DON'T PUT YOUR IPHONE IN A MICROWAVE


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

FERRIS BUELLER - CATHOLIC EDITION

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

HOMILY:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE FUNERAL HOMILY I COULDN'T DELIVER

I couldn’t preach my Dad’s funeral mass.

I have to admit, that wasn’t much up for debate.  My parents and I were just together - not 5 days earlier - with one of my brothers, Chris; my sister in law Mairead; and my beautiful nieces Lizzie, Gracie and Molly - to celebrate one of my best friends, Fr. Bill Sheridan’s anniversary marking his 25th Ordination to the Priesthood.  That was Sunday, October 5.  To preside at his funeral Friday October 10th didn’t make sense in my head.  And I am so glad that my good friend Msgr. Ronald Rozniak could offer such a beautiful, hopefilled homily that was of comfort to my family and I last week.  If I had been able to speak from the heart at his funeral, I probably would’ve gone back to that last Sunday -

Dad was so happy.  The sight of his granddaughters running up to him in the lobby of the Church with their usual “Pop Pop!” after such a joyful celebration just filled him with such happiness.  He bumped into some old friends he hadn’t seen in awhile.  Everyone told him how good he looked - and he was good.  Even that afternoon talking to my brother Craig on the phone about the afternoon, I summarized saying "Dad's been doing so great the last few months..."

He’d had so many health crises over the years - times where we feared the worst - but came through it.  Not without his share of ongoing pain, struggles and difficulties - but he came through it.  Mom worked over and above what any of us ever really knew in caring for him, keeping tabs on his diet, fighting with him to keep doctors appointments, even pushing him not to give into his illnesses.

And that’s the jarring thing - the last 6 months he seemed to have finally found his rhythm.  The diabetes with its debilitating effects physically and emotionally on it's victims seemed to be under control.  Dad had been able to take some weight off and was beginning to get around more and more.  He was more like his old self than he had been in years - and consistently.

My time this summer down the shore with my parents was so good... no one was ill, we had really great conversations.  When I had gotten back from a pilgrimage to Rome, Orvietto and Assisi, I came down the shore for a couple of days.  I had a terrible cold, it rained that whole weekend I got there - but it was such a beautiful few days.  We weren't running to the beach or out somewhere.  We just sat together.  I was showing Mom and Dad - pictures on my iPad from the trip.  My Dad, the architect - and proud Italian - just kept looking at the pictures, asking all kinds of questions about each shot and was so happy that I got to go there.  We talked about whether he and my Mom could handle a pilgrimage themselves this coming Spring.  I knew how torn he was - his heart so desired to be there - but he was worried that some of those old health issues might pop up again and wondered whether he could handle all that walking.  Which is one reason he had started taken up walking around the block again.  He was doing so well - my only question a couple of weeks ago was whether he would be up for the trip or not — not whether he would be here or not...

I wish I could recall my exact conversation with Dad from last Sunday.  But to be honest, it’s really not important.  My exact memory was that he was happy.  I gave him a kiss when I finally got to the reception.  My 2 year old niece was trying to knock me over... we were having random conversations with everyone.  It was a great afternoon.  As the afternoon went on... and everyone was mingling with one another, we waited on line together to congratulate Fr. Bill on his 25th Anniversary.  My brother and sister in law had to leave as the youngest of the nieces was ready for a nap.  The crowd started to thin out and I looking at the clock started thinking about my responsibilities back at Montclair State.

As I said goodbye to my parents my mother said “George, just stay here, I’ll go get the car” (since they had to park at a bit of a distance from the auditorium) I gave them both a kiss.  The last image I have is seeing my dad sitting near the door with a smile on his face waiting for Mom to pick him up.  I was about to go over and sit and wait with him when a couple of parishioners came up to me and started to talk about something. The next time I looked he was gone - for what I had assumed at the time was just for the rest of the afternoon.  Mom had emailed me that night “It was a lovely celebration today for Bill....so glad we were all a part of it and are part of his life” Mom would tell me later how driving home he said how blessed they were “we have three great sons, a beautiful daughter in law, three wonderful granddaughters...”

I’m in tears typing all of this right now.  But I am profoundly grateful.  Because I know Dad died happy.

Two years ago before his open-heart surgery, I remember sitting with him and offering him the Anointing of the Sick.  It was the first time I ever remember my Dad crying.  And I remember sitting with him trying to console him - the first time I ever remember doing that either.  He was scared.  He didn’t think he would survive the surgery.  He didn’t think he could go through all of that  - again- but, with the birth of his 3rd granddaughter, he really wanted to.  And in my heart of hearts, I remember saying, and believing “Dad, you’re going to be okay...”  The doctor was optimistic.  And for whatever reason, in my heart of hearts, I never seriously considered he wasn’t going to be okay- even though he didn’t think so.

That he should just slip away so quickly and suddenly has left me simply shocked.  Like I’ve said to the students here at MSU - I don’t know how I’m feeling right now... I don’t know what I need, or what people can do for me (although I’m touched and grateful for the offers and especially for all the prayers)

All I know is it hurts.
A lot.
It hurts thinking back to sights, sounds, and experiences the day he died.  It hurts seeing the hurt of my mother - married 49 years and knowing my father since she was 15 years old so heart-broken, knowing that despite all of my brothers and I desire to heal that, there’s no cure or remedy we can offer for that.

I’m sharing all this just to give everyone a sense of where we’re at right now.  I wasn’t quite ready to discover news of my Father’s death had traveled on Facebook before my brothers and I had an opportunity to reach out to all of our family.  That as jarring as well.  But I know that there’s many students and friends and family and alumni that I’m only able to really stay connected with here online, that I thought that perhaps I should share all of this.

In this facebook/social-media world we live in - we’re accustomed to moving along with whatever’s “trending” either on a global level (Ebola) or even locally (Montclair State Homecoming).  As anyone who has gone through a tremendous loss knows - in so many ways, your world just stops.  You know you have to go on, and you will go on - but you don’t know how and you know it will never quite the same.  I’ve found myself trying to jump back into things and then crashing - driving home - trying to anticipate upcoming events, etc.  And it’s chaotic in my mind.

So quite simply I want to thank all of those who have been there for my Mom, my brothers, my sister-in Law and niece’s - my great Aunt and I during this tremendously sad time for all of us.  Just looking at the pile of Mass cards and expressions of sympathy is comforting and overwhelming at the same time.

I ask that you continue to keep us in your prayers.  My Mom, Dad and I shared a devotion to St. Joseph.  And one of his titles is “Patron of a Happy Death” (owing to the tradition that he would’ve died in the company of Jesus and Mary) I have no doubt that Dad definitely benefitted from his intercession.  And I’m grateful to the Lord for that gift.  Right now, I ask St. Joseph who was also protector of the Holy Family to intercede to the Lord to bless my Mom and all of us with His strength and consolation to endure our pain and to renew our confidence in His promises of eternal life which my Dad now enjoys and which we all hope to be reunited with him some day.

With Much Love - Fr. Jim

THE GIVING TREE; THE SELFISH BOY?

Greetings everyone... as those of you who follow me on twitter and facebook probably know by now, a week ago tomorrow, my Father, quite suddenly and shockingly passed away. I can't find the words right now to explain my feelings. People, very thoughtfully, keep asking 'how are you' and quite honestly all I can say is "I don't know." But I appreciate all of the prayers and special words of consolation. This is my homily for Sunday October 12 (the readings can be found here: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/101214.cfm) . I had completed working on the homily about 2 hours before I got the awful news. I'm praying I'll be able to deliver it tonight at Mass here on campus.


HOMILY:

With the birth of my Godsons, Goddaughter and nieces over the years, the remembrance of different stories and books that Mom would read to me before bed came to mind. It strikes me as odd that books that I might have read a year or two ago kind of fade from memory very quickly - but I can immediately recall and tell you all about “The Monster at the end of the book” (which, spoiler alert was Grover from Sesame Street); “Me too Iguana” (possibly targeted to me as the youngest who always wanted to do what my brothers were doing) or “The Giant Jam Sandwich” - one of my favorites about a unique way a town dealt with their wasp problem (something tells me PETA wouldn’t like that one). Maybe those images and stories being told at such an early age were apart of the earliest memories that they are hard to forget.

One that has always stayed with me has been“The Giving Tree.” Have any of you read that one?


 It’s the story of a boy and a tree who are able to talk to each other. It starts out the boy is a little kid - who would play in the tree, eat her apples, fall asleep in her shade. The boy loved the tree and that made the tree happy. But as the boy became older, things changed. The tree still wanted the boy to play and enjoy the tree as he used to - but the boy explained I’m too big to climb, I want to have things - I want money. The tree explained that she didn’t have money but offered her apples which could be sold and could get him money. So the boy did just that - he climbed, took the apples, sold them and left. Then he’s gone for awhile - some years in fact - and then the boy needs a home for his family, so he returned to the tree, and the tree is happy to see him, but says she doesn’t really have a home to offer him. So she offers her branches to be cut and used to build a home - and so he does just that. He cuts them down, uses them and leaves the tree alone again for years again. Then the boy (now a middle aged man) wants a boat to as he puts it “take me far away from here” (not quite sure what happened with the wife and kids that all of a sudden this guy needed to get out of town, but I digress) - The tree offers her trunk leaving only a stump left. Years later when the boy came back - the tree said “I’m sorry boy, I have no apples left for you to eat,... my branches are gone... you can’t swing on them... My trunk is gone... you can’t climb on it.” After the boy basically explains he can’t eat apples, he’s too old to swing from branches, he’s too frail to climb - he explains he’s simply tired. And the tree offers her stump for a place to rest, which the “boy” does and the book ends “And the tree was happy.”


There was something that was always beautiful and incredibly sad to me about that book. Obviously
as a young kid being read the book, I didn’t know that there was any controversy attached to it, especially since it was published back in 1964. Just two years ago the School Library Journal (you know it’s credible when the word “Journal” is in the name of the publication) called it the “most divisive book in children’s literature.” Some saw it as a beautiful story illustrating selfless love. Others were more negative saying the boy and the tree had a sado-masochistic relationship (!!!!) And many people espouse different interpretations: The tree represents God or Jesus and the boy represents humankind. The tree represents Mother Nature and the boy represents humankind. The tree and the boy are friends (i.e., "the message of the tale is seen as a relation between adults"). The tree and the boy have a parent-child relationship. Like a parable, the message of the book was misunderstood by many. The parables Jesus told were not always understood either.
 
 
If you didn’t know the story before or hadn’t thought about it much before, I’ve probably destroyed it for you by now. But I can remember even at a young age always feeling weird about it - to the point of one day saying to my mother “Why doesn’t the boy ever say ‘thank you?’” Most of us are taught to say thank you at a very early age. It is a natural response. Whether the tree represented my parents or grandparents - or God or Jesus - I got the idea of unconditional, selfless love. But the lack of gratitude on the boy’s part - that he simply came to the tree - used her, took her apples, branches, even her trunk - leaving just her stump - and then just using that - while it was beautiful to see that the tree found joy in giving herself so selflessly - I really kind of felt the boy was a jerk. The boy never saying thank you to a tree that could talk to him and gave him everything she had … really?
 
 
Which is what came to mind reading this somewhat bizarre parable that Jesus offers us today. The Gospels over the last few Sundays have contained parables that seem to be getting more direct, containing pretty obvious warnings to the listeners. If you went back and re-read them you almost can hear drumbeats getting louder and the natives are becoming more restless - as Jesus seems to be moving toward Jerusalem - where he will be betrayed, set up, unjustly condemned to a horrible, torturous death. All of which Jesus sees in his future and he is committed to the Father to go there. Yet his great love for all humanity - to come to realize his selfless, his unconditional love being offered compels him to still reach out to them to recognize the gift he is offering of intimate friendship with Him - as they ignore the warnings and continue to scheme, and plot his end. 
 
To understand tonight’s parable, we need a little historical context. Especially that last part... This poor schmo who comes to the Wedding Feast, doesn’t have a tux and then is thrown outside. In Jesus time, a wedding would have been announced with day, time, location to be determined later. So a guest would be invited with the expectation that when the preparations were completed for this 7-10 day celebration, you would also be prepared to go and attend it. The “wedding garment” the guy shows up without - he would’ve already had been offered that from the hosts of the wedding. So the guest must’ve refused it. He wanted to go using his own resources, being the clothes. He really didn't see any need for “their” clothes. He felt his presence was enough.
 
Basically what we’re seeing in this entire episode is the ugliness of ingratitude. There are those who are disinterested, and reject the invitation outright. There are others who decide to come on their own terms. At the last minute... nothing better came up, so sure we’ll check it out for a bit... Unfortunately it seems that in our world where friendship is defined as clicking an “accept” button on Facebook and perhaps liking a few things here or there and being very uncommitted - for many people those types of behaviors or responses might seem acceptable or understandable, perhaps even safe.
 
Yet, Jesus seems to be making a very clear point about what friendship means with Him. Yes He is willing to go to Hell and back for us - literally. But there needs to be a response on our part. It’s not enough to think about it for a moment and think “that’s nice... when I have some time I should think about that some more.” It’s not enough for us to show up when we’re ready for it on our own terms and somehow think God should be glad we squeezed some time in for Him. We have to recognize that God isn’t demanding us be slaves and that he isn't a task master. In Jesus Christ, He is revealed to us as a Loving, Merciful Father. And in the gift of himself offered on the Cross for you, for me, we become God’s sons and daughters. That gift demands at minimum a thank you.
  
txt-09eucharist-uscca-The way we express our gratitude is by what we’re doing right now - worship. Did you know that the word Eucharist actually means Thanksgiving. So it’s not just that we receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist - and that we receive His word in these scriptures we’ve heard proclaimed - this whole event of Mass is meant to be our worship, our thanksgiving to God for all He’s done for us. It is a spiritual feast that He has invited us to join Him and other believers. Everything is ready. In that we receive the selfless, unconditional love of God - and we begin to express our gratitude as humbly and meekly as we can. With the hopes that as we go forth when we’re dismissed we’re going to use our gift of freedom and look for opportunities to look for God’s opportunities put before us … to show our gratitude to Him:

· To be selfless.
· To be loving
· To be forgiving.
· To care for those who are in need.
· To invite others to the feast that we’re privileged to be invited to.



These are all things that God has done for us. He is blessing us to be a blessing.

 So In doing that, the giving tree the Cross, an instrument of death where Christ gave away everything for us, doesn’t become an object of something we take from - but a life-giving tree that continues to grow, continues to nourish us and bring life. In that life, we can continue Jesus' efforts of reaching out to a world that hurts, but doesn't know the Healer. We can introduce them and invite them to a wonderful Host at the greatest party ever … the Kingdom of God. Through our efforts for Jesus, showing our thanks for all He has done, the invitation can go out to all the world and God's Spirit can bring salvation for those who accept.

STUBBORNNESS INHIBITING GODLINESS

Hi everyone - thanks for stopping by on your surfing the web.  Here's my homily for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time - OCTOBER 5, 2014.  The readings can be found at:  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/100514.cfm.  I'm grateful for you're reading, commenting and sharing this blog with others.  Have a great week - God Bless - Fr Jim

TO LISTEN TO AN AUDIO OF THE ENTIRE MASS: 


HOMILY:

About a week ago at dinner, some students were trying to explain to me "Snapchat" - one of the latest social-media obsessions. I determined pretty quickly two things. 1 - that no, I will never get that - there doesn’t seem to be anything good that can come from that and 2 - if I were in college right now I don’t think I’d be able to get anything done.  I mean I’ve battled with ADD even before I had all these additional distractions to have my brain going down endless, mindless "virtual" rabbit holes.  I can’t imagine trying to study or get papers done nowadays.  It takes a lot of energy for me to resist clicking that link that has some random topic - "Interesting uses for Coffee grinds" - hmm... that seems important - and waste another 10 minutes with that when all I was intending and planning to do was respond to someone’s message on facebook.  Rarely am I successful at that (Did you know you can put coffee grinds in your refrigerator to neutralize odors from foods?)

Fortunately, those random posts turn out to be helpful at times- like when I’m writing a homily (ha!) A couple of months ago, someone had shared a post of the 10 most stubborn people ever.  I have no idea why I found that of interest.  Perhaps to make sure I didn’t make the list.  Or who were the experts who made the determinations of who made their list.  But there I was reading it.  I’ll spare you the full list and give you 5 of the top ten:
#5 - Hirro Ononda - Remember that kid down the street who kept playing hide-and-seek for 20 minutes after you had given up looking for him and ended the game?  Hirroo Ononda was that guy, only he kept hiding in the jungle of the Phillippines, for 30 years stubbornly refusing to believe that World War II had ended.  His family would plead to him to give it up, Japanese officials tried to reason with him - nothing worked until 1974 when one of his former commanders had to be flown in and announced to him in person that he was reversing his 1945 orders to stay behind and spy on American troops.

#4 - Emmett Pearson - it’s one thing to be a sports fan, but this guy takes the cake.  This Minnesota Vikings fan was so angered when his team lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1975 (after making it to the big game for the third time in five years and losing each of those times) that he vowed he would not shave again until they finally won the championship. As football fans know - in the 39 years since, that still hasn’t happened. Despite his wife’s hating his beard all these years, he refused to consider shaving.  He was even refusing to have surgery on an artery in his neck a few years back until the doctors promised not to shave the beard.  Sadly Pearson died in 2013 - his stubborn ability not to shave outlasting the Vikings stubborn inability to win the Super Bowl.

#s 3 & 2 - How many cars would need to crash through your house before you would decide you needed to move?  Well for Tim and Leigh McCall, who lived in a home for 30 years, raised their son in that house, and claimed to have made numerous improvements that are so near and dear to them – 11 cars crashing into their home isn’t enough to make them want to move -- It seems that their house is a block away from a railroad track that is raised - that unfortunately if a car is speeding, it sends them airborne right through their walls.

#1 - Harry Randall Truman - Back in 1980, officials in Washington State began evacuating for weeks the surrounding region of Mount St Helens as it was clear that the volcano was about to errupt.  Despite the warnings, he refused to budge saying to reporters that people were acting like wimps and "the mountain is over a mile away... that mountain ain’t going to hurt me."   Unfortunately he learned too late that wasn’t true when 800 degree liquid rock and 1000 lb boulders rained down when the volcano errupted!

Hearing stories like that - its amazing to see that people could be that thick-headed. Ignore warnings. Forgo advice. Be that obstinate and get that entrenched in their ways of thinking.  And even sadder is to see that in it’s extreme form -not embarrassment, not pride, not personal safety - not even their very life -  is enough of a motivation to make a person open their mind and their heart to the different messages that are being presented to them. Perhaps you know someone like that. I wonder what makes them so stubborn?
Today’s Gospel reading is giving us another example of this.   Jesus is dealing with a similarly stubborn group of people. It’s seems like it's been weeks we’ve been hearing parables, hasn’t it?   It’s one of Jesus’ favorite ways of teaching... using a variety of examples and illustrations to get his hearers to recognize who He truly is – the Son of God - and the gift that He is offering them – eternal life - which can be theirs, and ours by accepting Him, listening to Him, following Him and His commands.  Recognizing in Jesus the fullness of all that the prophets who had gone before Him for centuries, from Moses to this moment.  Seeing how God had been working through all those prophets for all those centuries to reach out to them, the people of Israel to re-establish friendship with Him.  Sometimes they listened.  Often times they stubbornly turned away from those prophets message, believing they knew better.

In this encounter, Jesus is dealing with the chief priests, the elders - the experts of the Jewish people - the ones who knew chapter and verse (literally) all about the prophets, all about the people of Israel. You would think they would be the first in line to follow Jesus and learn. They should be the ones who would be the most perceptive, the most observant and the most open to receiving the long-awaited Messiah. But a huge wall got in their way. They are blind, reluctant, resistant and absolute stubbornness to accepting Jesus. They were so stuck in their way of thinking that sadly it seems that no miracle that Jesus had performed, no preaching Jesus had made - no gift of love, of mercy, of compassion on His part is able to break through that stubbornness. Their hearts were hardened.

Jesus isn’t trying to win a debate or embarrass these leaders.  By using a parable (instead of just saying "hey guys, keep it up, don’t mend your ways and ‘enjoy hell’) he’s trying to demonstrate just the absurdity of their situation. Just on the surface, when we hear how in this story the landowner is rightfully owed and entitled to this vintage and those he sends to collect are killed - that’s diabolical. That’s insanely evil. On our human justice level - they don’t deserve a second or third or fourth chance (which according to this story they received) Italian-Sopranos style justice, this would’ve ended a lot sooner and a lot less compassionately! Yet, the landowner takes the seemingly just-as-insane risk of after all that sending his son to the tenants to collect what is rightfully his - and the son meets with the same brutal end as those who came before him.
The original hearers understood what was being said. They agree that in the story - that’s incredibly unjust. They even know that Jesus is applying the parable to them.  Despite all the explanations, exhortations and warnings - they refuse to believe. After all His miracles and words, Jesus will have no other choice but to humbly accept His Cross, an unjust sentence of death, a cruel and brutal passion - and He will not fight back or resist it, all out of His eternal Hope that His total love, total self-giving, total forgiveness will finally break the stubbornness of their hearts and minds.

The parable is meant for us as well.  We need to consider how our own stubbornness - in our pride, our ego - sometimes allows ourselves to forget all that we’ve received from God - and whether we’re truly utilizing those gifts to glorify Him or glorify ourselves. What walls have been put up that keep our stubborn behavior in tact? We are being warned to look at relationships that need to change - is someone a bad influence on me - am I a bad influence on them - or is it even lukewarm: where there’s nothing good or bad coming about from this relationship. What about our relationship with God? Is that something we are investing in or is it something we just take for granted.

We are being invited to look at the opportunities, the possibilities that Jesus is inviting us to be a part of - both here and now in the short term, and even more calls for our life, vocations - where we dedicate to serving Him in a particular way by our entire life - relationships, work, commitments.  The fruit of our labor is for the owner of the vineyard … God. If we are not offering it for His glory, what are we doing with it? Maybe we have missed those opportunities to give God what He so deserves. What will we choose today, and the day after that?

As stubborn as we can be in resisting looking at those things, Thankfully Jesus is equally stubborn! He is gently and patiently constantly offering us opportunities to take what he offers and make a real change. What has Jesus offered you this past week? What is your response? Give Jesus a chance to show you how to live a life of abundance for His kingdom.

ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI


Francis of Assisi

Just hearing his name, people have immediate thoughts. Some will think of him as the "saint who loved animals"; while others may cite the "Make me a channel of your peace" prayer attributed to him (which, spoiler alert - although in it’s tone and message is very "Franciscan" it wasn’t written by Francis)  I remember the "Blessing of Animals" and sang that hymn at Mass many times growing up, and I’m sure those gentle images of Francis are what made him such a beloved example of a "saint" to me growing up - and are most definitely why his popularity continues to soar centuries since his death from people of all (or even no) faith.

It wasn’t until I was in the Seminary, attending a retreat that was based on St. Bonaventure’s "Life of Francis" that I developed a great love, a deep admiration that was so strong I started to pray and discern whether the Lord might be calling me not just to the Priesthood, but to be a Franciscan priest. And one of the profound things that came from that retreat was realizing that all those admirable qualities that we so often attribute to him don’t even skim the surface of St. Francis.

Quite simply, this man had a radical encounter with Jesus Christ... He so clearly heard God’s voice, that when he did, he answered him.

Not always immediately.

Not always perfectly.

For example, he knew that God was prompting him to care for the poor. This one day he would encounter a leper on his path as he was returning home (at the Lord’s direction) and his gut, his impulse was one of "horror." But that call of Christ to truly die to self - to move past that revulsion and instead see and love Christ before him in the leper compelled him to stop his horse on that plain, get down and run and kiss the man - giving him his alms and his affection. As he mounted his horse to continue his journey, he looked around at all the open plains around him - and it was completely clear.. The leper couldn’t be seen anywhere.
The actual Chapel of San Damiano in Assisi, Italy
 - that Francis of Assisi rebuilt


That experience - miraculous, mysterious - that encounter with Jesus Christ captured Francis’ heart. And so he would renounce everything to follow Christ. And when Jesus Christ called out to him from a cross found in a dilapidated church to "Rebuild my Church which has fallen into disrepair" - he with a single-minded focus simply started picking up rocks and rebuilding the physical structure. And as he kept working, he began to realize – OOOHHH - not just this Church – not this Physical building - but THE CHURCH - the humble man, the "Poverello" of Assisi did - because He Loved Jesus and Loved Jesus’ Church. And he wanted to repair the damages that caused and came from The Protestant Reformation.

What draws me to Francis, what’s made me love him is his Love of Christ, his Love of the Catholic Church. It’s his imitation of Christ.
It’s the somewhat spontaneous responses he makes.
It’s the struggles he had to make those responses.
It’s his mistakes.
It’s that relentless pursuit of Christ and how Jesus was calling Him throughout his ministry.
It’s his simplicity in living on this earth.
It’s his depth of desire for the transcendent.
It’s his utter devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.
It’s his immense humility.
It’s his brutal honesty.
It’s his ability to see Christ all around while at the same time his humanity which at times frustrated him with those around him he found it more consoling to preach to the animals (where his "love of the animals" came from - they were often more receptive audiences)

One of the most moving moments of my recent pilgrimage
to Assisi - the privilege of celebrating Mass in the Porziuncola
Francis' favorite place on Earth - just a few feet away
from where he died.
This complex but simple man who’s been tried to be imitated so often that there’s dozens of religious communities founded that try to follow his example in trying to follow Christ truly fascinates me... inspires me...captures my heart... sometimes shames me... definitely humbles me

While I never did end up in one of those many orders, I still consider myself a friend of Francis’ who I pray will continue to pray for me... encourage me to live up to his words as a Priest of Jesus Christ "now that we have left the world, we have nothing else to do except to follow the will of the Lord and to please Him."


Happy Feast of St. Francis of Assisi