PRAY FOR CHARLIE GARD... AND OURSELVES


I just finished reading the latest on what has become an international story. Charlie Gard - the small, ill boy in the United Kingdom; who’s parents desperately were trying to find any treatment that could possibly save their son - they’ve been desperately arguing against those in their government authority who made the determination that there wasn’t anything left that could be done for little Charlie.

I’m not going to pretend that I know the ins and outs of this rare, genetic condition that causes brain damage that little Charlie has been suffering from. Nor will I presume that everything I’ve heard or read in the news or from people’s social media sites has given me an accurate picture of what the disease was or what the odds were for this experimental treatment to be successful. Today, young Charlie’s parents have dropped their court case in the UK basically conceding that there’s no longer hope that Charlie will recover. One of the story lines that has emerged that the UK’s dragging it’s feet on this case, forcing the parents to beg, and sue, and appeal on behalf of their son has made it less possible then ever that anything could be done for Charlie. Again, I don’t know if that’s true or not.

What’s sickening and frightening to me is that story line is even a viable possibility. In the not so distant past, there was this common held belief that Life was seen as the ultimate good... the thing that we fight for, protect, support, encourage.
- Yes there were wars - but others joined in those wars to end the carnage... and we revered the lives of those who made the ultimate sacrifice...
- Yes there were murders and crimes... but people were horrified and outraged by those occurrences.
- Yes there were sicknesses and diseases... but everyone rallied, from the doctors, to the families, to well wishers - moving heaven and earth to try to address those illnesses... particularly when it was an infant. 

Because Life was the supreme good. It was the thing we all shared in common - whatever race, gender, belief, class you came from... We all share this precious; irreplaceable; what many of us believe is God-given, but we can all agree is – this beautifully mysterious gift of Life. I can recall hearing cases where someone’s religious beliefs prevented medical care of a sick child going against the "Freedom of religion" argument and forcing the parents to provide the medical care because it was that important. Life was seen as more important than religious beliefs. Or at least - we realized we needed to be alive in order to fight that fight another day.

Never did I imagine a day where you would have parents, who had found medical practitioners willing to try something - coupled with the financial resources necessary to attempt this - being forced to beg the government to let them try to save the life of their child. That in itself has left me feeling a bit sickened... somewhat frightened... and definitely saddened. And so as I pray for Charlie Gard, and his devastated parents and family members... I also feel the desperate need to pray for ourselves to, who seem to have lost a sense of the preciousness of life.

LOOKING PAST THE WEEDS

Hi everyone... here’s my homily for the SIXTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME- July 23, 2017. The readings for today can be found at: Thanks as always for reading; sharing this on your social media feeds and your feedback and comments... Have a great week! God Bless- Fr Jim

HOMILY:
In college, I took a class called the Philosophy of God. One of the most interesting debates we had in that class was over Why do people decide not have any religious affiliation? Probably not very surprising - the major reason that those who fell into that group cited was: they felt people who go to Church are just like everybody else (actually, the way they put it - "people who go to Church are as lousy as everyone else") They said Christians were hypocrites, they knew "church goers" who were liars, gossips, cheats, etc. just like everywhere else in society.

The second reason wasn’t too surprising either - They argued "If there’s a good God, why does he allow so much evil to exist in the world?" People seem upset, (justifiably by the way) that things are not perfect. They are upset just like the servants in the Gospel today –why are there weeds among the wheat? Why isn’t the harvest going to turn out right? Why would the work of the good master fail?

There’s something to the argument... I think most of us are intimidated by these weeds. We wonder why they are there... We start to perhaps doubt the "sower" as we focus solely on the bad things in the world, in our worlds that have the potential to discourage, distract and upset us... We focus just on the weeds - their existence - their presence among us and forget the beautiful garden - the flowers that are blooming alongside the weeds.

Sorry to disappoint you - I don’t have the answer as to why God allows the devil to cast his evil into the garden (anymore than I can answer why I ever allow it to enter into my own life in when I commit sins) All Jesus promises us is that the Lord will take care of it in His time.

That, unfortunately, requires patience (something I’m not a great fan or practitioner of myself). We are challenged not to dwell, not to be discouraged, not to give more attention to the weeds or more importantly to the Evil in the world.

We are called to recognize the evil, we are called to resist it and to pray that God will take care of it in His time.

In the meantime, we are simply called to do Good instead of Evil -
to bless instead of curse,
to praise instead of criticize,
to forgive instead of resent
to love instead of hate.


The reality is that doesn’t make us feel too good, does it? We still are frustrated by those weeds in the field. But the more we reflect on it, the more relieved we should be about that... Thankful that God waits a while - that he tells his servants to hold back - that he allows the harvest to grow. Because truth be told - sometimes I’m the weed. There are times things I have done (or failed to do) that didn’t help the Lord’s harvest, didn’t glorify him, didn’t build up his garden.

And yet he gives me - he gives you - he gives us time to come back to him. He allows the evil to exist so that what is good might grow - not in the fields - but in the hearts and souls of each and everyone of us. God created us in his divine image and even though we sometimes act like weeds, we still have the potential within to turn good.

Think about it what a blessing that for us as Catholics, we are one good confession away from removing the weeds in our garden. To take time to do a true examination of conscience - to see the temptations I’ve succumbed to; the commandments I’ve ignored; the forgiveness I’ve withheld -and to ask for and receive forgiveness for my sins and turn things around.

Because what has always been a comfort to me... Is that recognizing how that was the case for the first ones who heard Jesus utter this parable... That even among Jesus’ first followers, men and women that today we call Saints this was a great truth. St. Peter - how many times did that guy screw up? How often did the one Jesus call "the rock" on which he would build the Church - turn out not just to be a weed but a thorn in Jesus’ side? Yet Peter would keep going through the difficult, painful process of recognizing his faults, recognizing his sins, trusting in Jesus love and asking (and receiving) His forgiveness.

For each of us, we can’t hide our heads in the sand and pretend the presence of evil in the world or in our lives isn’t there. But we always, always, always have to come back to the truth that God’s Love is stronger and even more real, even more present in our lives. So we’re not to despair over the weeds in our lives or the lives of others around us - and how ugly and destructive they are. Rather, we are to call on the Holy Spirit who is challenging us to yank those weeds out of our own lives - and to recognize what a beautiful world God has given us - what beautiful creatures he has made us.

NOT SUCCESSFUL... FAITHFUL

Hi everyone– here’s my homily for the FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - July 16, 2017. The readings for today can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/071617.cfm    (Gospel is the shorter option). As always, I’m grateful for your stopping by to read this blog; for all your shares on social media - and all your comments and feedback. Thanks and God Bless - Fr Jim

HOMILY:
About a week ago, a police officer, by the name of Officer Nate, was working an overtime shift when he was directed to respond to an emergency call. He arrived to discover that an elderly man had collapsed and stopped breathing. The cop happened to be just around the block and was able to arrive in just a few seconds where he was able to perform CPR on the man until the fire department and emergency squad responded.

Officer Nate shared that over the years that he has had a career in law enforcement, he’s been called on to perform CPR a few times, but that this was the first time he had been ever able to revive someone. Soon after, the medics were able to transport the man to the hospital, and Officer Nate continued about his day with various other calls and emergencies he needed to respond to, pretty much forgetting about this one particular call.

A few days later, while on patrol again, he was called back to Police headquarters for an unknown reason. When he walked into the station lobby, a younger man was standing there waiting for Officer Nate. It turned out that this man’s father was the one that Officer Nate had done CPR on and he just came by the station hoping to thank the man who had saved his father’s life. Officer Nate was happy and excited, and went forward to shake his hand just as the man explained that his father passed away the very next day. Officer Nate was kind of stunned and instantly stopped in his tracks. He said that he felt horrible for celebrating. [Thanks to https://www.facebook.com/humanizethebadge/ for sharing this story and the photo ]

We want the Hollywood style ending, don’t we? You know, the ending where the next day, there’s pictures of a grateful man in his hospital gown on the road to recovery shaking hands with a humbled but proud cop who could chalk this one up as a good or positive end when so often the majority of his calls, just because of the nature of police work, so often end on a negative, unpleasant note. That’s a very human desire....

That human desire is a recurring things that I hear from people whether it’s in a pastoral counseling or spiritual direction - or just friends, family members who are just catching up on life - People who do the right thing, with the best of intention and then being frustrated that those best efforts don’t even meet the remotest of expectations... which so often is followed by disappointment and discouragement flooding in.

Things like:

- We did everything we could for our kids...
- I studied hard, and unlike some of my classmates, didn’t cheat ...

- I’m a loyal, dedicated employee - treat my coworkers well and don’t suck up or cut people down...


- how come – and you can fill in the blank with a variety of legitimate frustrations and discouragements the people encounter (or we encounter ourselves)

Even as a priest, working in Campus ministry, I have to admit discouragement at times. Lord - I’m trying to be attentive to all the different responsibilities... I try to be supportive and encouraging to the students, the staff, the missionaries who work with us... I try to be open and creative to new ideas and outreaches - why hasn’t Mass attendance doubled?

The beauty of this parable that Jesus offers today in the Gospel of the sower and the seeds is that Jesus relates to the frustrations we can encounter in finding our sometimes best, noblest, most virtuous of efforts not producing the result we hoped for or expected. 


Think about what we just heard - a majority of the examples Jesus offers – three out of four of the scenarios, the efforts of the sower result in nothing. Birds, rocky soil, thorns all thwart the efforts of the farmer planting the seeds. But in that one instance, where the seed meets the rich soil it produces an abundant harvest, growing 100, 60 or 30 fold.

The more I sat with this parable, the more the quote from Mother Teresa came to mind - God has not called me to be successful, he has called me to be faithful. Just imagine if we really believed that... trusted that. God asks us to be faithful - to His word - to His commands - to His direction in our lives. He asks us to faithfully sow the seeds - being the best parents, grandparents, sons and daughters, employees, students, priests we can be. He asks us to faithfully, lovingly do whatever it is we’ve been called to do... He wants us to do the works of mercy - caring for the poor, attending to the sick, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned... And to do all of it for Him... knowing that sometimes our best efforts, not yielding the crop we wanted, doesn’t mean they were done in vain.

For the perfectionists among us (and here I’m really preaching to myself) that’s essential. God is in charge... not you or me. And God has not called me to be successful, he has called me to be faithful. Often times we may never know the importance or the effect of that faithfulness... of our work...

Officer Nate, said that as he apologized for being excited to meet the son of the man he saved only to learn he died the next day - the guy said to him "No, I appreciate you so much. Because you brought my dad back and I was able to fly in from Florida to say goodbye to him one last time before he passed." The officer revealed "I don't get too emotional very often in this job, but my eyes were flooded as we hugged." Another family member posted on her Facebook page: "Today we met the police officer that performed CPR on our dad and brought him back long enough for our family to spend another precious day with him. There are no words that can describe how truly thankful we are . . . you will always be in our hearts. Stay safe out there."

Not the Hollywood, heroic ending he wanted... but perhaps even more important and meaningful than he could have ever imagined. Jesus calling us to be faithful wants us to trust that the work of sowing seeds is indeed noble, important work...


So often, it’s our expectations that can take the joy out of things in life. That time we went the extra mile to help someone only to have them fail us in some way: They didn’t respond in a spirit of gratitude; they squandered the money. So often it’s our expectations that can take the joy out of being a Christian. That time we prayed for that sick relative; that time we pushed ourselves to go to Mass and felt less than inspired; that time we offered forgiveness to someone simply because Jesus asked us to when the person didn’t really deserve it (or appreciate it)

In all of these and countless other ways, instead of feeling foolish in helping, or offering or serving, Jesus wants us to rejoice in knowing that we were faithful. Remembering that all that we have is God’s gifts to us in the first place. He blesses us to bless others. And He is blessed and glorified when we go about, doing just that... sowing the seeds he has entrusted us with.

FIANCE OF THE YEAR

Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - July 9, 2017 - The readings for today can be found at:
Thanks as always for checking this blog out; for sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and elsewhere on social media; and for your comments and feedback. Have a great week - God Bless, Fr Jim 

HOMILY:
On Friday the NY Post shared a story about Will Seaton, a man from Indiana who may have won the "Sweetest Marriage Proposal Ever Award." Will had been dating Ashley Schaus since 2010 - and from the very beginning of their relationship, Ashley explained to Will that she was one of the primary care-givers for her sister Hannah, who has Down syndrome and diabetes. If they were to date, Will needed to know that Hannah was part of, as Ashley put it, "the package deal." From that day on, Hannah was invited to the majority of the couples dates. 

When Will decided to ask for Ashley’s hand in marriage, he felt that he needed to include Hannah. So he got down on one knee in a field a flowers and asked Hannah to be his "best friend forever" as he presented Hannah with a ring, which had been a family heirloom.

Ashley said it was "the sweetest moment in my whole life watching Hannah be so happy and feeling so special." At which point, Will looked at Ashley who was sobbing by now as she asked "Am I next?" Then Will got down on one knee and asked Ashley to be his wife. Hannah was thrilled at Will’s gesture to include her in his proposal explaining that "He takes me fishing and makes funny jokes. He makes me laugh and takes care of me."

This beautiful story in the news really stayed with me all day. To see Ashley who is that caring for her sister Hannah that from the very start of her relationship with Will, she was so inclusive of Hannah in such a selfless way. . . To see this young man Will who had so fallen for Ashley, that he recognized the importance of caring about the things, the people that would matter to her and to not accept that as simply "part of the package deal" but to embrace it in such a meaningful way. . . they give witness to what a life-giving, truly loving relationship is all about.


So often when this Gospel passage is proclaimed, hearing Jesus admiring having the faith of "little ones" or like "children" is misunderstood. We can mis-characterize that to be innocent forgetting how mischievous kids can sometimes be or ignorant - ignoring how often kids can surprise us with an insight or deep, reflective question or even utterly dependent - forgetting how many children in poverty or war torn areas destroy that stereotype as they somehow survive in those unjust conditions.

Being child like isn’t about any of those stereotypes that we so often attach to the word and not what Jesus is getting at. The quality of childlike or little ones that Jesus admires is their ability to Trust. He is asking us to trust Him and God above all. To Trust that what Jesus tells us and reveals to us about His Father is true. To trust that what Jesus promises us will come about. To trust that when we love as He does - as He asks us to love - that’s how we will find Him, and find God in our lives now.

So what Jesus asks us to do is to trust Him and embrace a faith that is centered in the love and compassion of God – love that is not compromised by self-interest and rationalization, compassion that is not measured but offered totally and unreservedly, completely and without limit or condition.


May you and I who can sometimes be the wise and learned ones embrace that spirit of generosity and selflessness of the little ones just like Will, Ashley and Hannah so beautifully demonstrate to the world.

PASSION & DEDICATION - What's it for you?

Hi everyone, here is my homily for the THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - July 2, 2017. The readings for today can be found at:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/070217.cfm 
Thanks as always for stopping by to read this; for sharing it on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit; and for your comments and feedback. Have a great week and Happy 4th of July!!! God Bless America and you and your families- Fr Jim

HOMILY:


Over the last few weeks, I’ve been reading this pretty lengthy and detailed book all about the 2016 Presidential election... Now already I can imagine people thinking - for good reason - "why would you want to relive that?" It’s a fascinating read though. It’s one of those books that had reporters following along with the candidates behind the scenes throughout the entire process - from the early primaries thru the general election night. The authors had unprecedented access to every aspect of the campaign, with the promise not to report anything until after the election was over. In explaining my interest in the book to a friend I said "Think of the Netflix show House of Cards - like most things, the book is better..." In that, I mean entertainment value, not going anywhere near making a political commentary.

One of the things that struck me reading all of this was how these campaigns have become these intense enterprises over the decades in a way that probably few of us realize. The minute, specific details that go into determining how every primary state is approached; the angst that different directors and managers for each candidate has over how many people from what county or town might show up to vote in a primary or participate in a caucus in each state; the obsessive nature that takes over the entire group of individuals in each campaign... it’s really eye opening.

While it’s easy for us to be cynical or disgusted by all of this - especially when we speculate how these obsessive aspects have led to more and more division in our country... There’s another side that hit me. On some level, despite my disagreement with all politicians and their staffs - I had to respect the different individuals involved in these campaigns. To admire the passion, the dedication they have in what they believe are noble and important pursuits. These various campaign staff workers literally abandon their entire lives, their homes, their relationships to fly to Iowa, for example, in the middle of winter trying to get people enthusiastic for their candidates... and then continue that mad dash till the nominations are complete and then prepare for the general election.

Passion. Dedication. For each and every human being, these are essential for us to tap into for ourselves - ultimately for us to find meaning in our lives. What is it that get’s each and everyone of us passionate. What are you and I so passionate about, that we become dedicated to it... Is it something that is worthy of such devotion - those are important questions for each of us to discern for ourselves.

Jesus raises those questions in today’s Gospel and is pretty direct about what needs to be the priority - for each and every one of us who dares to call ourselves His follower. After laying out some of what would be considered the most important relationships imaginable – the love of father and mother; the love of son or daughter - things that speak to people of every race, income level, culture. Relationships that by their very nature call for passion and dedication... After naming those, Jesus says that our love for Him, our passion and dedication for Him needs to be greater than all of those.

If we really let that sink in and take that seriously, the radicalness of those expectations can seem to be too much. Jesus doesn’t water them down, in fact, he continues on by reminding us of then the need to take up our crosses and following Him... of losing our lives for His sake. Basically telling us that when our relationship with Him is the priority over all others; when following Him becomes the thing we’re most passionate and dedicated too in life, our lives here will be harder. Because then we have to resist those temptations of fame, of prestige, of power, of riches in this world. Because then we have to recognize that the pursuits, the desires, the ambitions we have in this life - whatever they may be - can only go so far in our ever being able to achieve the fulfillment we are ultimately seeking... When that reality hits, we find that is often the source of much of the stress, discouragement and anxiety that so many of us suffer from.

In working with college students, I get to see this on display in a way more immediate and dramatic. The young woman who’s been training, dieting, disciplining herself for months and then not making the team - and is devastated. The guy who rehearsed, missed classes, skipped nights out with friends to practice his musical instrument and not getting chosen to be a part of a prestigious music program and feels shattered. Even having a young person applying to serve as a missionary - going through the lengthy application process, the interview weekends, praying and convincing themselves that this was what they were meant to do, and then not being chosen and falling into deep anger and despair. For each of these young people, it wasn’t that the pursuits were bad... it wasn’t that they weren’t passionate or dedicated enough to try to excel. It was that they were too focused on those things themselves. They had placed all their identity and energy into those pursuits - and forgotten who they were and whose they were. Which St. Paul says so beautifully in that second reading we who were baptized into Christ Jesus... have received newness of life. We are His. He calls us to this radical love of making Him the priority - because that’s how He loves us, as if we were the most important person in all of His creation. He calls us to take up our cross and lay down our lives, because that’s how He has loved us - in taking up His cross and laying down His life for each and every one of us.

That temptation though to allow other things, other people to become our main focus our main priority doesn’t disappear once someone graduates college - as most of us, myself included, can attest. I look at the times in my own life when I get the most stressed, most anxious, most discouraged. And in all honesty I realize that it’s not that I forgot about Jesus. It’s not that made a conscious decision to stop following Him and pursuing other things. It’s usually that all other things - even good things – became a bigger priority than they should. Even people who I love and care about that are on my mind- perhaps it was that friend going through a painful divorce or that relative who was sick - and allowing my care, my concern, my fear to become something I see as my problem. All of a sudden, something that I have no control over becomes a bigger priority in my mind and my heart. And sure I prayed for that person - or brought those obligations and concerns to the Lord. But usually with an expectation of "Jesus fix this...: rather than "Jesus fix me..." or "Jesus use me to help in this situation..."

We are meant to be passionate and dedicated... It’s how God created us to be... It’s what makes each and everyone of us a unique part of His amazing creation... So that’s why it’s attractive when we see those attributes on display. But today’s Gospel reminds us that ulitmately Jesus must be our priority... And then we are to pursue those different things that we’re passionate and dedicated to with Him at the center. Looking at the things that matter to us most here and now as a way to glorify Him. That not only keeps us in check so as not to set ourselves up for disappointment, it’s a good examination of our conscious (asking ourselves wow, all that time I spend doing – fill in the blank – is that really glorifying God?)

There’s a great prayer from a Jesuit priest by the name of Fr. Pedro Arrupe that is a favorite of mine and speaks to this - it goes:


Nothing is more practical than finding God
than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read,
whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love,
stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

May Jesus be our everything. May our love for Him, enrich and transform all that we are passionate and dedicated to that He is glorified in every one of our pursuits.

TRINITY SUNDAY: TOGETHER WE ARE ONE

Hi everyone, here's my homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity - SUNDAY JUNE 11, 2017.  The readings for today can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061117.cfm .  Thanks as always for reading; for sharing this on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit; and for your feedback and comments.  Grateful for your interest and support!  May God - who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit - Bless You and yours!  Fr Jim

HOMILY:

The Solemnity of the Holy Trinity... every homilist’s favorite Sunday.

Not to be dismissive of it. Particularly because it is one of the most central dogmas of being Christian and it is yet another way that we are distinguished from every other religion. We believe that God has revealed to us, His creatures, that He is triune - three - in one. God is relational -Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This theological truth that often causes us to ask more questions than to walk away with a better understanding or appreciation of it. Often times, we kind of are drawn to the aspect of God’s nature that most appeals to us: Jesus - as God only begotten Son, fully human, fully divine - who has made us his brothers and sisters.... Who has revealed that God isn’t some distant, creator who treats us as pitiable creatures but rather a Loving, Eternal Father who created us out of love and for love... and has gifted us with God the Holy Spirit -who imparts gifts on us that make us attentive to God’s voice and his grace working our lives; that make us love the things of God and open to his prompts...

But in that, we have to remember they’re not three gods, but three persons - one God... which can be difficult, complicated for us to understand or even appreciate. And there’s that temptation to skip it. But this God who loves us, who we love and worship here - has revealed His very nature to us, so how do make sense of it so that it can mean something to us.

Of all places for me to think of the trinity this past week, something struck me while I was at the gym. Seriously. And not because in a moment of sheer desperation I was making the sign of the cross. I was on a treadmill, and this guy happened to get on a treadmill a row in front of me with his sweatshirt from a Police Academy. On the back it had the patches of all the different police departments that were represented in the class and among them were these words:


Although we are many - together we are one.


For many passers-by who just see that sweatshirt, it might seem a nice sentiment, or a cool motto. But for the men and women who made up that class that prepared them for their law enforcement careers - they know the truth of those words. How they had to help each other navigate the difficult routines, the long hours, the challenges physically, mentally and emotionally to make it from day one to their graduation days. They did this together, they came together as individuals from very different backgrounds, histories, experiences to make up this one class of police officers. And that experience will always remain an important bond that people outside that group will never be able to fully appreciate or understand.

That same sentiment - of many coming together as one is true of different sports. Football players who make the team, start training in the heat of summer - navigate the ups and downs of a difficult season with unexpected victories (and losses) injuries, and breakthroughs - the 11 who are on the field and the number of substitutes on the bench all know that in order for the team to be victorious - the many have to become one.

You could say the same thing for a cast of a play. The group of actors and actresses who go from audition to being cast; begin the grueling hours of rehearsals - the challenge of memorizing scripts and lines. In order for this group of actors and actresses to be able to give a great performance, they need to come together as one.

These are just a few examples that demonstrates how there is something about us as human beings that reveals we are designed for relationship. Yes we are independent individuals, capable of unique, impressive abilities through our God-given gifts and talents. And in this fiercely independent age that we live in, that reality is often celebrated to admire the one who is winning the award or has accomplished whatever impressive feat that has caught our attention (sadly, sometimes, forgetting all the others who helped contribute in that success being possible).

But God, in sharing with us the secret, the mystery of who He is in this celebration of The Trinity - does so not to leave us perplexed with some difficult, in-explainable  riddle. Bur rather to encourage us to see the many ways that He calls us as individuals into something greater - when we come together into one - we begin to appreciate the importance of relationships in our lives because it’s who God is as well:

When a husband and wife come together in the beauty, the sacredness of the Sacrament of Matrimony and that love is so strong that new life comes about in children....

When a geographical area is marked out and a priest is assigned by the Archbishop and together they become a parish family like this one - which eventually builds a magnificent home, this Church...

When you and I and every other baptized man and women recognizes how that has made us brothers and sisters and the billions of us form one body - the Body of Christ...

In these different ways, we start to recognize how we are made in God’s image and likeness - and this complex theological belief is more common to us than we may have thought.

PEACE BE WITH YOU - IF YOU CHOOSE

Hi everyone - Happy Pentecost Sunday!  The readings for today can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/060417-day-mass.cfm.  Thanks as always for reading this blog; for sharing it on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit; and for you comments and feedback.  Have a great week.  God Bless - Fr Jim

HOMILY:

Because I was attending a priest-friend’s 25th anniversary celebration this afternoon, I didn’t have to prepare a homily myself for the celebration of Pentecost. I had looked at and discussed the readings on "The Catholic Guy Show"; the Sirius/XM Satellite Radio show I co-host on Thursdays and Fridays for one of the segments called "homily on the spot." That’s the bit where the host Lino Rulli will read the gospel and want me to give an instant homily... which rarely goes well for me (which is one of the comedic aspects for sure). So I knew what the readings for today were going to be before Mass, even though I hadn’t prepared a homily.

But I guess that’s why I was surprised that when the deacon proclaimed the Gospel I kind of was taken aback. It’s not like we haven’t heard this passage from John before. In fact it’s actually a "repeat" from the Second Sunday of Easter – Jesus enters the locked upper room of the Apostles on Easter Sunday Night. So this reading isn’t an obscure passage that hasn’t been heard for some time, it’s not something that is unfamiliar. But what was jarring was the words of Jesus:

"Peace be with you" - which in this very short passage of only 4 verses, he repeats... "Peace be with you" before he bestows the Holy Spirit on them.

Those words seemed jarring in light of, yet another terrorist attack which occurred less than 24 hours earlier in London. To be honest, as soon as I started to see tweets with the headlines of this attrocity last night - I tuned out. I could feel myself getting tense, and upset, and fearful... I could sense my own anger just seeing the British flag circulating on social media as people in their own way want to express their connection to people who are suffering. Anger that it seems everytime we see a flag it means there’s another horrific atrocity that has taken place.

"Peace be with you."

Last night wasn’t the first time I’ve found myself turning off the news – and even the so called "entertainment" world. I’ve been finding myself doing that a lot more often to be honest. When I do put the TV on, I’ve been opting for something calm or peaceful like HGTV more and more. Because the amount of negativity in so much of what is being broadcasted has grown increasingly toxic. The news is filled with talking heads on either side of every issue ready to pounce to defend themselves and explain why it’s the other side’s fault as they launch another tirade. Entertainers or celebrities seem to buy the notion that any publicity is good publicity and grown more vile and disgusting in their attempts at humor - which is followed by OUTRAGE OUTRAGE OUTRAGE... With calls for boycotts, protests... And those who have been in the public eye for any length of time and end up going through a personal crisis, once we’re done hearing how one politician is the anti-christ; and gotten the update over which celebrity said something so awful and terrible that we’re going to talk about it and show it to you another 15 times.... we’ll close out with picking apart this other celebrities fall from grace. Yeah, I’d much rather see the Property Brothers - take a train-wreck of a house and transformed into something beautiful (magically reducing months of work to a nice 30-60 minute program)

"Peace be with you"

Truth be told... it’s not just the outside world that brings us down... that seems to speak words completely contrary to those words of Jesus. I think of the family who just lost someone they loved way too young and too tragically... I think of a relative who’s been fighting cancer for over 10 years and being told their remaining options are very limited.... I think of people who are confined to awful work situations - knowing they’re in an unhealthy and horrible place, but can’t just walk in quit and walk away when they have bills to pay, and no other viable option in front of them... I think of students struggling to figure out how they can afford next semesters tuition when they have already taken out more loans than they had hoped or anticipated... There’s no shortage of problems, difficulties, struggles that are all around us if we take a moment to categorize them all that all seem to make hearing those words - "Peace be with you" jarring... Insulting? Unreal? Idealistic?

But the more I thought about it over the afternoon, the more it hit me was that Jesus is offering us Peace - but it’s a choice. It’s our choice, our decision to receive it. It’s our choice, our decision to utilize it, to live it.

And it always has been.

We tend to look at Pentecost, at this Easter season that we conclude today with stained-glass vision. Beautiful, spiritual, transformational events that changed the world and that we recall as happy memories. I think about the mosaic I saw in St. Louis’s Cathedral of Pentecost where it’s this awesome illustration of the apostles, dressed in their heavenly looking robes, with the Blessed Mother sitting there with a halo and the dove hovering over them with these tongues of fire over each of their heads. It looks so perfect. It looks so amazing. It looks like everything they could’ve wanted or imagined has been fulfilled instantly and completely. And it looks so removed from our experience. Because what we miss in images like that was that it was a choice - it was a decision for the apostles, for Mary to be there. They were filled with fear. We can’t forget, that in this very gospel, we hear that the room was locked. And St. John makes no excuses for the locked doors, it was - "for fear of the Jew [-ish leaders who had conspired with the Romans to kill Jesus, and who they feared were after them next]." Yet despite the sadness and sorrow which was still looming in their heads and hearts from Good Friday... despite these fears, they choose to be there. They choose Jesus.

It’s not like they didn’t have choices. Maybe because we’ve heard this story many times, we tend to think of the apostles as characters in a play that we know how it’s going to play out. Yet they were just like us. They could’ve given into despair. We can’t forget that one of the 12 had... Judas after choosing to follow the world, and at least securing himself with the Romans and the Jewish leaders for turning Jesus over, recognized the horror of that decision. But rather than remembering all that Jesus had said and done... the words of Mercy, the acts of love – the forgiveness to sinners - he choose despair and hung himself.

Judas was not the only one... there are other instances throughout the gospels where we hear of people who walked away from Jesus: The rich young man for one who after asking Jesus what more could he do, found Jesus’ call to give up all that mattered in the world and devote himself solely to Jesus too much for him to do. The group of disciples who first heard Jesus’ teaching ton the Eucharist hat they must eat his flesh and drink his blood - and couldn’t or wouldn’t hear these words - they walked away as well.

The 12 could’ve taken off as well after Good Friday, and perhaps some of them were even contemplating it. Yet they choose to come together - as Jesus had told them to do. And Jesus enters into that locked room; enters into that fear - already blowing their minds having been risen from the dead – and then He offers them His Peace which is tied to His gift of the Holy Spirit.

In the days that followed that Easter night, the apostles would be confronted again with all kinds of fear. After appearing to them for 40 days, Jesus commissions them to now Go and proclaim His Gospel and then He ascends into heaven. They leave Mount Olivet - they return to the upper room - they had to choose to be there together - to dedicate themselves to prayer - to believing and trusting that Jesus’ promise of sending this "gift" this "Holy Spirit" upon them would somehow enable them to fulfill Jesus’ commands. And so it happened. The Spirit comes upon them, and we see that the apostles are transformed to speak in new languages and the beginning of the Church takes place. But just reading through the Acts of the Apostles - after that event, this would be a daily choice, an ongoing thing that they had to do. They would be confronted with difficult missions, hostile crowds, angry leaders - and ultimately almost all of them would face their own deaths for being apostles of Christ. Yet they kept choosing Peace they kept choosing the Holy Spirit and looking to Him to provide the strength, to give them the words, to be their consoler in the moments of darkness when it felt there was no one left in the world to support them.

That’s what struck me today. We too have to choose to be men and women of Peace - We too have to choose to let the Holy Spirit into our lives and our decisions:

So when we hear of the terrors of London, we have to be cautious of our reactions, our responses individually and personally. Do we choose Christ and let His Peace be with us?

When we hear of nasty, deviant things being said by entertainers, do we share them (and help amplify them); do we join in the slugfest and buying into the non-stop "Outrage" culture that only seems to be creating a "gotcha" environment. Or do we stop before we tune in, or "share," or chime in and comment, and choose Christ and let His Peace be with us?

When we think of all the personal struggles that family, or friends or even each of us are going through personally - do we let our hearts get weighed down, give into despair, and walk away in our depression, our fear, our worry? Or do we come as we are, looking to the apostles example, and yes acknowledging our fears, our worry’s but not giving into them and choose Christ and let His Peace be with us?

That is the difficult place we find ourselves in. We who have received this same Holy Spirit, we already have this precious gift of God within us. It’s not a distant spiritual reality. It’s not some confusing theological concept that we need extensive teaching. Jesus, who remains with us in His Word, in His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, in the Church - continues to pour out His gift of the Holy Spirit upon us. He has promised that He will never leave us. He has promised that He will continue to do tremendous deeds through each and every one of us who make up the Church. But it’s still a matter of a choice, a decision on our parts.

We have to want the Holy Spirit.

We have to want His Peace.