Sunday, November 27, 2022

Jesus isn't coming...(Sunday homily)

 In the first reading we hear a prophecy of Isaiah: 

all nations shall stream toward “the mountain of the Lord’s house.” 

And perhaps you’re wondering to what that refers.


Well, let’s figure it out.


It refers to the “Lord’s House” – that means the temple,

In Jerusalem, built on Mount Zion.

And that of course is where Jesus gathered with his Apostles 

on the night before he died; 

and the next day, he completed his “Mass” 

with his suffering and death on the Cross.


So if you’re wondering how that prophecy is to be fulfilled: 

the answer is in the Holy Mass – what we are doing right now!


Isaiah said that the Word of the Lord would go forth from Zion – 

and it did, especially after the Day of Pentecost;

And that all the nations would stream to the Lord’s House –

and that, too, has happened; 

the Holy Mass is offered throughout the world, 

in every language and nation and tongue.


So it is wonderful to consider that this passage has been, 

and is being, fulfilled, even as we gather here now.


The emphasis in the Gospel – and in Advent generally –

is on watchfulness for the coming of Jesus.

In a word, Advent is about eternity.

You might say, hold on: I thought it is about Christmas?

But you see, Christmas, too, is about eternity, about heaven,

Because with Christmas, heaven bursts forth on earth,

And we begin to see heaven among us.


So when you and I talk about Jesus’ coming,

it’s not as if he’s absent from the world. 

People will say, “he’s coming back” – as if, he’s not here.

Or they’ll say, “…if Jesus were here. But he is!

Many people do not realize Jesus is here, right now:

He never left!


They don’t know what the sacraments are:

that the Holy Spirit enters us in baptism and confirmation;

that Jesus stands with us, in suffering and pain, 

in the anointing of the sick; 

that marriage makes real, in a flesh-and-blood way, 

the love of Jesus for his people.


People don’t realize that Christ truly acts through the priesthood;

And they simply don’t know the truth of what the Holy Mass is, 

of what the Eucharist is: Jesus is here!


It’s easy for us as Catholics to take all this for granted;

But we must not! These are astounding gifts! Jesus is with us!


Let me take a moment to point out 

that the bishops are launching a “Eucharistic Revival” – 

to foster a rebirth of faith in the Eucharist. 

To rekindle what Pope St. John Paul called “Eucharistic Amazement.”


You haven’t heard much about this from the other priests and me – 

as you know, things have been a little crazy for us lately.


Archbishop Schnurr is launching a project to help get us all started. 

You can read about it in today’s bulletin, but the gist of it is 

that he’s making available a video series by Bishop Barron, 

which will be provided in installments via email.


It’s free to sign up; see the bulletin.


And when you and I talk about Jesus’ coming,

maybe we can change our emphasis to that future “coming” 

and instead explain that what lies ahead is Jesus reigning. 

He is king now, yet he is among us with the greatest patience.

He has the right to command, and yet he continues to invite.


There will come a time when the preparing is over, 

and the Kingdom we prepare for, comes in full.


To the extent you and I bear witness by our own seriousness,

we will help others to wake up and get serious, too.


Sunday, November 20, 2022

Jesus is King everywhere (Sunday homily)

 Today is the Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe.

The title may seem grandiose, but it makes the point:

Jesus is king of everything, everyone, everywhere: no limits!


This feast was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI.

It was a time of “isms” – that is, causes demanding total allegiance, 

and seeking a total reordering of society:

Fascism, communism, socialism and Nazism among them.


Alas, we have new “isms” being added to the old ones.

Caring for the environment is a good and necessary thing, 

but for some it becomes a kind of religion, worshipping Nature

while human beings are treated as expendable.


We just had an election, 

and what stands out to me during election seasons 

is that some of us can go overboard in fixing our hope 

on a political figure or philosophy. 

And if you think I’m only talking about “those people” and their party,

I’m talking about yours, too.


Perhaps the greatest false god of our time 

is the worship of self – of our own will.

All the confusion today about sex and man and woman 

and marriage and identity? 

That’s us saying to God: MY will be done, not yours!


In the end, it’s all variations on the same theme:

People who will not have God as God; 

they want to fashion their own god.

This feast is when you and I as Christians must bear witness:

Without God, humanity loses himself. 


There is a second point to make on this feast, and it is this:

Bearing this witness means helping to reflect Christ and his Truth 

in our society and yes in our laws.


It is true that we live in a pluralistic society.

But that doesn’t mean you and I lose our voice, 

or that our consciences must be locked away!


It does mean, however, that you and I must seek to persuade.


Let me make a third point about what each of us can do, 

no matter what happens in the world around us, now or in the future. 


When the weather is calm, a fence can be thrown up hastily;

it doesn’t need much to stay standing. 

But when the winds start raging, 

that fence will be knocked flat, fast,

if it isn’t dug deep and well anchored.


That’s what you and I are facing today as Christians:

Headwinds that are becoming more ferocious daily.

So we’d better dig our foundations deep.


If you really pay attention to the messages on TV –

In advertising, news and so-called entertainment –

It’s a barrage of propaganda for all these false gods.


Jesus Christ isn’t going to be at the center 

unless you and I make a constant effort to keep him there. 


This is why Sunday Mass matters. 

It’s our weekly reminder of who we really are: citizens of heaven.

Each time we come into this church, we enter King Jesus’ presence!

Each Mass, we witness the renewal of our salvation!


When you and I take advantage of confession,

That is the most powerful tool for re-ordering our lives 

so that Christ is at the center, 

not work, not sports, not ego, not pleasure, 

not political or ideological false gods.

The tug-of-war is always there for everyone one of us.


One day you and I will see Jesus Christ on his throne.

It is a sad to realize that some will mourn on that day, 

or even revile him, as happened in the Gospel. 

For myself: I want to see him with joy. You want the same!


Till that day, let us help each other grow in that hope.

For today, let us proclaim what the Mexican martyrs did:

Viva Christo Rey! Long live Christ our King!


Sunday, November 13, 2022

The 'All in.' (Sunday homily)

 I want to call your attention to the first reading. 

Did you notice the two ways it talks about fire? 

For the "proud" and "evil doers," it is fire that punishes; 

it "consumes" them. 


What does that sound like? It sounds like hell to me.


But for those who fear God's Name? 

It is a sun of righteousness with "healing rays." 

Healing? What does that sound like? Sounds like purgatory to me.

And I’m going to come back in a moment to say more about purgatory.


Yet it is all the same fire; the fire of God's truth and love.


Think about that. God is the same. God’s truth is God’s truth.

I’m not saying there’s no complexity in life.

But I am saying that just as there is not more than one God,

God’s truth, God’s justice, is ultimately one.


Moreover, God is good to all. 

God is not smiley to this one, but frowny to that one. 

God IS Love, as the Apostle John teaches; 

he does not run hot and cold the way we human beings do.


So yes, his mercy is readily available, right up to the last moment:

as with St. Dismas, the repentant thief on the cross next to Jesus. 


Yet, on the other side was another thief, who refused mercy. 



What was different? Same Jesus; same mercy; 

same frightful peril for the two thieves.


All the difference is in the human response.


Beware the sin of presumption! 

People think, "Oh, I can straighten things out with God later.”

That assumes two things: that there will be “later”; 

and that you won’t keep delaying, right until your last breath. 


The fire consumes the evil doers because they were proud; 

they refused to ask.


And is it not a kind of pride that says, “I’m good enough?”


Whether it’s preparing something for guests,

Or getting dressed up for a special event,

Or it’s something organized in our church,

People will say, “oh, that’s a bit much! 

This” – whatever it is – “is ‘good enough.’”


Let me tell you a story. 

Some years back, I took a mission trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, 

which is on the Pacific coast, way south in the country.

Our group was welcomed by the people of a small village;

They were very poor.


For lunch we had chicken soup. We had visited several places;

This was the simplest of the meals.


Our Mexican host confirmed – that was a sacrifice for those folks;

 they had to kill several valuable chickens.


It was simple; it was delicious – but above all, it was a true sacrifice.


Now: the sacrifice God asks of us isn’t money or stuff, 

although how we use these things either pleases him or offends him.

But he, himself, has zero use for any of that.


In fact, God needs nothing – at all.

What he asks, however, is that each of us 

Offer the sacrifice of our own lives. 

And with that offering, there is none of this saying,

“oh, margarine is good enough”; “paper napkins are good enough”;

“just this much of my life, my heart -- that’s enough”!


That is pride, that holding back.

In one sense, of course, nothing you and I can offer is “good enough.”

In another sense, it is only when we are give ALL,  

that it is capable of being “enough.”

Either we’re all in; or not at all. 


Now, back to purgatory. 

No one gets to purgatory whose heart is hardened.


Purgatory is what happens when the sacrifice is offered, 

the surrender of our own will and lives, holding nothing back.

But instead of the sacrifice of ourselves being destroyed, 

we are, rather, made perfect and beautiful.

You and I become saints. 

In the Gospel, there’s all this buzz and fret, 

“What’s going to happen? What’s going on the world? Why is everything all a mess?”

And folks are frantic about the details and the meaning.


And Jesus says, forget all that! You don’t need to worry about that.


It’s pride that says, I want to know the whole plan;

I want to know the day and the hour: Fill me in, Jesus!

No! You don’t even need to worry about what you’ll say.


Jesus says: offer yourself – then God takes over.

And for those who do that: healing rays from the Son of Justice!


At Mass the Son of Justice offers himself.

In Holy Communion, he shares that offering;

To receive Holy Communion is an act that means,

No pride here, no holding back here, I’m all in – I’m ALL in.


And if I’m not ready for that: if I haven’t figured out what I believe,

if I’ve sinned in a grave way, then there’s a need to reflect,

and be ready for that “all in” with confession and conversion.


The most important thing that happens at Mass is Jesus’ all-in.

The second most important thing is our own.


Sunday, November 06, 2022

Facing death without fear (Sunday homily)

 These readings confront us with two realities. 

First, that death is inevitable. 

Second, that we all, sooner or later, pay a price for what we believe in.


Such things seem so remote, most of the time; 

until a truck flips over on the highway just ahead, 

or a bolt of lightning strikes the top of your house, 

or someone you love gets desperately ill. Then it’s suddenly real. 


So, why not be ready? Have that peace!


Then there’s the other question: 

what would you or I be willing to die for? 


Parents will die for their children; 

most adults instinctively put ourselves between harm and a child. 


Those men and women who volunteer to wear our nation’s uniform 

certainly want to come back safe and sound; 

but they also realize that our country is worth fighting for. 

I don’t just mean the USA; 

it would be the same for a Canadian or a Cambodian. 


I suspect a growing number of people scoff at the idea 

of dying for religion, as the seven sons do in the first reading. 


Don’t make the mistake of thinking that was really about pork. 

The king picked that fight deliberately; 

because when someone sets out to break your will, 

choosing something trivial is a great place to start. 

But that’s not where it ends. 


There is no one way such confrontations play out. 

I will just say, in passing, that you and I are not obliged 

to seek out such battles, 

and it is not wrong to pursue honorable ways to avoid conflict. 


Yet, sooner or later, our backs are against the wall, 

figuratively or literally, and we must take a stand. 

If not at the cost of our lives, 

we may endure ridicule or lose a friendship. 

For some, especially in the medical profession today, 

it means losing ones job.


How do you and I fortify ourselves for such moments? 

We cannot do it without a close relationship with Jesus – 

all the martyrs bear witness that in their hour, Jesus was right there. 

And there is no substitute for making small, 

even insignificant choices day by day 

that gradually build up the bulwark of virtue. 


Back to the first question: how we prepare for death?


This may sound strange, but there is no reason 

for a Christian to be afraid of death. 

That is, no good reason. 

I mean: a bad reason would be, “I haven’t been to confession.” 

Bad, because that is so easily remedied. 



Another bad reason would be, “it’s too late” – 

because as long as you have breath, it is not too late. 


Let me say a word about what we call “Last Rites.” 

Many associate this with the sacrament of anointing, 

which is merely one part of Last Rites. 


Full Last Rites include confession and Holy Communion if possible, 

something called the “Apostolic Pardon,” 

which is a release from Purgatory, 

and other prayers fitting for our final hours. 

Last Rites are among the most beautiful and consoling of prayers, 

it’s too bad some folks wait and wait, till it’s too late. 


The anointing is not – repeat, NOT – meant for the last moment. 

Anyone facing a perilous health situation can be anointed. 

We have four priests, no waiting.


And Last Rites need not be delayed till the last minute either. 

I gave my father Last Rites three times.

It gave him peace; it was the best gift I could give him.


When the martyrs of Mexico faced firing squads, 

their last words were, “Viva, Christo Rey!” Long live Christ our King!


When each of us faces our final hours, in our way, 

you and I give the same powerful witness when we say:

Call the priest; pray the Rosary; nothing else matters so much 

as my first friend who calls me now: Jesus.


Sunday, October 30, 2022

The grain in God's hand

Virgo Supercluster

In the first reading, the author of the book of Wisdom, 

who is unknown to us, says the “whole universe” is like a grain – 

like a kernel of corn or wheat – to God.


Keep that image in mind. A kernel of corn.


Our earth is immensely huge to us. 

Yet in our solar system, earth is but a tiny grain.


In the Milky Way Galaxy, our sun is one of maybe 100 billion stars.


A galaxy sounds pretty huge, right?

But our immense galaxy is just one grain – 

in a larger grouping of galaxies, called the “Virgo Supercluster.”

That sounds pretty big, too. 

Except that there are ten million such “superclusters” 

that make up the whole universe.

At least, that’s our latest estimate. It’s all awfully immense.


And all that is a kernel of corn in God’s hand.


Our mind staggers to contemplate such immensity;

Making us realize our own incredible smallness.

So tiny, that unless God cares about us, we disappear.


Remember that God doesn’t just consider us a curiosity – 

like an ant farm – or even an object of special affection, like a pet. 

God so loved the world – God so loved you and me – 

that he became one of us. 

And then came to us. And then died for us. For you. For me.


Now look at Zacchaeus in the Gospel.

This is someone who cast his lot with the hated Romans.

A traitor, a collaborator. 

His neighbors saw his great wealth; they knew where it came from.

This oppressor’s tool  wasn’t just any kernel of wheat,

but a spoiled, rotten grain of wheat.

Why not just throw it away?


There is no human being so small, so weak, so rebellious, so twisted, 

that God does not love intensely, and seek to redeem.


That is why you and I as Christians, must never tire of saying,

That whether someone has committed a terrible crime,

Or is disabled, or weakened by illness or age,

Or has squandered his chances with addiction,

Or is a tiny, unwanted resident of her mother’s womb,

No human being is without infinite worth – greater than all galaxies – 

because God created us – every one of us – for eternity.


You and I must witness this, in word and deed. 

Remember human dignity when you vote in a few days.


God didn’t just look down at Zacchaeus and smile and wave.

Jesus sought him out: I want to come to your house today.


I realize it’s shocking and intimidating to consider but:

Who is a Zacchaeus in your life that you could seek out?


Sunday, October 16, 2022

What chores does our Father in heaven have for us? (Sunday homily)

 When I was a boy, all I wanted to do on Saturday mornings 

was eat big bowls of cereal and watch cartoons. 


My parents had other ideas:

Mowing the lawn, raking leaves, taking out the garbage, 

cleaning my room, helping get the house in order,

or working with my dad in the garden or with his business. 


Whether I liked it or not, I had to do my part in the family.

And our Father in heaven operates according to the same principle.


Everything I have, everything I am, was a gift.

My parents did so much for me! 

I didn’t earn what I received and I can’t pay it back;

And, again, it’s the same in the spiritual life.


None of us deserves God giving us life, 

and giving us salvation in Jesus Christ. 

None of us is worthy of having our Lord come to earth 

and live among us and giving himself for us on the Cross.


And then to have God continue to forgive us, over and over, 

in the sacrament of confession? 

To have the Lord Jesus give us his own flesh and blood, 

his own life, in the Holy Eucharist? 

To receive the help of the Holy Spirit, of the angels and saints, 

throughout our lives, all the way to heaven?

How can any of us dare to think we either deserve this, 

or can ever repay this love?


Even so, it remains that each of us has a job to do.

We’re part of a family. 

It’s only right that we contribute our part.


What is God’s work? It is redemption and conversion of hearts.

You and I are messengers, 

ambassadors for Christ in a world losing its bearings. 

Saint Paul told Timothy to pray and know the Scriptures, 

so that he could better share his faith 

and point people in the right way.


If you agree that God has been good to you, unbelievably good to you,

maybe one of your chores is to know your Faith better?

So that when topics come up in conversation, 

you can give a helpful answer?


In the first reading, God’s People are in the thick of battle.

Moses is praying, his arms so weary that the priests are holding him up.


Jesus Christ is our Moses, who leads us, and intercedes for us.

Yet he also said: to be my disciple, “take up your cross.”

One of the most important ways 

you and I share in Christ’s work is with prayer.


When I was in Piqua, I had a priest visit who talked about

the power of spending time adoring the Holy Eucharist. 

And he said something surprising that I never forgot. 


He said: “we really don’t like to pray.” He’s right!

Sure, there are some of us have a gift for praying for hours.

But for most of us, if we are honest, it’s a chore.

There’s always something else we’d rather do.

You and I try to pray, and we can’t keep on it – our mind wanders.

Maybe our back hurts or we get impatient.


What really wears us out is that we have to keep asking, asking, asking.

The same sins and habits every time you and I go to confession.

Don’t be surprised, and don’t be discouraged. It IS work!


What is true for our personal prayer, is true above all about Holy Mass, 

which is the supreme prayer of Jesus and of us, his Church.


Where did people get the idea that Mass is supposed to be convenient, 

catering to our needs, and certainly not demanding too much?


Remember what Mass really is.

It is a lot like Moses being up on that mountain, begging God’s help;

and you and I are standing there, holding up his arms.


Because, in fact, it is not Moses, but Jesus: on the Cross, 

pleading for us and for the world, that grace will be poured out on us.

And none of us is a spectator. Jesus asks our help!


Look around on the battlefield, and tell me: how’s it going?

Does it look like God’s side is winning? 


Then there’s more work to do. For each one of us.