Sunday, July 08, 2018

Ho-humming Jesus (Sunday homily)

So, this is a pretty striking reaction to Jesus.
He is healing people, casting out demons, 
and teaching people about God, offering forgiveness and offering hope.

“And they took offense at him.”

We know this kid, they said; he grew up here. 
We know his family. Who does he think he is? 

Ho-hum, they said.

Their hardness of heart “prevented” Jesus from performing miracles; 
not because he was literally incapable of doing so – 
he is God, he can do what he likes – 
but rather, because there was no point.
The point of his healings and his teaching are the same: 
to open people up to the supernatural life God offers them.
But they were closed off; his miracles would do them no good.

It is shocking to think of people reacting this way.
But let me ask you: if you could have just 5 or ten minutes with Jesus, 
in which he would do for you what he offered those people,
Would you rearrange your schedule to meet with him?

I think a lot of us are saying, of course I would!
So then I ask you: what do you think happens in the confessional?

I know: a lot of people get discouraged because they go to confession, and they don’t get better.

But maybe the sacrament is keeping you from getting worse – 
did you ever consider that?

Saint Therese the Little Flower made a point on this somewhere:
That the reason we don’t quickly overcome our sins 
is because that would lead us to massive spiritual pride, 
which can send us to hell just as easily.
So it is God’s mercy that we spend our lives wrestling with sin, 
rather than one confession and done.

It really is this simple: what do you think happens in confession?
Do you believe Jesus is there, with all his power and his mercy?
Do you believe that? 

For that matter, do you believe the Holy Mass is a miracle?
Because that is what it is.

Actually, two miracles; two miracles happen in every Mass; 
and we all witness them.

The first miracle is that God brings us to Calvary, 
to the Sacrifice that Jesus offered on the Cross.
The Mass is the Cross; the Mass brings us to the Cross.
When you and I are at Mass, we are right there with Jesus.

The second miracle is the change of bread and wine 
into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – 
the true, real Presence of Jesus our Lord.

And, now that I think about it, there are three miracles.
The third one is that you and I, 
in receiving the Eucharist in a state of grace – 
meaning, we are not conscious of a mortal sin 
that we have not yet brought to confession…
I say again, when we receive the Eucharist in a state of grace,
we are united with Jesus. We have union with God.

When I say it aloud, it is astounding; it’s shattering.
I can’t help wondering, 
how in the world do we ho-hum these wonders? 
How does it happen? And yet, we do.

I don’t mean you; I mean me.
I stand at this altar, day by day. 
I give out God’s mercy in the confessional, and I’m glad to do it; 
but I confess to you, I am not overwhelmed enough. 
Not nearly enough.

It wasn’t just the hometown neighbors of Jesus who ho-hummed him; 
And by their “yeah, so what?” attitude, closed the door to miracles.
No; it wasn’t just them.

I don’t want to be those people. Do you? Do you?

“Jesus, I dare to ask: break down the barriers, break my heart open!
Please keep me, please keep these your flock, 
from being numbered among those 
about whom you are ‘amazed at their lack of faith.’
Please, Lord, in your mercy, may these words not be said of us. Amen.”

Sunday, July 01, 2018

A homily about pornography (without using that word; Sunday homily)

This past week I was in northern Kentucky, 
at a conference with other priests. 
Maybe you saw in the bulletin what it was about.
If you didn’t, let’s put it this way: 
it was about the dark side of the Internet. 
This is a very big problem. 
For many people, for a lot of people, it is an addiction.

This was not a vacation. We were looking at some heavy science 
and talking about some tough things, and how a priest can help.

And then, during the week, I look at the readings for this Mass.
They are about God giving life, and healing; 
raising someone from death to life.

It seemed to me to be providential.

So let me go back to the word I just used: addiction.
This is something a lot of people simply don’t understand; 
Even about themselves: “I don’t know why I do this.”

If this isn’t you, it is really hard to understand.
How can someone wreck his or her life over alcohol 
or gambling or over dark stuff on the Internet?

I don’t know that I’m going to explain this adequately, 
But what you must understand is that this isn’t about will power.
It isn’t about not praying enough, or some easy trick.
It goes a lot deeper.

Here’s what I learned this week about indecent materials – 
and, you do know I’m talking about something specific, 
but I’m being delicate?
So here’s part of what I learned.

This is about connecting with people.
If we don’t have the right kind of human connections, 
we will seek out the wrong kind. False kinds. Empty connections.

And to turn it around: if we are hooked on the wrong kind,
The answer, the thing we need, is the right kind of human connection.

When a lot of us were children, 
we had one phone the whole house shared.
And we had one TV, with 3, 4 or 5 channels.
When you watched TV, it was together.

Today, everyone has his or her own telephone;
And you can watch TV on it. We’re all disconnected.

So why be surprised that instead of human connection, 
we connect with apps, with games, 
and with other things we don’t want others to see.

So let’s talk about what happened in the Gospel.
A man comes to Jesus; his daughter is very ill.
What does Jesus say? I will come to her. 

But then something odd happens along the way.
A woman in the crowd reaches out and touches Jesus.
And then Jesus, knowing she had been healed, decides to call her out.

Why not just let her go on her way: she was healed after all.
If you were her, would you want the spotlight put on you?
Everyone’s eyes staring at you? 
It’s kind of harsh. Why would he do that?

There was something more that woman needed 
than just to have her bleeding problem stopped.
She had a problem that must have been embarrassing;
It separated her from others.

Perhaps this woman felt shame, ugly, unwanted and unloved.
She was disconnected from others, and she had been for 12 years.
She didn’t just need the blood problem fixed; 
She needed her connection with others restored.
To be loved, and know it. That’s the healing the woman needed.
Jesus wasn’t embarrassing her; he was pulling her from the shadows.

Then she told Jesus the whole truth.
One of the most healing things you and I can do 
when we have something we feel shame about, some dark habit, 
is to tell someone.
Being all alone with that gives it power.
Remember: what we need is to connect the right way.

Jesus wanted that woman to know she wasn’t just a stranger; 
she was family. He called her “daughter.” 

That’s the connection. You are a beloved child of God. And so am I.
I don’t know all the answers, but I have some good ideas.
But if you want to talk, and get it out,
I’m really good at listening and not repeating things. 
That is what priests do.
And I think I can help you find help.

And I’m going to remind you that no matter what separates you, 
what you think makes you totally outside, totally off, unworthy,
is just not big enough that God won’t say to you, 
you are beloved son, you are my beloved daughter.

God created this world to be a place of life.
He made you and me to be “imperishable.”
And he came into the world – he became one of us –
To raise us back to life.

You are the one to whom Christ is speaking in the Gospel.
You are the child, he says, “is not dead but asleep.”
And to you, his most loved child, he says, “Arise!”