GOOGLE WANTS YOU TO LIVE FOREVER (JESUS ALREADY BEAT THEM TO IT)

Hi everyone.  Happy Easter!  Alleluia!  May the Risen Christ share His Life, His Love to you and yours today and always.  Here's my homily for EASTER SUNDAY - THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST - March 27, 2016.  The readings for today can be found at http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032716.cfm Thanks as always for reading, sharing this on facebook, twitter, reddit - and your feedback.  God Bless - Fr Jim

HOMILY:

Has Google changed life as we know it? Not yet... but they’re trying!


Maybe 10-15 years ago, hearing the word Google was probably something we were familiar with like"Yahoo" or "Ask.com" - an internet web-site that was a search engines designed to help you find different things on the internet. Yet through ingenuity, creativity, business sense and an explosion of advancements that we may never imagined in real life a decade ago, Google has become something much more than just another tool for the world wide web, but arguably, a cultural changing force. Just think of these three examples:



- It has become such a dominant presence that Webster’s dictionary decided to add the word "google" to it’s catalogue, listing it as a verb... Used in a sentence, for example, What is a platypus? I don’t know – google it. In other words, use the google search engine on the internet to find out information about someone or something.

- Google is behind some other huge cultural phenomenons that people have made a part of their daily lives and routines, like Instagram, another app that allows people to share photos with one another; or Uber, which has redefined taxi service making car service available with just a few clicks on a phone or computer.
- And, it is estimated that over 425 million people, including government agencies in 45 states, some of the leading universities in the U.S. and over 5 million businesses use Google’s "gmail" for their email addresses.

It’s hard to deny: Google is a dominating presence. So seeing the cover of a business magazine with the cover headline"Google wants you to live forever" not too long ago, you couldn’t help but wonder if there’s some consumer angle or catch to it – was this just a provocative headline to get us to hear how Google wants customers to live longer to buy more stuff that they produce?

But reading it, you realized it’s a lot more than some business or marketing angle. In fact, they’re quite serious. The story was about the president and managing partner of Google Ventures, a man by the name of Bill Maris. His mission, as he explains it, backed by $425 million dollars is to vet, search, meet with different companies, ventures, individuals and to invest in those companies he believes will be successful in slowing down the aging process, reverse disease, extending life.

On the surface, a lot of it sounds amazing - like how Google has spent hundreds of millions of dollars backing a research center, called Google X which is working on a pill that would insert nanoparticles into our bloodstream to detect disease and cancer mutations. Or another venture called the Interactive Cancer Explorer, which allows oncologists, to do research and devise treatments for their patients which has changed things from where they could only treat cancer with poison like chemicals of chemotherapy, to possibly curing cancer by reverse-engineering a stem cell.

Some of it sounds scary too and pushing the envelope of ethics where there’s the worst of science fiction being considered (full body transplant? Terminator-like robotics added to human beings?)

When asked about all of this Maris reflectively said "There are plenty of people, including us, that want to invest in consumer Internet, but we can do more than that.... There are a lot of billionaires in Silicon Valley, but in the end, we are all heading to the same place, If given the choice between making a lot of money or finding a way to make people live longer, what do you choose?"

An important question to be sure... and in many ways their goals, their desires are noble, admirable and something that we can all unite on. A world where there will be fixes to the harmful effects of smoking, too much sun or what alcohol can do to our DNA... A future where Alzheimers and Parkinsons and other diseases are erradicated - just hearing that makes me want to sign up and get a gmail account just to support those noble ambitions.

But you couldn’t help but pick up a sense of dread as you kept reading along... an obvious fear contained in this story. The author of the article observed that at one point in the interview his employees were fooling around and joking with him, he smiled and then quickly went back to work somewhat joylessly saying "Time is the one thing I can’t get back and can’t give back to you." Maris then went on to describe his deeply held conviction: "We actually have the tools in the life sciences to achieve anything that you have the audacity to envision, I just hope to live long enough not to die" Then revealing his fear, which is the same fear that has plagued humanity from that fateful day humanity in the Garden of Eden when death became a part of our story, as he repeats again saying "In the end, we are all heading to the same place."

That quintessential fact, is what humanity from age to age has been faced with - death. That burden, that obstacle is what is motivating Maris and Google to try to set the goal of "living forever."

Google may (and hopefully they will) succeed in helping us to extend life in productive, healthy ways. But they will not succeed in making living forever possible... As even the headline of the article had an asterik next to it with very small print saying ‘well, maybe to 500.

But Jesus Christ has... does... wills... that very thing this very day: Eternal Life. That is the audacious, mysterious, wondrous, terrifying thing that we celebrate today in this day that the Lord has Made - this Easter Sunday.

That the God-incarnate, Son of God, Jesus, born of Mary, who lived, ate, felt, experienced every aspect of humanity we do - including the most horrific, painful, sorrowful aspects - both physically and emotionally - especially death, death in the most brutal, violent, torturous way - death on the Cross - has been raised from the dead. Lives Forever. And He promises us that same future if we but believe in Him, follow Him, love Him and share this good news.

Truth be told – We want to believe, but we’re reluctant.

Some come here just on Easter almost like an Insurance deductible - make the minimum payment just in case its real.

The doubts seem so hard to overcome.

The evidence of death is certainly very verifiable in tragically, dramatic ways. Whether on a global level in wars, in terror attacks - like we just saw in the last few days tragically killing over 34 people in Brussels – or whether its in disease, in poverty, in cruelty. We don’t have to look outward for examples of death. Much closer to home in illnesses, in betrayals, in rejections, in the deaths of loved ones we experience around us. All of these things have the ability to depress us into disbelief. They validate our doubts... They have the potential to undermine our faith in the Easter miracle.

Yet these witnesses we hear from in scripture, people who saw depressing, distressing things happen to Jesus - like the unjust, chaotic trial; the crowds turning blood thirsty, demanding love be crucified – who saw themselves powerless, impotent to stop these horrific things from happening - they who shared our disbelief tell of how that disbelief was vanquished as death was vanquished... an empty tomb, angelic testimony, and in the days and weeks to come as we continue to celebrate this great mystery of our faith – Easter – they will share of their encountering the Risen Jesus. How that encounter transforms them and emboldens them to move from fear to conviction as they give their very lives in testimony to the one who died and rose from the dead.

As we come together on this Easter day, our hearts need to be fixed, focused on the desire to live forever. But not with a fear-filled "survival" mentality where we simply try to out-last death for as long as possible but rather seeing the new life that Easter promises. Jesus doesn’t come back from the dead and resume his pre-Good Friday life. He is transformed... into a new, abundant life...He promises us that same transformation. We can begin that new life, and start living forever - now.

What does that kind of living look like? Maybe it will be the casting off our fears. Living with the certitude of being a beloved son and daughter of God, through Jesus Christ. Following Him - not just with words uttered from our lips, but with every fiber of our being... letting His words, His presence direct our decisions, our priorities, our entire lives... Heeding his example and command to follow it where we live selflessly; share abundantly; love without counting the cost. When we start living like that, life looks and is very different. We experience Jesus’ new life within us both now and forever.

How does Jesus want to transform you? Your families, Your relationships, Your very life.

Pope Francis said in his Easter homily a couple of years ago let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives! Are we often weary, disheartened and sad? Do we feel weighed down by our sins? Do we think that we won’t be able to cope? Let us not close our hearts, let us not lose confidence, let us never give up: there are no situations which God cannot change, there is no sin which he cannot forgive if only we open ourselves to him.

In the end, we realize that yes, Google may make life more convenient, but only the Risen Christ can transform it, bringing it joy, meaning. May the joy that this feast proclaims be with us always, and may Christ's Love be our foretaste of living forever with Him.

"I'VE GOT YOU"

Hi everyone this is my homily for PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF THE LORD, March 20. 2016.  The readings for today can be found at http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032016.cfm.  Thanks for stopping by and reading this blog;  as well as all your shares on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, etc.; and your feedback and comments.  I'm grateful for all your support.  Have a Blessed and Meaningful Holy Week - Fr Jim

HOMILY:
Shannon Johnson (L) and Denise Perazea (R)
Shannon Johnson and his colleague, Denise Perazea are two names that probably aren’t very recognizable to us, which is understandable.  Being employees for a County Public Health Department in California doesn’t usually draw much attention to us sitting here in New Jersey.  Back in December, these two ordinary people were having an ordinary day at work, even having as ordinary a conversation as you’d expect in that environment, as Denise recalls:  We were seated next to each other at a table, joking about how we thought the large clock on the wall might be broken because time seemed to be moving so slowly.  Anyone who’s worked in an office building for a 9 to 5 shift can appreciate that sentiment... may have even said the same thing.

What made these two ordinary individuals noteworthy, is what happened moments later.  Two terrorists would burst into this office building in San Bernadino California, that fateful day this past December, unleashing a hail of bullets on all these innocent people, killing 14 people and injuring over 20 more people.  Denise took a bullet to her lower back, when Johnson scooped her up, brought her under the same table they had just been having their ordinary conversation at, grabbed a chair as a shield on one side, and then wrapping himself around her on the other, and uttering three words to Denise, which would be the last three Johnson would ever speak "I’ve got you."

We often hear similar stories of such courage, bravery, selflessness in the face of immense evil
or horrific circumstances: in the thick of battles and wars, in the midst of criminal activities, in a terrorist attack, in a natural disaster.  And for most listeners it causes them to pause and reflect, “What would I do in the same situation?”   We like to think we’d be as courageous as that firefighter who goes in and rescues that person tapped in the World Trade Center on September 11th and somehow isn’t fortunate enough themselves to escape that horror... or as selfless as the soldier in Iraq who throws himself on top of an explosive device, sacrificing himself and saving his platoon ... or as loving as Shannon Johnson who only thought to protect this injured woman with his very life... We like to think we are... and hope we’re never in the position to find out.

Rarely though, do we think about what it’s like to be the recipient of such acts of love: The greatest of love - the laying down of one’s life for another.  The emotional impact such a gift must make on the recipient, how such an act must cause a re-evaluation of priorities for that individual - how they live their own lives in light of this act of supreme generosity realizing that someone offered their very selves so that they could live.

We rarely think of it, again, hoping never to have to be in a situation like that in the first place. Forgetting.  .  .   we already have been. 


Palm Sunday and this week we call Holy Week are meant to bring each and everyone of us face to face with that reality. We just proclaimed, and will focus this week on Jesus’ Passion where we recount his unjust arrest and trial, his brutal torture and execution on the Cross on Good Friday.  But we’re not meant to listen to this somewhat disinterestedly, as outsiders, recounting a horrendous story of what happened to an innocent man.  Jesus’ death meant something, means something to us here and now.   Selfishness, envy, greed, pride on the part of many had blinded people to the beauty of God’s love made real in Jesus Christ, kept them from hearing his life-giving words, from experiencing the fullness and endless life He was coming to offer humanity as He was crucified some 2000 years ago. 

Sadly, the cycle continues. Our gossip, our betrayals, our vindictiveness and selfishness, our putting ourselves and our needs not only ahead of others but even at the expense of someone else - continues to cause separation from one another, from God.  Continues to demand justice, some sort of retribution for our sinful choices. Which is what this whole week is about, to "enter more and more into God’s logic of love and self-giving" (Pope Francis).  Where we proclaim His Passion, we come to His Cross to recognize He has suffered all of that for you and for me. He suffers and dies, he offers his very life for our sins.  The depth of His love is demonstrated on the Cross, the power of His love - greater than sin, greater than death itself will be revealed in the great feast of Easter next Sunday.  But for now, we are meant to focus on how Jesus laid His body over us and took the brutal and painful agony of Hell and kept us, keeps us safe.  He says I’ve got you... here and now and for all eternity.

This is our hope. How does that change our life and how we want to live it? Modeling a life of hope is the best sermon those who are lost will see.  Jesus saved you, will you allow sacrifice in your life to show hope to others so that they may be saved?  We are blessed to be a blessing. May we offer this gift of hope and see what God will do through our sacrifice.

NEWSFLASH: JESUS IS NOT OK WITH ADULTERY

Hi everyone, here' s my homily for the FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT - March 13, 2016.  The readings for today's Mass can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/031316-fifth-sunday-lent.cfm .  As always, thanks for stopping by and reading this blog;  for sharing it on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit; and for your feedback and comments.  God Bless and have a great weekend- Fr. Jim 

HOMILY:
So on the front page of the NY Post a few weeks ago carried the words in bold headline: "DEAR REILLY" with the sub headline: The letter that will make every New Yorker laugh. I like to laugh, so, I was curious to see the letter that this major newspaper found hysterical. The background to the story goes that Reilly Flaherty a 28 year old guy from Brooklyn had been out at a concert when his wallet was misplaced. About 2 weeks later he received a letter in the mail with the following so-called funny letter:

Dear Reilly - I found your wallet and your drivers license had your address so here’s your credit cards and other important stuff. I kept the cash because I needed weed, the metrocard because well the fare’s $2.75 now, and the wallet cause it’s kinda cool. Enjoy the rest of your day. Toodles - Anonymous.

Any of you who’ve heard me preach for some time know that I like to cut out stories; or save links of websites to different items that I come across that stick out to me for a variety of reasons. Some are inspirational, some are comical (intentionally or unintentionally) This one didn’t fit into any of those categories... It bothered me. Apart from it being (obviously) a slow news day, what was it that made this a front page story – A story that hundreds of thousands of people saw on their front steps, read as they drank their coffee, shared on twitter or facebook? What was it that resonated with the newsroom executives that believed this would resonate with their readers; even classifying it as funny - so much so that there was a follow up article the next day evaluating Anonymous’ handwriting? Because to me, the letter, & the behavior of the person known as Anonymous wasn’t funny...

Think about it. He (I’m not being sexist, the handwriting analyst said it was a dude) "found" Reilly’s wallet (I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t steal it). In his letter, he basically admits that he knew what the right thing to do was (return it intact). Instead, he chose to help himself to whatever it was that he felt absolutely entitled to. To assuage his guilty conscience he returns the items that were "important" (btw- at that point, 2 weeks later, one would assume Reilly would have cancelled his cards and gotten a new license...and should "anonymous" have used the credit cards, there might have been a way of tracking him, arresting him, charging him for several more crimes...so nice try, but again, that’s not the most noble of motives either) He then writes a somewhat honest confession where he doesn’t apologize for stealing the mans cash, metrocard or wallet in a semi-comical matter (because theft and weed use are funny) and then signs it anonymous, because despite this brazenness and arrogance, there’s a great deal of cowardice. Sadly because pick-pocketing and such aren’t rare, the perceived small act of goodwill from this self-centered man seemed comical to the NY Post. But if you read the entire article, and got to the point where Reilly summed it up like this "it speaks to the New York mentality: I’m going to be nice, but there’s going to be an asterisk" – you can’t help but think ... this guy, Anonymous isn’t funny, in fact, he is a criminal and kind of a jerk.

I’m sure that some might be saying "ouch - kind of harsh their father..." Especially after tonight’s Gospel. Wasn’t that whole encounter that we just heard about underlining and putting in bold-face type the instruction that we’re not supposed to judge another person?


Often times that’s what we take from this story of the woman caught in adultery. But there’s a lot more going on here that we have to reflect on. Jesus was surrounded by people who had been listening to Him, started following and believing in Him. The scribes and the pharisee’s - the religious leaders of the time drag this woman before Jesus who was caught in adultery (interesting how that sin in which it would take another person to commit somehow only finds this one party, the woman, to accuse, shame and demand punishment on, but that’s another topic for another day). But what’s not up for debate is that - everyone knows that what she has done was wrong. Adultery was a sin against God and the community (still is by the way). At that time, there was a prescribed punishment which because it came from Moses, it was considered divine. So now Jesus is presented with this angry mob, this explosive case to weigh in. And not because they really wanted to know his opinion. Jesus had been causing a stir for people trying to figure out, who He really was, a rabbi? A teacher? A Prophet? The Messiah? this was meant to be a test for him to help the listeners, the leaders put him into one of those categories and deal with him appropriately.

Masterfully Jesus disarms the crowd. He doesn’t deny the teaching of Moses (that adultery was a sin). But in turning it around on the crowd saying "Let the one who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her" he renders everyone unqualified, unable to fulfill the punishment that had been proscribed for this sin.

But the problem is that so often people take the wrong conclusions from this. That somehow Jesus is saying "you committed adultery... THAT’S OKAY come here, give me a hug."

Jesus isn’t happy about people committing adultery - knowing the pain that causes the innocent people who’s faith and trust has been violated, injured, at times destroyed... knowing the regret and shame that the two who succumbed to the temptation are experiencing... But Jesus isn’t happy seeing these others accusing the woman and what’s going on in their lives. That each and everyone of them have had temptations they’ve succumbed to, sins they’ve committed. And instead of empathizing with the predicament the woman is in – realizing this could be me or rather this should be me as well they look to somehow deflect from those realities; deflect from the punishment their sins deserve as well with further lies like well I’m not as bad as She is as they stand there with stones in their hands.

Jesus’ challenge to the crowd wasn’t a political move by Jesus to sneak by those tricky scribes and pharisees out of a complex moral argument. It was meant to cause his original listeners - and you and I here today, 2000 years later to recognize the destruction that sin can cause in each and everyone of our lives. To wake up to that reality, particularly in a day and age where the phrase "personal responsibility" is considered harsh rhetoric; where bad behavior seems to be excused, justified and accommodated; and the slightest concern that is raised over any moral issue is met with a misquoting of this passage with an air of self-righteousness saying "who are you to judge."


Jesus’ primary mission in life was to come to save you and I from Sin... from the destruction it causes us in the here and now... from the punishment those sins deserve. In this Gospel, Jesus saves the woman who is about to be punished for her sin. Jesus saves the angry crowd from their delusions of superiority, from their interior blindness to the self-hatred they have over the things they’ve done that they’re afraid of being found out about which they are projecting on this individual. Jesus wants to save us as well. That’s what this whole "Jubilee Year of Mercy" that we’ve been hearing and talking about for awhile is all about. God shows us his kindness, his compassion even when we’ve done things that hurt us, hurt others, hurt Him. He does that not because those things don’t matter, but because we matter more than the hurt our sins caused.

Separating the sin from the sinner - separating ourselves from our sins - this distinction is important.  Adultery isn't okay - our own sins aren't okay - but WE are inherently 'okay,' we are lovable in God's eyes. Not because our sins aren’t a big deal, as if we could explain them away with a dozen excuses or mitigating circumstances (real or imaginary).  No, Christ forgiving the woman caught in adultery - God forgiving us here in the 21st Century - His forgiveness, His mercy isn't incredible because our sins are minimal, negligible, because our sins are nothing (as if He says, 'Hey, forget about it, no big deal') but because our sins do matter.  They are destructive.  They affect us and those around us in a real, tangible destructive ways. No our sins are not 'okay,' it’s not what God wants for us, it’s not even - if we're honest - what we really want for ourselves.  

But the Good News that we celebrate is that God's Mercy - which is the same kind of mercy that we are called to - is mercy precisely because there is something to forgive.   A stolen wallet.  A broken vow.  We are not called to make excuses for ourselves or for others, to explain away, downplay laugh at and eventually excuse the evil around us.  We are called to see it - to recognize it for what it is - and, once done, once realized, that, precisely THAT is what we're called to forgive.  And that can be hard.   You might be thinking, yeah, but my brother, my mom, my roommate doesn't deserve to be forgiven.  And, if your equating 'deserve to be forgiven' with 'deserve to be excused' you might be right.  


But I don't deserve to be forgiven.  You don't deserve to be forgiven.  None of us deserves to be forgiven. It is an act freely made, a gift freely given - by God or by us, without excuses, without justification.  In this life, there may be ramifications for our actions - if that pickpocket was identified, he might have to pay a fine or even serve time; in today's world, an adulterous spouse might face divorce or separation from his or her family - but the opportunity for forgiveness, for mercy is always real.  It's always there. 

That's a tall order... especially as we enter these last days of Lent.  We may be intimidated by what we're being asked to consider.  It might seem too hard, impossible for us to do... But, Pope Francis in his book The Church of Mercy very beautifully put it like this, we ask:  what can I, a weak, fragile sinner do?   God says to you, Do not be afraid of holiness; do not be afraid to aim high, to let yourself be loved and purified by God; do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit.  Let us be infected by the holiness of God.  Every Christian is called to sanctity and sanctity does not consist especially in doing extraordinary things, but in allowing God to act. 

May we be vigilant to see the evil in the world around us, to recognize it and never excuse it.  But also begin to fill up that void with mercy, forgiveness and love, the only things that can ever fill it and bring the healing that it desperately longs for.