TROUBLED? WHO SAID I WAS TROUBLED????

Hi everyone, here's my homily for the THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER - April 19, 2015 - given at NEWMAN CATHOLIC CENTER AT MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY (www.MSUNEWMAN.com) The readings for this Sunday's Mass can be found here .  Thanks as always for stopping by this blog, reading these homilies, sharing them throughout your social media sites (facebook, twitter, reddit) and for your feedback and comments.  There always much appreciated.  God Bless - Fr Jim


HOMILY:

Why are you troubled?

Jesus asks that question in a very particular context in tonight’s Gospel passage.  In case you missed it, he had been unjustly tried, horrifically tortured, even more grotesquely crucified, abandoned, left dead in a tomb.  And now, three days later, risen from the dead, has appeared to Mary Magdalene, the disciples in the upper Room, the two on the road to Emmaus, and now again in the midst of the disciples.  This roller-coaster course of events has got to be a lot to take in.  And as he simply appears in their midst – He first says “Peace be with you.” He knew peace was probably a struggle for them at that moment. God knows this about us, that is why He wrote “Fear not” throughout the Bible … He knows we have a problem with fear.

To help ease their minds, Jesus eats with them clearly showing that He is not a ghost  - yet not like the rest of us who haven’t experienced the resurrection yet - the word Jesus uses to get a sense of the room seems appropriate – why are you troubled? I imagine the disciples thinking, “Why are we troubled? He asks … after all that happened. How can we not be troubled?”

But here in this space, some one thousand nine hundred and seventy seven years or so later - in this liturgy where the Risen Christ is real, is present both in this Word being spoken and soon in the bread and wine becoming His Body and His Blood, Jesus asks you and me the same question:

Why are you troubled

It’s not Are you troubled - it’s Why - because the reality is that each and everyone of us has things that trouble us – that frighten us - even that startle and terrify us.   Is it something in the short-term? Maybe an exam.  Maybe it’s more than just an exam in a course, maybe it’s a medical exam that you or someone you love is going for.  Is it life questions? Where am I going with my life?  Where is this relationship going?   Why do I feel so alone?  Why does this thing still hurt so much that hurts so much?  Is it about someone else - I’m worried about my Mom, my Dad... What can I do to help my brother, my sister...  The less control we feel we have, the more troubled we seem to feel.

There’s a reality that many of us experience in that we do a great job of hiding, dodging, deflecting whatever it is that troubles us.  It's awful to feel troubled. It takes a lot of emotional energy from us. At the same time, in the fast-paced world where there’s a premium on all things pleasurable, where we are bombarded with messages, alternatives, options that promise us pleasure, the unspoken thing that many of us can pick up on is that most people don’t want to know, won’t ask Why are you troubled?  For some that might be because they feel unable, ill-equipped to do anything about it.  Maybe because they’re afraid that in asking someone else about that pain, the place I’ve buried the things that I’m troubled about will burst open and not only don’t I want to deal with your troubles, I most certainly don’t want to deal with mine.

It’s interesting, just thinking about all this reminded me of a story from a few years back.  There was this Church in England that had been built in the 1960's which had this large sculpture of a crucifix – the image of Christ on the cross removed from the outside of the church after one of the clergymen said it was disturbing to people.  The 10 ft. sculpture crucifix, which had been mounted on the front of St. John’s Church according to parish leaders, was "a horrifying depiction of pain and suffering" which was "putting people off and scaring children." It has now been replaced with a new plain, stainless steel cross. The leaders of the Church said that in survey’s they had conducted on the crucifix the results came back with every comment about the sculpture being negative.

Reverend Souter, the vicar of the church said: "Children have commented on how scary they find it and [parishioners remarked] how off-putting they thought it was as a symbol outside the church. As the key exterior symbol for us it made people more uncomfortable rather than having a sense of hope and life and the power of the resurrection."  The sculpture was removed from this Church and placed on a wall in a Museum. The curator of the museum observed that it was a very powerful image displayed in that sculpture of Christ in pain. He remarked "That today isn't an image which a lot of churches want to follow. They'd much rather see an empty cross where Christ has risen," he said.

Pain, suffering are indeed troubling.  The image of Christ crucified is troubling.  But for Easter to make sense... for the Resurrection of Christ to become real to you and me... for us to become people who witness these things - we have to face these things, deal with these things.  Or rather, we have to allow Jesus Christ to enter into our lives and help us face and deal with these things - trusting that He who has come back from the dead can in fact do just that. 

Consider something:  over the last few Sundays we’ve been hearing in the different Gospel accounts amazing things about Jesus Christ risen from the dead.  Jesus in his resurrected body is able to get into these locked rooms without a key and seems to appear and disappear with relative ease, sometimes without even saying goodbye, he just seems to vanish from their midst (which is why people think he’s a ghost) Yet he makes it very clear and says to them No, I’m not a ghost – touch me and feel that I am flesh and bone; watch me as I eat (he seems to like Fish a lot). So there He is in this glorified body, that enables Jesus to do all kinds of things that we aren’t able to do. And yet, there’s one important detail we hear about –

He still has the wounds on Him.

The nail marks that pierced his hands, and feet, they’re still there. Did God the Father forget to fix that? I mean, if you’re raising your son from a horrific death like that, you would think that you’d want to clean up all those wounds, those marks, those terrible reminders of what happened. But perhaps there’s a reason they’re still there. Maybe those wounds, are there for a reason.

Why are you troubled Jesus asks in the Gospel -- and then He makes a point to them to say - look see my hands and my feet... It’s almost like Jesus saying - I haven’t forgotten what Good Friday is like - I know you are going through your own Good Fridays. When you’re feeling abandoned, alone, abused. Like the whole world has turned it’s back on you and leaving you completely broken. I know you’re troubled. I know you have questions. I haven’t forgotten how that feels. I haven’t forgotten you.

And as our first taste, first experience of the resurrection in our own lives, He tells us when we turn away from our lives of sin, when we bring to him all the things that make us feel unloved, unworthy, he says you are Loved, you are worthy “Be forgiven.”

We look to the wounds, we look to the image of the crucified one in this season of Easter joy because we can relate to the wounds, relate to the crucified one.. we who are experiencing Good Fridays in our own lives... and see that true victory is there as Jesus comes in the midst of that and offers us His peace. And as we turn to him, embracing those glorified, pierced hands of His - we are with the ultimate “winner” trusting that he is with us, we become true witnesses that from the horror of Good Friday - Easter Joy and Hope is born. So we look at the crucified one, we remember those wounds not as defeatists, but to remember that what God has done for His beloved Son, He will do for us, His beloved sons and daughters.

If we believe that and have our faith and trust in that, could we have any greater sign of hope and victory than lovingly, joyfully beholding the crucifix? Understanding Jesus died on the cross to save us and that there was no other way, brings great triumph in His sacrifice in the resurrection. A win that lasts forever.   Alleluia!

GOOGLE TRYING TO BE LIKE JESUS? - Easter Sunday 2015

HAPPY EASTER! 
JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN FROM THE DEAD
HE IS RISEN INDEED

Here is my homily for Easter Sunday April 5, 2015.  The readings for today's Mass can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/040515.cfm.  Thanks as always for reading, sharing this blog with your followers on Twitter, facebook, reddit - and for your feedback and comments.  My best wishes to you and yours for a Blessed Easter - Fr. Jim

HOMILY:



Has "google" changed the world? Maybe not yet... but they seem to have grand ambitions to do so.

Maybe 10-15 years ago, hearing the word Google was probably something we were familiar with like"Yahoo" or "Ask.com" - internet sites, search engines designed to help you find different sites on the internet. Yet through ingenuity, creativity, business sense and an explosion of modern technological advancements Google has become something much more than just another tool for the world wide web, but arguably, a cultural changing force:
- It has become such a dominant presence that Webster’s dictionary has added the word "google" as a verb –what is a platypus? I don’t know – google it. Basically meaning, use the google search engine on the internet to find out information about someone or something.

-They are behind some huge cultural phenomenons like - Instagram, another huge social media explosion where people share photos with one another; and Uber, which is redefining taxi service through the few clicks on a phone or computer - just to name 2.

- Over 425 million people, including government agencies in 45 states, 66 of the top 100 universities in the U.S. and 5 million businesses use gmail for their email addresses, a dominating presence to be sure.


So seeing the cover of a business magazine saying "Google wants you to live forever" - you couldn’t help but wonder if there’s some consumer angle or catch to it – was this just a provocative headline to get us to hear how Google wants customers to live longer to buy more stuff that they produce?

In fact, they’re quite serious. The story was an expose on Bill Maris the president and managing partner of Google Ventures, a division of Google. His mission, backed by $425 million dollars is to vet, search, meet with different companies, ventures, individuals to invest in companies that will slow aging, reverse disease, extend life.

Some of it sounds amazing - like how Google has spent hundreds of millions of dollars backing a research center, called Google X which is working on a pill that would insert nanoparticles into our bloodstream to detect disease and cancer mutations. Or another venture called the Interactive Cancer Explorer, which allows oncologists, to do research and devise treatments for their patients which has changed things from where they could only treat cancer with a poison, to possibly curing cancer by reverse-engineering a stem cell. Some of it sounds scary too and pushing the envelope of ethics where there’s the worst of science fiction being considered (full body transplant? Terminator-like robotics added to human beings?)

When asked about this Maris reflectively said "There are plenty of people, including us, that want to invest in consumer Internet, but we can do more than that.... There are a lot of billionaires in Silicon Valley, but in the end, we are all heading to the same place, If given the choice between making a lot of money or finding a way to make people live longer, what do you choose?"

In many ways their goals, their desires are noble, admirable and something that we can all unite on. A world where there will be fixes to the harmful effects of smoking, too much sun or what alcohol can do to our DNA... A future where Alzheimers and Parkinsons and other diseases are erradicated - just hearing that makes me want to sign up and get a gmail account just to support those noble ambitions.

But you couldn’t help but pick up a sense of dread... fear in this interview. At one point as his employees joked with him, he smiled and then quickly went back to work saying "Time is the one thing I can’t get back and can’t give back to you." Describing these broad goals and ideals he says "We actually have the tools in the life sciences to achieve anything that you have the audacity to envision, I just hope to live long enough not to die."

Maris gives voice to the fear that has plagued humanity from the day humanity left the Garden of Eden and death became a part of our story:

"In the end, we are all heading to the same place."

That quintessential fact, is what humanity from age to age has been faced with - death. That burden, that obstacle is what is motivating Maris and Google to try to set the goal of "living forever" (or if you saw the asterisk next to the headline in small print qualifying the headline to say *well maybe to 500)

Google may (and hopefully they will) succeed in helping us to extend life in productive, healthy ways. But they will not succeed in making living forever possible

But Jesus Christ has... does... wills... that very thing this very day.

That is the audacious, mysterious, wondrous, terrifying thing that we celebrate today. That the God-incarnate, Son of God, Jesus, born of Mary, who lived, ate, felt, experienced every aspect of humanity we do - including the most horrific, painful, sorrowful aspects - both physically and emotionally - especially death, death in the most brutal, violent, torturous way - death on the Cross - has
been raised from the dead. Lives Forever. Promises us that same future if we but believe in Him, follow Him, love Him and share this good news.

Truth be told – We want to believe, but we’re reluctant.

Some come here just on Easter almost like an Insurance deductible - make the minimum payment just in case its real.

The doubts seem so hard to overcome.

The evidence of death is certainly very verifiable in tragically, dramatic ways. Whether on a global level in wars, in disease, in poverty, in cruelty – Or much closer to home in the illnesses, the betrayals, the rejections, the deaths of loved ones we experience around us. Those things have the ability to depress us into disbelief.

Yet these witnesses, who saw depressing, distressing things happen to Jesus - like the unjust, chaotic trial; the crowds turning blood thirsty, demanding love be crucified – saw themselves powerless, impotent to stop these horrific things from happening - they who shared our disbelief tell of how that disbelief was vanquished as death was vanquished... an empty tomb, angelic testimony, and in the days and weeks to come as we continue to celebrate this great mystery of our faith – Easter – they will share of their encountering the Risen Jesus. How that encounter transforms them and emboldens them to move from fear to conviction as they give their very lives in testimony to the one who died and rose from the dead.

As we come together on this Easter day, our hearts need to be fixed, focused on the desire to live forever. But not with a fear-filled "survival" mentality where we simply try to out-last death for as long as possible but rather seeing the new life that Easter promises. Jesus doesn’t come back from the dead and resume his pre-Good Friday life. He is transformed... into a new, abundant life...He promises us that same transformation. We can begin that new life, and start living forever - now.

What does that kind of living look like? Actually, it's living each day like it's your last one on earth. It's living like you are citizen of heaven and under the tutelage of Jesus. You want to do your best during these days … love more, share more, teach more, etc. In bringing out your best and showing and sharing Jesus in you, you are actually giving yourself more joy in experiencing the fullness of your life. It is no longer every day or mundane … it is exciting and you wait with great anticipation for the next moment. You realize who you are to Jesus and who He is to you. It's an intimate relationship like none other. These beliefs are put into action in your life … now and forever.

How does Jesus want to transform you? Your families, Your relationships, Your very life.

Pope Francis said in his Easter homily a couple of years ago let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives! Are we often weary, disheartened and sad? Do we feel weighed down by our sins? Do we think that we won’t be able to cope? Let us not close our hearts, let us not lose confidence, let us never give up: there are no situations which God cannot change, there is no sin which he cannot forgive if only we open ourselves to him.

May the joy that this feast proclaims be with us always, and may Christ's Love be our foretaste of living forever with Him.

HAPPY EASTER

JUDAS OR JESUS-- WHO DO WE REFLECT?

Hi everyone, here's my homily for PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD’S PASSION - March 29, 2015.  The readings for today can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/032915.cfm.  Thanks as always for stopping by to read this blog, for your comments and feedback and for sharing it.  God Bless you this Holy Week as we renew ourselves in the amazing Love of God for us...  Fr Jim

HOMILY:

Leonardo Da Vinci - the 15th Century artist, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer - who’s genius is still appreciated all these centuries later once told a fascinating story about the creation of one of his masterpieces "the Last Supper."


When Da Vinci started working on the painting, he lived in Milan. As he set out to paint the piece he decided he wanted to find a young man to pose for each of the persons in the painting. He wanted to find someone he imagined might look like what Jesus would look like; someone he could conceive of how the disciples might have looked like. So he began to search in Milan.

Some days he would walk the streets for hours at a time, looking at men’s faces, searching for his disciples, searching for his Jesus. One day he was in the Cathedral in Milan, and during Mass, the choir was singing and he looked up into the choir loft, and he saw this one young man who looked like what he thought Jesus would look like. He approached the young man after Mass and asked him if he would agree to pose for the painting. The young man agreed and he came to DaVinci’s studio for 4 or 5 days in a row and every day sat there for many hours on end while DaVinci painted him. When he was finished, DaVinci thanked the young man and he began his search for the 12 disciples.

One by one he found the disciples. The search was not easy. It took years. After three years he found all his disciples…except one - JUDAS! He couldn’t find himself a Judas. And he would walk through the Milan streets for hours and hours a day, and he became quite frustrated. Four years passed, and still he had found no one to pose for the person of Judas.

So, he decided that he was looking in the wrong places. He decided that if he was going to find the person of Judas, he had to look in places where this type of person would congregate. And he began to search in the prisons on the outskirts of Milan. At the time, there were five prisons. He went one after another and finally in the fourth prison, he found a young man who looked like he thought Judas would have looked. A harsh face, with a scar here and there and a certain look of resentment. Impatience in his eyes. He explained to the young man what he was doing. He asked the young man if he would agree to come and pose for the painting. The young man agreed and arrangements were made to bring the man from the prison to DaVinci’s studio in Milan. There in the studio, DaVinci set about finishing his masterpiece.

During the second day, DaVinci noticed, the young man, would look at Leonardo and he would look at the painting and then he would look down. And every time that this happened, DaVinci sensed there was a certain sadness growing in the heart of this young man. Finally, DaVinci stopped painting and he asked the young man: "Is there something wrong, am I upsetting you in some way?" The young man said "No."

Leonardo continued painting, but about a half hour later, DaVinci noticed that this sadness had grown so deep that he thought that at any moment the young man would burst into tears. He stopped again and he said to the young man: "Is there something wrong, have I offended or upset you in some way?" The young man put his hands over his face and he began to weep inconsolably. After several minutes, he began to compose himself. He looked up at DaVinci and he said: "Master, do you not recognize me?" and DaVinci said, "No, I am sorry, I don’t. have we met before?" and the young man said "Yes. Seven years ago, I posed for you in this same painting as the person of Jesus."


As we’ve just heard and participated in the proclamation of the Passion of Jesus Christ, recalling the events of the week culminating in his Crucifixion, it’s easy to detach from it and look at it like some drama that we’re familiar with but not apart of. Yet the truth of the matter is quite different:

Within each of us is the capacity for great love, as well as great evil. We can respond to God’s grace in our lives and participate in the very life of God and resemble Jesus Christ; or in our sinfulness, our image can become distorted, and we reflect even a Judas.

From the Cross Jesus looks out at those in the crowd, he cannot help but notice, some of those people beneath the foot of the cross were waving Palm branches at him, just 5 days earlier. For some reason, they had made a bad choice. For some reason they had chosen "evil" rather than good.

Jesus knows for sure that within us we have the capacity to reflect Him or to reflect his betrayer Judas. The complex choices we make between good and evil, right and wrong affect us, affect who we are, and who we most resemble.

Holy Week confronts us... makes us uncomfortable... Asks us to look in the mirror. What does your face say about your life? Who do you resemble? Whatever your answer, the good news is that's not the end. As long as you have a face to look at, you have opportunities to take steps to look more like Jesus.

He is not looking at us like a finished product-- or a completed painting -- that there's nothing more He can do with us.   He looks at us with Love. He asks us to trust that Love.  He invites us to journey with Him in the act of supreme Love to Calvary, to the Cross where the first words we hear from Jesus crucified on the cross won’t be "Why have you done this to me", but a profound statement of amazing love Father forgive them, they know not what they do.

Yes, it needs to start at the cross. There is where we acknowledge the times when we’ve been like Judas, reflected Judas instead of following His lead. We have a choice to either cling to His Cross or release it and trust in ourselves.  In trusting Jesus, God will wipe away those Judas images and draw out the Jesus Christ that is within us to the forefront.


NO MATTER WHAT

Hi everyone, here's my homily for the FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT - MARCH 22, 2015.  The readings for today's Mass can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/032215-fifth-sunday-lent.cfm.  As always, thanks for reading, sharing this post on facebook, twitter and reddit and all your comments and feedback.  God Bless - Fr Jim

HOMILY: 
The headline from the Huffington Post read: "Louisa Manning - the sort of heroine this   [crappy] world needs"(it actually didn't say "crappy" but while "journalists" don't have a problem using the "S" word.. its hard to think it's okay in a homily to do so)... I read that and thought "Oh boy."

A couple of months ago, 22 year old Louisa became an international story for standing up to a bully from when she was in 8th grade. Louisa’s a student at Oxford University in England, and at some dinner-dance, formal on campus, she bumped into one of the guys she knew from back in 8th grade. He was pretty surprised to see how much she had changed in the years since they last saw each other. According to Louisa, he made an ‘objectifying comment’, and remarked how different she looked compared to before and then asked her out on a date, as one report characterized it: "Either not remembering how much of a jerk he was before, or just thinking that Louisa would put up with the fact he used to be a jerk to her."

Manning accepted the date, but instead of showing up, she had the waiter deliver this handwritten letter to him with a picture of herself at age 14. The letter went:

Hey (NAME OBSCURED
So sorry I can't join you tonight.
Remember year 8, when I was fat and you made fun of my weight? No? I do - I spent the following three years eating less than an apple a day. So I've decided to skip dinner.

Remember the monobrow you mocked? The hairy legs you were disgusted by? Remember how every day for three years, you and your friends called me Manbeast? No perhaps you don't - or you wouldn't have seen how I look eight years later and deemed me (EXPLICIT) enough to treat me like a human being.

I thought I'd send you this as a reminder. Next time you think of me, picture that girl in this photo, because she's the one who just stood you up.
Louisa's story has a very human, very understandable element that made it go viral. We can see, we can hear, we can empathize the pain that this young girl experienced. We can get a sense of the hurt to her self-image, the physical harm that this resulted in from being treated so poorly. Being bullied by some thoughtless peers of hers. Even with the praise of many in the press and celebrities, even with the attention she’s received as the story has spread from continent to continent - when I went to her facebook page to read some more details of this story, some of her posts ranged from anger, to defending herself against as she termed them "haters." There was also one slight addendum to the story that "the boy in question has since apologized." From the story and comments - you see that Louisa may have developed a much thicker skin, and was able to stand up for herself in a way that I’m sure she wished she could’ve done 8 years earlier. But, she’s still very hurt, still understandably angry. And in some sense this whole episode – after the crowd is done cheering and applauding her for standing up for herself in such a bold, dramatic way – it just seems worse. Did the guy express true remorse? Was he moved to compassion and shame for what he did? Will Louisa ever feel whole, ever feel that self-love that has eluded her since being treated so badly?

We all encounter painful, difficult, sometimes seemingly crushing challenges throughout our lives. Sometimes it’s a result of our own poor choices, our failures, our sinfulness. Sometimes it’s the result of the poor choices, failures and sinfulness of those around us. Whichever the cause of these wounds, these little deaths that we experience - what do we do with those things? Do we allow it to embitter us? Do we give in and let it destroy us? Change us into being much more protective- isolated from those around us (and less receptive to everyone)?

One of the lines in the Gospel we just heard proclaimed has Jesus saying "The Hour Has Come." Those words are meant to usher us into these last two weeks of Lent which are sometimes referred to as "Passion-tide" (meaning the Passion of Jesus Christ)

The Church’s focus for these last days of the season of Lent is drawing utterly and completely on commemorating those historic – life changing events, those sacred mysteries of Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection - celebrating those things which are central to who we are. The events that transform Jesus from being simply some great moral teacher, just a profound philosopher, or some amazing humanitarian. Jesus Christ is the Son of God - God become man who’s single mission in life is to save you and I from Sin, from death. That’s it.

And we still stand in wonder, amazement at how that all takes place.

Because think about what we just heard tonight in what is basically the prologue to the Passion. Jesus reveals that he knows what’s about to happen to Him: the backstabbing, the betrayals, the abandonment, the lies, the slanderous lies that will be told about him. The orchestrated plan to eliminate him. Not just eliminate him but discredit him, embarrass him. How the stage will be set to make it very easy for everyone to bail on Him. Next Sunday as we participate in the lengthy reading of the Passions of Jesus Christ, we have to recognize that it nowhere near does justice to the intensity, the painful depths that Jesus would suffer for us.

Yet before we get there, as Jesus acknowledges to his listeners what’s to come, He is also telling us something quite profound. He’s not warning people who will play central roles in his brutal death not to think about doing it or He will "get even" with them. He doesn’t demand promises of loyalty saying "I’ll remember who did (and didn’t) stand by me." He seems simply to be saying- no matter what, I’m not giving up on you.

I’m not giving up on you when you let me down.

I’m not giving up on you when you betray me.

I’m not abandoning you even when you’ve abandoned me.

I’m not giving up on you, even after all these cures and healings people have experienced and others have witnessed doesn’t seem to have been enough to reveal to you who I truly am;

I’m not giving up on you even after all my messages revealing the absolute Love that God has for each and everyone of you hasn’t convinced your skeptical hearts.

I’m not giving up on you even after I’ve reached out to the ends of the earth - to those rejected by "the world" and dismissed as ‘outcasts’ to show you how vast, wide and deep my love for you - and your brothers and sisters hasn’t won you over.

No matter what, I’m not giving up on you.

In fact, basically Jesus is saying tonight, if need be, you can even rip me open - and see my heart for yourself... That heart won’t turn to hate. It won’t look for vengeance. God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit reveal in unified voice as Jesus reflects on these things and says "Father glorify your name" and the voice of God the Father is heard I have glorified it and will glorify it again.

As Jesus contemplates what is before Him, the Father and Holy Spirit are united with Him in this moment where the love of God is revealed as stronger, deeper, and more absolute for humanity than has ever been said, or ever known before in History. He will allow these unjust, horrific events to unfold - not fighting, not pleading, not trying to persuade - simply accepting it and showing the strength of His heart. He’s willing to accept the Cross, the Passion, the Dying. He’s willing to do that to show the Glory of the Resurrection when he will rise from the dead... to show the depths of Love. That love isn’t just a warm feeling... or a romantic notion. Love is being lost in the eyes of the beloved... that there’s nothing you wouldn’t do, even giving up your very life for the one you love.

That love makes forgiveness of our enemies possible.

That love makes healing not simply a longed for desire but a reality.

That powerful love Jesus has for you and for me calls us to love Him in return by following Him and showing the light of His powerful love here in our world, in our lives, in our families, in our dorms and classes, in our community of Newman Catholic, in our campus of Montclair State...and beyond… now, today.

The Hour has come... once again. Will we glory the Father’s name?

LOSING SIGHT OF JESUS - (Feast of St. Joseph)

Hi everyone... here's my homily for the SOLEMNITY OF ST. JOSEPH - MARCH 19, 2015 given at Our Lady of Lourdes, West Orange NJ  15th Annual Novena to St. Joseph.  The Gospel for today is Luke 2: 41-51 (can be found here: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/031915.cfm)  Thanks as always for reading, sharing on twitter, facebook, reddit and elsewhere on social media.   I appreciate your feedback and comments.  Happy Feast of St. Joseph!  St. Joseph, pray for us! - Fr. Jim 

HOMILY:

It’s so wonderful to be with all of you tonight to celebrate this feast of St. Joseph on this last night of your annual Novena to St. Joseph. To hear how this devotion and your faithfulness to it has continued night after night (year after year) is so beautiful... and I’m honored to be invited to be one of the speakers for this annual tradition - so thank you Fr. Ferry and Fr. Costa for this opportunity.                                                                                                                                                 Sadly there’s so many people - both Catholic and Non-Catholic who misunderstand why Saints are a big deal to us. Some of that is their own prejudices, misunderstandings or false teachings on our faith... But some of it is our own fault - sometimes superstitions have taken hold and people do wacky things like put a statue of the Virgin Mary in a window so it won’t rain - or burry a statue of St. Joseph to sell their house. (Both things that members of my very Italian family have done - even recently... Funny story: My Mother and Father last summer were trying to sell their shore place and they did exactly that, they buried him in the ground after getting one of those "St Joseph house selling kits" which resulted in our having a somewhat loud discussion... After my going crazy on the beach asking "Was Joseph dressed wearing a Century 21 jacket or rather a Century 1 Jacket" and explaining that this wasn’t a devotion but Italian witch-craft - My mother "felt bad" that she buried Joseph" - not sure if it was because of our "discussion" or the fact that the house didn’t sell... so she told my father to dig St. Joseph up... Funny thing, they couldn’t find him. Not finding him in the ground, they then accused me of digging him up - look, I had nothing to do with it... I don’t know if the Flight from Egypt somehow became the flight out of Wildwood... but eventually they got a new statue, which wasn’t buried but is properly displayed in the home asking for his intercession) Sorry Mom - I should’ve warned you I was going to tell that story tonight. I’ll pay for that later...

Anyway the point is, we don’t look to Saints as little gods. We don’t look to them to grant us wishes like genies where instead of rubbing a lamp, we faithfully do these specific prayers to get what we want.
 
We look to the Saints - we ask them to pray for us and to inspire us – because they give us excellent examples about loving Jesus, following Jesus and the effect and power that had in their lives and the lives of all those around them. Which is why I Love this gospel story about the entire Holy Family - Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

By now, hopefully we all know that Mary was chosen by God to give birth to Jesus and we know that Joseph was told by God through an angel it was okay to take Mary as his wife and to trust and believe what she was telling him. Now right there– for those things to happen like that, Mary and Joseph had to have been open to hearing God’s voice - and they had to trust, to believe and to follow that voice. That’s pretty characteristic of what makes a saint a saint.

But part of what makes them – Saints – important to us is the human dimension.
That relate-ability between us and them
We try to picture and relate to Mary as a Mother; Joseph as a Father.
We like to imagine them just as young people, young parents.

Here they were normal, everyday type of people, a carpenter and his wife who were called into beautiful, divine, heavenly things that were anything but normal. And in this Gospel, we get a glimpse that the normalcy of every day life didn’t go away just because they were God-loving, God-listening people. It wasn’t like because they were guardians of the Son of God that everything went okay... not by a long shot:

In this Gospel story – which is really the only one of his childhood – we hear of Jesus getting lost in the temple. Jesus was 12 years old. This had been an annual event to go to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. It had also been a long trip with a lot of people, family and friends all going together.

Often times, hearing this story, I’ve imagined it as Jesus kind of slipping out of his parent’s care. Not sure if I want to characterize Him as being disobedient for the moment... Maybe he was distracted, maybe he was inquisitive, maybe the experience of his heart burning as he sat in his Father’s house just consumed him so much he didn’t even realize everyone had left and he ends up just hanging back in the temple.
But there’s a different aspect that doesn’t often get a lot of attention when we hear this story: Joseph and Mary screwed up. They took their eyes off of Jesus. They were distracted. (That might be jarring to hear. People might want to just blame Joseph since Mary was conceived without sin thinking it couldn’t have been her fault... Just because she was without sin, didn’t mean she couldn’t make a mistake though... I’m not trying to shift the blame away from Joseph since it’s his feast day mind you and laying all the blame on Mary! That’s why I said - they both screwed up!)

Being Italian, I like to imagine them as Italian too (like a dialogue you’d hear on Everybody Loves Raymond...) Maybe Mary and Joseph were having a couples squabble "what is with your relatives? Next year, we’re not traveling to Jerusalem with that cousin of yours!" Maybe in all of the confusion they were preoccupied with trivial things - "did we pack everything? We’re going to be doing a lot of walking - are you sure you don’t want to get a new pair of sandals for the trip home?"

It’s hard for us to imagine that Mary and Joseph might have fixated on those minor details, those ordinary, every day matters - and in that they lost sight of the Savior. Lost sight of God’s son - their son. That they would lose sight of Jesus... even for a minute.

Yet we can relate to that – can’t we?

You and I know how easy it is for all of us to do the same.

We often talk about, think about, pray about how we want to be peaceful, joyful people - how we want healing from suffering - pains that affect our minds, body’s and spirits...yet when confronted by the reality that Christ is calling us to change and let go of a sinful habit; or that Jesus is probing our hearts to forgive that relative that we’ve been holding anger against; or when the Lord is nudging us to apologize to that friend, that neighbor, that co-worker and we just continue to resist doing so - we lose sight of Jesus.

Or – We often desire to know God’s love in a real, personal, intimate way - yet somehow we allow the busyness of life, the obligations and responsibilities to eclipse that desire; maybe we stop praying regularly or fell out of going to Mass on a weekly basis; maybe we are blind to the poor, the suffering around us - and all of a sudden, not thinking that we’ve made a conscious decision to do so, the reality is - we lose sight of Jesus.

There’s a lot of ways we can relate to this experience in our lives, BUT – what Mary and Joseph, the first two who lost sight of Jesus teach us is that He can always be found.
When they realize what has happened they drop everything they had, they leave behind the crowd they were traveling with (even including people they loved) they turn around to go look for Jesus. To go search for Him. They panic as they spend three days looking. Each day having to become increasingly more anxious as they pondered Where is Jesus... Heartsick as they wonder would they ever find him? Perhaps feeling worried that they let God the Father down in losing His only son... They finally come upon him, sitting in the temple amidst the teachers as they would be discussing Jesus’ (and our) Heavenly Father.

Again we can appreciate the relate-ability of Mary and Joseph. The temple wasn’t the first place they imagined they’d find him, and upon discovering him, they let Jesus know how upset they were. "WHY HAVE YOU DONE THIS TO US? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety" - this being the scriptures, I’m wondering if St. Luke cleaned that up a bit... But the boy Jesus speaks honest words speaking of who he is and what is most important most essential for him - "I must be in my Father’s house."

As he returns to Nazareth with his parent’s Joseph and Mary, he doesn’t leave his Father’s house. The union between God the Father and His Son will never be broken. But now Jesus’ earthly family, this Holy Family is included in the Father’s house as he goes back to Nazareth and was obedient to them.

For us, I truly believe our devotion to St. Joseph only makes sense if we focus our attention, on that question that he and Mary must have asked each other: Where is Jesus?

Where is Jesus in our lives?

Where is Jesus in our work, our routines?

Where is Jesus in our families; in our relationships?

Has he been relegated to a minor place - someone we forget about in the ins and outs, the daily stresses, responsibilities, confusions?

Have we lost sight of him?

If we have, whether it was momentarily or much longer than that... Joseph and Mary offer us their life witness and testimony that the only way we can achieve the peace the fulfillment and love we long for is if we drop everything, even leave the crowds we are traveling with and go search for him. But here’s where we are more fortunate than Mary and Joseph – unlike them, for us, Jesus can be easily found. We hear his voice in the Scriptures, we encounter him in the Sacraments -especially in the Eucharist where he offers us His Body and Blood, and in Reconciliation where our sins our wiped away and our friendship with Him is renewed...

We don't encounter Jesus as a 12 year lost in the temple – rather, we are blessed to know that Jesus Christ, risen from the dead is in fact constantly on the look out for us, longing for us to long for him... Hoping that our desire is that what consumed His child-like heart and caused heart-burn for Mary and Joseph - to be in the Father’s house for all eternity. For you and I, that is only achievable if we never lose sight of Jesus
 


OUR CHOICES ARE A MATTER OF LIFE & DEATH

Hi everyone.  Here's my homily for the FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT - MARCH 15, 2015.  The readings for today can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/031515-fourth-sunday-lent.cfm.  As always, my thanks for reading my blog, sharing it on twitter, facebook, reddit, etc. and all your comments and feedback.  Have a great week - God Bless, Fr. Jim

HOMILY:

How does something like this happen?


Last summer, a young man by the name of Conrad Roy who was a Senior in High School, quite sadly killed himself by carbon-monoxide, poisoning of himself in his truck. On the surface, he seemed to have every High School student's dream: family and friends described him as popular and funny; an athlete; having clear goals (he just had gotten his sea captains license and had expressed hopes of one day taking over his family's marine and salvage business). He had been accepted to his first choice school of Fitchburg State University.

At the same time though, he was having difficulties. His father shared that he had severe anxiety issues... so much so that he had often struggled getting to class and ultimately had cancelled his plans of going to Fitchburg. He was in an up-and-down roller coaster of emotions last summer, staying home, not wanting to be out with his friends or family, taking anti-depressants... but at the same time he seemed to persevere, forcing himself to go to work.

After his death, his family and friends were devastated. They were grasping for answers, trying to understand why - retracing in their hearts and minds "what more could they have done?" - all things that, sadly, many, many families have had to suffer through with when dealing with the suicidal death of a loved one.

About a week and a half after Conrad's death, his girlfriend Michelle wrote his mother. It seems Michelle and Conrad had been friends, confidants for some time - sharing each others struggles. Michelle talking about how she suffered with eating disorders, and Conrad his bouts with depression and anxiety. In the immediate after-math of Conrad's death, friends and family obviously tried to grieve together as they remained in shock and hurt, as they tried to piece together what happened. In Michelle’s letter to his mother she said, "You did not fail him, even a little bit, you tried your hardest, I tried my hardest, everyone tried their hardest to save him. But he had his mind set on taking his life, there was nothing anyone could do to save him no matter how hard they tried."

Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be true.

Police and prosecutors have recently charged Michelle with involuntary manslaughter for encouraging Conrad to kill himself through text messages that were taking place between the two the night of Conrad’s death. Allegedly during a lengthy text-exchange between the two of them on the night Conrad took his life, at one point he was starting to feel unsure about what he was doing and climbed out of his truck; the response he received from his girlfriend was,{I shudder as I’m typing this} "Get back in." Police say that at the same time she was texting mutual friends of their’s in an attempt to mislead them into believing that Conrad was missing. Why? They say, she was planning to continue to encourage Conrad to take his own life - and so that she would eventually get sympathy from their friends. They claim this is demonstrated by the fact that she was already saying to these friends that she blamed herself that Conrad might hurt himself or that it was her fault that Conrad might be dead, at the exact same time he was still alive and she was texting with him encouraging him to kill himself.

How does something like this happen?

One possible answer came to mind as I read tonight's Gospel passage the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light because their works were evil. That seems so harsh when we hear it; "people preferred darkness"... We don't tend to want to think that's even remotely true, do we? Since reading that story back in February, I was hoping, really hoping that they would reveal this girlfriend had some mental disease that made her so callous. Yet the only defense so far being offered by her lawyers and parents was that she is innocent, the charges are unfair, and they believe they will be dismissed...

It seems that ever since the day those two nudists ate from the one single tree they were told to stay away from in the paradise of Eden that God created for them, humanity has struggled with using all the gifts God has blessed us with correctly. Most especially the gift of freedom - which was never intended to give us license to do whatever we want but the ability to make the choice to do we ought to do (St. Pope John Paul II).

Jesus would know this truth particularly well. Earlier in the Gospel we just heard, Jesus offers one of the most quoted, well-known phrases from the entire New Testament. This is the quote that is being referred to when you see the signs with "John 3:16" in the stadiums of almost every sporting event. It's so publicized because it is pointing to this fundamental, central truth of Christianity - Jesus saying "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life."

Yet, the response the world would offer to this loving gift? Crucifying him on a cross... because people preferred darkness to light.

We can get discouraged by recognizing the depths of darkness from calvary to the present day where a so-called friend encouraging a troubled soul to embrace even more darkness at his most vulnerable moment. But the point isn't for us to look around and shake our heads in disgust at that and equally horrific stories...

Rather the point of this season of Lent is about being real, being clear about the enemy we're facing. Satan, the Devil, the evil one - whatever you want to call it - is relentlessly at work to maintain this darkness. To discourage, to disillusion, to depress, to distract us. To make us indifferent, neglectful to one another and to the Lord. It doesn’t have to be something so horrific as encouraging someone to kill themselves - it can be us killing one another with gossip about one another... It doesn’t have to be the outright rejection of Jesus Christ as the true light of the world it can be our inability or unwillingness to share His light, to testify to His light - to try to live as people of His light.

How do we combat this? How do we not fall into the trap of being people who go along with the world that prefers darkness - How do we keep front in center in our hearts and minds how lavishly God loves the world that he sent His only son? We have to look inside our own hearts. To see where we are and how we’re doing.

St. Ignatius of Loyola who founded the religious community called "The Jesuits" gives one example that is popular throughout the world of how we can do just that on a daily basis. He wrote what is called "The Spiritual Exercises." And one of the central things he ordered his religious brothers to do on a daily basis is something called "The Examen". It's something that can be as simple as 10 minutes a day. You start by simply asking God for His Light (basically remembering you're in God's presence and asking for his inspiration and guidance as you pray). Then you express gratitude for any and all of the blessings and gifts in your life that come to mind (and it could be most random thing - "I'm grateful to be able to go to a University and study," "I'm thankful my friends and I had such a hysterical time at lunch today") Then you review your day - you just try to retrace your steps and look to see where and when God was present to you.

As you do this you rejoice at His consolations, recognizing the moments He was present, reaching out to you; and you begin to look at the desolations, the failures, the sins and mistakes acknowledging the need and asking for God's forgiveness (and perhaps committing to going to confession, especially if it's been awhile or if there's been some serious sins); and then you look forward - you ask God to assist you in the days to come to move forward in the day with a new vision, a new sensitivity to being attentive to meeting God and being open to the Holy Spirits as He calls to us to be Christ and meet Christ in one another.

This isn't a quick fix to the plague that is sinfulness. But in order for us to deal with the darkness trying to obscure the light of the world, that battle must first be won in our own hearts. Transformation of one's heart is seldom quick or easy. And, even for me as I was preparing this sermon, it's easy to get discouraged. I mean, looking around at things like this kid's untimely death, at his girlfriend's cruelty - and then looking further afield, at the horrors we see each day in the news, both here and abroad - sure, it's easy to want to throw in the towel, even for me. It’s easy to choose to go along with the rest of the world that prefers the darkness. At least we’ll be in good company - well not necessarily "good?" right?

What stops us? What stops me?

"For God so loved the world..."

In the end, it's our relationship with Christ. God gave us His Son, and He has given us a charge - a responsibility - in the time and place His wisdom has seen fit to place us in. We could give up, we could throw in the towel and, really, we might imagine the world going on just fine without what we dismiss as our meager contributions.

But Christ died for us - He came down to earth, He suffered and lived and died for us. And, as a result, He now has a relationship with us; we now have a relationship with Him. And, giving in to darkness, to despair, giving up and saying, I'm done with all this, I'm outta here – and spreading and sharing that attitude – if we give in to sin, if we listen to the lies of the Father of Lies himself — all of that has the potential to alter our relationship with Christ, that loving relationship He fought so hard to forge across time and space with us.

And that matters.

Because here’s the thing: Christ will always love us, no matter what - but our changing our relationship with Him, our distancing ourselves from Him through choosing evil instead of Him and His love - that matters. Christ loves us now - but He loved us before, before the world was made. He loved us into existence and He sustains us, daily, by His love. His love is always there - has always been there - and all He asks us to do is to accept that, to choose that, to respond to that. Choosing evil instead - that is, choosing to ignore God, to ignore His love and His desire for us - that is, in fact, our saying we prefer darkness to light.

One many never know, for sure, whether Conrad would still be alive today had his girlfriend acted differently - had she chosen to be a source of light rather than darkness. But one can be sure that the hurt, the pain, the disbelief that his family and friends were already struggling with had been escalated even worse then they ever imagined by her actions.

Our choices, our decisions – they matter. Both in the here and now and in eternity. As we continue in our Lenten journey which is ultimately a journey towards Christ, let us not only look to the times and places in our lives where we've let sin in, deliberately, but let us also be honest with ourselves about all the times our forgetfulness, our thoughtlessness, our laziness, even, has aligned us with those who preferred darkness. God so loved the world he sent Jesus his Son so that everyone - you, me, might not perish but have life, life in abundance. May we be people who not simply believe that - but live that and share that message by what we say and do - each moment of our lives.

NOVENA IN HONOR OF ST. JOSEPH

Saint Joseph - The Foster Father of Jesus, the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary... the Patron of the universal Church...  He's most remembered for his quote: "  " (that's a joke, he has absolutely no quoted words in scripture)

St. Joseph has been an inspiration to me for over 25 years now (with much thanks to my pastor, Fr. Eugene Marcone who brought this devotion to our parish all those years ago).  He's been a "model of chastity"; challenged me to be a "protector of the Church" and in many other ways.

He's also been a powerful intercessor for me and my family.  Many intentions that I've asked for his prayers for have been answered in a variety of ways. 

The following is one variation of the Novena - it is to be prayed each day for 9 days (that's what the word "novena" means - 9 days -- and lest people argue with you, it's a biblically based, scripturally founded devotion.  The first "Novena" was when Jesus told his apostles on Ascension Thursday to gather in prayer and await the Holy Spirit - who came upon them on Pentecost... 9 days later!)

I begin this devotion on MARCH 10th - to finish the EVE of ST. JOSEPH'S FEAST DAY on MARCH 19th - but you can begin it on the 11th and pray it through the feast day as well.

In addition, this Novena can be added to some of your daily prayers and devotions.

SAINT JOSEPH PRAY FOR US!!!



In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit
Amen
O Lord, open my lips.
And my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
O God come to my assistance.
O Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be; world without end, AMEN
NOVENA PRAYER:

O Glorious St. Joseph / Faithful follower of Jesus Christ / to you we raise our hearts and hands / to implore your powerful intercession / in obtaining from the benign heart of Jesus / all the helps and graces necessary / for our spiritual and temporal welfare / particularly the grace of happy death / and the special favor we now implore

(Here pause for your intentions).

O guardian of the Word Incarnate / we feel animated with confidence / that your prayers in our behalf / will be graciously heard / before the throne of God.
 
 
LITANY OF SAINT JOSEPH
 
 
 
Lord, have mercy on us.  Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us,Christ hear us.Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God, the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Spirit,  have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God,  have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Joseph, pray for us.
Noble scion of David, pray for us.
Light of the Patriarchs, pray for us.
Spouse of the Mother of God, pray for us.
Chaste guardian of the Virgin, pray for us.
Foster-father of the Son of God, pray for us.
Sedulous defender of Christ, pray for us.
Head of the Holy Family, pray for us.

Joseph, most just, pray for us.
Joseph, most chaste, pray for us.
Joseph, most prudent, pray for us.
Joseph, most valiant, pray for us.
Joseph, most obedient, pray for us.
Joseph most faithful, pray for us.

Mirror of patience, pray for us.
Lover of poverty, pray for us.
Model of workers, pray for us.
Ornament of domestic life, pray for us.
Protector of virgins, pray for us.
Pillar of families, pray for us.
Consolation of the afflicted, pray for us.
 Hope of the sick, pray for us.
Patron of the dying, pray for us.
Terror of the demons, pray for us.
Protector of Holy Church, pray for us.


Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
Spare us O Lord!
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us O Lord!
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us!
He made him master of His House,
And ruler of all His possessions
 
O God / who in Your ineffable providence / did vouchsafe to choose blessed Joseph / to be the spouse of Your most holy Mother / grant we beseech You / that we may have him whom we venerate on earth / as our intercessor in heaven / Who lives and reigns forever and ever. AMEN.