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.

Sunday, October 09, 2022

'Which leper are you?' (Sunday homily)

 Ten lepers were on their way to the Temple. 

The first leper said to the second leper, 

“That Jesus didn’t have much time for us, did he? 

That wasn’t very pastoral!”

“I know,” said the third leper. 

"I wanted to tell him everything he needs to change! 

What about lay involvement?”

The fourth leper said to the fifth leper, 

“Why did she have to bring her kids? 

How was I supposed to talk to Jesus 

with them making all that fuss?” 

The sixth leper said to the seventh leper, 

“I could go back and thank Jesus—

but he knows I’m busy: 

I’m sure Jesus sees the value of sports,

and understands why I need to put my business first.

The seventh leper said to the eighth leper, 

“Look, we’re all OK, but what about that Samaritan! 

Did you see how sloppy his clothes were? 

And what about those tattoos and earrings—

You know he’s one of those types, 

if you know what I mean!”

The eighth leper looked around. 

“It’s not like I’m prejudiced or anything, 

but why don’t they stay with their own kind?

Then the ninth leper spoke up:

“Say . . . where’d that Samaritan go, anyway?”

And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned,

glorifying God in a loud voice;

and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.

Ten lepers walked down the street. Which one are you?

Sunday, October 02, 2022

The Vision -- of marriage, chastity and human identity -- will have its time (Sunday homily)

 In the first reading, we heard the prophet cry out: “Violence! Ruin!”

With Habbakuk, we ask: Why?

Why can we never see the end of terror and conflict?

Why are people so cruel to one another?

“Write down the vision,” the Lord answers:

“The vision still has its time” to be fulfilled: “Wait for it.”

What’s the vision? Well, it’s God’s Vision—

as opposed to the alternative, which might be called,

“Doing it our way, without God.”

There are some messages you and I offer the world, 

as latter day Habbakuks,

that seems so very strange to our world:

Such as protecting every unborn child;

Practicing radical forgiveness;

And keeping intimate acts between couples open to the gift of life,

which means, no contraception.

But there’s Vision at work here—wait for it.

As you can guess, I’m going to deal with sensitive topics.

I want to be clear; but also delicate.

If your or I go out at night, and we gaze at the stars,

are we not filled with awe?

Surely God has some design and purpose in it all.

Who can doubt this?

That Divine purpose is not only written in the stars, 

but even moreso in ourselves.

One reason we Catholics cannot agree

with our culture’s values about marital intimacy

is because those values obscure that higher purpose.

You and I are made in the image and likeness of God:

and when a man and woman come together,

they are never more like God—because in that very moment,

they have the capacity to do what otherwise only God can do: 

create new life.

The problem with artificial means of family planning

is they redesign God’s design.

God’s plan is that the love-making act is also a life-capable act.

Natural Family Planning respects this.

But the mindset embracing artificial means 

is that procreation isn’t a gift but a problem to overcome.

As a priest, I am entrusted with an awesome power: 

I offer the Holy Mass.

Through this sinner that I am,

Christ makes his saving sacrifice present,

and nourishes us all with his true and real Body and Blood.

That awesome power and gift is not mine to control or redesign.

I have to be under God’s authority in this or I can do a lot of harm.

Well, as human beings, the life-creating part of us

is similarly an awesome power and gift.

And likewise, terrible consequences follow when we abuse this gift.

That’s why you and I are stewards of the gift of life, not masters.

This design is why marriage is only a man and a woman; 

because only that is a true “one flesh” union, 

a union that overflows into new life.

The issue of two men or two women is not “love.”

There are never any limits on love, rightly understood.

The issue is the right use of our bodies; respecting what they are for.

In the 21st century, we want what we want, here and now.

We want radical autonomy.

It is so seductive and appealing, but in the long run, it doesn’t work.

You and I were not made for radical autonomy.

Note how the conflict has moved past Catholic morality, 

to contest the most manifest facts of biology itself.

Yes, our Vision seems so out of step, and many – 

even some priests and bishops -- advocate abandoning it.

But, wait for it, it will have its time.

Has rejecting God’s plan for chastity and family – is it really working?

Are children better off when their parents never marry?

When they don’t even know their parents?

Is society better off?

This is Respect Life Sunday; and you and I must continue to speak up

against the destruction of the unborn

and we must embrace mother, father and child.

Not everyone marries; not everyone has children.

But everyone, in some way, belongs to a family.

And each of us, no matter who we are, can cultivate true family values –

Meaning, we build relationships 

not on the basis of what I get, but what I give.

The world’s vision that offered freedom ends up bringing despair.

We are nothing, and the world will better off without us.

God offers us a different Vision:

We are not only his image at our best,

but even when we’re broken and marred:

God so loves us so much that he gave his only Son.

Life is worth living because even at our worst, we are his beloved.

That’s our Vision. Wait for it. It will have its time.