THANKSGIVING DISASTER AVERTED - NOW FOR AN ETERNAL ONE...

Hi everyone, hope that you all had a blessed Thanksgiving and Happy New Year!  That's right, tonight the Church begins it's new "Liturgical Year" with this season of ADVENT.  Here is my homily for the FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT -November  30, 2014.  The readings can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/113014.cfm.  Thanks as always for reading this blog, sharing it and your feedback.

As Christmas preparations begin to hit a fever pitch, could I ask you to consider a gift to our Newman Center in our Christmas Appeal?  We conduct these fundraising appeals only twice a year to help our mission of bringing Christ to our students and campus - and your generosity is greatly appreciated.  Read more at www.MSUNEWMAN.com.  Many thanks for your support and consideration.


HOMILY:


A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine called and asked "what are you and your family doing for Thanksgiving." Even through the phone I could hear his shock when I told him I was hosting my family.  Quite simply, he knows me well enough that cooking a "Hot Pocket" can be a bit of a challenge at times and that my improvisation in the kitchen could include me trying to google if there’s a way to cook a Turkey on a George Forman grill.  At any rate, I quickly confessed that I had planned to order everything pre-cooked from a local supermarket. About a week and a half ago, I ran over there to put the order in. I never realized how complicated even ordering a meal could be.  Do you want an organic-antibiotic free bird that’s been brined? (What? Ah, yeah, that sounds fine...) What sides do you want. You need to order 2lb minimum per side (okay is 2lbs of mashed potatoes enough for 6 adults and 3 kids?)

I was getting antsy just making these choices but it seemed like it was going okay. Then the lady asked me "Father, when do you want to pick this up? Wednesday night? Because Thursday from 6- 8 in the Morning it’s going to be a mob scene here..." I thought for a second - I didn’t want to get everything the night before and then have it sit till the next day - I mean, again, I’m not a cook, how would I fix it all so that it still tasted fresh from the oven/stove overnight? So I said "well what’s the latest I can come and pick it all up?" She said "well I’m not sure how late the store is open till, but our department will only be here till around noon" - so I said "Okay, how’s 11:00 on Thanksgiving?" She stopped and said "Well, yeah, we can have it ready for you then." Perfect... I thought. Then she asked a strange question "What time are you having everyone for dinner" - I’m not paranoid or anything but was thinking why is she asking that, is she looking for an invite or something? But I let that random thought fly out of my head and just responded "1:30/2:00" She then said "you do know that you have to cook the Turkey..."

Uh.... what?

And then she pointed to the text just above all the different bird options that clearly said "OVEN READY TURKEY" - meaning they have it all set for you to cook. "OH NO - NO NO NO" - "Father it’s really not that hard..." as she pulled out the directions. After I explained this was definitely not going to be my year to experiment cooking a Thanksgiving Dinner and that if need be I would go to Boston Market, buy a bunch of there rotiserre Chickens and pass it off as Turkey, she came up with another Turkey option which didn’t involve cooking the bird.

In a lot of ways I’m extremely grateful that she pressed me on the details. The fact that I hadn’t really paid close enough attention to something clearly stated right in front of me could’ve resulted in a lot of anxiety, frustration, embarrassment on Thanksgiving. (I’m imagining that I would’ve decided to double the temperature of the oven to cook the bird in record time) If not for this stranger’s care and concern, Thanksgiving dinner could’ve been a bit of a disaster.

In tonight’s Gospel, we hear words of care and concern - not from a stranger, but rather the one who knows us most intimately: Jesus Christ. And he’s offering this very short, somewhat abrupt little parable to help us avoid not some kitchen nightmare but a real, eternal disaster for us individually. 

Are we prepared for the day when we meet Jesus Christ face to face? We don’t know if that will be at the end of the world (whose date is a mystery that only God himself knows) or our own "end" (whose date is also a mystery that only God himself knows). But in either case, this Gospel opens up a new year in the Church - a new season in the Church called "Advent." It’s hard with Black-Friday, Cyber Monday and all the other Christmas commercialization for us not to apply that here as well. Advent isn’t meant to be the pre-Christmas season in Church...  True, Advent will (the last week of the season) recall the anticipation of the world at the first coming of Christ at the first Christmas.  But Advent means a lot more than that. At it’s core, Advent is about welcoming Christ not just back then- but knowing and anticipating his return at the end... and the best way to do that; to be prepared for that is to welcoming him here and now. 

That’s why this brief Gospel parable of the master of the house, Jesus gives us the perfect summary of what Advent is about. Waiting.... Watchfulness... Readiness.

Jesus calls us to realize our responsibilities in the present as we dare to look forward to the promise of the future. As many times as we’ve heard similar messages, we realize we can sometimes miss by obliviously moving through, thinking everything’s fine, we’ve got it covered, we’ve got plenty of time to get all that we need to do.

But Jesus reminds us that we simply don’t know how much time we have.  And the preparations we need to undertake really vary from person to person - because it’s not holiday preparations like gift buying, sending cards or even cooking a Turkey.   Things like Love and Compassion... Forgiveness and Healing given to and received from those around us... yeah that’s hard, difficult work, without real time-tables attached to each of those things. Jesus tells us to watch and not be found asleep. It's easy to fall asleep when surrounded by blessings, like a turkey dinner. Life can get so comfortable that we can nod off. But in doing so, we are missing the brunt of what is needed; we need to be aware and ready.

But here’s the thing, Advent isn’t meant to add stress to our already stress filled lives. We’re not to anxiously run through all those things in a mad dash to check them off our list, but rather to reflect, and confront with the preciousness and fragileness of our lives what choices, what values, what beliefs are important enough to LIVE for.  Because in the end, life is a constant Advent experience:
the world is not as just,
not as loving,
not as whole as we know it can and should be;

we are constantly waiting to become,
to discover,
to understand,
to change,
to complete,
to fulfill.

Hope, struggle, fear, expectation and fulfillment are all part of life's Advent. The coming of Christ and his presence among us -- as one of us now -- gives us reason to live in hope:
that light will shatter the darkness,
that we can be liberated from our fears and prejudices,
that we are never alone or abandoned by our merciful Father in heaven.

He walks with us through the advent opportunities He gives to prepare ourselves for His return. What a great day of celebration and feasting that will be!

WELL THAT SHOULD BE OBVIOUS





Hi everyone, here's my homily for the feast of OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE - Sunday, November 22, 2014. The readings for today's Mass can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/112314.cfm .  Thanks as always for reading, commenting, and sharing this blog on Twitter, Facebook and Reddit... and for your comments and feedback.  Thanks and God Bless - Fr. Jim

HOMILY:
For you listeners of Lino Rulli’s "The Catholic Guy Show" this would be a perfect story for his "What’s up with that segment" that he plays when I’m on the air, coming from NBC News:
A Southern California man’s job prospects are not looking good after he allegedly stabbed the boss during an interview Monday afternoon. El Cajon police say the applicant, Jose Lopez, showed up drunk to a job interview at 207 South Sunshine Avenue. When the business owner smelled alcohol on Lopez’s breath, he confronted the interviewee about it. In turn, Lopez became angry and then got physical, police say. A fight ensued, but when the boss got the upper hand and put the suspect in a headlock, Lopez stabbed him in the arm, according to investigators. Lopez then ran off, leaving behind one very important piece of evidence: his job application. When El Cajon police officers responded, the victim showed them the paper that listed the suspect’s name, which they used to find his address. They arrested Lopez in his home later that day. He has since been booked into San Diego County Jail on charges of assault with a deadly weapon. The victim was taken to Sharp Memorial Hospital for a minor stab wound. The El Cajon business will undoubtedly be taking more applications.

Do people really need a reminder that when going on a job interview that you shouldn’t show up drunk, stab the potential employer – and then leave the completed application (with your name and address) behind for the police? You would think that such things we would know instinctively. Those are things that you shouldn’t have to be taught in a career counseling course or a suggestion posted on Monster.com.  It’s basic common sense.  But evidently, we as human beings still need reminders of even obvious things. (Today’s Public Service Announcement: Don’t touch a boiling pot of water with your bare hands... it will burn) Really? When reading the warnings on appliances, it's really comical how specific they are in the "do nots" they list. Perhaps the legal system has something to do with this.

In reading today’s Gospel, aren't the points that Jesus is making somewhat obvious? As we celebrate this feast of "Christ the King," we hear very familiar directives.  His expectations of us as members of his Kingdom seem fairly obvious: Take care of the poor, the sick, the stranger, the imprisoned – even people who don’t identify themselves as Christian will often characterize those actions as a "Christian" thing to do.  And when we’re found not doing these things, not doing what Jesus expects us to, just look at how quickly some individuals (rightly by the way) will point out the hypocrisy when someone claims to be a devout Christian and ignores the poor or takes care of themselves to a luxurious extreme. 

On the flip side, and from a more positive perspective, there have been numerous stories showing how the Catholic Church is widely seen as the single largest charitable organization in the world - and when you include our brothers and sisters of other Christian denominations - that gap would grow considerably.  That goes from everything from providing health care, education, shelter, chaplaincies, rushing into lands and areas suffering devastation from natural disasters. Even last month, as people panicked over the Ebola virus, most people overlooked that  the first Americans who were infected were a part of missionary teams doing medical care in those African regions that were hardest hit by the virus.

All of this isn’t meant for us to congratulate ourselves and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. I think for a lot of us, we can fall into the trap of thinking that it’s like throwing a Yankee shirt on and thinking I’m part of a winning team because I do that (when in reality I’d be arrested just walking on the field during a game!) We’re not "covered" because we're a Christian and belong to the Church. Yes, the Church and Christians around the world do good things for people who are suffering. But the question remains, are we personally doing something to serve in the name of Christ?

Jesus is pretty explicit here. Saying that at the end of time, the judgment of our lives is simply going to be centered around one question. The question isn’t a surprise. It will be pretty obvious to us.  And even with the obviousness of it, even though we shouldn’t need these reminders, he goes ahead and reminds us once again – that it won’t be our GPA, our awards, how many Facebook friends, or how much fun did we have in life that will matter.

It will simply be what have we done for Christ and our neighbor? What did you do for Christ? Are you prepared to answer that question right now?
 
He begs us not simply to do that to be "good people" or to be "good ambassadors" as members of His Kingdom.  He is telling us that the secret to eternal happiness begins right here and now, in this life - when we live selflessly, sacrificially for one another - seeing one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.  In this self-giving, self-forgetting love, we begin to reverse what is the core of the "original sin" - self-centeredness, self-indulgence, self-sufficiency which has been a problem for every human being since Adam and Eve left that garden. What things are we spoiling ourselves with while our brothers and sisters are hurting and going without?

It’s true, some of the greatest of Saints (like St. Francis of Assisi and please God, soon-to-be Saints like Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta) became such because they responded to this Gospel in such radical ways the entire world admired their example and witness (while they still doubted whether they were doing enough) But that doesn’t mean you have to run to your ATM empty your bank account, drop out of school, sell everything and give it to the poor. With all the gifts, all the talents, all the opportunities we’ve been blessed with here and now, the question is how will we allow that question to shape our present, and our future:  what are we doing for Christ and our neighbor. It's a moment by moment decision.

How is your dorm rooms, your class rooms, your work places, your families, your tables in the cafeteria different because of your response to His command?  How are we practicing charitable living not simply dropping off groceries to a food drive or a Toy for an underpriveleged child at Christmas a few times a year.

Do you feel the tension? It's a tension built on what we want to do and what we should do. It's felt at those times when we feel we should be somewhere else, doing something else, and this is in response to the call on our lives that we read about in the Gospel. Tension here is a good thing for it shapes us into the person God wants us to be. Because truth be told, Jesus Christ our King’s expectations are difficult, are challenging to respond to. But at the same time, they are also incredibly obvious to us. And we can never say we didn’t know what He expects of us.

DOOMSDAY! Are you prepared?


Hi everyone - here's my homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - November 16, 2014.  The readings for today can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111614.cfm.  Thanks as always for taking the time to read this blog, sharing it on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit and all your comments and feedback. God Bless - Fr. Jim

HOMILY:


Doomsday … it's a term that we consider when our world is in horrible shape because of some catastrophic event. How many of you have ever heard of the show “Doomsday Preppers?”  When a commercial for the show came on, I never took it seriously.  I just imagined it was some bizarre TV drama - like “Lost’ or “The Walking Dead”– something that’s fictitious, something that’s not real but is sort of presented like it is or could be.  For whatever reason, not too long ago, a preview of an upcoming episode of Doomsday Preppers caught my attention and I realized this isn’t some fictitious show, it’s a sort of reality TV/ documentaries that follows people who are “prepping” to extremes that it consumes their entire lives.  My immediate thought was -“Oh boy, this is a whole new sort of crazy.”  Each episode follows a different group of people who are prepping for all sorts of threats - real or imagined.  They anticipate all kinds of disasters, calamities, unprecedented happenings and try to plan accordingly.  For example, there have been episodes showing individuals preparing for when the Chinese take over our country.  They’ve highlighted people who are preparing for a terrorist attack or when the Russians launch a nuclear attack.  There have been episodes where people anticipate the electric grid going caput and for all of us being without electricity for months, even years.

Living in this area of Northern New Jersey - not 15 miles from New York City - where we suffered through the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks; where we survived “Super-storm Sandy” - if anything those terrible events have taught us - just as Hurricane Katrina taught the people of New Orleans and the earthquakes of the past have taught the people of California - certainly, it’s understandable - it’s important - it’s essential - for us to have plans in case of emergencies.  It’s not an unreasonable expectation for us as citizens to hold that our government officials conduct drills and contingency plans to prepare for worst case scenarios.  It’s responsible for us to have some supplies on hand in case something happens and for families and friends to come up with some plans of what to do in an emergency.


But thats not what this show is about.  They introduce viewers to people, often living in rural places in isolation who have turned their homes into bunkers. You see pictures of these places filled with wall-to-wall canned goods.  They have built escape tunnels, hideaway places.  They spend most of their time drilling, stockpiling items all based around their belief that when the end comes - they will be the ones prepared to deal with it - they will survive because they took care of themselves.

I hate even giving attention to this show on so many levels - seeing these people being exploited for being obviously eccentric (and in some cases, legitimately they seem to have some serious psychological issues).  Had this show never existed – nor been a ratings powerhouse for the Discovery Channel – I doubt I would’ve ever known there were people who view life, live life (if you can call this “living”) with such a doomsday perspective.  But it’s hard to ignore such a colossally sad existence.  How fear is the guiding principle to their lives.    They’ve based their entire life preparing for the worst.  They’ve invested their time, their abilities, and a heck of a lot of resources towards this.  They’ve isolated themselves from the rest of civilization. They miss the irony that the very life they are somewhat desperately trying to protect from exterior forces they are themselves diminishing, squandering - losing.

In some ways these “preppers” reminded me of this poor shlub we just heard about in this Gospel.  In this parable Jesus talks about a man entrusting to his servants his possessions.   One gets “5 talents” the other 2 talents and the final guy 1.  “Talents” in this context represents huge sums of money... 1 talent could represent something between $1,000-$30,000.    So let’s just say $10,000 to illustrate what’s happening.  The guy with $50,000 through his investment makes it $100,000 - The guy with $20,000 makes it $40,000 - The guy with $10,000 gives him back the initial $10,000 - having done nothing with it.

If you hadn’t guessed by now, Jesus is the Master and we are the servants.  And the great “sin” in the parable is that this one servant (who Jesus calls “useless”– ouch!) lets fear inhibit him from even trying to do something with that $10,000.  He didn’t look at what the other two servants were doing for inspiration.  He doesn’t ask for any advice or help.  Just like the doomsday preppers - fear becomes a fixation - which turns inward into selfishness, into self-centeredness - and isolation.  The guy with the one talent is so cautious - he does nothing with it - it provides no benefit for he himself who has been entrusted with it, and its value remains unchanged for the king when he returns.  The time, the opportunity to do something or make something is wasted.

Working with college students - I can’t help but think that this parable is so incredibly perfect for you all.  You are at a time, a place in your life where you have possibly the most freedom and most opportunities than you will ever have.  You have more independence than you have ever had.  Most of you are blessed not to have many responsibilities apart from “finding yourself” - and dedicating your efforts to pursuing whatever it is that you’re passionate about.  What are the “talents” - not monetary things - but rather traits, passions, desires, gifts that you have locked within you - that are looking to burst out.   And even more, are you connecting the dots to see who they originated with? Seeing how you can glorify - not yourself- but the Master who has entrusted you with these talents? What will you do with them? It's a choice.

I encourage you to people watch around campus. It grieves me that there are plenty of examples of people who are squandering this opportunity.  Skipping classes, cheating, abusing themselves, using one another.  It’s a sad reality that some will barely get by, barely survive mid-terms, finals and scrape by and somehow manage to graduate.  Others don’t participate in anything but the bare minimum. Why? Laziness.  I remember a group of seniors one day walking past Kasser Theatre last year and laughing as they said “I’ve been here 5 years and never been in that place.”  That’s pretty sad.  Their 4 (or 5 or 6 years) these gifted students have been given will do little to glorify God or anyone else except perhaps themselves.   But it’s not the only way these years can be taken for granted.

Self-indulgence, laziness, fear - they don’t just blow opportunities in the here and now.  This isn’t just about making the most of your college years and giving you the “Carpe Diem” (the Montclair State University motto) motivational speech.  Jesus is going further, deeper.  Asking are you allowing those sinful attitudes and behaviors to blow this opportunity - this life you’ve been given?  How is your life, your existence, your time on this planet going to be used to glorify God - enrich His kingdom?  Every day we are given opportunities to make the most of what we have been given. The minor choices we have for our resources - whether it’s the money we spend, our creativity, our freedom of speech to either glorify God or bury that talent where it will never be seen or experienced.  Those day to day decisions start to impact your life decisions as well...  I can’t tell you how many times someone talks about picking a major or a career simply because it’s seen as “secure” … it's safe. Perhaps you are living up to someone else's expectations. (I’m studying to be a doctor because my father is one and he really wants me to - but I really wish I could be a teacher...)  Or even relationships “I know that he/she isn’t perfect; we fight a lot; but we’ve been together for so long and I don’t want to give up after we’ve spent so much time together.”

God has not created people to live in a fearful or doomsday mentality and go underground. He has created us to shine His light. That is kingdom investment that will make a good return because it is backed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  To step out into the unknown, directed by the hand of our Loving Father – to take advantage of the different talents he has entrusted to us, knowing that He sees the potential – the life-giving, life-changing potential each of us possesses since He created us for that purpose.  That’s the heart of the message Jesus is sharing in today’s Gospel.  The question is, will we need Jesus warning?  Because the alternative - to choose to stay in whatever comfort zone we’ve created for ourselves; to at the end of our lives seeing these blown opportunities; to have the Master find us – secure, but useless… that would be the epitome of a "doomsday” we should have been prepared to avoid.

WHAT'S TRENDING?


Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica – November 9, 2014. The readings for today’s feast can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/110914.cfm. Thanks as always for reading, your feedback and for sharing this blog on Twitter, Facebook and reddit. God Bless, Fr. Jim

HOMILY:


"What is trending right now?"

Whether you’re looking at Yahoo, Twitter or Facebook; watching a news program on television; even going real old-school and reading a newspaper - all of these forms of media seem to have adopted this "trending" thing which has evolved as a result of our social-media culture. 

In some ways, it seems like a virtual flash mob.  These different websites and apps from smart phones and computers are able to measure what is being texted, tweeted, snap-chatted, instagrammed or whatever other new app might be out there that I’m missing – and they come up with a list that is posted on different websites in a top 5 or top 10 ranking list that constantly changes as people’s retweets and hashtags evolve throughout the day.  Supposedly telling you what is the thing most people are talking about.

So at 1:30 in the afternoon on Tuesday the list of what was trending included - Wayne Brady’s depression; Kawasaki Ninja (the worlds fastest motorcycle) Matt Le Blanc (Joey from the show "Friends") "Body transformation" where he revealed his biceps - were what was "trending."  For someone with ADD or who’s easily distracted, these trending lists are a bit of a nightmare... In my research for this homily, I found myself clicking on random things on the list including "#AlexfromTarget" – and then 20 minutes later asking myself why do I care?  And I suppose you can’t look to this simply at some random point in the day for things that will have lasting, long-term impressions - or stories that will be of major consequence a few hours later.  So many celebrities and pop-culture stuff kind of pop in and out rather quickly. 

I kept thinking that here it was Tuesday, November 4th with elections going on all around the nation and that didn’t even seem to enter the top 10, but... again, I suppose that its hard to take these lists serious at one given hour. More than likely, as these hours become days, and days become weeks, and weeks become months - we get a more fuller picture of our modern history. To the point that when there’s a year-end review, and media-sites compile all these things, they will be able to measure what was most pressing, most urgent, most newsworthy things which, no doubt, will see things that were recurring, and trended for longer periods of time than the moment the nation seemed transfixed by Matt LeBlanc’s flexing of his muscles. 

If I had to guess, more than likely when 2014 comes to a close, a list of things that trended for the year will be like #Ebola; Robin William’s suicide; ISIS will rank a bit more newsworthy. These things affected us culturally, socially - they were part of our history.  They will likely be a part of the story people will tell future generations about what life was like around here at this point in time. 
This idea of "trending" seemed a good way of explaining why we’re celebrating what we’re celebrating today.  "The Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica".  On the surface, just reading that title of this feast day seems like a nightmare for a homilist, because at the core, we are basically commemorating how in the year 324 this Church in Rome was first dedicated. And not St. Peter’s Basilica - which if you were going to have a feast day for the entire Catholic Church around the entire world to celebrate, St. Peter’s that magnificent structure which comes immediately to mind when we hear the words "The Vatican" would seem to make sense. We’re talking about another basilica, another Church on the other side of Rome.  More than likely, some of us might even wonder how does this relate to our lives at all? It’s very nice that this Cathedral basilica in Rome has been there for close to 1,700 years - but for most of us who have never seen it (and may never get over to Rome to see it) other than a historical curiosity, why would we even take time out of Ordinary Time to commemorate this? 

But this feast is more than commemorating the day an old Church in Rome was dedicated.  It is remembering a much more important, historic moment that shifted the life of the Church - the life of all Christianity.

Celebrating Mass in one of the chapels of the Lateran Basilica
in Rome, July, 2014.  Love how the painting depicts
St. John the Baptist and St. John, the Beloved Disciple
pointing to Christ and the consecrated Host as if to say:
"this becomes this..."
The dedication of the Lateran Basilica reminds us of the moment that those living in the Roman empire in those early centuries of Christianity no longer needed to fear death simply for following Jesus Christ. The celebration of Sunday Mass no longer needed to be done underground tombs or secretly in homes. Even more telling, the empire acknowledged the one true God that Jesus had revealed to humanity – The trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit could now be praised, worshiped and acknowledged by the secular world as the one true God.  Because up until then, the Emperor himself was considered a god - which is why the persecution of Christians had been so fierce. But with the Emperor Constantine having converted  to Christianity that changed everything.  Many people throughout the Roman empire were hearing the Good News of Jesus openly proclaimed and were converting to it as well.  They were no longer "enslaved" or "owned" by the oppression of a Roman emperor "god."  Christianity, Jesus, Rome being seen as a "New Jerusalem" would all have been things that were "trending" in the year 324 and that was a game changer for everyone

All of this was symbolized in a very physical, visible way in the dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome.  Today that Church is meant to be a symbol of our unity as Catholic Christians throughout the world and we are to remember that sadly, all these years later this very night there are Christians who are persecuted, who are killed for being a follower of Jesus Christ. This feast inspires hope to them and demands our support and prayers that their persecution will end.

But this feast also opens a more immediate question for us here.  What is "trending," in our lives... Who does our world acknowledge as it’s "god?"  Where does our society look to for it’s "god?"  Here we live in a nation where at least a quarter of the entire population has been baptized as Roman Catholic Christians; nearly 80% of all Americans claim to be Christian.  But honestly, does it really look like our world has heeded the words of St. Paul in today’s second reading and made Jesus Christ our foundation?

It’s true religious bigotry, and condescension towards faith-filled people is far from over (I could write a book about such incidents right here on our campus); at the same time we can rejoice and be thankful that here in the United States we don’t have to be afraid to lose our lives for being Christian. Every day we have an opportunity to bear witness to Jesus Christ by our words and actions.  Each week we have an opportunity to come together as the People of God and hear His word and be transformed by His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. That transformation isn’t just for us personally - it is meant to make us the living Church. That’s why we are called "brother’s and sister’s." Do we take that seriously that we are connected closely with one another? We are family.

And those ties extend beyond this room throughout all of the Catholic-Christian world.  We are united with the soldiers celebrating Mass tonight in the back of a Jeep in the deserts of Afghanistan; the persecuted Christians the Middle East and China; as well as our friends at Rutgers and Kean Universities who are celebrating Mass right now too. Which is why today’s feast is bigger than just remembering a building but points to that reality of that living Church.  All of us become that temple of God. Will zeal for that house consume us? Will others be aware of our passion for God and His kingdom? Today, you can make a life-changing difference. It takes only one person to make a change in society, others and ourselves. The fire that consumes you will enable you to go forth empowered more than you will ever know. Burn with passion. Burn for God and watch what He will do with your steps of faith. It could be the beginning of a new trend just waiting to break out.

TEXT FROM THE GRAVE?

Hi everyone - here is my homily for SUNDAY NOVEMBER 2, 2014 - THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED (ALL SOULS DAY)  There's actually about 8 or 9 different options for the readings that you can hear at Mass today, but the ones I used for this homily are:
Wisdom 3: 1-9; Romans 8: 31-35 and

John 6: 37-40.  (You can read any book from the bible on the US Catholic bishops website at www.USCCB.org and click on the "Bible" link)  Thanks everyone for reading - and sharing this homily on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit.  Appreciate the support and your feedback and comments.
As we remember our beloved deceased today and in a special way throughout the month of November, we pray - Eternal rest, grant unto them, O Lord, And let the perpetual light shine upon them.  May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed through the Mercy of God, rest in peace.
          
HOMILY:
About two weeks ago, the NY Post, a newspaper that is known for their provocative headlines lived up to that reputation once again.  “Cellphone text ‘from the grave’” it read over a picture of two relatives holding a cell phone in front of a graveyard with a picture of a text message that seemed to show how their deceased grandmother had texted them - which was followed by a second headline which said “The line went undead.”


            The story details how in 2011, Sherri Emerson’s grandmother Lesley died of cancer.  Sherri had placed her grandmother’s cellphone inside the coffin with her before they closed it for burial and then begged the phone company not to give away the phone number so that she could continue texting her grandmother.  She and her grandmother had communicated a lot through texting while she was alive, and Sherri had kept all the old messages she had with her.  The phone company promised that they would honor this request and for three years, Sherri would send her grandmother text messages every once in awhile when she was missing her, or wanting to share some news with her.

            Back in September of this year, Sherri received quite a shock.  One Wednesday evening Sherri texted her grandmother sharing some things about her family life.  The next morning she looked down at her phone and saw a response, seemingly from beyond the grave that said: “I’m watching over you, you’ll get through this, you’ll be alright.”   After being shaken and traumatized, she and her family were able to discover that, unfortunately, the phone company had released the phone number and this man who had received the “new” number thought someone playing a prank on him...which is why he responded.  Sherri explained “Obviously we know that Nan wasn’t ever going to reply to our texts.  It was just something we did as a comfort for ourselves, because she loved to text.  You can imagine what I was thinking seeing a message flash up from her.”

            Many people, not even knowing Sherri or her family, were just heart broken for them reading or hearing that story.  Because while the idea of burying a cellphone with a departed loved one and texting them is probably a somewhat new and unique phenomenon – the desire, the wish, the hope to connect with our loved ones who have died and passed away is probably one of the most universal things we share as human beings – no matter what your religion, culture – no matter what era you lived in.     If we look at some of the most spectacular tourist sights of the world – for example - The Taj Majal in India; The pyramids in Egypt – are actually tombs built thousands of years ago.  These majestic edifices are ways that these individuals kept their memories alive - generations after anyone who ever knew of them had passed away.  We do similar things right here on campus as we name buildings (Blanton Hall) for the same reason.  Some people struggle so much with the loss of loved ones and want to know that they are safe, that they are okay that they buy into people who claim to be “Mediums”- who claim to be able to contact your deceased loved one and speak back to you.  That always bothers me - that these so-called “mediums” would prey on people who are mourning and grieving an are vulnerable...not that people want to connect with their deceased loved ones.

            Every year on this day - November 2nd, the Church celebrates what is called “All Souls Day - The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed.”  It’s of such importance that we break from the regular routine of Sunday Mass readings that have been following in sequence since the end of the Easter Season (probably about 16 weeks).  What we are doing is answering that human desire to connect with our deceased loved ones with the eyes of faith.

            There is nothing more painful or difficult to endure, to face then death (although I do remember Jerry Seinfeld making an observation that a survey once said people feared making public speeches more than death, which if that was true, people would rather be the deceased than the one giving the eulogy) All kidding aside, death is frightening.  But as Catholic Christians, we’re encouraged, we’re reminded by these readings and this commemoration of All Souls reminds us that our connection to our departed brothers and sisters in the faith isn’t maintained in memorializing buildings, or looking for signs or messages from the beyond.

            The Hebrew Scriptures we heard in the first reading, from the book of Wisdom confidently proclaims: The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction.  But they are in peace.

            That’s hard to believe without them physically here with us.  But is our relationship solely based on physical realities? We have never experienced the perfect peace described. We live in a world where we feel the pain of loss, hurt, anger and more. It's hard to imagine the constant joy of eternal life. The whole reason we mourn, we grieve, we miss people is because of a spiritual gift - which is Love. We have spent a lot of time loving the people who have gone before us. They became a part of our everyday life and when they are taken away, there is a void that is not easily filled. That’s why St. Paul’s words are so comforting.  Paul who’s entire life was transformed in meeting Jesus Christ after he had been risen from the dead - Paul who because of that conversion suffered rejection, torture, and eventually would be beheaded for following Jesus Christ, tells us:

What will separate us from the love of Christ?

Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?

No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers,nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

                The joy of Jesus is what we have today. We can claim that peace in our lives knowing what is before us in life and death. We know that we will not be separated from the love of God. That is a promise. We must make the choice of believing it or not.

            All of that leads to the Gospel, where very simply Jesus as he reminds us that his entire mission, his whole reason for coming to earth is to proclaim the good news that “the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.” It's a promise.

            The Church gives us these readings to remind us that the connections we’ve made in life are God’s gift, His blessing to us here and now. As we remember our loved ones today, and pray that they are beholding God in his glory - we are entrusting them to His loving, merciful care. It may be difficult to trust this at times, but the Bible encourages us to keep believing and trusting. We were connected to them in life. There is still a connection. Although different, through God's merciful Love, we continue to be united with them, both in this life and the next. They have impacted our lives and we are who we are by our loved ones' influence. We continue to live their legacy left behind. Our choices are influenced by our experience with them in this life. Not only do they “live on” inside of us, but they are truly living the life right now with God. The good news is that there will be a day when we will join them in this wonderful eternal life. No more tears, no more pain … only joy. It's a promise.