Hi everyone, this is my homily for the FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER - April 24, 2016.  The readings for today can be found at:  As always, thank you for stopping by to read, for sharing this on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit and for your feedback and comments.  Grateful for your support!  God Bless -
Fr. Jim


Saturday Night Live – probably about 20 years ago – had a recurring skit called "Bill Swerski's Superfans." It was a funny bit that was a parody of a bunch of the most stereo typical Chicago sports fanatics whose primary obsession was "DA BEARS". They would be sitting in a kind of TV-news panel set up and obsessively talking about sports. What made it so hysterical was the extreme examples they portrayed: they would have debates about the impact Mike Ditka's (one of the Head coaches at the time) haircut might have on the team. As loyal followers they would anticipate the most ridiculous of triumphs with ludicrous predictions "Da Bears will defeat the Giants 31 - 3... " another time, one of the members of the panel predicted the Bears would win by a score of 31 to negative 7 and when pressed, "how does a team end with negative points" the response was DITKA'LL FIND A WAY...

They say what makes comedy work is when there's an element of truth contained in it. Watching these semi-regular debates not only lampooning Chicago accents but how passionate people can get over a sports teams obviously resonates with all of us. Either we are one of those super fans or we know them... You can tell the difference about whether you are a super fan or a casual observer -- The casual observer might know that the Yankees beat the Red Sox last night - the super fan will tell you that C.C. Sabathia was on fire shutting down the entire Red Sox line up with 24 strike outs and not giving up a run in 7 innings...and how this was similar to a game between the two clubs 20 years ago.

That's not just true for sports... It could be anything. People get just as dedicated to other things - for example some music group you like: I like Mumford and Sons is a bit different from the super fan who has the super rare recording of a live performance that Mumford and Sons played in Nashville where they did an acoustic version with alternate lyrics to Hopeless Wanderer and can explain the differences to you in details you never really thought about. There are definitely fanatics for different Movies and TV shows -- Star Wars fanatics who dress up in costume and wait for days to see the premiere of a film - People counting the days and hosting a premiere party for the new season of Game of Thrones is a little different than the person who just goes to the movies for a couple of hours for entertainment or tunes in to the show when they’re home the night it happens to be on. Whatever it is, it’s not hard to tell the difference between the casual observer to the true fan.

Whether being a super fan is a healthy thing or not, we can debate or discuss some other time. But the point is, when we are Really, REALLY passionate about something, people can tell. It transforms who we are, how we react, how we behave... (Just look at Superfans when their team loses, or that band announces a new tour coming to your town or when a sequel is announced.

Are we "Super Fans" of Jesus? Just hearing that, what are the images that comes to mind? Most likely we have a caricature or some really negative stereotype of what that means just hearing that question. Yet it’s an important one. If we think about all the things we get really passionate about... follow, discuss, share - then how does Jesus factor in with that in our lives? Often times we think we’re doing Him a favor just by showing up here on a Sunday night (when, true, many, many don’t)

In tonight's Gospel, on this fifth Sunday of Easter, we kind of have this interesting flashback. Here we are, celebrating Easter, Jesus' resurrection from the dead, but the setting, the scene of tonight's Gospel is the night before Jesus' crucifixion and death. We're once again plunged back into the Upper Room at the Last Supper. There was so much that happened in those days, that last week of his life, that some things get lost in the drama, in the chaos, in the confusion. So in the peace, the joy, the glow of Easter season where we continue to reflect on the eternity-changing experience of Jesus being raised from the dead, the Church looks back at Jesus’ last days with new eyes. So as we do that tonight, we hear something essential to the life of being a Christian, of being a follower of Jesus, of truly being a disciple -

This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another...

Jesus makes it clear, what the difference between the mere observer, the casual, curious bystander and the "super fan" if you will. It's not by how quickly we can recite a line from scripture, with correct citation of book, chapter and verse number that will demonstrate to the world that we are disciples... It's not in how promptly (and often times harshly) we are able to point out to others how wrong whatever it is they are doing truly is. It's not how many rosaries or hours of prayer we offer. It isn't even how many people we can convince to come to our events, our service projects, our services -- as important as all of these things are -- that Jesus is interested in. He gets to the basic, core point - do we love one another.

This wasn't a new teaching... Not by any stretch of the imagination. Jesus had said, lived, demonstrated that over and over and over to his chosen 12. Yet here in the Upper Room, the night before he dies, as he is in a sense giving his "last words" before his crucifixion, they take on greater weight. No talk of miracles, no remembrances of great crowds or tremendous feats. He cuts to the heart of it and says - the world will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another.

We often project to a more universal, general manner. Which lived out here, at Newman Catholic - has given birth to some great mission trips, tremendous community service activities whether it's Habitat for Humanity; Soup Kitchens, even social-justice movements: where as Catholics we're talking about Immigration, Environmental issues, the protection of the unborn... But I think we can use all that to kind of deflect from what else Jesus is saying. Reflecting on this, I can't help but think Jesus wants us to be more personal, more immediate, more local.

Think about it, when he was first speaking these words, he was talking to 11 (Judas had just left to do what he was going to do). Jesus knew it was going to be hard to be a follower of his... Especially in light of what would happen in the days to come. How easy it would be for them to all turn on each other -




Jesus' love and mercy anticipates their failures to Him. And He forgives them both from the Cross and on Easter Sunday Evening for those failures (and surely many others not recorded in the Gospels). But he wants them to be sure that they forgive themselves, and forgive each other... He wants to make sure that they don't let those human emotions, those fingers pointing at each other to distract, deflect, diminish what He has done for them, and demonstrated for them.

So here it gets uncomfortable, as it gets even more personal. Look around this room... Do we love one another? When people pass by, or visit us for the first time, or observe us -not just this hour or so we gather on Sunday, but as we walk out of here. Would they be able to see us "loving one another?" Would we be described as Jesus' super fans, disciples?

That doesn't mean people fake friendship and phony smiles.  Love doesn’t mean we are best friends with someone or share the same interests or even necessarily like someone... When that is the case, Love is easy.  When it’s not the case, when we don’t see eye to eye, when we don’t share the same interests, when we don’t get along, Love is work...  And so maybe we start out with something simple like, I don't walk out of Mass and an hour later mock or gossip someone that was sitting three rows away from me.  We shouldn't do that to anyone, to be honest, but if after sitting together, hearing Jesus speak His word to us; putting His very body and blood on our tongues and consuming him and then walking out of here and gossiping about one another (and even more horrendously lying to ourselves that somehow that's being done out of concern) or we like a post that puts down someone else - then what chance do we have in being loving, being Christ like, demonstrating our super fandom for Christ to a stranger? If we can’t get this right my brothers and sisters... if we can’t get serious about what it truly means to love one another – then we're merely a social club who tries to do nice things that make us feel good (and self-righteous at the same time about how great we are)

If we're honest, we know we could do better... Should do better... Perhaps much, much better. And the temptation to make excuses, justifications, or outright dismissals to our sometimes scandalous treatment of one another will always be there.

Jesus isn't interested in any of that. He speaks urgently, lovingly, honestly to us. Imploring us to enflame the fire of faith in one another and the world around us by taking that risk to be bold, making that step to be sincere and authentic, trying to become one of his super fans as we begin that difficult step of loving one another.


Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER- April 17, 2016. The readings for today can be found at: Thanks as always for reading, sharing this on twitter, facebook, reddit - and your comments and feedback. Have a great week. God Bless - Fr Jim


It’s hard to describe, but it’s easy to worry about who you are and what you’ve become and forgetting who you are.

That was the reaction that actor Ellar Coltrane had as he viewed himself for the first time on the movie screen in last year’s critically acclaimed, ground-breaking film "Boyhood." For those of you who haven’t seen it, what made this such an innovative movie was that the filming of this story of a journey from childhood to young-adulthood was a journey itself. The filming took place 2 weeks a year for over 12 years. The end result was you have a film where in about two and a half hours, we got to see the main character Mason grow from age 6 to 18 years old (as well as the physical changes that the rest of the cast experience over those 12 years).

For the most part, the story line wasn’t particularly riveting. What was so compelling was watching something that was filmed in a way that has probably never been done before and so achieving a realism that is hard to compare with...well anything. One of the things that I was curious about after seeing the film was what kind of an effect this project had to have on the actors themselves. The "adults" in interviews sounded pretty professional about the entire process. For them their biggest concern was that they felt they were taking a "leap of faith" in agreeing to be in the film: they were committing to this project for 12 years and not sure if this was going to be the critical success it was or an epic flop that would go down as a colossal waste of time.

But for the youngest actor, Ellar it had a much deeper impact. .Starting this process as a child actor at age 6, continuing that for 2 weeks a year for 12 years, the whole thing might be similar to a summer camp experience. Many of the same people on set were there year to year... they grew as a cast together... And here he was as a young boy not simply learning the craft of acting, but just growing up himself as a boy to a man. So that line playing this fictitious character and himself experiencing this growth into a young man was a bit confusing. Hence his initial reaction to viewing this film where he got to see himself physically grow up in such a dramatically edited way was a bit mindblowing - or as he describes it "it was brutal. It was very emotional... I was laid out for a couple of days...Even though it’s not me, there is a lot of me in that character. So it’s kind of self-actualizing." With subsequent screenings of the film, he’s begun to distance himself from this role and has to remind himself that the image on the screen wasn’t him... Probably the filmmakers didn’t anticipate it, but in hindsight, it’s not difficult to understand why Ellar was a bit overwhelmed, confused as he reflects on the experience and struggles with one of the questions the film wants its viewers to delve into –

Who are you?

That’s one of the most universal, philosophical questions that everyone has to face at some point in their lives - Who am I - why am I here? For the most part - even if we have reflected on that in the past - with the busy-ness of daily life, we kind of push that aside as we run from one thing to the next... until we stumble upon a film like Boyhood or go through some major life event that our defenses come down and we find ourselves thinking about those questions.

For many, they might answer that by what they do; what they study - where they do those things - I’m a plumber... I’m studying biology... I’m from New Jersey. Those things give details about a person’s life, but it’s not really a complete answer. Others might add "I’m a husband/a wife" "I am a mother/father to three children" which gives some more important information about a person’s life commitments... but there still seems something missing...

Who are you?

Tonight’s scriptures offer answers that on the surface seem overly simplistic, but are anything but. The Psalm we sang together - We are his people, the sheep of his flock - goes hand and hand with the Gospel for tonight. Being sheep - of the shepherd... that can be hard to hear - especially as Americans. We like to believe that we’re strong; self-made; independent people. And sure, there is an element of self-reliance that is admirable and should be expected as we grow up. But it’s the height of arrogance for us to think that we somehow willed ourselves into being; or that we’re able to continue to exist simply by our own power or authority.

We have a source of being... a creator. Who, of all the ways of expressing that relationship of Creator-Creatures, He uses this very gentle, loving image of being one of His Sheep. The Gospel is interesting. Every year on this 4th Sunday of Easter we hear one of the "Good Shepherd" narratives. This selection is probably the shortest of the variations we could have heard in that three year cycle. But in that short passage, the line that stood out for me was Jesus talking about us his sheep and saying "... I know them."

Knowing in the bible often refers to much greater depth and intimacy than we so often use the word. Jesus’ is not saying "I know so and so" in a general manner, to express familiarity. Jesus knows us. He knows our curiosity, our desires, our dreams; He knows our fragileness, our brokeness, our imperfections, our sinfulness; He knows our potential, the greatness locked within... He knows us...

And with all of those things, the crazy, complexity that makes you and I the unique, individual, loved creations we are of His, He tells us that He doesn’t just know us, He loves us... I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand... That’s how God looks at us. That’s how Jesus sees us... as His beloved sheep that he has laid down his life for.

But it’s up to us to own that... to recognize that... to accept that... to want it. To want to be a member of the flock. To make that choice to do so. To live that choice not simply saying those words "I am His" - but by listening to his voice... following Him.

Much like Ellar Coltrane every so often we catch a glimpse, we can see ourselves growing and that can be a little scary. We see ourselves growing in our relationship with God. We go from our first inkling that there is something out there an entity or a thing or an it. Then we begin to realize the it might be more like a person. And finally that person becomes revealed to us as Jesus Christ along with His Father and the Holy Spirit that He sends us. So far so good.

But much like Ellar’s experience it's scary to see ourselves growing sometimes especially as we grow into a relationship with Christ. Because that is awesome and that is demanding at the same time. And it can be scary because he offers us so much and what he is asking for in return is our trust, our love, our lives. Pope Francis a few years ago to a gathering of millions of youth said - if we want our lives to have meaning and fulfillment... Put on Faith - and your life will take on a new flavor, it will have a compass to show you the way; Put on Hope - and every one of your days will be enlightened and your horizon will no longer be dark but luminous; Put on Love - and your life will be built on rock, your journey will be joyful ... 

If we do these things, if we allow ourselves to learn from our experiences; instead of being scared by seeing how much we change then we will won’t mind being one of His Sheep. Sheep are afraid and they don’t just follow any voice; they have learned the shepherd’s voice and find great peace and confidence in following them. They know the shepherd will not bring them to harm, but help them find the best grass and water.

What voices do you hear and follow? Are you confident they will bring you to the best things in life? Listening to the voices of the world -- those in the media, those in politics (and especially many of the voices we find on this campus) can be risky and many times harmful. Tuning them out and returning to the voice of our Shepherd guarantees "good things." Does that mean a life without trouble … no, but it does mean we will know who we truly are – and who we become: one with the God who never changes. And that is a good thing.


Hi everyone - so this Sunday, I'm not preaching since Archbishop Hebda will be joining us to celebrate Mass and the Sacrament of Confirmation for two of our students.  But this past Friday night we had our Archdiocese of Newark Catholic Intercollegiate Adoration (CIA)... so I thought I'd pass along the homily from that.  The readings can be found here:  (Friday of the 2nd Week of Easter)

Thanks as always for stopping by, for sharing this blog and for your comments and feedback!  God Bless and Have a great week - Fr Jim

maybe it wasn't THIS bad... but not too far off
A couple of years ago I was sitting at a meeting at the Archdiocese when a friend turned to me and asked if I had an extra pen.  I took a look, and on the bottom of my backpack, I saw among an assortment of junk - ALTOIDS, an old magnificat magazine, headphones, this old ball-point pen.  The plastic outer shell of it was broken.  It was kind of dirty too from dust, sand from the Jersey Shore when this was my beach bag- and whatever other particles made it into this bag that is used from everything from a gym bag to a briefcase.  At any event, as I was digging through all this crap, I not even fully realizing it, had pulled the ball point pen out and kind of showed it to him as I said “No, I don’t.”

He looked at me kind of in disbelief trying to figure out whether I was stupid or busting on him as he said “Uh - what’s that?”  And I said “Oh this, you don’t want to use this, I mean look at it, it’s old, it’s broken, I doubt it even works.”  He grabbed the pen, swirled it on his pad a few times and then it started working again (gotta hand it to Ballpoint, they do make a good pen) and he said “yeah - this is fine...” as he proceeded to use it for the next hour without even the slightest of difficulties.

Here I was - maybe out of embarrassment, or a mistaken belief that there’s no way this would be useful - prepared not to give my friend something he needed at the moment he needed it, because I had already judged the pen inadequate, useless... “what good could it be.”  It’s a stupid example, but it came to mind reading this Gospel.

In this reading, we hear of one of Jesus’ most famous, most recounted and remembered miracles - the feeding of the multitudes - which is recounted in every Gospel, but with a few variations in each   As told by St. John, this version contains an interesting detail.  When Jesus sees the crowd of well over 5,000 (considering that was only the number of men – with women and children, the crowd was probably well over 15,000) He shows his love, his concern and makes it clear that he wishes to get them something to eat.    Turning to his closest followers, his inner circle, his apostles, Andrew seems to be the only one with any ideas (the others are probably thinking, as we hear in the other gospels, to send them home thinking the crowd is to big).  Andrew points out that a young boy has come forward and offered all that he had.  The 5 loaves and 2 fish.  But as soon as Andrew acknowledges this offer, very quickly, he dismisses it as inadequate saying “what good are these for so many?”

How often in our land of plenty and abundance... (think of it, only in our “first world” culture could we have a reality show called “Hoarders” focusing on people who can’t get around their homes because they have so much crap they’ve “collected” - while countless other people in nations throughout the world are desperate for just enough to survive?  That’s another sermon for another day though, but I’ll leave the ADD thought here... anyway) in this land of plenty and abundance do we look at the material things we possess as inadequate?  

That’s bad enough on one level - but even more, how often do we see the gifts, the talents, the abilities that we possess as “not good enough?”

I’ve heard or witnessed students not stepping up in terms of being leaders because “they’re not good enough”... I won’t sing with the choir because “there’s people who sing better than I do...” “I can’t go on that mission trip or that community service, because, well, what can I do?”    Even sadder when young men dismiss thoughts of a priestly vocation or young women think they could never be called to be a religious sister because “I’m not holy enough.”

One lesson this Gospel brings to mind is that it’s not about us.  We can get so worked up trying to evaluate things (and in the process, often times undermining how blessed we truly are as we compare ourselves to others) we start to conceive plans, determine how things will work out that we get overwhelmed, doubtful in our faith and stifling ourselves into inaction.

Yet look at how Jesus takes this nameless boy’s example to speak to us today.  If like him, we simply, humbly offer to Jesus all that we have, all that we possess, all that we are - it is then that He is able to work miracles through us and with us.

That’s what happened in the Early Church.  That first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, shows that these same men who initially were so dismissive of this one little boys contributions in the face of such a great need, these same men who failed Jesus so spectacularly during his unjust trial, his brutal, torturous Passion... these same men after the Resurrection of Jesus, after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they are now facing execution for preaching Jesus Christ were spared because one argues to the rest that “if this endeavor is of human origin, it will destroy itself...”  And because they “did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Christ, Jesus” we have been fortunate to receive this precious gift of faith.

This nameless boy - the apostles - they all bear witness again, that it’s not about us - it’s about us not standing in the way of the miracles Jesus wants to work through us and with us.  If that were something that was lived by every disciple, then this wouldn’t be simply a miracle story we encounter every so often, remembering this one day where a multitude of people had their physical hunger alleviated.  It would be a model of how Jesus Christ continues to transform the hearts of his believers and the world around them.  Jesus would continue to be working miracles, fulfilling the deeper hungers, alleviating the spiritual and physical malnourishment that so many are suffering simply because we’ve been stuck asking ourselves as we look at our gifts, our talents, our possessions - “What good are these?”  Jesus is willing to show us exactly how good they are, if only we would be willing to share them.