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.