conception of Jesus.

Today is Mary’s conception. Nine months before she was born.
Her birthday is September 8. Go back nine months brings us to December 8: today.

Now, the Gospel reading is confusing, because it talks about the conception of Jesus.
There’s a reason for the readings we have.
The first reading is “problem”; the Gospel is “solution.”
The first reading describes how the first Eve—with Adam, chose to reject God’s way.
The Gospel, shows the new Eve doing what the first Eve should have.
No becomes yes; sin yields to grace.

OK, but what is this “immaculate conception”?
God had long prepared for this moment.
The Old Testament is filled with foreshadowings, including the first reading:
The offspring of Eve would one day defeat the enemy.

Part of God’s plan was to prepare Mary to cooperate fully in his plan.
She still came into existence through the love of her parents, Joachim and Anne.
But what God did was to protect her, at that first instant,
from the flaw we all have, of being prone to sin.
Mary was without sin: hence, “immaculate.”

Now, several questions arise.

First, how do we know this is true?

We know it’s true because Christians have always believed it.
From the beginning, Mary was known as the “all holy” one.

We know it’s true because Scripture supports it.
Notice what the Gospel says: “full of grace.” Not mostly full, but FULL.
To be full of grace is to be exactly what Adam and Eve were, before they sinned.
To be full of grace is the antithesis of sin; it is to be full of God; full of Life.

And we believe it because it’s fitting.
Which brings us to another question we might ask:
Why would God do it this way?

Because it’s fitting that the Mother of God
should be truly free when she responds to God’s Plan.

It was fitting that she not be under the power of evil to even the slightest degree.

And it is fitting that her “yes” to God’s Plan should bring with it such a suitable gift from God.
What gift would God give her? What gift could be better?

Finally, we might ask, OK, so what does it mean to us?

Mary is the first, not the only. She is not over us; she’s ahead of us.
She is, as the poet said, “our tainted nature’s solitary boast!”
She shows us what God will do in us—if only we say “yes.”

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Things that happen downtown on a short walk for lunch

At the Archdiocese, we either bring our lunch or go out for it. If there's an executive dining room, I haven't been invited yet. So I walked down to a place I'd passed many times, called "The Orient: Chinese-Vietnamese Food." I looked for "Pho," which is Vietnamese noodle soup; it was listed as "noodles." It's cooling now.

Walking back, I saw this old message painted on the side of a building:

THE Dennison Hotel (just that way--with the "the" all caps and italics--so there would be no confusion)...

And under that, this appealing information:

"105 rooms -- 60 baths."

A few moments later, I walked by a parking garage. The attendant was standing in front, and he asked me to stop. "Do you know a woman named Sue Jones (it was a very distinctive name, which is omitted for obvious reasons)?"

"I'm sorry, say that again please?"

"Sue Jones--do you know her?"

"; why would I?"

"Well, I've seen her around with one of you guys--a reverend."

"Well, I'm sorry, I don't know that name."

Time to eat my Pho; it's still pretty hot, though...

Sunday, December 02, 2012

The ox and the ass...

A few weeks ago, the media made a fuss over the Holy Father pointing out, in his latest book about our Lord, that there is no mention in the Gospel of animals being present for the birth of our Lord.

Oh! Crisis! We shouldn't have animals in our nativity scenes! So said the pope!


He's just pointing out, accurately, that the Gospels aren't the source for this. So what is?

Here's the first reading for the first Office of Readings for Advent--that is, for today:

(From the beginning of the book of the prophet Isaiah...)

The vision which Isaiah, son of Amoz, 
had concerning Judah and Jerusalem 
in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. 
Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth, for the Lord speaks: 
Sons have I raised and reared, but they have disowned me! 
An ox knows its owner, and an ass, its master’s manger
But Israel does not know, my people has not understood.

P.S. If you google "Nativity ox ass" you will see plenty of classic depictions of this from the treasury of Western art. However, you may get a prompt that I got: warning, this search may return adult content"! In my case, it did not, but fair warning!

Happy Anniversary to the new translation of the Mass!

Well, the new translation of the Mass is no longer quite so new. It's been one year since we started using it. When the Church in the U.S. was gearing up for it, many who opposed it were predicting dire consequences--none of which transpired. I particularly recall the predictions that the first Christmas, with the new translation, would be disastrous, because the return of "C&E Catholics" (who wouldn't have heard all the instructions the regulars had) would bring pandemonium.

None of that happened; the sky didn't fall, and folks are continuing to come to Mass. Some folks--such as me!--are still using helps for the Gloria and the Creed, but life goes on.

Now, let me acknowledge that the new translation isn't perfect. There are certainly some ways it could be worded better. If ever anyone in charge of such things calls (I'm not sitting by the phone), I'll be ready to offer some suggestions.

And, it is true that the prayers the priest prays are worded in a more complicated way. The reason is that the underlying Latin sentences are expressing complex thoughts. While there is a way to break up these Latin sentences into multiple English sentences--it's not hard--it also breaks up the thought. And this is an opportunity to reflect: is that really necessary? Is it wise?

After all, any priest who wishes can preach on a particular prayer, and explain the content of it. I've certainly made use of some of the Mass prayers in my homilies this past year. The prayers, being richer in content, lend themselves better to that now.

But let's acknowledge that the sentence structure is complicated. In fact, the bishops chose an expediency that I don't quite approve of; however, it was a concession in view of this complexity. Many of the prayers insert a period near the end, rendering a concluding sentence that frequently goes like this: "Through Christ our Lord" or "Who lives and reigns forever and ever."

Those are not proper English sentences; they are fragments.

But what I think is happening is that the period is functioning as a semi-colon; and it's being used, instead, so as to facilitate proclamation of the texts, for those priests who struggle with carrying through a very lengthy sentence the right emphases for subject and verb. Here's an example...

Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming,
so that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

Now, without diagramming the sentence--which is too much work and this is a day of rest!--I will simply highlight the underlying structure of the sentence:

Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming,
so that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom;
through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

OK, let's re-arrange it to simplify it:

God, grant your faithful the resolve to meet Christ at his coming,
so that they may possess the kingdom through Jesus your Son...etc.

Now, don't misunderstand: I'm not suggesting that the omitted words don't matter; I'm simply using a simpler way to show the basic structure of the sentence. But go back to it now, and try reading the prayer aloud, giving emphasis to the bolded terms; and notice I changed the period to a semi-colon.

Does that work better? It does for me at least.

Here's another example. This prayer is used at every Mass, so I've had lots of time to think about it.

Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your Apostles:
Peace I leave you, my peace I give you;
look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church,
and graciously grant her peace and unity in accordance with your will.
Who live and reign for ever and ever.

Now, at first this prayer's wording bothered me, well before I got to the fragment at the end. But praying it day by day, I figured out what it's saying, and thus how to proclaim it. Let's see if some playing around with the word-order or the punctuation, I can show you what I saw.

Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your Apostles, "Peace I leave you, my peace I give you":
Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church,
and graciously grant her peace and unity in accordance with your will.
Who live and reign for ever and ever.

Let's re-word it for clarity:

Lord Jesus Christ (who said thus-and-so), don't look at our sins, but at our faith, and grant your Church peace and unity according to your will...

Whoops, what about that last part? How do you fit it in?

Well, in reality, if this idea were originating in English, I don't think we'd ever end up with this sort of sentence; we don't say things this way. But Latin-speakers did. What's happening is this: a statement about the Lord--who is mentioned right up front--is being saved all the way to the end. We just don't do that in English; it's too complicated a sentence. So how might we write it, if we composed this in English?

Maybe this way:

Lord Jesus Christ--you live and reign forever and ever!
You said to your Apostles, "Peace I leave you, my peace I give you";
Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church,
and graciously grant her peace and unity in accordance with your will.

Now, maybe that would have been better in one regard, but it makes the prayer awkward in another way; I suspect that by putting the flourish of "forever and ever" up front, the idea being expressed--the actual thing being asked for--is not highlighted. One advantage of concluding with, "who live and reign forever and ever" is to emphasize that all things originate in our Lord, all things happen in him, and are complete in him. He is the first and the last, the beginning and the end. The old translation would frequently say, "for you live and reign forever and ever"--and, while others who are more expert in this area may have some good arguments to add here and correct me, I think that was a reasonable way to handle this.

But it's not the end of the world. One advantage of the new prayers is that, while they are chock full of content, they are expressed with a certain economy of words. Some of the awkwardness could be fixed by starting new sentences that refer to ideas expressed in the prior sentence; and the prayers could conclude--as they often did in the old translation--with, "We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ..." etc. Again, that "we ask this" wasn't itself a terrible feature of the old prayers, but in adding some clarity and flow, it flattens the grandeur of the statement somewhat.

I am finding that if I spend some time thinking about the prayers before proclaiming them--and in the case of those I use daily, I am thinking about them while I proclaim them--then the idea being expressed becomes clear. No question, some of the ideas are complex--but that's the nature of the Roman Mass.

Remember: these are the prayers that were produced by those directed by Pope Paul VI to carry out the reforms called for at the Second Vatican Council. This point cannot be stressed too much: translating these prayers accurately means accurately implementing the Council's plans. The "concilium" of experts who did all this work could, after all, have restructured the prayers more than they did; they chose not to. Shouldn't we respect their work?

Meanwhile, I think there is so much more meaning and clarity in the new translation that these adjustments are well worth it.

Get ready! (Sunday homily)

One of hardest things for many of us to say is four little words:
“I do not know.”

On the other hand, the Lord gives us some things to which we can say, 
“I do know”:

We don’t know how the economy will go next year--
but we do know where our treasure will not rot or be stolen--
and that’s in heaven.

We don’t know when this world will be put right--
but we do know the one thing that will put it right: 
and that is the law of Christ, no one else.

We don’t know when the end of the world will come--
But we do know that it will.
And when it does, we’ll be face-to-face with God.
That is a 100% certain. 

So here’s an easy way to handle it: be ready!

There’s nothing like a good confession to take your worries away.
We have confessions here Fridays and Saturdays,11 to Noon.
We’ll have a Penance Service Monday, December 17, 7 pm, here.

Here’s another way to be ready.

This time of year, 
a lot of folks think about their spiritual lives and take stock.
As you may recall, this December, we’ll see some ads on TV, 
encouraging Catholics, especially those who maybe aren’t very active,
“to come home.”

You might recall that we took up a collection to help pay for these ads.

So now, here’s my question: if someone you know sees these ads--
and wants to respond--will you be ready?

A lot of those folks will never call me--they’ll call you. 
They know you; they know you go to Mass.
They’ll ask you, “what’s this about?”
They might even say, “I don’t know how to get back into church.”

Here’s how you can be ready for that question:

> If someone says, “how do I get back?” 
Tell them, it’s easy; go see the priest, go to confession. Easy!

> If someone says, yes, but it’s complicated. Tell them: 
all the more reason to call the priest. 

> If someone says, I don’t really know anyone at my parish. 
Tell them, “you know me. Would you like to come with me?”

Don’t just tell them, “go to confession”; 
how about, “I’ll go with you”?

Now, I know what you’re going to say:
“Well…but…I’m pretty rusty.”
Don’t worry about it. 
This is what’s so great about confession.
You could show up and just stare--
because you really don’t know what to do--so you just stare!
Don’t worry--the priest will know what to do.

Don’t worry: just get ready!