Sunday, March 27, 2022

Confession: your sins are goney-gone-gone! (Sunday homily)

 If you have ever wondered what God is like, really like,   

this parable is where you must begin and end. 

Which of these two children do you want to be?

Would you like high adventure on the road – or stay close to home?

Do you think it would be fun to go on a spending spree?

Or do you find satisfaction in a good day’s work?

Do you want to end up with nothing, envying the pigs for their slop?

Or would you rather be convinced you’ve never done anything wrong –

and you can’t think of any gift your Father ever gave you?

Can you imagine your Father running toward you, overjoyed to see you?

Hugging you, crying from pent-up sorrow but also swelling with joy?

Well…are you prepared 

to abandon pride and self-regard and simply admit being wrong?

Or can you not think of any reason to go to confession?

As I’ve said before, Lent is all about conversion. 

If you and I aren’t thinking about, praying about, 

working toward our own conversion, 

we are missing entirely what Lent is.

Confession is one of the best helps God gives us, 

but this tool doesn’t do us much good if we leave it in the drawer.

I want to commend many of our parishioners: 

you work at developing the habit of regular confession, 

and that’s a really good move, 

and a powerful example to your kids and others.

Let me stress, especially to our kids: 

if you only go to confession once or twice a year, 

you’re not getting anything like the benefit from it you could be.

Why do I say that?

If, starting from your first confession in 2nd grade, you go once a year, 

by the time you’ve done it ten times, you’re in college!

At that pace, I bet you feel awkward every time, 

because you can’t quite remember what you’re supposed to do, 

and that makes all the easier to put it off. 

If the only time you go is right before Easter or Christmas – 

when lots of people are going, and there’s a long line – 

guess what happens?

You’re a little nervous, Father Fox is kind of hurrying things along – 

so, you shrug and think, what’s the point?

Let me introduce you to other possibilities.

Instead of once a year, go once a month. 

This morning, from 9 to 10, it was quiet in the confessional, 

I dozed a little!

And I had plenty of time for those who came. 

Like almost anything, if you keep at it, it gets more familiar,

and, instead of investing all that mental energy around the “how-to,” 

you can actually focus on the meat of it:

being truly honest with God and your own need to change.

Going frequently to confession will enable you to SEE yourself – 

without flinching, without excuses, and without being ashamed.

To be able to admit, “I am a sinner, I failed,” 

without being wrecked by that recognition, is powerful;

because then you and I realize our sense of worth and self-respect 

doesn’t come from some false image:

“I can do it myself” or “I’m really a good person!”

God doesn’t love us because we’re so capable, or so impressive; 

there are no “becauses” with God’s love. He loves us, PERIOD.

As I’ve heard Father Vonderhaar say many times: 

God loves us AS we are, 

but he loves us too much to leave us WHERE we are.

And I want to pause here and make one point in bold, capital letters, 

and I am begging you to believe me when I say: 

When you go to confession, and the priest gives absolution, 

your sins are gone. 

Gone, gone, gone-issimus gone; as gone as gone can be!

And, that includes ALL OF THEM. “But I forgot one!” 

It’s INCLUDED! It, too, is GONE!

In the first reading, Joshua and God’s People crossed the Jordan 

and left Egypt behind, forever.

That is a sign of what God’s absolution in confession means to us:

You and I leave those sins behind forever.

True, like the Children of Israel, we often want to go back.

You and I are unsteady. But God is not unsteady. 

The Father is a Rock. He never wavers.  

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Catholic progressives: Ukraine should be happy to lay down and die

 The thing about "progressive" crazy is that no matter how out there they are, there is always a further move to make.

So the National Catholic Reporter took this particular moment to argue that Ukraine is evil to fight the Russian invaders. Not because the invaders aren't also evil; but because fighting back is evil. You think I exaggerate? Read the headline for yourself (and click on it if you want to see more):

Ukraine shows we must reject the possibility that war can be just

The article really is as inane as you can imagine. To combat Russian bombs and bullets, "we need a paradigm shift." Putin is blowing up your apartment building? Try "music and art"!

No doubt Ms. Marie Dennis, author of this article, would offer Ukrainians the advice Gandhi gave the Jews during the Holocaust: you should happily leap into the gas chambers, that'll show Hitler! (Oh yes, he really did give that advice.)

I am trying to unravel this madness, but then these words ring in my head: "Forget it Jake; it's Progressive-town."

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Heaven -- God's invitation -- and hell -- our refusal (Sunday homily)

 In a way, these readings are about heaven and hell.

Let’s start with heaven.

In the first reading, Moses asks to know God’s Name. 

He wants to draw closer to God. 

After all, Moses and God’s People had been in slavery 

for over 400 years. 

The stories of what God did in Abraham’s life, 

in the lives of Isaac and Jacob and Joseph, were all distant memories. 

Perhaps even God himself seemed very distant. 

In Hebrew, names are more than just what someone is called.

They express the essence of who someone is.

When God tells Moses he is “I AM WHO AM,” 

he is revealing his true nature, 

that he is the One who truly and fully exists.

By responding this way, God is being very intimate with Moses,

And encouraging Moses’ desire for that intimacy.

Notice that: God WANTS US to know him this way!

This intimate union with God is heaven.

Remember, always remember: God wants this for us.

Some people seem to think God’s salvation is grudging. NO!

The problem is never God’s want-to, but ours.

You and I never have to change God’s mind. 

It is our mind, our lives, that need to change, 

and God is always at the door our heart, 

you and I only need to invite him in.

At the beginning, I mentioned hell. Where does that fit in?

Well, that’s what Jesus is warning against in the Gospel. 

Unless you and I repent, he says, we will all likewise perish.

He doesn’t mean natural death, but spiritual death.

As we all know, a terrible war is raging in Ukraine.

The thing about war is that it, too, is about both hell – and heaven.

The hell part is obvious. But notice the grace that is at work.

It was C.S. Lewis – in his book, Screwtape Letters – 

who noted that war strips away, better than almost anything, 

the illusion that death is far away. 

Amid the horror, acts of courage and generosity take our breath away.

As people worldwide unite in a common purpose and pray together, 

our hearts lift with hope. 

Let me call to your attention Pope Francis’ plan 

to consecrate Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

People are asking, is this about Fatima?

Honestly, I will let other people deal with that.

I know that Sister Lucy, one of the Fatima visionaries, 

said that Pope John Paul properly consecrated Russia to Mary in 1985.

I’m not interested in getting into the weeds on that. 

Pope Francis wants to renew that consecration. I’m 100% in favor.

This will happen on Friday, at noon our time. 

Meanwhile, Archbishop Schnurr has asked us all 

to pray a novena of Rosaries for Ukraine, 

so I invite you to pray a Rosary every day through Friday.

Maybe people would like to gather at St. Remy, on Friday, at noon?

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

'Brace for Impact' (Sunday homily)

 Every Lent we hear this Gospel describing Jesus’ “transfiguration.” 

The question we might ask is, why did this happen 

and what does it mean?

The meaning is this: Jesus knows the Cross is coming.

He has already warned the Apostles, but they don’t grasp it.

This experience – this revelation of his true glory as God – 

is meant to inoculate the apostles in advance 

for the crisis of the Cross.

He knows that the Cross will shake them to the core.

Even after this experience, Peter and James 

will be missing in action on Good Friday. 

Only John stays with Jesus to the end.

What would have happened to them 

without this strengthening experience?

Now, let’s bring this forward to our situation.

You and I don’t usually have a crisis of faith when all is well.

Actually, maybe we do, but we don’t realize it.

When everything is on the upswing, 

we don’t notice how rickety our faith may be:

that it’s shallow and we’re just going with the flow.

Then when the you-know-what hits the fan, we’re a mess, 

just like happened to the Apostles.

So, consider our situation: we get two years of Covid, 

and just as it seems like that is behind us…

Wham, supply-chain problems! Wham, inflation!

And I’m sorry, but let’s be candid: 

our political leaders do not inspire confidence in most of us.

Now we have a war in Europe, and it only requires a little slip

for this to become our war – another world war.

How’s that for our own shaken-to-the-core crisis?

Like the Apostles faced.

What the apostles needed to face their crisis is what you and I need:

To see the glory of Jesus. To remember who he is. 

If recent events are too much for you, turn off the TV and radio. 

Fix your eyes on Jesus. If you can, come here to St. Remy.

If you can, come on Thursday when we have exposition.

This church is open every day at 5 am, until 9:30 pm.

Anyone who wants access earlier or later, please let me know?

That can easily be arranged. 

And remember what an advantage you and I have over the Apostles.

When they saw everything fall apart on Good Friday, 

Easter hadn’t happened yet. 

They hadn’t had Jesus come back from the dead.

They hadn’t yet been given the Holy Spirit.

They didn’t know yet the power of the Holy Mass!

They didn’t yet realize that Jesus would always be present with them, 

above all in the Eucharist.

So: brace for impact. But remember, when the Cross came, 

Jesus was not alarmed, and he was not shaken.

Whatever may lie ahead, it will not surprise Jesus 

and will not be too big for him.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Today's Mass & homily...

Sunday, March 06, 2022

The alarm clock (Sunday homily)

 In my first assignment as a priest, the other priest with me 

would often refer to this as the “baptismal” season of Lent. 

At first, I found this confusing, 

but as I listened to him and reflected on his point, I understood.

Lent is about baptism: what does that mean?

Well, that’s how Lent originated. In the beginning of Christianity, 

people would prepare very seriously for their baptism, 

for their confirmation 

and for the first reception of the Body and Blood of Jesus.

They would prepare for months or years – 

and the last six weeks would be especially intense. 

They would fast every single day.

After all, they were entering an entirely new life. 

They would receive a new name. 

And they knew they might lose their life; they might be martyred.

For pretty much all of us, of course, we’ve already been baptized, 

and that happened when we were a few months old. 

No drama, no peril; we may have literally slept through our baptism.

For us, Lent is our invitation to go back and make it all personal. 

That’s what the sacrament of confession is all about.

We go back to the font of baptism.

Now, for our kids in 2nd grade, preparing for your First Communion?

For our older kids, maybe in your teenage years, 

and you’re starting to put it all together? 

I’m talking to YOU right now.

Sometimes there isn’t any special moment; 

we just sort of grow into our own faith. 

But there can come a moment, when the lights go on; 

it all comes together, and you realize:

This isn’t about my parents or my family, but it’s ME:

It’s MY relationship with God. Who is Jesus TO ME?

For me, it was when I was 19, in my first year of college.

I had an encounter with our Lord, very personal, very intense.

It’s hard to describe, but I knew, down to my bones, 

that he was calling me to follow him. 

That moment changed everything.

Later I figured out that in that moment, 

the reality of my baptism, and my confirmation, came alive.

I woke up.

To be clear, that’s not when I heard the call to be a priest; 

that was when I heard the invitation to be a disciple.

This is what Lent is for: to wake us up.

Right now, I’m the alarm clock: RING, RING, RING!!!

Some here are already awake. You’re out of bed, getting to it.

So maybe you’re trying to turn me off! That’s OK.

The alarm is ringing for those who haven’t woken up yet.

Or think of this as the alarm on your phone, reminding you of a task.

Just now, I spoke to the kids; so, let me say something 

to those at the other end of the journey.

As you and I get older, we get set in our ways.

I’m 60 and it’s true for me. 

You start saying, “No, not trying that.”

I used to go camping, sleep on the ground – but now, no!

The danger is when that mindset comes into your spiritual life:

“Nah, I don’t need that! That’s for somebody else!”

Once again, I’m your alarm clock.

Jesus is speaking to every single one of us when he says, CHANGE.

And if you say, “Well, I don’t know how!”

Jesus does! Ask him. Open your heart.

As I said, many of us are awake, so just…keep going! 

God’s grace is at work in your life, trust that, give thanks for that.

And, for some here, the truth is, 

you’re not only awake, you’re TOO awake!

You’re charged up on “spiritual caffeine.” You’ve got spiritual jitters.

That part before wasn’t for you! It was for the sleepy, OK?

You’re earnest, you’re intense, that’s good! 

And I’m not trying to discourage fervor.

What I want to say to you in particular:

Remember God’s grace. It’s not all on you. 

God’s part is 99.999999999%; our contribution is a speck.

You and I cooperate with grace, but we don’t replace it. 

And we certainly cannot earn it.

You don’t have to fast on crackers and water. 

If you want to, that’s fine, but your family doesn’t have to.

Remember: when you were baptized, you didn’t do a THING.

Even now, no matter how old you and I are, 

each of us is still that baby that really doesn’t understand. 

God carries us. And that’s how we’ll get to heaven.

And some of us, hearing that, you think, “OK I can go back to sleep!”

No…that was for the already awake, the maybe “too awake.”

For every one of us, this is our time to come back to font, 

to the place of our new birth, to our baptism.