JESUS - MORE THAN A MIRACLE BARTENDER

Hi everyone - here’s my homily for the SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - January 19, 2013.  The readings for today can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/012013.cfm .  Thanks for reading, sharing and your feedback... Thanks and God Bless - Fr. Jim

HOMILY:

    Here’s a gospel story that I’m sure a lot of people are thinking “Now we’re talking!”  We don’t have a gospel where we feel challenged by something.  Or calling us out on things.  No we hear the story of what happened at the Wedding of Cana, and think – yeah... that’s pretty cool.  It’s pretty cool because we hear Jesus doing his first recorded miracle and what makes it even cooler ---- is that miracle involves Alcohol.  Nice, huh?  Not to take away from those other miracles, you know, the ones were Jesus cures someone of a life-threatening illness that isolated the person from the rest of the community or even when Jesus raised someone from the dead... because those are pretty cool - no those are beyond cool.  Those in many people’s minds are THE DEFINITION of miracles.

    This story, is pretty cool because we have Jesus at this major party; this wedding.  And in those days, there was no honeymoon (no Carnival Cruise ships or Perillo tours yet) so this was the honeymoon.  It’s something the whole town was at, was looking forward to - there wasn’t a lot of joyful celebrations for the people of Cana in the 1st Century - things were kind of bleak, so this was a major deal. Jesus and his disciples are there enjoying the party - which is pretty cool in itself, isn’t it?  He’s just there, celebrating- eating, (oooh) drinking, maybe even singing or dancing.  Just another guest having a great time with everyone else.  And before you know it -there’s panic at the disco -  there’s a major crisis.  Everyone getting food sick?  No- the crisis?- they’ve run out of wine. 

    Now part of me thinks that only my beloved college students would see a crisis with running out of alcohol at a party.    For most of us - well I probably should take myself out of that - for a lot of people, okay, they’d see running out of alcohol at a party as embarrassing, but... they probably think “what’s the big deal?”   BUT - Back then it WAS a pretty big deal.  The whole festive atmosphere that had been there would have ended.  It would have been last call right as the celebration was starting.  For the newlyweds, their moment of joy and excitement and happiness would have turned to embarrassment and even shame as the guests - their friends, relatives and neighbors kind of looked at each other and said “well... I guess that’s it... I guess we should just go home...”

    Because many of us have heard the story before, we kind of imagine that Mary is basically going to Jesus and expecting him to make some wine.  I kind of imagine this like when you there’s some kid at a party that can I don’t know - maybe sing really well and their incredibly, almost obsessively proud mother is there going up to their son or daughter saying “look the entertainment didn’t show up, you go up and sing...”  The kid is like “Oh mom...” and the mom just turning to the guests and saying “don’t worry everybody, wait till you hear my child how they can sing.  Go ahead SING.”  So, if you’re like me, and you have that in your head - you kind of see Mary saying to the wedding guests “no wine?  — don’t worry wait till you see what MY SON CAN DO - Go ahead Jesus...”

    Go ahead and do what? 

    I think we can let this story get away from us a bit.  We kind of assume that Mary is going to Jesus simply because they are out of wine and she wants him to be like some magical-wine distributor.  But Mary is not just this proud mother looking to show off her son, expecting Jesus to fix this wine shortage.   That kind of diminishes their relationship.   She is going to Jesus because she loves and cares for the newlywed couple, for the guests, for all the people there.  She sees what’s happened, she knows how these things can go.   That, sadly, guests – even family and friends, can be judgmental –gossipy (did you hear what happened at that wedding last week???).  And this day for this newlywed couple which should be a happy day can quickly be ruined.    But what does she expect Jesus to do?  Remember, he hasn’t done any miracle before, so who knows what she was hoping that Jesus could do:  Maybe she imagined Jesus would speak a word to the crowds that would diminish the embarrassment people felt.  Maybe she thought Jesus could talk to people to get some wine there quickly.  It was obvious by the fact that Jesus already had “disciples” following him - that his words, his presence alone could do a lot.   She probably couldn’t even begin to imagine of what could he do, but she knew in her heart she had to go to Him.

    She simply tells of her concern, points out what has happened to the one person she trusts and loves the most.  She tells Jesus the thing troubling her heart.  “They have no wine.”  In that short statement, all of the concerns were revealed.   Jesus’ response to her “Woman, how does your concern affect me?”  My hour has not yet come” isn’t a rebuff or rejection like an embarrassed child who’s been put in the spotlight by a talent-show mom.  Jesus is drawing attention that Mary the mother is also Mary the disciple. – The disciple simply trusts Him.  And so Mary says the words of the perfect disciple.  She says to the stewards at the wedding the words that we need to bold or underline or  highlight:  DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU.  Because this miraculous story, this first of Jesus’ miracles tells us that GOD IS ABLE TO WORK MIRACLES WHEN WE DO WHATEVER HE TELLS US.

    We all want miracles.  Think of the minor, trivial ones we often think we want “Oh it will be a miracle of I get a parking space,” A snow day when I have a test I’m not prepared for... - yeah, things that in the grand scheme of things are incredibly trivial.  Especially when faced with real moments of trial, real moments of crisis, real moments of desperation.  Someone loses their job, someone is seriously sick... a relationship is hitting a real rough patch and neither person is sure what’s going to happen.  We find ourselves praying for miracles, real miracles then.  And like Mary we don’t even really know what to pray for, do we?

    But whether it’s something thats catastrophic, or something that has been weighing on our hearts and minds for a long time – in all cases, Mary’s example and this gospel tells us it’s not about us going to God with our list of demands looking for answers to a specific problem that we want fixed in a specific way.   The Miracle of Cana isn’t just about a party where Jesus becomes possibly the greatest guest ever invited (making over 100 gallons of choice wine).

    More than a party trick, or a pretty cool miracle, Jesus promises us that he is an active listener to our prayers.  He cares what it is that troubles our hearts, that concerns us.  If we can imagine that His ways can be better than our ways;  If we enter into our prayer not as saying to Jesus here’s my list of problems - fix them; If rather than just opening our mouths to talk - we can open our hearts and ears to listen, we will be surprised at how often God is able to work miracles in our day in our lives when we do whatever he tells us.

MESSY ROOMS AND SURPRISE GUESTS...


Merry Christmas – well for one more day in the Church at least! Today we celebrate the FEAST OF THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD – the liturgical end of the Christmas Season (yeah, I know some of you purists out there will argue it’s the Presentation of the Lord… for me, when the liturgical color goes back to green, it’s over – and if you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t worry about it…) The readings can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/011313.cfm here’s my homily for today… Thanks for reading and your comments and feedback –



So you get a phone call - it’s your Mom, or your Dad or maybe its your grandma or grandpa - whoever it is - someone who’s important to you. They’re all excited because their schedule has cleared, they have a free afternoon and they want to stop by to see you.

Uh Oh...

Not that you’re not happy to see them. It’s just that - well, you’re home, your apartment, your room (your bathroom) it’s not exactly clean... Yeah that vacuuming you put off, the recycling that needed to go out that’s been piling up - the laundry basket with clothes unfolded, the bed that’s unmade. Yeah, the place is far from “presentable”. And so you try to do whatever you can to postpone the visit or come up with alternate plans, “Why don’t we meet at the diner, my treat!” - anything so this guest won’t see your mess.

Even if the person is someone we love and who loves us, for the most part we’re embarrassed for them to see things in such a disheveled shape. We don’t want people to enter into our less-than-perfect environments.

Today’s Gospel and this feast of the Baptism of the Lord is a somewhat confusing one for many people. We have to remember that the baptism being described here wasn’t the sacrament we received when we came into the Church. It was John the Baptist’s baptism of repentance. It was John’s way of saying to people, “Look, someone important is coming to visit you- coming to stay with you - coming to your place, your home - so you might want to get things in order - straighten some things out - get right to receive this important guest.” And so he offers them this baptism of water as he calls it - a cleansing ritual meant to challenge his listeners to turn away from their sins to change their lives.

What is more confusing to us is who comes right on the scene. Who drops by among the crowds? Who is there on line with everyone else (and not cutting in front)? Jesus comes and is part of the line of people to be baptized, even though he doesn’t need it. The voice of God is heard identifying the special guest, “YOU ARE MY BELOVED SON IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED.” That’s one way God the Father kind of said Jesus didn’t need this baptism.

So what’s the point? It was Jesus’ way of expressing the loving way he wished to rule God’s Kingdom. Jesus would not be scandalized by the sins that needed to be forgiven. Jesus would not be looking at the crowds with disgust for the messes they had in their lives. He would get in line with them - raising the dignity of what they were doing. Telling them far from being failures, in their willingness to acknowledge their messes and desiring to turn away from them - the prospect that they too could become God’s beloved sons and daughters was in their reach.

If we think about it, it seems that throughout the Church year there’s always this constant call to conversion, to repentance, to turn our lives around - over and over. We hear it in Advent as a call to “prepare the way of the Lord.” We hear it in Lent as we reflect on the incredible mercy of God and how through Jesus’ passion and death we have been forgiven and saved from our sins and the death they would otherwise cause. That’s done on purpose because we are in constant need of conversion. Jesus comes to us daily - not to judge us or condemn us but to raise us to the dignity of being God’s beloved son s and daughters. He knocks on the doors of our hearts wanting to come in, not just to visit but to make a home there.

Are we too embarrassed or ashamed to let him in because we don’t want him to see the messes that are there? Let's listen to John's message and start 'preparing', start getting ready for Christ to enter into our (often unruly) lives - and, knowing that he loves us as we are even as he calls us to greater perfection - stand back and let him do the rest.

WORDS TO MY FELLOW "SEEKERS"

Well, there's a reason there hasn't been any updates since last night... 

I've been fighting a Sinus Infection/Upper Respiratory Infection since mid December.  As of New Years Eve, I was still 50/50  about whether I was going to SEEK.  (Had to switch antibiotics three different times, and was just still under the weather)  I felt good enough Tuesday to go - and attempted to "pace" myself.   But the reality is, it's a bit of a Marathon - from the 23 hour bus trip down, to basically running non-stop once your there.  There's talks, Masses, confessions going on all over the place.  There's students you're trying to touch base with and see and hear what they're seeing and hearing.  It's all great stuff, but it's hardly a Vacation in Disney...

In any event, last night -- the night after we had 4 and a half hours of confession ending after 1 am (and not sleeping great/getting up at 7 am to start the day again) -- I got zero sleep.  I had some adverse reaction to one of the meds I had.  So by 5 am, I was just concerned that another day with the final talks, Mass and then another 23 hours in a bus might not be the best thing for me.  Fortunately I was able to get a flight out of Orlando and got back early this afternoon.  So I'm sitting here semi-conscious in Montclair - while my beloved "kids" are just at the early part of their journey home.

So I ask you to keep them in your prayers for a safe (and preferably uneventful journey - unlike the trip down!)   I know they are in good hands with the FOCUS missionaries on board both buses (and am most appreciative to Chris, Anna, Mike, and Ania for all their tremendous work leading up to and through the entire conference)

More importantly though: 
To all the students who went - one of the things I was going to say to you as we travelled home was how proud I am of you.  That you took the chance, took a sincere "leap of faith" to open your hearts and minds to something that the Lord was inviting you to experience.  

And what was it you experienced?  Perhaps it was the first time you've been to confession in years.  Or maybe adoration and Mass with 6000 of your peers was just overwhelming.  Maybe a talk challenged you to look at "the consensus of modern culture" and see the lies that they propagate to lead people further away from Christ.  

Whatever it was, my prayer on this Day of Epiphany, is that all of you will follow the example of the Wise Men in today's Gospel.  We read in the Gospel that they too took a leap of faith.  Seeing that distant light of Christ, attracted and excited by it, they went to see and experience Him for themselves.   And once experiencing it, departed for their country by another way.  They couldn't go back the same way they had come.

That's the true test of having an authentic encounter with Jesus Christ - that once we've seen Him and Experienced Him, we too can never come back the same.  I look forward to see how that will manifest itself in your lives and on this campus that you are now commissioned to cast His light onto.

IT IS GOOD TO PRAISE THE LORD

To conclude our last evening here at SEEK 2013, Catholic-Christian musician Matt Maher gave a concert to the 6000+ students in attendance.  Here was his finale a take on a Jewish hymn based on Psalm 92 - It is good to Praise the Lord


AMERICAS TOP MODEL UPGRADES TO ROYALTY

OK -so quick confession... I didn't really know who tonight's Keynote Speaker was (side note - she later said that those who didn't possibly had more brain cells than those who did because that meant we weren't watching AMERICAS NEXT TOP MODEL) but wow... what a testimony.

Leah Darrow gained media attention as a contestant on that infamous "reality show."    And in an incredibly moving address where she was so incredibly real, vulnerable, and honest in sharing how far she had moved away from God, away from the Church, away from all that her family had taught her.  Instead she found herself in a world that was very empty, destructive and promising her greater fame, greater recognition if she just kept along that path. 

Of the memorable comments she shared was that people go around with the hashtag YOLO (you only live once) and she said "that's crap... you only die once.  we live every day."  And then she challenged these 6000 to not go down the path that she was on, but to recognize that God has created each of us for greatness.  And that we are to live each day like that.  Because, as she said "I'm a Princess... If Jesus is King of Kings, If He's my King - than I'm His princess... and that means I'm to be a humble, loving servant." 

There was a description going into the talk ever head of the prodigal son?  I'm his sister -- yeah... that about said it all.  Truly a moving and griping witness of God's love and mercy. 

And now we await Matt Maher's Concert tonight

SUNNY OUTSIDE, SHINING INSIDE

Its hard to believe we're down to our last 24 hours in Orlando!  What a whirlwind it's been.  Fortunately we were able round up most of our group for some pics in this beautiful 73 degree Sunny Afternoon.  Not that we were outside for long.  The "impact sessions" start this afternoon and the biggest challenge for the group was deciding between all the great different talks available which ones they wanted to go to (fortunately, they can buy downloads for all of them). 

Last night was truly an amazing and special evening.  The ballrooms were prepared for Eucharistic Adoration, where Jesus Christ, truly present in the Eucharist -- the consecrated host -- is adored, praised and worshipped with songs, silence...  While that was happening, over 150 of us priests heard confessions.  I have to see if I can find pictures of the lines, since I couldn't even get out of my seat to stretch for 10 seconds for over 4 and half hours.  All the while you could hear thousands of the young men and women singing "O COME LET US ADORE HIM" as the Eucharist was processed around the ballrooms.  It's always immensely humbling to hear these confessions.  To see how the Lord is calling out to these beautiful young people to become their best selves - to see them moving away from fear and towards the source of Love that is Jesus Christ to do that and not to be weighed down by whatever obstacles had crept into their lives...  It's just inspiring.  And considering the extremes that they're faced with, the opposition - not just from peers, but their families and culture overall that constantly bombards them with lies.  Telling them to settle.  Telling them to look for satisfaction and fulfillment in things designed to entrap them, discourage them,...  To see so many of them taking initial steps to turn away from that - it's just a beautiful gift as a priest to be able to be an instrument of God's Mercy and to walk with them as they strive to live as Christ is calling them to.  Yes it's sunny outside, but there's a much more brilliant light shining inside each of these people.  Pray that it continues to burn and radiate, not just for the ride home and our return to campus, but always....

The morning concluded the three Men and Women's talks which, speaking for the men, was really challenging and well received.  Dr. Jonathan Reyes this morning laid out the differences between being a boy and a man and asked them  how will they live as Christian Men.

Tonight we're excited for the Keynote by Leah Darrow followed by the concert with Matt Maher. 


FINE DINING - JERSEY STYLE


Sorry for the lack of updates today...  The internet connection has been slow, and things have been crazily busy.  The students have been running all over this vast resort from one convention hall to the other for a variety of talks.  There's about 8 options for each "impact session" with topics like "Zombie Apocalypse"; "Satan has a plan for your life"; "Why do women do that?  What chick Flicks and Love Songs have to do with Chastity (For Men Only)" (which was one of my favorite talks...)

Anyway, gotta run for tonights impact session before Adoration and Confessions Begin tonight.  Pray for our students.  It's such an awesome experience seeing thousands of kids waiting in line for Confession as they adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Oh, and in true Jersey Fashion, the students gathered for "dinner" tonight.  We had to make due eating in front of an escalator on the floor without plates or napkins over 20 Pappa John's Pizza's...  If people didn't know we were from Jersey before, they certainly did after :)



ITS NOT TO EARLY...YOU'RE NOT TOO YOUNG

So tonight we got to hear from a "guru."  One of FORBES Magazine top 10 gurus you should know -- NY Times Best Selling Author of Five Dysfunctions of a Team.  Not the usual speakers we've gotten accustomed to hearing at this National Conferences.  Sounds like the type of guy that you'd likely hear at a Wall Street corporate "retreat" or something.

But this successful man, who imparted practical, solid, "life" advice that would be helpful to anyone - atheist or believer - it was his personal testimony that was amazing.

He for years and years he would pray "GOD IF ONLY THIS HAPPENS... [insert wish] I'LL BE HAPPY."  That blank was filled with all kind of things:  getting into the college he wanted; getting thru that college; marrying the girl he loved; praying for his son's health (when a brain tumor was forming); to writing a book; to wanting that book to be a best seller...

As each of those "wishes" was fulfilled, he found there was always something else coming up.

It wasn't until 5 years ago, being on stage at Radio City Music Hall; giving a speech to a room of titans of industry who had heard from former Presidents and people from all walks of life -- and being told that his speech was the highest reviewed of them all -- that he said he realized how absolutely empty he felt.  He shared that he walked out of Radio City, two blocks away, went to St. Patricks Cathedral and knelt and realized an essential truth that he pleaded with these 20 somethings to hear and realize it's not too early... you're not too young to take to heart that --

If you're not seeking, living for God and Him alone; you will never find Peace.

And the way to start to do that, he suggested is pray that the Lord will crush your pride -- the root of all sin.  His testimony and witness was an incredible revelation.  This wasn't a priest or religious person, but a man who had been there and lived it... Whether the 6000+ remember each aspect of his story -- the joy in his voice sharing how he discovering this truth is something I'm sure few will ever forget.

Especially as he prayed "don't wait 20 years from now to discover what I learned at the age of 42."  And very movingly as he concluded "the world can be a difficult place to live and work in... seeing all of you these last few days though, you give me great hope.  Realizing that if the 6000 of you make that choice to live for God and seeking Him First how you can save our world."

May we all take those words to heart.

A NON-JERSEY BOARDWALK?

While SEEK 2013 is similar to other FOCUS conferences we've attended in that they're PACKED with amazing speakers, beautiful liturgies, break out sessions, opportunities for confession or to go to Adoration... there's also been time for the students to get to know each other and make new friends, or strengthen bonds in an intentional, authentic, Christ centered way.  Here are students from MSU and Kean on a dinner break enjoying the "Disney Boardwalk".  It ain't like a boardwalk in New Jersey... but its doubtful any one could compare with those.

But that's not a diss at Disney.   Especially considering the place we're staying at is pretty epic...  Tonight there's the Keynote Address from Pat Lencioni addressing "Living in the Dark:  Living a Christian Life in a Secular World."  Followed by an opportunity for the students to learn how to Swing Dance and go to a "Roarin '20's Party.  It's doubtful their chaplain will see them at that.



A great way to start the day

Today is the feast ofTHE MOST HOLY NAME OF JESUS. When you think of how often His name is profaned or invoked in ways far from prayerful (especially on our campuses) hearing 6000 + singing "Jesus, Lamb of God worthy is your name" at Mass is a beautiful alternative.

After mass guys and gals have split to different sessions. So we're waiting the man talk. Glastonbury see all the men of MSU awake and alert.

HAPPINESS VS PLEASURE

So we are at the end of a rather long day (or is it two) here in Orlando, Florida.  We stepped off the bus at 3PM, Mass was at 5 PM (and with over 6000 people attending, communion took about 30 minutes) and then the first talk was at  7 PM.

Our MC for SEEK is none other than Chris Stefanik, who gave a memorable day long lenten retreat last year at MSU.  Chris introduced the first Keynote address speaker -- international Catholic evangelist Matthew Kelly (author of Rediscovering Catholicism)

Matthew's main thrust was to encourage us to note the difference between Happiness and Pleasure.  He said that often times, especially in this day age, people confuse the two and see them as meaning the same thing.  But as he differentiated them:

Pleasure can not be sustained beyond the activity producing it...  For example, eating is a pleasurable activity that ceases to be when we finish eating.  And because we enjoy eating, that's one reason we can over indulge, over eat way after our hungers have been satisfied.

Happiness is different...Happiness can be sustained. And God the Father created us for happiness.  That's where our choices come into play.  We have to make decisions and "right order" our desires our pleasures (or they can easily become disordered)

Then he made a really profound observation:  He said Great thinkers and great cultures ask how's the best way to live?  Our culture doesnt do that at all. Our culture is more interested in defending self expression rather than producing selves worth being expressed.

With this as the "opening night", it's shaping up to be a pretty phenomenal week.  Keep praying for all of us as we promise to do for you.

Now, finally off to bed!



First keynote: MATTHEW KELLY

So 6000 + getting excited for first keynote and the MSU crew crazily flying their new Class I flag inside the hall







Welcome to SEEK 2013.


So - 23 hours, 930 some odd miles... months of fundraising, planning, preparing and the MSU crew, along with our friends from Ramapo, Kean, Stevens, Farleigh Dickinson, Drew and Felician College -- some 100 strong (over 60 from Montclair) just pulled into Orlando Florida for 5 days 4 nights of SEEK 2013.

A friend of mine emailed me and said - But what is it?  I guess I forget that not everyone knows what this is all about. 

SEEK is a conference sponsored by FOCUS (The Felloship of Catholic University Students) where college students from around the country -- this year 6000 strong -- all come together for 5 days and 4 nights for a major gathering.  There are huge liturgies, confessions offered all the time, talks, concerts, entertainment.  This year's theme WHAT MOVES YOU - is based on Matthew 7:7 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  As Curtis Martin, President and Founder of FOCUS explains it Together we are SEEKing to discover who we are, where we are going and what motivates us.  Every one of us is here for a different reason.  Our circumstances and relationships with our Lord are not the same, and His message is always very personal and specific to each of us.  

Pray for each of us that we may have hearts and minds open to hearing that message - knowing that we are praying for our campuses, our families and supporters in a very intentional way.

Keep checking here, I'll try to post updates as I can.  (and thanks for all the prayers for a safe journey here... it wasn't pretty... not by a long shot... but we made it :) )

We're here

23 hrs 933 miles. Thanks be to God were here

Rise and shine

Well that's a misleading title because that makes it sound like we slept. We tried, but... well... Between alternate routes and random stops our journey has taken, it hasn't been the most conducive to sleep. Anyway we're about 5 1/2 hours away -nearing savannah Georgia. I don't dare take a pic of the happy campers so here's the gas station were stopped at

"Little rascals"

Last trip to orlando the low point was transformers 2. This time it's little rascals. Not sure which is worse. Both movies ruined great classic shows from my childhood.

Hello Delaware.

Why does the song "millions of miles till I sleep" keep coming to mind

On the road

And we're off! 100+ students on 2 buses have just left MSU for Orlando FL Only 22 hours to go !!

They're here.

All 100+ waiting for the bus

All packed up...

Well all packed. Heading up to the busses for our 22 hr trip to #SEEK2013