IS JESUS A BOB MARLEY FAN?

Hi everyone - here is my homily for the 8th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - FEBRUARY 27, 2011. The readings for the Mass that this homily is based on can be found here. As always, I appreciate your feedback and comments. God Bless - Fr. Jim


HOMILY::


All week, I couldn’t get a song out of my head... I’d be in the Chapel, making a Holy Hour, reading this Gospel. Well I have to back it up and explain how I pray and make a Holy Hour. When I start, I try to enter into the prayer imaging spending time with Jesus, one on one, talking with my closest, best of friends in a real, meaningful conversation. So for that to work, (and this is true for everyone of us, if you’ve never done it before, try it sometime) you have to make that a setting, a place that you would do that with a close friend. So if you’re into fishing, maybe you imagine you’re fishing, in a boat with Jesus just talking and listening to him (Jesus seemed to like doing that too, so it’s not a bad idea) Or if you like hiking, imagine doing that with Jesus and in your imagination, have a hike where you’re spending time with Jesus. I’m not into fishing and don’t hike much, so for me, I usually imagine sitting at a bar with my friend Jesus. It’s always a nice place - there’s just two bar stools there. He’s always there waiting for me. He’s got a great pint of beer in a frosted glass waiting for me (which changes by season - usually this time of year it’s a Pale Ale or Guiness - summer it’s a lighter brew). He always puts it on his tab...that’s where I meet Jesus in my prayer. Once I have that setting in my mind, I read the Gospel and let Jesus talk to me.

So this week It’s like He decided to order a Corona for me this week, at a bar which was one of those beach front bars (he gets to choose which bar we meet at)... And maybe he had the jukebox on or something. All I know is that every time I entered into prayer with this Gospel, the song I had in my head was “Don’t worry about a thing... cause every little thing gonna be alright... “ Who knew Jesus was a Bob Marley fan?

I’m serious. It was kind of funny and frustrating. I finally had to download it (LEGALLY) on iTunes. First Bob Marley song I bought... thanks Lord... I’m sure many of you have heard that song before I butchered it. It’s a type of song that you don’t really think about how it starts or ends... if Marley were alive, he could probably keep playing the instrumental and singing the chorus over and over for half an hour and people wouldn’t get bored. People just move along to the song... And why not? It’s not just a great song with a great beat- it’s a great thought. We all have things that we worry about. We all know it’s not good for us to worry. We all try to put it out of our heads. But simply telling you “don’t worry” about whatever it is we’re worried about, is kind of like saying “don’t think about a pig.” Now that I’ve said a pig - You’re all thinking of pigs right now, aren’t you? You can’t help it.

So we hear don’t worry – don’t worry about what? Don’t worry about that relative who’s seriously sick. Don’t be upset about that relative who just died. Don’t be anxious about your job, or that your parents are going through a difficult time, your relationship that’s hit a rough patch or don’t think about whether you’re going to be able to afford college next semester (whether you’re going to pass your classes this semester)... don’t worry about a thing... this is my message to you-ou-ou... If you had somehow been able to put those things out of your mind for a moment, well you’re probably saying - thanks Fr. Jim... oh and you missed a few others...

We’re all filled with things that worry us. It’s nice that Jesus tells us “not to” - but how?

About two weeks ago, the FOCUS missionaries sponsored a movie night, and we watched this film called The Human Experience. On top of the Bob Marley song, that movie, particularly this scene where they were able to go interview people in Ghana who were dying with AIDS has not left my mind or heart. Here these people are in poverty. Knowing what they are facing. Still in terrible pain. Waiting for drugs to arrive or death to come - not knowing what will come first. You would think that with all of those realities surrounding them, it would be a sad, frightening place. But the film makers go there and are invited to ask the patients what they need, how do they deal with these realities, what is their message to us? The first woman said that all she wants, all she needs is to be a person with a bold heart so that she can do anything to help others. Another man said to them Every day I wake up I thank God - waking up means He has something to do for me. And the third woman who was asked what words would she like to leave with her children, just so confidently, genuinely, sincerely said “To trust in God... To observe the rules of God. To walk according to what God has said– God will let you prosper in all that you are doing... That is the only thing I want to tell them.”

I cannot put myself in their shoes, or imagine their situation (and to even attempt too seems disrespectful to me). But I know how I deal with far less worrisome and troubling things. And why this has stayed with me is because it’s so humbling to see the absolute faith and trust that these people have. They’re not blind to the realities around them. They’ve seen hundreds of their loved ones, friends and neighbors perish from that same illness. But they truly believe what Jesus is telling them in today’s Gospel. They haven’t trusted in the things of this world. They haven’t been corrupted by “mammon” or money or whatever it is that we try to fill the God shaped holes in our hearts with everything but God. And so because their faith in Jesus is based on this real, life-giving relationship with Him, as they face some dark nights... in their times of fear and terror, when they have that feeling of being alone... they know Jesus has not abandoned them. They know he is with them and that he desires their fullness, their happiness. That His Love for them will never – never be defeated by any of the evils and pains and struggles they face. So yes, they have a lot that they struggle with and face some incredibly scary things that justifiably would make any of us worry or anxious. But what you heard was their faith that has given them the strength to face it.

Mother Teresa explained why there’s such a difference in our cultures. She said "The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty -- it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There's a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God."

Until you and I recognize what we truly are hungering for, starving for, we will continue to be filled with fear. Until we stop seeking fulfillment in things... then these words from Jesus won’t resonate in our lives and won’t be able to heal us. Because until we truly let God be God and trust Him to do what He says He will do, the anxiety, the doubt and fear will always be there. We’ll hear these words, or hear the lyrics, hum and sing along to the song - BUT once it does end, WE'LL find we’re still left with much worry, because - WITHOUT GOD - everything is not alright.

Yet think of the tremendous opportunity we have. We don’t even have to wait to imagine our alone, one on one time in a bar or wherever we want to imagine meeting Jesus. He is here - right here, right now in this Word. And in the Eucharist, he will become really present, body, blood, soul and divinity with the invitation for us to receive Him - to let Him in. With Him abiding with us and within us, then we can finally believe that ... every little thing is going to be alright.

CALLING TO A HIGHER STANDARD

MARK 10: 1-12: Jesus came into the district of Judea and across the Jordan.
Again crowds gathered around him and, as was his custom,
he again taught them.
The Pharisees approached him and asked,
“Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”
They were testing him.
He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?”
They replied,
“Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce
and dismiss her.”
But Jesus told them,
“Because of the hardness of your hearts
he wrote you this commandment.
But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.
So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate.”
In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this.He said to them,
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery against her;
and if she divorces her husband and marries another,
she commits adultery.”

Today’s Gospel struck me in a interesting way in light of the long debate back and forth on facebook and my blog regarding Lila Rose and the people from Live Action and their tactics in exposing Planned Parenthood’s illegal, criminal actions (on top of the horrific evils we already knew they committed in the killing of innocent babies in the womb)

Reading today’s Gospel, we see this is more than just a question on marriage and divorce. The Pharisees were trying to set Jesus up. Did he really know the law? Did he know what Moses had said, what had been accepted and allowed? Jesus’ response shows that yes, he knew all the technicalities that had crept in - but why was that? Jesus is blunt - that was a result of “the hardness of your hearts...” Jesus who has come to redeem, to sanctify what has been corrupted by sin, comes to do that for every aspect of God’s creation...including the law. He’s bringing the law to it’s original intention, it’s fullness.

And what does that fullness look like - that fullness is found in the Law of Love. Which is what we’ve been hearing the last two Sundays at Mass in the Gospels. For example, the command not to commit murder isn’t limited solely to the physical destruction of another life - the law of love includes the destruction of ones reputation through our gossip and talking behind someone’s back. In today’s Gospel, that point is reiterated by pointing out that, yes, you can find instances where divorce is “permissible,” but Jesus is asking, "Is that really a good thing?" While divorce may, under certain limited conditions may be permitted, does it reflect the perfection of heaven?

Jesus is pretty definitive in his answer. While many things might be permissible, or we can argue some justification for them, not all of them show the perfection of love that God desires. As Catholic-Christians, Jesus calls us to walk the “narrow road,” to try to achieve that perfection, as difficult as that may be. Despite how often we fail in our attempts at it (which is why he is generous in his loving forgiveness) that doesn’t mean we stop trying to achieve that. To strive for that higher standard.

So to bring this back to the current debate, Lila and her colleagues at Live Action readily describe their tactics as “lying” as a means to expose even more evil actions of Planned Parenthood: One might find comfort in certain scriptural quotes as justification for those actions, but I can’t imagine that we will see an end to the horrendous evil of abortion, will only happen through the power of Jesus Christ, coming through faithfulness to the Gospel of Life, and our striving to live by that harder, higher standard that the Gospel calls us to.

A FURTHER WORD ON LILA ROSE/LIVE ACTION TO MY CATHOLC-CHRISTIAN PRO-LIFE FRIENDS

A FURTHER WORD...

I must admit I was a bit surprised by the number of responses to my post about Lila Rose and her tactics with Live Action. I appreciate some of the counter-points and reactions or statements from a variety of different sources.

Some have been sadly uncharitable. I say sadly not because I was hurt, offended and cried myself to sleep over them (I’m a big boy, been a priest 12 years and have heard worse). It’s sad because some responses were filled with vitriol, anger and questioned my fidelity to the Church, my obedience to the Church, my holiness - in short my priesthood. For those who so questioned, you can rest assured, “My offences truly I know them; my sin is always before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned; what is evil in your sight I have done” (Psalm 51)

I know that I do not hold a Moral Theology degree, nor do I work full time as a Professional, Full-Time Pro-Life Advocate. I am a Priest of Jesus Christ who works full-time at trying to be obedient to my calling. Right now, the Lord has me working full-time as a Campus-Minister. And the reasoning for me even bringing up Lila Rose was in response to some of what they heard and questioned at a recent conference we attended.

All that being said, a few people’s responses have caught my attention in this debate on Lila Rose and I just offer a few thoughts:

1- “What would Jesus Do”: I am sorry if you disagree with me on this, but I find it hard to imagine that our Lord would use methods of deception in order to call someone to conversion, to call someone to the truth. Look at all His encounters with “sinners” – well that’s all of humanity, let me be more specific - with people entrapped in lives of sin.

He being Fully Divine and Fully Human obviously he has a vision and a wisdom beyond our understanding. But you never see him going up to the tax collector and trying to “cut a deal” with him to point out how the tax collector is sinning and then calling him to conversion. He doesn’t proposition a prostitute in order to certify she is a prostitute, condemn her for her sinfulness and then call her to change her life.

People were attracted to Jesus because they were attracted, hungering, longing for the truth which he enfleshed.

For those of us wishing to see an end to the evil curse of Abortion, and call upon Jesus to help bring that curse to an end, I just don’t see doing anything that, at a minimum, is questionable is a way that will bring it about, or something that “Jesus would do.”

2 - The many different arguments from a variety of respected, distinguished theologians and philosophers offer thought-provoking arguments. But, as we often find in heated arguments, we can simply read those sides that we agree with. There’s just as many arguments from just as distinguished theologians and philosophers offering contrary, thought-provoking arguments.

My discomfort remains after reading many different thoughts on this. Many of the arguments offered seem to me to be looking for loopholes to some basic, central teachings of the Church from Scripture and tradition.

Examples that are being cited seem to me to be incorrect or applied wrongly in these instances. Again, people are free to argue differently on that. But the fact that there’s such a difference of opinion and lack of unity from Pro-Lifers, Catholic Theologians, Philosophers should give us pause before full-heartedly embracing what Lila Rose and Live Action is doing as “God’s work.”


This November I will turn 38. The year I was conceived and born was the first year that abortion was legalized in the United States. So I have lived my entire life under this dark cloud of sin that has skewered and altered our generation in countless diabolical ways. I would hope that as we continue to debate the best way we can bring Christ’s light and love to this plague, knowing that it is Him alone who is victorious over sin and death...that we can proceed in a respectful manner.

May we never forget that those of us committed to the Gospel of Life are united against the destruction and slaughter of millions of innocents. May our love for Jesus Christ, for life, and one another guide us.

TO ALL CATHOLIC CHRISTIANS REGARDING LILA ROSE

There's been a lot said about Lila Rose who has been doing "sting" operations to expose Planned Parenthood's illegal, hideous activities (other than the ones we already knew about). I've really been concerned as more and more students seem enamored by her tactics.

While I appreciate her passionate defense of the most defenseless, as Catholics we need to be very cautious about using evil means (in this case, Lying) to conquer an even greater evil (Abortion)

Could not put this better:

From: http://newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com/2011/02/lying-to-planned-parenthood-or-is-it.html



After thirty-eight years of terrible struggle, there is a danger of despair. Individuals in the pro-life movement may be tempted to lose hope, to think that (without radical actions) abortion will never end. This seems to be at the root of the “sting” operations – no longer content to use the normal and morally acceptable means which God has provided, certain pro-life workers are taking things into their own hands and even attempting to justify objectively sinful actions for the sake of some greater good.



But we must remember that the victory of the Culture of Life is not essentially something within human powers. Death has reigned on earth since the Fall, and it is only conquered through the God-Man, Jesus Christ. He alone will win the victory for Life, he alone will overcome death in the world. It is Christ who will defeat Planned Parenthood, we can only participate in his work. But, Christ is the Truth – and, if we act against the Truth, we act against Christ. If we live not in the Truth, we are no longer pro-life workers, but have already begun to participate in the culture of death.

What's even sadder to me is that this has brought division to pro-lifers (those supporting Lila and those who don't). Isn't such division among such a united group just one more sign of the presence of evil?

O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU?

Hi everyone - here’s my homily for the 5th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - Feb 6, 2011. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/020611.shtml . Thanks as always for reading! (Happy Super Bowl...Go Green Bay)
Fr. Jim

HOMILY:

So this guy, named Gary Nisbet works as a furniture delivery man at a store in this small town in Maine. The business kept doing well, growing to the point that the number of deliveries increased, so much so the store needed to hire additional help. So they put out some advertisements announcing they had a position open. After the applications and interviews were completed, the owners of the “Dow Sleep Company” hired a guy named Randy Joubert.

Randy and Gary start making deliveries and working together on a daily basis. Pretty quickly, people started are asking them if they were related. Which looking at the guys was understandable. They were only about a year apart in terms of their ages, they both had fair hair, wore glasses. They both had stocky builds and both happened to have goatees... Wearing a baseball cap only added to their similarities.

Some months later, after the two had been working together day in and day out, one afternoon Randy said “Gary, I’m going to ask you a strange question: Are you adopted?’” Gary gave him a strange look and answered, yes, he was adopted. Randy then asked if Gary had ever learned his biological parents’ names. Gary said yes he had through a court request. When Randy recited the couple’s names - Gary was kind of shocked and a bit freaked out and asked “Randy, how did you know that?’” Then Randy added one last detail - asking if his birth day was June 10, 1974, which confirmed he had found his long-lost brother.

The two had been separated after Gary’s birth when their parents decided they couldn’t afford to raise both kids and gave the younger one up for adoption. And yet somehow the two of them ended up working in some little tiny town on the coast of Maine. The odds that somehow they would not just bump into each other after 35 years apart..but wind up working together side by side for days and weeks, only to discover they were long-lost brothers seems astronomical, don’t they?

You have to wonder after the surprise wore off, how they felt, or what types of questions they had. Particularly when they realized that they actually grew up in neighboring towns, going to rival high schools. (Some adoption agency, huh?) Reading the story, I couldn’t imagine, what they must have gone through in this unexpected reunion. For all that time, all those years, only a few miles apart and these two men never knew their brother was so close.

More than likely this Gospel passage is a familiar one. Unlike some of the parables or teachings of Jesus that need some historical context or explanation, Jesus’ choice of imagery thousands of years later - even in our modern world which is concerned about high-sodium diets and light pollution - is easy to understand and relate to. Salt and Light are things that transform things dramatically, almost instantly. A sprinkle of salt can alter the taste immediately. A flick of a switch and you go from stumbling in a room to seeing every hazard or obstacle in your way. Salt and Light are powerful things.

So when Jesus charges us to be “salt” of the earth and “light” of the world – he’s telling us that, yes, it is possible for us to transform the tastelessness and blandness of indifference; reminding us that he’s gifted us with the ability to take his light and eradicate the darkness of sin and evil in the world.

We hear those hope filled visions from scripture and want to believe them. But the challenges seem so huge. The lists of people, places that need the salt and light of Christ seems to grow day by day. Homelessness and starvation isn’t relegated to some distant far off country - it’s right here in our midst, in our cities (on our own campus)... The attacks on the dignity of every human life from abortions that continue to legally kill millions, to the bullying that is done which has the potential to kill a person’s image of themselves... Wars continue to rage. Sickness and disease continue to afflict and diminish people. Thinking of all of those things – and countless other examples that could easily be added to our list – when we hear Jesus telling us that through Him we can eradicate all of those things – it sounds too good to be true. But if we believe in Jesus... if we trust in Jesus... we know he’s not lying to us... we know he’s not setting us up for failure. So how come it seems we seem stuck in the same spot?

Which is what brought that story of Gary and Randy to mind It seems impossible to try to imagine yourself going through that discovery or trying to relate to what they experienced in learning they’re long lost brother was so close and in fact they were working together. But in a way, it’s might not be too hard to imagine or relate to after all. At our Baptisms, we became brothers and sisters with Jesus Christ and one another. Yet, doesn’t that reality seem hidden? Like the two men unknowingly being brothers, we might see some things that make us appear like we’re related. We see each other wearing a crucifix, or a cross. On Ash Wednesday it seems even easier to see those Christian similarities as we’re all marked on our foreheads. Even as we gather here week after week. We can get into a routine and know the prayers and responses - know each other, see each other at school, work, we may even be friends with one another and go so far as knowing each others name at the Sign of Peace.

But do we really acknowledge Jesus as our brother? Do we recognize him in one another and see each other as Brothers and Sisters in Christ? Because in order for us to make Jesus’ vision a reality, the “salting” and “enlightening” has to start here. Among ourselves. Seeing ourselves, treating each other as brothers and sisters. Caring about each others physical, emotional, spiritual needs in the day to day - rather than just fulfilling an obligation here at Mass and then not even acknowledging each other as you’re walking on campus [or cutting each other off in the parking lot racing for the exit]. It means we have to love enough to do that uncomfortable task and reach out and invite our “siblings” who aren’t here with us to come back.

Unlike Gary and Randy, the blindness to our siblings among us isn’t because we never knew they existed while living so close. It’s often a result of our choosing to be blind to them and our responsibilities to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Unless that changes, we cannot “salten” or “lighten” anything. The flavor and brightness of Jesus will continue to remain a hoped for vision to a world that has waited too long already.