THE ECLIPSE OF GOD

Hi everyone, here is my homily for the 20th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - August 19, 2017.  The readings can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/082017.cfm .  Thanks as always for stopping by to read this blog; for sharing it on your facebook, twitter and reddit links; and for your feedback and comments.   God Bless - Fr Jim

HOMILY:
The other day, I got this email that had as its subject line Tips for this Monday’s Solar Eclipse. It had safety information and tips on how to protect yourself from eye damage that can come from looking directly in the sky when this eclipse occurs.

This natural phenomenon where the moon passes between the sun and the earth, to the point that the sun appears to be blocked, preventing sunlight and making day seem like nighttime for a brief time - had been one of the top stories of the summer. The hype and interest over this rare event had been building over the weeks with stories on the best places to view the "total" eclipse (here in NJ we’re expecting only a partial eclipse) - what kind of protective lenses to use to make it safer for those who wish to view it - explanations of when and why these things occur.

It was a big story... until this past week. A week that started with stories about Neo Nazis, White Suppremacists, KKK... continued with all sorts of outrage in response that included vandalism and violence; and the pointing of fingers - fingers of blame, of condemnation, of anger at one another... then by the end of the week attention was shifted to a terrorist attack that took place in Barcelona Spain killing at least 14 people and injuring over 100... Then Friday night, 6 police officers all around the country were shot with 2 being killed... and then Saturday, coming full circle, there were protests somewhat similar to last Saturday, this time taking place in Boston.

Thursday night, after hearing some of these news reports, I turned off the radio and found myself driving home in silence (which actually isn’t a bad practice). Thinking about a different eclipse that is even more dangerous for us. Thinking about an eclipse of God.


Not on His part... It’s never on God’s part. But rather on our part. On all of our parts... Because it’s easy to look at some really, really misguided, hate-spewing people in a town in Virginia– as those to blame... It’s easy to look at radical extremists who feel justified killing innocent human lives – as those to blame... It’s way too easy to look at whoever else doesn’t conform to our agendas, our talking points, our politics, our beliefs as those who are to blame for this eclipse of God - and His peace, His care, His protection from our society, our country, our communities... our lives.

Sadly, I could show you emails, messages, tweets of articles, blogs, and stories that people have sent me all week telling me what I should preach, how I should preach - how I better preach on certain things that strangely seem to validate the senders personal politics, agendas, or beliefs. None of them seemed to address (or even seemed interested) in this eclipse of God. Which isn’t surprising. The moment we decide to paint or label someone as "other" - and we begin to distrust someone based on prejudices, hostilities, hatreds - then we’re not capable of seeing God in our midst, certainly not in one another... and God seems to be eclipsed from our midst.

Providentially, this Gospel arrives... And scripture reminds us that this occurrence, this eclipse of God is sadly not as rare as we would hope nor confined to present day alone.

In the passage we just heard, Jesus takes His small circle of 12 apostles outside of Jewish regions into towns, that were considered "unclean." This Canaanite woman represents one of Israel’s most despised, long-standing enemies. Despite this, she is begging for help from Jesus who she calls Lord and Son of David. Jesus is silent, as his disciples reveal their prejudices and hostilities as they look to Jesus to shut her up.

But He doesn’t - and she doesn’t.

She crys out again - Lord Help Me - as she desperately seeks healing for her daughter. Jesus, responds in quite a startling manner saying "It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs." In saying this,, He is giving voice to the unspoken, but real prejudices that were floating around in the apostles hearts and minds. He gives voice to how those closest to Him still had eclipsed the love, the mercy of the very presence of God in their midst.



But beautifully, the Canaanite woman’s love and care for her daughter... her belief that no Jesus wasn’t simply some miracle worker who if she just asked nicely enough would relent to her wishes - but rather that this is indeed God - that Jesus is Lord isn’t diminished. Even though she might not have had the education, the stature or the tradition of the Jewish men who surrounded Jesus - her heart and soul gave birth to a deep faith that enabled her to move past her own personal embarrassment, past these ancient hostilities and present day animosities and she remains undeterred in faith and trust in Jesus. This deep faith enables her to move past all of that as she rather courageously and humbly respond "Please Lord, even the dogs eat scraps that fall from the table of their masters."

All of a sudden this person who was considered an "other" is as equal as the 12... Jesus reveals to her, and even more to the 12 and each of us, that she is loved, as He responds to her pleas, as He accepts her. The word Dog goes from being a derogatory label to an acronym for daughter of God. That’s what God is able to do. He is able to see the beauty, the dignity of the individual who He loving made... He removes the obstacles, the blinders, the labels we can so unfairly assign to another (and even worse, pass on to other generations).

Jesus wouldn’t let her remain assigned to this group of enemies or outsiders because of where she was born, or who she associated with, or what her family heritage was, or her race, or her gender. She was a mother, with a child in desperate need of healing - which she correctly identified that her only hope for healing can be found in God.

As Americans, sometimes we can become self righteous. We can remember some atrocities from history- especially horrific travesties that took place around the world that so many of our brave relatives sacrificed their comforts, their desires, their very lives in order to save the world from – and because of those noble individuals fighting just causes, we can sometimes think, expect, or perhaps naively hope that we are immune from the evil and hatred taking root here. But its this type of arrogance, and lack of humility on our part that continues to eclipse God from our views – as we can see with people behaving really horrifically in a variety of different ways around our country that demonstrates we are not immune to that happening here.

But before we go off and focus on the sins of others, which seems to be the popular thing to do, Jesus challenges us to go much deeper on a much more personal, intimate level:

Who are the enemies we hold? Who are the people that deep within we hate - think about that for a minute. That can be someone in the public domain who we’ve never met - or it could be a family member who we know all too well - or someone in between...or all the above...

Who are the people we’ve got our labels for - perhaps it’s not dog - but it’s even more derogatory, it’s just as dismissive...

If it’s Peace we want... If it’s true healing, and reconciliation we desire... then we need to pay attention to these warning signs we’re seeing in these growing escalations of evil. Then we need to work to save ourselves from the devastation that can come from a society that totally eclipses God. And we have to start here... on that more personal, intimate level and desire to become people of strong faith. Because we’re not going to be able to go out and obliterate evil in the world by simply labeling, accusing and blaming others. We have to start first by looking within.

The Canaanite woman did... She didn’t listen to her friends, relatives and neighbors who saw Jesus and these 12 Jewish men walking into town and sneered, and ridiculed, and labeled them as hated enemies... She didn’t let any of that stop her from going to Jesus.

Are we willing to do the same?

Are we willing to take the insults of the world as we break away from the cheerleading we can receive from those who validate the sometimes destructive thoughts we can have...

Are we willing to stop listening to voices that agree with the hurtful things that we can say about one another... can we move away from that "group think" and allow Christ to break this eclipse of God by illuminating our vision... where He enables us to see one another as He sees us. It’s not just about our survival... It’s what we’re suppose to be doing all along as the call of discipleship demands this - that we look beyond labels and stereotypes to recognize every one of us is a child of God, brothers and sisters.

IF YOU SAY WHO HE IS...DO YOU MEAN WHAT YOU SAY?

Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the 21st SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - August 27, 2017. The readings for today can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/082717.cfm
Thanks for reading this blog; for sharing it on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit - and for your comments and feedback. God Bless - Fr Jim

HOMILY:
Penn and Teller are the famous comedy and magician duo who’ve been seen on TV, as well as from performing live all over the country. There act usually consists of the two entertainers doing their illusions with Penn Jillette giving his outspoken monologues next to Raymond Teller’s relative silence. Aside from their work together, Penn has been able to create a solo career as well. He has his own voice-over work for television networks like Comedy Central, he produces movies, and he has his own stand up routines that would fall into the "Bill Maher" category of (for lack of a better word) "humor." He can be very outrageous, and as a professed atheist, has often times said blasphemous things that would offend any of us (a few years ago he said some disgusting things about Mother Teresa, for example). While it’s understandable, to put it politely, that I'm not a fan of his, I can see he’s a very intelligent man who is rarely at a loss for - and can easily devour someone with - his words in a verbal confrontation or debate. 

That’s why an incident that occurred with him a couple of years ago has stayed with me – because it was so unexpected. Penn had done his show one evening and afterwords, went outside to meet some fans and sign some autographs. While he was meeting people he noticed one man standing off to the side hovering, and obviously waiting to talk to him. Turns out the man had seen the show the night before. Penn shared as he recounted this on his video blog that he was convinced the guy was a real fan of his - he had even volunteered at one point to assist in Penn’s act. And this fan was extremely complimentary about how much he enjoyed the performance. The reason he had come back this next evening and waited after the show was that he simply wanted to give Penn a Bible. This fan spoke to Penn face to face, looked him in the eye, was honest (and in my own words, loving) as he told Penn that while he was a businessman, his faith called him to share the Gospel. In the Bible he gave to Penn he had written an inscription with his name and phone numbers in it if he could ever be of help to Penn in his journey of faith.

What was so moving to me was that you could see how Penn Jillete was truly affected by this encounter. He called the experience "wonderful." In the 5 minute video he’s often at a loss, or struggling for words. He repeatedly describes this man as "kind, nice and sane [as he] talked to [him] and gave [him] this Bible..."

But what made the whole encounter so memorable was towards the end when Penn Jillete, the avowed atheist said "I don’t respect people who don’t prostelytize . . . How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible, and not tell them that . . . this guy was a really good guy. He cared enough about me to proselytize." He compared it to someone seeing a run-away car barreling down a street towards another person and wondering if he should go and push him out of the way. Then Penn concluded, "I know there is no God. And one polite person living his life right doesn’t change that. But he was a very, very good man."

In his head, I believe that Penn still 'believes' in his brand of atheism - but it sounds like his heart was moved to wonder - it sounds like this encounter with a man who purely, simply, loved him enough to share what we call "good news of great joy for all people" maybe helped shift his perspective a bit; and that maybe, just maybe, one day this avowed atheist might truly believe.


"Who do you say that I am" - Jesus pointedly asks his apostles in today’s Gospel. After hearing what others have said - the theories, the gossip and rumors of others - he pointedly asks his followers - and each of us this question. Simon Peter’s response "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" isn’t just a theological response - it isn’t being offered as a text book answer for us to be ready to offer to have the proper words to prove we’re good Catholics. It’s an answer that, if we really let it sink in, should define who we are, what we believe and value, how we see ourselves in relationship to others and the world.

Because if we see Him as the Christ, as the Son of the Living God too - then our course, our path is laid out for us. Then that means we are called to follow Jesus’ commands of selfless love rather than that human inclination of our own self interests. Then that means we are entrusted with the important work of lovingly sharing this man Jesus who we’ve encountered, who has brought salvation, healing, mercy into this world - and even being bold enough to invite others to come to know, come to love Him as well.

One of the main problems that we as Catholic Christians face is meekness. Overly politeness. Being cautious. Being "respectfully" reserved. Particularly when it comes to matters of faith. We are so worried about being offensive - in this realm... It’s amazing to me in our social-media, knee jerk, instant share world - people seem overly bold about weighing in on everything from ones feelings on the President to what the Kardashians are up to - to what someone thought about the Yankees or an episode of Game of Thrones. But we’re careful, cautious, meek about Jesus.

Yet, one look at that Crucifix kind of annihilates those and any other excuse we can come up with for why we resist, why we hold back, why we don’t share our faith – why we don’t share good news with a world desperately looking for any… Because looking at the crucifix we see that Jesus doesn’t hold back anything And even more, this greatest example of selfless love to us is made visible, made real in the Mass when the Bread and Wine becoming Jesus’ body and blood is very simply, humbly given to us to consume.

Jesus doesn’t gift this to us to simply to grace us here and now into eternity with Him for ourselves. That is meant to supply the nourishment to want to care, to want to share Him in loving, sincere, meaningful ways.


Pope Francis spoke about this in a letter he wrote a few years ago called Evangellii Gadium where he said:

"The primary reason for evangelizing is the love of Jesus which we have received,
the experience of salvation which urges us to ever greater love of him. 
What kind of love would not feel the need to speak of the beloved, to point him out, to make him known?
If we do not feel an intense desire to share this love, we need to pray insistently that he will once more touch our hearts.
We need to implore his grace daily, asking him to open our cold hearts and shake up our lukewarm and superficial existence."

One gentle, loving Christian went to Penn Jillette - loved both Jesus and Penn enough that he was willing to accept him where he was and share the "good news" with him. While Penn’s journey toward Christ is far from complete - and we can only hope and pray that this incident has continued to remain with him, who, out there, is waiting for us to do the same for them as well?

To cause their minds to be curious,
their hearts to wonder,
their hopes sparked as they witness:
in our love for family and friends;
in our dedication to what is right and just;
in our taking the first steps towards reconciliation and forgiveness
- in these and countless other ways how we too believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God?

DO THE RIGHT THING

Hi everyone... here's my homily from Mass for Friday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time - August 25, 2017.  The readings for today can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/082517.cfm .  Thanks for reading, sharing and your feedback and comments - Fr Jim

Homily:
I’ve never seen the film - but reading these scriptures today, the title comes to mind: Do the Right Thing...

This first reading -from the Book of Ruth... is such a short passage that packs a lot of information in a few short verses. Unlike a work of fiction which would paint a mental picture for the readers about the story we’re hearing, we get just a few details: 

There’s a famine,
this family departs the land of famine,
the Husband dies leaving Naomi a widow with two sons,
these two sons get married
and within 10 years, they both die as well. 
And Naomi is left alone. 

It’s all reported somewhat matter of factly here. But try to imagine, try to put yourself in her shoes. Having experienced losses and seen loved ones suffer - I can’t even begin to imagine the sense of loss that Naomi was left with. Her remaining family are these two women, two daughter’s in laws. As such, their responsibility, their attachment to her would be even more detached then than they would be today. The one daughter in law kisses Naomi goodbye - and Naomi tells the other one - Ruth - she should go as well. Legally, culturally, there was no reason or even expectation for her to stay.

But Ruth - does the right thing -

Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you!
For wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge,
your people shall be my people, and your God my God."
The reason this story is so revered for us as Christians is that we see a shift in Jewish understanding of love, of responsibility... of what the commandments mean. That they’re not meant to simply be "thou shalt nots" - but a recognition of God’s steadfast love for His people, and our responding in kind. Ruth has seen in Naomi a selflessness, a faith and trust that the God of Abraham will provide despite overwhelming evidence that points to the contrary. And that has attracted Ruth to love her mother in law, and God.

Which is why Jesus in the Gospel won’t allow himself to get pigeonholed into a theological debate among religious scholars asking which is the most important law, in presenting a hierarchy of things -picking and chosing not simply one out of the 10, but the hundreds of laws found in the scriptures and Jewish tradition. A choice that would reveal more about the person speaking’s agendas and priorities more than God.

By cutting to the core, the heart of all the laws, all the commandments - calling us to Love God with all our heart, all our souls, all our minds - and our neighbors as ourselves - we are guided into a much broader, complex expectation than a litigious, legalistic approach would have held. The exception that was found in Naomi and Ruth’s example in the Old Testament becomes the expectation of you and I, who are bound by the New Testament. Or in other words, when we allow our love for God, our love for one another to be the norm, then we too Do the Right Thing...

FIRST IT WAS SOCKS...

 So the Ebay auction for the Fr. Jim School for Campus Ministry and Theology socks just ended... And I can't tell you how floored I was with the bidding - with the final, winning bid topping $555.00

Thank you all so much for your thoughtfulness, generosity and support.  I'm really beyond stunned with how this went and grateful for the winning bidder's bid which will be a help with our fundraising efforts here!

Because of that, I've decided to auction off the other three items that were sent.  A MUG; a LARGE T-SHIRT and a small NOTEBOOK.  They can all be found here: http://www.ebay.com/usr/frjicher0?_trksid=p2047675.l2559 

These auctions are the last three and will end next Monday - August 21st.  And again, these all go to benefit THE NEWMAN CATHOLIC CENTER AT MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY not the Nasty Muppet, his handler, the Catholic Channel or myself...

I can't tell you how much all of this support means... When a few weeks ago, on The Catholic Guy Show, the #NastyMuppet producer decided to make a "commercial" that basically mocked me - (you can hear it here: https://soundcloud.com/siriusxm-news-issues/fr-jim-school-for-theology-and-campus-ministry  ) I never imagined that it would turn into something that the listeners would get this involved in  first making a "logo" for the imaginary school,  [which included on the crest, fortunately a Cross and a graduates cap but also a pair of glasses (poking fun at my new "dumb" glasses that I have succumbed to wearing in middle age) as well as a sock, recalling the times I foolishly forgot Lino would insist I de-shoe upon entering his rat-infested apartment for the show and was found to have holes in my socks on three separate occasions]

Let alone to start sending items like socks, notebooks, mugs, and T-shirts to me, Lino and Tyler... and certainly never imagined a pair of socks would raise a couple of hundred dollars to benefit the ministry I'm serving at...

You guys are truly the best.

So these will be the last three auctions!  And thank you to those who even though they didn't win the socks asked if they could still donate to Newman - absolutely... just go to our website www.MSUNEWMAN.com


SELF IMAGE REMADE IN GOD'S VISION

Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY - August 15, 2017. The readings for today can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/081517-mass-during-day.cfm Thanks as always for reading; sharing on facebook, twitter and reddit; and for your feedback and comments. God Bless! Fr Jim

– If you’d like some more info on this feast day, check out Mark Hart’s column on Lifeteen: http://lifeteen.com/blog/missing-jesus-mom-the-assumption-explained/

HOMILY:
A former High School teacher shared a somewhat surprising, as well as sad occurrence, that seems to get repeated each and every start of the school year. He would ask his students to take a sheet of paper and divide it in half. On the left side he said "I want you to write down all your gifts, all the talents you have... things that you’re really good at." After a few moments he said, "on the right side write down all the things you want to change about yourself, things that you’re not good at, things your embarrassed about."

The sad reality was that he would often have to stop the students writing the second list. 9 times out of 10, the things they want to change list far exceeded the things they were grateful for list - sometimes even continued on the back of the paper. Truth be told, I’d probably fall into that majority group myself and I suspect a lot of you would as well. For a variety of reasons, we seem quite able to see the negatives of ourselves, the failures, the sins so much easier than the unique, special tremendous gifts that God blesses each of us with.

There’s probably a lot of different reasons for that: some have a poor self image of themselves. Some get caught up in sins of jealous or envy where they constantly make unhealthy comparisons of themselves to others. And for some, this mistaken understanding of being humble where they put themselves down to the point of being dishonest takes hold to the point that they are really embracing a "false humility."

I was thinking about that in reading this Gospel today. Mary and Elizabeth have both had miraculous things occurring, participated in divine conversations. Elizabeth pregnant with John the Baptist who will become the prophet heralding Jesus coming. And Mary, bearing Jesus Christ in her womb.

Imagine Elizabeth writing her own list on why she shouldn’t have a child? The Gospel tells us that Elizabeth was older when she had conceived John the Baptist. She was called "barren". Her list of negatives probably would have said "I’m too old to have a child now." "My husband, he’s a good man, but he’s not going to believe this [he didn’t in fact, which is why he is silenced by the angel until the birth of John]." "I’ve been infertile, barren, for so long... surely there could be someone better."

Mary could write her own list too. Quite the opposite of Elizabeth she could argue "I’m too young!" "People are never going to believe what is happening" "Surely there’s someone else who is better suited or prepared to be a Mother for this special son."

It’s not unreasonable for us to imagine that some of these thoughts had to have crossed the minds of these important women. Which is what makes the wisdom that comes from age spoken by Elizabeth to Mary that much more dramatic and important. We almost miss these - because there’s so much packed into this Gospel passage. Listen again:

Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.

Those words of insight gives way to Mary singing a beautiful hymn, that the Church prays daily called the "Magnificat"- a song that very simply contains the hopes and prayers of the Old Testament grounded in the reality of Mary’s vision: where God is ruling all things with perfect power and wisdom. She can rejoice in God because she has rejoiced in all that God has done and will do in her own life.

Mary and Elizabeth give witness to us of two women

-who don’t believe the lies the world would put on them about their situations;
-who don’t allow truths or facts about themselves get manipulated that they become filled with fear and doubt that they stop believing all that God had told them.

Instead they are grounded in the reality of seeing themselves as God sees them.

Elizabeth and Mary’s example should give us some things to reflect on ourselves. 
What is God speaking to each one of us right now? 
How is He trying to do something new in our lives or in the lives of those around us through our ‘yes’ to Him? 
How is He asking us to trust Him that He has equipped us with the gifts, the talents the abilities to accomplish whatever it is that is going to give birth to Jesus Christ in this day and age? 
How is He asking us to believe in Him, have faith in Him and not be deterred by the lies of the world or the lies we tell ourselves that we’re not worthy, we’re not able, we’re not good enough.
May we too be called "blessed" to see ourselves as the beloved sons and daughters that God created us to be, and follow Mary’s example, believing in all that the Lord is speaking to us will be fulfilled.

HOW COULD FATHER LEAVE THE PRIESTHOOD?

Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the 19th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - AUGUST 11, 2017. The readings for today can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/081317.cfm. As always, thanks for reading; sharing this blog on Twitter, Facebook and Reddit; and for all your comments and feedback. Grateful for all your support! God Bless - Fr Jim

HOMILY:

On the list of challenging, difficult, even awkward things for Catholics to discuss (and there’s quite a few things on that list) one has to be when parishioners learn that a priest has decided to leave the priesthood. It’s something that can be shocking, and saddening for people - both parishioners and priests alike. People describe it as this weird mixture of emotions that would often be associated with a death or a divorce – while at the same time the parishioners want the man to be happy and at peace. It’s a confusing experience. What makes it so shocking for many is that after anywhere from 4-7 years of prayer, study, talking, discussions, and formation people assume that a man would be reasonably sure of who they are, what they are called to when they are finally ordained. And there’s some truth to that. It’s not like it’s a surprise on ordination day to find out that priests make promises that include obedience and chastity.

But - life's rarely that cut and dry... And this isn’t to judge or interpret the actions of other priests who’ve left. We can never know what’s in another person’s heart or what it is they are going through. So I’m trying to be careful not to make assumptions and lump everyone together because no two cases are the same.

One great spiritual director, the late Fr. Benedict Groeschell, once shared an insight he gained from his experience in counseling many priests. He said that whenever a priest would tell him that he is leaving the priesthood, the first question he always asks is "When did you stop praying? When did you lose sight of Christ?"

I know that when I was on the receiving end of that question about 11 years ago when I was at a crossroads and was close to leaving the priesthood, I was angered by the question. Because in my mind I was going to leave, not because I had a girl friend or anything like that – but because I was ticked off about certain things, disillusioned about others. So just hearing that question ticked me off even more - because I felt that my anger was justified, my disillusionment was valid - and his question to me... well I didn’t realize it initially, but in time I began to see was completely appropriate. I’m embarrassed to admit (and can realize now) that I had put more focus, more energy in the things I was upset about – than I had in my prayer life. I had relied on myself more than on Jesus (because I didn’t like the way He was handling it), and so I found myself at the breaking point... and I give thanks to God that I wasn’t too far gone - that in time with help and especially the prayers of good many people - some of whom are still unknown to me, I was able to call out to the Lord and found He had been there all along, waiting for me to do so.

That’s the lesson that Peter learns in the Gospel we just heard. Just hours before this episode Jesus had fed thousands with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. That was an amazing experience for everyone, especially the disciples to witness and experience. Now Jesus had gone off on his own, we learn, to pray (right there we should take notice and realize, that if Jesus would need time to connect to God then perhaps that is telling us something...) Not long after, the disciples find themselves in a jam - the winds pick up, the waves start crashing, they grow increasingly scared and fearful. So Jesus, taking the short cut - walks right on the water towards them. Peter who’s seen so many incredible things isn’t sure what’s going on, so he says "if it’s you, tell me to come out and walk on the water to you." And Jesus does! Peter experiences yet another amazing feat as he is able to walk on water...


Yet his amazement is soon diminished. The waves, the winds, the fears, the distractions... they grab his attention and he starts focusing, thinking, worrying about those things instead of focusing, thinking, trusting  in Jesus who called him out on the water. As soon as he does, he becomes overwhelmed, he starts to flounder, he starts to sink.

Being a disciple of Jesus Christ, a follower of His can be hard. We have heard all of the miracles and incredible stuff that He is capable of. We hear those beautiful words in the Gospel "Nothing is impossible for God." And when we experience or hear of a genuine miracle, those words ring true. But in the day to day, week to week routines of life, when a few rain clouds start popping up and eventually turn into a storm, when a slight breeze turns into heavy winds... Almost so subtly we didn’t even realize it was happening - that’s when we’re tempted towards something (or someone) that makes us compromise our commitments, question our values, doubt our promises... When we’re overwhelmed by bad news, trials and struggles. What do we do? Do we turn inward and believe the lie that Jesus has forgotten us because he hasn’t rectified all these situations, or made us stronger to resist those temptations? Or do we cry out with all our hearts "Lord save me?"

The beautiful thing we learn in this Gospel is that as soon as Peter does cry out with those very words, he comes to find that Jesus hasn’t gone anywhere... in fact he hasn’t stopped looking at Him. Jesus respects that first gift given to us – our free will – so much that even when he knows what’s better for us, He is not going to violate that without our invitation.

Unfortunately as we go through life, we realize that this isn’t just a one time experience or test that we’ll encounter at some point and never go through again. In many ways, this is a daily challenge that we as followers will go through over and over again - whether we’re priests, married people or single people... Again, look at Peter - he will learn all too well how often the temptations, the distractions re-emerge. Good Friday, in the midst of His Passion, not only would Peter not look to Christ for strength for himself - he abandoned Jesus at the moment Christ needed him. Yet, we’ll read how after Jesus rose from the dead, he searches Peter out, and lovingly reaches out to him, inviting him to trust in Him again...

For each of us, as we go through life with our own commitments to the Lord and to one another, it might feel like we’re all alone at times, that Jesus has forgotten us as we’re going through whatever it is that makes us believe that. Yet the reality is often the reverse. It’s us who lose sight of Him. And everyone of us can be susceptible to this challenge: Whether it’s the married couple who can’t even pinpoint when challenges first crept in and now they’re on a verge of a divorce; the college graduate who got their degree but then can’t find a job and feels lost and hopeless about what they are to do next, or the priest who "leaves" the priesthood.

One of the questions that needs to be considered, "When did you lose sight of Christ" or more directly Jesus’ words from the gospel ask "...why did you doubt?" Because too often we forget that its more than just showing up to Mass and being in Church waiting for something to happen, we have to do something and want something more. The good news we have heard today is that Jesus never leaves us. And sometimes the something we have to do is to see that He is waiting for us, looking for us... The something we have to want is Him in all humility and sincerity to cry out "Lord Save Me."

Will we let go of our egos, lift up our eyes to God, look into His, and say those same words - and trust Him?

FR JIM SCHOOL FOR THEOLOGY AND CAMPUS MINISTRY

Yes... This just happened.

A few weeks ago, on The Catholic Guy Show, the #NastyMuppet producer decided to make a "commercial" that basically mocked me - you can hear it here: https://soundcloud.com/siriusxm-news-issues/fr-jim-school-for-theology-and-campus-ministry

This inspired a listener to make a "logo" for the imaginary school, which included on the crest, fortunately a Cross and a graduates cap but also a pair of glasses (poking fun at my new "dumb" glasses that I have succumbed to wearing in middle age) as well as a sock, recalling the times I foolishly forgot Lino would insist I de-shoe upon entering his rat-infested apartment for the show and was found to have holes in my socks on three separate occasions.

This has also inspired people to send me personally more socks than I could ever possibly need.  As well as one very funny and creative listener making a pair of socks with the Fr Jim School logo on it.

I've decided the best thing I could do after these months of mockery is to auction these socks off.  If you go to Ebay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/-/152652818748?  you will have an opportunity to bid on these socks until WEDNESDAY AUGUST 16th.    ALL PROCEEDS WILL BENEFIT THE NEWMAN CATHOLIC CENTER AT MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY not the Nasty Muppet, his handler, the Catholic Channel or myself...

Who knows, if this goes well, perhaps some other merchandise will end up being auctioned as well.  Of course, if you simply want to donate to Newman, we're always grateful for people's support - especially as we enter this Jubilee year celebrating the 50th Anniversary of our founding!   you can do so at www.MSUNEWMAN.com

THANKS IN ADVANCE FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION!

GET THIS INTO YOUR HEAD

Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the SOLEMNITY OF THE TRANSFIGURATION OF THE LORD - SUNDAY, AUGUST 6, 2017. The readings for today can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/080617.cfm . Thanks as always for reading this blog; for sharing it on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit and for your comments and feedback. Have a great week! God Bless - Fr Jim



HOMILY:
I don’t know how many times or the many different places I heard that phrase "What is it going to take to get this into your head?" growing up. Teachers and Coaches used that phrase with me. I thought my parents had invented that phrase for me. My brother’s used a slightly different variation using other words but the meaning was pretty much the same - What is it going to take to get this into your head.

Looking back at the times I heard that growing up, it usually was said because I wasn’t paying attention, I didn’t want to do something, I was bored, I had something else in mind. My little league coach was trying to "get into my head" how to cover first base in baseball. But I was still angry that I was not the starting pitcher, wondering why Frank Pasquale was picked (even though I had no reason to believe I could really pitch well, but that’s another story) Next batter, I mess up the same way I had done before and I hear my coach somewhat exasperated screaming, when I got back to the dugout "What is it going to take to get this into your head!"

My teacher going over the difference between "there" and "their." Actually sitting with me trying to explain the difference between the two words and I’m not there myself - I’m staring at the clock waiting for lunch. I’m pretty sure she muttered, "What is it going to take to get this into his head" the next time she graded my test paper.

My parents, well I’m sure that they could probably write a book on the times, instances and occasions that they shared those words with me and my brothers.

In reading this Gospel of the Transfiguration of Jesus, I kind of imagine Jesus wanting to say to Peter, James and John - What is it going to take to get this into your head? Trying to break through the importance of what he’s been saying to them about who He is, what His mission is...


Quick recap here - these guys following Jesus were, at a minimum, confused. Somehow Jesus was able to touch their hearts; He compelled them to drop everything and follow Him. In this time with Him, they’ve witnessed -- healings, they’ve seen Jesus walk on water, they’ve heard Jesus teach. They think they know who he is - "You are the Christ," Peter accurately proclaims about Jesus just a few passages before this Gospel.

But they still have their preconceived ideas, of what the Christ would do for them, in mind. They’re thinking that they can’t wait to see God fulfill his promises as he restores His people Israel. To see their kingdom re-established... to have their place as the "Chosen People" renewed, by finally sticking it to the Romans and everyone else who’s mistreated the Jews over the many, many years they were waiting for the Christ.

But right before this Gospel we just heard, Jesus drops this bombshell. He tells the apostles, that He’s going to suffer and die. So now maybe they’re thinking Huh? This same guy that healed that leper? This same guy that performs miracles? How could this be? It doesn’t make sense to them. After Peter protests this Jesus kind of gave him a smack down (actually he called him Satan... so that’s a pretty epic smack down) and follows up by saying- look - if you’re with me, you need to take up your cross and follow me.

Not exactly what they had in mind. The Messiah was supposed to come and save them, not lead them to gruesome, painful deaths. So as Peter, James and John are walking up the mountain with Jesus, I could imagine they had a few doubts. Thoughts like: "Maybe this guy is simply crazy" - "Maybe all those people who’ve been doubting him, the Pharisees and all those other religious leaders, have been right" - "Maybe we’ve been foolish all along to follow this Jesus..."

You can almost imagine Peter trying to work up the courage as he walked up the mountain for some alone time with Jesus, trying to pull his thoughts together to say to him - "You know, I gave up a lucrative fishing business to follow you - what’s the deal here? Messiah’s aren’t suppose to die. And if that’s what’s going to happen to you - which is bizarre and bad enough - um, what’s going to happen to us???"


It’s just then when this Transfiguration of Jesus happens. Jesus is transformed before their very eyes - these two important figures from the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah, appear and talk to Jesus as his bodily appearance is glorified. They don’t realize it, but they are getting a sneak preview of what the Resurrection of Jesus will look like. Oh, yeah, and then the voice of God comes from a cloud overhead saying, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him."

What’s it going to take to get into their heads that Jesus’ glory will only come after he has suffered through the passion, died and risen from the dead? In fairness to the three of them, a lot of us have difficulty believing in the idea of someone "rising from the dead," even after Jesus has already done just that; I can only imagine how much harder it would have been to comprehend it before it had happened.

But here’s the thing I think the Transfiguration was trying to do for them. In giving them the glimpse of the future - of experiencing, for a moment, what Jesus would be like after his Resurrection, it was meant to give them the hope they will need when things go very, very bad - for Jesus and for them. So they experience this humble, meek man - whose gentleness and love compels them to follow him - transfigured in a flash, where Moses and Elijah, two central figures from Judaism who have been dead for centuries alive and conversing with him ... they see Jesus radiating in a supernatural light... they hear the voice of God and then, just as quickly, there he is again, walking in his beat-up sandals, saying, "Let’s go back down the mountain - oh, and don’t tell anyone about all this, it would just confuse them." They needed this experience to sustain them for what was to come.

He wants to get into their heads that this way; His way of the Passion and the Cross is better. That in Jesus Christ, God is here with humanity in a more complete, intimate way then ever before. God’s no longer speaking through a flaming bush to Moses, he’s no longer speaking through a prophet like Elijah. Did you hear the voice of God saying, "This is my beloved Son" - Jesus is saying: I am all that you need... listen to me, trust me.

Jesus says that to us today, too. We come to Mass with so many questions, so many fears and anxieties. We are looking for answers. We want to know "everything’s going to be alright," or "somehow things will work out," "that God is listening to me." And for a moment, we’re up that mountain. And it is here that Jesus takes a simple piece of bread and a cup of wine and it becomes his body and blood... about which he says "take and eat.

He wants us to know He has never left His followers... He is with us and will remain with us as long as we remain with Him.

Are we ready not just to get that 'into our heads', but into our hearts and lives, as well?