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 email@example.com)
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
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?
Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 24, 2010. The readings for today’s Mass can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/nab/102410.shtml . Thanks as always for reading and your feedback. God Bless - Fr. Jim
So I had a revelation the other day. I think that I owe the kids of Jersey Shore an apology. I don’t know if I address it to- Snooki, Paulie D, Situation (comma The), et al. (Sorry, I don’t know the other cast members names, those are the only ones I’ve ever heard of) or what, but I’m serious. I know this probably sounds strange. I’ve never met these individuals. In fact, I’m pretty certain they would have no idea who I was at all. I have maybe seen 10 minutes total of their show on monitors at the gym or clips shown on other programs.
Yet, I hate their show. Now I don’t use that word “hate” loosely. But seriously, I get insane even seeing the title credits and hearing audio clips I love guidos. I realize that having just confessed that I’ve never really seen the show some of you might be thinking that’s “pretty closed-minded there father.” But you see, that 10 minutes was enough for me. I’ve been born and raised in New Jersey. Aside from my 4 years in college, I’ve lived my entire life in the Garden State. I love the Beaches of New Jersey, have talked about it being a piece of paradise to me. And I’m also about 90% Italian. All of that coupled with my despising MTV more and more for the havoc they wreaked on my generation and even worse, what they are doing to the kids the Lord has sent me to serve as their priest now... all adds up to me hating the show “Jersey Shore.” Because they play up every terrible stereotype one could ever conceive of New Jersey, people from New Jersey, Italians from New Jersey.
So let me be clear, I’m not apologizing for hating their show, or even hating the terrible behaviors and examples that are on that show. But I do feel that I owe the cast members an apology. Because I realize that anytime I saw one of their faces - whether it was a picture in the paper, or a clip on the news I had some pretty judgmental things in my heart and mind about them. Or, when I read that this one or that one was arrested, I kind of arrogantly thought (and probably said) something about not being shocked or surprised that such and such happened...
I allowed myself to be convinced by the lies of the evil one. The same one who has tempted those young people to treat sex as just a recreational activity that “EVERYONE DOES”; the same one who tells those cast members that the pain and emptiness they feel after they’ve done those things can be numbed by doing it some more or with drugs or alcohol; the same one who convinced these kids to do all this on television so that the whole world could revel in this destructive behavior... well, that same evil one helped turn me into having some feelings of moral superiority, arrogance and just really a lack of charity in my heart for these young people - who are only in their 20's don’t even realize how they will be forever branded by the antics on display right now. Like all sin - it doesn’t do any good for anyone. It doesn’t help me at all. It doesn’t help those cast members. God is not glorified at all.
It’s funny because I saw a picture of the cast on a billboard before going into a Holy Hour where I was reflecting on today’s readings, and it just hit me pretty hard. Think about what we just heard - In the first reading, the writer from the Book of Sirach states pretty upfront - “The Lord is a God of justice who knows no favorites.” God has no favorites. Each and every one of us is his creature. I heard the guy from “LifeTeen” Bible Geek Mark Hart say something along the lines “that God loves the Pope as much just as much as He loves the prostitute.” When we hear that, there’s a tendency to say, yeah I know we’re supposed to say that and all... but, come on????really????
Yet if we don’t believe that, what hope does any one of us ever have? Think about it. If we want to get into this moral superiority game or competition there’s two options - we’re either going to lose or just give up. There’s always going to be someone who’s just a little holier or got a better handle on one thing, or resists that temptation better. So if we live in competition with one another, we’re simply waiting to be one-upped by someone else (which results in us looking for ways to keep knocking everyone else down to size, looking for their flaws to feel better about ourselves) Or the other option, we’re just going to give up. If we fall for the lie that we’re all messed up, we’re all sinners and there’s nothing we can do about it, we remain stuck in this hopeless life and we completely forget who Jesus is and why He came to us.
Thankfully St. Paul is here to remind us... Hetells us in the reason for our Hope in the second reading. That the Lord wants to “rescue [us] from every evil threat and will bring [us] safe to his heavenly kingdom.” That’s the whole point for all of us trying to resist sin, trying to be holy. Because eventually we want to be with God forever. As we get distracted by the radiation glowing from our HD-televisions, we forget that it’s not about this world... It’s about wanting to be with God for all eternity.
Yet God doesn’t want us to simply wait for that to happen. He wants us to begin experience that now and help each other to get there. He wants us to experience that amazing love that imagined us into existence. Just think of that. You and I mean that much, matter that much to God that he imagined us into being. That God has dreams for you and I. And each of us and each of the dreams he has for us are so beautiful, so important to Him that not even our worst sins could ever wipe that away. We might make things unnecessarily harder for ourselves and it might take longer for those dreams to become realities, but he offers up His own Son to fill that gap between the life of sin we’re in and that new life in His Kingdom we want to enter into.
Which is why Jesus wants us to focus on that rather than on how we rank in relation to one another. The Pharisee gets so caught up with himself, that he ends up not praying to God. Oh he’s talking to God, but only to make sure God takes some time to worship him! He uses the word “I” 4 times and in those few short lines and it’s all about what he’s doing - “God I do this and I do that and I’m not anything like that guy over there.” God becomes an afterthought. He wants to make sure God was keeping acurate records to see how good he was and how messed up the other guy is.
On the flip side, the Tax collector never uses the word "I." He knows that he’s a sinner. He knows his life is a mess. He doesn’t need help from other pointing that out. He needs help getting out of that. He needs Mercy. He needs Forgiveness. He needs God and he knows that only way things are going to change in his life is by God showing him Mercy - By God working in his life. By the tax collector letting God be God and letting him into his heart and soul things can change for him.
We live in some pretty wacky times. We see sin celebrated, glamorized. And the thing is we have to remember that at it’s most basic level the goal of all sin is to turn people away from God. God desires that each and everyone of us will join us at his table. He loves Snookie, as much as he loves me and you. And my sins sadden Him as much as those that “The Situation”’s or anyone else’s does. Jesus is asking us to consider the possibilities if we stopped tearing one another down and instead began trying to help one another to truly live for Him now and desire only Him for all eternity. So my brothers and sisters from the Jersey Shore, I may not watch you on TV, but I’m praying... Praying that God will have Mercy on you, and me, and all of us, as sinners... knowing he does and truly desires to share that mercy with all those who call.
Hi everyone here’s my homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 17, 2010. The readings for today can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/101710.shtml . Thanks as always for reading and your feedback and comments. God Bless, Father Jim
A few weeks ago I went to my 15 year college reunion. It’s hard to believe it’s 15 years and it’s strange that as the years go by... you get so wrapped up in what you’re doing and where you’re at in your life right now, well, it’s not that you forget those days or those people, but they’re just not in apart of your everyday life anymore. What’s really amazing though with these reunions is that just going back, things kind of pick up right where you left off the last time you saw each other. It’s weird - a good weird...
All of a sudden, a flood of memories, stories that you just hadn’t thought about all in years – they come back like it was the first time you heard them. For me there was a lot of them ... but one that, I can’t believe I had forgotten was this just absolutely cringe-inducing, unforgettable story. Now that I remembered it, I haven’t stopped laughing about it, despite how incredibly awkward it was.
There was a group of us that were all good friends... we’d go out all the time, from dinner in the cafeteria to Sunday Night Mass together... They were just the go-to group of people for me. So this one day, my friend Janet said to me that she “liked” my friend Ted. (Not his real name in order to protect the guilty) Being Captain Oblivious I didn’t understand why she was telling me this - we’ll we all like each other... and then it was like “OH... OHHHH” OK - so Janet had a bit of a crush on Ted. I guess she was trying to feel me out about whether Ted liked her or what. But I suppose with my delayed response to begin with that she decided I wouldn’t be helpful to her “investigation.”
Which was probably smart on her part, because about three weeks later Janet got me aside alone one day and asked “Has Ted talked to you?” “Well yeah, Ted lives upstairs from me, I talk to him every day, why?” “NO - Has Ted talked to you about me?” “Janet, didn’t we just talk about this like a couple of weeks ago?” “Yeah, I know Jim...” then she kind of nervously laughed, so I realized something was up (remember, Captain Oblivious here) she continued “I kind of talked to Ted two weeks ago and told him that I liked him... and he said he liked me too, but then I said I was wondering if he wanted to start dating like boyfriend and girlfriend he said - OHHH, ‘can I think about it and get back to you?’ and he hasn’t said anything since.”
I know... and I thought I was Captain Oblivious. Long story short, I went upstairs and there was Ted watching TV and I just closed the door to his room and just said “I don’t believe you.” “WHAT?” (With an air of contempt) “You have a girl tell you that she likes you, asks you if you like her, asks you if you want to start to date, start going out together and you say ‘Can I think about it and get back to you?’ and don’t say a word about it for 2 weeks?” He got this awkward smile on his face, a nervous laugh and then confessed - I just don’t know what to say.
I can laugh about this story now, because Janet is happily married with two beautiful children, and we can relate to the awkwardness of not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings. But I remember when this happened after the initial hysterics at what a total boob Ted was, I really felt bad for Janet. And me and a couple of my friends really laid into Ted that he had to do the right thing and talk to her (even though by that point, Janet was pretty smart enough to figure out what Ted thought)
Because that’s an incredibly vulnerable thing for a person to say, vulnerable place for someone to be to express their hearts like that. Those are words that deserves better than “can I think about it and get back to you?” Oblivious or not, there was time spent together, things that were shared that led to her working up the confidence to say I like you -I care about you. That’s a risk someone takes to have it received or rejected. But it is a yes and no thing. It deserves the honesty of a yes or no response, even if it is the harder and difficult response.
That last line of today’s Gospel has been staying with me all week. Jesus asks a rhetorical question at the end of a somewhat intense Gospel passage. Remember when this scene occurs, Jesus is enroute to Jerusalem at this point in the Gospel where his Passion and Death await Him. Here He’s been preaching, teaching, healing along the way. He’s inspired people to follow Him. They’ve been listening to Him. They’ve been journeying with Him. Yet He wonders, after all that they’ve seen and heard, after all that he has given, after all that he is about to give - he asks that question where Jesus reveals a vulnerable heartfelt wondering – “when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?”
Jesus isn’t doubting his mission or what he’s doing here. But he knows that for this to be true love, it has to be a free choice. He needs to leave himself open to being accepted whole-heartedly or completely and utterly rejected. So perhaps he wonders - Will all that he has done and does for us be enough? Will we still be following, still be listening to His preaching and teaching that he continues to do through His Church? Will we still be walking the roads of our life’s journey’s looking to Jesus to lead us? Will he find us faithful?
Because the reality is that Jesus continues to make himself incredibly vulnerable to us. He offers us a dynamic intimacy that can only come from someone giving their entire self to us. It’s hard to fully grasp or appreciate that kind of love when you really think about it. We might be able to have glimpses of that in the selfless love we experience from families, parents, siblings, grandparents or good, true, sincere friends... But even those examples pale in comparison to consider the wonderful mystery of trying to grasp how much our God loves us. Yet Jesus’ love is that profound that he doesn’t simply give some simple, single expression. He continues to offer us His very self that he offers freely, right here, right now as we share His Word, as we dare to come forward and take his Body and Blood.
He asks... Do you love me? When I return, despite the ups and downs of life - the trials, the struggles you face, will this complete and total gift of myself be enough? Will I find faith on earth? Will I find you?
Sadly there are many who say No. There are some who refuse to try to break out of lives of sin. There are some who put their trust solely in themselves or in other things... Some will reject the love of Christ by trying to make Jesus conform to their lives rather than allowing their lives to be challenged by Christ and trying to conform to His Gospel message. There are some who say Yes, who strive for holiness, who aren’t perfect, but are able to recognize that when they get knocked down by temptation and sin, they don’t allow themselves to stay there - they get up, go to confession, they, as Jesus encourages them in the Gospel today – persevere each day, to make some changes in their lives and keep moving forward trying to live that Yes to Christ’s love each day and experience the fullness of life He’s calling them to.
But there’s no middle ground here. We can’t be faithful and unfaithful... We can’t be a disciple of Jesus Christ and follow someone else as well. This is an either-or decision not a both-and that we need to make each and every day... As He looks out at us, Jesus is wondering- Do you love me; He asks “When I return, will I find any faith?” Jesus puts himself in this vulnerable place, hoping that His love will be received and returned in our genuine and sincere efforts each day to try to follow him. But he leaves it solely as a choice we have to make. No one will force us one way or the other it’s our decision. But such a question, such a decision also deserves a better response than “Can I think about it and get back to you.”
Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the 28th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - OCTOBER 10, 2010 given at Montclair State University’s Newman Catholic Center. The readings for today’s Mass can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/101010.shtml
Fr. Jim Chern
Can you believe that the prime-time cartoon show “The Simpsons” has been on for over 20 years? The reality that this show premiered when I was in high school and yet high school kids today are still watching “new episodes” about the dysfunctional Simpson family of Bart, Homer, Marge, Lisa and Maggie is kind of surprising. Maybe at the age of 36 I’m becoming an old crumugin because the show doesn’t seem to be “as good as it used to be.” A re-run from one of the first 8 seasons I can sit back and crack up at still - but some of these newer episodes, I can’t even really sit through... I get bored too easily (and I doubt that’s because I’ve matured a great deal).
One of my favorite episodes, which thanks to Wikipedia, I learned is one of the highest rated episodes in the shows 20 year run, and was on a top 100 list of greatest TV episodes, comes from the show’s second season called “Bart Gets an F.” The episode sets up what a terrible student Bart is. In Mrs. Krabappel’s 4th grade class, Bart is called on to give his book report on Treasure Island which is obvious to everyone he hasn’t read. (He simply looks at the cover, tries to make up the plot and then says “I won’t spoil the ending for you... but give it a 9 out of 10 stars!”) Mrs. Krabappel keeps Bart after class and points out that his grades are steadily falling grades and reminds him about the major history test the next day. After dodging taking the test with fake illnesses, then attempting to cheat, Bart eventually fails that test. Things have gone from bad to worse, so now under Mrs. Krabappel’s recommendation, Homer and Marge visit with the school psychiatrist Dr. Pryor to discuss what to do with Bart’s declining grades. Dr. Pryor suggests that Bart be held back to the 4th grade again. At hearing this Bart tells everyone he will do better and he promises to pass the 4th grade. While Bart makes some improvements in his academics, eventually it comes down to this last big test. That night before going to bed and after studying, Bart still realizes that as much as he’s tried, as much as he’s made some strides, he still feels he hasn’t done enough to pass the test. Lisa watches, as he offers up a prayer to God that goes:
Well, old-timer, I guess this is the end of the road. I know I haven't always been a good kid, but if I have to go to school tomorrow, I'll fail the test and be held back. I just need one more day to study, Lord. I need your help. His sister Lisa, spying on Bart from the hallway observes: Prayer - The last refuge of a scoundrel. Bart continues in his pleading to God laying out options: A teachers' strike, a power failure, a blizzard. Anything that'll cancel school tomorrow. I know it's asking a lot, but if anyone can do it, You can. Thanking You in advance, Your pal, Bart Simpson
It’s almost every kid’s dream come true (mind you for you younger people, this was before the internet and 3,000,000 channels, so we couldn’t watch storm trackers and get instant updates about possible weather alerts) The scene ends with flurries start to fall on the Simpson’s house at nighttime. The next morning Marge wakes up Bart, and shows him all the snow that has fallen. The family huddles around the radio in the kitchen listening to business and school closings. Bart and Homer do a dance when they hear the power plant and the school are closed. Bart throws on his snow gear, grabs a sled, and heads outside, but Lisa blocks the door tells him she heard his prayer and says I’m no theologian. I don’t claim to know who or what God is. All I know is he’s a force more powerful than Mom and Dad put together. And you owe him big time.
What is the point of prayer? Does the appearance of our wishes being answered mean that God has heard our cry, changed the cosmos over all the other prayers and intentions of the day to give us what we want, hoping that we will love him, serve him, be devoted to him more? As a Yankee fan, I know that there are some who think this team is truly blessed (or has made a deal with the evil one, depending upon your fan-perspective) but does God really operate that way to change the course of events to make sure that one ball goes over the wall, to get the home run, to win the game, so they advance to the next round of the playoffs?
Interesting questions that Saints and theologians give a lot of different answers to. Can God do those things, yes... Would He? Does He? Why would He? Hmmm... Not so simply answered.
But what’s more interesting, or rather what’s more important than getting stuck in those philosophical/theological debates is - what about us? What is the point of prayer for us? Is God just some magic genie in the sky that we try to placate, manipulate things out of for our own well-being (and if it helps someone else out too, that’s great...) For 9 out of 10 of the lepers in today’s Gospel, it kind of appears that way. . Jesus encounters these 10 lepers. Just a refresher on leprosy - it was an incurable disease... to this day, it can be prevented and controlled but it cannot be cured. It causes loss of sensation, paralysis and it’s just pretty gross. Because of all that and the fear that it was highly contagious, lepers were cast out of the society. Sent to live apart in a colony of people with the same ailment. So now not only were they sick, in pain, afraid... they were also incredibly alone.
Jesus is walking by this day... He’s not just out for a stroll by the way - he’s on his way to Jerusalem (and we all know what’s about to go on there) Even though he’s got his passion and death on his mind, Jesus remains other-focused, selfless. He hears the cries of these lepers. He hears their prayer – JESUS MASTER HAVE PITY ON US... Jesus simply tells them “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they’re walking, as they’re on their way, they’re healed. (One Gospel commentator made an interesting point on this - Miracles don’t necessarily have to be big, dramatic moments that stand out like a burning bush or walking on water. God’s intervention in our lives often happens simply as we’re living our lives)
Perhaps it was the less than dramatic way that it happened that 9 of them, surely relieved of their suffering, didn’t reflect on the cause of their healing. Only the one comes back to Jesus. Only one comes back in worship and awe. Only one comes back to say “Thank You.” And in that, the one out of the ten underlines that this Gospel is more than just about good manners (as if Mom and Dad needed to explain to you “When someone cures you of leprosy, you say Thank You.”) - Jesus encountering the one who has returned a second time to give thanks explains - You’re faith has saved you.
Prayer is meant to open us up, Prayer is meant to change us, not simply in giving us what we want - but recognizing that God truly supplies us with all that we could ever need. Prayer isn’t about getting that A on that test or that Home run in the world series or even working a miracle cure to a deadly, painful disease - rather it’s about recognizing how God is that loving, that attentive to all that we struggle with, all that we are, all that we hope to be... He sees us beyond this moment, this day, this problem, this struggle and sees the potential, the possibilities, the beautiful creation that He has made each of us to be.
For Bart Simpson, realizing that God has listened and responded to his prayers, that made him resist that temptation to play in the snow, study like he never studied before, and scrape through getting a D on his test, barely getting him to pass the 4th Grade. For us, it’s not so easy or cut and dry as a 30 minute sitcom would convey.
Jesus tells us that Yes, He hears our prayers, he answers them in His own way, in His own time... all with the hopes that we will truly find and discover how He is actively listening and responding to us always. May we be like the one leper, who once he realizes what God has done for him couldn’t continue to live life “as usual,” and find no better response than to return in worship, in awe, in thanksgiving to Him.
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
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.