"THERE PROBABLY IS NO GOD...SO STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY YOUR LIFE"


Here is my homily for April 19, 2009 the Second Sunday of Easter. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/ nab/readings/041909.shtml . Thanks for reading and all of your feedback and comments! God Bless - Fr Jim

HOMILY:

"There probably is no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

That was the message plastered on billboards on the legendary double-decker buses in London, England a few months back, a message which launched an atheism campaign that seems to have gained momentum in recent weeks. In fact, while it's still unsure if there’s a connection to those bus advertisements or not, the National Secular Society of the UK, recently announced that they now have over 100,000 people who have either downloaded or purchased a certificate of "de-Baptism." The success of it in England has sparked similar campaigns in Europe, South America. I’m a bit reluctant to ask, how long will it take to reach our shores?

There probably is no God... Now stop worrying and enjoy your life. There’s a bit of an irony here that even supposed "atheists" hedge their bets with a statement like that, isn’t there? There probably isn’t a God . .. We’re not sure... A doubting atheist, what next?

Maybe we have more in common with these atheists than we think. At least in one area - we all have doubts. Doubts about whether we’re all being conned here. Doubts about whether this is all real. Is there a God? Really? Okay, historically speaking there was this Jesus guy, but did he really come back from the dead? Because if he did, then it’s game over folks - then he’s God and we’d be foolish not to follow him. But, did he? Really? That guy Dan Brown with just two books "The DaVinci Code" and "Angels and Demons" is able to throw just enough questions into the mix, just a little more doubt into the equation...Now, who knows what to think, what to believe...

In some ways, it should be comforting to know that we’re not the first ones to go through this. Here we are, the week after we as a Church celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the Gospel we hear is all about doubts. We hear that right from the beginning, people had a hard time with this. Now it’s kind of normal for us to focus on Thomas in this gospel story. "Doubting Thomas" he’s been dubbed for thousands of years. But in reading and praying with this Gospel, something stood out that I hadn’t thought about before. This first time Jesus appears to all the disciples (well almost all, there's no Thomas, remember) they have this incredible encounter, Jesus comes to them, stands in their midst even though they’re hiding out in that locked room. Hiding out because of their fear. He physically shows them he’s alive, he’s not a ghost. "Here’s my hands and my side..." He breathes on them.

But then a week later, the Gospel of John tells us they were again in the room - this time with Thomas - yet, the doors were still locked.

So maybe Thomas wasn’t the only one that should be labeled "doubting." Maybe the other 11 disciples weren’t as believing as we thought. Yeah, maybe some doubts persisted in their minds after all – Maybe the idea that Jesus came back from the dead, while they had all experienced it for themselves - they had all seen Him - they all were given the gift of the Holy Spirit - they had all heard Him give instruction to go forth and "forgive sins" (one of our scripture passages that support confession, by the way) - then, maybe just a few minutes after Jesus disappeared from them again, they weren’t sure what had happened. Maybe they found Thomas to be a voice of "reason," throwing logic in their faces - saying things like- People don’t rise from the dead . . . you’re all emotional . . . do you want to end up like He did? . .. Stop being crazy guys and snap out of it. Let me see the nail marks...

So we read what happens. A week later, it’s a Sunday again. The community of believers, perhaps still doubting (remember the locked room!) but believers nonetheless - and they still come together. Thomas is with them this time - (so he missed Mass the week before, it happens) And what happens? Thomas experiences Christ. The community of believers experiences Christ. And Jesus says to Thomas, "Okay, here I am, put your hands in my hands, and in my side..." Thomas has a physical encounter with the LIVING GOD on a SUNDAY! Thomas is in the true presence of God and Thomas’ heart and soul respond My Lord and my God!

And so it’s been for some 20 centuries since. Imagine that - 20 centuries, uninterrupted we trace back our coming together as the community believers here at this Sunday Mass to that locked Upper Room. For these generations upon generations the believers have kept coming together. Kept worshiping together. Sure, with their own doubts and fears. Yet, the eyes of faith telling them that Jesus would continue to truly come to them, to continue to be really present to them... in the Word... in the Eucharist... in the Church... in one another.

Jesus continues to come to us - as we gather again on a Sunday. His day. He knows that it’s hard in a sense to believe this, which is why he commands us to come together each week. And we find that Jesus meets us in our doubts. Encounters us in our fears. That’s where faith sees how "nothing is impossible for God." I come here realizing some of this doesn’t make sense and I don’t have all the answers - but he does...
I find my mind moving,
I find my heart moving from saying, "There probably is no God"
to the fantastic possibility of, "There probably is a God..."
to the ultimate realization of "There is a God - and he cares for me."

And because Jesus has risen from the dead, defeated death, and promises us his love, his life, in abundance - both in this world and the next - I can stop worrying and enjoy my life.

EARN THIS - EARN IT

Here is my homily for PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD’S PASSION, APRIL 5, 2009. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/readings/040509a.shtml . As usual, thanks for reading, and all of your feedback. As we begin this holiest week of the year, may you be touched and renewed in the depth of God’s love for us exemplified in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! God bless all of you with a deeply meaningful Holy Week - Fr Jim

HOMILY:

It’s hard to believe that "Saving Private Ryan" was released over 10 years ago. The epic, award winning movie is often remembered for the extremely intense opening 24 minutes of the film that depict the beginning of the Normandy Invasion during World War II when American Soldiers landed on Omaha beach. But the story is really all about 1 man, 1 soldier - Private First Class James Francis Ryan.

After that gruesome, and vivid opening sequence of the Normandy Invasion, the story begins with a United States Army general going through a slew of death notices. As he does this, he realizes that Private Ryan’s mother would be receiving notification that 3 of her 4 sons have all died within days of each other and that the notices would all arrive on the same day. At this point, Private Ryan, is unaware of the death of his three brothers because his regiment is missing in action. The General believes this is too much sacrifice to ask one mother, one family to make and orders that Private Ryan be found and sent home immediately.

The rest of the movie details this search party, made up of 6 Army rangers and one Infantry man, and led by Captain John Miller, who are going on practically no information on his whereabouts begin this difficult search for this one man - Private Ryan. The search is dangerous, and grows more and more frustrating to the men, as they begin to incur casualties themselves. One of the soldiers is killed by a sniper, their medic is killed. But after all the risks and sacrifices, Miller and the rest of the squad finally find Private James Ryan with a group of paratroopers trying to defend this bridge against a German counter-attack.

Private Ryan, even upon learning of the deaths of his brothers as well as those in the search party looking for him adamantly refuses to leave the very fragile makeshift unit. Captain Miller along with the soldiers from the search party remain with Ryan as a German offensive begins again. Ultimately the United States is successful in defending this bridge from this attack, but not before the remaining members of the search party are killed, including Captain Murphy - whose dying words to Private Ryan are "James...earn this. Earn it."

The movie concludes with Private Ryan, now an older man, visiting Captain Miller’s grave in Normandy with his family. He breaks down in front of Miller’s tombstone as he asks himself whether he has "earned" the sacrifice, and then turns to his wife asking if he is a good man who deserved the gift that these men gave him.

On Palm Sunday we once again proclaim the passion and death of Jesus. And in our hearing, in our remembering we are placed us in a similar position. Here we come to the foot of the cross. We focus on this incredible love, this sacrifice that cost Jesus his very life which was made for you and me. Jesus doesn’t ask us to "earn it"- that’s the depth of his love - he has freely given it to us. But the question we’re left with will we become good men and women, will we be changed by this gift?