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
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.
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
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?
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!
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.”
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.
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."