Sunday, September 27, 2020

How to build a 'Eucharistic' marriage (Sunday homily)

 I hope you noticed the opportunity we have here at St. Remy Parish 

starting Friday evening, October 2. That’s this week!

Greg Schutte, who has been here many times over the years 

with his wife, Stephanie, will be leading a series of evenings 

for couples, whether married or engaged. 

Even if you are, as they say, “pre-engaged” – 

everyone knows you’re getting married, 

but you haven’t actually exchanged the ring – you come too.

Greg calls this series “Building a Eucharistic Marriage,” 

which is a great thing to emphasize. 

In fact, I don’t know how you can do it any other way.

What does it mean to say, our marriage is “Eucharistic”?

Well, that’s what Greg is going to explore over seven weeks.

But it seems to me that you can’t do it without the Cross – 

without putting the Cross right at the center.

And that’s what Saint Paul is talking about in the second reading.

The Cross is at the center – not only of a marriage, but everything, 

because God saw the mess we human beings had made – 

of our relationship with him and with each other –

and he knew that the only remedy was the Cross.

God planted the Cross at the center of human history,

And then he put himself – God put himself! – on that Cross.

So when we talk about the Holy Eucharist,

Remember that the Mass and our sharing in the Mass, 

in the Holy Communion, is all about the Cross.

OK, so then what?

See, the other readings are about the problems the Cross solves:

And what are those? Our sin problem, which means our fighting with, 

and hurting each other problem; 

our gossip and backbiting and blaming problem; 

our resentment and retaliation and vengeance problem…

which is what splits families and creates feuds, 

and eventually means violence and war.

The Cross is the remedy – and it is the only remedy.

But the Cross means surrender and turning the other cheek 

and forgiving them, Father, because they know not what they do.

See, the Pharisees – like us! – we always saying, “But he did…” 

and “She was always…” and “You don’t realize how terrible they were!”

And Jesus’ answer is, I’m God, I see it all; believe me, 

I know exactly how bad people can be!

And when Jesus is willing to pay for it all, with his life, on the Cross, 

then Jesus gets to forgive, and we don’t get to complain about that.

Well, let me correct that: sure, we can complain if we want;

But we’ll be complaining from hell, 

because you and I don’t get forgiven, ourselves, 

if we don’t share it as generously with others.

That’s the whole deal: 

“forgive us our trespasses, 

as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

So I keyed all this off the program with Greg Schutte – 

starting this coming Friday – about making our marriages “Eucharistic.”

But the Eucharist – and marriage – isn’t just the Cross – 

it’s Resurrection; and resurrection is about heaven.

It’s not only about the sins and baggage of our past;

it’s even more about God giving us grace 

for the daily hard work of conversion, 

or change, of conquering bad habits and dying to self 

and becoming the saint God knows you and I can be.

See, again, the pharisees – and this can easily be us! –

were only seeing how people were failing to be holy.

Jesus was saying to them, what I’m interested in is conversion;

Not what people were, but what they can be.

This is where, I think, so many people 

misunderstand the sacrament of confession. 

For so many, it’s all about getting forgiven, 

which – don’t get me wrong, is awesome!

But that’s like clearing the table before the meal.

The main thing – the central point – of the sacrament of confession, 

and really, our whole Catholic Faith, is to change: to become saints!

So the grace of the sacrament of confession first takes away our sins.

We are free of guilt! That is awesome! 

And I don’t mean just the sins you remember; ALL our sins.

One confession takes them all away.

But we need something else: to be new people, going in a new direction.

To overcome vice and habit and self-love;

And while forgiveness is instant, conversion takes time.

And God, in his mercy, even gives us Purgatory as a way to finish up.

But Purgatory, too, is about conversion: making you and me saints.

I don’t know if Greg will touch on any of this in his series,

But I’m guessing he will.

And if you’re preparing for marriage, and certainly if you are married, 

you already know all about needing to change, and needing to forgive.

Letting go of the past? You’re thinking, hmm, yeah, that’s a thing.

So sign up: just call or email the parish office. 

There’s no charge, but we’re asking the couples 

to bring some snacks and stuff to share, it’ll be a nice date-night.

And, date-night? I could do a whole homily on that, but I’m overtime.

Still, a chance to remind yourself why you fell for her, for him?

To remember why you wanted to give each other everything?

It might start as purgatory, but it ends in heaven!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Justice Plan and the Mercy Plan (Sunday homily)

 So: what our Lord Jesus said is crystal clear. 

Let’s talk about forgiveness. It comes up all the time: people say, 

“Oh, it is so hard to forgive.” Of course it is hard. That’s the point.

Now, let’s be clear what forgiveness is and is not. 

Forgiveness does not mean the other person did not hurt you, 

nor does it minimize the wrong. 

Forgiveness means you are letting go of that person 

and giving him or her to God. 

Let God take care of justice and repayment.

Let me also add, that forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a choice. 

Just like the person who chooses to give up smoking. 

She knows she did the right thing, 

but still feels terrible about it, for a while at least.

That’s normal.

So, how do we forgive? 

Here are some things that might help us get there.

First, ask God for the grace to forgive. 

And I mean, more than once. Ask, ask and ask again.

We can’t do it on our own; we can’t do anything on our own. 

This is a humbling truth we may take a lifetime to learn. 

Do you think you need God’s help only now and then?


This is a good time to remember something 

The American author Flannery O’Connor demonstrated in her stories;

Namely, that God’s grace isn’t always pleasant. 

It may not make you feel good.

But God’s grace will always bring you closer to him.

Remember: the purest expression of grace is the Cross!

A second point: if you want the power to forgive, 

pray for the people who hurt you. 

Again: not just once, but over and over.

Alcoholics Anonymous has a saying, “Act is if.” That’s how you start. 

A third point: if you want the grace to forgive, think about hell. 

That’s right; think about hell.

I suspect a lot of people don’t take hell seriously.

They figure only people like Hitler go there, that’s it.

The trouble is, Jesus certainly takes hell seriously,

And he is always warning ordinary people about hell.

A priest friend of mine sometimes poses this question: 

try to imagine the first ten seconds in hell. What would that be like? 

Let’s try (count to ten).

When you and I refuse to forgive, we are wishing someone in hell. 

Right? Because you don’t want him or her to be forgiven? 

That means wishing those people in hell. 

Or, do you mean you want God to forgive, while you refuse? 

That means you want God and that person to be friends, 

but you don’t want to be part of it? 

Then that means you are sending yourself to hell. 

If you want to go to heaven, 

and you want those other people to go to heaven, 

our grudges and hurts can’t go to heaven. They go to hell!

And if we hold on to them, so will we.

See, God has two plans for humanity. 

He offers the Justice Plan, and the Mercy Plan, 

and they are both on display in this Gospel. 

What’s the Justice Plan?

Well, that’s where we are measured by strict justice; 

no excuses, no mulligans, no leeway. We get precisely what we deserve. 

So, if you have wronged no one, and have a perfect score, 

you can apply for the Justice Plan.

Don’t like that? No problem. God also offers the Mercy Plan. 

God will forgive: absolutely anything and everything. 

That first servant owed a debt that, in today’s dollars, 

would be in the BILLIONS. Wiped away.

But there is a condition: to gain the Mercy Plan,

you and I must apply the Mercy Plan to everyone else, 

without exception. 

Not because it’s easy, not because they deserve it, 

not because they are good enough, 

not for just certain categories,

and no, not even only if they ask for it. They don’t have to ask for it!

It is Jesus, the Supreme Judge, who commands it. 

You want mercy? Show mercy, even to your enemies.

In a moment, in our presence, 

the Sacrifice of Mercy will be offered on this altar – 

you and I will witness it! – and then we will have the opportunity 

to receive Jesus’ Body and Blood. 

And if we do that, you and I are accepting the Mercy Plan. 

We’re receiving infinite, precious, eternal-life-giving Mercy!

Do you want Mercy? Give it. That’s the deal.

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Practicing trust as we watch over each other (Sunday homily)

 The first reading – about a watchman, looking out for Israel –

got me thinking: who is our watchman?

Who is supposed to be looking out for us, 

warning this community against danger?

I guess that would include me, as the pastor of this parish.

It would include our mayor and school superintendent 

and those who work with them.

And for each of our families, it’s you mom and dads.

We have this virus which has been hanging around too long,

and we’re all sick and tired of it, but it hasn’t gone away.

On the contrary, just in the last couple of weeks, 

it’s finally showing up in Russia.

I find myself wondering if I failed to be vigilant enough.

Our seminarian, Isaiah, is going to be quarantined 

because he sat with someone at breakfast last week; 

he’s living in one part of the rectory, and I’m at the other end.

And while it doesn’t appear that I have to quarantine, 

I’ll take a few extra precautions for the next week or so.

I won’t be distributing Holy Communion, 

so I ask for an extra helper to come forward.

Meanwhile, our school is trying very hard to be vigilant; so is the mayor.

And they, in turn, must rely on state authorities 

who provide the guidance on how best to manage these things.

All this involves the question of trust: do we trust each other?

It doesn’t take long before trust breaks down.

There’s not a lot of trust for the governor and his staff;

or for the people in Washington.

Does anyone trust the media anymore?

So when the governor – and the Archbishop – 

ask us to wear masks and not crowd together,

a lot of people don’t want to listen.

I see friends of mine on Facebook circulating things 

about how this is all fake, the numbers are all skewed, 

and masks are terrible – and forgive me for asking, but: 

why do trust these sources you’re circulating?

I get pills at the pharmacy and I trust they will give me the right ones. 

What else can I do? 

It’s not about blind trust, or unconditional trust.

It’s just that, like it or not, we simply can’t function 

without a fair amount of trust; there is no choice. 

So when it comes to the governor or the Archbishop,

Or the school or your boss – or me, your pastor –

it is 1,000% certain that everyone involved is going to make mistakes.

The reason we follow our leaders isn’t because they are so wise, 

or so beyond reproach; that rarely happens.

You and I listen and try to cooperate 

because a nation, a society, cannot function without trust;

and it’s the same for this community.

And right now, with greater incidents of this virus,

some of the trust we take for granted is fraying.

The easy thing at a moment like this is to see who is to blame.

Who didn’t enforce precautions well enough? Who didn’t listen?

This is a really good time to notice something else Jesus gives us: 

a way to combat the special virus of gossip.

Notice Jesus’ advice is the opposite of what we prefer to do.

Jesus says, go directly to that person.

We would much rather go talk to everyone else about it.

Understandable, but it only makes things worse.

This covid virus is a serious thing. Most of us will be fine,

but some are vulnerable;

and going the extra mile, if for no other reason but 

to ease the anxieties of others 

sounds to me like a pretty Christian thing to do.

So, to that end, I want to reiterate some of the precautions, 

which we’ve been slack about lately.

I ask that we keep the ropes on the pews in place 

and continue to spread out.

Some of us may have to sit outside, 

that avoids crowding into the back of the church.

I am not going to force anyone to wear a mask, I’m just asking.

If you are able, maybe come to Mass during the week instead.

And when it comes to events at the hall, we have hard limits.

If you have an issue with that, don’t blame our hall manager,

blame me: I’m the one setting the policy.

Also, for those who distribute Holy Communion, 

please use hand sanitizer, please wear a mask,

and please frequently sanitize your fingers 

with the disinfectant provided in these silver bowls.

This virus problem has gone on way too long, and we’re all frustrated.

It won’t go on forever. 

And this I can say with absolute confidence:

If you and I keep praying and keep close to Jesus,

These trials WILL help us grow in holiness.

It is already happening in ways we can’t see yet.

But I can tell you: more people are coming to confession, 

all during this period.

Keep good cheer and good humor.

And let’s each be a watchman looking out for each other.