BEING BOLD

Hi everyone. Here's my homily for TUESDAY 6/30/15 - FIRST MARTYRS OF THE HOLY ROMAN CHURCH - (readings can be found at usccb.org). We celebrated Mass at the basilica of Santa Chiara of Assisi.  Thanks for continuing to follow our pilgrimage "virtually" and joining in our prayers. 




HOMILY 

 

          Not too long ago, Pope Francis had a pretty stirring homily where he was asking his listeners how courageous are we when we pray?  Do we seek a miracle?  Do we struggle or do we offer what he said are prayers of ‘courtesy’ saying to someone“Oh I will pray for you” say an Our Father, a Hail Mary and then I forget.”  I know I found the Popes words particularly uncomfortable because I recognize I struggle with that.  I hear a friend is ill, and I’m saddened, I’m frustrated - I bring it to prayer, but I might hesitate saying “Lord heal him”... because I know the diagnosis is bad, I know how often things have gone badly for others and so I find myself falling, failing and lacking courage.  It’s probably why one of my favorite Gospel quotes is the short prayer Yes Lord I believe - but help my unbelief (Mark 9:24)

 

          On this 4th day of our pilgrimage - as we are at the half-way point - I think the Lord is challenging all of us to ask - how bold are we in our prayer?  How much do we trust the Lord?  Because we’re visiting places home to some pretty bold, prayerful people....  These visits coupled with reflecting on these readings, it becomes very obvious - God desires bold prayer.  

 

          In that first reading from Genesis - often times people can fixate on the aspects of the story where Lot’s wife being turned to a pillar of salt, or God reigning down fire on Sodom and Gommorah and how this is all part of that image people have of God in the Old Testament being a “wrathful God” (which isn’t true... there’s a whole lot – no pun intended - going on in the Old Testament including in this story, but I digress)

 

          The thing to focus on from this story from Genesis is Lot.  Talk about being bold.  He know’s what’s coming - that God will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.  The Lord commands Lot head for the hills, and what does Lot do?  He asks God to allow him to escape to Zoar.  Please Lord, it’s just a teeny, tiny town.  Please, just let me go there.  I imagine God saying, Really?  C’mon, Lot, really?  Zoar?  Sparing your life is not enough?  Can I get you a new pair of sandals for the walk?  Maybe you’d like some Twinkies for the road?  And yet, God grants Lot’s request.  And the town of Zoar is spared.  The power of the faith of one man. 

 

          Then the Gospel and the disciples.  They utter a bold prayer too.  But only seemingly as a  last resort - as the waves are about to overtake them, the sea is getting out of control, nature is unleashing violence and they are about to be wiped away - then they decide to wake Jesus with the cry “LORD SAVE US - WE ARE PERISHING” and instantly the storm ceases.  Yet they barely recognize what happened.  The seem not to notice how their bold prayer was answered as they stand in disbelief at how quickly things changed at Jesus’ command.

 

          As we celebrate this Mass beneath this crucifix, where St. Francis of Assisi heard the voice of Christ call out to him, saying rebuild my house which has fallen into disrepair - we know how radically St. Francis’ life changed and his bold prayer, which became so common for him that the Lord reformed the Church, worked multiple miracles through this humble simple man who said yes to Him beneath this very cross.

 

          As much as I would like to be like Lot and St. Francis of Assisi, I know that - on my best days I’m more like the disciples.  I know God is all powerful.  I’d love to change the world.  But I allow doubt to enter in - I’m only one man.  When I pray I want to expect something glorious, a miracle.  But I often feel timid or even cynical and that I’m just going through the motions of another unanswered prayer.  

 

          In this chapel, we’re not here to bask in a crucifix as if it were “the magic cross that spoke to St. Francis” but to be encouraged by what happened to him... how God used this image and symbol of his eternal, selfless love to get Francis’ attention.  Francis’ responsiveness to that moment was like Lot’s - and unlike his wife - he never turned back.  He might have been unclear at first what was being said to him as he literally started picking up stones and rebuilding a run down physical building.  But gently, the Holy Spirit used that time to continue to purify Francis’ heart, his intention to make him single minded in focusing on the Lord, listening for his voice, being attentive to his invitation and most importantly being responsive to Him.  

          

          The same is true for us.  We’re never going to have the boldness in our prayer unless we’re willing to be more trusting, more single minded - more sincere and authentic ourselves. When we do, then we will begin to see God spark and ignite a fire in you and me that will provide light to a needy world.  May Lot and St. Francis pray for each of us that we may begin to be as bold as they were.


EVERY ST. HAS A PAST; EVERY SINNER A FUTURE



Today on Day 3 of our pilgrimage we had the special privilege of celebrating Mass right at the tomb of St Francis of Assisi.  Here's my homily for the Mass (readings can be found at usccb.org: MONDAY 6/29/15 - Sts. Peter and Paul)

HOMILY

 

          Have you ever felt like a failure?  A screw-up?  A time when despite your best intentions to excel or succeed -  or even simply to fulfill the basic expectations you somehow came up short?  Whether it was in academics or sports; or it happened on a job or among your family and friends – when it happens there’s that overwhelming sense of frustration that we’re often left with when we’ve been unable to do what it is we set out to do...  

 

          Depending upon the circumstances, the people involved in the situation, these experiences have the ability either to destroy a person - deteriorating   their self-confidence; making them question their self-worth, their dignity as they believe the world sees them as a loser... 

          or it could be a catalyst of change.

 

          As it was for St. Peter & St. Paul whose feast day we celebrate today... 

          As it was for St. Francis of Assisi - whose tomb we are priveleged to celebrate this Mass at. 

 

          As we saw in front of the amazing St. Peter’s Basilica those massive statues of Peter and Paul - as we’ve walked around Assisi and seen equally impressive images - statues, mosaics, paintings depicting Francis - thesworks of art have the ability to make us admire, appreciate - even be in awe of these men.  Which is a good thing.  So long as we recognize the full picture.  That these weren’t perfect individuals.  These weren’t some pagan gods.  What makes them great, what makes them admirable isn’t a “what” it’s a “Who”.  As St Paul said in the second reading:   it was “the Lord who stood by me and gave me strength... to Him be glory forever and ever...”  Or as we learn from Peter’s testimony in the Gospel, being the first to proclaim Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” – that came not from any human source, but from the Heavenly Father.  It’s By God’s power, and activity in their lives that any measure of greatness is ever achieved.

 

          Because we know the stories - Both men had failed miserably in their own dramatic ways on their own accords before they had an encounter with Jesus Christ.  Peter because of his being impetuous, thick-headed and fearful at times - Paul in his stubbornness and arrogance.  They both knew their failures before they met Jesus - and were even more pained by those failures after they met Him.  Yet the Lord was able to lovingly guide them, correct them to not be weighed down by those missteps and to continue along the path God had for them...

          Same is true for St. Francis of Assisi.  Reading his testimony’s - after his conversion, he often mourned his life prior to renouncing all his worldly possessions, his living a very hedonistic life - and he was often overly-scrupulous of not being more selfless, more sacrificial as he tried to imitate Jesus perfectly.

 

          The difference these men recognized in their failures was Jesus Christ.  While it pained them to fail Jesus... while guilt and shame discouraged them when those failures came to light, when they fully realized and recognized what they had done - their faith, their trust, their knowledge of the immense love of Jesus Christ for them personally is what profoundly made the difference in each of their cases.  They were enabled to re-focus on the gift of His Mercy - so lavishly, generously offered to them; they knew that was greater - His love - than any sin, any failure they could have committed.  And because they didn’t just hear that, they weren’t just told that this is who Jesus is - but they believed that themselves because they experienced that themselves in their hearts and souls that made the difference.

 

          For you and I - who are called to the same thing as Peter, Paul and Francis – called to Holiness, called to be Saints in our day, in our places, in our time and in our own particular ways – we too need to let that gift penetrate our consciousness.  

Not to believe the lies we tell ourselves that we’re defined by our failures.  

Not to believe the lies others tell us - that because no one is perfect, there’s no use in trying... to not believe the lie of the evil one who is constantly looking to deflect, deject, demean us from aspiring to what God created us to be.  We are always one good, complete confession away from being reconciled with the Lord - to be spiritually as perfect as we were after our Baptism – in some ways even more so having known and experienced and come to know and trust in God’s promises to us in a real and practical way that we hadn’t previously.  

 

          It is often said “Every Saint has a past, every sinner has a future” - as we continue on our pilgrimage, may these witnesses, these life testimonies from these heroes of our Church continue to inspire us not let our failures prevent us from seeing our futures but that they will serve as a catalyst for join, inviting us to join them in running the race in pursuing holiness ourselves.

DO NOT BE AFRAID...JUST HAVE FAITH

Hi everyone... greetings from Assisi.  After receiving a blessing from the Holy Father, Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square, we journeyed to Assisi for a few days.  Here's my homily for the 13th Sunday in Ordinart Time June 28, 2015 - at a beautifully simple little Church in Assisi - San Stefano.  The readings for today can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/062815.cfm  Thanks as always for reading... and following us on our pilgrimage.  God Bless - Fr Jim


HOMILY

 

          Most of you know, or may have heard that I hate flying.  Actually its more than that, I have an irrational fear of flying.  Up until about 6 or 7 years ago, that prevented me from a lot of great opportunities and experiences - including ever coming on a pilgrimage to Italy (and I know my friend Lino all too well, so let me save him the trouble - my fear of going to the Holy Land is totally rational - so that’s a totally different thing).  After having a awful flying experience my senior year of college, I kind of swore off ever getting in a plane again - and up until I became a campus minister, and had a group of students highly excited about attending a conference in Dallas Texas (before I realized that we were going there by airplane) I had simply accepted that reality - that I would never fly.   

 

          Fear is an incredibly powerful emotion... powerful obstacle.  Which is why I love this gospel simply for the one sentence:

 

          Do Not Be Afraid... Just have faith.

 

          Those 7 words Jesus utters in today’s Gospel seem to jump off the page.  They are so simple, so basic, so beautiful yet so incredibly hard for us to obey - aren’t they?   Yet when we are able to accept Jesus’ invitation to move beyond those fears;   we see how life-changing it is for us to know and love Jesus and have that relationship with him which constantly is transforming our lives.  

 

          That’s what happens in today’s Gospel where Jesus offers these two memorable, life-changing encounters.  First for Jarius - who’s daughter is deathly ill . . . and then this woman, who’s been suffering with these hemorrhages for 12 years. 

          Jarius as a synagogue official had to know that going to Jesus would not be looked on well by his fellow colleagues of the synagogue who were (at the very least) skeptical of this Jesus. What does he do? He moves beyond that fear of, “What will my friends and relatives think if I go to Him?” - He moves beyond the fear of being mocked when those friends and relatives tell him, “Your daughter is dead, what’s Jesus going to do for you?” - His faith moves him beyond all of those, and no doubt many other fears, to have this encounter with Christ. 

          The woman who’s been ill for 12 years - she’s been told by all the doctors and experts - look there’s nothing you can do - you’re unclean. It’s too bad. Keep away from everyone else, lest you make them unclean. And so physically, emotionally, spiritually she’s been isolated. Yet, Her faith moves her beyond the fears of, “What will the crowds do if they see me out in public?” “What will Jesus’ reaction to me be?” - and so she had this encounter with Christ.

 

          On this second day of Pilgrimage as we have now come to the holy city of Assisi, we hear those simple, basic, beautiful but incredibly hard to obey words directed at us:  “Do not be afraid - only have faith.”  While we recognize the truth of this command, we don’t seem to think it’s possible for us.  We’re able to itemize and list all the things that bring fear into our lives - whether they are real or imagined fears; We’re able to explain the complex situations and challenges that make them even more difficult to deal with almost as if to justify for ourselves why what Jesus’ words might be a nice idealistic thought but not practical, not possible for us...  

 

          Which is why coming here to Assisi, being in this place - those words carry extra weight to them.  Because at the heart of Sts. Francis and Claire’s stories was the moment when they truly listened to those words, followed them, and never looked back.  That single-mindedness not only changed their lives, it re-proclaimed the Gospel message in such a dramatic way that it reformed the Church - and continues to capture the attention of both believers and unbelievers in a way that has few comparisons.  The countless numbers of religious orders that try to emulate Francis and Claires Gospel living all these centuries later - where you have thousands upon thousands of men and women centuries later who are enriched, encouraged to see that yes it is possible to take Jesus’ words seriously.  And the amazing effect that it can have not just in our own lives but on the world when we do.

 

          As we examine our hearts, our lives and consider how Jesus is speaking to us today and asking – . What is it that’s holding us back from having that deeper relationship with Him? What is it that’s holding us back from the “imperishable life” that God created us to have [that we heard about in that first reading] - God created us in his image - that’s not an image that gives into fear. 

 

          If we truly took to heart those words“‘Do not be afraid - only have faith’ - we’d find like Jarius, like the woman with the hemmorages, like Sts. Francis and Claire it would revolutionize our lives and our world once again.  So we are challenged:

Do not be afraid of what other people will think of you: follow the way of Christ. 

Do not be afraid of failure: following God’s will is the only path to everlasting success. 

Do not be afraid of changing your personal plans in order to follow God more closely, His plans are even better. 

 

          Fear, confusion, lack of trust in Christ – these are the kinds of things that tie our souls into knots, causing untold needless suffering and keeping us from experiencing the life-giving power of God’s grace.

 

          Let us ask these two beloved Saints who’s presence is still very much alive in this city to walk with us as we reflect on what fear is inhibiting each of us right now - And imagine what will we be able to accomplish, if that fear was replaced by a deeper ability to trust him?

IS ANYTHING TOO MARVELOUS FOR THE LORD TO DO? Day 1 Rome Pilgrimage

Hello everyone... Greetings from Rome, where we've now been joined by about 40 pilgrims from all over the United States.  Here's my homily for Saturday June 27, 2015 Mass at Sant’Ignazio -  the readings for the day can be found at the www.usccb.org website (just select the calendar for June 27). 


Thanks for reading and your prayers... Keeping all your intentions in mine as well - God Bless, Fr Jim


HOMILY


 

          Welcome to Rome - Welcome to the Eternal City - the City of St. Peter and Paul...

 

          We give thanks to God that we’ve all made it here safely (hopefully soundly).  We’ve come not just to sightsee, not simply for a trip - or a vacation (although this time might count for all of those things in your books or at least your checkbooks) but we’re here for something even more - for a pilgrimage.  We have come to Rome and will journey to Assisi to experience these holy places - where holy things took place; where people made choices, decisions, significant steps to become holy as they encountered, gave witness, sacrificed - gave their lives to Jesus Christ – some through martyrdom, some through similarly radical means where they laid down their lives, their desires, their needs in service to Jesus Christ, His Church, & His people...

 

          So for us, it’s good to keep that in mind: that this is our purpose:

- because as wonderful as these spectacular sights are that we are going to visit these next 8 days; - as tremendous as the foods we will enjoy; 

- as memorable the week will be as we share this time together as fellow pilgrims who’ve come together because of all the great work Lino has done with the Catholic Guy Show 

  - the ultimate purpose for us is to come to know, come to Love the Lord Jesus Christ better and deeper - in a different way then we’ve ever done before... Different from any retreat, or class, or involvement we’ve had with the Church. 

 

          It’s important for us to keep that in mind each day, each step we make and to ask ourselves... What is it that the Lord want to show you, do for you, reveal to you that’s going to change your relationship and draw you closer to Him?  Because the reality is haven’t we all have come with prayers, intentions on our hearts? Who is ill that you’ve said you will pray for?  Who has passed away that you want to remember?  What painful situation or difficult bind is someone close to you going through that you don’t know what to say let alone do to help them?  What is it in your own lives that sometimes keeps you up at night?  

 

          Sometimes when we travel far from home like this and in our wonderment and awe of the whole thing we see this or look at it as a diversion from all of those things that we label in some general category in our minds as “our worries.”  

 

          Yet  the reality is that the Lord wants to speak into it.   He will speak to it throughout this week and in different and varied ways... At this our first step, our first Mass together, what is He saying to us today in these scriptures ?

 

          I have to admit, that first reading, when the line was read: “So Sarah laughed to herself and said Now that I am so withered and my husband is so old, am I still to have sexual pleasure?” - knowing Lino is in the congregation with fellow listeners I was half waiting for him to interrupt with a “Hey–oh”.   That’s why I need to read and pray with these things in advance because it doesn’t take too much for the train to get derailed in my own head!  

 

          But the whole point of that story from Genesis is really summed up by what God says to Abraham a few moments later - after telling him he heard Sarah laughing (and in his own divine way God asking Abraham “What’s up with that?”) the Lord puts a more profound and beautiful question to Abraham - and to you and I to reflect on:   Is anything too marvelous for the Lord to do?

 

          Sarah and Abraham had for a long time been saddened by the fact they were unable to have children of their own.  That was a tremendous pain, a seemingly unanswered prayer, an intention that they had carried that they sadly accepted as simply not going to happen.  Yet God in a mysterious, unexpected and yes marvelous manner reveals that He has not forgotten; He has not ignored; and in His time and in His way responded to that prayer... and He asks Is anything too marvelous for the Lord to do?

 

          Similarly in the Gospel, the Centurion - a Roman - supposedly one who has placed his life at the service of Rome and would view Ceasar as his god – this Centurion appeals to the God of Abraham through the Son of God, Jesus as he begs for his servant who is suffering and near death.  That humility – to acknowledge that what had been the divine authority in his life couldn’t address his need - opened him to acknowledge, believe and trust in Jesus... Is anything too marvelous for the Lord to do?

 

          As we enter into this pilgrimage - through the amazing beauty of these sights, the awe-inspiring stories and witnesses of our brothers and sisters in the faith  - Hopefully what we will find is how God encounters each us in various, mysterious ways...  Different things will hit us, speak to us in personal ways.  All that the Lord is asking from us is an openness to Him.  Trusting that He is responding to everyone of our prayers, our worries, our intentions - when we go with that loving trust that a sincere heartfelt prayer gives life to.  So whenever you have that “aha moment” - when something moves your heart to skip a beat - when you have a new insight or find tears coming inexplicably just ask yourself -   Is anything too marvelous for the Lord to do?

 

          If we allow Jesus (who desperately is waiting for our invitation) to “enter under our roofs”; we’ll be able to answer that question with deep certitude - No... nothing at all...

A LONG WEEKEND

Thanks to everyone who has sent messages, texts "checking in" - and especially thanks for all your prayers. This has felt like one of the longest weekends since back in October when my Dad passed away: Saturday would’ve been my Dad’s 74th Birthday and today being Father’s Day. I used to think it was tough having those two so close together because it was always hard to come up with gift ideas. Sadly only now do I realize how silly that frustration really was...

Yesterday our immediate family gathered to finally celebrate the "committal rites" for my Dad where we interred his ashes in a crypt at a Mausoleum. Dad had been pretty outspoken over the years that when he died he wished to be cremated. The fact that he died so suddenly; that we didn’t have a family plot; that we were in such shock and really weren’t prepared to make decisions like what cemetery, plot or masoleum, etc - and then our own difficulty coming to terms with this loss, all contributed to this delay. So when we finally decided we needed to do this, it seemed appropriate to gather on his birthday to finally do this. We knew we would all be thinking of Dad and profoundly sad. So this gave us a reason to gather together and fortunately we stayed together for hours back at my parents house just talking, sharing stories, watching the kids run around playing.

I’ve not been doing a good job "dealing with my grief." My modus operandi is throwing myself into work (into ministry) and I’ve been doing that a lot since a few days after my Dad’s funeral. Days like this catch me off guard though and kind of underline and bold text the reality that the need to mourn and to grieve is a real need. Even harder is learning how to do that.

My thanks and gratitude to all of you for your prayerful support to my Mom, my family and I and for my Dad’s eternal repose.

THE LITTLE THINGS DO MATTER...

Hi everyone, here’s my homily for June 14, 2015 - 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings for today can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/061415.cfm. Thanks as always for reading, sharing this blog on facebook, twitter and reddit - and for your comments and feedback. Have a great week - God Bless, Fr Jim


HOMILY:

It started out as a small gesture that became huge...


A couple of weeks ago, a police officer in Texas was given the horrific task of having to break the news to an 18 year old that his parents had been killed in a traffic accident when a drunk driver crashed into them. Kazz Portie, the youngest of 5 children was at home by himself when Lt. Eric Ellison delivered the devastating news. Ellison admitted that telling the young man that he had just lost both of his parents in such a horrific way was one of the hardest things he’s had to do in his 21 years as a Police officer.

In his overwhelming grief, Kazz spontaneously shared that he had a week to go until he graduated from High School - now with his parents gone, he didn’t know what to do. The officer said to him "You’re going to walk! Your Mom and Dad will have a front-row seat from heaven, and I’ll stand in their place. I’ve got your back."

When Kazzie’s day to walk the stage at his graduation came, Lt. Ellison was there to cheer him on. "I walked up on the stage he looked at me and I looked at him and we both cried ..." Lt. Ellison recounted, reflecting on the emotional moment that soon went viral. He wrote about the outpouring of support the story generated on his facebook page: "I am HUMBLED for the positive comments I’ve received about being there for Kazzie. I just want everybody to remember that through this tragedy, this was ALL about Kazzie and his day to shine. I just did what I would want someone to do if I had left my girls early."

For his part, Kazz shared his gratitude for this small, but meaningful gesture: "Seeing Officer Ellison there to congratulate me meant the world to me. It was so nice to see that he actually showed a genuine care for me and my family’s situation instead of us just being another ‘case.’ "

On the surface of things, it really was a small gesture. Had the police officer simply delivered the terrible news, waited with the young man until some friends or family members arrived and then returned to patrol, no one would’ve given it a second thought. Yet something in the man’s heart and soul moved him to offer this small gesture at a moment of inconsolable grief. In some small way this cop who was a stranger to this young man and his family before his official duties forced him to share a terrible part of their lives wanted him to know he was loved and cared for.

Which is why on this Sunday - now that Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi have ended and the Church returns to the season called - (very anticlimactically) "Ordinary Time" this parable is a perfect one for us to reflect on. Because what is at the heart of what Jesus is saying to us? We so often imagine our call to be his disciples in extremes - we beat ourselves up when we fail, when we sin and feel like we’ve made a complete mess of things...and we think that holiness, being his faithful disciple is only evident in doing massively important things - being a missionary, being like Mother Teresa – and remains something few of us can achieve.

But what Jesus challenges us with in this parable is to embrace the faith of the planter - whether of seeds or ideas, acts as we go about life in the ordinary - day to day routine of things. Because what we find is that there are countless opportunities to plant whatever small seed we can and nurturing that seed into something good, something life giving, something that will glorify God - not ever knowing how that might transform someone else’s life .

Nurturing what we have sown might be incredibly frustrating and demanding undertaking. But mustard seed faith is centered in the conviction that, in the smallest acts of compassion and generosity, we can transform the most barren stretches of our lives into great gardens of hope. Just as Lt. Ellison did in deciding to go above and beyond his duty, his responsibility by standing in Kaz’s parents place at his graduation - making a time of unimaginable grief and pain even slightly better.

In embracing Christ’s call to hold the faith of the Gospel farmer and the hope of the mustard seed: you and I engage in the ordinary but essential task of being willing to plant seeds of kindness, of joy wherever and whenever we can in the certain knowledge that these small gestures will, in some way, result in the abundant harvest of God’s life and love.

WHAT IS REAL? (Homily for THE SOLEMNITY OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST)

Hi everyone - here’s my homily for the SOLEMNITY OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST (CORPUS DOMINI or CORPUS CHRISTI) -JUNE 7, 2015. The readings for today can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/060715.cfm. Thanks as always for reading, sharing this blog on facebook, reddit & twitter - and all your feedback and comments. Have a great week...God Bless - Fr. Jim


HOMILY:

What is real anymore?

Not too long ago - I was catching up on one of endless repeated showings of the TV sit-com "The Big Bang Theory" and the real life, international astrophysicist Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson had a guest spot along with the fictitious physicists of the show - Raj, Sheldon, Leonard. Sheldon, who’s socially awkward to begin with happens to bump into Raj who introduces Dr. Tyson to Sheldon in the hallway of the University where they work at to which Sheldon (in his characteristically snarky manner) responds "I’m quite familiar with Dr. Tyson - He’s responsible for the demotion of Pluto from planetary status. I liked Pluto. Ergo, I do not like you." It was a funny scene reminded me of how big that story was just about 8 years ago - when the planet Pluto was ruled not to be a planet anymore. (watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3DfwFZZXDQ ) A friend of mine from grammar school lamented (in what I hope is sarcastic tone) at the time: After all the torture I endured in Mrs. Davies 6th grade science class about the solar system and having to do a thorough report on Pluto, I find out it’s all been a lie... I don’t know what is real anymore...

More seriously though, we live in a time where reality seems to have less certitude... People post photos or share videos that look surprising, shocking or historic - we find out later they’ve been photo-shopped, edited or altered. Despite living with amazing modern technologies to access information from the comfort of our couches (rather than having to drive to these places called libraries and look things up in those things called Encyclopedias!) There seems to be just as many internet sites giving mis-information as true, verifiable information that even the noblest attempts to get to the truth of things, to figure out what is real seems more challenging than ever.

Sadly these billboards are accompanied with radio and TV ads
We see this happening in even more dramatic, highly personal ways as well. Not just outside experiences that we observe but things that have effected us, our families, our friends... In recent decades it has been difficult seeing and knowing more and more couples going through the painful experience of divorce and the effect it has on the couple, the children, the families... now we have a company that is running advertisements which advocate, assist, encourage people to have an affair. It leaves you to wonder what is going on around us, to us? What is real?

Even within our Church we’ve not been immune. Rocked by sex-abuse scandals, coverups, and other sinful behaviors... Terrible stories that emerged and traveled all around the world - has caused even the most devout and fervent of believers to experience doubt - to ask what is real.

I was thinking about all of this coming into this feast we celebrate today - The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. As Catholics, we are taught that through the amazing gift of the priesthood, Jesus is able to use the hands, the voice, the very person of his priests to make himself real and present as the bread the wine are consecrated and become His Body and His Blood. Jesus invites all of us to behold Him, to welcome Him, to receive Him ourselves. Jesus Christ is really present - body and blood, soul and divinity. Jesus is as present in that Eucharistic Bread and Cup as he was 2,000 years ago sitting in that upper room with his disciples when he first those words we heard in the Gospel where he "took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them and said, ‘Take it; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them ‘This is my blood of the covenant which will be shed for many." (Mark 14: 22-24)

Depending on what poll you look at (are the polls real?) Reportedly anywhere from 30-60% of American Catholics don’t believe that. They think the communion is symbolic or some means of bringing Christians together on a spiritual level. Who knows if it’s just confusion with how the question was being asked, fear of answering it wrong, or just sincere doubt that plagues a number of people that is making their answers different from professing what the Church teaches - that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ under the appearances of bread and wine... really.

But perhaps with widespread disbelief over all sorts of things, with people having experienced broken trust, broken promises themselves... where everyone of us can point to someone or something that has happened in our lives that has left us wounded – we see that all of that has had a deteriorating effect which has made us ask what is real anymore? Perhaps that is fueling these statistics. That is part of the reason we feel the absence here of so many of our family members, friends, neighbors... our brothers and sisters in Christ at this Mass.

For you and I, who are here today. Who are here to participate in this Mass. Who are here to receive Jesus’ body and blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist. Who may even be dealing with our own doubts, our own misgivings, our own struggles, our own questions of what is real - but have responded to that prompting of the Holy Spirit who encouraged us to be here despite all of that - that act in itself shows what is real.

We are being real in sharing our hearts with the Lord.: What is troubling them; what is causing them to doubt; what is tempting them to move in directions that don’t seem or feel right. We are being real when despite all the confusion and attacks- we’ve gathered together with others who have similarly overcome their own pains and difficulties and we have come looking for a real, true encounter with Jesus Christ.

What we find is that we encounter the same Jesus Christ, who also suffered real pains, real difficulties, the real Passion, the real Cross... We receive the same Jesus Christ who overcame those horrific things and rose from the dead... we receive under the appearance of bread and wine what Pope Francis explained as "Christ’s presence among us... which demands that the power of love overcomes every wound."

As we consume Him, His expectation is that we become what we receive. That we become Eucharist ourselves when we go out from this place back into a world suffering from so much confusion, so much brokeness, so desperate for the Love of God revealed to be made real for them

Every time we follow Jesus’ example - when we give of ourselves. When we lay down our lives for Him and His Gospel. When we allow His voice to direct our lives, upset our plans, present new dreams in the place of the old ones we once valued so highly. When we come to a much deeper, greater trust in Him than we've ever had for anyone, anything else in the world. Then the Eucharist, God’s very presence which we receive is not only real in our teaching, but real and evident in each of our lives... and begins to renew, to heal, to transform a broken world with the real loving presence of Jesus Christ.