Monday, May 27, 2024

Memorial Day Picnic

Well, not really a picnic, other than we used an outdoor grill...

Dinner was tried and true favorites, except...

TOP* surprised me by offering to put together the antipasto. We also had Caprese Insalata; does that break the rules? TOP surprised me further and had me make him a Martin-tini (recipe below)**. "It's Memorial Day." I made the tomato salad and sauteed the mushrooms, while the ribeyes ($12.99 at Meijers!) were reverse-searing in the oven. Steaks came out perfectly; I have decided the salt-and-pepper should go on the steaks in the morning, not the day before. All this accompanied with Cabernet -- 14 Hands -- any better suggestions?

Everything came together perfectly, which is the virtue of a familiar menu.

Question: why don't restaurants serve something a little acidic, like tomato salad, with steak? The balance is perfect!

* The other priest.

** Two parts vodka, one part gin; both kept frozen. The vodka is shaken on ice; then the gin is added, and you stir it. (See what I did here?) Add a few drops of vermouth to the frozen glass before pouring the drink; garnish with two (or three) bleu-cheese stuffed olives. Key: stuff them yourselves! The pre-packaged types are worthless.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

How to be the Image of God (Holy Trinity homily)

 Today we reflect on the reality of God being a Trinity: 

Three Persons, yet one essence. 

It was God the Son in human flesh – Jesus – who told us about this. 

He told us that Father is God; and that he, the Son, is God; 

and he told us about the Spirit, who is “another Advocate”—

the third Person in the Trinity.

So: we believe God is a Trinity, 

first and foremost, because Jesus told us this. 

We believe it because we believe him.

If you are a parent or a teacher, how do you explain things? 

Maybe you will use a diagram, or an image. 

And God did that too. 

Recall what Genesis says: 

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…”

God has given us an image of the Trinity – in us, in human beings.

So, let’s explore that.

Notice, first, that in creating humanity, 

he did not create a solitary being. 

He created us male and female. 

This is not a mere detail; it is foundational to who we are. 

Which is why it’s so problematic to muddy this up.

Think back to science class in school, 

when you and I learned that some of God’s creation 

multiplies simply by splitting apart. One amoeba, two amoebae. 

Remember that?

God created those, too; but that’s not how God created us to be. 

Rather, you and I were designed to enter into an intimate, 

totally self-giving relationship with each other: 

“male and female he created them.” 

So there’s an insight here into this whole marriage question. 

This isn’t about “hook ups,” but about a unique reality 

baked into the very bone and sinew of human nature.

By our nature, we are oriented toward relationship. 

A man, a woman; a husband, a wife; a father, a mother—a family! 

See how God created us to be his image?

God is not solitary, but persons-in-relationship, and so are we.

Let’s carry that one more step. 

And this will give you a very practical take-away from this homily.

God in himself—in Three Persons—is completeand whole; 

God doesn’t need creation, he doesn’t need the universe, 

and he doesn’t need us. 

God chooses—out of generous love—to create us, in order to include us.

If you and I are God’s image, 

then what I just described is part of what we are. 

For us to be truly human, you and I likewise are called to give and love, 

not out of any necessity, but out of self-gift, out of generosity.

It starts with a husband and wife, a family, but cannot stop there.

Not everyone will have children; and what happens after they grow up?

That fruitfulness is available to everyone, throughout our lives. 

Caring for the needy, the poor, the despised and forgotten.

Even to be generous and forgiving toward those who hurt us.

Again, is this not what the Holy Trinity does?

God sends rain on the just and the unjust. 

God the Son died on the Cross, not for the righteous, but for sinners. 

God provides an abundance for all his children, 

but how well it gets shared and multiplied depends on you and me.

The grace of God is available all the time to forgive and heal.

But who will invite others to receive it? That is your task and mine.

How about you, image-of-God? Do you want to show God to the world? 

Feed the needy, lift the burden from the backs of the oppressed, 

pay a just wage, speak up for those who are oppressed and forgotten, 

and forgive readily and generously. 

This is what it means to be the image of God.

Friday, May 24, 2024

The Holy Spirit is disruptive (Pentecost)

(The tale of this homily is a tale of life as pastor of three parishes becoming one. Some weeks are just not long enough. I could not begin this homily until Friday afternoon, and I ran out of time; the next day featured the ordination of priests in Cincinnati, after which, confessions and Mass. So I typed out what appears below, only the first half of the homily! Below, I'll add notes describing what I added, and intended to write out, but could not get to.)

When we talk about the Holy Spirit, Scripture gives us several images.

Ezekiel and the Book of Acts describe a powerful wind.

Jesus himself refers to “rivers of living water.” 

The Book of Acts also refers to fire – as does the Sequence.

There you have it: Wind, Water and Fire. 

It sounds like the name of a rock band.

Let’s look at each of these.

Wind or even breath: when we get the wind knocked out of us, 

that’s a terrifying moment; we’re immobile.

A breeze is awfully welcome when it’s hot, 

but a strong wind will reshape things, 

knocking down what we imagine is permanent.

Water is necessary for life. Did you know the Sahara Desert 

was once a lush forest? If the rains came back, so would life.

But here again: however gentle the rain or a babbling brook,

water is a force that ultimately will prevail.

Think of the Grand Canyon.

When we think of fire, you and I know 

both how essential it is, and how powerful.

All three images have this in common: they transform.

All three are mightier than you and I are.

They will overwhelm us if we try to stand in their way.

But if we cooperate?

That power, that transformation, brings life and beauty.

A thousand years ago, life moved pretty slowly. 

You could be born and live and die in a small village 

and never visit more than 100 miles in any direction. 

That’s not the world you and I live, even if sometimes we wish we did.

I invite you to consider that we can either be overwhelmed by change, be discouraged by it, or we can place some trust in the Holy Spirit 

that the mighty wind, the rushing water, the purifying fire –

However unpredictable and however disruptive, 

nevertheless is bringing, not darkness, but light; 

not destruction but new creation.

I concluded this homily by making several points:

- Citing Flannery O'Connor, God's grace is always working for our good, but it may not always be pleasant. Hence, the disruptions of the Holy Spirit may not be pleasant, but they are for our supreme good.

- That doesn't mean all the change we are experiencing is only and always what the Holy Spirit wants; the changes our parishes have gone through are the best we can manage, we hope the Holy Spirit prevails.

- But even in the best-case scenario, where the Holy Spirit prevails utterly, there will be disruption and challenge, so we shouldn't be surprised.

- I made a further point that, even the worst changes can be fruitful, citing the story of Chuck Colson, who was powerful in the Nixon Administration, caught up in Watergate, endured a spectacular fall, ending up in prison. Yet his life was transformed, and he gave the rest of his life to transforming others, and he would say as awful as his fall was, the fruit was worth it.