"THIS SEASON CELEBRATE REASON" - We do!


FOR UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN!!! ALLELUIA! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!! Thanks for stopping by to read my homily for THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD – Given on CHRISTMAS EVE, DECEMBER 24, 2010 at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Mahwah NJ. The readings comes from the Vigil Mass of Christmas - http://www.usccb.org/nab/122510a.shtml - A VERY MERRY & BLESSED CHRISTMAS TO YOU AND YOURS! Father Jim

Homily:

Almost as soon as the Thanksgiving turkey has been digested, an event that’s becoming an annual tradition begins. The so-called “war on Christmas.” Lawsuits are waged yearly over whether singing a Christmas Carol mentioning the very name of Jesus Christ or having a display that represents his birth in public arenas violates the separation of Church and State (by the way, it doesn’t... but that’s a discussion for another day). Interesting that some of those same people don’t seemed threatened over songs about a four-hooved, antlered being from the North Pole with a radioactive-red-lighted nosed (quite possibly contracted from a nuclear power plant or toxic nightmare) flying overhead. The message from these battles each year, though, has been pretty clear in terms of the celebration of Christmas (or 'the Holiday Season') - Rudolph and his friends are OK; Jesus, not so much.

This year though, things took a turn from those who are in the “anti-Christmas” camp. A billboard of the Nativity Scene, placed right outside the Lincoln Tunnel greeting drivers going from New Jersey into New York City, showcased the words, “You KNOW it’s a Myth; This season, celebrate Reason!” In the several weeks the billboard has been up (I saw it about 3 or 4 times while stuck in traffic) a thought came to my mind. If you look at that message and think about it for a moment, you realize that this seems different from the usual debates that dominate the cable news networks' coverage of the “WAR ON CHRISTMAS." This message seems angry or condescending, as if the atheist group thinks we’re stupid for celebrating Christmas. I wonder, how many of us who aren’t Buddhists and don’t follow the teachings of the Buddha, would spend time and energy looking for publicity to target that group of believers; how many of us would want to tell them how wrong their beliefs are – even to the point of going into an area with the largest number of Buddhists, putting up a billboard saying, “You’re WRONG?”

That’s why a thought hit me that this billboard, rather than making a statement, seems to be asking a question – What is the reason we celebrate Christmas? Maybe the story of Jesus Christ does seem too good to be true. The idea that there’s a God who does love us, cares about us, thinks of each of us personally, individually as his own blessed creation seems a bit too good to be true. That this God, who has loved us for all eternity, would actually want to enter into this human drama of ours; to try to break through the craziness of our lives; to get that message through to us; well it sounds like the beginnings of some great myth...

But there’s an element about the Christmas story that escapes those who solely focus on those eternal truths and skip over the human drama that surrounds the Christmas Story. So let’s look at it again . . . We just heard tonight about these two people - Mary and Joseph - whom the Gospel tells us “were betrothed, but not living together.” Being “betrothed” was more than just what we would understand as engagement. Betrothal was the time when the couple was already legally married but before they lived together. From the betrothal on, they could only be separated by death or divorce (which wasn’t very accepted in ancient times).

So Mary shares with her betrothed, Joseph, what the Angel Gabriel has told her. How she had conceived a child by the Holy Spirit, how this Child was to be Jesus and what his birth would mean for humanity. And we read Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame decided to divorce her quietly. That one sentence tells us a lot. Joseph is identified as a righteous man. Learning that he would not be the biological father of the child his wife was carrying was something that could have brought incredible shame to him. Had he been simply self-focused he could have demanded that his righteousness be protected. He could have divorced Mary publicly, not even entering into the debate about this (far-fetched) story that Mary was presenting to him. He could have let the courts, authorities, public, gossip all have their say, make their judgments over the one to whom he was betrothed as Joseph goes on with the rest of his life.

What stops him from doing what would have been reasonable in the face of what seemed untrue? Joseph loves Mary and he knows that Mary is in love with him. That’s why they were betrothed . . . So what now that Mary is pregnant? How does Joseph react to this news? It’s hard for us to imagine, I’m sure, but perhaps Joseph was afraid Mary cheated on him? Or maybe Joseph just didn’t understand what Mary was saying . . . it’s hard to imagine any of us having an immediate understanding after hearing such a story ourselves were we the first recipients of it. What average guy who’s a virgin, righteous or otherwise is going to begin to understand that his betrothed is pregnant by the Holy Spirit?

We can’t read Joseph’s mind at the time, but we can read his heart . . . Most likely it was a broken heart that didn’t know how to reconcile this tale with the plans, dreams, hopes that he and Mary had imagined together. Joseph as a righteous man can't see clear to allowing Mary, already pregnant, to enter his house without shame . . . and so with one, little, three-lettered word - the word Yet - we see what Joseph’s plan is. Yes, Joseph was a righteous man who by his rights had every REASON to demand justice, to demand a REASONABLE explanation, who had a REASON to make a public scene, YET unwilling to expose her to shame [he] decided to divorce her quietly... Joseph has found a compromise that was still righteous and just - but would leave him broken hearted.

So if we’re looking for a reason, it’s something that goes beyond logic, something that goes against what is expected. The reason Joseph was doing all this was Love... Love for Mary yes... but what isn’t immediately evident, but no doubt active in this love story is Joseph’s love for this mysterious God who he had believed and trusted in who was now intervening in their lives in an unprecedented, unexpected way. The Love story doesn’t end there though.

St. Matthew, could have continued with another “Yet” – Yet, God was unwilling to let Joseph move on through life with a broken heart. God the Father sends an angel to Joseph in his sleep, and invites Joseph to let go of the hurt he felt as he went to bed with his shattered dreams and instead invites him to dream God's dream. Joseph will not have any biological children of his own, but, if he chooses, God the Father invites him to dream his dream of being a Father to his Son in a spiritual and real way while maintaining his virginity, just as God is our Father in a spiritual, real and not-physical way. Joseph and Mary’s plans to move from a being betrothed to living together in the traditional way aren’t going to be able to happen… But God the Father invites them to Dream God's dream of Joseph taking Mary into his home, to love, honor, cherish, and protect her all the days of his life; an even more important task for Joseph now that this child-- for whom God had even bigger dreams for -- was to be born.

The human drama, the love story isn’t simply about two random people, an unsuspecting couple who had their lives interrupted, disturbed, thrown by some heavenly buttinskys. Because we realize that the love story involves Mary and Joseph loving God the Father. It’s only their love for God that makes it possible for them to believe those words, “Do not be afraid” as their plans are fading away in the wake of this amazingly inconceivable plan being proposed. Their love of God gives them an openness to find new ways to dream.

For us, while wars continue to rage; with seemingly unexplained acts of tragedy befalling people from natural disasters to sickness and deaths; with the evils we perpetrate on one another, whether it’s nation against nation, neighbor against neighbor, or relative against relative, -- all of those realities confirm cold, hard, facts that are sad, but true. And it is from those realities that people can easily write off Christmas and God Himself as a Myth that is unreasonable in the face of those cold, hard, facts that can be verified and determined as sad but “reasonable.”

Yet, 2,000 plus years later, this Christmas, we’re invited to look beyond those realities. To once again, dream God the Father’s what seems to us to be inconceivable, far-fetched dreams. To announce once again the good news of great joy to all people that the Emmanuel, God-is-with-us, has come. To give birth once again to the Messiah, the Christ Child to a world that even though it has been enlightened by his presence, seems to slip back into its darker corners. To do that by daring to live the eternal truths of forgiveness; selfless, sacrificial love; and peace that Jesus Christ personified.

If we believe in the truths this night contains, then the hope that has brought light into the darkness of countless generations before us starts to brighten once again in our own lives, and all those we come in contact with. Then our atheist friends may understand that in this season, we do indeed ‘celebrate reason’ - the reason we’re here tonight, the reason Christ came to earth, the reason of Christmas itself - the eternal love of God for each and every one of us.

CHRISTMAS SHOPPING ON THANKSGIVING? REALLY????


Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, December 5, 2010. The readings for today’s Mass can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/120510.shtml. Thanks for reading, and all your comments and feedback.

Fr. Jim

Your help this Christmas for the Newman Catholic Center is greatly appreciated! Please click here for more information


HOMILY:

So a week and a half ago, Thanksgiving 2010, there was a historic first. It was the first time since 1925 when the department store Sears first opened that this national chain made the decision to open their stores on Thanksgiving Day. They joined a handful of stores that seems to be growing each year who’ve very slowly been expanding “Black Friday” -which was the day after Thanksgiving which traditionally is the biggest day of sales moving stores financially from being in the “red” (in debt) all year to being in the“black” making a profit. Opening on Thanksgiving, is another attempt for stores to try to get a jump on their competitors.

For some reason, that seems to have been “the line” for me. We all know how rough the economy is, so, the whole 4 am Black Friday opening with crazy sales, while you’ll never see me wake up that early to go shopping (I hate shopping to begin with, so make me get up that early, I can’t imagine I’d be too pleasant) - I do get what drives some people to do that to try to get a bargain. And I’m not against Christmas gifts... (for those taking notes: XL shirt size, size 12 shoes) As much as I hate shopping, I do enjoy thinking of something that might surprise and excite my family and friends to buy. So I don’t agree when people argue that everyone, or “religious” people should stop buying and giving gifts to each other for Christmas.

But shopping on Thanksgiving Day seems to have really hit a new low, doesn’t it? It just doesn’t make sense. Because who is it that means so much to us that we want to buy them Christmas gifts that we’d chose to go shop rather than spend time with them and other family and friends on a day like Thanksgiving?

I don’t mean to make anyone feel bad or guilty if they found a circular or saw an ad with prices so tantalizing that they ducked out part of Thanksgiving to save some cash and purchase something (well, maybe a little guilty) One reason that gift-giving started was to experience a taste of the joy that God has in showering us with blessings in our own lives, from our very existence– that we are even here - to the ultimate gift of His Son Jesus Christ, in whom God the Father has given us the path, the way to spend eternity with Him. That’s what should bring us ultimate happiness - reflecting on all that God has done, all that He continues to do right now... How Jesus continues to come to us to bring us fullness of life. That’s the joy we celebrate Christmas. Advent is meant to prepare ourselves to renew our appreciation of that gift.

The thing is, for so many of us is how the devil has been able to twist all of that. We all seem to race around in these weeks leading up to December 25th , and then wonder why there’s so much stress, so little happiness this season. We seem to be on this marathon to the point that we can’t wait for Christmas Day just to collapse... The happiness, the joy, the love that Christmas is all about seems for many to be an ideal to hope for, but have yet to really experience. It becomes a prize - a jackpot some think that only a few will win, and so all of these things – parties, cards, gifts become like lotto tickets... If I just do this, get that thing,... maybe, maybe this Christmas I’ll feel something. I’ll experience that happiness that has eluded me every other year.

Which is why what a gift we receive today as the Church gives us this Gospel on this second week of Advent. John the Baptist steps into our lives and says “REPENT.” Just hearing that word, a lot of us has this gut-reaction like “Here comes the dose of guilt again - making me feel like a bad person...” great way for us to feel that happiness we desire, huh?

But that call to Repent is a real gift. It’s a loving thing that John the Baptist speaks, that the Lord uses the Church to call us too once again. To call out to us, to wake us up as we’re falling asleep at a 4 am door-buster sale, skipping out on Thanksgiving, getting deceived by the lies of the evil one that tells us the happiness of Christmas is out there somewhere and instead, listen to John the Baptist as he says - “the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

It’s within our reach. It’s in our grasp. But we have to let go of all the things in our lives that make it hard to grab onto - that make it seem so far away. We have to free ourselves of those things that dominate so much space in our hearts that there’s not enough room for Jesus to truly reside there. We are being invited to take a new, honest look at how this quest for happiness we’ve been on has left us empty... how all those other voices have deceived us as we’ve bought into them and found ourselves unfulfilled.. And then ask ourselves What is it that brings us here today? A religious obligation? Trying to cover our bases to make sure if there’s a heaven, we’re on the list to get in? Hopefully what brings us here is that on some level we’ve identified, we’ve sensed, we’ve experienced some of that fullness of life we seek in following Jesus Christ. And we want more of that– we desire even more of that joy, that happiness. And we find once we start to receive that joy of Christ in my life, we can’t contain it. It overflows from us to those around us, who, in turn, will want it - and we will want to share it with them.

What is it that we’ve been holding onto that still hurts? What is it that we’ve done that we still feel guilty or ashamed about? What lie is it that diminishes who we truly are - beloved children of God - that we have heard or told ourselves and believed? This time of Advent, will we take advantage of the gift of reconciliation, use this opportunity to go to Confession to really rid ourselves of all these things? Until we “repent” of these things, and clear these paths to our hearts, Jesus can’t fully reside within us... and that joy we seek will continue to elude us. Jesus longs for us to experience the true happiness that His coming to us means. Imagine what a Christmas we could have if we experienced that ourselves. What better gift is there than to give that to one another.

Newman Catholic Christmas 2010 Appeal

December 1, 2o1o

Dear Friends and Parents of Newman Catholic Students:

One of my all time favorite Christmas Carols, In the bleak mid-winter played in the background the other day. I am not ashamed to admit that I have gotten misty eyed at this carol more than any other. But something hit me in a different way just thinking about the young men and women of Newman Catholic here at MSU as I listened to the final verse which is especially beautiful:

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb.
If I were a wise man I would do my part.
Yet what I can, I give Him — Give my heart.

In so many ways, I am constantly humbled and inspired to see our students illustrating that by how they are striving to give their hearts to Jesus Christ in countless ways every day. Maybe it’s the student who quietly slips into the chapel in between classes to reflect on their life and think about what God is calling them to be. Or watching the student who invites one of their friends to join them at one of the 10 weekly Bible studies offered by our FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionaries. Or the student who wakes up early on a Saturday morning (parents of college students realize what a sacrifice that is!) to volunteer at a local food bank supplying food to needy families.

What they can, they give Him... their hearts. It is humbling for me to witness their examples and ask myself if I am giving all that I can give to Him as I serve them. That’s just one way I often feel I receive more than I give to them.

I am so grateful for all of the support of so many friends and benefactors who assist us with their prayers, their encouragement and their financial support that enables us to continue our mission to help students grow in their Catholic-Christian faith through spiritual, social and community outreach activities. It has been the generosity of so many that has enabled us to create a beautiful chapel; upgrade and expand our facilities making the center even more homey and inviting for students (they’re here all the time!) These donations also allow us to make sure that any student can attend/participate in any activity we sponsor whether they can personally afford to or not, those few times there are expenses (such as our annual retreat) .

With your help once again, we will be able to continue to encourage our students to simply come, give Him what they can – the most valuable and important thing they have – their hearts.

Merry Christmas & My promise of prayers to you and yours!



Father Jim Chern,
Chaplain & Director

For those who would like to make a donation, please make a check out to Newman Catholic Campus Ministry and send to Newman Catholic Center; 894 Valley Road; Montclair, NJ 07043

POPE SAID WHAT?????


Hi everyone! Thanks for reading my homily for the FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT - NOVEMBER 28, 2010. The scriptures for today can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/112810.shtml. Appreciate all your feedback and comments! God Bless and Happy Advent! Father Jim

HOMILY:

Who knew this many people, especially in the media, were interested in anything that the Holy Father has to say. Not that what he has to say isn’t important... when the Pope speaks, people should listen. But for the most part, the Pope’s teachings, interviews rarely command worldwide attention. Yet the reaction to interviews that he gave to an author for an upcoming book, well you would think that the Pope was announcing the day, the hour that Jesus was returning to issue his final judgment. Even that type of news I have a feeling would end up inside the newspaper, next to a Macys Ad for the Christmas sales. That might not be considered as important to most editors as the headline “Pope OK’s condoms in certain instances.”

While ordinarily, we would welcome such interest from the press in a Church teaching from the Holy Father, sadly, they got the story wrong. The headline was misleading. They took details out of context. They took days of interviews and pages of a book and watered it down to a sound-bite that our culture seems to prefer rather than actually reading, reflecting and understanding the complex theological issue the Pope was discussing in this interview. Which isn’t surprising and explains why the Pope teaching on a moral issue wound up on the front page. The mis-reporting, the confusion that’s ensued since shows how the media, and how often so many of us don’t get it or don’t want to get it. We probably shouldn’t be surprised...Here we have major press organizations who laugh at, deride, and disagree with the Church’s teaching that comes from scripture and natural law that sexual relationships only belong in a relationship of a married man and woman. They don’t seem interested in what the Pope says, what the Church teaches on a regular basis... Yet they seem obsessed by pushing this condom story which seems designed to discredit the Pope and the teaching authority that Christ has given him. The sad thing is how badly they miss the importance of what the Pope is teaching.

The Pope was trying to use an example that in this certain instance, people who were deeply entrenched in a life of sin, like abusing sex in prostitution, that an individual might recognize their behavior is dangerous to the physical health of themselves and their partner that they decided to use a condom – that could be seen as a good thing because it shows there’s some concern, there’s on some level a conscience that wants to protect the other and not have the evil of a disease spread. In this example, the person makes a small, but significant change where they care about someone other than themselves... They realize the world doesn’t simply revolve around their own desires, their own interests. And so this could be a sign of hope that perhaps this person will be open to becoming morally responsible. That the Holy Spirit could use this opportunity and they would begin growing in their relationship with the Lord and seeing the life of sin they are participating in as less desirable than the life that God is calling all of us to.

Yet some in the press continued with the initial sound-bite, “Pope OK’s condoms in certain instances” - continuing to mislead and confuse people. And when you think about it, who do they hope to mislead and confuse? If I had to guess, it would be those people who struggle with the Church’s teaching on contraception in general or on sexual matters altogether. Because quite simply, those who don’t listen to the Church on a regular basis, who mock the Church’s teachings, blame the Holy Father for so many evils that come from some reckless sexual behavior... since they’ve already decided that’s what the Pope, the Church is about - they wouldn’t care to properly report what he said... so why report the story in the first place? Even when the mistaken reports were attempted to be clarified, some ignored those clarifications, while some spun the story different. They used headlines like “Pope walks back comments on condoms.”

That so many like to treat this like a political thing where the Pope is being treated as a political figure - complete with graphics and polls telling us that “blah-blah” percent personally approve of the Pope but only “blah blah” percent agree with Church’s teaching shows how so many don’t get it or don’t want to get it. The Pope’s not playing to his “political party.” The Church isn’t trying to win new fans by telling people what they want to hear. The Church teaches what the world needs to hear. In the Gospel last week, we heard that Jesus Christ our King is willing to be put on a cross and die for all that he believed and teached... He died for us and our sins, so much does our King desire us.

With the beginning of Advent and this Gospel reading we just heard, the question gets turned around. How much do we desire Him? How much do we want to be aligned with him? These scriptures which start this season of Advent remind us that we’re waiting for Jesus to come back at the end of time. The thought is enough to jar us out of the Thanksgiving Turkey-tryptophan induced slumbers we might still be in. Knowing that Jesus’ will return to issue a final judgment on humanity is kind of a buzz kill to the “Christmas season” frenzy now in full effect.

The Gospel and the Church offering this reading isn’t meant to frighten us. But it is meant to tell us that we need to take what Jesus says, what His Church says much more seriously than a journalist or some opinion writer will tell you we should. In today’s reading Jesus referred to the days of Noah. As the flood waters start to fall, people were so self-centered, self-focused, they didn’t even notice or care to notice “oh it’s raining... been raining a lot... for A LONG TIME... hmmm.” Things haven’t changed much, the world still seems incredibly self-centered, and it’s amazing how easily we can fall into that and become self-focused too. We still have to deal with sin in our lives that so often wants to distract us from seeing, wanting, desiring Jesus Christ.

But the difference is that in the “flood waters” of today, the Church is meant to be our life-preserver. Jesus gave that to us as His gift so that until the end of time, we could hear His voice speaking to our present day world renewing God’s call to walk with Him today. Because His return is coming when we least expect it... This Gospel to start the season of Advent reminds us that we are to live as people constantly watching, and ready for Him to come. To come to us here and now... and to return to us at the end of time. The Church is here to constantly bear witness to the great mystery of faith that Christ Has Died, Christ is Risen and Christ will come again.

That’s something we should consider – that perhaps we would be better served by getting our moral teachings from the Church itself that cares about those realities than from a media cares and is more focused on itself.

"HATING ON JESUS AND HIS CHURCH"


Hi everyone, here is my homily for the 32nd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - November 7, 2010, and also the closing of our “HOLY HALL OF FAME RETREAT” - which was a student written/led retreat on the saints and the call to Sainthood. The readings for today’s Mass can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/110710.shtml . Thanks as always for reading and your feedback! Fr. Jim

HOMILY:

A few years ago, Pope Benedict XVI came to the United States for a Papal Visit. Considering that the Holy Father is 83 years old, and this was his first visit, the reality that he might not make it back over here was an unspoken, but understood reality, so it was a pretty exciting time for the different cities he was visiting. One of his visits was to New York where he celebrated Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and then an open-air Mass in Yankee Stadium before over 55,000 Catholics. Thanks to Archbishop Myers, our student leaders (aka Eboard) that year, Mary our office manager and I got to attend the Mass which was truly a historic day - lots of incredible memories cemented in my mind.

One of those memories though, happened outside of the stadium, after the Mass. I was a little anxious to get back to the bus ASAP because we still had Mass at 8:30 that evening back here on campus, and with security ramped up and NYC traffic, they warned us that it might be several hours to make it out (when at its best, the trip is 25 minutes... at least the way I drive that’s how long it takes) anyway, so I was worried about not making it back in time. So I wasn’t quite paying attention to our Eboard members as we were leaving the stadium to get to the bus, (foolishly) assuming that since they knew I was in a hurry they would be right behind me.

So Veronica (who’s still here, now as a Senior) and Matt Higgins (who was a Senior and now is our campus minister) myself, Stephanie Haupin who was a senior and Matt Boyle who graduated last May (and was a Sophomore then) were walking to our buses and talking about what we had just experienced. A few moments after we got out of the stadium, had crossed river avenue, I realized that the two Matt’s weren’t with us.

You see before we had even gotten into the stadium, we had to stand outside for hours for security. And as we were lined up to get in, we had seen a bunch of protestors who all had awful signs. Really mean signs. You had atheists protesting with signs saying “Pope go home” (not really original). You had some others who were, well, there’s just no other word for it but ridiculous... individuals who were saying that Catholics are not Christian (just a quick read of history folks and you’d realize that if you’re Protestant, than you PROTESTED something that was there) Anyway, Matt Boyle and I had seen them before Mass and he had asked me “What’s up with that?” I’m sure I didn’t give a great explanation to all of it. But I know that I said to him I thought it was more important to focus on this historic visit by the successor to St. Peter, the Vicar of Christ, the Holy Father rather than deal with all that.

So when I had realized that the two Matt’s weren’t with me I got nervous for a second when Vern just nodded and said “take a look over there.” And when I did, there was a scene that made me kind of laugh and be afraid at the same moment. There was Boyle posing for a picture with a guy who had been out there probably 8 hours with a bull horn and shouting anti-Catholic stuff as he was holding a sign saying ROMAN CATHOLICISM IS OF THE DEVIL IT WILL SEND YOU TO HELL. So here’s Matt Boyle squating there with this giant smile and a thumbs up as the guy holding the sign is standing there with a thumbs down...oh and the other Matt, the “responsible” one is taking the picture. An NYPD cop who sees this and then sees me staring at the scene, kind of frozen not knowing what to do says “FATHER - DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS” to which I responded “Does it look like I have any control over them?”

When we were talking about the whole thing on the bus ride home, I know Matt well enough to know that part of it is just his goofiness and wanting to have this picture (which I still have hanging up on my wall, by the way– NOT THAT IM ENDORSING WHAT HE DID but it is kind of funny) - but there was another part of him that I think hoped, maybe, just maybe if he stopped, shook this guy’s hand, asked to take a picture with him, goofed with him a bit, maybe he wouldn’t be so blind to the beautiful thing, the holy thing that was taking place inside the stadium. Matt seemed surprised that all these different groups of people who really have little if anything in common - like Atheists and Christians who don’t think Catholics are Christian could be that brought together over anything, and even more sadly what brought them together was their blind anger over the Pope... they were united in their irrational hatred of the Church. Yet, Matt, nor any of us shouldn’t be so surprised... It’s actually not really so original. That’s kind of what’s happening in tonight’s Gospel.

Over the last weeks in the Gospels we’ve been hearing this back and forth between Jesus and the Pharisees.... The Pharisees, you might remember were one group of Jewish people. They were religious scholars. Tonight we hear about a different group of Jewish people. The Saducees. The Pharisees economically would’ve been more your middle-income people. The Saducees were the power brokers - they were the Chief Priests of Judaism, they were wealthy. What also separated them apart from economics was different religious beliefs. The Pharisees believed in eternal life, the Saducees didn’t. So as much as they were both groups of Jewish people, the Pharisees and the Saducees were rivals of one another. They had debated, argued between each other. They couldn’t stand one another.

Yet, they were able to unite together on one thing... their hatred of Jesus.

To continue to use an example from our retreat over the weekend. The Pharisees would be like the Red Sox; The Saducees would be the Mets. Jesus is the Yankees. As much as the Mets and the Red Sox hate each other, they hate the Yankees more... Sad thing is, it’s not a joke. As much as they couldn’t stand each other. Because the Pharisees weren’t able to discredit Jesus... and because Jesus keeps calling them out, pointing out the religious burdens they’re putting on people while not helping to relieve those burdens... they turn to their rivals, the Saducees for help. Here’s another irony for you, one of the things that the Pharisees and Saducees disagreed about was whether there was eternal life or not. The Pharisees did - the Saducees didn’t. So the Pharisees kind of go “Hey Saducees... if you think you disagree with us, you should listen to what this Jesus is saying...”

Which is the whole scene in today’s Gospel. The Saducees are proposing this hypothetical scene to Jesus not because they were interested in what eternal life would be like, the eternal life Jesus was inviting them, the Pharisees and each one of us to experience. They’re simply too busy trying to discredit Jesus. They’ll ask another question, they’ll look for some other stumbling block, they’ll try to find another bone of contention rather than care to hear about that invitation Jesus is offering.

Yes, they unite in their closed-mindedness. They unite in their sinfulness...being able to turn their gripes with each other aside to unite in hatred for Jesus mostly because they didn’t want Him to change the balance of power they were already fighting over. Yet what the Pharisees who believe in eternal life miss... what the Saducees who didn’t believe in eternal life miss is that their united hatred is blinding them to Jesus as their only hope.... Their closed mindedness to what Jesus is proposing is an obstacle to the only opportunity that really matters. As we heard (over and over again in song this weekend) on our retreat - There's a reason I'm alive for a blink of an eye.

That reason is not to get wrapped up in our worlds, our concepts of what things should be But rather to be open to what the Holy Spirit is calling and prodding us to do... to live not a good life, but a GREAT life which is only the slightest glimpse of the eternal life Jesus is promising us. The eternal life he wants us to experience and to lead others to. The call to sainthood for each of us, our admiration of those already who are already canonized Saints, members of the “Holy Hall of Fame” is a call to unite us in love for God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit. Who will we unite ourselves with?

Will we be like those atheists and “Christian/Anti-Catholics” on a street corner who are blind to the irony that they are united on anything? Will we be like the Pharisees and Saduecees who couldn’t stand each other but hated Jesus more? More specifically Can we be that easily misled to even align with such destructive forces within us and not even realize it simply because we find others who agree with us on our own self-centered thoughts and actions? It’s amazing what types of alliances can be formed when that becomes our driving force.

Or will we unite with those who have been challenged, continue to be challenged and always will be challenged by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Challenged to unite in His Love and to live radical lives centered not on ourselves but on Him, just as the Saints have done through the centuries. The choice is ours Will we embrace every moment we’ve been given, knowing there's a reason we’re alive for a blink of an eye?

A YANKEE FAN LIKING THE RED SOX?


Bonus Homily this week!

Hi everyone, this weekend the students from MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY and RAMAPO COLLEGE’S (aka MONT-APO) NEWMAN CATHOLIC are on their annual retreat... this year entitled the HOLY HALL OF FAME RETREAT - which is a retreat that the students developed, wrote and delivered on the Saints and how we’re all called to be Saints.

This is my homily from the retreat given at Mount Manressa Retreat Center, Staten Island NY on NOVEMBER 6, 2010 - the SATURDAY OF THE 31st WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME... (readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/110610.shtml) Thanks for reading!

Fr. Jim

HOMILY:

So a friend of mine, has told me that from the time he was really little, he was a great Yankee fan. So a few months ago I got him tickets for his birthday. Somewhat expensive ones (not that there’s any cheap ones there - anyway) So we’re there. And he’s loving the stadium, as am I. It’s really beautiful. These not-cheap seats were all the way up in the Tier, but they were the front section and right behind Home Plate - and they had these really comfy seats - lots of leg room. So we’re really having a great time. Beautiful weather - Yankees were winning, beating up on the Kansas City Royals. All in all to me it was a perfect summer day. As we were sitting there talking about the season, talking about different players I was looking at the scores from the other teams and the standings... when I made some comments about the Red Sox (that I can’t quite repeat here)

That’s when friend says “Oh that’s my other favorite team.”

What?

I mean I really was disturbed by this. I start arguing with him... spilling beer, getting belligerent - demanding money as a reimbursement. Mind you, this is in public, so now people are over-hearing this - In Yankee Stadium... it’s not a great place for people to learn that you’re claiming to be a Yankee fan and a Red Sox fan.

Because ITS KNOWN - that if you’re a Yankee fan, you hate the Red Sox. Not that you hate them in the evil darkening of your hearts type of way (well - usually not...) But they just don’t go together. You’re in competition with them. You’ve got to make a choice, you’ve got to make a decision... you got to like the one and not like the other... Otherwise you’re not really a fan. You might like the sport of baseball and enjoy watching the game, but you’re not really a Yankee fan...

I mean - Fr. Bill and I - we’ve known each other almost 24 years. He’s more than a best friend, he’s truly a brother. I know it’s killing him to hear me even mentioning the name the Yankees because he’s a die-hard Mets fan. But that’s okay -we have an agreement not to get into this debate with each other and because we realize that our fraternity can withstand his obvious ignorance about which is the superior team.

But I wouldn’t want him to pretend to like the Yankees when they are going for the 28th WS championship any more than he’d want me to root for the Mets if they ever... EVER are in a position to go for their 3rd. Being a true Yankee fan, or just a FAN of whatever team it is you’re about your team. You root for them, you’re loyal to them... You suffer through the seasons (like I did, albeit briefly as a Yankee fan) when they fail to even be real contenders. But you stay faithful to your team. So as much as I joke about hating the Red Sox’s, I don’t hate the players or as individuals - I hate their team because they are obstacles to my team winning it all. To being champions of the world.

What are our obstacles to us winning it all? To being champions? To getting to the Hall of Fame? Not for baseball (I stink in that...) But for life. Not for the things of this life- this world - but the eternal life that so often we don’t think about as much... the Holy Hall of Fame we’re talking about this weekend.

Jesus speaks to us in tonight’s Gospel about that. And he’s pretty clear about it. Are we fans of this world - are we rooting, siding with that team or are we with him? Are we fans of the earthly team or Jesus’ team? And Jesus is even more forceful about this choice than a Yankee fan encountering someone who says they like the Yankees and the Red Sox. You can’t be both. You can’t do both. The one is an obstacle to the other... You have to make a choice. No servant can serve two masters he will either hate one and love the other or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

As we’ve been hearing, the thing that makes the Saints, saints... The thing that makes us as Catholics admire them, be inspired by them is we see they made that choice. They were like
Jesus’ super fans... To the point that they reflected his very presence. In the loving way they served the poorest of the poor or the lowest of the low. In the dynamic way they challenged the Church to be the Church that Jesus founded when some would fail and seemed more of this world than on Jesus team... It was the saints who breathed the fire of the Holy Spirit to renew the Church age after age ... They made that choice in a variety of ways. So We recall, we love them because of that.

For us here this weekend, it’s not about this weekend, it’s not about this retreat. We’re here for this brief time, taking a step away from our campuses, our lives, our concerns and thinking about this lifelong decision to be on Jesus’ team, and the call, the invitation we’re being offered to be His true super fans as well. That’s not always easy... In fact it’s hard.

It’s hard when you feel that you’re team is on the losing end not to want to try to hedge your bets and try to do both. It’s hard not to look at all that’s going on around you and the appearance of people “winning it” or trying to be champions in the things of this world - that guy has all that money - that girl has all that fame. The things of the world, the sinful things are constantly trying to lure us to give in. Abandon our team.

But the saints weren’t saints because things were always great in their lives, they often times weren’t. The Saints weren’t saints because things always went their way - usually they didn’t. The Saints weren’t saints because they didn’t have sins or temptations in their lives - if they didn’t then they wouldn’t have been human beings. What the Saints found is that when they chose to be Jesus’ super fan, when they kept their eyes focused solely on Jesus Christ, when they didn’t compromise in their allegiance to Jesus, then Paul’s words from the first reading become theirs - I have the strength for everything through Him who empowers me. WHAT AWESOME COMFORTING WORDS FOR US

The Saints were saints because they trusted Jesus when things werent great; they followed Jesus’ way even though the world was moving in a different direction; they went to Jesus when they failed - they were able to turn away from their sinful lives and turn towards him - which led them from being simply sinful human beings to holy hall of fame members. All because of the strength for everything that came through Him who empowered them...

We’re living in some messed up times. Twisted times. The struggles to just deal with our sinfulness in a world where it’s celebrated and glamorized has led more and more people into confusion to the point that at best some are living like they’re trying to serve both God and mammon or the world - and at worst, they’re not even trying... You have campuses where Jesus is being proposed as a nice dude among many others who had some nice things to say.

You and I know better. The saints knew better. They made their radical choice, they lived for God and the radicalness of that choice echoes through the centuries to you and I sitting here on the Isle of Staten this November night. Sts, Peter and Paul, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. Joseph, St Francis of Assisi , St. Therese of Lieusex, St. Edith Stein... your devout grandmother or grandfather... or that relative that has passed who was an inspiration to you and was so pumped when you were coming on this retreat... when you go to Mass, when you try to live for Jesus Christ... yes the whole countless hosts men and women, these heroes of our faith are cheering us on. ROOTING FOR YOU RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW. They’re our fans encouraging us to be real fans, true fans... for the only game that matters... the game of life. May we renew ourselves in that radical call. May Christ strengthen us to lead us to Him and even to help transform Montclair State University and Ramapo College by our faithfulness to that call.

THE EXORCIST COMES TO MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY


On Wednesday, October 13th, the NEWMAN CATHOLIC CAMPUS MINISTRY at MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY sponsored THE FIRST ANNUAL ARCHBISHOP JOHN J MYERS LECTURE SERIES where we welcomed Father Vincent Lampert, an Official Exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and one of less than 2 dozen priests who've been trained and given faculties to serve in this role in the United States.

We've received numerous requests for MP3s of the talk, which were recorded that evening. I'm hoping that (soon) we will be able to have a better way of uploading this on our website... but for now, here are three links where you can download the 2 hour presentation which is Father Lampert's presentation and the Q & A for the evening. The three links break the talk into 40 minute pieces:

Part I: http://www.mediafire.com/?ii2bswe774mnjaf

Part II: http://www.mediafire.com/?brdipre7ffbaleq

Part III: http://www.mediafire.com/?jytlzo6uehjhjac



Once again, we appreciate the incredible interest this entire event generated. Members of the media from 2 of the 5 Metro NYC stations were present as well as members of the press from the Star Ledger & The Bergen Record.

We appreciate also the support of our benefactors and friends for making this and other events possible. If you wish to be one of them, please make donations out to Newman Catholic Campus Ministry - 894 Valley Road, Montclair, NJ 07043

Here's a recap of the evening from an upcoming article in the Archdiocese of Newark Newspaper "The Catholic Advocate":

“Real Exorcist” at Montclair State University
by dustin Faber, special to The Catholic Advocate

Demonic spirits and the occult have been popular Hollywood plot devices for years, but on Oct. 13, over 650 people got to hear first-hand what battling the occult is really like.

Fr. Vincent Lampert, one of 24 exorcists who have been trained at the Vatican and authorized to serve in the United States, spoke at Montclair State University as part of the First Annual Archbishop John. J. Myers Lecture Series, hosted by the Newman Catholic Campus Ministry.

Lampert, the official exorcist of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, relayed his own experiences as well as answered questions from audience members. Lampert said that genuine demon possession is extremely rare. Counseling, he said, is usually what the person needed, adding that his job is not to convince people they are possessed. “I want to help individuals get the help they need, not the help they think they want” Lampert said.

According to the Church, signs of demonic possession include speaking in unknown languages, showing unnatural strength, and a vehement disdain toward Christ, the cross and other holy items.

Lampert said that demonic possession can take place due to a person having ties to the occult (practicing white or black magic, holding seances, ouija boards, etc), having a dedication to Satan, or a hardened life of sin. Lampert also debunked fictitious portrayals of exorcisms pointing out, for example, that unlike portrayed in movies, exorcisms are only done on sacred ground, most of the time being a church rather than in a possessed person's home.

Lampert was ordained a priest in June 1991, but started down the road to becoming an exorcist in 2005 at the request of his Archbishop. He trained in Rome and observed numerous exorcisms first-hand before being authorized to perform the rite.

Newman Catholic Student President, Kate Ascolese, a junior at MSU explained the decision to name the series after Archbishop Myers in her introductory remarks: “Over the last 50 years the Archdiocese has sponsored our ministry here at Montclair State and in recent years, under Archbishop Myers’ guidance we have seen the commitment and mission renewed in a dramatic way. In appreciation for the Archbishops leadership, support and encouragement to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to love the Catholic Church that Christ has founded, we name this lecture series after him.”

Father Jim Chern, Chaplain and Director invited Fr. Lampert to be the inaugural speaker after learning that Lampert conducted a similar lecture for students at the University of Illinois in Champaign. “Their Catholic chaplain, Msgr. Greg Ketcham spoke about one of their most popular events was when they invited an exorcist to speak to their students about the reality of evil and his experiences as an exorcist. The event was so popular that a crowd of over 1,000 students filled their auditorium,” Chern said. “After seeing the numbers who attended here at MSU, it’s obvious this isn’t just a mid-west phenomenon.”

Recognizing that the depictions of Hollywood would play into the marketing of the lecture, Chern added “I was hoping the curiosity might work to our benefit, in getting students to be intrigued by thinking ‘did that stuff in that movie really happen?’ to provoke them to go deeper and think about the choices they are confronted with every day," Chern said. "In light of recent tragedies that have happened at Seton Hall and Rutgers, I think it’s important for students to reflect on how the choices we make, the words of hatred we speak and evil actions we commit can cause tragic, disastrous things to happen."

A CAN'T MISS OPPORTUNITY


Hi everyone -
First off - thanks so much for checking in and reading my homilies here. This past month, almost 4,000 visitors came on here... which is really humbling to me. I appreciate your interest, and all those who send an email or comments to tell me where you’re from or how you found the blog (you can always do so at chernjam@comcast.net)

Here’s my homily for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 31, 2010. The readings for today’s Mass can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/103110.shtml . God Bless - Father Jim

HOMILY:

Despite the valiant attempts we’ve made... the various techniques we’ve incorporated... the changes in membership over the last three years; the weekly meetings I have with our Student Leaders (called our “eboard”, short for “executive board”) without fail seems to constantly derail every week into some random topic that has little (if anything) to do with our planning events or other agenda items. (Truth be known, supposedly there was a meeting I missed about a year ago that the officers contend was finished in less than an hour as opposed to the almost on average close to 2 - implying that this is my fault... but anyway, before I continue down my own ADHD path)

This past week what threw us off our agenda was hearing the story of two of our officers who had just come back from an exciting afternoon. Yes, they got to see Taylor Swift live in Central Park as she filmed one of two concerts. (In all honesty one of the individuals you could tell was sort of going along just to support the other, who was still seemingly star struck by the entire event and hadn’t quite returned to the rest of us on the planet earth until I made an ill-timed joke about the concert) This guy talked about the excitement at “winning” these exclusive tickets, recounted the lengths he had to go through to get in and out of the city, and how they were all invited to come the next day for, yes - TAYLOR SWIFT - PART II, so now this self-identified “swiftie” was already trying to plot his return for that concert the next day (how would he get everything he needed to get done... who could he drag with him this time...) By the updates to his facebook, it sounds like the second concert was even better than the first. I couldn’t help but laugh thinking about the lengths this guy went through just to see Taylor Swift. Something tells me that if he had to miss all of his classes to be there (oh the sacrifices!) he would have. While I might not be a swift-a-holic, I can appreciate that for this guy it was a “Can’t Miss” opportunity...at some point of another - we all have them...

What was it for you? What was that “can’t miss” opportunity that got you so fired up? Think about the lengths people go to for that rock concert, that sporting event... Harry Potter books go on sale and there’s a line out the door for hours as people dress in character just to buy a book. A friend of mine who was so pumped that the San Francisco Giants made it to the World Series flew out to California, bought tickets at a price he still refuses to tell me off of Stub Hub just to be there for it... Even I shared with our Eboard officers that night how in college some friends of mine and I went to Times Square, stood in the frigid cold (unable to leave the streets of NY without forfeiting the opportunity) just to see the New Years Eve ball-drop to ring in the new year. What was it for you? What was it about that thing that captured your attention, your fascination, your passion that made that made this a “can’t miss opportunity” that you got so fired up about, that you went through such incredible lengths, well, not to miss?

In the Gospel we hear about this short guy (that’s St. Luke who said that, not me) named Zaccheus who kind of reacts this way when he hears that Jesus is coming to town. For weeks now in the Sunday Gospel’s we’ve been hearing of Jesus’ journeying towards Jerusalem. There’s been lots of stuff that’s happening that everyone’s been talking about. You can hear the conversations that were going on: “I heard there was a leper who were completely cured of their leprosy!” “NO, there was 10! Only one came back to say thank you but it was actually 10" - or “Did you hear how he totally shut the pharisees up?” “REALLY?” “Oh yeah, he told these parables that really called them out and showed how they can be hypocrites...”

There’s been all these healings and teachings. People almost didn’t know what to expect next, and so they were drawn to Him. Drawn because their desires, their longings were constantly being surpassed as they journeyed with Him... Drawn because they are finding fulfillment and fullness and healing and freedom as more and more people met Him. As Jesus is coming to Jericho, Zacchaeus is like everyone else... He’s heard the buzz... He’s curious. And at that point, he has nothing else going for him.

You see, he was a tax-collector and so he was despised by his own people. Not because people hated paying taxes as much today as they did then, but because tax-collectors were sell-outs, they were cheats... Zaccheus was a Jew and so he collected money from his own people for the Romans, who had occupied their land. It would be like if Canada had taken over America and now you had American people collecting money for Canadian taxes... It would sort of be like that. What made this even worse, the Romans had a sweet deal for people like Zaccheus. If, for example, the tax was 20% of all that someone makes, Zaccheus could charge 35% and keep the extra 15% for himself. That’s why he was so hated by his own people. Zaccheus had succumbed to the temptation of this lucrative job that looked pretty stable. So sure, he had financial security - but that was it. Rejected by his own, used by the Romans for their own needs and then ignored he found himself alone. He probably felt unloved. He couldn’t imagine there would ever be a way to make things right again.

For a moment though, there’s a diversion. The word on the street was that Jesus was coming to town. Everyone’s talking about all that Jesus had already done and wondered, “what was going to happen next?” Zacchaeus had heard about Jesus... But he needed to see Him. Something within him knew it. He sees these crowds, he realizes he’s not even able to get near Jesus (and it’s not like he has any friends to save him a spot or help him get into the scene) but the desire doesn’t go away... He wants to see Jesus even more now... He’s a man on a mission and nothing is going to stop his pursuit... He takes a chance, he climbs a tree... just hoping to catch a glance of Jesus. This moment was too important for him to miss...

What does Jesus see? He sees the loneliness, the brokenness of the man in the tree. He sees the lengths Zacchaeus went threw just to see Him. All Jesus has to do is invite himself over to dinner(!) All Jesus has to say is I desire to be with you... I want to enter into your loneliness, your brokenness... I want to go to your home for things to change. Zacchaeus upon hearing this realizes Jesus is offering him a radical new life. So Zacchaeus who had given up everything in the pursuit of riches, and power does this 180 degree turn - now promising to give all of that up just because of this encounter with Jesus. The lengths Zacchaeus went through just to see Jesus that one day would be incredibly insignificant in comparison to the lengths he’s going to go through from that moment he first saw Him.

How many of us desire Jesus? There’s a part of us that almost with a gut reaction respond “well duh, I’m here...” but you know what - there were a lot of people in that crowd that day in the Gospel and yet we only hear about the one - the short guy Zacchaeus. For him he realized that he didn’t just want to see Him, He truly desired Jesus, wanted Jesus to see Him and when that happened, this day, this event went from just a day that he “couldn’t miss” into a new life that Jesus was offering him that he didn’t want to miss. What lengths are we willing to go through to have a real, authentic glimpse of Christ? What heights are we willing to climb to cast a true glance on Him and see the life that he’s calling us to? As Jesus continues to come to us, the potential for a radical life changing encounter with him remains... do we really want to risk letting this be an opportunity we miss?

R.I.P. JESSICA MOORE & TYLER CLEMENTI - SMALL THINGS LEADING TO DRAMATIC CONSEQUENCES


Hi everyone - here’s my homily for the 27th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - October 3, 2010
the readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/100310.shtml. Thanks for reading and your feedback - God Bless, Fr. Jim

HOMILY:

Who here has ever been to a party? How many of you have a webcam on your computer? It would probably be easier, faster to count the number who haven’t or don’t than those who have and do.

Over this past week, there’s been two horrific tragedies that took place on college campuses. And we’re not talking about schools we’ve never heard about in states we’ve never visited – out there somewhere... but schools right here in our state. Not far from our campus. Universities we have friends who go there, or work there now. And both started with very small things that brought dramatic consequences. A party. A webcam.

Last Friday, there was a party at a fraternity house in East Orange - not even 10 miles away. A bunch of Seton Hall students, as well as students from NJIT, Rutgers Newark were there. From what has been reported so far, someone came to the door, they didn’t want to pay the cover charge or were just told they couldn’t come in. So this person came back with a gun and shot at a bunch of students - killing sophomore Jessica Moore and injuring three or four others. Not to mention scaring the entire campus community who never thought something like that would happen to them.

Then came news that a Rutgers University Freshman named Tyler Clementi, committed suicide. Every time there’s a story of a suicide, many of us are just filled with sadness, anger, confusion. We try to ask ourselves why has such a thing has happened. What was it that drove this person to believe that there was no hope to the darkness and despair they were experiencing to believe that the only possible answer they had was to end it all. In this case, while we don’t know exactly what was in the young man’s heart and mind when he made that terrible decision... reportedly his final words were a Facebook status jumping of GW Bridge... sorry, we’ve since learned that his roommate and his roommates girlfriend decided to turn a webcam on while the guy wanted to be alone with another man. Tyler had asked his roommate for some privacy, for some alone time and instead his privacy was violated, his alone time was broadcast on the internet thrown up for public consumption (Even inviting others to watch) Obviously that had something to do with his decision to end his life. I have to believe that these two who did this, never thought something like that would happen (have to, because the alternative is even more frightening to contemplate)

And so we have to face a terrible reality that two college students in our own state of New Jersey within 45 minutes of our campus, both under the age of 20 years old are dead today. Their families are devastated. Their friends are confused, numb. The ripples flowing from these two dramatic incidents, we’ve yet to fully comprehend. What does this all mean? Are these just two random, tragic yes, but unrelated incidents? You might argue that, but for me, the phrase that keeps coming to mind is “Creation running amuck.”

How is it that such extreme violence as that shooting, how is it that such extreme emotional abuse as students broadcasting a very private and personal encounter (that the young man had even requested privacy for) for the entire world on the world-wide-web... how is it that these types of things are happening?

In very small ways. Small things that bring about dramatic consequences.

Because while there’s likely to be panel discussions, investigations, and classes on a whole host of issues from these two incidents ranging from - security, privacy, tolerance, respect... which are all good and important discussions. Yet, when we look at it, both of these things started in small ways: One person is denied entry to a party, another thinks “I wonder what my roommate is up to, let me turn this webcam on and...” Decisions, choices were made that played out in ways that I doubt any of these people involved in either of these incidents could have imagined.

Small things that ended up bringing about dramatic consequences.

That’s kind of the thing that we forget - whether it’s an example of someone doing something good or bad. Jesus says in today’s gospel If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” That actually sounds like a cool sight, huh? But He’s responding to the apostles who are looking for answers. He’s responding to the doubts and confusions in their hearts - Jesus, how are we supposed to deal with our doubts? How do we deal with our fears? How are we supposed to face down some evil, some powerful people? INCREASE OUR FAITH LORD - Jesus responds by saying - we don’t need more faith, like having to fill up at a gas station. We need to live the faith that we already have.

If we connect to Him, trust Him, let ourselves be won over by Him - God can do wonders to us and through us. No, we won’t need more faith, we’d find the supply that we have been gifted with more than adequate, more than enough that even in the smallest, seemingly simplest ways - amazingly beautiful things can happen. Those small things matters... Those everyday decisions are important. They all add up to things that we never imagine, never could conceive of.

Just imagine, if one person had said to the shooter “man, it’s just a party, let’s go somewhere else” or had one of the people had said to the roommate “dude, what are you doing? You shouldn’t do something like that?” Maybe two more college students would be on their campuses today, worrying about mid-terms, or finals rather than being mourned over...

What about us? I’m left wondering how many stories, examples or illustrations, how many tragedies do we need to reflect on to remind ourselves that our choices, our decisions, no matter how small they appear on the surface are important. Who will we encounter, what situation will present ourselves with this week where we have the opportunity to bring God’s life and love to in simply doing the right thing?

Our being here is a start. It says that on some level we have a desire to DO THE RIGHT THING - we come to Jesus and say “Increase our faith” – Help us bring your light to those in darkness, Help us bring your love to those feeling alone or afraid or unloved... Jesus tells us that we already possess all that we need. Baptized into his family, nourished on His Word and His Body and Blood, he’s generously supplied us with what we need and expects that we’re going to use it. He expects that we’ll listen to St. Paul’s impassioned words and “STIR INTO FLAME THE GIFT OF GOD” that has been given to us... May we be ever vigilant to see how those small things can affect those around us - that, quite simply, we can destroy them by our cruelty or we can redeem them by our love.

IF LOOKS COULD KILL!


Hi everyone - here’s my homily for the 21st SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - AUGUST 22, 2010. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/082210.shtml. Thanks as always for stopping by to read and all your comments and feedback. This past month I’ve been amazed at the number of visitors and where you’re all coming from. Just curious, how are you finding this blog? Fr. Jim

HOMILY:

A few weeks ago my oldest brother was disciplining his daughter, my 4 year old niece. I’m not sure what the infraction was - she either did something she wasn’t supposed to do or didn’t do something that she was. But he had taken her aside, knelt down so that he could talk to her face to face... and right in the middle of his “correction” of her, practically mid-sentence he stopped talking, got up, walked into the other room where his wife was and he just started laughing. When his wife asked him what was going on, he said “She just gave me the look I used to give my mother and father when I was growing up and they’d be yelling at me about something.” When they told my mother this story, without missing a beat she said “I know EXACTLY what look he’s talking about” (and something about her being glad that he was getting a taste of what she had to deal with)

You have to wonder how that happens? I mean it’s not like someone coached her or told her before he pulled her aside to do this. But somehow this 4 years old knew the exact look; got the mannerisms down, knew the exact moment to give it - well it is an interesting thing to watch. It tells us how much kids pick up, doesn’t it? Here it is, after four years of listening to him, watching him, parroting him, quite naturally she simply reflects in this minor but interesting way that she is truly his daughter and he is truly her father.

How well do we reflect that we are truly God’s son’s and daughters and that He is our father? That’s one of the important questions that today’s Gospel leaves us with. We hear this important question asked by some random person as Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. They want to know“Lord will only a few people be saved?” In that question contains a lot of other questions – Who’s in and who’s out? How do we make sure we’re on the “good” list - the “saved” list and avoid the other one.

Jesus’ gives this analogy. Where heaven is portrayed as a house, and God is the master of that house. As people knock on the door - people who knew or know God aren’t recognized by him and are turned away. This point says that salvation is more than just knowing who Jesus is - being baptized, fulfilling the basic obligations that have been given. We are told to “strive to enter the narrow gate” which is Jesus himself...

And how do we do that? By developing our personal, intimate relationship with Jesus. Jesus isn’t looking for us to simply get his mannerisms down, but rather to make his attitude ours. He doesn’t want us to imitate his expressions, but rather to make our hearts imitate his heart. That happens not instantly, not after one Mass, but after a lifetime of listening to him, looking at him, even parroting him- we find that kind of naturally we simply start to reflect Jesus Christ. He is more than just someone we follow, he becomes our brother. We’re not being coached, we’re not being prompted, we simply reflect that we are truly God’s son’s and daughters and that He is truly our Father.

NO JESUS - DON’T COME IN HERE...



Hi everyone, here’s my homily for SATURDAY of the 12th WEEK OF OT - June 26, 2010 - which I gave at the FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) Staff Training in Champaign, Illinois. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/062610.shtml Thanks as always for reading and your feedback...
God Bless - Fr. Jim


HOMILY:

“I can’t go into Church... If I went to Mass, the roof would cave in.” - How often in your encounters with people, maybe students on your campus or maybe even family or friends have you heard that or a variation of it?

For those of us who make it into the walls of these various churches and have yet to see such an implosion of these sacred places by our presence, we’re jarred by those kinds of comments. Or even worse, someone who’s so plagued by darkness they say “I’m going to go to Hell...”

They’ve bought into the absolute lies:
That Satan is more powerful than God.
That death is more powerful than life.
That all that Jesus offers them, and all of us, couldn’t possibly be true

Before we think that those lies only affect those outside of this place, we can see, we know of how it also plagues us in here:

“I go to confession and I still repeat the same sins over and over... God’s gotta be tired of me, fed up.”

“I can’t do anything great - see what a mess I am, there’s so many people more talented, more holy than me”

“I can’t be a priest - or a religious.... I’m not holy enough or I’m not worthy enough...” (For this last example, if that’s something in your mind, please come talk to me - because I promise you that if God can work with this - He can certainly work with you...)

It’s amazing though in all of these instances, examples how we demonstrate how very little we know God, yet carry these sentiments that presume we know all that He thinks, He believes... Perhaps it’s our sinfulness that corrupts and affects our perceptions. Or maybe we’ve allowed fear and doubt to take up residence in our heart and run rent-free in our head.

Which is why today’s Gospel beautifully takes a sledge hammer to these cemented notions in our lives. You have to wonder, how long did the Centurion know about Jesus... (key word - about, not really know Him). How long did he hear Jesus preach? See His deeds? Witness the transformations in the lives of countless people because of Him? How long did the Centurion actually believe in Jesus but resisted? Wanted to follow, but KNEW (at least he thought he knew) that he couldn’t.

And so he remained in the distance. Longing for a moment with Jesus, but remaining trapped in these lies that seemed so true to him. All the while letting who he was, what he did alter his identity into being simply a Centurion, which was of some importance to the people of his time and age, but not especially impressive to Jesus.

But on this day, something was different. Here his Servant was PARALYZED, SUFFERING DREADFULLY. And the Centurion, for all his power, authority, connections was paralyzed from being able to do anything about it. And so his mind remembers Jesus and wonders... And his Heart drowns out those voices of doubt, fear... His Love and Concern for another opens the Centurion to think that maybe Jesus would love and have concern for Him as well.

The Centurion goes and Jesus is able to work miracles - The suffering and paralysis of the servant and the Centurion is healed.

Jesus leaves this open invitation to each of us as well. God’s calling each of us to a full, abundant, rich life. His designs, his dreams for us surpass what so many of us opt for, choose ourselves, believe that’s all we’re meant for. Our sinfulness or blindness seems to leave us paralyzed to move, to embrace that vision of His.

Jesus simply invites us to come with those doubts, to come with those fears, to come with that brokenness that wants to believe, but is scared or unsure. Even to the point that we become painfully aware that in a lot of ways, we share the Centurion’s estimation of ourselves - Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.

Jesus in his desire to share his love and healing says to us “Let me decide that...” as he steps under our roofs, comes inside and wishes to stay forever.

BAD FRUIT, COSTUMED WOLVES OR PLASTIC - AVOID ALL OF THEM


Hi everyone, here's my homily for June 23, 2010 – WEDNESDAY of the 12th Week in OT (the readings can be found at - http://www.usccb.org/nab/062310.shtml ) as I continue my time here in Champaign Illinois for the FOCUS Staff training. Some of you Newmaners will probably know who I'm referring too throughout. See, I told you guys - you're always on my heart and mind! Hope you're doing well! Fr. Jim

HOMILY
This past semester, before everyone returned to campus, the officers for our Student Organization met, as they do before each semester for what we call a prayer and planning day. We celebrate Mass together, make a holy hour to reflect on the blessings of the year, pray for guidance for the semester to come as we make plans for the upcoming semester. The students are pretty creative and consistent to balance things and make sure they have a variety of Spiritual, Community Service and Social activities. At this meeting back in January, things had started off okay for awhile: Work at the Food Bank on this Saturday; Respect Life would be giving out information in the Student Center on that Tuesday; Adoration every Thursday Night... great. And then we moved into possibly one of the most unexpected not to mention bizarre debates, in our “strange but true” category.

It started off innocent enough: “How about on this Wednesday Night we do a movie night?” - someone suggested.
“Yeah that sounds great... 9:00 at the Newman Center?” another asked.
A quick look at the schedules - “Yeah bible studies are done by 8:30 on Wednesday that should be good.” No problems so far...

And then, just when you thought - cool lets move onto the next thing, one person innocently asked “So what movie?” Honestly, the insanity that ensued would make the debates between Republicans and Democrats in DC over Health Care look tame.

We had one person trying to argue that “Boondock Saints” was a “Catholic” movie - trying to appease the priest who foolishly thought maybe we could watch something “meaningful.” These two young women argued in agreement that it should be a Disney movie and then started arguing between Lion King and Mulan. One person who truly does find meaningful, positive films was told he couldn’t even vote because they thought his choice the semester before was just painfully boring (hate to agree - White Squall it wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t that great either) - and in the middle of all this was this 6 foot 4 guy sitting next to me and whenever the room would get quiet for a moment would just grunt under his breath his suggestion:

“Mean Girls.” At first I thought he was kidding. I looked at him and just laughed. But then he kept saying it. So I kind of interrupted the Mulan- Lion King debate to ask “are you serious?” Which he was: “It’s my favorite movie.” Probably out of sheer exhaustion at this point and people tired from the further argument about whether that was a “chick flick” and should this guy have his “man-hood card” revoked he won and thus Mean Girls was the first movie of this past semester. I can see so many missionaries are disappointed they’re not coming to Montclair this year.

So sadly, I can fill in details for those of you who haven’t seen it: There’s this girl named Cady who moves from the African jungle with her zoologists parents where she had been home schooled and was this authentic, sincere girl. She comes to a typical American High School and meets the clique above all cliques that are referred to as “the plastics.” These women who were considered the most popular, most attractive women in the school. But despite there outward appearance, their popularity, their having all the cool things, people could realize the shallowness, knew that they were “plastic” not authentic and were in fact, Mean Girls. Their friends and classmates could tell in a certain sense that they were not “good trees bearing good fruit. “

A crazy example, I know, but it kind of points out that today’s Gospel shouldn’t seem earthshattering advice that Jesus is telling us. Good Trees bear Good Fruit - Bad Trees - bad fruit... Yet, he also warns us to BEWARE OF THIS - To BEWARE OF FALSE PROPHETS... BEWARE OF THOSE WHO COME TO YOU IN SHEEPS CLOTHING, BUT UNDERNEATH ARE RAVENOUS WOLVES... In America 2010, perhaps Jesus would say “BEWARE OF THE PLASTICS.”

Because the reality is that so often those wolves decked out in sheep-ery or the plastics do seem to gain people’s attention, are popular - do influence a heck of a lot of people. People settle for the bad fruit.

All of us who are on college campuses know that, don’t we? We’ve seen it. We’ve experienced it. We look at some of our students and wonder ‘really? You think going around with this group of people is a good idea...?” “You don’t see the bad fruit, the bad things that are coming from what these people are doing?” Which is why it’s interesting that Jesus points them out to us as a warning, telling us to BEWARE of them. We’re not to ignore them. We’re not to pretend that they’re not leading people astray. In the art imitates life category, back to that Movie of the week, the wholesome non-mean-girl Cady compromises herself, her values, her beliefs, her good fruit to become a plastic herself to be accepted by this powerful clique - all to horrible results.

Well, what fraternities or sororities are doing the same thing on our campuses? What sports team or club comes across as just a group of students with but slowly, insidiously challenges and attacks a person’s beliefs? What religious groups appear on the surface simply to want fellowship and explore common bonds when the real aim is to lead people away from the fullness and richness of Jesus Christ found in the Catholic Church?

They’re out there, and the reality is the opponent the devil isn’t just looking for college students. These false prophets, these plastics, these wolves-in-sheeps clothing can be found in every group of humanity. It’s something that as Christians we’re going to encounter over and over again.

Which is why Jesus is clear about what our task is and that is to beware of them, know them, identify them by the fruits that they bear. At the same time, we are called to recognize that as long as we stay true, as long as we’re connected to the one source of goodness, the one tree of life that produces good fruit that is Jesus Christ; we can be there to offer people the richness they’re missing in all of these fake prophets leading them astray with their bad fruit - not to mention avoid becoming “plastic” ourselves.

HARSH TRAINING TO SAVE LIVES


Hi everyone, I’m currently serving as a chaplain to FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) Staff Training in Champaign Illinois. I wasn’t scheduled to preach at yesterday’s Mass for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, but am on for several Masses this week, so I’ll share these as they’re possible

This homily was for MONDAY of the 12TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME - June 21, 2010. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/062110.shtml

Thanks for reading - Fr. Jim

One of my best friends growing up entered the Marine Corps right out of High School. It wasn’t a shocker, every Halloween from Kindergarten through Middle School he was dressed as a Marine, not because he couldn’t afford another costume... that’s what he wanted to be.

Well when he got to Basic Training, he would write occasionally (the few times he had free time to do so). Basic Training wasn’t exactly what he thought it would be. The haircut, some physical training, shoot some guns - those were things he kind of expected (if he hadn’t he really would have miscalculated things). But in some of his letters he talked about some other type of preparation that he wasn’t expecting. Preparation that was, as he diplomatically put it - HARSH. Some of which he didn’t quite understand or didn’t even think made sense at the time. One time he wrote about how he had to stand in the middle of the night on some sort of guard duty, in the pouring rain, with his rifle and all his gear, in some type of “at attention” position, for hours as it continued to rain on him and not a soul around (or so he thought). Midway through the night, around 2 in the morning, he couldn’t stand standing anymore and gave into his exhaustion – thinking no one would know as he slightly leaned back on the wall he was near. He said all of a sudden his Sargent came out of nowhere, bawled him out, woke his whole company up and made them all do pushups in the rain in the middle of the night... (and you thought summer training was hard)

At the time, my friend saw this as a mind game designed to “break him down.” It seemed incredibly harsh treatment for a somewhat minor infraction for what at the time seemed a ridiculous duty to stand in this attention position all night. But as he reflected on it years later - the harsh preparation was necessary. He realized that if he failed in a similar way while in combat - he would be dead, as would all his fellow Marines.

The Harsh training prepared him for battle to save lives.

That story came to mind in reading Jesus’ words in the Gospel: YOU HYPOCRITES - STOP JUDGING THAT YOU MAY NOT BE JUDGED... - it sounds harsh. In fact over 2,000 years later, just hearing this passage, some get so intimidated it immobilizes them from sharing, defending, bearing witness to God’s Truth - or even from confronting sinfulness in a world where sin is often times celebrated.

But is that the response Jesus is looking for? It doesn’t seem so when we realize that after His Resurrection, he will command his Apostles to forgive sins in his name, and tell them to judge: whose sins you forgive are forgiven them; whose sins you retain are retained (John 20:30).

I think we find in tonight’s Gospel Jesus putting his disciples through a type of Boot Camp... In becoming a disciple, they’re going to be given a precious gift, not simply for themselves to enjoy - they are going to be entrusted with God’s Word and told to share this Good News of Great Joy to all the world. Yes that word will be comforting to people but sometimes that Good News, that Word of God will be calling people to conversion which is hard, and can be very difficult for people to hear. So they, and those of us who are disciples today, need to know how to share this precious gift in a loving way.

So Jesus puts them and us through some tough training and reminds us before we go off and take His Word and focus on how someone is “missing the mark” with that splinter in their eyes, to look at those wooden beams in our eyes.

And that’s not to beat up on ourselves and say “see how awful YOU ARE - HOW DARE YOU SAY ANYTHING TO THEM...” But rather, it is when our sin is ever before us, so is the realization of how desperately we have needed and continue to need God’s Mercy is ever before us as well. And when we live with that awareness, a genuine, authentic joy naturally arises knowing how fortunate we have been to experience the Saving Love of Christ ourselves. Then we are measuring with the measure of Loving Mercy which has been generously measured out to us.

Easier said then done, but who ever said boot camp was easy? Or for that matter, Who ever said being a disciple was easy? Because Jesus Loves us - as much as he loves all of God’s children - He asks us to engage in this, knowing we will look back and come to see the Harsh Training prepared us in the battle to help save souls...

BLIND UMPIRES, LOAVES AND FISHES AND THE BODY OF CHRIST


Hi everyone - here’s my homily for the Feast of Corpus Christi (The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ) Sunday, June 6, 2010. The readings for today’s Mass can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/060610.shtml . Thanks for reading and you feedback and comments. God Bless, Fr. Jim

HOMILY:

What was that umpire blind?

That seemed to be the question that even non-baseball fans, non-sports fans asked - some with much more colorful language than that – after watching umpire Jim Joyce call a runner racing to first base who clearly was out, safe in Wednesday Night’s Detroit Tiger’s - Cleveland Indians game. Oh, yeah, there was one other detail that made this international news (when was the last time anyone cared about a Tigers- Indians game outside those two cities?) That botched call cost Detroit’s Tiger’s pitcher Armando Galarraga his place in Baseball history. Galarraga was one out away from pitching a Perfect Game - a true rarity in baseball where 27 batters face a pitcher, not one reaches first base - no hits, no walks, no batters being hit by a baseball. It’s incredibly rare for this to happen - since 1900 only 18 pitchers are believed to have achieved this milestone. (Just a side note, the Yankees have the most perfect games pitched among all baseball teams... )

Instantly, people went crazy when they saw the call. Tigers manager Jim Leyland argued, Galarraga had a look of disbelief. Even Michael Kay interrupted his coverage of the Yankee game to show this clip from Detroit and go crazy screaming how horrible the umpire’s call was, how many terrible calls the umpires have made so far this season.

Right after the game, the umpire, upon looking at the replay saw the mistake he had made and was clearly upset with his error. He admitted he botched the call, apologized for the mistake, hoped that it could be reversed and the “perfect game” be awarded to Galarraga (which the baseball commissioners office has said won’t happen)

After all this drama and interest, an interesting twist happened Thursday night. Umpire Joyce was scheduled to officiate behind Home Plate at the Tigers-Indians game. Even though he was offered the opportunity to take the night off after being the target of so much public ridicule (and on the very field he had made the wrong call in front of Detroit fans who had a whole night to re-watch the play over and over again) there he was to do his job. Usually before the game starts, the managers from both teams present the home plate umpire the lineup for the game. But instead of Manager Jim Leyland, Galarraga himself stepped up to the plate, handed the card to the umpire and shook Joyce’s hand. Visibly moved and appreciative, the umpire wiped away tears as the two men displayed a great deal of sportsmanship, understanding and class.

It’s so rare to see that isn’t it? We’re almost pre-conditioned to expect Galarraga to appear on Letterman with a top ten list mocking all umpires, While Joyce would be on Larry King or Charlie Rose trying to explain his version of the story, and every other baseball figure from former players, team owners, and sports writers showing up on every other talk show to give their opinion why one guy was right and the other one was wrong. We say that we miss good sportsmanship. We say we want people to be more understanding, more civilized, more respectful, more forgiving, more loving - and kind of look around wondering where that’s going to come from. We don’t know how our society has gotten like this - and we wonder, what or who will save us from it.

The disciples are faced with a similar situation in today’s Gospel. Jesus is speaking to crowds about the kingdom of God. There are thousands of people there, listening to what Jesus is preaching. And after a whole day of being together, the disciples realize they have a big problem. This big crowd is pretty hungry. No one made provisions, no one planned ahead, no one said to bring a boxed lunch. What or who will take care of this immediate, and important concern?

The disciples are practical “send them home.” Almost like they’re saying “Show’s over folks, thanks for coming, good luck and have a safe trip!” You have to love Jesus’ response to them though - “Give them some food yourselves.” Immediately they start arguing - “Jesus we got 5 loaves and 2 fishes - what good is that going to do?”

It’s not uncommon for us to hear this Gospel, hear of the feeding of the five thousand plus and think it’s a pretty cool feat that Jesus has done. Yet, what is at the heart of this miracle is when we notice that what makes the miracle possible, what is able to transform a bleak situation is when we give whatever it is we have and allow the Lord to do what he needs to do and wants to do for the world - through sometimes the simplest of means.

In the Gospel, 5 loaves and 2 fish turn out to be all that Jesus needs in order to feed a multitude in abundance.

In Detroit on a baseball field, the humility of two men - one admitting his error, one accepting the apology recognizing that as human beings we’re all prone to mistakes, – are able to transcend the rancor and feeding frenzy that so often is the norm in situations like that.

When we give what we have - we find that through Jesus Christ, it can be more than enough and yes - miracles can happen.

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We as a Church meditate on how great our God is in coming to us, Jesus becomes really present in His Body and in His Blood under the appearances of Bread and Wine. The truth of the matter is there’s a part of us that finds all of this hard to believe. We know that’s what the Church teaches and we want to believe it, but in looking at so much that goes on in the world around us, what goes on in our own lives and families and workplaces - it’s hard to believe the Jesus is present - that the Eucharist we receive can transform us and draw us intimately closer to God. The voices of doubt, argues with that part that wants to believe He’s really real and really present saying things like “if you are here Lord than do something – Heal this pain. Bring peace to this brokenness. Feed these deepest hungers that our world seems to be starving from.

And Jesus turns to us and says “GIVE THEM SOME FOOD YOURSELVES.” He’s pointing out that we have the ability to do something because we have already been blessed with His presence... we Receive Him and if we accept Him and share Him, then that presence, that reality of Jesus’ Body and Blood can feed the hungers of the multitudes in abundance with the simplicity of our own seemingly insufficient loaves and fishes.

A blown call on a baseball field can become a great example of fraternal love and understanding between an umpire and a ball player. A few loaves and fishes can feed thousands. The presence of Christ that you and I are blessed with and receive in this Eucharist can feed this starving world with the richest of foods... If you and I are willing to give that food ourselves.