WELL THAT SHOULD BE OBVIOUS





Hi everyone, here's my homily for the feast of OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE - Sunday, November 22, 2014. The readings for today's Mass can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/112314.cfm .  Thanks as always for reading, commenting, and sharing this blog on Twitter, Facebook and Reddit... and for your comments and feedback.  Thanks and God Bless - Fr. Jim

HOMILY:
For you listeners of Lino Rulli’s "The Catholic Guy Show" this would be a perfect story for his "What’s up with that segment" that he plays when I’m on the air, coming from NBC News:
A Southern California man’s job prospects are not looking good after he allegedly stabbed the boss during an interview Monday afternoon. El Cajon police say the applicant, Jose Lopez, showed up drunk to a job interview at 207 South Sunshine Avenue. When the business owner smelled alcohol on Lopez’s breath, he confronted the interviewee about it. In turn, Lopez became angry and then got physical, police say. A fight ensued, but when the boss got the upper hand and put the suspect in a headlock, Lopez stabbed him in the arm, according to investigators. Lopez then ran off, leaving behind one very important piece of evidence: his job application. When El Cajon police officers responded, the victim showed them the paper that listed the suspect’s name, which they used to find his address. They arrested Lopez in his home later that day. He has since been booked into San Diego County Jail on charges of assault with a deadly weapon. The victim was taken to Sharp Memorial Hospital for a minor stab wound. The El Cajon business will undoubtedly be taking more applications.

Do people really need a reminder that when going on a job interview that you shouldn’t show up drunk, stab the potential employer – and then leave the completed application (with your name and address) behind for the police? You would think that such things we would know instinctively. Those are things that you shouldn’t have to be taught in a career counseling course or a suggestion posted on Monster.com.  It’s basic common sense.  But evidently, we as human beings still need reminders of even obvious things. (Today’s Public Service Announcement: Don’t touch a boiling pot of water with your bare hands... it will burn) Really? When reading the warnings on appliances, it's really comical how specific they are in the "do nots" they list. Perhaps the legal system has something to do with this.

In reading today’s Gospel, aren't the points that Jesus is making somewhat obvious? As we celebrate this feast of "Christ the King," we hear very familiar directives.  His expectations of us as members of his Kingdom seem fairly obvious: Take care of the poor, the sick, the stranger, the imprisoned – even people who don’t identify themselves as Christian will often characterize those actions as a "Christian" thing to do.  And when we’re found not doing these things, not doing what Jesus expects us to, just look at how quickly some individuals (rightly by the way) will point out the hypocrisy when someone claims to be a devout Christian and ignores the poor or takes care of themselves to a luxurious extreme. 

On the flip side, and from a more positive perspective, there have been numerous stories showing how the Catholic Church is widely seen as the single largest charitable organization in the world - and when you include our brothers and sisters of other Christian denominations - that gap would grow considerably.  That goes from everything from providing health care, education, shelter, chaplaincies, rushing into lands and areas suffering devastation from natural disasters. Even last month, as people panicked over the Ebola virus, most people overlooked that  the first Americans who were infected were a part of missionary teams doing medical care in those African regions that were hardest hit by the virus.

All of this isn’t meant for us to congratulate ourselves and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. I think for a lot of us, we can fall into the trap of thinking that it’s like throwing a Yankee shirt on and thinking I’m part of a winning team because I do that (when in reality I’d be arrested just walking on the field during a game!) We’re not "covered" because we're a Christian and belong to the Church. Yes, the Church and Christians around the world do good things for people who are suffering. But the question remains, are we personally doing something to serve in the name of Christ?

Jesus is pretty explicit here. Saying that at the end of time, the judgment of our lives is simply going to be centered around one question. The question isn’t a surprise. It will be pretty obvious to us.  And even with the obviousness of it, even though we shouldn’t need these reminders, he goes ahead and reminds us once again – that it won’t be our GPA, our awards, how many Facebook friends, or how much fun did we have in life that will matter.

It will simply be what have we done for Christ and our neighbor? What did you do for Christ? Are you prepared to answer that question right now?
 
He begs us not simply to do that to be "good people" or to be "good ambassadors" as members of His Kingdom.  He is telling us that the secret to eternal happiness begins right here and now, in this life - when we live selflessly, sacrificially for one another - seeing one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.  In this self-giving, self-forgetting love, we begin to reverse what is the core of the "original sin" - self-centeredness, self-indulgence, self-sufficiency which has been a problem for every human being since Adam and Eve left that garden. What things are we spoiling ourselves with while our brothers and sisters are hurting and going without?

It’s true, some of the greatest of Saints (like St. Francis of Assisi and please God, soon-to-be Saints like Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta) became such because they responded to this Gospel in such radical ways the entire world admired their example and witness (while they still doubted whether they were doing enough) But that doesn’t mean you have to run to your ATM empty your bank account, drop out of school, sell everything and give it to the poor. With all the gifts, all the talents, all the opportunities we’ve been blessed with here and now, the question is how will we allow that question to shape our present, and our future:  what are we doing for Christ and our neighbor. It's a moment by moment decision.

How is your dorm rooms, your class rooms, your work places, your families, your tables in the cafeteria different because of your response to His command?  How are we practicing charitable living not simply dropping off groceries to a food drive or a Toy for an underpriveleged child at Christmas a few times a year.

Do you feel the tension? It's a tension built on what we want to do and what we should do. It's felt at those times when we feel we should be somewhere else, doing something else, and this is in response to the call on our lives that we read about in the Gospel. Tension here is a good thing for it shapes us into the person God wants us to be. Because truth be told, Jesus Christ our King’s expectations are difficult, are challenging to respond to. But at the same time, they are also incredibly obvious to us. And we can never say we didn’t know what He expects of us.

DOOMSDAY! Are you prepared?


Hi everyone - here's my homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - November 16, 2014.  The readings for today can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111614.cfm.  Thanks as always for taking the time to read this blog, sharing it on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit and all your comments and feedback. God Bless - Fr. Jim

HOMILY:


Doomsday … it's a term that we consider when our world is in horrible shape because of some catastrophic event. How many of you have ever heard of the show “Doomsday Preppers?”  When a commercial for the show came on, I never took it seriously.  I just imagined it was some bizarre TV drama - like “Lost’ or “The Walking Dead”– something that’s fictitious, something that’s not real but is sort of presented like it is or could be.  For whatever reason, not too long ago, a preview of an upcoming episode of Doomsday Preppers caught my attention and I realized this isn’t some fictitious show, it’s a sort of reality TV/ documentaries that follows people who are “prepping” to extremes that it consumes their entire lives.  My immediate thought was -“Oh boy, this is a whole new sort of crazy.”  Each episode follows a different group of people who are prepping for all sorts of threats - real or imagined.  They anticipate all kinds of disasters, calamities, unprecedented happenings and try to plan accordingly.  For example, there have been episodes showing individuals preparing for when the Chinese take over our country.  They’ve highlighted people who are preparing for a terrorist attack or when the Russians launch a nuclear attack.  There have been episodes where people anticipate the electric grid going caput and for all of us being without electricity for months, even years.

Living in this area of Northern New Jersey - not 15 miles from New York City - where we suffered through the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks; where we survived “Super-storm Sandy” - if anything those terrible events have taught us - just as Hurricane Katrina taught the people of New Orleans and the earthquakes of the past have taught the people of California - certainly, it’s understandable - it’s important - it’s essential - for us to have plans in case of emergencies.  It’s not an unreasonable expectation for us as citizens to hold that our government officials conduct drills and contingency plans to prepare for worst case scenarios.  It’s responsible for us to have some supplies on hand in case something happens and for families and friends to come up with some plans of what to do in an emergency.


But thats not what this show is about.  They introduce viewers to people, often living in rural places in isolation who have turned their homes into bunkers. You see pictures of these places filled with wall-to-wall canned goods.  They have built escape tunnels, hideaway places.  They spend most of their time drilling, stockpiling items all based around their belief that when the end comes - they will be the ones prepared to deal with it - they will survive because they took care of themselves.

I hate even giving attention to this show on so many levels - seeing these people being exploited for being obviously eccentric (and in some cases, legitimately they seem to have some serious psychological issues).  Had this show never existed – nor been a ratings powerhouse for the Discovery Channel – I doubt I would’ve ever known there were people who view life, live life (if you can call this “living”) with such a doomsday perspective.  But it’s hard to ignore such a colossally sad existence.  How fear is the guiding principle to their lives.    They’ve based their entire life preparing for the worst.  They’ve invested their time, their abilities, and a heck of a lot of resources towards this.  They’ve isolated themselves from the rest of civilization. They miss the irony that the very life they are somewhat desperately trying to protect from exterior forces they are themselves diminishing, squandering - losing.

In some ways these “preppers” reminded me of this poor shlub we just heard about in this Gospel.  In this parable Jesus talks about a man entrusting to his servants his possessions.   One gets “5 talents” the other 2 talents and the final guy 1.  “Talents” in this context represents huge sums of money... 1 talent could represent something between $1,000-$30,000.    So let’s just say $10,000 to illustrate what’s happening.  The guy with $50,000 through his investment makes it $100,000 - The guy with $20,000 makes it $40,000 - The guy with $10,000 gives him back the initial $10,000 - having done nothing with it.

If you hadn’t guessed by now, Jesus is the Master and we are the servants.  And the great “sin” in the parable is that this one servant (who Jesus calls “useless”– ouch!) lets fear inhibit him from even trying to do something with that $10,000.  He didn’t look at what the other two servants were doing for inspiration.  He doesn’t ask for any advice or help.  Just like the doomsday preppers - fear becomes a fixation - which turns inward into selfishness, into self-centeredness - and isolation.  The guy with the one talent is so cautious - he does nothing with it - it provides no benefit for he himself who has been entrusted with it, and its value remains unchanged for the king when he returns.  The time, the opportunity to do something or make something is wasted.

Working with college students - I can’t help but think that this parable is so incredibly perfect for you all.  You are at a time, a place in your life where you have possibly the most freedom and most opportunities than you will ever have.  You have more independence than you have ever had.  Most of you are blessed not to have many responsibilities apart from “finding yourself” - and dedicating your efforts to pursuing whatever it is that you’re passionate about.  What are the “talents” - not monetary things - but rather traits, passions, desires, gifts that you have locked within you - that are looking to burst out.   And even more, are you connecting the dots to see who they originated with? Seeing how you can glorify - not yourself- but the Master who has entrusted you with these talents? What will you do with them? It's a choice.

I encourage you to people watch around campus. It grieves me that there are plenty of examples of people who are squandering this opportunity.  Skipping classes, cheating, abusing themselves, using one another.  It’s a sad reality that some will barely get by, barely survive mid-terms, finals and scrape by and somehow manage to graduate.  Others don’t participate in anything but the bare minimum. Why? Laziness.  I remember a group of seniors one day walking past Kasser Theatre last year and laughing as they said “I’ve been here 5 years and never been in that place.”  That’s pretty sad.  Their 4 (or 5 or 6 years) these gifted students have been given will do little to glorify God or anyone else except perhaps themselves.   But it’s not the only way these years can be taken for granted.

Self-indulgence, laziness, fear - they don’t just blow opportunities in the here and now.  This isn’t just about making the most of your college years and giving you the “Carpe Diem” (the Montclair State University motto) motivational speech.  Jesus is going further, deeper.  Asking are you allowing those sinful attitudes and behaviors to blow this opportunity - this life you’ve been given?  How is your life, your existence, your time on this planet going to be used to glorify God - enrich His kingdom?  Every day we are given opportunities to make the most of what we have been given. The minor choices we have for our resources - whether it’s the money we spend, our creativity, our freedom of speech to either glorify God or bury that talent where it will never be seen or experienced.  Those day to day decisions start to impact your life decisions as well...  I can’t tell you how many times someone talks about picking a major or a career simply because it’s seen as “secure” … it's safe. Perhaps you are living up to someone else's expectations. (I’m studying to be a doctor because my father is one and he really wants me to - but I really wish I could be a teacher...)  Or even relationships “I know that he/she isn’t perfect; we fight a lot; but we’ve been together for so long and I don’t want to give up after we’ve spent so much time together.”

God has not created people to live in a fearful or doomsday mentality and go underground. He has created us to shine His light. That is kingdom investment that will make a good return because it is backed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  To step out into the unknown, directed by the hand of our Loving Father – to take advantage of the different talents he has entrusted to us, knowing that He sees the potential – the life-giving, life-changing potential each of us possesses since He created us for that purpose.  That’s the heart of the message Jesus is sharing in today’s Gospel.  The question is, will we need Jesus warning?  Because the alternative - to choose to stay in whatever comfort zone we’ve created for ourselves; to at the end of our lives seeing these blown opportunities; to have the Master find us – secure, but useless… that would be the epitome of a "doomsday” we should have been prepared to avoid.

WHAT'S TRENDING?


Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica – November 9, 2014. The readings for today’s feast can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/110914.cfm. Thanks as always for reading, your feedback and for sharing this blog on Twitter, Facebook and reddit. God Bless, Fr. Jim

HOMILY:


"What is trending right now?"

Whether you’re looking at Yahoo, Twitter or Facebook; watching a news program on television; even going real old-school and reading a newspaper - all of these forms of media seem to have adopted this "trending" thing which has evolved as a result of our social-media culture. 

In some ways, it seems like a virtual flash mob.  These different websites and apps from smart phones and computers are able to measure what is being texted, tweeted, snap-chatted, instagrammed or whatever other new app might be out there that I’m missing – and they come up with a list that is posted on different websites in a top 5 or top 10 ranking list that constantly changes as people’s retweets and hashtags evolve throughout the day.  Supposedly telling you what is the thing most people are talking about.

So at 1:30 in the afternoon on Tuesday the list of what was trending included - Wayne Brady’s depression; Kawasaki Ninja (the worlds fastest motorcycle) Matt Le Blanc (Joey from the show "Friends") "Body transformation" where he revealed his biceps - were what was "trending."  For someone with ADD or who’s easily distracted, these trending lists are a bit of a nightmare... In my research for this homily, I found myself clicking on random things on the list including "#AlexfromTarget" – and then 20 minutes later asking myself why do I care?  And I suppose you can’t look to this simply at some random point in the day for things that will have lasting, long-term impressions - or stories that will be of major consequence a few hours later.  So many celebrities and pop-culture stuff kind of pop in and out rather quickly. 

I kept thinking that here it was Tuesday, November 4th with elections going on all around the nation and that didn’t even seem to enter the top 10, but... again, I suppose that its hard to take these lists serious at one given hour. More than likely, as these hours become days, and days become weeks, and weeks become months - we get a more fuller picture of our modern history. To the point that when there’s a year-end review, and media-sites compile all these things, they will be able to measure what was most pressing, most urgent, most newsworthy things which, no doubt, will see things that were recurring, and trended for longer periods of time than the moment the nation seemed transfixed by Matt LeBlanc’s flexing of his muscles. 

If I had to guess, more than likely when 2014 comes to a close, a list of things that trended for the year will be like #Ebola; Robin William’s suicide; ISIS will rank a bit more newsworthy. These things affected us culturally, socially - they were part of our history.  They will likely be a part of the story people will tell future generations about what life was like around here at this point in time. 
This idea of "trending" seemed a good way of explaining why we’re celebrating what we’re celebrating today.  "The Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica".  On the surface, just reading that title of this feast day seems like a nightmare for a homilist, because at the core, we are basically commemorating how in the year 324 this Church in Rome was first dedicated. And not St. Peter’s Basilica - which if you were going to have a feast day for the entire Catholic Church around the entire world to celebrate, St. Peter’s that magnificent structure which comes immediately to mind when we hear the words "The Vatican" would seem to make sense. We’re talking about another basilica, another Church on the other side of Rome.  More than likely, some of us might even wonder how does this relate to our lives at all? It’s very nice that this Cathedral basilica in Rome has been there for close to 1,700 years - but for most of us who have never seen it (and may never get over to Rome to see it) other than a historical curiosity, why would we even take time out of Ordinary Time to commemorate this? 

But this feast is more than commemorating the day an old Church in Rome was dedicated.  It is remembering a much more important, historic moment that shifted the life of the Church - the life of all Christianity.

Celebrating Mass in one of the chapels of the Lateran Basilica
in Rome, July, 2014.  Love how the painting depicts
St. John the Baptist and St. John, the Beloved Disciple
pointing to Christ and the consecrated Host as if to say:
"this becomes this..."
The dedication of the Lateran Basilica reminds us of the moment that those living in the Roman empire in those early centuries of Christianity no longer needed to fear death simply for following Jesus Christ. The celebration of Sunday Mass no longer needed to be done underground tombs or secretly in homes. Even more telling, the empire acknowledged the one true God that Jesus had revealed to humanity – The trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit could now be praised, worshiped and acknowledged by the secular world as the one true God.  Because up until then, the Emperor himself was considered a god - which is why the persecution of Christians had been so fierce. But with the Emperor Constantine having converted  to Christianity that changed everything.  Many people throughout the Roman empire were hearing the Good News of Jesus openly proclaimed and were converting to it as well.  They were no longer "enslaved" or "owned" by the oppression of a Roman emperor "god."  Christianity, Jesus, Rome being seen as a "New Jerusalem" would all have been things that were "trending" in the year 324 and that was a game changer for everyone

All of this was symbolized in a very physical, visible way in the dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome.  Today that Church is meant to be a symbol of our unity as Catholic Christians throughout the world and we are to remember that sadly, all these years later this very night there are Christians who are persecuted, who are killed for being a follower of Jesus Christ. This feast inspires hope to them and demands our support and prayers that their persecution will end.

But this feast also opens a more immediate question for us here.  What is "trending," in our lives... Who does our world acknowledge as it’s "god?"  Where does our society look to for it’s "god?"  Here we live in a nation where at least a quarter of the entire population has been baptized as Roman Catholic Christians; nearly 80% of all Americans claim to be Christian.  But honestly, does it really look like our world has heeded the words of St. Paul in today’s second reading and made Jesus Christ our foundation?

It’s true religious bigotry, and condescension towards faith-filled people is far from over (I could write a book about such incidents right here on our campus); at the same time we can rejoice and be thankful that here in the United States we don’t have to be afraid to lose our lives for being Christian. Every day we have an opportunity to bear witness to Jesus Christ by our words and actions.  Each week we have an opportunity to come together as the People of God and hear His word and be transformed by His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. That transformation isn’t just for us personally - it is meant to make us the living Church. That’s why we are called "brother’s and sister’s." Do we take that seriously that we are connected closely with one another? We are family.

And those ties extend beyond this room throughout all of the Catholic-Christian world.  We are united with the soldiers celebrating Mass tonight in the back of a Jeep in the deserts of Afghanistan; the persecuted Christians the Middle East and China; as well as our friends at Rutgers and Kean Universities who are celebrating Mass right now too. Which is why today’s feast is bigger than just remembering a building but points to that reality of that living Church.  All of us become that temple of God. Will zeal for that house consume us? Will others be aware of our passion for God and His kingdom? Today, you can make a life-changing difference. It takes only one person to make a change in society, others and ourselves. The fire that consumes you will enable you to go forth empowered more than you will ever know. Burn with passion. Burn for God and watch what He will do with your steps of faith. It could be the beginning of a new trend just waiting to break out.

TEXT FROM THE GRAVE?

Hi everyone - here is my homily for SUNDAY NOVEMBER 2, 2014 - THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED (ALL SOULS DAY)  There's actually about 8 or 9 different options for the readings that you can hear at Mass today, but the ones I used for this homily are:
Wisdom 3: 1-9; Romans 8: 31-35 and

John 6: 37-40.  (You can read any book from the bible on the US Catholic bishops website at www.USCCB.org and click on the "Bible" link)  Thanks everyone for reading - and sharing this homily on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit.  Appreciate the support and your feedback and comments.
As we remember our beloved deceased today and in a special way throughout the month of November, we pray - Eternal rest, grant unto them, O Lord, And let the perpetual light shine upon them.  May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed through the Mercy of God, rest in peace.
          
HOMILY:
About two weeks ago, the NY Post, a newspaper that is known for their provocative headlines lived up to that reputation once again.  “Cellphone text ‘from the grave’” it read over a picture of two relatives holding a cell phone in front of a graveyard with a picture of a text message that seemed to show how their deceased grandmother had texted them - which was followed by a second headline which said “The line went undead.”


            The story details how in 2011, Sherri Emerson’s grandmother Lesley died of cancer.  Sherri had placed her grandmother’s cellphone inside the coffin with her before they closed it for burial and then begged the phone company not to give away the phone number so that she could continue texting her grandmother.  She and her grandmother had communicated a lot through texting while she was alive, and Sherri had kept all the old messages she had with her.  The phone company promised that they would honor this request and for three years, Sherri would send her grandmother text messages every once in awhile when she was missing her, or wanting to share some news with her.

            Back in September of this year, Sherri received quite a shock.  One Wednesday evening Sherri texted her grandmother sharing some things about her family life.  The next morning she looked down at her phone and saw a response, seemingly from beyond the grave that said: “I’m watching over you, you’ll get through this, you’ll be alright.”   After being shaken and traumatized, she and her family were able to discover that, unfortunately, the phone company had released the phone number and this man who had received the “new” number thought someone playing a prank on him...which is why he responded.  Sherri explained “Obviously we know that Nan wasn’t ever going to reply to our texts.  It was just something we did as a comfort for ourselves, because she loved to text.  You can imagine what I was thinking seeing a message flash up from her.”

            Many people, not even knowing Sherri or her family, were just heart broken for them reading or hearing that story.  Because while the idea of burying a cellphone with a departed loved one and texting them is probably a somewhat new and unique phenomenon – the desire, the wish, the hope to connect with our loved ones who have died and passed away is probably one of the most universal things we share as human beings – no matter what your religion, culture – no matter what era you lived in.     If we look at some of the most spectacular tourist sights of the world – for example - The Taj Majal in India; The pyramids in Egypt – are actually tombs built thousands of years ago.  These majestic edifices are ways that these individuals kept their memories alive - generations after anyone who ever knew of them had passed away.  We do similar things right here on campus as we name buildings (Blanton Hall) for the same reason.  Some people struggle so much with the loss of loved ones and want to know that they are safe, that they are okay that they buy into people who claim to be “Mediums”- who claim to be able to contact your deceased loved one and speak back to you.  That always bothers me - that these so-called “mediums” would prey on people who are mourning and grieving an are vulnerable...not that people want to connect with their deceased loved ones.

            Every year on this day - November 2nd, the Church celebrates what is called “All Souls Day - The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed.”  It’s of such importance that we break from the regular routine of Sunday Mass readings that have been following in sequence since the end of the Easter Season (probably about 16 weeks).  What we are doing is answering that human desire to connect with our deceased loved ones with the eyes of faith.

            There is nothing more painful or difficult to endure, to face then death (although I do remember Jerry Seinfeld making an observation that a survey once said people feared making public speeches more than death, which if that was true, people would rather be the deceased than the one giving the eulogy) All kidding aside, death is frightening.  But as Catholic Christians, we’re encouraged, we’re reminded by these readings and this commemoration of All Souls reminds us that our connection to our departed brothers and sisters in the faith isn’t maintained in memorializing buildings, or looking for signs or messages from the beyond.

            The Hebrew Scriptures we heard in the first reading, from the book of Wisdom confidently proclaims: The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction.  But they are in peace.

            That’s hard to believe without them physically here with us.  But is our relationship solely based on physical realities? We have never experienced the perfect peace described. We live in a world where we feel the pain of loss, hurt, anger and more. It's hard to imagine the constant joy of eternal life. The whole reason we mourn, we grieve, we miss people is because of a spiritual gift - which is Love. We have spent a lot of time loving the people who have gone before us. They became a part of our everyday life and when they are taken away, there is a void that is not easily filled. That’s why St. Paul’s words are so comforting.  Paul who’s entire life was transformed in meeting Jesus Christ after he had been risen from the dead - Paul who because of that conversion suffered rejection, torture, and eventually would be beheaded for following Jesus Christ, tells us:

What will separate us from the love of Christ?

Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?

No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers,nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

                The joy of Jesus is what we have today. We can claim that peace in our lives knowing what is before us in life and death. We know that we will not be separated from the love of God. That is a promise. We must make the choice of believing it or not.

            All of that leads to the Gospel, where very simply Jesus as he reminds us that his entire mission, his whole reason for coming to earth is to proclaim the good news that “the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.” It's a promise.

            The Church gives us these readings to remind us that the connections we’ve made in life are God’s gift, His blessing to us here and now. As we remember our loved ones today, and pray that they are beholding God in his glory - we are entrusting them to His loving, merciful care. It may be difficult to trust this at times, but the Bible encourages us to keep believing and trusting. We were connected to them in life. There is still a connection. Although different, through God's merciful Love, we continue to be united with them, both in this life and the next. They have impacted our lives and we are who we are by our loved ones' influence. We continue to live their legacy left behind. Our choices are influenced by our experience with them in this life. Not only do they “live on” inside of us, but they are truly living the life right now with God. The good news is that there will be a day when we will join them in this wonderful eternal life. No more tears, no more pain … only joy. It's a promise.

DON'T PUT YOUR IPHONE IN A MICROWAVE


Hi everyone - here's my homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time - OCTOBER 26, 2014.  The readings can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/102614.cfm  Thanks as always for reading, your feedback, and for sharing this blog on facebook, twitter and reddit.  Appreciate all of your support.  God Bless, Fr. Jim

HOMILY:
How many of you have the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 plus? It’s a testimony to the marketing and ingenuity of Apple that for their fans and customers, from the announcement of the next version of their product to the day of release causes such anticipation.  Some of them describe this random Friday when the phones are released each September like Christmas morning. People stand in line for hours (in some places even days) to make sure they are able to purchase one before they run out of stock, which amazingly happens the first weekend they go on sale every year!

Part of the genius that makes the launch of each new iPhone is that they keep tweaking it each year. New features - different capabilities. So one year they added a camera not only on the one side, but the other side as well (making "Selfie’s" possible) another year they added something that the button on the bottom of the phone can scan your thumb so no one can use it but you. Another year they offered the phone in white and gold which really got people excited for some reason.

This past year though, something that was somewhat hysterical happened (actually, truth be told it’s a mean trick, and had I fallen prey to it I would probably wouldn’t think it was hysterical, but...) with the release of this new iPhone, there was an advertisement floating online that promised Apple users that they could wirelessly re-charge their battery by placing it in a microwave.  It looked just like an Apple promotion - with the pictures, fonts, everything resembling a typical ad by Apple and it was billed as the "Next Big Thing" and it was called WAVE.  The ad said: Wave is our latest and greatest addition which allows your device to be charged through any standard household microwave.  The ios8 contains new drivers that interface with your device’s radio-baseband allowing it to synchronize with microwave frequencies and use them to recharge your battery. Then it added for more authenticity: 60 seconds for microwaves at 300 w frequencies.  70 seconds at 800 w - DO NOT WAVE-CHARGE FOR OVER 300 seconds.
It was a terrible hoax that unfortunately pictures that popped up on twitter and the internet of burned melted phones showed it was believed to be true by too many people.  Even the Los Angeles Police Department had to send a tweet out warning people "DO NOT MICROWAVE YOUR IPHONES."  What made people fall for it? I’m sure that some people just naively believed that perhaps this truly was the next big thing (how that’s possible since practically every human being who’s ever operated a microwave knows not to put anything metallic in it, but I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt)   Most likely, people so wanted it to be true that they bought into it hook, line and sink - or in this case - Fry (as in the iphone getting fried on the inside). The need to plug the stupid thing into the wall for two hours to recharge it - that’s too long - we need it now.

No matter how evolved, advanced, as a society we’ve become as humanity, it seems somewhat in our DNA that we’re often looking for a short-cut. The faster, more efficient option. Why read a whole book when you can read cliffs notes (or for you kids these days, wikipedia probably has a free summary online).  We tend to want to cut to the chase; get to the point; not waste time.

That has a way of entering into all parts of our lives - even our spiritual lives as well. Which is what is happening in today’s Gospel. We’ve been hearing this back and forth dialogue/debate/inquisition between Jesus and the Pharisees for a couple of weeks now from the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus has been answering with parables - each time trying to probe them to go deeper.  Recognizing that they had been experts in the law of God - they had a lot of head smarts - he basically is trying to get them to expand their hearts more. To recognize perhaps they didn’t have "it" as much as they thought they had.


Which is why today’s question is so interesting.  After all this back and forth the Pharisee comes forward and basically is trying to bypass that reflection Jesus is inviting them to partake in - he’s not interested in stories, or riddles or parables. He’s a lawyer. He’s fixated on the law.  He wants to just get down to basics. "Which is the greatest commandment of the law?"  To give you  a hint, he was expecting Jesus to pick one from among 613 commandments of the law that had made the people of Israel - God’s People...

Pick one... now. Nice, efficient.  Whether he sincerely desired an answer out of his own curiosity to see if Jesus’ opinion aligned with his or was trying to trap him as well - we don’t know his heart. But despite the desire for a quick and easy answer, Jesus hits him - and us - with quite a punch:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all you mind... This is the greatest and first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbor as yourself.
Just think about what Jesus is saying to us.  He’s not giving an answer that allows any of us to pick and choose what we think is most important. He’s not saying here’s the fastest, most direct way to make God happy.  If anything it’s even more demanding. It’s all consuming. But there’s something amazingly beautiful in Jesus’ response. He’s saying to the Jews - you know why my Father has engaged you - given you all these laws in the first place; added to them as you grew and multiplied and things got more complicated as a result; seemingly hounded you through the prophets when you fell away?  It’s because HE loves YOU - with ALL HIS HEART, WITH ALL HIS SOUL, WITH ALL HIS MIND.  And how do I know that - because that’s why I’m here... that’s what my mission in life, even in my death - and ultimately in my resurrection - to demonstrate this truth.

Sadly, we need to have this reminder. It’s true - there are some who come to Mass week after week to fulfill a duty, thinking they’ve gotten something off their checklist and "made sure the man upstairs is happy" - while leaving this place and seemingly no different for the hour they’ve been here. It’s true there are some who think they never need to worship thinking "so long as I’m a good person that’s what matters the most."  I’m thinking of that guy a few years ago who made headlines with his rap you-tube saying "Why I hate religion but love Jesus." Can we truly differentiate religion and Jesus? There’s a reason we have both. The law – or all of the laws – were not set up to hinder our walk with Jesus. God never meant for us to be imprisoned with "you have to do this" or "you better not do that" but to live life abundantly. Which is what Jesus came to bring us: Freedom. We have true Freedom when we have a relationship with Christ. That’s what Jesus is getting at in this discussion with the young lawyer. When we love God and love others as ourselves, we fulfill the 613 laws established. The problem comes when we realize we can't do it. Our sin nature gets in the way no matter how hard we try to be good. But the point is – we have to at least try – we have to at least be desiring that, moving in that direction.

For us to fulfill the law, the commandments, to be good "Catholics" - there’s no short cut, there’s no "minimum requirements to be fulfilled’ other than giving back to God what He has given to us - our whole hearts, our souls, our minds. What would that look like in your life? Would it be a huge change or a bit of tweaking here and there? We were created to glorify God with all we are, think and do. Praising and worshiping him here at Mass is one thing we do to honor God. What can we do with the other 167 hours per week? Jesus isn’t trying to overwhelm us or be demanding. He’s doing the complete opposite. He’s inviting us to expand our vision, expand our lives, expand our hearts – share our hearts – with the one that created them in the first place – with Him who loved us into existence. We find that when we do, there’s no fast, easy, expedient way of dealing with God – but that’s the point… when you love someone, truly love someone, you don’t want to take a short cut in the first place;  You want to spend every moment with them – even eternity. Makes sense, don’t you think?

FERRIS BUELLER - CATHOLIC EDITION

FHi everyone, here's my homily for SUNDAY OCT 19, 2014 - the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  The readings for today's Mass can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/101914.cfm.  Thanks as always for reading, sharing and commenting on this blog.  God Bless - Fr. Jim

HOMILY:

The closest I ever was to skipping school or intentionally late was under the great assistance of my two older brothers. I had to have been in 7th Grade, My brother Craig was in 9th grade and oldest brother Chris was a senior in High School. It was a February morning... it was the day after a snow storm had kept us home all day and it was a Wednesday.


I remembered that because it wasn’t just any Wednesday - it was Ash Wednesday. My mother had looked at the Church Bulletin and noticed that there was a 8:00 Mass in the morning. She raced us out the door at 7:45 so that we could get to St. Agnes in time for the 8:00 Mass (the Church wasn’t even a 5 minute car ride from our home) And she gave us each a note for being late (Since Home Room was 8:20, we were going to be a few minutes late - maybe miss a few minutes of first period since she told us to leave Mass after communion - something I DO NOT ENCOURAGE)

It’s amazing how quickly with my oldest brother driving, and the three of us not in any hurry to get to school, that other options came to mind. It's like Ferris Bueller's Day off, Catholic Version...

Truth be told, and not to make my brothers look badly, but they weren’t exactly interested in going to Mass at all. So when my brother decided to take the long route to St. Agnes ("OOPS did I just miss the turn onto Madison Hill Road???? Oh well, I guess I’ll have to go down Westfield Avenue! So now a 1 mile trip added another 3.5 miles, in morning rush hour, with streets in bad condition. Sadly we were already late for 8:00 Mass. It probably was 8:25 by that point. That’s when I, very helpfully, offered that there was also a 9:00 Mass that we could attend. In fact that was the school Mass, with Music and everything - so my brother kept driving the same 3 mile loop. We got into church just in time for the 9 am Mass. It went to around 9:45... By the time we had our post-communion meditation, lit a candle at one of the shrines (at which point an older parishioner came over and said "don’t you guys think you better be heading to school?") it was 10 am. We easily missed the first two periods of the day (I was hoping to miss part of the third period which was Math) We told ourselves that we were good Catholics - had to get to Mass for Ash Wednesday right? And we completely got away with it. Ashened headed with notes from Mom there was no questions asked when I got to school (I skipped going along with my brothers who decided they had to go to the Diner after Mass... even though Chris made a compelling argument that breakfast is the most important meal of the day...forgetting of course that since it was Ash Wednesday we were supposed to fast, but...)

In the grand scheme of things, I know it’s not the most earth-shattering act of disobedience that one could commit. Sadly, I can give countless examples that were even worse that my brothers and I did. But there’s something about this one that always bothered me - still bothers me to this day. Sure I regret our being dishonest to my parents, teachers and all. But the thing that really makes this stand out is the fact that we used God, and for such a silly reason - just so we could be late for school.

The idea of "using God" isn’t something that the Chern boy’s invented. Not by a long shot. In fact that’s one of the things that is at play in this Gospel. The pivotal question in this encounter "is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?" was simply designed to stir up opposition against Jesus. The Pharisses thought they finally got him - see- If Jesus said not to pay the tax to Caesar then the Roman officials could take Jesus out labeling him a radical revolutionary who threatened civil disobedience, who was challenging their authority. If Jesus said they should pay the tax, then the Jews of that day would have people arguing that he was siding with the Romans, the very people that had taken over their land.

Even more, if Jesus gave some support to the idea of taxes, state, Roman authority – for many, that was seen as violating the commandment to love, to serve, to obey God alone. Not quite a popular view to most Jews. So Jesus’ opponents are trying to be clever. They try to use God and their covenant with Him - not just to get out of paying taxes but even worse as a means of trying to eliminate Jesus, the Son of God simply so they could continue what they wanted - to maintain their positions of power and influence.

Interestingly though, if you look at the entire episode, we see Jesus isn’t simply delivering a clever dig at his opponents (he is) But in the process Jesus tries to move them from asking about loopholes, responsibilities, obligations and says – well since you asked – since you brought the question of God up, What do we owe God? How does being a member of the Kingdom of God affect all aspects of our lives?

Because the thing is, by their asking the question about whether to pay the tax to Caesar or not the opponents of Jesus revealed something more about themselves. You see, by their choosing to have the coins with Caesar on it, they had chosen to be a part of the empire. They were utilizing the form of currency of their oppressors. So even though they complained about being "occupied"; Even though they hated the Romans - looked to be freed from them - by that very act they had already compromised their identity as God’s people by buying into the Roman economy. Obviously they didn’t hate Rome as much as they thought they did. It wasn’t great, but they had gotten somewhat comfortable and made the best of the situation.

Both the Old and New testaments talk about the need for us to be detached from the things, the structures, the institutions of this world, recognizing where our true citizenship lies. That we are to live as members of the Kingdom of God. Jesus points out in His clever response to their questioning that if we chose to engage the things of this world - we’re free to do so - but then we have obligations and responsibilities to them. We can’t then try to turn it around and claim that with God the Father as our true King, that we don’t have to fulfill these earthly obligations that we’ve entered into. And that doesn’t exclude us from our ultimate responsibilities to God. The Ten Commandments don’t come second to The Constitution. The call to "tithe" our time, talent and treasure to God doesn’t disappear because our expenses (or our desires for things) cost more. My obligation to worship God on Sunday isn’t mitigated because I want to be in a club or because I put off my homework all week or because the Giants are on Sunday Night (and I slept too late to make Mass in the morning, or Saturday night) and then say "I just can’t make it this week"

True, our loving Father is merciful, loving, forgiving. But the Gospel underscores the reality that we’re only fooling ourselves when we get into these types of debates. God must always come first in our lives. In Jesus telling us to "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God" - is a nicer way of saying we need to stop trying to use God as an out when it’s convenient and recognize that to love Him is to serve Him - whether its convenient or not.