Monday, October 31, 2016

Recipe time: Pot Roast (again)

This is one of my favorites, because's relatively easy, and I'm getting better at it all the time, it's delicious, and the leftovers are great.

This was Saturday night dinner (and Sunday lunch, and probably Monday dinner as well). 

I started with a pan in which to brown the meat. This time, I used a giant Dutch oven. I put it on the burner and melted some bacon fat. (I always keep some bacon fat in the fridge and so should you. It keeps fine and adds that wonderful flavor.)

While the fat is getting hot, I dry off the chuck roast. See those veins of fat? That's what you want. That will make the roast juicy and tender and cause it to fall apart nicely.

Then I coated the roast with garlic powder, black pepper and salt, and lots of it. Then I coated both sides with flour, about a teaspoon for each side.

That went into the pot, and I browned it on both sides. While that took place, I chopped up a couple of onions, four carrots and four ribs of celery. When the meat was ready, I threw the vegetables in. In the past, I've transferred the roast to another pan, but this time, I decided to keep it in the Dutch oven.

On top of this, I poured about a half cup of leftover white wine, and I had some leftover broth. Remember the sloppy joes I made the other day? That involved cooking up 16 lbs. of beef, yielding a lot of fat, and some broth. I saved the drippings and put them in the fridge. It was mostly fat, which I discarded; it was a little tricky chipping through all that tallow, but I did it, and had a nice bit of broth with only a little fat left behind; and who minds that? That got dumped on top as well.

 This went into the oven set at 275 degrees, and I went over to church for confessions and Mass. About three hours later, it looked like this:

On my plate, it looked like this:

I opened some Merlot, and that tasted pretty good with it; I think I'd have liked Cabernet better.

Verdict? Delicious! Maybe my best pot roast yet! I decided to turn down the temperature this time, and I think that made the difference.

Again, this is easy, and it would be easy to vary it. Potatoes or tomatoes would work, and if you wanted a little heat, you could add some red pepper flakes. I added more salt when I ate it, but I like a lot of salt. It might also be good with spinach, except it would make sense to add the spinach late; I think it might not be so nice if it cooked for three hours.

If you want to make any suggestions, I'm all ears!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Gaze of Christ (Sunday homily)

The other day, I was looking up some passages of Scripture; 
and I pulled off my shelf a bible, which I bought many years ago. 
And when I found the passage I was looking for, 
I looked in the margin, and saw some notes 
I wrote there many years ago, on a sermon I heard, 
about a passage in which God said, “seek my face.”

The Protestant pastor, whose sermon I listened to, 
was a man named Clyde Miller. 
And he asked: why does God want us to seek his face? 
And he made several points:

First, because that’s not what we naturally or necessarily do. 
Instead, we avoid seeking God’s face. We give a nod and move past. 
Seeking God’s face takes effort.

Second, because God wants to communicate with us: face-to-face.

And, third, because “who we keep an eye on is our role-model;
 what we keep our eye on is our goal.”

And then a few days later, I looked at today’s Gospel. 
Notice what Zacchaeus does: he wants to see Jesus. 
He climbs a tree, which isn’t an especially easy or dignified thing to do. 
He really wanted it!

And, notice, of course, 
that Jesus really wanted to see Zacchaeus as well!

Let’s pause and picture that scene. 
Zacchaeus is clambering up the tree. 
Even once up the tree, 
it might not have been easy to find a good perch.
And then he waited, while Jesus came closer.

Then when Jesus reached the spot, “he looked up.” 
Zacchaeus was gazing down, and Jesus met his gaze. 
Isn’t that a wonderful thing to consider?

That kind of encounter doesn’t happen that often. 
Parent to child; friend to friend; lover to beloved. 
Only certain times are we ready for it, ready to be that open.
But God wants that encounter with every one of us. 
If we are willing to risk it, we can meet his gaze!

Of course, what I’m talking about is prayer. 
But I mean more than the ritual, the form of prayer; 
I mean the very heart of prayer, which is an encounter with Jesus; 
my gaze, meeting his. 

The heart of prayer, the heart of faith, 
is that meeting, that openness, 
when in whatever words, or even in no words, 
Jesus calls, as he called his Apostles, as he called Zacchaeus:
I want to be friends with you! 

And we meet his gaze, and respond: 
Yes! Jesus, I want to see you, know you, serve you, and love you! 
When we seek his face, his gaze, and he seeks ours, 
anything can happen. That spark lights the fire within us.
In your pews you’ll see cards. 
As we did a year ago at this time, 
in anticipation of Advent and Christmas, 
we have an opportunity for everyone to grow in our faith. 
And if you look, you’ll see the topic is prayer.

Prayer is a tricky thing: we think it’s easy, but it’s hard; 
we think it’s hard, but it’s easy. 
It’s both as easy and as hard as meeting the gaze of Christ, 
and letting him look back at us.

As was the case last year, 
the material we will be looking at is available online. 
And we’ll also set up some discussion groups, 
because a lot of folks find that is really helpful. 
It’s a way to meet people, so if you don’t know many people, sign up! 

It’s a way to sort out questions. 
And a lot of folks sign up for the group 
because it keeps them accountable, 
and it kind of forces them to review the material. 
Sort of like having a workout buddy who knocks on your door at 6 am, rain or shine!

So, this is an opportunity. It won’t cost anything. No obligation. 
And you can use this any way you want. 
Look at the material on your phone, 
or during lunch at work, or sometime at home. 
Look at some, not the rest. Take what you want.

Come to the discussion groups if you want – or not!
Create your own group with family or friends.
This is a resource and a tool; make the most of it.

Prayer is something a lot of folks would like to be better at, 
but aren’t sure just how to do it. 
I hope this helps. 
So, if you want to, fill out the card and return it in the collection, 
this week or next. 

Now, let’s notice something about Zacchaeus. 
Gazing at Christ, who gazed back, changed everything. 

It gave him the courage to become a new man. 
He was a tax-collector; which sounds bad enough in our time, 
but in those days, 
it meant he helped the Romans rob and exploit people. 

Zacchaeus needed to become a new man; 
but conversion means more than just saying, “I’m sorry – are we good?” 
That’s cheap grace. 
All the people who had been threatened and robbed by Zacchaeus
wouldn’t be good with just an “I’m sorry.” And Zacchaeus knew it. 

So he is moved to do something radical: 
he gives away half his fortune, 
and make generous reparation to all those who he wronged.

There are times in our lives when we need courage 
to take a huge step, a huge risk. 
Perhaps, like Zacchaeus, it is in admitting a wrong 
and making it right, even at great cost.

As you know, there are businesses around the country 
who are being pressured to give their endorsement 
to so-called “same sex marriage.” 
There are pharmacists and doctors and nurses 
who are under growing pressure 
to distribute contraceptives and abortion drugs, 
and now, drugs to help people kill themselves. 
It takes great courage to stand up to these pressures.

When young women think about the religious life, 
young men about the priesthood, 
what gives them the courage to take that step? 
It is meeting the gaze of Christ.

Thankfully, you and I don’t have to wait for that. 
At this and every Mass, Jesus is lifted up – 
as once on the Cross, now he is lifted up upon the altar. 
And, if we are properly prepared, spiritually, 
we approach him, and he enters under our roof in the Holy Eucharist.

Seek his face. Seek his gaze. Today. Now.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Recipe time: Sloppy Joes

This month, the St. Vincent de Paul Society is sponsoring another Casserole Crusade: they ask parishioners to prepare homemade casseroles, using recipes and pans the committee provides after Mass. Then the casseroles are collected two weeks later, and will be delivered to area soup kitchens.

I've taken some, and the last couple of times, I took four pans, and I challenged other folks at Mass to do the same.

So, today was the day to make the casseroles. I chose Sloppy Joes, using the recipe provided, times four:

4 lbs hamburger
12 oz. tomato paste
1 cup onions, chopped fine
4 tbsn prepared mustard
2 tbsn Worcestershire sauce
1 cup catsup
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup water

First, I ran to the store to get my supplies. I got those things I figured I wouldn't have enough of at home. Later, I discovered my mistake...

Here is a picture of all 16 lbs of ground beef in one pan. I quickly realized that wouldn't work, so I got out another pan.

As the meat browned, I got my other ingredients together. I used my food processor to chop up the onions, which made me cry -- a lot!

As I'm measuring out the other ingredients in a bowl -- in between checking on the meat -- I discovered I didn't have enough catsup. So what to do? I decided I would use another can of tomato paste, of which I had plenty in the cupboard. That's when my cheap can opener decided to fail, after I'd opened one can, and half-opened another. So what to do?

I got out my old fashioned beer-can opener -- you know, the type with the pointed edge for opening juice cans. The result looked like this:

The cheap can opener was thrown away, with the rinsed out cans. (Then went in "recycling.")

As a result of this complication, It was a trick getting the tomato paste out of the cans cleanly, so I resorted to some water, and while the recipe called for it, I lost track of how much I'd added. I didn't want to make it watery, so I didn't add any more. In retrospect, I probably could have added more.

Anyway, here's the sauce, with all the other ingredients.

Here's all the meat (less what ended up on the floor, or in my belly!)

 Here's the final product, portioned out in the pans (two more not shown).

I put the lids on these and stuck them in the freezer. They have to be frozen solid when they are dropped off.

So, how did it taste? Pretty good, a little strong on mustard. I thought about adding some barbeque sauce, but wasn't sure -- including, how old that bottle of barbeque sauce was! Better to leave it alone.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

'Lessons in Prayer' (Sunday homily)

If you’re looking for some thread 
that links all of today’s readings together, 
may I suggest it is “Lessons on Prayer.” 
Let’s see what they tell us.

The first lesson – from the first reading – 
is that if you want God to hear you, then hear the cry of the poor. 
Scripture couldn’t be clearer: 
if we stop our ears to those in need around us, 
God will stop his ears to us.

Some practical applications: if you’re in school, 
chances are there is someone who is smaller, 
who might be new, who doesn’t fit in. 
Will you stand up for that boy or girl?

As a society, there are lots of ways we hear the cry of the poor. 
Our St. Vincent de Paul group is doing a great job 
organizing efforts to feed the hungry. 
Today you can pick up casserole pans after Mass, 
and bring back home-cooked food to go to area soup kitchens. 
I took four pans; it’s not that hard; 
who else can make four casseroles for the hungry?

But beyond charity are issues of justice. 
No one in our society is more poor and abandoned 
than the unborn child. 

So it’s critical that you and I never stop working 
in every way to help them, 
by helping their mothers who face terrible difficulties, 
by bearing witness, and by working for laws to protect the unborn. 

So, again, let me highlight some ways you can help. 
Rustic Hope is gathering diapers for mothers, 
and on Tuesday, many of us – including me – 
will go down to Kettering to bear witness at the abortion facility there. 
And in a few weeks, we’ll cast votes 
for who will serve in many public offices. 
Will the people we elect hear the cry of the weak, 
the left out and the forgotten?

The second lesson we can learn about prayer comes from Saint Paul. 
And that is to realize that prayer 
isn’t about our telling God what to do; 
but rather, it’s about us opening our hearts to God’s voice. 

I’m not saying you and I shouldn’t pour out our hearts to God.
Look at Paul: he must have prayed for many things 
while facing prison and trial and execution. 
I imagine he prayed fervently for God to save him from death.
Yet that prayer wasn’t granted. 

On the other hand, Paul also prayed 
to be a faithful and powerful witness for Jesus Christ. 
And that prayer was answered abundantly!

There’s a good reason why the Our Father says, “thy will be done.” 
Isn’t that what Jesus said on the night before the Cross: 
“not my will, Father, but thine”? 
Or, to put it another way, 
we recall the beautiful words of the poet Dante: 
“In your will is our peace.”

The third lesson we can learn is from the Gospel. 
Do we come to God in humility? Do we recognize our true need? 
The Pharisee did a good job saying thank you, and that’s good, 
but did you notice, he didn’t ask for anything?

Saint Augustine once said that God longs to give us good gifts, 
but sometimes, our hands are full, and we aren’t ready to accept them; 
we need to lose the things we’re holding onto, 
before we can accept what he offers. 

When things are going well, it is tempting to forget how needy we are.

If you and I lived in that time, 
and we met both the Pharisee and the tax collector, 
most of us, I think, would be more comfortable with the Pharisee. 
He was respectable, lived an upright life, he followed the rules; 
he was a good neighbor. He had it all together.

The tax collector, on the other hand, was a cheat, a thief, 
someone who took sides with the Roman oppressors. 
He might have had money and power, but he couldn’t be trusted.

These two men couldn’t be more different, 
and yet they were equal in having access to God. 
They were both able to come into God’s presence and pray.

So why did one go away justified, as Jesus said, and the other did not? 
Because one came in humility, in need, and asked for something: 
“have mercy!” The Pharisee could have done the same, but did not.

If we want our prayer to be heard, try starting with those words: 
“have mercy on me, a sinner.” 
And it’s not just words, but a profound recognition: I am a sinner. 
I need God in the most fundamental way. 
It’s not just that I need this or that thing from God, 
and then I’m done; but that I need GOD. I need MERCY.

So, practical advice: 
we might find our prayer gets deeper and more real 
if we make regular visits to confession; and face our real needs. 
Not avoid them; face them. “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”

One final lesson on prayer, 
and it comes from the backstory of today’s Gospel. 
Did you realize that we’ve heard 
Jesus teaching about prayer and perseverance 
over the last four Sundays? 

These episodes come from the journey Jesus was making, 
with the apostles, to Jerusalem. 
And along the way, he kept teaching them about prayer. 
Why might he have done that?

He knows what lies ahead in Jerusalem: his suffering and death! 
He’d told the Apostles, yet they didn’t understand.

But Jesus did. He was preparing them.

Well, Jesus is preparing us, too!
You and I don’t know what crises lie ahead, 
whether for ourselves, our community, our country, or our Church. 
But lots of storms are brewing. 
What can help us weather the storm? 

Pray: pray admitting we need God. 
Pray not to tell God what to do, but to hear God’s will, 
and to accept it. 
And remember the poor and needy who pray beside you; 
God wants you to be their answer.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

'No, bishop, that's quite wrong...'

Just now I saw this headline at Crux: "Pope in Sweden could break ground on inter-communion, bishop says." Of course I clicked on it.


Here are some gems:

I think it’s very important that people know that the Reformation was a great misunderstanding, we all got it wrong, on both sides, and we’ve lifted excommunications and condemnations and apologized. So we can all be friends.

No, bishop; it's true that the Reformation involved a great deal of misunderstanding, but there was a lot more than that. Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and Menno -- the big four of the Reformation -- all not only dissented dramatically from the Catholic Faith, they went to war with each other, quite literally, eventually. It wasn't just "misunderstanding." They came to believe very different things.

On the Eucharist, Lutherans have more or less the same doctrine as we have.

No bishop, that's quite wrong. Catholics believe the priesthood is sacramental; there is an ontological change in the man ordained, and he is configured to Christ the High Priest in a true and unique way. Lutherans deny this. Accordingly, they deny the Holy Mass is a true sacrifice, as opposed to a remembrance only. And without a true priesthood, there can't be a true sacrifice.

Actually, it's quite easy to see the difference between what Catholics believe about the Eucharist, and what is taught by Protestant bodies. Catholics adore the Eucharist: that is, we give the Eucharist that worship proper only to God. Is that what the Lutheran Church teaches? Get back to me on that.

There's more, but this is enough to call into question the merits of the rest of the article. In charity, I must allow that perhaps the errors are not the bishop's, but the author of the article; in any case, they each have their agendas.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Yes, Donald Trump's approach to women is repulsive

There are a lot of things to consider in the upcoming election. Not all issues are of the same moral gravity.

But a lot of folks seem to be saying that the only thing that matters is where the candidates stand on abortion. Is that true?

Does nothing else matter? Including when one candidate treats women like dirt?

Don't believe it? Check this out: 51 things Donald Trump has said about women. Then feel free to come back and defend this behavior, if you care to.

This is just one of many reasons I maintain that while Secretary Clinton is awful, so is Mr. Trump.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Who do I vote for this year?

I was preparing my column for the parish bulletin yesterday, and was writing about our miserable choices in the presidential election. Like many people, I find the two party candidates morally unacceptable, and I have decided I will not vote for either. But what are the alternatives?

My original plan was to write a summary of each candidate; then I remembered the Archbishop really doesn't like any sort of "voter guides" provided in our parishes, and whatever my intention, it might have seemed to be that. So, I cut all that out, and pasted it here. This is my personal blog. So here is the information I gathered:

Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is aggressively pro-abortion, even favoring tax funding for abortion. She has made clear she will appoint justices to the U.S. Supreme Court that will sustain abortion on demand, as well as maintain the Obergefell decision that redefined marriage. She has voiced support for policies and decisions under President Obama that are harmful to religious freedom. I found conflicting responses on torture. Her website doesn’t address euthanasia, but I found a comment online endorsing it. She endorses limiting, but not ending, the death penalty.

Meanwhile, businessman Donald Trump has given much more positive answers on abortion – although he supports abortion in the case of rape and incest; he has said he will appoint judges that are pro-life and pro-traditional marriage. It should be mentioned that he is a recent convert to these positions. He has said conflicting things about religious freedom. Mr. Trump strongly supports the death penalty; he has called for increased use of torture, and endorsed targeting and killing non-combatant family members of terrorists.

Notably, his website doesn’t address any of these issues; these positions can be found elsewhere. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump has become known for a long string of outrageous and offensive statements, including about women, illegal immigrants, a Muslim family whose son died in the service of our country, a U.S. born judge of Mexican descent, and former POW and current Senator John McCain, just to cite a few examples.

Obviously there are many more issues of concern than what I’ve highlighted, but not all issues are of equal gravity, and I’ve tried to call attention to those that matter most. Some people have decided they will support one of these candidates as the “lesser of two evils.” That is a morally acceptable approach, but I think we need to be clear-eyed about the reality of the candidate we end up voting for.

But what about an alternative? No one is obligated to vote for either the Democrat or Republican, especially if you have serious reservations, as many have. I took some time this week looking up the five most prominent “third party” candidates; here’s my summary, with links to their websites so you can make your own judgments.

Darrell Castle, Constitution Party. He is 100% prolife and pro-traditional marriage. His party is against euthanasia, but supports the death penalty. He is strong on religious freedom. I could not find something explicit on torture. His party is fairly conservative, although it does oppose “interventionism” in foreign policy. Website here.

Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party. He describes himself as personally opposed to abortion but doesn’t support any change of laws to protect the unborn. He is in favor of so-called “same sex marriage” and is unclear on protecting religious freedom. He is against torture. I couldn’t find his position on euthanasia or the death penalty. The Libertarian Party tends to be very anti-government, often going so far as to advocate legalizing prostitution and drugs, and making drastic reductions in the powers and expenditures of the federal government. Website here.

Michael Maturen, American Solidarity Party. He is a Catholic, and his party is an attempt to develop a consistently Catholic approach on all federal issues. He is 100% prolife and pro-traditional marriage. He is against torture and the death penalty. In questions of economics and foreign policy, his approach includes ideas from both left and right.

Evan McMullin, Independent. His platform is much briefer than the others. His website gives a strong statement in defense of the sanctity of life and religious freedom, but isn’t as specific as many would like. He opposes tax funding for abortion and says he would appoint judges that would overturn Roe v. Wade (which imposed abortion-on-demand). He specifically distances himself from torture and targeting non-combatants in war. I couldn’t find his position on euthanasia or the death penalty. His website doesn’t address marriage, but elsewhere I found an interview in which he said he wouldn’t seek to overturn the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling imposing “same sex marriage” on all 50 states.

Jill Stein, Green Party. She is strongly pro-legal abortion and supports redefining marriage to include same sex “marriage.” Her party’s positions on these issues suggest she won’t be friendly to religious freedom concerns. She is against torture and the death penalty. I couldn’t find her position on euthanasia. Her platform overall is pretty left wing, favoring drastic reductions in defense spending, and significant increases in government spending and involvement in the economy.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Prayer can change history, so maybe it'll change this election! (Sunday homily)

The readings obviously focus on prayer – 
specifically, on persevering in prayer, which is the real trick, isn’t it? 
Everyone believes in prayer; and everyone prays. 
The really hard thing is to stick with it and see it through.

So my homily today will be about habits, 
and specifically, the habit of prayer.

When our boys and girls groups meet each month, 
one of the things our leaders and I teach our children is about virtue. 
And the key thing about virtue is that it is a habit. 

God designed us so that we operate according to habit. 
When I get up in the morning, I have certain habits and so do you. 
We don’t have to think too much about brushing our teeth, 
getting the shower going, and so forth. That’s how habit works.

When habit works for us, it’s great. 
And when it works against us – that’s what we call vices – 
that’s a problem. 
Habits, both good and bad, are a kind of auto-pilot. 
Before we know it, we’re unconsciously lighting a cigarette 
or clicking on a questionable website.

So how do we break bad habits? There are lots of things people do, 
but they all aim at turning off the auto-pilot, 
and making us more aware.

For example, do you know what a “curse jar” is? 
It works like this: every time you take God’s name, or use a four-letter word, 
a dollar goes in the jar. And then you have to give that money away! 

It also helps to replace a bad habit with something better. 
Say you go to a party, and you are resolved not to drink too much. 
If all you do is stand around, wishing you had another beer, 
guess what’s going to happen? 
But if instead you focus on something else that’s fun, 
chances are a lot better you’ll have a great time and not get snockered. 
Keep doing it, and in time, you replace a bad habit with a better one.

Let’s drill in on the habit of prayer. 
And let’s first ask, Why do we need prayer?

We need prayer the same way an airplane needs a guidance system, 
so it doesn’t get off course. 
Prayer is our guidance system 
so we keep focused on what really matters.

Also, notice what happened in the first reading. 
The success of God’s People on the battlefield 
depended on Moses persevering in prayer. Why should that be? 
God didn’t need Moses at all – God could do whatever he wanted. 

In fact, God chooses to include us in his plans. 
He came to Mary and asked her to be the mother of Jesus. 
Jesus, in turn, chose to build his Church upon the Apostles.

So prayer is important because God is counting on it. 
Have you considered the possibility that your prayer – my prayer – 
may be the key ingredient in changing someone’s life, 
in changing the course of world events? In fact, we know this is true!

Ninety-nine years ago, Mary the Mother of God 
appeared to three children in Fatima, Portugal. 
Mary showed the children a vision of hell, 
and she told them about events that would come to pass
No doubt you’ve heard of this. 

But here’s something I never noticed until very recently. 
Let me read you the words of Sister Lucia, one of those three children. 
This is what she said Mary told her and the other two children:

You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go.
To save them, God wishes to establish in the world
devotion to my Immaculate Heart.
If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved
and there will be peace.
The war is going to end: but if people do not cease offending God,
a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pius XI.

Did you hear that? “If what I say to you is done…
there will be peace…but if people do not cease offending God, 
a worse one will break out”!

If we had listened to the Blessed Mother, 
we might have prevented World War II! 

And, in fact, the pope and God’s people did finally listen, 
and Pope John Paul II consecrated Russia 
to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1985…
and there was no World War III!

So yes, it’s essential to develop a habit of prayer; 
to be trained in spiritual combat. Yes, we all get busy, 
but I doubt few of us get so busy 
we don’t take a shower and put on clean clothes day after day. 

I saw an article online that I want to share with you. 
I put together a handout that summarizes it, 
which the ushers will have at the end of Mass. 
It is by Father John McCloskey, and it’s called, 
The Seven Daily Habits of Holy Apostolic People.” 
Here’s what Father suggests:

1. The morning offering – which is a prayer prayed first thing 
in the morning, consecrating the entire day.
It’s also a way to see your day, and all that comes, 
through the lens of faith.
2. At least 15 minutes of silent prayer – 
this is when we share our needs with God, 
and listen to him speaking to us.
3. Fifteen minutes of spiritual reading. 
4. Participation in daily Mass 
and receiving communion in a state of grace. 
Obviously this is the most difficult for many.
5. Praying the Angelus at noon each day. 
It just takes about 3 minutes, but it’s a great break 
and reminder of what matters most.
6. Praying the Rosary each day. 
This was the prayer that Mary recommended, at Fatima, 
to change the world – that could have averted World War II, 
and did, in fact, avert World War III.
7. A brief examination of our conscience, and our day, 
at the end of each day.

Father also makes the point that we shouldn’t expect 
to put all these into practice all at once. 
Instead, add a habit one by one. 
And he is right when he promises this won’t take time away; 
it’ll add time to your day, 
because you’ll have a better day with these habits.

Maybe you’re thinking, prayer is great, but what’s the urgency.
Have you paid any attention to this election?
We have two awful candidates! We’d better get praying!

Now, there might be someone here who can say, 
“Well, my spiritual life is right on target.” 
Then you don’t need this. 
But for the rest of us, please feel free 
to ask for one of these handouts from the ushers. 

Sunday, October 09, 2016

What do we see? (Closing of 40 Hours)

When we bow down, kneel down, before the Eucharist, 
what we are worshipping?

God, of course! Jesus, our Lord and Savior. And of course that’s true.

But let’s recall what we believe about the Eucharist: 
in the Holy Mass, Christ himself acts, 
and the Sacrifice of Calvary becomes present 
under the signs and actions of the Mass. 
And in particular, the bread and wine 
become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus.

Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Three of those words denote humanity.
We remember that in the Incarnation – 
in that moment when Mary said yes to God the Father, 
speaking through the angel,
and the God the Holy Spirit overshadowed her – 
God the Son was united with a human nature in that instant. 
That’s what we celebrate on March 25, 
nine months before Jesus birth on Christmas.

So of course Jesus is both human and divine, 
and this remains true to this moment. 
He is on the throne of heaven as a man and as God. 
And when the miracle of the sacrifice of the Mass happens, 
the Victim on the altar is truly Jesus, 
which means, his divinity and his humanity.

So let’s reflect a little more on this, 
particularly the humanity of Jesus in the Eucharist. 
What does this mean to us?

Remember that when we see the humanity of Jesus, 
it isn’t just his humanity; it’s our humanity. That was the whole point. 
As we say in the Creed: “For us men and for our salvation, 
he came down from heaven; 
and by the power of the Holy Spirit, was incarnate – 
that is, made flesh – by the Virgin Mary, and became man.” 
On Christmas, we genuflect at those words, 
because what we profess is so wonderful! 
He became what we are, for us, for our salvation. 
He shares our same human nature.

Now, there’s an objection: his human nature is different, 
because he has no sin. Yes, it’s true he has no sin; 
but it’s a misunderstanding to say that his human nature isn’t ours. 
I have two legs. If one is broken, does that mean it’s not my leg? 
Our human nature is wounded by sin; 
but in Jesus, our brother, 
we see what it looks like without any wound of sin. 

Jesus took our nature. He became one of our family.

Now, the other thing about this to notice is that 
when we behold the Eucharist, we are seeing God, 
but not a God who is distant. 
Rather, God who comes close, so close he became one of us. 

So, as shocking as it may be to say, 
when we see the Eucharist, we see one of us! 
We see Jesus-God, but also, Jesus-man. 
His humanity is our humanity. That is our hope!

And to take it another step. 
What’s wonderful about God becoming man, 
is that in doing so, he doesn’t become just another human being; 
he joins himself to every one of us. 

Every man, woman and child, past, present and future. 
When we worship the Eucharist, we don’t see his wounds, 
his suffering, and his death, 
which we heard described by the Apostle John, but they are all there – 
along with his birth, his upbringing, his life with his family, 
his poverty, his work; his weariness, his joys and trials. 
In short, everything that the human family experiences, 
he took to himself. 

When we behold the Eucharist, 
we behold God in solidarity with the entire human race!

This is a wonder, because it means that nothing 
in our human experience is rejected or left out. 
Even, in a particular way, our sinfulness! 
No, God does not accept our sins, 
but he accepts us even while we are sinners. 
He forgives us and he gives us his life, through the sacraments, 
to be transformed and healed. 

But remember, when Jesus rose from the dead, 
and when he ascended to the throne of Heaven, 
he still bore his wounds. They didn’t disappear. 
That is a sign for us: whatever trials we have, 
including our battle with sin, is not nothing to him. 
He joined himself to humanity in our struggle, 
to fight with us and for us, to win for us!

And we might recall the shocking words of Saint Paul, who said, 
“He who knew no sin became sin for us”! 
Jesus’ solidarity with humanity 
went to the absolute furthest point it possibly could. 
Jesus never committed sin, he was never corrupted by it;
And yet it would seem he came as close as possible.

It’s awful and wonderful. 
He took all sin upon himself, 
and in the ugliness of what was done to him, 
we know the horror of sin, 
the horror of what man becomes without grace – 
the horror of what we are saved from.

Jesus gave us the Eucharist, we know, 
that we would not only adore his Body and Blood, 
but above all, to receive him in communion. 
As the word “communion” makes clear, 
the point is both simple and impossible to grasp: 
we are united with God! 

This is why it is so terrible to approach the Eucharist 
when in mortal sin – our heart is not ready, our action is not true. 

On the other hand, when we come with readiness – 
limited as our capacity is – we have a foretaste of heaven, 
when we will really know what true communion is.

Heaven! That is what we see when we behold the Eucharist! 
Heaven, where God and humanity are united forever. 
Heaven, where the slain Lamb, the risen Lamb, is at the center…

Except that isn’t somewhere else. Jesus is here! Heaven is here! 
Praise God! 

Gratitude and respect at Holy Mass (Sunday homily)

The readings are obviously about gratitude. 
They are also about worship. 

In the first reading, Naaman, who has leprosy, 
is so grateful for being healed 
that he is moved to worship the true God.

And then, in the Gospel, the same thing happens. 
The one grateful leper who returns, falls at the feet of Jesus. 
He is worshipping him. 
Gratitude and worship go together.

Our late auxiliary bishop, Carl Moeddel, 
used to say that if you don’t want to come to Sunday Mass, 
you don’t have to! 
That is, if you can say that you have absolutely nothing 
for which to be grateful. And who can say that?

Did you know that the word, Eucharist 
comes from Greek word for giving thanks? 
Now, we don’t want to reduce the Mass only to this dimension. 
The Mass is primarily an act of intercession. 
Jesus offers himself – on the Cross and on the altar, 
they are one and the same! 

And then, the Mass is also our prayer, begging God – through Jesus – 
for forgiveness, and transformation, for the salvation of our family, 
our friends, and our world, and for everything else we need.

But the thing is, once we fully appreciate the reality of the Mass, 
and our participation in it, 
then of course our response is like Naaman’s and the Samaritan leper: 
we are overwhelmed with gratitude.

Despite what it seems, this is not just something we human beings do. 
Yes, that’s what we see: the ushers, the priest, 
the servers, we hear the musicians, we see everyone else at Mass; 
so it’s a human activity. But that’s not the primary reality. 
Rather, the Mass is first an action of God, in which we take part. 
God is the primary actor in the Holy Mass. 
God speaks in the readings and in the prayers, especially at the altar. 
Jesus Christ himself is at the altar! He offers himself. 
We hear his words, and he, Jesus Christ, 
changes bread and wine into his own Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

God is the one who acts; we cooperate. 
God comes down, into our midst, and makes present for us 
what first happened on the Cross. 
The whole drama of God seeking out his children to bring them home 
is real to us here. 
The peril of human sinfulness and the hope of heaven are all here! 

If we were really good, really tuned in, 
maybe we’d only need it one time. 
But…that’s not how must of us are! 
So, God in his goodness and wisdom, does it over and over and over. 
It’s a commandment to come to Mass 
each Sunday and holy day of obligation, 
because God knows what we need for our salvation.

In the vein of gratitude, 
I’d like to talk about some very practical things related to Mass. 
Specifically, how we come to communion. 
Many of us receive in the hand; 
many of us keep the time-honored practice of receiving on the tongue. 
There’s a lot to be said for receiving on the tongue, 
which – by the way – is the norm everywhere outside this country. 

If you receive in the hand, you need to be able to present two hands. 
Sometimes someone has a cast, or is carrying a child, 
or for whatever reason, cannot present two hands. 
In those cases, I will say, very softly, “I’ll put it on your tongue.” 

And I do that because it’s not really reverent 
to try to receive Holy Communion with one hand. 
Let me demonstrate; this is a quarter I’m using. 
(Demonstrate moves with quarter.) 
This is not reverent.

Why make it hard? If you don’t have two free hands, 
I’ll put the Sacred Host on your tongue. 
And I ask our Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion 
to do the same.

Also, if you receive in the hand, please do several things. 
First, be sure to put one hand on top of the other, like this. 
Sometimes people will put their hands side-by-side; 
leaving me to guess: which hand does he want me to put the host in? 

If I guess wrong, I’ve seen people be sort of awkward, 
flipping the Sacred Host from one hand to the other. 
Again, that’s not reverent.

If you’re left-handed – as I am – that’s no problem; 
put your right hand on top, 
and then use your left hand to take the Body of Christ 
from your hand to your mouth. Vice-versa if right-handed.

The other thing I ask is that you lift up your hands high. 
(Have a server come and help demonstrate.) 
Which one really is more reverent? 
And, this makes it easier for the person distributing communion.

And if you receive in the hand, 
please check your hand to see if there are particles of the Eucharist. 
And if all this seems like too much trouble, 
well, there’s always receiving on the tongue!
Now, let’s talk about that. 
To put it very plainly, you have to stick out your tongue! 

I know that some of us aren’t fully steady on our feet. 
If that’s you, how about stopping right by the front pew, 
and then you can hold onto that; and I’ll come to you. 
And if you stay in your pew, just tell someone near you, 
and I’ll come back to you.

Let me also recall that when we receive the Eucharist, 
we first make sign of reverence. 
Many choose to kneel or genuflect, which is commendable. 
But a bow is also appropriate. 
That said, I think some are forgetting that.

Someone might say, all this is being picky, who cares? 
But I would point out that when we gather for a meal, 
even an informal one, 
there are still rules about how we handle ourselves,
that are really about respect.

How we handle ourselves at Holy Mass communicates our respect 
for the reality of what happens here. 
This is far more than an informal meal. 
We come here to meet God.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Persevere like the mustard seed (Sunday homily)

When you hear the term “faith” in this Gospel, 
realize that it’s talking about something more than just belief. 
Perhaps better would be, faithfulness. Fidelity. 
Something we used to call “Stick-to-it-tive-ness.”

A lot of people hear this Gospel, 
and they think it’s talking about 
what some Protestants refer to as “name-it-and-claim it” theology. 
You’ve seen them on TV: preachers who will tell you 
that if only you believe hard enough, you can whatever you want.

This is not what Jesus is saying.

Remember, Jesus is the one who said, 
“If you want to be my disciple, take up your cross and follow me.”
Take up your cross, not, your new car!
Healings and prosperity are great if they come, 
but they aren’t what Jesus came to give us.

Jesus came to give us a new life of holiness. He came to give us heaven. 
In a word, he came to give us himself.

So the measure of a faithful disciple is fairly simple: 
is that enough for me? Is it enough for you?

In the first reading, the Prophet Habakkuk 
is wrestling with a big question, which many of us wrestle with: 
when, O God, will you keep your promises? 
When will evil be defeated? When will the truth prevail? 

And God tells Habakkuk what he tells us: 
wait for it – the vision will have its time.

The prophet’s concern was the imminent threat of invasion, 
perhaps by Assyria, or Egypt, or Bablyon. 
God’s People were surrounded on all sides 
by powerful enemies who worshipped false Gods. 
Meanwhile, the Jewish people were ignoring God and lax in their faith. 
So Habakkuk saw both crisis from without, and from within.

Sound familiar?

A lot of us are pretty anxious about the state of things, 
and for good reason. 
Today is Respect Life Sunday, 
and we know just how bad things are with assaults on human life. 

There is a huge push on to legitimize and normalize euthanasia – 
that is, killing people who are sick or depressed or in pain. 
It’s being called “assisted suicide,” but don’t be fooled;
It’s not just about people in extreme circumstances.
In places where it’s been legal, especially in Europe, 
it involves children too. 
It involves people who are simply depressed. Or disabled. 

And it isn’t about “choice.” Once euthanasia takes root,
it isn’t long before people are “helped” against their will.

In Canada, this was imposed on the entire country 
by their Supreme Court? Sound familiar? 
And now the push is on to force all hospitals, 
Force doctors and nurses to participate! 
Stay tuned; we’re next.

And I could detail other reasons for concern, 
But I don’t want to discourage you. Many of us are already discouraged. 

But let’s listen to what God told Habakkuk 
and what Jesus told his disciples: persevere! 
Especially, persevere in prayer.

Next weekend we will have our annual Forty Hours, 
and the timing couldn’t be better.

Do you know the origin of Forty Hours? It began in the 1500s, in Italy. 
The way they did it was to have each parish take turns 
with 40 hours of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament;
when one finished, another would begin, 
so that there was never-ending prayer 
in the presence of Jesus on the altar.

But do you know why they did it? 
It wasn’t primarily to grow in devotion, or to pray for their own needs. 
They were begging God to avert disaster. 

Here’s what Pope Paul III said, commending, quote, 
“the prayer of the inhabitants of the said city, 
in order to appease the anger of God, provoked by the offences of Christians, 

and in order to bring to nought the efforts and machinations 
of the Turks who are pressing forward 
to the destruction of Christendom.”

I’m sorry, but if you think our situation isn’t that dire, 
you aren’t paying attention!

In our time, we could cite many offenses of Christians, 
and our own country, that are a stench before God.
We, today, are likewise beset with enemies seeking our destruction, 
but we’re doing a good job all by ourselves, without help from ISIS.

Jesus referred to the faith the size of a “mustard seed.” 
But there’s something else about a mustard seed: 
it doesn’t do anything but be a mustard seed. 

It doesn’t say, “well, I think I can squeeze in 
being a mustard seed sometime today…
I’ll do my seed-job while I’m driving home…
This has been a tough day, I won’t get to my mustard-seeding today.” 

No, every day, every hour, that mustard seed 
does whatever a seed does to turn into a tree. 
It perseveres. And that is what Jesus calls faith.

Are there miracles you want to see? 
Do you want some of our politicians, and our judges, converted? 
Do you have family members and friends who need conversion? 
How much do you want it? How much will you pray for it?

We might think of Forty Hours as an opportunity, 
and a blessing – and it is. 

But I submit to you that first of all, it is our duty.
You and I are God’s servants; this is what we do! 
This parish exists to bring God’s holiness into this place, 
and into the lives of the people here. 
And to pray, with the whole Body of Christ, throughout the world, 
in Purgatory and Heaven, for mercy and conversion in our world.

Please sign up for Forty Hours. 
The bonus is that we get to spend this time with Jesus, 
right here with us! 

And I’ll mention something else. 
Forty Hours is a great, and easy, way to share our faith with others. 
Why not invite someone to come along? 
“Let’s just pay a visit.” You may want to explain, 
if your friend isn’t Catholic, 
that we know by faith Jesus is in that monstrance, 
the King is on the altar before us.
Anyone and everyone is welcome to come.