STEALING FROM THE POPE (Knowing he'll forgive me)



HAPPY EASTER!

JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN!ALLELUIA!!!!
Here is my homily (or rather some words I added to stealing Pope Francis’ homily – as you will read ahead) for EASTER SUNDAY - APRIL 20, 2014. The readings for today can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/ readings/042014.cfm - Thanks for reading, sharing on facebook, reddit and twitter and all your feedback. God Bless and HAPPY EASTER! - Fr. Jim

HOMILY

Yesterday morning I had an Easter homily that I had spent a fair amount of time obsessing over the three days of the Triduum. I wasn’t quite sure why I was spending so much time since I knew that we would have an incredibly small congregation in comparison to our usual sundays (one of the crazy inverses that we experience in Campus Ministry - here a Sunday when most churches are packed, we have the opposite as most of our students go home to celebrate with their families, but I digress) and worse still after all that time I wasn’t thrilled with what I had come up with, but figured it would be good enough.

And I don’t know - throughout the day I had a bunch of mixed emotions. I was kind of down. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which I was thinking back to friend of mine who had died back in September. He had been our landscaper here at Newman for about 6 years (and I knew him for 7 years before that from my first parish assignment). Between our new landscapers coming and hearing leaf blowers for the first time in 5 months after a long and harsh winter for our first Spring clean up and it being Tim’s birthday this past week, which I kind of skipped out of a gathering of friends – officially because I was so busy with Holy Week and all – but more honestly I just didn’t want to think about his death again. I know that was part of the reason I felt down.

At one point yesterday I wanted to just spend time in our chapel. And I had forgottenthat the tabernacle was empty since Good Friday...- as we await this celebration of Easter where the Risen Christ who is made real in every celebration of the Eucharist will once again be reserved in our tabernacle... but seeing the empty chapel, the empty tabernacle, the light from the sanctuary lamp as a perpetual sign of Jesus’ presence being extinguished it all clicked my mood - and the liturgical life of the Church seemed to connect: Darkness. We talk about it. We talk about carrying and enduring our crosses. But we forget how it can feel. How real that is. We can ignore wanting to acknowledge them - embarrassed by our continued weakness in the face of them. We can let our egos get in the way claiming that we won’t be crushed by them (or in a fake piety that we’re gently, lovingly accepting our crosses when in not-so-secret we hate them)

Perhaps that’s why I wasn’t feeling so inspired and surprisingly blah during these holiest of holy days. And really rare for a priest, I had "off" these days (which I doubt will happen again) - so I’ve been trying to make them a mini-retreat and have been worshiping at a parish in New York City - an "Anti-Cheers" - "Where nobody knows my name" :) ) So as I was standing outside the Church waiting for the Easter Vigil to start, I decided to read the Holy Father’s Easter Vigil Homily. And I found myself moved to tears on the sidewalk there reading it that I decided when I came home to throw out what I had prepared and heavily lift from his homily. (Steal/borrow/quote... whatever you want to call it... My heart was more moved by his words then anything I had prepared)

To set the stage the Gospel tells us that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are in darkness. They are in darkness emotionally and spiritually - Jesus was killed right in front of their eyes. They are coming in darkness physically as the sun was only beginning to dawn. And we hear of an earthquake, and an angel who’s appearance is like lightning and white - scaring the hell (literally) out of the guards - rolling away the stone. And showing the Empty Tomb. JESUS THE CRUCIFIED - HE IS NOT HERE - HE HAS BEEN RAISED JUST AS HE SAID! This amazing news to the women, to the disciples who had been covered in the darkness of despair, of seeing their faith, hope and love die on a cross was just too amazing to comprehend. And here’s where Pope Francis’ words really touched me:

And then there was his command to go to Galilee; the women had heard it twice, first from the angel and then from Jesus himself: "Let them go to Galilee; there they will see me".

Galilee is the place where they were first called, where everything began! To return there, to return to the place where they were originally called. Jesus had walked along the shores of the lake as the fishermen were casting their nets. He had called them, and they left everything and followed him (cf. Mt 4:18-22).

To return to Galilee means to re-read everything on the basis of the cross and its victory. To re-read everything – Jesus’ preaching, his miracles, the new community, the excitement and the defections, even the betrayal – to re-read everything starting from the end, which is a new beginning, from this supreme act of love.
Pope Francis then continued reminding us that: For each of us, too, there is a "Galilee"  the origin of our journey with Jesus. "To go to Galilee" means something beautiful, it means rediscovering our baptism as a living fountainhead, drawing new energy from the sources of our faith and our Christian experience.

To return to Galilee means above all to return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched me at the start of the journey. From that flame I can light a fire for today and every day, and bring heat and light to my brothers and sisters. That flame ignites a humble joy, a joy which sorrow and distress cannot dismay, a good, gentle joy.


In the life of every Christian, after baptism there is also a more existential "Galilee": the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who called me to follow him and to share in his mission. In this sense, returning to Galilee means treasuring in my heart the living memory of that call,
when Jesus passed my way,
gazed at me with mercy
and asked me to follow him.

It means reviving the memory of that moment
when his eyes met mine,
the moment when he made me realize that he loved me.
Francis then challenged us: Today, tonight, each of us can ask: What is my Galilee? Where is my Galilee? Do I remember it? Have I forgotten it? Have I gone off on roads and paths which made me forget it? Lord, help me: tell me what my Galilee is; for you know that I want to return there to encounter you and to let myself be embraced by your mercy.

My brothers and sisters - in a few days some of our members will be experiencing the Easter Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist which will be for sure a Galilee moment. Some of you have had life-changing moments, conversions (where you never knew Jesus before and now you have) or a "re-version" where the faith you had been given that you were baptized in you had drifted away and come back to the faith - which are Galilee's as well. 

What moved me to tears last night was the gentle and loving reminder that in many ways - you are one of my Galilee’s. And that gives me great joy. I’ve experienced the resurrection so many times I’m embarrassed that I can forget it... frustrated that the darkness can still get to me. And I suppose I’m not the only one who experiences and goes through that as well.

The Gospel of Easter is very clear: we need to go back there, to see Jesus risen, and to become witnesses of his resurrection. This is not to go back in time; it is not a kind of nostalgia. It is returning to our first love, in order to receive the fire which Jesus has kindled in the world and to bring that fire to all people, to the very ends of the earth.

WHO WANTS TO BE JESUS?

Hi everyone, here’s my homily for PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD’S PASSION - APRIL 13, 2014 - The readings for today’s Mass can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/041314.cfm. As always thanks for reading, sharing this blog on reddit, Twitter and Facebook- and your feedback and comments are always appreciated. May you have a blessed Holy Week - Fr. Jim
 
HOMILY:
This past Wednesday, Newman Catholic along with the Council for Faith and Spirituality and Residence Life here at Montclair State co-sponsored a special program called "The Gospel of Mark." For lack of a better description it was basically a one man show - where the actor (an MSU Theatre Alum from the Class of 2011) in about 2 hours performed the entire Gospel of Mark in an engaging, interactive and very dramatic way. It was a truly amazing and moving experience. Philip Corso, the actor, had to move at times from being story teller/narrator (somewhat assuming the role of St. Mark) to different characters or groups of people that are featured in Mark’s account to portraying Jesus himself.
At the end of what had to have been an exhaustive performance, Philip generously gave us members of the audience some time for questions and answers. It was fascinating to hear his perspective about how it is for him "performing" this piece - the different feelings and emotions that go into it. One discussion really stood out for me. An audience member noted how the actor had to assume different roles at different times and asked why the choice was made for him to approach the Passion and Death narrative as the narrator to the proceedings rather than as Christ himself. He expressed legitimate concerns about how it could come across to the audience, the challenges artistically that it would present and then he said something that really hit me. Something along the lines of - that part of the story is so gruesome, really, who wants to be Jesus?
The more I thought about that - the more I thought - how true is that? Who would want to be Jesus? Sure there are elements of Jesus’ life that we think would be pretty amazing. Performing pretty amazing miracles like healing someone of a debilitating illness; feeding multitudes, thousands of people from just a few loaves and fishes - that would be cool (imagine how many swipes you and your friends could save at the Cafeteria) - raising people from the dead: who wouldn’t want to have the ability to do that.
But who wants to be Jesus -
when he is betrayed;
when people (including those who knew him and purportedly loved and followed him) lied about him
when he is persecuted;
when he is mocked and ridiculed;
when he is tortured;
when he is wounded;
when he is savagely, brutally attacked;
when he is crucified;
when he is abandoned and left for dead...
No one wants to be Jesus during that. Yet, if we are honest - if we reflect - if we allow ourselves to lower our defenses and the walls that we are so often good at erecting - who of us hasn’t? Who hasn’t gone through at least some of those, if not all of those experiences? Who hasn’t to some extent felt the chaos, the torment, the absolute darkness that this, Jesus’ Passion speaks to us?
We don’t want to be Jesus – and there’s a part of us that sincerely believes that We don’t want those things to happen to Jesus - but Palm Sunday of Jesus’ Passion forces us to be really honest and look at not only our own pain and brokenness but also the pain and brokenness we can commit to one another. That we move from being with the crowds crying Hosanna on one day to "Crucify Him" a few days later -- when we commit our sins, when we withhold compassion, love and mercy on one another, when we reject God whether overtly or subconsciously as we decide to go and do our own thing…
The good news is that Jesus’ love is strong enough to enter into our human pain to accompany us in our pain.
The good news is that the things that weigh us down, that sadden us and frighten us in the deepest recesses of our hearts: namely the sins that we’ve committed which are demonstrated in those wounds, those nails, those thorns inflicted on Jesus - yes they are real and painful and destructive - but they are not strong enough to cause Jesus to stop loving you and me.
May you and I have the courage to recognize the reality of these painful things in our lives to let Jesus into them. To truly embrace the cross, embrace the love of Christ. To want to become Jesus - knowing that when we do, he walks with us in our darkness, he leads us out of it into newness of life.
 
 

AND JESUS WEPT

Hi everyone, here is my homily for the FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT - April 6, 2014. The readings for today’s Mass can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/040614.cfm .  Thanks as always for reading, sharing the blog with your friends on Twitter, Facebook and Redditt - and your feedback and comments.  God Bless, Fr. Jim

HOMILY

So a random fact-toid for you the next time you’re on Jeopardy or playing Trivia Pursuit. While the Gospel we just heard is somewhat lengthy one, within that reading was the shortest scripture verse recorded in the whole New Testament: John 11:35 "And Jesus Wept." In some translations, they even drop the word "and" – which would tie it as the shortest verse in the whole Bible. Those two words: Jesus Wept.

A couple of words that say so much.

Because think about it. What does it means when we say someone wept?

It’s more than just feeling sad.

It’s more than the act of crying.

You weep when you feel deep, intense feelings. Raw emotions for someone or something... You can feel it in the pit of your stomach. Your heart aches. You’re so overwhelmed by the feelings that you’re experiencing that you’re unembarrassed by the flood of tears.

On the one hand no one would wish this experience on another, knowing how hard and painful an experience it truly is. But on the other hand, weeping reveals something immensely important: when you’re experiencing that much pain, you know without a doubt that something has touched you that deeply to the core of your being that you realize the depths of love. When someone has wept, it’s because something meant that much to them.

Which is why this shortest of scripture verses is somewhat puzzling.

Jesus wept.
Jesus?

That this is recorded tells us how striking it must’ve been for the witnesses. It’s not like Jesus didn’t know what he was able and capable of doing and would accomplish for his friend Lazarus. He knew he could and would raise him from the dead. He didn’t weep for himself.

So why? Why did he weep? Some thoughts come to mind:

Jesus wept over the fear that His disciples still had after all this time they had spent with Him. After all they had seen that He could do, after all they had heard Him speak of a God who would not let anything, ANYTHING stop Him from attending to His children in need... Just look at this gospel - as soon as the disciples hear this news that Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, was seriously ill and needed Jesus their response to this news was but Jesus, the last time we were in Judea, people wanted to stone you...it’s not safe - They tried to talk him out of going back! So Jesus wept over that fear that gripped and still grips his followers.

Jesus wept over the distress Lazarus’ sisters had experienced in seeing their brother die and be entombed.
Their pain, pained him.
Their hurt, hurt him and so he wept. That’s how much Jesus loved his friends and loves his friends. Our tears don’t go unnoticed... no they evoke tears from Jesus.

Jesus wept because he knew that as much as his followers loved him and wanted to believe in Him, and did believe in Him to a certain extent... that it was to a certain extent. There was a limit, or a qualifier to their belief.

 Jesus wept because of that doubt. The doubt that came from seeing this dead man who was in a tomb. They were relying more on the harsh evidence of a sealed tomb than with the heart of the Samaritan Woman, or the eyes of the Man born blind that we encountered in the liturgy the last two Sundays that testify to the greatness of what Jesus wants to do for humanity... that Jesus has power over even death itself.

Jesus wept because he saw that the hoped for future promise of eternal life and resurrection of the dead wasn’t enough to remove all of this pain they were going through. His followers, despite all that was to come, despite his ultimate victory over death in His own resurrection would still experience the pains and sting of death.

Jesus wept because He realized that if the death of Lazarus could cause some of his closest followers such distress, He could only imagine what his passion and death on the cross would do to them. Yet He knew that He needed to endure that passion and death so that God would be able to do even more miraculous, life-changing things for humanity, namely saving them.

Jesus wept because in spite of all of that he would say, all that he would do, some would chose to remain entombed, some would chose to remain dead because they believed their sins were too big, too unforgivable.

Jesus wept over those who would refuse to hear His life-giving voice, calling them out of those tombs, rejecting the opportunity to experience newness of life in His radical gift of forgiveness.

Yes, Jesus wept because he Loved.

Jesus wept, because he Loves.

Jesus wept because he knows that for some people, the gift he offers of Himself so freely, so willingly, so selflessly - for some that wouldn’t be enough... Some would simply question, put their trust in other "gods." Reject the only God ever known to have come down and wept with us and for us, so much does He care for us.

That’s why Jesus wept.

And why He still does.

DON'T MISS THIS

Hi everyone - here's my homily for the FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT - March 30, 2014.  The readings for today can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/033014.cfm.  As always, thanks for reading, your comments and feedback and sharing this on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit.  Grateful for your interest.  Hope that your Lent is being productive!  God Bless - Fr. Jim

HOMILY:

How much do you hate it when you hear someone say "Oh, you missed it..."?

Back in 1998, I was at the World Series, Game one, New York Yankees vs San Diego Padres - It’s the first World Series game I’ve ever been to in my life. The Yankees are down, 5-1, they’ve had a bunch of opportunities to catch up and blown them all.

I think it was the 6th inning when the friend I was with had to excuse himself after having few "beverages." That happens to be the moment when Short Stop Chuck Knoblauch comes up to the plate and cracks a monster grand slam home run that sets the stadium absolutely shaking and ties the game.

The one thing my buddy didn’t want to hear, after waiting over two hours in traffic to get into the Bronx, another hour of pre-game nonsense and non-stop introductions of players, bat boys, waterboys, watching the Yankees trailing for the entire game; then being on line for the bathroom, and then hearing Chuck Knoblauch’s grand slam home run from the announcers on the radio broadcast being aired inside the stadium – the one thing he didn’t want to hear from me when he got back to his seat was "Oh, you missed it!" YOU THINK????

That could be anything though, couldn’t it?

You miss that dinner out with a group of friends at Sams Place and they’re still laughing about something that happened and they try to explain it to you saying you just had to be there – "Oh, you missed it..."

Or your working late or class gets out late or you have a late appointment so you tell some of you’re friends that you will meet up with them at some place in the City and when you get there they say "Oh, you missed it" – Jimmy Fallon was just here and we took a selfie with him...

It’s frustrating, to say the least... And in those cases, it’s not like there’s anything we can do about it - Things happen and at times we miss whatever the it is: There are times we need to "excuse" ourselves after having a few beverages; other commitments might have prevented you from being able to go out with your friends; and how were you to know that if you had skipped that class or cancelled that appointment that you might just bump into a celebrity? Frustrating, but there’s nothing you can do about those missed opportunities.

What’s worse is when you made the deliberate choice to forgo something and end up missing out on something. "Hey, you in for this week’s lotto pool?" - Nah, we never win, I’m going to skip on it this week - and the next week there’s the picture of 20 office people with one of those giant checks...


Today’s Gospel is an "Oh, you missed it" story. But the difference is, the people choose to miss it. We hear in this story about this guy who’s been blind from birth. And Jesus cures that. That’s a pretty big deal. That’s a pretty big story. That’s something incredibly significant. And yet, of the 110 lines or so that this passage runs, the entire miracle is about 5 lines and the remaining 105 is all about how people miss it.

- They miss it because they want to debate Why the guy is blind -debating that either his parents or the guy himself must have done something wrong that resulted in his blindness (in case you missed it - Jesus says it’s neither; we don’t have a vengeful God who punishes people with a disability because of someone’s sin)

- They miss it because they think God has to operate by the same rules they’ve been commanded to – that God can’t cure on the Sabbath, because we’re not suppose to work on the Sabbath (they seem to have a pretty high opinion of themselves putting themselves on the same level as God).

- They miss it because they refuse to consider that Jesus Christ is who he says he is -the Messiah they supposedly anticipated but were blind themselves from seeing. That the Messiah was more than just a king, He was in fact God himself – the Son of God...

- They miss it because in their desire to prove themselves right - they want to intimidate the man who Jesus had opened his eyes and his parents from speaking the truth about the miracle that Jesus had done; what God had done for them.

How different from last week’s Gospel - the Samaritan woman meets Jesus, talks with Him, is moved and transformed by Jesus and the whole town is forever changed by that. Here, this man is touched - healed - transformed - and the whole town rejects him, the town rejects Jesus, – Oh man did they miss it...

And this isn’t about giving Jesus credit for healing this man.

This is about curing the blindness within all humanity; the blindness in all of us.

It’s about seeing that God does work miracles in our lives.

It’s about seeing that God is active in our lives.

It’s about seeing that Jesus wants to touch you - every single one of you and heal whatever blinds you from seeing and feeling and knowing how much God loves you and I.

Because the thing of it is, if we miss that, we miss a whole lot.

I can’t get that line out of my head from that first reading – Samuel is looking for the new king of Israel. He sees a guy Eliab, one of Jesse’s sons, he looks kingly - like he would fit the bill and God says - NOPE - Eliab’s a nice guy - but he ain’t the one. Why? Not as man sees does God see - because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.

We should write that down and look at that every day. God’s not some disinterested creator who set this all in motion and watches us with some sense of amusement (like we’re his entertainment) God loves you. Jesus walks with you and is calling each of you to something - something unique - something special - something he put into your heart the moment you were conceived.

What is holding us back from truly seeing that? How is it we’re missing that?

Jesus loves us so much, that he’s not even waiting for us to ask for the cure to our blindness - he’s offering it to us. He’s telling us if we believe in him as the Son of Man, we will have a new vision. We will be able to see how God is present to us and how that can change our vision of things; change the path we’re on; transform the gift of life we’ve been given.

Because the last thing we want to hear at the end of our lives is Jesus saying to us "Oh, you missed it"

A SIMPLE YES CAN CHANGE EVERYTHING

Happy Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.  The readings for today can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/032514.cfm.  As always thanks for reading, sharing and your feedback!  God Bless - Fr. Jim

HOMILY:

Why is Mary so revered by Catholics? 

We can look at some of her many titles and attributes coming from Scripture – Mother of God; Full of Grace; Most Blessed - and those indeed tell us how special she is. 

We can reflect on how as Jesus hung on the cross, He gave Mary, His Mother, to us saying “Behold your Mother.” In that He was establishing a new relationship of Love between her and all disciples as our Mother. 

But it’s something more.  An interesting paradox particularly revealed in today’s Solemnity of the Annunciation.  We hear the Gospel account of how the Angel Gabriel brings Mary this amazingly good news that would seem to distance her from us.   Yet, at the same time, this Gospel reveals what ties Mary to us in an intimate way; in her dialogue with the angel, we see the pattern for how God works in our lives as well. 

Fr. James Martin, S.J., in his new book entitled Jesus: A Pilgrimage, expands on this in a beautiful chapter that reflects on today’s feast day entitled simply, “Yes.”  In this chapter, Fr. Martin shares how we see glimmers of how what happens to Mary happens to us. To summarize, he points out that:

-          God initiates the conversation.   And as much as we might bemoan that we don’t have heavenly visitors communicating to us in a similar fashion to Mary (careful what you wish for on that by the way…) – the reality is that we can see how He breaks into our lives in unexpected ways: perhaps a scripture reading, a friends comforting words during a time of great distress or vulnerability, or a spectacular sunset that leaves us in awesome wonder of the greatness of creation and moreover our Creator.  Those are the beginnings of God’s conversation with us.

-          When that reality clicks - when we realize God is speaking to us - sometimes we’re excited, or grateful... sometimes we’re like Mary - fearful.  We might struggle in wonder at our littleness in light of the awesomeness of our creator who is paying attention to us and ask, “who me?  We argue…And at that moment, the angel speaks the words to Mary that her son Jesus will say over and over throughout the Gospels:  Do not be afraid… 

-          But humanity clicks in… and like Mary we wonder How can this be?  That’s a common question - whether it’s something where God intersects in proposing something wonderfully new or when we experience some darkness in our lives.  How can this be is another universal question that all humanity – disciple or not – asks at some point. 

-          The response to that question, in either of those situations, we find  in this interaction with Mary and the angel. The angel invites her to look around – look at your cousin Elizabeth – look at what God is able to do!  Remembering what God has been able to do in the past is essential in embracing the future – however dark, however mysterious or shrouded it might appear. 

-          In that, Mary’s confidence is renewed to say Yes… to which Fr. Martin shared part of a poem called “The Annunciation”:                 

But we are told of meek obedience. 
                No one mentions courage
                    The engendering Spirit did not enter her without consent.
                                     God waited

 That’s why this feast should fill us with joy and cause us to align ourselves even more closely to Mary… How God Loves us!

He initiates the conversation
He intersects with our lives
He invites us into His story
He comforts us in our fear at accepting this radical change by reminding us of all He has done and continues to do for us.
He trusts us, humbly waiting for us to say “Yes.”

May Mary our Mother pray for us that we will have her attentiveness, her courage to accept what it is God is inviting us to be a part of.  To say “Yes”  to Him – and to be surprised by the results; see the blessings multiplied in ways we can’t anticipate; see our lives and the lives around us changed. 

That’s what the Annunciation promises us – when we say Yes to God, the world is completely transformed.

HOW JESUS LOVES US

 
Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT - March 23, 2014. The readings for today can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/032314.cfm
As always, thanks for reading, sharing this blog on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit - and your feedback and comments. God Bless - Fr. Jim

HOMILY:

A couple of years ago there was a story about a very remarkable young man that’s one of the most inspirational stories I’ve ever heard. It’s about a guy by the name of Patrick Henry Hughes who was born with severe physical abnormalities. He was born without eyes and was unable to fully straighten his arms and legs which left him incapable of walking.   For his entire life he has been blind and confined to a wheel chair.   Despite these so called "handicaps" he’s become a gifted musician - able to play the trumpet (participating in a college marching band for the University of Louisiana) as well as play the piano. 

 
When an ABC reporter went to interview Patrick and he offered to play the piano, as his father rolled his wheelchair up to the baby grand, the reporter confessed he had low expectations.  The reporter thought to himself, "This will be sweet. He has overcome so much. How nice that he can play piano." He was awestruck, however, as he described what happened next.  "Then Patrick put his hands to the keyboard, and his fingers began to race across it - the entire span of it, his fingers moving up and back and over and across the keys so quickly and intricately that my fully-functional eyesight couldn't keep up with them. I was stunned. The music his hands drew from that piano was so lovely and lyrical and haunting, so rich and complex and beyond anything I had imagined he would play that there was nothing I could say."

 
What made this possible wasn’t simply Patrick’s determination but also the love and selflessness and dedication of his parents.  They noticed at age 9 that he had a gift for music, so they got him piano lessons, then trumpet lessons - they kept finding creative ways to assist him to hone these gifts. So much so that by the time he got to college, Patrick’s father would be working nights just so he could attend classes with his son (to take notes for him) as well as go to band practice where the father would be learning the choreography necessary for those elaborate marching band moves.  On game day during the half-time show, there they were, father and son, on the field doing the routines. In the meantime, his mother would work full time to help support the family which includes two other children.

The whole story was moving on so many levels. Patrick’s drive, his spirit, his outlook; where he smiles at ths camera and says somewhat matter-of-factly,  'God made me blind and didn't give me the ability to walk. I mean, big deal. He gave me the talent to play piano and trumpet and all that good stuff' - that humbles me and embarrasses me when I think of how often I complain about different limitations or struggles I encounter in my own life. 

 
But equally as touching is the selflessness, the sacrifices, the love of his parents. While I don’t have any children (at least not biologically - spiritually, as a priest, I do, which is one reason we call priests ‘Father’) I’ve been blown away seeing how my brother and sister in law try to juggle the demands of three little ones... As well as a bunch of my friends as they’ve had their children as well.  And in all of those experiences - their children never leave their minds and hearts for a moment. For Patrick’s Mom and Dad when they realized they were facing these added challenges when he was born, they remember asking, "Why us? What did we do that this happened to us?"  Now over 20 years later, they still ask themselves those questions. Only now, they explain it this way; "We ask the same question . . .but we put it in a whole new light. . .'What did we do to deserve such a special young man, who's brought us so, so much. He sees the world in a way that we can't even imagine..." 
 

You can’t help but be in awe of that kind of selfless love where nothing else matters but their children. That whatever obstacles, whatever challenges Patrick faced, they wouldn’t give up on him... no matter what.  And so when playing instruments becomes a passion of his, and he wants to play with the band... they find a way so that he can experience the joy of being a part of that community, making tremendous music and inspiring the rest of the world around him.
 

One of the amazingly special things we learn through the scriptures, and in a particular way with tonight’s Gospel is that is precisely how God loves us.  So often, whenever I’ve read this story about Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman, my attention has always been drawn to her and viewing it from her perspective . But this week, I kept finding myself drawn to Jesus.  And one of the things that stood out for me was that at the beginning of this story, we hear that Jesus was physically tired and hungry. St. John casually sets the stage that, "Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well."  Later we learn that the disciples had left to go into town to get food and provisions and the first thing they were concerned about when they returned was his physical hunger "Rabbi eat" - and when he responds negatively to fulfilling that human need, they wonder, "Could someone have brought him something to eat?"
 

But what changed in Him occurred during the interaction with the Samaritan woman - very beautifully Jesus says that his hunger has been filled, his energy has been rejuvenated in doing "the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work."  What is that will? What is it that God has sent his Son into the world to do? What does this reveal to us about God?

Namely, that in Jesus Christ, we find God’s selfless love for us. That nothing matters more to God than us – his children – and that whatever obstacles, whatever challenges we’re faced with - He never gives up on us - no matter what. For the Samaritan Woman, who’s been with 6 different men, who’s experienced the pain and shame of these broken relationships; the gossip of neighbors, the judgmental glances of townsfolk which is why she’s drawing water at the hottest and most difficult part of the day (simply to avoid them) - she’s experienced rejection, isolation and loneliness. All of these things that diminish her and limit her ability to believe, to know that she is God’s beloved.

But God never stopped thinking about her. Pursuing her. Reaching out to her. Jesus was literally exhausted and hungering for her to know how loved how worthy she was, worthy of so much more than the life she was living already. 

 
So it is for us. We may not have been married 5 or 6 times – but if we’re honest, we’ve gone down different paths we’re not too proud of, been frustrated in trying to find fulfillment in other ways than God’s ways. We may have been married to things, to pleasure, to honor, to power...Looked to different ideologies, politics, gurus for healing, satisfaction and contentment - not only finding they leave us still lacking something inside, but possibly even leading us astray.  

Whatever it is, reading this Gospel, I imagine Jesus still waiting for us... Pouring out his very self for us... Hoping that those merciful eyes of his will finally catch ours that so often turn away in shame; that his loving words offering us himself - not just figuratively, but literally in his body and blood will not be seen as simply "enough" for us here tonight, but enough to fulfill every thirst that we’ve ever suffered from, every yearning, every desire.  That He will fill us up, raise us up, remind us of our own goodness and worthiness precisely because He made us good and found us worthy - He thought us worthwhile, more than worthwhile - to come and live and love and lay down His life for us.  Like the Samaritan woman, from this night forward, may our lives be dramatically different.  May they be His. 
 


 

AND JOSEPH SAID: " . . . "

HAPPY FEAST OF ST. JOSEPH!  Patron of the Universal Church.  The readings for today's Mass can be found at http://usccb.org/ bible/ readings/031914.cfm.  As always thanks for reading these homilies and for sharing them.  God Bless You!  St. Joseph, Pray for Us!  - Fr. Jim

HOMILY:
About a week ago, depending upon your perspective, there was a headline that made you happy or extremely sad.   Lady Gaga threatened (promised?) she might quit the music business.  I'm sure for her legions of fans, this provoked a mad dash of tweets, Facebook posts demanding an UNLIKE button and so on as often happens in our day and age.  Not to question Ms. gaga's motives, but part of me thinks she accomplished her mission.  She drew more attention to herself simply by saying something. 

Not to pick on Lady Gaga - she's just another example of our fame-obsessed culture.  To feed a desire for greatness that humanity obsesses over, there's this belief that one needs to be "relevant."  Hence more and more often, all of us can fall into believing that we too need to broadcast every aspect of our lives to the  world - looking for likes, retweets -- looking for attention.

What a contrast St Joseph offers us today.  Curiously he is silent through scriptures - there's not one quotation of his recorded in the Gospels.  We hear about him in the Gospels, but that's it.    Even his interaction with God isn't a dialogue with an angel (as The Blessed Virgin Mary experiences) but rather he receives messages in dreams where it's an intimate and private conversation that we know about - but don't know what was said between The Lord and Joseph.

Yet one of the things that makes him such a revered Saint... Makes him the Patron of the Universal Church...  The model of workers, of fathers... Makes him a contrast to our very un-humble world is precisely that.  His silence.  His faith and trust in Gods word.  His responsiveness to God.  He simply does as the angel tells him.  He doesn't question, complain, obsess and certainly doesn't broadcast it.  He does it.  Probably thinking in awe of what he was being invited into... Perhaps wondering:  who am I to have received all this attention from The Lord to be included into his plan for salvation?  How is it that God the Father would Gift me to  have Mary as my wife and Jesus as my foster-child?

Ironically, in his abject humility and silence he becomes probably the only carpenter anyone remembers from the first century.  

Which points out one of the great messages St Joseph speaks to us today.  It is in our reverence and attention to Gods word to us... It is in our obedience to Him that we become truly great - and then find the only attention that we ever need: recognizing how loved we are as Gods children.  The Father loves and trusts us much that he wishes to include us in His ongoing plan of making Jesus Christ known, not always with our words and certainly not in giving into that temptation, that desire for attention -- but in listening in the silence to how God calls us... And in humbly, obediently responding to His personal invitations to each of us.   

May St Joseph intercede for us that we may possess:
the graces not to fear things hidden, 
the strength to be still, 
the fortitude to be patient and 
the courage to say yes to The Lord to the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives.