Here’s my homily for the Feast of the Holy Family, Sunday, December 28, 2008. Readings for the day can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/122808.shtml
Merry Christmas and thanks for reading!
Football fans, and Giants fans in particular give mixed reviews to former coach Jim Fassel. With some legitimate criticism for his leadership of the team, people often times didn’t look beyond his sports performance. Because of that, many probably missed this story which told what a true "giant" Jim Fassel really is.
After the terrorist attacks on New York City on September 11th, Fassel had gone down to Ground Zero with some other sports personalities to offer just some comfort to the rescue workers. While Fassel was there, he met some Firemen who were searching for fallen brothers and he learned how one of the fallen firemen had left a wife with 10 kids. Fassel said "My God, I have to do something – I want to pay for their college." The men who by that point had heard a billion such promises joked "Oh yeah coach, can I get your phone number." The firemen recalled that Fassel began to sob – but they recall even more how he kept his promise. He establishing the Jim Fassel Foundation which is supporting the Palombo family among many others. A few years ago, Lt. John Atwell of FDNY Engine 219/Ladder 105 said "He's a famous football coach, and you can take that and be selfish with it [if you choose to]. No matter what the score of Giants game, he's a winner with the New York Fire Department." Each year, we celebrate this Feast of the Holy Family. Theologians, homilists, psychologists warn about the fact that this is a difficult feast in our day and our time. Some feel inadequate with their family of origin. Some feel hurt and angry (and some for good reason). Yet, in a sense reading that story about Jim Fassel, I couldn’t help but think that in a way, he made it holy. It’s easy to be critical and jaded and say Oh – he’s got so much money – Oh it’s only one family – but I bet for the Palombo family, it’s not just the money that’s appreciated (and needed) but that he blessed that family with his Love and concern and in doing so, helped to make it Holy.
What we celebrate in this feast of the Holy Family is that Jesus’ entrance into humanity his entrance into this world with all of it’s inadequacies and hurts and angers was through a family. He blessed the lives of Mary and Joseph in a unique and special way and made it Holy. By our welcoming him into our lives and our families – letting him share his love and concern – it too can become Holy. And for those who do struggle, those who do hurt, those that are inadequate or where there’s hurt or anger, by our love and concern – we bring Jesus to them – and can even make them Holy as well.

CHRISTMAS 2008 - "You've got a winner here!"

So on this day we celebrate the birth of our "King", comes a story out of a place named royally, "Queens" - as in Queens, NY (seems to lose a little luster, but hang in there . . . this is a good one).

So, this 92 year old great-grandmother named Mary Alice goes to a local market where she buys a couple of those rub-off lotto tickets - like she does almost everyday. She purchases three tickets, rubs them off, sees that they are all losers and asks Chris Connelly, a young guy in his early 20's who works at the market, to throw them out for her.

For some reason, Chris decides to double check the tickets by running the bar code under the computer scanner on the lotto machine, which made him realized that one of them was a winning ticket. And he said he realized that it was a substantial prize of over $1,000, since the computer instructed him that the winner would need to bring the ticket to lotto headquarters to claim the prize, which is the standard procedure for any prize over a $1,000. So he says to Mary Alice, "Wait I think you have a winner here."

So Mary Alice returned, and Chris pointed out to her that she had missed rubbing off all the boxes on the card. So she did. She stood there numb. Chris looked in disbelief. Mary Alice kept looking and saying, "Are you sure? Are you sure?" - and yep, you guessed it, she had just won One Million Dollars.

The odds of winning a prize that big are astronomical to begin with. But could any mathematician even begin to calculate the odds that Mary Alice would miss rubbing all the boxes on the winning card, or the odds of it being thrown out, or the odds that some young guy working at a market would bother to check the tickets he was being asked to toss?

As heartwarming as it is that the young man did the right thing, what almost happened seems to stand out even more to me. This older women purchased this lotto ticket, like she did every day - why? Probably a whole bunch of reasons. But the biggest motivation that people "buy" into when it comes to the lotto is the idea that their lives may be forever changed, their lives would be different if they won this prize. As the commercials lure us - hey, you never know...

Had the ticket been discarded, Mary Alice would never had realized what she had done, Chris would not have realized what had happened, the NY State Lotto commission would be happy with another million dollars in unclaimed prizes they could legally keep - and life would have continued on as usual.

But with this discovery, Mary Alice plans to divvy up her newfound riches over the next two decades among her seven children. Reflecting on how this newfound wealth could provide some financial assistance to her family for the next twenty years, Mary Alice said, "What a way to end your life." And this opportunity would have been missed completely if the winning ticket had been thrown away.

Why are we here today celebrating the Feast of Christmas in this Church? For many of us, going to bed last evening, amid the happiness of the season, we still went to bed with some fears in our hearts and souls. Something that took away from the joy and the excitement we see in the innocence of children who are happily anticipating Santa and what he will bring them, children happily shielded from the things that preoccupy our thoughts.

The sick relative.
The suddenly unstable economy (and, possibly, unstable job).
The relationship that is beyond strained.
The sense that everything is just overwhelming.

Some of us say our prayers - some of us don’t - but somehow, we’ve all found ourselves together in this Church on another Christmas. And we kind of get into the Christmas routine, where Church comes after breakfast and before dinner; a lull after all the pre-Christmas preparation stress and before the upcoming days of returning gifts, before some over-indulgence as we gear up for the New Year’s celebration.
But, before we sing another hymn, receive the Eucharist, and walk out the doors here, God cries out to us, in the voice of a newborn child saying, "Wait a minute, you have a winner here."

Because if we can scratch beneath the surface of things, beyond all the other holiday trappings, we can find that the true meaning of Christmas speaks more important words to us, more needed truths.

The Christ child born into our world as a human being some 2,000 years ago is no longer a baby in a manger. That was the wonderful beginning of this new story we call "The New Testament". And so we rightly and appropriately gather to celebrate the "Good news of Great Joy for All People." God has come to us - not as an angry judge condemning us for our failures, nor as a distant leader demanding our service as his subjects.

He comes to us as one of us. Born in the most meek and humble manner, so as not to alienate those born today into similarly meek and humble conditions. He comes to offer us His Love, His Joy, His Peace - all of which come in ways we least expect, if we are open to Him. And He comes to stay with us, to continually offer the rich, life-altering treasure His Presence - and only His Presence - can bring to our lives.

If only we are willing to cash that ticket in.


FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT!!! The last few days of this season of "waiting" for Christmas. Here's my homily for today - the readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/122108.shtml - Thanks for reading!

The word "Home" brings up many images, remembrances, emotions. Maybe Home represents a country – Ireland, Italy, the Phillippines – Maybe Home means a group of people that were and still are close to you, Grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters or other relatives. In college Home represented an escape from the trauma of exams. For some Home is a place of nurture to restore themselves to go back into a sometimes challenging and difficult world. There are songs galore about "Homes."

In this season we hear the moving "I'll be home for Christmas" or "There's no place like Home for the Holidays", two very emotional songs for many people who miss relatives or friends. Billy Joel some years ago wrote a song called "You are my Home" in which he says to his wife of all the places that they as transients on the road experience, he realizes that : "Home is just another word for you."

The idea of a Home is, something close to each of our hearts – it's more profound than simply a house in which we live. A house can be destroyed through a fire or flood. It can be lost due to a financial disaster. People sell houses– yet, that concept of Home cannot so easily be destroyed, erased.

We hear today in the readings how this developed. David in the first reading has this desire to build a house for the Lord – he's feeling some guilt over the fact that he is living in a beautiful palace and the Lord has only a tent to dwell. David wants to build – And God in a way rebuffs this nice gesture saying to him "David, I have been the one caring for you all along. I've been with you through thick and thin, I will continue to be with you through good times and bad for you are my Chosen people, You are my home..."

In Mary, God chooses to continue this notion of people creating a Home. Just as God dwelled with the Jewish people in meek and humble means in the first reading, God will dwell in the heart of a meek and humble woman. Through this miraculous virgin conception, God would no longer dwell in a tent – God would enter into humanity. And as Jesus hung on the cross and said "there is your Mother" he told us how he had tied himself so intimately to humanity, so much so that as beautiful as this Church is, the Basilica in Newark and the Basilica in Rome is, they are made from elements that can be wiped out in an instant. The beauty of these churches don't erase the fact that they are merely "houses" of God, it is each of us as disciples who come and receive the Lord in word and body and blood in our hearts who truly make up God's home. This last week of Advent, as we make our houses ready for guests, holiday dinners, let us make an effort to truly prepare our homes for Christ to enter in once again.

Letter from the Eboard of Newman Catholic at MSU

As some of you may have heard or read, a few weeks ago, the Newman Catholic Center at MSU was the victim of a bias act, that is currently being investigated by the City of Clifton NJ Police Department. The Student Leaders of the Newman Catholic Campus Ministry released the following statement which was sent to the entire University Community.

I am extremely proud of our eboard members for the way they responded to this difficult experience:

To the Campus Community of Montclair State University:

We are writing in regards to the bias incident that occurred at the Newman Catholic Center on November 6, 2008. As the executive board of Newman Catholic Campus Ministry, we feel it is imperative that we bring to your attention our concerns regarding this incident on behalf of the Catholic community of Montclair State University.

The Newman Catholic Campus Ministry’s mission is to help the Catholic students of Montclair State University develop their identity as Catholic-Christians, and to have the opportunities to share and speak about their faith with peers. As a Class II organization of the Student Government Association, we do this in a variety of ways. Most importantly we celebrate Mass on campus on Sunday evenings and offer daily Mass and rosary. We create opportunities for social outreach: a Bone Marrow Donor Drive, Canned Food Drives, Toys for Tots program, and Action against Hunger project. We also offer faith-growing activities such as: Bible studies, Lock-Ins, Retreats, Inter-faith dialogues, and Faith Sharing. Furthermore, we have many social opportunities for fellowship, which help to foster lasting relationships between our members.

The bias crime that took place on November 6 involving a used condom placed on the doorknob of the Newman Catholic Center was a direct attack on our Catholic beliefs and teachings, as well as an attack on a student’s residence and our place of worship. As Catholics, we value life and in turn do not believe in the use of contraceptives. In saying this, it is obvious that placing such an item on the doorknob of our place of worship is extremely offensive and outright disgusting.

As students of Montclair State University, we are often told of the University’s openness and acceptance of diversity. However, the cavalier reactions of many people on this campus--including both students and staff--have led us to believe otherwise. Many have laughed off the attack, dubbing it a prank and thereby diminishing the gravity of the incident. Some have even used the incident as a means to further mock and demean our faith, criticizing the Catholic church for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with this issue. The fact remains that to a Catholic student on this campus, what happened was an attack on our belief system, and to laugh it off is to belie the very ideas--of diversity, of acceptance--on which this university is founded.

As students and leaders of Newman Catholic Campus Ministry we are saddened that such an incident has placed us in this situation, but grateful to have the opportunity to bring our concerns regarding the incident to the greater campus community. We realize that each student on this campus is a unique individual and it is our hope that as we bring this issue to each of you, we can learn to appreciate our differences and stand beside one another to truly create the diversity our campus prides itself in.

We thank you for your time and consideration,

Newman Catholic Campus Ministry Executive Board
Matthew Boyle, President
Kelly Karcher, Vice President
Veronica Haegele, Treasurer
Chelsea Pullion, Recording Secretary
Prudence Welch, Corresponding Secretary
Larry Muscat, Public Relations
Brittany Tobjy, Retreat Director


GREETINGS! And Happy New Year! That’s Church speak - it’s the first Sunday of Advent, and we begin a new Liturgical Year (Church Year) today. The readings for today’s Mass can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/113008.shtml . Thanks as always for reading and all your comments! God Bless - Fr. Jim


So the other day I get a voice mail on my cell phone. It might seem hard to believe that it came from a friend of mine because the message said something along the line "Hey Jim, first of all, let’s talk about that outgoing message of yours. You say ‘hey this is Jim, I’m not in right now’ - Idiot - I’m calling you on your cell phone, we know you’re not ‘in’ right now, it’s why I’m calling you on your CELL PHONE. It’s a good thing you’re cute because you sure ain’t bright."

After that unprovoked attack, I had to call back and say "well the reason I have that message is because it’s nicer than saying "Hey this is Jim, I’m screening my calls right now because I’m not sure I really want to talk to you."

I don’t really "screen my calls" - shocking as it might be for some of my friends to believe - sometimes the reason I don’t answer my cell phone is that – I might be out, or that I might actually be busy. But I’m sure I’m not the only one who has to face facts. The sad reality that for most of us, there are people we don’t want to see - there are people we don’t want to deal with... so we try to put them off as long as possible.

We get that voice mail, and we try to figure out when the other person will be out so that we can just leave them a voice mail message back and not have to actually talk to them at all. Hey I guess we keep missing each other - catch you at some point!

Even from the relative safe confines of your computer - we might not want to deal with someone virtually. You have those emails you just don’t want to respond to right away. You know you have too at some point, and you might even leave them marked as "unread" in your email Inbox just so you don’t forget, but even typing a response back seems to require a greater amount of energy and effort than they should.

Then there are the actual moments where you have human interaction with a person you're trying to avoid! Maybe even at Thanksgiving Dinner this past week or there’s another family gathering coming up where there’s a part of you that dreads the holiday celebration because "so-and-so" is going to be there and you don’t know what to say, don’t know how to deal with "so-and-so" for any number of reasons.

Often times these "realities" exist because we’re not in a right relationship with the person. There’s been some fight, there’s been some difficulty, some tension - something unresolved that makes us hesitate - or even worse - simply dread this other person and causes us to want to put them off as long as possible.

Where would Jesus fall? If Jesus was calling . . . well, actually, it should be - when Jesus does call us, when Jesus does come to us, do we welcome Him in – like the savior we long for or do we want to dodge Him, put Him off, stall Him just a little bit longer?

Advent is a season that the Church asks us how do we welcome Jesus in our world? During this season, we look back and remember that first time in history some 2000 years ago with His birth that first Christmas. Back then, there are stories told (which we will hear about closer to Christmas) of how some people spent their entire lives longing for that day - their lives were consumed with that yearning to see the birth of the Messiah. And at the very same time there were others who felt threatened by His birth and would do almost anything to destroy the infant King.

But Advent also reminds us that Jesus will come again to judge all humanity at the end of the world. To prepare us for that unknown day and hour, we are challenged to reflect on how Jesus comes into our lives every day - in the Word, in the Eucharist and in one another.

So going back to that question - when Jesus comes to us, how do we treat that encounter? Is He someone we long for or someone we dodge? Because if He is someone we are in a right relationship with, then these readings today don’t unsettle us. If that’s the case, when Jesus says watch! in the gospel, we have the anticipation of a little kid waiting on Christmas night for Santa to come. We long for Jesus’ return. We yearn for Him... Jesus’ can’t come back soon enough.

But many of us when we hear things like the Second coming of Christ - we are unsettled by it. There’s an element of fear. And if that’s the case, the readings today are jarring. We want Jesus to hold off a little longer - we’re not ready for Him to come in glory. We want to dodge that phone call just a little bit longer.

And if we find ourselves in that state of mind, the season of Advent is a great opportunity to do some soul searching and ask ourselves, why?

Are we living our lives in such a way that we don’t want Christ to enter in and see the mess? Maybe there’s some sinful ways, attitudes or actions that I don’t want Him to see, that I still haven’t dealt with... Jesus, don’t come in here yet...

Or maybe He’s been knocking at the doors of our hearts to consider a specific task he’s asking you to do, a specific call He has just for you. Because we’re comfortable with our life as it is (or as we imagine it should be) we want to dodge Him again. Maybe He’ll go knock on someone else’s door.

It’s easy for all of us fall into those feelings and attitudes from time to time. And when we do, we reverse the words of the first reading - we start to think that we are the Potter and will fix our own clay anyway we want to - instead of realizing how God has his fingerprints all over each of us. He’s molded us, and the more we co-operate with Him, welcome Him, allow Him to challenge us - He’ll continue to mold and change us into our truest selves.

That’s what Advent is all about. How will we prepare to welcome Jesus into the world. Will we take His call?


This is my homily for the feast of Christ the King - Sunday November 23, 2008. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/112308.shtml

Thanks for reading. God Bless - Fr. Jim


To be upfront, I’m not a Jets fan. In fact, I’m not really a fan of professional football. I enjoy watching college football like when Boston College beat up on Notre Dame a few weeks ago, and I’ll tune in from time to time to watch an NFL game, but it’s not like I have any real deep fan allegiance (baseball, that’s a whole other story...)

About a week and a half ago, I tuned into the Thursday Night football game. I wasn’t even sure who was playing. I had put the game on for some background noise until "The Office" came on. As I looked up at the television from whatever it was I was working on, it was towards the end of the first half. And the New York Jets were beating the New England Patriots by the score 24-6.

I looked and said, Oh man, forget this, it’s going to be a Jets blowout. So I turned off the game. Like I said, I wasn’t too interested to begin with.

Next morning, I pick up the newspaper and on the back page was a headline informing me what I had expected – the Jets had won. But the smaller headline right underneath caught my attention as it said Jets win in overtime thriller. Huh? What happened? Quite a lot actually. Not long after I had changed the channel, the Patriots had mounted a nice comeback. The Jets, as their history usually shows, found ways to bungle early advantages. Sending what looked like an early night and an easy defeat into a game that went into overtime and turned out to be very exciting.

I wonder though, how many supposed "fans" thought the game was over like I did earlier in the night. How many supposed Patriots fans bailed early in the game, (or for that matter, how many of them bailed early in the season when Tom Brady got injured, just thinking their season was over). How many Jets fans began to feel demons from their team's past had arisen again, subjecting them to another awful loss in Jets history and holding off their hopes of being in first place once again.

See, that’s the difference between the supposed fan and the real-deal fan. The difference between the bandwagon fan and the die-hard fan. For example, I have friends who have been die hard Mets fan since they were little kids (a long, long time ago). The past two Septembers they’ve watched their team implode on the very last day during the very last game of the season . . . two years in a row. Yet, in a few weeks, they’ll start paying attention again as the Mets begin Spring Training. They’ll start repeating the Mets semi-motto, "Ya Gotta Believe", in response to the question, "Can our team pull together a world-championship team?" If the Mets do win a World Series Championship, that triumph will mean a lot more to them than to those who, the last week of October, will be buying a Mets T-shirt and wondering whose name is on the back.

All of that’s understandable though . . . everyone wants to be with a winner. It’s harder to stand by when things are rough and tough. It’s hard to stay loyal when things seem to be falling apart for your side. Which is true not just in sports.

It’s hard to stay faithful to God when bad things happen. When unexpected illnesses happen. When tragic, earth-shattering deaths occur. When you start to feel the whole world is against you as that job falls through, that friendship dissolves, that project or thing you've worked on proves to be a failure - as others seem to skate by without much effort . . .

Christ is the King? Really? Sometimes it just doesn’t feel like it. Sometimes it seems like its halftime and our team is down and it just doesn’t seem possible to mount a comeback.
Which is why we have this feast today. Next Sunday is our "New Year’s" in the Church as we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent. So we end the Church Year by reaffirming that the game’s over, folks. Jesus has already won. That victory happened when Jesus rose from the dead on that first Easter Sunday over 2000 years ago.

As awful, as frightening, as challenging, as difficult as life can be at times . . . nothing can change that fact - that in the course of human history, there has only been one Man who was Crucified, Died, Rose from the Dead and ascended into Heaven.

And more than just fans, we belong to His team.

The problem is the opposition is working overtime to convince us the game’s still going on. And, in very painful ways, our faith is tested, our loyalty can wane. Sometimes in small, annoying ways we can grow tired and it’s hard to be too excited about our faith. And, sometimes, such awful things happen that shake us to our very core that even the most "die-hard fans" of Jesus begin to wonder what’s going on.

Which is why we come together. It’s why we still gather. We come together to remind ourselves that our King’s victory has been sealed. We come not just to be in the presence of our King - but to have the opportunity to receive Him into our very lives as well. To know that He is with us every step of the way as we continue to try and make His victory ours . . .

And so Jesus’ calls us to renew ourselves in being the loyal, die-hard fans we were in the days that things were going better for us. How do we do that? Not by pretending bad things aren’t happening to us. Not by putting a fake smile on our faces when all we want to do is cry. Jesus gives us practical, everyday ways to remain faithful, to remain loyal - we see the hungry person and we give them food - we see the stranger and we welcome him - we clothe the naked, care for the ill, visit the imprisoned or shut-in.

When we love the other more than ourselves, we begin to reveal what die hard fans, no, what true disciples we are. Because, it is when our hearts are turned outwards, towards a world broken and needy, that Jesus’ love, Jesus’ victory spreads to those who don’t believe there’s any Hope. To those who feel defeated. To those who feel dejected.

When we love - like He loves - then Jesus’ Kingdom becomes a reality.

Our game clocks might still be ticking - and for each of us, the scoreboard might be reading a different score. But unlike so many other players out there, we have the unusual advantage - the mixed blessing - of knowing the final result, of knowing which side will ultimately 'win.' Mindful of that, and mindful of Christ's care and concern for us, on this feast day especially let's recommit ourselves to our fellow teamates - and to our loving and victorious King.


Here is my homily for the Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 16, 2008. The readings for today can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/111608.shtml. Thanks for reading!


Every so often, you will see online, or in a newspaper or in a magazine article a list of what American people consider the most prestigious, most respected of jobs. What occupations people consider the most honorable. While the positions of the top ten can alter from survey to survey, usually the jobs and occupations remain the same. Almost every list includes firefighters, police officers, teachers, doctors and nurses.

There’s a good reason people seem to have an exalted appreciation of these jobs. It’s because they are more than just jobs. We realize that these are normal men and women, just like you and I. But that we trust them with even greater responsibility. We trust that they will have a primary focus on the good of all the people they are called to serve. Think about it - we trust that firefighters will run into burning buildings as people are literally stampeding their way out the door so that they can try to save as many people as possible. We trust that police officers will confront evil in ways we can never imagine (the drug pusher, the abusive spouse, the sexual predator) all to keep the rest of society safe. We trust teachers with an almost intimate responsibility - helping to shape the minds of young people. And anyone who’s ever been sick and realized how incredibly vulnerable that feeling can be, knows the level of trust that is given to doctors and nurses. They tell you to take this pill twice a day for a week, you do it almost without question. That’s why when we hear a scandalous story about people from these professions who’ve abused their authority there’s a deeper level of sadness and anger towards the act. Think about it - there are sick people every day who commit crimes of arson, assault, people who murder others. That’s sadly a given. But there’s a level of justifiable outrage when we hear that a firefighter has been charged with arson; when a cop is being investigated for beating a handcuffed prisoner; when a teacher has physically or mentally abuses a student; when a doctor or nurse has intentionally killed a patient.

The crimes are horrendous themselves, but in those situations, we seem even more disgusted, even more outraged. Because in those instances, people not only did these evil actions, they violated that trust that is given to them simply because they are in those professions. We’re almost hardwired to have a level of respect to the firefighter, cop, teacher, doctor or nurse. We entrust the lives, the safety, the education of ourselves to others, and to hear that one individual has acted so reprehensibly – it’s just not right. We can’t and don’t want to accept that someone has violated the public’s trust in such dramatic ways.

Today’s gospel story is all about trust. This parable has this master giving what is called "talents" to his servants, which is another word for money. One talent, would be considered a pretty large sum of money. And we hear how the first two guys double their talents by investing them and the one who was given just one, was afraid. He didn’t want to lose it - he buries it. He places it somewhere for safe keeping. He hides it so that it cannot be stolen, cannot be misplaced.

And if we are looking at this as a story about the need to invest in stocks, who could blame the guy for being so prudent, especially in this day and age?

But this isn’t about "talents" or money. And it shouldn’t be confused with our God-given talents, like being a good singer, or being a good athlete. Jesus tells us about being good stewards of our God given talents and abilities and the need to share those in building up the Kingdom of God in other Gospel passages. But what we’re talking about today... The talent Jesus is talking about in the parable - is Himself. He is explaining to his listeners that God the Father is entrusting His own Son to all of us.

All of a sudden, when we think about that parable again it takes on a much deeper meaning. We can begin to understand why the Master is so enraged by the one servant who does nothing with this gift. Because He has violated the Ma ster’s trust. He has not acted or responded in a way that one who calls themselves a Christian should. What good is it for you and I to say we are a Christian, to say we follow Jesus Christ, that we believe he is truly the way, the truth, the life if no one would ever be able to know that by looking at us or listening to us. Imagine someone coming up to you or I and saying "really, you’re a Catholic, you’re a Christian? I never knew that" as if they were just discovering you were born in New Jersey or that your ancestors were Italian. (As a priest, I’d really, REALLY be in trouble if someone said that to me!)

Our identity as Christians is more than our receiving the Sacraments. It’s more than fulfilling the obligation to come together as a family every Sunday at Mass. Being Baptized, being faithful to that obligation are incredibly important. But that’s step one. It is here that God gives us that "talent" that treasure that is priceless, each and every week. It is here we are given His Son every time we gather together for Mass. We receive Jesus in his word and his Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

So God has entrusted this priceless talent to you and I. What are we doing with it?

That’s why the parable is so real... The idea of investing the talent involves risk. Again, we only have to look at the stock markets right now to see how easy it is to fail, how easy it is to end up with seemingly nothing to show for our investing.

But Jesus is telling us that the reason this guy with the one talent is condemned so harshly is that he let fear stop him from doing anything. We can think of concrete examples of how that fear stops us right here and now in our Christian obligations. The person who hides the fact that they go to Mass every Sunday or doesn’t invite someone to come with them because they’re afraid they will be mocked for it. That’s a possibility - they might be mocked, they might be ridiculed for that - or maybe, just maybe they could touch someone else’s life. That could be the thing that get’s someone else reconnected with Jesus Christ. That could be the catalyst to help change another person’s life to find and experience the Love of God that is poured out in Jesus Christ. And right there, you or I can "double our talent" as well.

To become a firefighter, a police officer, doctor, nurse or teacher - one of the fundamental questions that is asked is can this person be trusted? God, in calling us to be a follower of Jesus Christ, has already answered that question. He does trust us. In the end though, will we be proven worthy of that trust?


Here is my homily for November 9, 2008 - the Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran given at Montclair State University. The readings for this feast can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/110908.shtml . Thanks for reading and all your feedback! Fr. Jim Chern


There is probably few things in our modern society that has had a greater influence on our present day culture as one particular television network. People can debate this point – Fox has higher ratings, (at least right now); CBS, NBC, ABC have all been around longer; ESPN has revolutionized sports media. But, none of them come close to the effect of this one channel – which since it came on the scene in the 1980's has had a marked influence on our culture. That channel is MTV.

I hate to admit that I can remember when the channel first debuted. Our family got Cable TV installed (on only one TV in the house by the way), I remember my father had told me and my two brothers we weren’t allowed to watch MTV. Being the obedient children that we were, we waited till Dad was at work to watch it. At that point the "M" actually stood for "Music" Television. I remember people wondering whether it would be successful - who would want to watch Music videos when you could listen to it on the radio, they wondered? Where they wrong! For practically 24 hours a day, 7 days a week that’s what MTV was - you could tune in to watch Music videos as VJ’s (a video - disc jockey) would introduce all the different bands and artists. It was an immediate success.

What started as a new way to promote music slowly evolved into a cultural phenomenon. Nowadays, the music videos which were central to MTV’s programming has become background noise and end credits to a 24/7 line up that includes shows like True Life, Parental Control, Real World, Road Rules, and Busted. In the process MTV has had an even greater impact on the "younger" generation. For those of you who are in that 18-25 year old age group - think about how much information you or your friends receive that comes thru the MTV filter (which now that is owned by a much larger media corporation called Viacom has even more influence, more avenues it can use).

All of this is exactly what the Founder and Former President of MTV , Mr. Bill Pittman envisioned. Back in the early 1980's Pittman stated that in order to reach this "younger generation" they had to attract 14 year olds (which is when teenagers are entering adolescnece). And he had a very simple two point plan for MTV: 1 - Get their emotions going and 2 - make them forget their logic. Pittman explained why: "The strongest appeal you can make is emotionally. If you can get their emotions going, make them forget their logic, you've got them." Pittman confidently concluded: "AT MTV, WE DON'T SHOOT FOR THE 14-YEAR OLDS, WE OWN THEM."

It’s hard not to concede that Pittman and MTV have become incredibly successful in their goal. Just looking at the number of people who come to Mass here tonight on campus - It’s awesome that all of you make it a priority to come here tonight - but you guys know as well as I do how many of your friends, roommates, relatives are probably home watching "Paris Hilton’s New BFF" (I’ll save my editorial comments) at this moment instead of being here. For many of them, they can’t understand why we are passionate about our relationship with God. For many of them they really haven’t made a place for God in their lives.

How does that have anything to do with today’s celebration of the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran? Probably just hearing that title many eyeballs become glazed over. When you compare it to Easter, Christmas, or even Palm Sunday, today’s feast wouldn’t rank too high on many people’s lists (probably a majority of people have never heard of this feast). We wonder how can this relate to our lives? We might think, It’s very nice that this Cathedral basilica in Rome has been there for close to 1,700 years - but for most of us who have never seen it (and may never get over to Rome to see it) other than a historical curiosity, why would we even take time out of Ordinary Time to commemorate this?

But today is more than commemorating the day an old Church in Rome was dedicated. It is remembering a moment where the world, "the mainstream", the culture had, at least for that moment it’s focus shifted in the right way.

That dedication celebrated that for those living in the Roman empire: saying that you were a follower of Jesus Christ no longer meant you were subject to death. The Mass no longer needed to be celebrated in underground tombs or secretly in homes. And most importantly, the empire acknowledged the one true God that Jesus had revealed to humanity – The trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit could now be praised, worshiped and acknowledged by the secular world as the one true God.

Up until then, the Emperor himself was considered a god - which is why the persecution of Christians had been so fierce. But now the Emperor Constantine had converted to Christianity. Many people throughout the Roman empire were hearing the Good News of Jesus openly proclaimed and were converting to it as well. They were no longer "enslaved" or "owned" by the oppression of a Roman emperor "god."

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

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

It’s true religious bigotry, and condescension towards faith-filled people is far from over (I could write a book about such incidents right here on our campus); at the same time we can rejoice and be thankful that here in the United States we don’t have to be afraid to lose our lives for being Christian. Every day we have an opportunity to bear witness to Jesus Christ by our words and actions. Each week we have an opportunity to come together as the People of God and hear His word and be transformed by His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. That transformation isn’t just for us personally - it is meant to make us the living Church. That’s why we are called "brother’s and sister’s." And those ties extend beyond this room throughout all of the Catholic-Christian world. We are united with the soldiers celebrating Mass tonight in the back of a Jeep in the deserts of Iraq; the persecuted Christians in India and China; as well as our friends in Ramapo and Seton Hall who are celebrating Mass right now too. Which is why today’s feast is bigger than just remembering a building but points to that reality of that living Church. All of us become that temple of God. Will zeal for that house consume us? Or are we too busy singing along with the rest of the nation"I want my MTV?"

"Can you be religious and pro-choice?" No

The following is my column in the weekly Newman Catholic Newsletter. Our E-board officers after reading it suggested that I share this online as well.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Last Sunday I was reading the New York Post and there was a headline in the opinion section that said "He’s no Saint: Pope Pius XII didn’t do enough against the Nazi’s." The headline gives you the gist of the article. The author is arguing that Pope Pius XII could have said or done a great deal more to stand up in face of the Nazi’s murdering of millions of innocent human beings who were targeted by that evil regime all for their diabolical reasons.

The article is in response to those who looked at all that the Pope did during that time and claimed the man is a saint. Those supporting the Pope point out the many, many ways that Pius worked, as our current Pope Benedict XVI puts it, "secretly and silently to avoid the worst and save the greatest number of Jews possible."

While I’m not an expert in this debate, I do know that the Catholic Church wouldn’t canonize someone (declaring a person is a Saint) without incredible scrutiny over all aspects of their lives. So I trust that the Church will discern and investigate Pius’ actions before She would simply name him a saint.

But, the author of the article in framing the debate around Pius XII asked: the story is essentially about how one very powerful man responded to the most pressing moral question of the age. This is not some distant historical dispute among scholars. It is a defining issue that asks... what would you have done?

Not even two hours after I read that article, I happened to read something online that said that on our campus, an organization was sponsoring an informational meeting that asked "Can you be both religious and pro-choice?"

Considering I wasn’t invited to be a part of the discussion, on one level there was a part of me that felt "just ignore it - just let it go." But as your priest, I’m concerned when people try to mislead you or confuse you. I’m frustrated when individuals try to spin their agenda in a particular way to make something that is morally, ethically abhorrent somehow religiously "acceptable."

Since the very first century the Catholic Church has been a clear voice to this pressing moral question: the Church has consistently taught that abortion is a moral evil - it is a grave offense... and in recent years has amplified this teaching in a world that tries to drown out any voices that challenge it’s self-absorbed, self-centered ways.

Those who support abortion have lost the argument in terms of scientific evidence (if a fetus in a mother’s womb is not a human being, what is it? Can a pregnancy result in anything other than a human life? Has a woman ever given birth to a plant?) - so they approach it in different ways. Abortion has moved from being a moral and medical issue to a political issue (which has become a very volatile one).

Now, there are attempts to make it a religious issue. "Can you be both religious and pro-choice," the title to the discussion asks, the short answer - No.

As I said, I wasn’t invited to participate in the discussion on campus, but have been at similar ones in the past. Usually these types of discussions like to confuse the abortion issue by raising questions, questions and more questions. These questions raise other moral evils, all of which are designed to appeal to extreme and emotional examples. "God doesn’t want people to suffer" is the response to those examples- and somehow they argue that while abortion is a bad thing, so is rape, so is incest, so is poverty. They conclude with a seeming shrug of the shoulders that says "until we eliminate those reasons for abortion, we will be left with women who will feel they have to choose abortion." This makes abortion seem like it is not a big issue. Yet, no mention is made that nearly one third of your generation has been killed...

The idea that somehow any religion or religious person would find any moral or ethical justification to supporting the killing of an innocent child in the one place a child should be the most protected, the only "safe space" (if you will) – a mother’s womb is beyond comprehension.

And, it is simply wrong.

The question all of us need to answer, whether we are religious leaders or fellow citizens in a free country: a country that promotes life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness... When we’re asked about the fact that 4,000 innocent babies are murdered each day in abortion clinics, to this pressing, moral issue of our day and age ask yourself– What did you do?

In Christ’s Peace and Love,
Fr. Jim Chern


Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 26, 2008. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/102608.shtml . Thanks for reading and your feedback - God Bless, Fr. Jim


If you had asked me who Michael Phelps was back in April or May I probably wouldn’t have been able to tell you anything about the guy. But since the conclusion of the 2008 Summer Olympics, I doubt there’s anyone who doesn’t know who he is.

Phelps has had more press and media attention- which is well deserved - since this summer when he became the first person to win 8 Gold medals at one Olympics competition all for swimming events. In the process, he set 7 new world records while the other one was only (only!) setting a new Olympic record. The New York Times made the observation that if Michael Phelps had been a country of his own - the "republic of Michael Phelps" would have come in 4th for the total number of Gold Medals that a country would have won (after China, the US and Germany) and would have 14 other countries behind him. That’s sick when you think about it. Phelps himself won more medals than 14 other countries.

Despite a nagging thought in the back of my head that he must be part-Dolphin in order to achieve such swimming feats, and in response to more serious cynics who wondered whether he was on any performance enhancing drugs (thank you Jason Giambi, Roger Clemens, and Marion Jones for that) he joined a group called Project Believe where athletes volunteer to be tested for steroids or supplements and all 9 times he was tested, Phelps passed.

So how does this guy get into the condition he needs to in order to be such a phenomenon? He’s been training since he was 11 years old. At that young age, his coach pushed him to swim 50 miles a week. A year later, his coach told him that if he really wanted to achieve his Olympic potential, he needed to abandon every other sport – he could no longer play baseball, soccer or lacrosse and instead he had to invest all his energy in swimming. So that’s what he did. At that young age he gave up all the other sports he was playing and zeroed in on swimming. In recent years, he’s explained what his training schedule is like. Phelps trains about 5 hours a day, 7 days a week. The intensity of these workouts is so severe, that Phelps has said at the end of the day, all he really has energy to do is eat (which he does a lot of, consuming close to 12,000 calories a day in order to maintain his top-notch shape), sleep and maybe watch a little television. He trains everyday - Sundays, holidays, his birthday, Christmas, Easter, Super Bowl Sunday. To put it mildly, Phelps has become this elite athlete because of his single mindedness, his focus, his dedication to swimming.

We kind of sit back and wonder about people like that, don’t we? How is someone able to do something like that? How are they that disciplined, that dedicated - or for that matter, that interested in a singular goal like swimming. He’s put vacations, relationships, schooling on hold because of his belief that this is a once-in a lifetime opportunity that he has right now. And with his goal achieved of becoming "the greatest Olympian ever," people are still amazed, still shocked.

Today, we’re confronted by a feat that we might think as inconceivable to reach or as difficult to achieve as winning 8 Gold medals. The bible tells us a lot of different things in terms of how we should act and how we shouldn’t. In today’s Gospel, this young man asks Jesus - break it down for me, what’s the most important. Jesus basically gives us the cliff notes version of the entire Old Testament when he says: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind . . . Love your neighbor as yourself. Oh, that’s it?
Those words seem to roll off pretty easy, but the radicalness of them, the incredible expectations they place are right there too. I’m sure for many (all?) of us, we wonder, how is that possible?

We immediately think of all the things that demand our attention and affection - our families, our school/work... There’s no shortage to the many things we have to do. And now we’re being asked to be so radically single-minded, so focused, so dedicated to God alone? We kind of think that’s something people like Mother Teresa or the Pope would be able to do, not us.

But God isn’t asking all of us to be Mother Teresa, or the Pope. He might be calling some of us to dramatic service as a priest or a religious. But that’s a different issue. He wants all of us to live vibrant lives - the lives he created us to live. Lives that are single-minded and focused in our love of Him. That doesn’t mean quitting work, skipping class, abandoning all of your relationships and spending all day in a church. It means loving God, finding God in our neighbor in all the encounters, the exchanges, the places our lives take us each and every day.

So, you’re a parent, you’re kids are annoying you, your spouse is aggravating you - you feel unappreciated, unnoticed.

Or, you’re a student - you’ve got roommates, classmates, professors, advisors. It seems everyone is putting yet another demand, another deadline, another expectation on you.

If we can look at all these typical, daily experiences, these daily struggles, these daily stresses and turn it around and say that we are doing it for God, through God and with God and in God - and if we genuinely want to love Him and love each other more in those situations, we not only fulfill His command, but we start to find unexpected joy and deeper meaning in areas that used to seem boring and tedious before. The monotonous becomes life-giving - and life changing - we start to see that God is an active, present part of our lives, not simply in this hour that we gather for Mass once a week but the other 167 as well.

That sounds more challenging than we’re used to, doesn’t it? And often we handicap ourselves by having an all-or-nothing approach to spirituality that says if we can’t do this perfectly, if we can’t "win the gold" in the loving God/loving neighbor department, then what’s the point, what’s the use?

That’s when the Lord who asks us to love Him so radically reveals to us the depth of His love for us. God can ask us to love Him with such single-minded, dedicated focus because that’s His nature; that’s how He loves us. And so He rejoices right here, right now if one of our hearts is moved, if one of our souls is touched, if one of our minds is changed to see His presence in our lives. God is everywhere, God is calling us, God is giving us the gift of Himself, and challenges us to do the same - to empty ourselves in love to Him, and in service to our neighbor - and only then will we see the fruit, find the fulfillment and achieve the ultimate prize that is Christ Jesus. God's inescapable love is calling us, now.No God won’t be awarding any Gold medals to us (today/tonight), but He is looking for our dedication, for our single-minded - no, more than that - for our single-hearted Love.


This is my homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 19, 2008. The readings for the day can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/101908.shtml. Thanks for reading & your feedback! God Bless, Fr Jim

"This election is the most important election you will ever vote for in your life." In some shape or form, we've heard versions of that over the last few weeks (well truth be told, with how long this presidential campaign has run, it's more likely we've heard that over the last few months or even years for that matter).

It's more important than four years ago when politicians told us that was the most important election ever - and in four years we'll be amazed to learn how much more important it is this time.

With such importance, one might be surprised at how many spoofs, parodies and cartoons there are. Some can be mean (or demeaning) - but there are some that are pretty clever and very funny.

For example, a few weeks ago, a friend sent me a link to an online political cartoon that poked fun at both presidential campaigns called "It's time for campaignin'" After skewering President Bush, Senator Clinton, and both candidates - Barack Obama and John McCain, they got to the end/punch line of the satire singing to the tune of "The times they are a changing":

Citizens gather from both far and near
for a ritual we practice every four years
when we promise you anything
you want to hear
to win the crown we're chasin'
we spend billions of dollars
to make our point clear
to get you to step up and
cast your vote here
then we spin you around
and poke you in the rear
Oh it's time for some campaignin' (JibJab.com)1

That was probably the line I laughed at the most. Because, like all good satire and spoofs, there's an element of truth to it. In this election environment, we've made a presidential campaign almost a new version of American Idol. People rate debates like "performances." Politicians "focus-group" their campaign statements rather than speak plainly about what they believe and what they will do if they are elected. And yes, billions of dollars in advertisements which tells us precious little other than why the other guy is SO WRONG and this guy is SO RIGHT bombard us everywhere we go (anyone else getting those recorded phone messages?).

Why have these campaigns gotten so trivial, especially when it is such an important thing? We're talking about a very powerful position. Becoming president of the United States is a very powerful position. This leader has the ability to influence not just the course of things here in the United States, but throughout the world. With a mixture of both noble purposes and incredible ambition we are left with candidates and campaigns filled with individuals who seem to be involved in some tug-of-war trying to get the polls (and, they hope, the final election results) to go the way they hope or favor.

Don't misunderstand me - it is an important thing for us to be plugged in. It is important to vote. It is even more important to look at the issues, and to understand why the Church teaches that some issues, like the Life issue are more important than some others. And to go beyond just the 30 second commercials, the commentators, the celebrity endorsements and actually find out what the candidates support or oppose.

But what seems to be lost in all political campaigns is a true sense of where true power, true authority comes from. Because in this seemingly endless campaign, there's a refrain repeated over and over by both politicians supporters - that if you just vote for our guy, all our problems will be solved. World Peace will be achieved! Economic certainty! And every other issue that you are concerned about, yeah, we'll take care of all of that to.

And we become disappointed when they don't accomplish those things. We get confused and start to wonder what are we to do? Who are we to vote for? Which candidate does Jesus want to win?

The scriptures today, comes (as it so often does) at a perfect time. While our country seems immersed in this campaign over "the most powerful position in the world" today's scriptures remind us where true power comes from.

In the Gospel we just heard, there are two groups who are trying to in a sense trap Jesus, confine him to one side or another – They want Jesus to agree with their party, their side of things. There's no middle ground here. There's no bi-partisanship. They ask Jesus - Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? The two groups are the Herodians, who align themselves to Rome, and the Pharisees who were an influential group of Jewish leaders.

If Jesus said"Yes" to the question he would be aligning himself with the Romans (and basically going against the belief of every Jew who believed it was a violation of Jewish law to have to pay this and to recognize this secular authority). If he said "No" he could be arrested for going against the government.

Who's power would Jesus bow down to? Which side would be able to win his support? Would Jesus endorse the Pharisees or the Herodians?

In a master stroke that would make the political masterminds of today be jealous, Jesus seems to side step the issue complete. He doesn't validate the Roman taxes, but doesn't let the Jewish people off the hook from paying it. We can look at it as an ancient example of the "triangulation" of a political issue. He says "repay to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what belongs to God."

The wisdom of what Jesus is saying is lost though if we simply try to make Jesus this master politician who confounded these two parties battling each other, each believing they were more right than the other. The point Jesus is making is distorted if we as Americans try to make Jesus' answer of "repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God" as the biblical support for the "separation of Church and state."

Jesus is asking us who do we belong to? Whose image are we made in?
Are we simply a Democrat or a Republican?
Do we find our identity just in being Americans?
Is my allegiance to a group or an organization my main focus?

Or do we recognize that we are created in the image and likeness of God? And that He is beyond nationalities and ethnicities . He is beyond party affiliation, beyond any individual political platform, beyond any candidate. God tells us who he is in that first reading from Isaiah: I am the Lord, there is no other. Words like that make everything else really trivial.

In a few weeks, this election will be over (well, remembering the 2000 presidential election, I guess I should say, hopefully it will be over). And in this very charged environment, it's likely that some will be happy and some will not with the results. As important as the election is, we give it a more exalted importance if we forget that the Caesars, or the McCain's or Obama's will have their time in leadership, but that the one unchanging, constant is our Heavenly Father.
Jesus isn't saying one way or another who's right and wrong - his answer today, as it often does asks another question of us, "what on earth does not belong to God?"2

-- endnotes: 1 - "It's time for some campaignin'" - found online at Jibjab.com
2 - quote comes from the lectionary commentary for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time found in The Workbook for Lectors and Gospel Readers LTP publications, 2008 edition


Here is my homily for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 5, 2008 – http://www.usccb.org/nab/100508.shtml . Thanks for reading and your comments!
God Bless, Fr Jim


You ever have one of those moments where you see something - but you can’t believe you saw what you just saw and you do a double/triple take???

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the City [for those of you reading this outside of the NY Metro area reading it, that would be New York City] I was sitting in a lobby and saw a newspaper on the table. It looked like any of the other newspapers that were on the table - there were pictures of John McCain, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi on it. And what made me do my triple take was I caught part of a headline. All I saw was "CONGRESS LOWERS DRINKING AGE".

OK - so considering where I work, whom I work with - in that moment I thought "have I completely been out of the loop???" Did I miss something? I know that there’s recently been in the news the idea of TALKING about the drinking age, but they lowered it already? Something tells me that at least one or two Montclair State students would have talked about it/told me about this.

So as I did my triple take, I looked again and now I saw the masthead - the newspaper is "THE ONION" - which is a spoof/satire of the news. And the full headline reads "Congress lowers drinking age to 17 Just for Jenny’s Party" - the second headline says "‘Okay, just this once’ says Congress." Here’s the article:

Overturning a law that has been in place for 24 years, Congress approved a temporary repeal of the Minimum Drinking Age Act Wednesday upon learning that Benjamin Harrison High School student Jenny Larsen is celebrating her 17th birthday with an unsupervised party at which attendees are expecting to consume alcohol.

H.R. 874, more commonly known as the Jenny's Turning 17!!! Bill, will go into effect Friday, as soon as Jenny's parents leave for their weekend trip to Vermont. "Our system of laws is not inflexible, and at times it is necessary to make adjustments to our federal statutes to more adequately serve the interests of the American people," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said. "It is therefore the Senate's opinion that Jenny only turns 17 once, and that she deserves to have a party that is both totally awesome and permitted under United States statutory law."

"Furthermore, Brad is going to be there, and it is our understanding that Jenny really, really likes Brad," Sen. Reid added.

Reid went on to defend a number of the bill's addenda, including a provision authorizing Paul Woodard, 17, to pick up the keg, and $25.74 in federal funding to purchase a bottle of Jenny's favorite alcoholic beverage, vanilla Absolut.

Although the bill was passed by a wide margin in both the House and Senate, it has received criticism from some members of Congress, who call the law "favoritist" and "totally unfair."

Most legislators, however, voiced their full support of the bill. "These children are quite popular, and they should be treated as such in the eyes of the law," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said. "Plus, they're going to drink anyway, so we might as well make it legal."
"Come on!" Boxer added. "It's Jenny's B-day!"
[Full article can be found at http://www.theonion.com/content/news/congress_lowers_drinking_age_to_17 ]

One of the things I laughed the most at was they had those photo captions on the side and one of them had a picture of a young girl with the quote "THIS LAW S*(#& [stinks] - WHY DIDNT THEY PASS A LAW FOR MY 17th BIRTHDAY" - with the person identified as Alexis Larsen, Jenny’s Older Sister.

A funny spoof. Just comedy? Well, as all good humor stories do - there’s an element of truth to them.

Tonight’s Gospel parable is a difficult one. When we listen to it, it’s easy to disconnect from it. Oh yeah, we think - this parable is Jesus talking about what the Chief Priests, the Jewish leaders were going to do to him - he’s the son in the parable and Jesus is saying that they are going to reject him and kill him. And that’s true. But the Gospel isn’t meant to be a history book. These readings aren’t intended for us to sit back and think about them as recollections of what happened 2000 years ago.

Jesus parables are meant to challenge us - make us uncomfortable, just as he made his initial listeners a bit uncomfortable (so much so, they would follow through on the parable and kill him)
And what he’s trying to make us see in tonight’s parable is that sometimes we can take all that we’ve been given – for granted. We kind of think we should be treated like Jenny - that the world should revolve around us - change for us. We have so many blessings and can still feel something’s owed to us.

Just walk around campus and you will hear people say (or maybe you say things yourself) like "I hate this place" "This place stinks" "Why do I have to do this" "My parents are so demanding" "I don’t care" "I’m skipping class" "I’m going to get wasted" "Just blow that off"

Maybe it’s not as comical as Congress lowering the drinking age for my birthday - but it’s the same principle - Whenever we do or say those things -we’ve in a sense become the tenants in the vineyard. We’ve squandered the blessings, the gifts that God has showered down on us and said "it’s mine - and I can do with it as I please". The world revolves around me and what I want.

The question that started Jesus telling this parable (and the one we heard in last sunday’s Gospel) was when the chief priests basically said to him - What gives you the right to teach like you do? Who do you think you are?

In a sense it’s the same question we’re faced with. We’ve made Jesus a type of RA who has the unfortunate task of keeping us in line - a type of enforcer, where we view him as the cop taking us in for stepping out of line.

That’s what we’ve made him. Jesus isn’t trying to make you and I feel bad. He’s not trying to makes us get down on ourselves and think we’re just ungrateful people. But he’s not going to just rewrite laws just this once for our benefit. God’s commandments that we will love Him with all our hearts, souls and strength and each other as ourselves is the heart of the Gospel.

Each of us has been given the gift of life -

Each of us have been given a piece of the vineyard to live that commandment - whether it be in our classrooms, our dorm rooms, our homes, our families. We have to appreciate the vineyard we’ve been given - nurture it, see that it brings forth good fruit.

And we do that by taking all that is within us - all the great things around us - all that is good and to see that the Father HAS blessed us - the Lord DOES love us and he has given us all of these gifts with the hope that we will use them for His glory.

When the Son comes, will we welcome him or be threatened by him?


The following is my "column" from our weekly bulletin as the Catholic Church marks "Respect Life Sunday" throughout the United States this weekend. This weeks homily will be on later tonight
Thanks for reading and all your responses as always! Fr Jim
Today the Church celebrates "Respect Life Sunday." People seem to get uncomfortable with the very mention of "Respect Life." Probably because in recent years, for some in our country, "Life" seems to have become basically a political issue and debate (and a pretty volatile one at that).
It might be surprising for many people reading some of the different statements the Church has issued on "respecting life," – why the Church teaches what she teaches would seem to many to be very uncontroversial:
"All human life is sacred, for it is created in the image and likeness of God" - Pope John Paul II
"Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person...; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat laborers as mere instruments of profit... all these and the like are a disgrace." – The Second Vatican Council Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World
I would think most people reading those statements would agree with them. They're statements that reflect Jesus command in the Gospel of Luke 10:27: You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.
Yet when we say we respect life, that we are "pro-life" the reality is it does cause controversy. That's not because any of these teachings of the Church are new. In fact, stemming from our Jewish-Christian roots, our pro-life teachings are thousands of years old.
Where "Respecting Life" has become controversial comes from this idea, this theory that "well I don't agree with that- I think it's wrong, but I can't tell someone else how to live - it's a free country, right?"
When I was in college, I was often swayed by that argument. It seemed reasonable to me on some level. I was (at least I thought I was) always "pro-life." But I had been lead to believe that I needed to "respect" other's "right to choose." Truth be told, I never was fully comfortable with that, but it seemed to be a way to deal with a controversial issue (or, more accurately as I reflect back now - to not deal with it).
What really made me reevaluate things was when Pope John Paul II visited the United States in 1995. In one of his homilies during his visit, he said a line that really changed my perspective on a lot of things especially on "respecting life." He said "Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought."
On this Respect Life Sunday, I share that quote with you and hope the words of the late, great Pope cause you to reflect on what you believe and how you live out those beliefs. How are we as Catholics and Americans not only respecting the gift of life we've been given, but respecting the gift of freedom we've been entrusted with?
As each of us reflects on those gifts of life and freedom, we're struck by the times we haven't respected those gifts. We might mourn the choices, the decisions we've made in the past and that can discourage us, weigh us down.
Which is why it's essential for us to remember that the same God who calls us to respect life, calls us to respect all life, including our own. If we want to help change the culture, to influence the world around us, to bear witness to the fullness of life that God is calling us too - then we have to keep before us always that we too are created in the image and likeness of God - and that in Jesus, our past failures, the sins of the past are wiped away. If we truly believe that in our hearts, then "respect for life" becomes a reality one person, one life at a time.


Here is my homily for the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September 14, 2008. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/091408.shtml - Thanks for reading and all your feedback!


What is one of your greatest achievements? Think back to something that was an amazing success in your life, a terrific moment that you like to remember - what would it be? Maybe it’s one special memory - or maybe you have a couple that come to mind.

- Was it the day you scored the game winning touchdown?
- Maybe it was your taking your bows at the curtain call for a play that you had that role you really wanted to play?
- Could it be getting that exam back that you worked your butt off for and found out you aced it?

Whatever that accomplishment, that great success, that triumph you’ve experienced - it’s something that is pretty easy to recall in your mind. You probably remember almost every moment of that day. Images of the people who were there immediately pop into your head. You might be able to remember even the seemingly most insignificant details like what the weather was like, what song you heard on the radio when you got in the car to leave the site of your great day. It’s something that takes you to your "happy place." We want to hold onto and treasure those moments forever.

It’s why the athlete who "letters" in a sport, buys a jacket and wears it everywhere. It’s why we videotape performances. It’s why we frame certificates - I even have term papers that I wrote in college that I worked hard on and got a great grade in, just because I was so grateful for the affirmation.

The reverse side of this is probably true. We can all remember our worst days too... we try to bury these memories too but they’re right there, easily and painfully recalled- the stories of the day you didn’t make the team or get cast in that play... the times you thought you had worked really hard on that paper or project but the teacher obviously didn’t agree with you. Or even worse, when you dropped that football, flubbed those lines, failed that test. More than likely you can recall those pretty clearly.

One (of many) such memories come to mind for me. When I was a junior, in High School I had one of the best teachers I could have ever had. Mr. Epps, was terrific one of my all-time favorite teachers (and an MSU alumni as well). So I couldn’t blame this on him. I had been struggling with some of my classes - and I did try to study. I can’t remember for the life of me what the test was on. But I do remember it was a multiple choice test. And Mr. Epps had a rule that you didn’t just write the letter to the correct answer, but you had to write out what the answer was as well. Too many people had tried to get away with that "no that B was a D" or "can’t you see that A is a B" trick." On the front page of the test, I think I had gotten two out of 25 questions wrong. And Mr. Epps would always put the tally in the bottom right corner. But the problem was, I hadn’t written the answers out, just the letters. So in the bottom right corner, I can still see the red ink that said "2x" with the note "Mr. Chern, what sort of punishment would you propose for your failure to follow directions???" Page two I happened to get 24 out of 25 questions wrong. And in the corner of that page it said (will never forget it) was my grade a 48 ... perhaps that’s punishment enough.

Yep, I remember that failure pretty vividly. That’s something I’m embarrassed about. And at the time, I was upset about it - and my parent’s - THEY were upset about it. And that is most definitely a test paper that I did not save - nor want to look at much.

Today we celebrate the feast called the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The day when St. Helena discovered the actual cross that Jesus was crucified on. Often times people wonder why would we want to remember that moment. Why do we seem to put so much emphasis, so much focus on a moment where Jesus is brutally, savagely killed?

In fact, for the first centuries of the Church, especially as Early Christians were being crucified the same way - they wouldn’t want to see any cross, they wouldn’t want to be reminded of what could happen to them. They preferred other symbols- like the fish - because the greek word for fish could be an acronym for Jesus Christ, Son of God..

Sure these Early Christians believed that Jesus rose from the dead, that he was ultimately triumphant, ultimately victorious - but the Cross - why remember such a terrible moment.
In time though, with the maturity of the faith among God’s people - the Cross became the symbol for Jesus. And we have this crucifix front and center before us always - and for an important, essential reason - which we hear in the Gospel today - For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that he who believes in him might not perish, but have eternal life.
God became one of us, became one with us in Jesus Christ so that we would know that he loves us, so that we would know that he is with us - always - not just in our moments of triumph, and moments of great success, moments we’re proud of - but that he is with us when we struggle, when we fail, when the whole world seems to be turning against us - when we think we will perish - physically, emotionally, spiritually.

The crucified Jesus - the beaten, rejected, sobbing Savior is the greatest equalizer. We can’t look at that cross and not believe that God doesn’t understand what we are going through.

And that’s why the cross becomes the symbol for us to exalt and to look up to - to keep before us always, everywhere thru all that we are going thru - that God loves us and has not abandoned us - and in our calling out to him in our moments on the cross, we too can experience that resurrected life.

So we exalt that cross and look up -Look up and see God is with us in the times of betrayal. Look up and see God is with us when we’ve failed and are rejected. Look up and see how much God loves us. Look up and see the cross, and see how even our apparent failure can, in reality, become our greatest success


Here’s my homily for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 24, 2008. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/082408.shtml

Thanks for reading and for all of your comments and feedback! Fr Jim


As if we haven’t had enough coverage, enough advertising, enough newspaper stories and magazine articles about this years presidential election, we are entering the time of the campaign where it’s going to get even more intense. In the next two weeks the Democrats and then the Republicans will hold their respective conventions to nominate their candidates (which is pretty much just a formality at this point since everyone knows who the nominees are) - then there will be debates - probably a few more commercials, commentators commentating and come November 4th, our nation will elect our next president.

In the process, we will hear a lot about "polls" - who’s ahead - who’s "winning" - who’s behind. Polls will tell us why people are voting for one candidate over another. What issues are on people’s minds - how those issues and the candidates response to them (or even how they change their positions on those issues) affect people’s vote.

All of this, eventually leads to the American people deciding who will lead them and in which direction the country will go. And if we’re not happy with it, well in 4 years we get to do it all over again (not to mention congressional elections that pop up every 2 years as well)

Electing our leaders is a tremendous responsibility and people can list some legitimate pros and cons over this process. Some people are very passionate about who they’re voting for and then there are those who don’t know who the two nominees are. But the fact remains no matter what you’re level of interest, what your stance on the issues are, all of those who are adult citizens every one of them has the opportunity to vote for our next president.

We grow up with this - kids elect class Presidents, teams (sometimes) elect captains - clubs and societies all vote for their leaders. Even at work - people might not get to vote for who will be their boss, but they elect who’s going to deal with them as they vote for people as a Union leaders..

Growing up with that experience throughout our lives, its understandable that people sometimes look for that in the Church. When Pope John Paul II died in 2005, some in the media treated the conclave that would elect a new pope like a type of presidential election. People were interviewed, surveys were conducting asking questions like "what are you looking for from the next Pope" "What issues do you hope the Pope will address" - some even used political language labeling cardinals, the "potential popes" either being conservative or liberal.

Those are important things, especially given that as members of the Church, everyone of us have probably have our own opinions on a lot of issues. Whether it’s about priesthood or moral questions, we all hold our own opinions and we can get passionate about all of these issues. We can also become disappointed in the human failures we see at times from our leaders. All of that fuels many who ask why don’t we get a say in who is our next Pope - or who’s our Bishop or even our Pastor...

Today’s scriptures answer that for us, and we have to have a sense of humility and dealing with it. St. Paul in the Second Reading asks us, Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who’s been his counselor? Quite simply, God’s not looking for our input - he’s not looking for campaign managers, or consultants. He’s not reading polls of what’s people want from their leaders.
God, who has given us our very lives - God who wants us to live in his Kingdom has given us an outpost for that Kingdom here on earth - and that is what the Catholic Church is. God himself calls people to lead it. That’s how he intends it.

And we can see how God reveals his plan almost 800 years before Jesus was born. God speaks to his prophet Isaiah and in that first reading, we heard how God spoke through Isaiah about the one who would lead His people.

God says I will summon my servant...who will be a father ... to the house ...I will give him the key to this house. I will fix him to a place of honor. He’s revealing that His divine authority will be experienced among us through a fellow human being - someone who’s a mortal, sinful, fellow human being - but one who has been set apart, who is in relation with Him. (An interesting side note is that in this passage from Isaiah - this "leader" will be given a robe, a sash - holding a place of honor - all images we can see in the Pope of today...)

Fast forward 800 years and Jesus is asking his disciples in the Gospel we heard - who do you say that I am? The responses we hear could be the poll results of that day and age – among segments of followers - Group "A" says your: John the Baptist; Group "B"Elijah; Group "C": Jeremiah; Group "D": One of the Prophets - only one person, a minority opinion to be sure, says "You are the Christ, the son of the living God."

Something within Peter, the same Peter who is so often wrong, the same Peter who so often fails in his love - devotion and leadership to Jesus and the disciples - the Holy Spirit works within that same Peter which enables him to utter those words you are the Christ - you are the living God.

Peter probably wasn’t the crowd favorite. We can read in the scriptures how there were other disciples who were perhaps personally liked better. He had his squabbles with some of the other guys. Even John was "the beloved" disciple, the closest friend to Jesus. But this isn’t about popularity, God chose Peter to be his first Pope - and the apostles, the disciples and Peter himself accepted that as a gift to the Church and something that was continually dependent on the Holy Spirit to direct.

For close to 2000 years, there has been an unbroken line of 265 popes from when Jesus first gave this authority to Peter to Benedict XVI today. God has and continues to provide for us, continues to guide us. The question that remains is – instead of our thinking we know better who should be in charge, are we willing to let God continue to lead us?


WHAT A GREAT FEAST DAY!!! The Celebration of the St. Peter and Paul!!! The readings for the Mass can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/readings/062908.shtml

As always, I’m most grateful for your even reading my homily - and appreciate your feedback. The only way I can continue to (hopefully) connect with the people I’ve been sent to minister to is by knowing when I do connect and when I don’t - so thank you for your messages, and even your constructive criticisms. God Bless!


You may or may not have heard of this group called the Pew Forum. The Pew Forum is like those organizations Gallup, Zogby, & Ramussen who do those political survey’s to tell you what percentage of the people they interview are going to vote for one candidate over another or their opinions to certain issues are.

Well the Pew Forum is a polling group, that basically focuses their exhaustive studies on the religious beliefs, practices, & opinions of the American people.

This past March, they released their “Religious Landscape Survey” which got a lot of media attention, as well as some discussion among the United States Catholic Bishops. While Roman Catholics make up the single largest religious denomination in the United States (about 24% of the American population is Roman Catholic) - what generated the most interest was the number of Catholics who were raised Catholic and have left the Church. They estimate about 10% of the American Population are people who have left the Catholic Church for another religion (or no religion at all). That number is larger than the total number of members in many other religious groups.

The Pew Forum followed up with a second part of their survey which was released this week. It gave some more interesting feedback about the beliefs that Catholic people hold which really differ from what the Church teaches. Two statistics really stood out - the survey stated that only 16% of Catholics believe that our religion is the one true faith (now this probably comes out of a sense of trying to be sensitive to the many different religions in our nation, but, our Church still teaches that Catholicism is the one true faith) and a second surprising statistic said that close to 30% of Catholics perceive God as an impersonal force rather than someone they could have a personal relationship with.

Today’s feast of St. Peter and St. Paul and these readings couldn’t come at a better time. Because the blood of these two martyrs demands our attention - they call us out asking “who do we say that Jesus is?”

Peter started out as a fisherman, and probably wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed (no offence to him - it’s in the scriptures, you can read all about his ups and downs) yet the man who denied he even knew who Jesus was when the mobs were getting ready to kill Jesus - the man who was plagued by doubts and his own failures throughout his years of following Jesus - we know him as our first Pope - the “rock” upon which Jesus would build the Church upon.

Paul, started as a great persecutor of the Church. He starts out as a murderer - one who was a Jewish zealot who was going to protect Judaism from these “crazy Christians.” So he approves of the killing of early Christians. Yet after his conversion, he will become one of the most effective missionaries and preachers to the Early Church - helping to evangelize Europe and parts of Asia, as well as writing 14 letters that are a part of the New Testament.

Both would be killed for doing these things - Peter would be crucified, Paul would be beheaded.

But what happened? How do we explain those types of turn-arounds? They gave their lives not because Christianity was a nice idea, not because they bought into Jesus’ teachings, not because they simply held a certain belief in this particular faith... They gave their lives because they had a personal, vibrant, authentic, relationship with God - they had an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ - the Holy Spirit dwelt within them.

That’s why Peter at the end of the First Reading can say, reflecting on how once again God has stood by him during his imprisonment -“I know for certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me...” - That’s why Paul can say in the Second Reading “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength.” These men have experienced how God was with them and that He can work through them and in that, God would change the world through them.

It’s fitting that the Gospel has Jesus looking to Peter and asking him the question “Who do you say that I am?” Because that is the question for all of us to answer -

Is Jesus simply a nice moral teacher who gave us some ideals that we aspire to?

Is Jesus a philosopher, who had interesting theories on man’s existence that we are curious about?

Is Jesus a stranger, someone we’ve heard about but don’t really know intimately or personally in our own lives?

Many people might fall into a lot of those different camps - and this isn’t to condemn people who do - it’s a challenge to go deeper. Peter and Paul wouldn’t give their lives for a nice moral teacher, for some philosopher, for someone they didn’t know personally - and Jesus wouldn’t ask us to do that either. These two martyrs invite us to make St. Peter’s words in the Gospel today our own and truly see that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

When we begin to let that in, that has the power to truly change us. We can see that God has a specific plan for us - that God loves us - that God stands by us throughout our ups and downs - and the more we are in love with God, the more we willingly offer our lives up to Him - we become happy to die to ourselves and our wants and really want to live for Him and the service of one another.

In that mini-martyrdom on our parts, God will use us to change the world once again - maybe not so much by spreading the Gospel to those who’ve never heard it, but by living the Gospel, in front of those who’ve never really seen it lived out.


Here is my Homily for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 22, 2008 -(readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/readings/062208.shtml)

Thanks to all my readers for their feedback and messages. I’m happy to be able to share my homily with those interested and appreciate you taking the time to stop by to read this. God Bless - Fr Jim


There was a story in the news recently entitled Cancer Doctors Avoid End-of Life Talk. According to the story, many oncologists often refuse to tell terminally ill patients the truth about their condition. One of the major reasons is that they don’t wish to bring on a sense of fear in the patient. But the surprising thing according to a national study, cancer patients who were informed by their doctor of their true condition often did better than those who were not. Most patients who knew their condition were better prepared to face the reality, as well as their families. It helped them make decisions they had been putting off. It didn’t always take away the fear of death, but the truth often helped mitigate that understandable sense of fear.

Most people find mortality a bit fearful. It’s one of many fears that people have and rarely talk about. Of course people go through life with all kinds of fear. Some are legitimate ones. If you were walking through the woods and by chance met a bear, you might be a bit afraid. And you should be! (Actually, from what I read in the paper this week, you could be at McDonald’s on Route 1 and meet a bear too... That had to be a bit frightening, you’re looking to get an Egg McMuffin in the drive through, and there’s a bear in front of you)

Many people fear economic and employment right now, and that’s intensified when you you have a family to care for. Chronic illness have the same effect. Then of course, there are people who suffer from irrational or overwhelming fears better known as phobias. We all probably have a little bit of those too - but for those who legitimately suffer from this, the condition is crippling. Those fears may be labeled irrational but to the person dealing with it, it’s quite real. I’ll never forget in one of the Peanuts cartoons, Lucy telling Charlie Brown that his problem is that he has phobaphobia... which is the fear of everything! Well, I guess we can have those days too.

In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah wasn’t exactly thrilled about his calling by God to be a prophet. He knew that he was being sent with a message that the receivers weren’t all that interested in hearing. Jeremiah was sent to Israel just as they were on the brink of yet another national disaster. Their lack of attention to Jeremiah, and all the prophets before him, lead to their eventual conquest and captivity by the Babylonians. Time and again Jeremiah wanted to just pack it in and walk away because he knew that no one wanted to hear what he had to say. In fact he’s afraid to deliver the message because then, just as now, it’s very often the messenger who gets shot. He constantly had to work to overcome this fear.

In the gospel, Jesus warns the disciples to be wary of those who seek, not to destroy the body, but those who wish to destroy the soul. In other words, those who wish to crush our spirits, that part of ourselves that by it’s nature seeks union with God. Notice that Jesus pulls no punches here. He’s quite open and honest.

There is a sense of danger that goes along with being a disciple of Christ. For some, it required their very lives. But for Jesus that isn’t the most dangerous thing, nor is it the thing we should fear the most. The only thing he claims we should fear (not fear itself) but rather we should fear anything that would kill our desire for God and to be His disciple.

However, the trouble with those things that seek to destroy our souls or spirits is that very often, on the face of it, they don’t seem like something that we need to fear. In fact, the real danger lies in their being so innocent, so benign, so understandable that they don’t seem to pose any danger at all. For example, for some people who stop attending Mass it’s not that they’re all upset over an issue - they’re not all riled up and stop by the church to post their 95 thesis’ on the front door and then walk away. Rather, they simply drift away – a kid’s athletic event here, a chance to sleep in there, a busy weekend with too many things to get done around the house, the one day sale at the mall, a vacation trip they don’t want to interrupt with going to church. None of those things seem worth being afraid of do they? But strung all together they soon replace the regular practice of attending Mass for some people. That’s what makes them so problematic because their effect can be so deadly if they keep us from nourishing our spirits with the Eucharist.

We all have our own fears to deal with, the legitimate as well as the irrational. On any given Sunday –in any given church– people have their own concerns, their own worries and anxieties and their own fears that they bring with them. If we are to be true disciples we cannot pretend that we don’t have these emotions and feelings, or that they can often be formidable.

In bringing them before God and through the support of those around us those fears loose their potency and our spirits are strengthened. What we need to fear is anything that separates us from God. “Do not fear those who deprive the body of life but cannot destroy the soul. Rather, fear him who can destroy both body and soul.” In light of this gospel, many of the things we put time and energy into fearing, actually pales in comparison to the ones to which we often never give a second thought.