WHAT EVIDENCE DO YOU HAVE


Hi everyone! I hope you’re enjoying these last weeks of summer ! Here is my homily for the 21st  Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 25, 2013. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/080810.shtmlhttp://usccb.org/bible/readings/082513.cfm . Thanks as always for reading and for your feedback and comments - as well as sharing the blog with others - I appreciate it! God Bless- Father Jim

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HOMILY:
 
Evidence
Its that crucial factor sought in court trials, scientific experiments, medical theories... Its (hopefully) the thing that makes the difference between theories and the truth.    

Think back over the last few months we have heard stories of pretty high profile court room trials.  Probably the one that was the most intense and had nationwide attention was the trial of George Zimmerman over his shooting and killing Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager.  For the months leading up to this trial, people had heard bits and pieces of the story (from sources that could hardly be described as "neutral") that by the time the actual court case began, large numbers of people had already come to believe extremely different versions on what happened.  To some George Zimmerman was a guy who had wanted to be a cop, had volunteered for his neighborhood watch and found himself in a terrible chain of events where he ended up taking the life of a teenager walking home from a convenience store.  To others he was a bigoted person who had racially profiled this young man and killed him in cold blood.  The difference in the trial according to jurors who acquitted Zimmerman, was the  evidence - which when considered in its entirety told a different, more complex and less absolute story.  Yes it is still utterly tragic, still rightfully infuriating and still should cause us as a nation to ask some difficult questions and do some soul searching on a lot of controversial issues.  And its true no one but George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin will know exactly what happened that evening.  But if there's one thing people who were not in that courtroom should agree on is that we know a heck of a lot less than the jurors who spent days and weeks looking at and hearing all the evidence presented. 

Similarly every so often well hear a story that raises the hopes of millions that a cure for a disease is on the horizon.  Usually these stories are trumpeting a new theory, a new medicine that potentially can fight something that has been a scourge to countless millions of people and their families with the hopes of raising awareness (and funding) to see if those theories, those medicines actually work.   Those stories are exciting to hear.  Just the television commercial saying Coming up next at 11:00, is this the cure for cancer? is enough to keep many of us tuned in hopefully optimistic that this will be the great news weve been waiting for.  But the reality is that those claims are just that claims, theories, potential cures until we have the evidence to prove they actually work. 

Todays gospel asks us to consider a tough question.  What evidence could each and everyone of us present that shows we are Christian?    A lot of people probably answer it very quickly saying Sure I am citing  well I was Baptized; I went to Catholic School I go to Mass every Sunday.  Those are all important facts, and essential pieces for sure.  But looking at todays Gospel we hear thats not enough.   Because it starts off somewhat innocently enough as one of those in the crowd listening to Jesus asks a question that all humanity wants an answer to:  What do we have to do to have eternal life?  Someone asked him Lord will only a few people be saved? 

Jesus answer is disconcerting because its somewhat blunt:  He answered them Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.  Jesus goes on to cite people who might have this familiarity with him, who will not be saved We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets and he will say to you I do not know where you are from.  Depart from me you evil doers.

In short, its not enough for us just to be Baptized, attend Mass on a weekly basis and have some basic Christian knowledge.    Those things are essential to be sure, but too often we can think thats enough.   But on their own they are pieces of a story in a trial that might sound plausible or a scientific theory that sounds promising but without more evidence remain just those things stories theories.  To say we are Christian demands further evidence namely the ongoing, daily, lifelong response on our part of LISTENING to HIM; FOLLOWING HIM; LIVING OUR LIVES BASED ON HIM AND WHAT HE HAS TAUGHT US.

Thats why that line about STRIVING should really stand out in our hearts and minds We have to enter into the difficult spiritual battles dealing with temptations and resisting them.  We have to repent of our sins and failures trusting in Gods Mercy and resolving to strive to do better not to commit those same sins again.  We have to take seriously the commands of the Lord to take care of the poor, the sick, the helpless -  not because its just a nice thing to do, but because Christ told us thats one of our duties.  We have to be missionaries each and everyone of us proclaiming the Gospel both in word and deed.  When we strive to do those things as imperfectly but with all sincerity trying to do these things, its then that Gods mercy will make up for what is lacking and help us through that narrow gate.

May you and I never lose our eagerness to live for Jesus Christ to follow him wholeheartedly and amass irrefutable evidence of who we are and whose we are

AROD. - HOW'S THAT FOR BRINGING DIVISION?

Hi everyone.   Here's my homily for the 20 th Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 18, 2013.  The readings for today can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/081813.cfm .   Thanks as always for reading, sharing and your feedback!   God Bless, Fr Jim 

HOMILY:

Poor A-rod...

Two words I never imagined saying, but there we are.  Alex Rodriguez has been on both the front and back covers of every News tabloid, the subject of many articles in local papers, and the punch lines to late night comedians for as long as I can remember him first arriving in New York as a member of the Yankees.  But now more than ever as allegations emerged that he was found to once again have used illegal steroids the press has been even more vicious than usual.

In the interest of full disclosure, I can't say that I've been very sympathetic.  In fact those opening words of my homily are somewhat sarcastic.  But only somewhat.  Because when I separate the "Yankee fan" part of myself who is just disgusted by yet another over-paid; celebrity/athlete who seems to go around more interested in calling attention to himself than simply playing the game (for a ridiculous amount of money) there is a part of me that genuinely feels bad for the guy.  Just as a human being - to see your name in headlines mocking you.  To stand in your own stadium and wonder how many are booing and how many are cheering for you... Thats gotta be tough.

And the thing that has been somewhat bizarre to watch is how much division among fans and players has resulted over this one man.  In fact reporters were attempting to determine what percentage of fans at  a game are actually booing or cheering (no kidding, there was an article about that)  Players and coaches in press conferences go from saying what sounds like prepared talking points of support but at least body language wise it appears pretty half-hearted.  You get the sense, no matter whether you support him or can't stand the guy, that A-rod has caused great division.  He's even being blamed for the fact that the Yankees are in second to last place.  (Again, my own fan-dom causes me to go back and forth from agreeing with that to realizing that's a bit of a stretch)

A-rod seemed to be the most recent, high profile example I could think of in terms of a "divisive figure" (or at least the only one I was willing to use as an example!)   And just reflecting on this somewhat meaningless example (yes, even though I'm a yankee fan, I realize life will go on whether they are in first or last place at the end of the season... call that growth for me:) )  But just to recognize the extremes of feelings that people have in regards to this one person is interesting.  Imaging how players in the locker room must be frustrated by how distracting this is for the team, the game... We can go on and on exploring how destructive "division" can be just in this one instance.

Which is why when reading today's Gospel, it's so jarring to hear how Jesus talks about bringing division.  And not just among nameless, faceless groups of people that don't matter to us.  He talks about it in much more personal, direct, intimate terms -- FATHER against SON; MOTHER against DAUGHTER...  Using examples that touch on the closest relationships human beings experience.  Why would Jesus want that?  Why would we want to participate in that?  

The more I've reflected on it, the more I come to the realization that Jesus isn't saying every family will be torn apart because of Him, but he puts that dramatic example out there as a possibility.  Because what Jesus wants us to realize is that following Him, loving Him requires a complete and total choice on our parts that will ultimately separate us from those who don't follow Him.  There's no middle ground when it comes to being a follower of Jesus Christ.  

Because when we take into account the totality of his teachings - we realize he's more than just a great teacher we can pick and choose what to listen to.  As C.S. Lewis once said - either Jesus Christ is who he says He is, or he's simply a mad man, who got what he deserved (death on a cross) for claiming to be what he called himself the son of God.

And for those of us who do believe He is what He says He is... we have to realize that impacts all aspects of who we are, what we do.  Yes it does have to have an impact on the entertainment we allow to amuse ourselves.  Yes it does need to cause us to reflect on how we -- each of us individually -- take care of the poor, the needy, the sick.  Yes it does have to guide our daily relationships and interactions from our families to even those people I can't stand at work, or in the dorm or in the classroom...  Yes, it even has to impact my politics, who I vote for, how I get involved in the decisions that affect the community, the state, the country that I find myself in.

And those things can be, to put it mildly, extremely unpleasant.  But in order for Jesus to truly set the world "on fire" with the power that His Love holds within - the power to heal, and transform and reconcile and make new -- in order for that to happen Jesus can't tolerate (and doesn't expect his disciples to tolerate) things that temper that, diminish Him and His message, jeopardize His pathways of freedom and redemption.

The writer in the Second Reading of the Letter to the Hebrews recognized the depth of what Jesus is talking about, which is why his words to us are so important where he reminds us that we are to "rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us  while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus."

May you and I discover as we do just that not the pain of the division we experience with a world trying to tempt and sway us into being distracted from that singular focus, but the utter joy of being His, and His alone.


WHERE IS GOD WHEN YOUR COMPUTER BREAKS?


Hi everyone, hope you’re summer is going well! Here is my homily for August 4, 2013 -the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/080413.cfm Thanks for reading and all of your feedback! God Bless -
Fr. Jim

HOMILY:

I’ve had quite a love-hate relationship with electronic gadgets in my life. From my iPhone which I’ve talked about multiple times - to my computers. I’m not a complete idiot with computers, and I’m not a computer expert... I think I know just enough to mess them up, slow them down, and make them a big old mess. So a few years ago, my laptop of three years had slowed down so badly, the battery (that I had replaced) wouldn’t work right (the thing randomly would just go off, simply turn itself off whenever it wanted) - I realized I could take it to someone to try to fix it and tell me what was wrong (and probably charge me a ridiculous amount of money to do it) or put that ridiculous amount of money towards a new one. So I went to Dell, picked a laptop, upgraded every possible thing I could to make this thing launch rockets if I wanted (well maybe not, I still haven’t figured the whole system out yet)... Anyway, this thing is pretty intense - Gigs, chips, cards, you name it.

The thing is pretty cool. It’s fun to work on. I can do multiple tasks at once without it slowing any of them down (perfect for someone with ADHD) I can drag and move things all over my screen (still learning how to do all that too...) Pretty quickly I was able to take all of my documents, pictures, emails from the last 10 years on all different hard drives and stuff and get them on this new thing. It’s just incredible.

I only had the thing for a few months, and had been away for a couple of days and had brought my incredibly awesome super-powered-turbo PC Laptop with me. I Had packed it my book bag, which was convenient to carry it around in. And put it in the back of my Jeep. When I got home, I pulled up to the Newman Center and saw some garbage on the front lawn that I just had to pick up instead of unpack my stuff (remember ADHD). My friend opened the back of the jeep to grab his bag and my bookbag rolled out of the jeep right onto the pavement of the street. It was like a movie, I could see it in slow motion as I started to yell “NOOOOOO”.

I brought it inside and I’m praying, I’m actually praying “Oh please God, no, no, no” as I turned it on and discovered that yes, yes, yes the monitor was completely gone. I ran to Best Buy in a panic looking for the “Geeks” of their so-called “Geek Squad” “Mumbling to myself as I ran into the store Please God, Please God...” only to meet said geek who laughed and said “Nope, we can’t do anything with a Dell...” (How are they Geeks then? I mean aren’t they supposed to do anything?) Now I’m on the phone with Dell still mumbling prayers that they can tell me something to do instantly to fix it or somewhere I can take it that they will fix it in the next day - simply because everything I was working on and needed to work on was on this machine.

Needless to say, God did not answer my prayers that day. It would cost me over $500, it took close to 2 weeks to fix. I was aggravated with everyone - my friend who opened the back of my jeep (THE NERVE OF THE GUY) the geeks at the Geek Squad, the people on the phone at Dell who obviously didn’t realize the urgency of my emergency... Why oh Why God do you mock me!!!! And so ends another sad chapter in my life -vs- machines.

How stupid though. Not just me vs the machine (and packing it in a bookbag!), but even more, how stupid I was in allowing myself to become so reliant on the computer to the point that I wouldn’t say I was looking for some divine intervention - but I definitely wouldn’t have minded if there had been some! Which in hindsight is incredibly embarrassing. Of all the things to pray for - that I would, even momentarily be looking for my DELL TO BE HEALED! When I realize all the people who really need prayers, are hoping for divine intervention - well it’s embarrassing to me.

I guess that memory got triggered as I read this Gospel encounter about this one brother who feels he got the raw end of the deal with his brother and this inheritance. Obviously he recognizes Jesus as an authority and wants some justice, wants some divine intervention of some sort. (If Jesus couldn’t convince the other brother, maybe he could you know smite him or something?)

And not that the guy isn’t entitled to his fair deal. And not that Jesus isn’t concerned about a person who’s been mistreated by a relative either. The thing is, after all that Jesus had preached about... Last week teaching us how to pray with the Our Father... things that made the young man realize Jesus spoke with authority, Jesus was divine, the thing that concerned him - the thing that drove him to the front of the line to get a word with Jesus was something trivial as money.

What’s beautiful though is how Jesus handles the whole scene. He calls the man “friend.” And as a true friend he points out that this injustice that he’s rightfully upset about is taking up a little more room in his heart and mind than it blinded him from the absolute love of God in front of him. Jesus is kind of saying to him, “Of all the injustices that were going on in the world, this is the one you want to bring to me?”

For each of us today, the Gospel gives us an opportunity to do a pulse check on our spiritual lives. As we were coming to Mass today, getting up to come to Church - what were some of the intentions we had on our hearts and minds. For example, were we praying for that promotion or raise or to win that lotto which are all decent things, but maybe we’re forgetting how many people are unemployed and worried about where there next paycheck would be coming from and will they make ends meet?

It’s not that Jesus doesn’t want us to share with him all that’s going on in our lives, but it’s about priorities. Jesus is constantly reminding us how quickly life passes by. For some faster and sooner than ever expected. Keeping our eyes fixed on Him, loving Him, seeing Him in the world and those around us – we have countless opportunities to grow deeper in love with Him and be focused on spending eternity with Him and sharing this great news to the rest of the world. In the light of the promise of eternity, an inheritance, and even a broken laptop pales in comparison.