FR JIM'S DIET PLAN?

This is my homily for the NINTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - June 1, 2008 (the readings for the day can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/readings/060108.shtml) -posting this a little early since tomorrow is going to be a jam packed day! Hope all of you are doing well. Thanks for stopping by to read and for all your feedback - they’re much appreciated! Fr Jim

HOMILY:

There doesn’t seem to be a day that goes by where a new diet plan isn’t touted as the next great thing for those trying to shed a few pounds. If you go online, go to Google and type in “Diet” you will get 219,000,000 results in .17 seconds (seriously). Like so many things in our world - diets which are good and important things for us to think about for our health and well being - well it’s become an industry and a pretty lucrative one at that.

At some point, celebrities decided to get into the act. There’s a website dedicated just to that alone - they list at least 20 celebrities from Madonna, Jessica Simpson, Anjelina Jolie to Usher, Tom Cruise, and Brad Pitt.

Back in 2005, Dr. Phil McGraw who became famous by being a regular guest on The Oprah Winfrey show peddled his own weight loss plan billed “The Ultimate Weight Loss Solution - 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom.”

Now I don’t pay much attention to Dr Phil (or Oprah for that matter) and not to be terribly judgmental - but it seems that Dr. Phil seems to be a pretty big guy, he does not seem to be the “picture of weight loss.” Dr Phil might have a lot of good advice, he might have consulted some excellent individuals who engineered “the ultimate” plan, he might know a great deal about diets – but for me, there seems to be in my mind almost instantly that’s skeptical, that has doubt that I should be getting weight loss/diet advice from a guy who seems bigger than me.

This isn’t to bash Dr. Phil or anyone who peddles diet advice. It’s more about that we expect someone who says they’re knowledgeable about a topic to have some connection to that topic in their own lives. If we were to find people - a teacher who isn’t able to read - a mechanic who’s car never seems to work - a fashion designer who looks like a slob, despite all their other qualifications or credentials, it’s doubtful we would want our kids to be in that teacher’s class, have our cars fixed by that mechanic or take style advice from the slob of the runway.

In a sense, today’s readings ask us a similar question - how authentic are we at living this life? Jesus is pretty to the point - Not everyone who says Lord Lord will enter the kingdom. Just because we know who Jesus is - Just because we’ve heard the stories, we’ve gone to the classes - Just because we can identify who Jesus is - it’s not enough. Do we act like we know who Jesus is - do we live as people who follow Jesus (or at least try to follow).

That’s what Moses was trying to get his people to understand - they had to make a choice - and it was an important choice - he was pleading with them- take these words into your heart and soul - Choosing to live according to God’s commandments, commands that are meant for our happiness - brings a blessing; Choosing not to, rejecting that, deciding we could go it alone on our own way, we’ve cursed ourselves.

That’s not to say we do it perfectly - but we try. We get up, we make the effort, we realize that we are different because of Jesus Christ - St. Paul is telling us that it’s God who Saves us - salvation is God’s lavishly generous gift to us - but do we live it? Do we live as people who are saved or don’t we?

Dr. Phil would probably be a very successful dietician - weight loss expert if his plan was better illustrated in his own life. (Fortunately, he has many other lucrative enterprises).

For you and I, our faith lives are even more important than our body types - and the readings today make clear that the Faith we live, not the faith we talk about will be our means to salvation. May you and I find that in giving and receiving forgiveness - in sharing God’s love and experiencing it through one another the depth and integrity we need to truly call out “Lord, Lord”

Archbishop Myers Homily from Priesthood Ordinations

I posted a further down below about the Priesthood Ordinations that took place last Saturday at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark.

Archbishop Myers gave a beautiful homily, which was released on the diocese website, and I post here:

Homily by The Most Reverend John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark,
PRIESTHOOD ORDINATION, SACRED HEART CATHEDRAL BASILICA,
May 24, 2008

We gather here today in profound communion of faith, communion of mind and heart and life with our holy Church all over the world and across the centuries. In union with Peter and the Apostles commissioned by the Lord to shepherd His people and the countless men and women over the centuries who have carried that word, we acknowledge God’s continual initiative to lead and serve His people.

Here in northern New Jersey the faith has been built up by the proclamation of those sent, laity as well as clergy. The celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the Archdiocese of New York reminds us of that. Our faith goes back further, of course, French priests in Canada and the Northeast joined with diocesan clergy and native clergy as well. All have responded seriously to the mandate to carry the Gospel to all nations. Their selflessness, courage, perseverance and profound faith in Jesus Christ and their union with His Church together with the generous response of many who heard them built the Church here. But they loved everyone even those who did not respond positively.

I had the privilege of knowing and welcoming to my home Cardinal Francis Xavier Thuãn, who served as Coadjutor Bishop of Saigon in Vietnam. He reminded me of the selflessness and courage of our forbearers here in the United States.

When Vietnam fell, the Communists quickly took Archbishop Thuãn and imprisoned him. He was interrogated, badly mistreated, subjected to great indignities and he was expelled from Vietnam. He had endured nine years of isolation. Guards were taught to mistrust him, fear him and hate him before they were assigned to guard him.

The Archbishop who had become a Cardinal amazed me and edified me when he explained that the major focus of his prayer life during those years was to love those guards and political officers – to love and respect them – and never to hate. And, by God’s grace, he did not hate them to their amazement. Gradually over those solitary years the guards came to respond to him, he came to know them. In spite of incredible restrictions and serious sufferings, by faith, grace, personal struggle and constant prayer he became a pastor to many of them. Those whose hearts were open would understand. He served them by refusing to accept them in their ignorance. Eventually, from example, through God’s Word he could occasionally celebrate Holy Mass. Even when we are the lonely, the broken hearted, the captive, they who mourn, we can still be ministers.

The story is much longer and much more beautiful than I have recounted, but it shows clearly that helping the Lord shepherd His people has a great price as it has across the centuries. It is no different today.

How easy it would have been for missionaries to wait until civil society had been well established. How easy it would have been for Archbishop Thuãn to write off those guards. The missionaries love for Christ, then union with Him, helped them to know that the love offered by God through Jesus Christ is too wonderful, too important, to be held back by such personal limitations or personal considerations.

Today as much as ever we need shepherds to lead courageously, selflessly, lovingly, respectfully. The Holy Father has called each of us back to the fundamentals, to what he calls the New Evangelization, to turn to Jesus Christ and His saving message. He urges us to proclaim the Gospel as entrusted to the Church, which understands in a marvelous way what is required for truly dignified, upright human living.

All of us are called to such authentic discipleship of Jesus Christ. All of us must struggle to do so within our own vocation and the particular circumstances of our lives. We must all seek to do so lovingly, selflessly, courageously, respectfully. But surely those who would shepherd must be willing to help lead the way.

My dear Ordinandi, the challenge is great. You will need great hearts, pastors’ “hearts”, in fact, the heart of Christ to live your vocation. I can assure you that you will serve wonderful people. I can assure you that you are joining a wonderful presbyterate filled with priests who know that they have no greater calling than the opportunity to help the Good Shepherd care for His people. May you do so, courageously, selflessly, lovingly, respectfully.

A short time ago this morning we together turned to the Blessed Virgin Mary as we prayed the Rosary, asking that you might open your hearts to the Gift of the Holy Spirit as she was open in her own life. May you always seek her help and intercession, even as we do now as we proceed to the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

9 Years

In Thanksgiving to God for the 9 Years I've been fortunate to be a Priest of Jesus Christ

Reflections on Priesthood/Ordination

I just posted this on "The Catholic Guy Show" Blog - which I had written for them - but post here as well:

So this morning, the Archdiocese of Newark celebrated the ordination of 11 men to the priesthood - 9 for service to the Church of Newark and 2 for the religious order “The Society of Divine Vocations.”

It was, as it always is, an incredibly beautiful celebration. Over 3,000 people filled the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart to standing room only that flowed out the doors of magnificent Cathedral (you can see it virtually at http://www.cathedralbasilica.org/ ).

The ordination rite has some incredibly powerful moments. If you’ve never been to one, and have the opportunity to, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say it will change your perspective on priesthood. (Well it did for me some 18 years ago when I went to my first ordination!) Justa few “highlights” of the ordination:

The candidates come forward. They are “elected” by the Bishop, which is approved by the People of God in their applause. The sound of thousands of people: family with tears in their eyes, friends who might not understand “this whole priesthood thing” (but are somehow drawn into this moment), priests and parishioners from throughout the diocese; it all helps in building this immense anticipation for the ordination itself.

Because the ceremonies and rites are very elaborate, a simple and important thing occurs right after the homily. The candidates lay prostrate on the floor as the entire congregation asks the Saints to intercede to God for all of us, but especially for these men chosen by God to be His Priests (this is the Litany of the Saints). It’s a moment for the candidate to realize the humility necessary to be a Priest.

As the Litany ends, the candidates kneel before the Bishop who lays his hands on each of the candidates heads in silence and all the priests do the same. This morning, there was well over 100 priests, 8 Bishops. It’s a moment where you have a sense of the Holy Spirit working through the Bishop, through the Church as the Holy Spirit has done since the time of the Apostles.

After a prayer of consecration, the newly ordained is “vested” with the chasuble and stole of a priest (the traditional vestments you would see a priest wear at Mass), His hands are anointed with the Holy Oil of Chrism - the same holy oil used at Baptism and Confirmation - where we recall Jesus Christ is the High Priest and now the newly ordained priest participates in Jesus’ ministry.

As the gifts of bread and wine are brought forward, the newly ordained are handed the patten and chalice - with bread and wine in it and are told - Receive the oblation of the holy people, to be offered to God. Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross. In those words, the priest is reminded that Celebrating the Holy Eucharist is the central to the life of the priest.

I share this because I believe that Jesus is still calling a lot of great men to this great vocation. But it’s hard:
- it’s hard for guys to “discern” is Jesus actually calling me to this
- it’s hard for guys to find support from the world around them who are skeptical or suspicious for a bunch of reasons
- and it’s hard after all of this to say “yes” to Jesus’ call - not just on ordination day, but every day we’re blessed to serve Him and His people.

This Thursday it will be 9 years I have been ordained. Sitting, standing and kneeling in that incredible cathedral this morning - I couldn’t believe that - 9 years, wow...

I wish I could say that I didn’t have moments of serious doubt, “dark nights of the soul” where I wondered where God had gone, times of abysmal failures in my service to God and his people where I wasn’t (or am not) the priest that Jesus has called me to be. I wish I could say those things didn’t happen in these past 9 years, but they have.

But the other side of it, is in a sense even more frightening. How I’m somehow able to be with God’s people from the moment they come into this world till the moment they return to Him and at all the incredibly intimate moments in between. It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s too much to truly absorb. If I really think about it, I ask myself – who am I to be here?

Which is why it’s so essential to remember that it’s Jesus’ ministry that somehow I’m participating in. It’s Jesus who forgives my screw ups - It’s Jesus who enables me to serve the people when I serve - all done in his amazing Love.

For those of you who are discerning a priestly vocation out there - I just want you to know I offered my intention at this morning’s Ordination Mass for all of you. That the Lord continues to bless you as you remain open to His calling - that the Holy Spirit will open your ears and heart to truly hear his voice (particularly if you’re having difficulty believing “this could be happening to me!”) and that ultimately you will humbly and simply say the prayer that our Archbishop John J. Myers wrote Lord help me to want to be what you want me to be...

For all who are still reading this (I know this is long!) - please pray not for an increase in people called to the priesthood - Jesus is calling them - pray that they are able to say Yes to that call...

And finally I ask that people remember Pope Benedict’s a few weeks ago at the Papal Mass in Washington DC - love your priests and affirm them in the excellent work that they do. I know in my own ministry that it is the people’s strength, support, prayers and love which has helped make me more attentive to my relationship with Jesus every day.

OK - I’ve probably written WAY too much!