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