JERSEY SHORE - WITHOUT SNOOKIE & COMPANY!


Hi everyone - here’s my homily for the SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT - February 28, 2010. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/ . Thanks as always for reading and all your comments and feedback. God Bless - Father Jim

HOMILY:

MTV, with the help of there newest “infamous” celebs that they’ve created- Snookie, “The Situation” and whatever the rest of their names are - have really ticked me off (I’m sure they care). They’ve trampled on the meaning of something that’s special to me. Because I can’t talk about or say the phrase “Jersey Shore” without those idiots popping into most people’s minds. Before these imbeciles showed up, when people heard the phrase “Jersey Shore” they had a pretty clear idea, at least us Jersey-ites, of the beautiful beaches and boardwalks and great summer vacations people have down there. And despite Snookie, and that crew– hard as they try to co-opt that term - well they can’t destroy the real meaning of Jersey Shore. The Jersey Shore is still one of my all time “happy places.”

Because every year, every summer my whole life - that has been my family’s vacation spot. Usually all the way at the tip of the state in Wildwood Crest. When I was little, my whole family from my parent’s and brothers to my grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins would all be down at the Jolly Roger Motel. We would get 4 or 5 motel rooms and would be running from one room to the other. Having meals together... Going to the pool, the beach, the boardwalk... They are some of the happiest memories I had growing up. Even as we got older, you know that time when you’re in High School or during College, when you get to that point when you kind of start to moan when you’re parents want to go on vacation, and all you want to do is stay home while they are away – obviously not for any bad reasons... - I can say my brothers and I still had a good time going down there with my family and some friends that we would meet up with.

About 15 years ago my parents were able to get there own place down there and so did my godfather and my aunt and uncle just a few blocks away from each other. So all these years later, it’s still my “happy place.” Just a few months ago I was down with my family for a long weekend with my parents- my brother, sister in law, my niece, their dog Buff- and it was just a perfect get-away. [ Yes that's me on the beach last summer! ]

Just seeing a picture from down there, or seeing a video on my iphone or even hearing the phrase Jersey Shore when those boobs at MTV promote that stupid show are all able to summon those memories. And you know, after a weekend like we’ve just had - I appreciate those memories. What did they call that thing a Snow-i-cane? A Nor’easter? – I don’t know what it was, after 18 inches of snow, being cooped up for a few days, and THEN slipping and falling on my rear on some of that snow as I was walking outside (because there was a turkey walking across the street – seriously... for some reason- totally random - there he was, just standing there, walking in our neighborhood, anyway... ) then having to postpone our long anticipated retreat, because of this blizzard. Yeah after these last few days - I’m DONE with winter. And so memories of sitting on a beach with family and friends down the Jersey Shore are a welcome thought. My happy place was a little better than the reality of the last couple days.

What is it for you? What is your happy place? Maybe it’s not something like an annual vacation place. Maybe it’s a Birthday or a Holiday when everything was perfect - not because you got that awesome gift, but something more - the family, the friends, the setting - it all came together in such a way that it’s just a special thing for you. Maybe it’s a milestone - a graduation, a wedding, something big that happened in your family that excited everyone. Whatever that happy place is, it holds a book mark in your mind that you turn to when things aren’t so good. It’s that special place in your heart that you go to when you’re weighed down with sadness or loneliness. We kind of rely on them to get us through whatever rough patches we face...

Today’s Gospel is one of these things that if we get caught up in all the details - there’s too much here that we can get lost or confused by and a lot of different things are going on. Jesus takes Peter, John and James up the mountain to pray... Nothing too out of the ordinary about that. In fact, Peter, John and James fell asleep - Christians falling asleep during prayer - guess that’s a bit more ordinary than we thought. Anyway, all of a sudden, Jesus’ face changes - his clothes become dazzling white (insert your own joke on bleach here) Moses and Elijah appear and talk to Jesus, (just a reminder these were two guys who were big, big deals in the OT and they had died hundreds of years earlier) and just in case that wasn’t enough drama for you, the voice of God the Father is heard.

A pretty awesome day for the apostles... which is why like little kids who don’t want to leave the amusement park after being their all day... Peter (who woke up by now to catch all that was happening) wants to set up camp and stay “lets build tents... let’s stay here...”

Yes, this has become truly a happy place for Jesus and the three disciples. Not just because of all these pretty amazing things that have just happened, but for the one absolutely essential thing. What God the Father says “This is my Chosen Son; listen to Him.”

Last weekend we talked about Jesus being tempted by the devil. And one of the things that Gospel ended with was the words that after Jesus had defeated the devil in those temptations, the Gospel said that “the devil...had departed from him for a time.” He’s not done with Jesus (or any of us for that matter) So as Jesus goes forward to Jerusalem, forward to complete what Moses and Elijah had laid the foundation for, the salvation of humanity by God, the devil is going to come back:

- in the rejection Jesus will experience by the world,

- rejection even by those who would cheer for him on Palm Sunday turning and saying “crucify him” a few days later.

- The devil would come back at Jesus as his closest followers desert him and even our “lets build a tent here Jesus” yes, the one who’s supposed to be the “rock of the Church” Peter would betray him.

- The devil would come back laughing as Jesus ends up suffering and dying a miserable death on the cross - all for following God the Father’s plan.

In all of that, Jesus would need this “happy place” to go to: The transfiguration - where Jesus heard his Father’s voice clearly tell him that no matter what he faced, no matter what the devil would try to do to thwart him and distract him - nothing would ever change that Jesus was His “chosen Son” as he experienced a glimpse of the glory that awaited him. Jesus would have this moment, this time, this happy place to go to in his heart and mind when he would need it the most.

As we continue in this season of Lent, the Church is focused on how each and every one of us from the Pope down to you and I need conversion. We need to look at our lives and keep looking at how the devil comes at us as we do the difficult work of turning away from the devil, turning away from our sins, turning away from the things that diminish us, and turning towards God so that He can change our hearts. That can be rough work, especially if we take it seriously and really want to become who it is God is calling us to be - his chosen sons and daughters. In the day to day battle of that, we can get down with ourselves that we still struggle with some of the same sins or even though we know better that we somehow we fall for the same temptations over and over again.

Tonight we have our Jersey Shore (sans snookie), our happy-place memory in this Gospel. Jesus takes us up the mountain to this place of Transfiguration. We are brought here, so that we too can “wake up” and remember why we enter into this difficult work. To catch a glimpse to see the hoped for promise of the fullness of Jesus’ glory which deep within our hearts we long for. God the Father promises it can be ours, if we keep focused on his son and “listen to him.”

YANKEES SPRING TRAINING (and ours too...)


HAPPY ASH WEDNESDAY! - Here's my homily for Ash Wednesday. I pray that you have a renewing Lent!

So - today - we’ve been hearing about it for a while now, lots of information, anticipation, for this very important day. Of course I mean the first day of Spring Training for the Yankees! With 27 world championships, the quest for #28 starts today! As pitchers and catchers arrive in Florida to begin weeks of training (I think the other teams are starting soon too - ha ha)

It’s funny, the first game of the regular season isn’t till April, but here we are in February and they are going to be doing drills, running, getting back into shape, practicing, playing. If you’re not a fan of the game, it probably seems a bit like overkill. But the reality of it is that in order for the players to be able to go out and play 162 games day after day - with the hopes of making it into the playoffs and world series (which can be another 17 games), that’s not something you can just grab a bat, a glove and go out to the ball park and do.

No with the World Series Trophy and ring in their minds as the symbols of what they wish to attain the Yankees go to Florida with dreams of another championship. The players will enter into this time of discipline and preparation - not to mention humility learning from the previous season’s failures and mishaps to build them into, what they hope will be a championship winning team once again.

Ironic that this should coincide with the Church’s first day of Spring Training. The original definition of the word LENT was simply Spring. And during these weeks, these 40 days before Easter, we focus on a symbol to focus on too - the ashen, dusty cross on our foreheads. Through our receiving those ashen crosses, we make a decision to enter into this Spring Training with the hopes that Jesus’ Christ’s victory on the Cross will be ours as well. That freed from sin, united with Him - life eternal (which is what we will celebrate on Easter Sunday) will be ours.

But we need to get back into shape. No matter where we are in our faith lives, each of us receives this invitation to train. And as that symbol of the cross is put on our foreheads we are given our charge - to “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” It is only in our turning away from the things that keep diminishing us, causing havoc in our relationships with God and one another and turning to the Lord, letting him strengthen us with his presence and action... We are given “drills” to help us do that - Prayer, Fasting, and almsgiving. For prayer, maybe that means I’m going to make it to Mass every Sunday - maybe I’m going to carve out some prayer time during my daily routine - maybe it’s been a long time since I went to confession and I want to be reconciled with God and the community. Fasting maybe it will be the traditional ideas of giving something up for Lent - or maybe fasting from the computer, texting, TV or the internet. In terms of Almsgiving - it doesn’t have to be simply giving money to those less fortunate - maybe I can give my time to my family or a friend or someone who could use my help. These are just a few ideas to help us get back into spiritual shape.

Most MLB players go into Spring Training with their eye on a World Series ring and the sound of the saying: “No pain, no gain." That holds true for our own spiritual program too. May you and I enter this Lent with our eyes and hearts fixed on the crown of victory that we hope to attain in heaven.

WHY EVERYTHING SUCKS


Hi everyone - here’s my homily for the SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - FEBRUARY 14, 2010. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/021410.shtml. Thanks for checking in, reading and your feedback... God Bless - Father Jim

HOMILY:

I’ve figured it out. I’ve figured it out. What? Everything - Why Everything STINKS
Actually, I haven’t come to that conclusion, that was Craig Ferguson, who among Jay Leno -David Letterman and Conan O Brien is probably “the forgotten” late night TV talk show host. (And he used another word that starts with “S” that I didn’t feel comfortable saying at Mass) A few months ago he began an opening monologue with those words. It generated so much interest, becoming a You-tube hit being seen by hundreds of thousands of people that it appeared as an “opinion” piece nationally in newspapers (which confused me how this comedic rant had now moved into the realm of an opinion...)
The jist of his argument, all done rather humorously, is that since the 1950's marketing people, television people realized that by marketing to young people they could achieve lifetime brand loyalty. But that resulted in what he calls a “deification of youth” in culture. One result is that we now prize “the young and the stupid” in a way no other culture has “in the history of the world.
What seemed interesting to me is that while he’s making this argument to an audience made up of the people he’s kind of categorizing as “young and stupid.” How can he get away with that (with an audience that was roaring in hysteria)? I think because while people might not agree with all of his arguments, they buy the premise.
That everything STINKS.
Just looking at our campus newspaper the other day Page one had a special report - the cafeteria STINKS, the arts building STINKS; the economy STINKS (for some reason it seems to be hitting Freshmen particularly bad).
We look at regular newspapers, it’s not that different: this past week - the weather STINKS the politicians STINK the economy STINKS
And in my own world, you know what STINKS? My iPhone. Yeah, there I’ve said it. I don’t know how many gigs it’s got 32, 64 - I don’t even know what gigs are, or why I need them. All I know is the Australian saleswomen was telling me how much I needed more Gigs and it was only $100 and all I know is that my apps don’t do half the stuff they show on those commercials and nearly every phone call, at some point in the conversation the phone cuts the conversation off. I’m sure the new iPhone or the iPad or the I-AM-INSANE-FOR-CONTINUING-TO-BUY-THESE-STUPID-THINGS will fix all that.
To be honest, I don’t really hate my iPhone. But you know it does let me down. It doesn’t live up to the hype. It doesn’t live up to the expectations I might have had for it. And when we think about it, that’s the thing that drives the “everything STINKS” mentality. We are constantly looking for the next best thing to improve what we already have. The next new thing that’s going to satisfy some other desire that we think is important (my life was so deprived before I could receive emails on my phone)
What is it that will make us happy? If tomorrow we woke up and the unemployment rate went down to 4% would we all of a sudden say “the economy doesn’t STINK anymore.” Funny thing, the unemployment rate was that low just about 4 years ago, and there were a lot of people who felt the economy STUNK back then. If the campus cafeteria offered Burger King, Pappa John’s and Taco Bell as the options of cuisine choice, I’m sure we’d find people saying the cafeteria STILL STINKS because they don’t offer McDonalds, Dominoes and KFC.
As we walk with our STINKY iphones on our crappy campuses in our crummy economy, this Gospel has Jesus meeting us, as we come from all the different places we come from. He looks us in the eyes (so you know it’s important)
And for as many times as we hear this sermon of his, for many of us, it doesn’t make sense. Jesus identifies all the people that for the most part we would identify as having LIVES THAT STINK and calls them blessed, and tells those of us who are pursuing non- crappy things WOE. Weird isn’t it? – the Poor - the Hungry - those who are Weeping - those Hated for His name – Not exactly the conditions we often associate with feeling like we’re “blessed” or feeling (as this gospel says in a different translation) “happy.”
One thing that’s important is clarifying what Jesus is not saying in this sermon:
- Jesus isn’t trying to pour sugar on top of bad situations “oh you’re poor, that’s okay, you’re blessed...” - that’s being insincere. If that were the case he wouldn’t hold up taking care of the poor as a thing disciples are called to do.
- Jesus isn’t trying to create a class warfare thing by saying yeah all those of you enjoying life right now, enjoy it while it lasts - your’s is coming, the poor are going to get even with you – that’s being uncharitable For a lot of people, that’s how they (mis) interpret this teaching of Jesus.
The sermon on the mount with it’s blessings and woes points out the opportunities and pitfalls that these different situations offer us. Because the reality is that no matter what kind of life we have, it can STINK; My iPhone, your cafeteria, this economy - it can all STINK because we think it should be better. And for those who are poor, hungry, weeping, yeah their lives STINK in many, many obvious ways.
The reason that the poor, hungry and weeping are blessed though is that when you have nothing else, the only thing you learn you can rely on is the Lord. You see his presence. You’re grateful for the many small blessings that you experience that he generously bestows. And you realize that - yes, these things are terrible, but I am blessed.
The reason that Jesus says the Woe-d are so woeful is that they are too distracted, too critical, too disappointed as they wait for the newest app to satisfy their unhappiness.
Jesus is trying to break through to us - telling us the key to our happiness:
Blessed are we because God’s love is not illustrated or demonstrated in the doling out of material possessions.
Blessed are we because God’s presence isn’t revealed simply in the miraculous but often times in the everyday encounters.
Blessed are we because God isn’t trying to win a popularity contest gaining throngs of adoring fans by giving them what they want - He is trying to win our heart by giving us all that we could ever need...
I’ve figured it out, I’ve figured it out...What? Everything... we can find everything we hope for, everything we need, if we are clear who it is we need to look to to supply it.

MALE PROSTITUTES, WHAT NEXT?



Hi everyone! Here’s my homily for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 7, 2010. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/020710.shtml. Thanks so much for reading and your feedback and comments! God Bless - Father Jim

The Women’s movement can celebrate another historic milestone. 90 years after the right for women to vote was (finally) corrected - among numerous other strides made to right different injustices and inequalities among the sexes, this news came out of Nevada over the last few weeks. Yes, another first in attempting to find balance of the sexes it was reported that we now have the nation’s first male prostitute (or perhaps, more accurate would be to say the first Legal male prostitute). It’s true, in the state where prostitution is legal, it’s hard to believe that it’s taken this long for a man to be given the same legal authority to do so.

I have to admit that I’m about ready to cancel my subscription to the New York Post which reported this story. It was bad enough a few weeks ago that the “escort” who’s “relationship” with the Former Governor of NY Eliot Spitzer (which resulted in his leaving office) began working as an advice columnist for the paper. Well this past week, in the “entertainment” section - you know the part of the newspaper that usually reviews upcoming Movies, TV shows, things that are going on in the city? Well this week there was a 3 page feature on Markus, a 25 year old, ex Marine who dropped out of a career in porn because he felt that was “degrading” to women who works at a brothel in Nevada as the first male hooker. So instead of reading a movie review, we got a detailed review of the (AHEM) date that this (AHEM) reporter had with him,

Oh don’t worry, the professional, journalistic standards remained intact as Mandy Stadtmiller, the reporter made it clear she didn’t sleep with him. The self-described desperate spinster, lonely divorcee, undercover reporter was going for investigative purposes only

The thing that’s shocking is how non-shocking this whole article seemed to be. While prostitution isn’t a new thing - people used to be embarrassed or ashamed by sins like this. Yet there seems to be an acceptance, even a sense of legitimacy that’s being attributed to this as the nation’s oldest newspaper does this expose with color pictures of the male hooker with his client who has legally paid for his services. It wasn’t even a news story reporting one of those “Bizarre but true” stories, but an actual review. I’m actually surprised they didn’t have a box with a ratings scale from 1 to 4 stars (or some other appropriate symbol??)

The whole thing — if you can’t tell by now – disturbed me on so many levels. Not just because it’s a glamorization of sin. But it showed the effect of sin on all of us. That many of us accept living lives that remain simply on the surface of things. From this reporter, and whatever other clients have hired this guy to those of us who read stories like this, or tune into equally messed up TV shows, movies. It seems that we constantly go for or accept the “least common denominator.” Brokenness and the exploitation of it for others entertainment seems to be the norm. Rather than go deep and deal with the causes of brokenness or loneliness, rather than dealing with how bad choices have resulted in widespread unhappiness, more and more it’s celebrated.

With so many around us who promote these bad choices – for example at the University I work, why would they chose to have a chaste loving relationship when our own health center on campus is giving you a condom – it’s hard not to be discouraged. It’s hard not to give in. It’s hard not to think it’s even possible to live any other way, and your portrayed as weird if you try to do so. Must be one of those crazy religious Catholics...

Why are we even here at Mass? When so many of your peers are planning nights out that would make that article seem tame by comparison, how do we deal with that? Why do we bother?

Because something in our heart

Something in our soul

Something deep within is calling– challenging us not to accept what the world considers “normal.” Something tells us not to buy into the depravity that spreads it’s sadness, emptiness and brokenness as it’s promoted and celebrated with a recklessness that can be breathtaking to those who try to live a virtuous life.

Tonight’s Gospel seems on the surface to be one of those miracle stories of Jesus. Yet looking at it closer, we can identify that “something:” the voice of Christ. And his voice is inviting us to a deeper relationship a more meaningful life than what appears before us. Because this isn’t just about fish. Let’s look at this story again - Peter and the others, they’ve been working all night. They’re tired. They hear Jesus, they see the crowds, and Jesus says to them - go back out go out deep. Go into deep waters.

You can almost hear what Peter is thinking in his mind: Why Lord? No offence, you’re great and all, but you’re a carpenter, what do you know about fish - you just don’t understand - nothing’s going to be different. This is it. Just tired disciples who have worked hard and come up empty nets.

But it is Jesus, so they relent. And what happens? They are blessed with such abundance they can’t contain it. They’re overwhelmed by it

This isn’t about fish... Jesus knows how empty our nets can be in life. And that we grow tired of struggling with the same sins. We can grow weary of even trying to muster the energy to do the absolute minimum. Maybe even coming to Mass on Sunday can be a big deal (it’s obviously not for a lot of your peers...) A few weeks ago when we were at the FOCUS conference, one of the themes built upon Pope Benedict’s words to young people where he said “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for Greatness...” I really have sat with that quote a lot and there’s such wisdom and Gospel truth in that.

It doesn’t have to be an extreme like a the gigolo who charges money to alleviate the obvious pain of a self-described desperate spinster, lonely divorcee, undercover reporter. It’s all of us.

All of us, like St. Peter, hear these calls to greatness from the Gospel.

All of us, like St. Peter, might have witnessed the miraculous abundance that can be ours.

All of us, like St. Peter, because we know our sin all too well - know how we are conflicted, and tempted, and struggle, and fail so much that part of us doesn’t even feel worthy to be in his presence.

Yes, as we see the abundant life that Jesus is inviting us to and know our sense of unworthiness, all of us can relate to St Peter, and can imagine making his words ours DEPART FROM ME LORD FOR I AM A SINFUL MAN.

We are willing to settle for the world’s comfort.

Yet Jesus isn’t giving up on us. Jesus sees our brokenness, sees our doubts and fears. Jesus looks at us with those eyes of Love and invites us to go out into deep waters with him. Away from the noise of the world with it’s screwed up messages. Away from the distractions that keep us trapped in thinking these promises of God’s favor are for someone holier than me... He says simple words directing us to a fuller existence and appreciation of who we are his brother’s and sisters, who we are as God’s sons and daughters... Jesus says to us do not be afraid... Will we join Peter and the others – truly leaving this world and its empty promises behind - leaving everything behind to follow him?