The Mission of Harvesters Wanted:

To spread the Good News of JESUS CHRIST in word and in action! As well as promoting the baptismal call of all the faithful to follow whatever vocation our God has called them to!

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. ~ Matthew 28:19-20

The place to find homilies and reflections given along the path of faith by Fr. Adam Carrico, a Roman Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville.

When this life is complete, I pray they say I lived For The Greater Glory of God +AMDG+

Monday, July 9, 2018

FAMILIARITY ~ A FICKLE DESIRE

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary

Saint Boniface Parish

July 8, 2018



There are quite a few strange ideas that came out in the 1970s. Do you agree? Now don’t get me wrong the 1980s weren’t without their own faults. I know there are some pretty strange things that came out of the 80s - I am not the least of them! There is an idea, that originated in the 70s and it has repeated itself since. This idea probably had a lot to do with the growth in population, and there was indeed a rather large growth. The Baby Boomer generation had come in the 50s and 60s and so the population of the 1970s did look drastically larger than it did decades before. The idea I am speaking of is that there were more people alive then, at that time, than had ever lived before. It is obvious that the current population was the largest ever, but the idea help that the current population was larger than the total number of people who had previously lived - in its entirety. So, the number of people alive at that time was more than everyone else had lived before. If we really think about it, the idea is preposterous. I first heard this idea several years ago, and they were seriously making the claim that the current population was that proportionately massive. As soon as I could, I Googled this assertion and that is when I read about how it was first proposed in the 1970s and was repeated then on. From there I found an estimate of the world's population in its entirety. So currently there are about 7-8 billion people alive in the world. How many people do you think have ever lived? How many members of our species? How many individuals have lived on this earth: lived, laughed, cried, loved and died? The answer: a hundred and eight billion people - 108 billion people! There is a little bit of truth to what this idea was saying - there was, and is, a sizable percentage of the world's population alive at the time – seven or eight billion out of 108 is still a sizable percentage, but it's not nearly as many as had ever lived before. A hundred and eight billion people, that is a lot of people! We can hardly even begin to comprehend the number of people alive currently but a hundred and eight billion souls.


The cynical part of me thinks that this idea, that there are more people alive currently than have ever lived, has something to do with the idea that our experience as individual humans is so completely unique that no one else could really understand what we have experienced in our life. But if we begin to imagine a hundred and eight billion people, does that change that perspective? Don't get me wrong, your experience of your lives, my experience of my life, it is unique - but it is hardly unobtainable. If we put our life in the perspective of a hundred and eight billion lives, your experience is not – unimaginable, it is not that very different from the life of some other human beings who has lived in the past. When we recognize that so many others have had similar experiences as we have had we can see that there really is more that unites us than sets us apart.


Throughout the lives of each one, each one of those 108 million individuals, has had, at their very core - while they were alive, a singular desire. If you begin to strip away the desires for material goods, as well as our sinful inclinations, if you remove all of that, if we begin to get down to the core of what it is that the human heart desires - I believe what we will find is the desire to be known. That is, the desire to be understood, to have someone understand our story, to get who we are, why we feel how we feel, how it is that we have come to be where we are at. We can, if we aren’t careful, fall into the trap of thinking that our story is so unique that no one could understand it, try as they might. We can fall for that trap, or we can see in the vast multitude of other lived experience and recognize that our story, while in a sense is unique, but is also attainable, understandable to another human person. Who we are is understandable, to a degree, by someone else.


That desire to be known, the desire to be understood, is ultimately only capable of being fulfilled by one person: God-made-man - Jesus Christ himself. Infinite knowledge, infinite understanding, infinite love – all in all packed into one individual person. Perfectly God and perfectly human, together, right there - the ability to understand everything about us. The ability to penetrate the innermost places of our hearts to understand us for our glory, our achievements, but also for those dark places that we rather not recognize. One person, God-made-man able to fulfill that desire in each one of our hearts. We see, in our Gospel today, those who grew up with him. Those who laughed, cried, who played in the streets of Nazareth with him - they knew him – just as any of us know those we grew up with, they walked with him, they went to synagogue with him, they learned with, laughed and cried with him, lay lived beside knowledge itself, and they didn’t recognize him for who he was. They knew him, that handful of people in the wide vastness of the human population, they lived with him in Nazareth. These people had the experience of knowing the answer to our innermost desire, at least they thought they knew him, they thought they understood him, and they rejected. They said, ‘surely you're not who you say you are, surely you're not the answer that we've been looking for.’ Right there in front of them, they had known him since his miraculous birth. Perhaps there were rumors concerning Joseph and Mary, perhaps a little uncertainty as to where he came from, who he was. For the most part, however, they thought they had him figured out - the answer to each of our desires.


We are invited to encounter that same mystery. Not walking alongside him, in the same way, but encountering him all the same, that God-made-man, the one who still comes to us time and time again in the Eucharist. Reveals himself time and again on this altar. We can, unfortunately, become a little too familiar with what we do here. It has been said ‘why should I go to Sunday Mass, I've done that before! It's not going to be anything new, I'm not going to be surprised by it. It's not going to be earth shattering! The priest may say a few words and I will probably forget it as soon as we get to the parking lot!' I know we've done it all before. It's all familiar, the same thing pretty much every Sunday - and yet it's amazing, what we do here, what we encounter here is amazing! We have an encounter with Jesus Christ, the answer to that desire that lives deep in each of us. Let us not become too familiar with that. This is the irony of the desire of being known – the One who can know us perfectly, we quickly become so familiar with that it doesn't seem to really matter. There's a danger there, the danger of our hearts being made open and vulnerable, our hearts remaining opened to that presence. It may seem to be nothing special here, no reason for you or me to allow that presence into those hidden areas of our heart. No reason to open oneself up to that reality. That familiarity can have the same effect on you as it did on those handful of people back in Nazareth two millennia ago, don’t let it. They became too familiar with him, at least they though they knew him. Let us encounter the answer to our desire today: God-made-man, fully human, fully God, fully desiring to fulfill the desire of your heart.



Wednesday, July 4, 2018

JUST HAVE FAITH, IN THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Saint Patrick Parish

June 30 - July 1, 2018


USCCB Lectionary Readings




Jesus can be pretty bossy can't he! It seems like he's always telling somebody what to do! I think of four occasions in today's Gospel where he does something in that manner. He says, he demands really, ‘how was it that touched me, tell me, who was it?’ He tells the synagogue official ‘be not afraid, just have faith.’ He tells all those who were ridiculing him to get out, saying ‘Go, get out of here!’ And finally he tells that little girl, the little girl who was thought dead, to get up and get something to eat.’ Jesus often has these little commands that he gives those who are around him. I would imagine, perhaps, if I asked, maybe some would stand on their head, but you know, I bet there's still some who probably wouldn’t even wiggle their toes, even if I asked them to. Now, be honest, some of you just wiggled your toes. All that being said how about you humor me for just a moment. Take two fingers and find your pulse. Do you feel that? Are a single one of you making that happen? Are you making that heart beat? The cynical among us may say ‘well Father, some have a pacemaker’ or ‘I have a pacemaker, it's doing it.’ No, the pacemaker isn’t making the heart beat, it is assisting. We can do exercises to make our hearts beat faster; through prayer and meditation, quietness, we can slow our heart beat down. But not a single one of us can make our heart beat.


Your heart beat, my sisters and brothers, is a lot like faith. It's something that we receive. It is something that helps us, or actually allows us, to live. Not a single one of us can cause faith to take effect in our lives. A little teaching moment - there are three theological virtues. These three virtues are the highest of all virtues, and they all come from God. They are: Faith, Hope and Love, and each one of those begin with God, and they end with God. They come from God and they point to God, and none of us can do any of these, as much as we may try, without God first providing them. God, God’s self can hope, and God certainly loves, but God can't really have faith, because God is faith. God is the source of faith. God is that which we have faith in, God cannot really have faith in himself, God just is faith.


A side note, for just a moment - I worry that many of us, when we read Sacred Scripture, when we think of these people 2000 or more years ago, we often get into a somewhat self-righteous thinking that say that we are so much better than they were. Sure, our technology is better, our medical science has improved, but really are we better? We may think “oh those foolish people, they were tricked into believing that they were healed, or that Christ had these powers!” Certainly, others in our world will make such statements, and act like those ‘silly backwards people’ really are that far behind us. I think, however, if we just turn on the news, or look around for a moment, we recognize that we may have advanced in some ways but ultimately we are the same people, in need of the same hope, the same love, the same faith in Christ that he himself gives us. 

 "If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured."

When we look at these two occasions in which Christ is at work in his healing ministry we see Christ healing the woman with a hemorrhage for 12 years - she has been bleeding, she's been tormented by doctors who have tried to help her. And then we see this little girl who has passed and Christ raises from the dead. We can, as modern sophisticated people, see these interactions and think ‘well, they just thought that they were healed, but something else must have happened.’ Or, with the eyes of true Faith, we can believe that Christ actually did heal those people. We can, in this reality of faith’s relationship with our modern senses, find ourselves a little conflicted, especially when it comes to Christ's command to have faith. Be not afraid, just have faith. But how is it that we just have faith? Especially considering that we, on our own, can’t make faith happen. How do we live out this command, especially in times of difficulty - after all Christ is commanding this to a man who's been told that his daughter has just died. How do we, in times of difficulty, times of stress, in times of hardship, have faith, just have faith. Is it really that simple? 

"Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?"
www.LumoProject.com

If we look at Christ’s reaction to those who ridicule him, we get a little bit more evidence as to how that happens, how one just has faith. What is it that Christ orders those who ridicule him. He says “Get out! Go. You can't be here right now!” But before any of you stand up and walk out, don’t worry just yet. I hardly believe that this was the definitive moment in their lives of faith. Some of them, I have little doubt, where they are at Christ’s entry into Jerusalem “hosanna, hosanna in the highest!” And then some of them, there at the crucifixion “crucify him, crucify him!” And then some, maybe even the same bunch, were killed later on, killed for standing up and professing their faith in Christ Jesus. This isn't necessarily the definitive moment in their lives, although it could have been. And that's alright. Christ offers faith time and again. We see how Christ is surrounded through his ministry with both those who have faith, and those who seem to be there simply to test him, to question him, and to to try and trick him. Christ is typically comfortable being surrounded by a crowd of imperfect faith, but in this moment, just as in other crucial moments throughout Sacred Scripture, he desires to be with those who have faith. Those who ridicule him are looking at faith itself. They ridicule him for his assertion that this little girl is going to be OK. This girl is sleeping, she is going to be alright. They ridicule him, they mock him, they are looking at faith itself and they have the opposite reaction - they make fun of him. And so he tells them, get out! They are receiving, but not accepting the faith that Jesus is offering them. So, I ask again, how are we to just have faith? Be in the presence of Christ. They are there, they are there in that crowd, pushing against them - everyone all jammed together, and that woman reaches out, in the presence of Christ, just to take a hold of him for a moment. The little girl who's asleep, having died in her bed, he reaches out to her and lifts her up there in the presence of Christ, in the presence of faith itself. 


We gather together, time and again, Sunday after Sunday, to do just that, to be in the presence of Christ. The Body of Christ gathered here among you, the people of God, as well as the body of Christ consecrated on that altar. We are here to be in God's presence, to receive from faith itself that great gift of faith, that gift that enables us to somehow make it through some of life's darkest moments, some of life's biggest challenges. One more thing, that woman who had her bleeding stopped, having finally found healing after 12 years, that little girl who was raised from the dead, life wasn't all sunshine and roses for either of them after that day. They are no longer here amongst the living. They went on to live their life, to experience pain, and difficulty; they went on to die, just like everyone else. Nevertheless, they had an experience of Christ, they experienced being in the presence of faith itself. In that way each of us is invited, invited this day, and everyday, to enter into that great mystery of faith.



Monday, June 25, 2018

A Voice is Born - The Promise of God

Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist

Saint Boniface Parish

June 24, 2018

USCCB Lectionary Readings




A young boy, a child, found himself in the presence of God. The child, realizing the immensity of the occasion asked God “Is it true that a second to you is like a million years?” And God said “yes a second to me is like a million years.” The small boy thought for a moment and he says “well then God, if that is true would it be also be true that a penny for you is like a million dollars?” God says “yes, a penny, for me, is like a million dollars.” The boy stops, ponders for a moment, gets up the courage and asks “may I have a penny?” God says, “in a second.”


God's promises sometimes take a little while. God doesn't always act right away, and in fact, from the very moments of our fall, from the very moment that sin entered the world, God had a plan - God promised us salvation. God promised us a remedy for the sin that had befallen us. It took that plan, however, quite some time to be carried out, to come to fulfillment, and many, most perhaps, began to lose faith and trust that that plan would be fulfilled. It took so long the people bagan to say: When will God ever answer us? When will God fulfill his promise for us. It has been said: slowly, and then quickly; slowly and then quickly. God slowly worked through the generations, one after the other, building up on the past so that his plan may come to fruition. But then, once the plan began to be enacted, things really began to speed up. The moment that this quickening began was the moment when the Immaculate Conception took place The Hand of God protected, at the moment of her conception, the Virgin Mary from the stain of original sin. From that moments the events of Salvation history really began to speed up. One thing led to another, and Christ entered the world. From there he died for our sins, rose again, and we are here now - continuing to celebrate that mystery.

One of the occasions during this period of heightened activity in fulfillment of God's plan was the angelic annunciation of God to Zachariah. Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, we hear about in our Gospel today. He was a priest of the temple and it was Zechariah's turn, after they cast lots, to go into the Holy of Holies where only a few priests would go each year, on very special occasions, When Zachariah entered the Holy of Holies he encountered the presence of God and God told him “you will have a son, your wife Elizabeth will conceive a child, even in her old age.” Being an old man and not used to the fulfillment of God's promises, Zechariah wasn't too sure about this. He doubted. He said something like “God, I don't see how that could happen!” I think many of us could understand his reaction, being in that kind of position, wondering how God is going to do this! How in the world could that happen? But from that moment of doubt, Zachariah was unable to speak. His mouth was closed, his tongue frozen, he was unable to utter a single word. His doubt became manifest in his inability to speak.

Zechariah Entering the Holy of Holies

The inability to proclaim a word, the word, is a metaphor for the condition of Israel itself. It had been years, quite some time, since the Jewish people had heard the word of God! Many, many years had passed since they had known a prophet. Many prophets had come before. These proclaimers of the word of God were instrumental in helping the Jewish people understand who they were, and who they were called to be. Prophets like Isaiah, who we heard from in our first reading, Elijah, Elisha, Ezekiel... all important speakers for the word of God, conveying to the people the reality that they were to trust God and the Messiah will come - God’s promises will be fulfilled! But they had not heard from a prophet in ages, really since their return from the Babylonian captivity there really hadn't been a major prophets come along. They were longing for this word, they needed to hear a reminder of their hope. They hadn’t heard these reminders until John the Baptist came along. We must remember that if John the Baptist wrote a book, if his prophetic words were recorded in the same way that Elijah’s words or Isaiah's words were recorded, his proclamation, his steady response “makes straight the way of the Lord!” would have been the last book of the Old Testament. John the Baptist represents the culmination of all the prophets. He was the last, the one that would point and say “there he is, that's him! He has come, the one that you have been hoping for, for so long, he is finally here!”

Zechariah Unable to Speak

It is this reality, the reality of John the Baptist and his specific role in Salvation History - both speaking the word of God, and pointing out the Word of God its very self. This reality is manifest in his father, Zechariah’s speechlessness. The doubts that had overcome the Jewish people, had closed their hearts the way it closed Zachariah's ability to speak. That is, until he came along. The relatives and neighbors, having becomes accustomed to Zechariah’s lack of voice spoke for him saying “we are going to name them Zachariah.” Elizabeth courageously and definitely said “no! His name is John!” AT that Zachariah had the opportunity to once more display his doubt, once more to be hard headed, to say to himself “God has not allowed me to speak now for at least nine months! I'm not going to do it. I’m not going to proclaim the truth now after all of this!” This time, however, he choose trust, he choose to listen to God’s word, to God’s promise and he wrote out “his name is John!” Zechariah accepted the word of God, he lived that hope the he had been called to live, and his mouth was opened once more. The word of God was heard again, for the people of God, the word of God, was alive once more.


John the Baptist would go on to live that life, the life of the final prophet, to be an immense figure, a frightening figure. Even at his birth we hear that his neighbors and his relatives were afraid due to the events that had surrounded his birth - Zachariah, his mouth was close and then opened. It brought fear to people, but they soon began to hear his words. To hear how he was pointing out that the Messiah has finally come! One of the final, if not the final thing that he said, the final words of John the Baptist written in Sacred Scripture: “behold, the lamb of God!” There he is, after all this time, your hope has been fulfilled, the promises of God have come true! It is here! The time is here!

John the Baptist

Sisters and brothers, you don't need to be another John the Baptist. None of us really could. He's too unique a figure. Nevertheless, I think more of us probably could look a little bit more like John the Baptist, with the courage, the strength, the conviction to point out God and the Word of God alive in the world when we see him. To do so perhaps all we need is just a bit more hope that God's promises will continue to come true. You're not called to be John the Baptist, you are called to be who you are. To live the promises of God alive in your hearts, to hope that God truly does fill his promises, to know and to live the reality of the Word of God active in your life! Speak that word. Let that truth live in you! Let the birth of John the Baptist, the final Old Testament prophet, inspire you to hope that God does indeed fulfill his promises.


Was Saint John the Baptist Born without Sin?

Saint Patrick and Saint Boniface Bulletin Article

June 24, 2018

for the Solemnity of

The Nativity of John the Baptist 


The Visitation

Was John the Baptist Born without Sin? 

This question was posed to me shortly after I began my assignment at Saint Patrick’s and it truly took me by surprise. My first thought, honestly, was what kind of heresy is this? Nonetheless, I listened to the question, heard the rationale behind the idea that he was born without sin, and conveyed my uncertainty. The topic had never come up in seminary, and I have never come across a definitive teaching regarding this notion. I had all but forgotten the idea when an article appeared in my inbox asking the same question! I read the article and began to realize that this question wasn’t simply one woman’s reflections on her grade school religion class long ago, it was a theological debate that has come and gone throughout Church history. 

Let us be clear, the question is not: was John the Baptist conceived without original sin? It is: was he born without original sin? I think this is where I got tangled up the first time. There have been only four people throughout salvation history conceived without original sin: Adam, Eve, Mary the Mother of God, and Jesus Christ himself – fully man, fully God. If John was born without original sin, he certainly was conceived with it. So how was he (possibly) cleansed of original sin? The Visitation. When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, who was carrying the child John within her, John leapt at the sound of Mary’s greeting. This action, and the fact that the Evangelist Luke took the time to include it in his Gospel, hints at the possibility that it was more than elated uterine somersaults taking place – it was the cleansing of John’s original sin BEFORE birth. The Church speaks of prevenient grace – the grace that saved Mary, at her conception, from original sin. Basically, the grace of the cross bestowed chronologically prior to the cross. Perhaps… perhaps, the Visitation points at some form of prevenient grace that bestowed the grace of baptism, upon THE Baptist himself, before his birth? 

The Church has never definitively settled this issue, mostly because it does not directly affect our relationship with Jesus Christ, nor does our salvation cling to this spin-off theological debate. It is a curious question, however, especially when one asks a second question: why do we only celebrate three birthdays in the Church calendar? 

Click here to read the Aleteia article that rekindled my interest in this topic!


Sunday, June 17, 2018

REFLECTION OF OUR HEAVENLY FATHER

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary

Saint Patrick Parish

June 16-17, 2018

 
Take a moment and bring to mind two characteristics of a good father, two characteristics of any good dad. What is it that comes to mind for you? There are many of course, it's a complicated job. Two come to mind for me and they relate to one another very well. So I'll share those with you. The first is hardworking: a determination to work hard, to get the job done, to do what we can to make sure that we're doing what's right, and doing what we can do. The other is dad jokes. There is a nice little balance between the two. I have something that’s not quite a joke, more of a funny scenario that I'm going to share with you:
So the child walks in to the kitchen and says hey dad I'm hungry, and dad turns to his child and say hi Hungry, I'm dad! And then the child says come on Dad, just make me a sandwich, so that dad says Abracadabra poof, you’re a sandwich! I'll stop there. Maybe...
There is a need for balance. I think it's easy for any of us to see how a father, if leaning too far to the hard working side can become a dictator, a taskmaster, only concerned about the job, and not about the person, seemingly uncaring. Leaning too far to the other direction and dad is really just kind of a joke. The dad on Modern Family perhaps, or for those who are a bit older, perhaps Married with Children. There's always the Simpsons. We need better role models in our society for dads. This kind of take it as it is, humor, that in the end, leaves children wondering not so much about whether or not dad love me, but how much is that love really worth? So balance, we all need balance, as do dads and so a balance between hard working and a little bit of humor come together to keep true love shining through for us.


Now, dads aren't perfect. Some lean one way, some the other. Dads aren't perfect. They're human. Unless you have an old truck driver from Springfield Kentucky as a dad: would my dad please stand. This is my only opportunity every year to embarrass him. So there you go. I have a perfect dad. You don't know. But for the rest of us, we need balance in our lives, and so do our fathers, to help us learn that and to teach us as we grow.

Our Gospel today really shows that balance in many ways. When we look at it the beginning of the Gospel talks about a man who goes out and sows seed in his field. And once the ground is prepared and the seed is sown he doesn't stand there and say grow! Get to work! He goes to bed. He gets up, goes to bed, gets up, goes to bed. The seed does what it will do. No pressure, no barating, no lording over the seed to make it grow. There's only so much work one can do. But when the time of harvest comes along, there he is, sickle in hand ready, to go to work. Right when the time is right. The balance is seen there, but then there is also the second parts of our Gospel, the the well known parable of the mustard seed. To understand this a little bit better it is paired, it is mirrored by the scene in Ezekiel. I think many of the Jews of the time would have heard this similar language. As Christ was proclaiming his parable, they would have recounted what you just heard that God would climb the tall cedar tree, and from the top of it prune a shoot, and bring it down and plant it on a tall mountain. From that shoot, from that branch, would grow a majestic cedar and large cedar, so large that the birds of the air which would come to fill its branches, would live underneath that cedar.


Christ uses the same kind of imagery, except with a mustard seed. We must remember and the Jews had no need for mustard, no need at all. They didn't want it, they didn't need it, kosher hot-dogs didn't exist. Hebrew National had not come along. Dad joke, I warned you:

How does Moses make his coffee? He brews it!

They had no need! Mustard for the Jews, was a weed, simple as that, a weed. To actually find one, to take the time to find this little seed, to have the concern to even go and get it, and then the ridiculousness of planting it in your garden! Talk about a dad joke! It doesn't make any sense. It's ridiculous. The Jews would have wondered what Christ was talking about. Why would you put a weed in your garden? Intentionally! Not only that, but a really large weed in the end. The mustard seed was not only insignificant, it was actually a nuisance at times. So we have this balance: the balance between a cedar tree and a mustard bush, both compared to the kingdom of God, both sheltering birds of the air of all kinds, and their branches representing the love of God for God's people. One, however, one is the most magnificent of plants - one that anyone could look and see that is a beautiful tree, a cedar tree growing on top of a mountain, majestic in fact. Then there is the mustard bush, the mustard bush that has no purpose. What is it doing here? What am I to make of it? God our Father, whom we look to for our example as to how to be a father, loves each and every one of us, not as a cedar tree, not as a mustard bush, exactly as we are. Loves us for who we are, as perfect in every way, with a balance between humor, and a desire to see us be about the work that we are called to and desiring to make of us an image of the Kingdom of God.


Earthly fathers will work to make their household a household that is a safe place, a welcoming place, a place where children can come and find refuge. And so our Father in heaven does just that, except He does so perfectly. The Church is a place where all the birds of the air, all the creatures of earth, all the sons and daughters of the Most High can come and find a place of refuge, to be called to a higher vocation, and yet be met exactly as we are. Our fathers are not perfect. That's OK. But they see within God the Father, the creator of all things, that image which calls us to something so much greater. Let us see in God the Father the perfect image of the father. Let us pray for our dads: living, deceased, near, far, let us pray for them. Those of you who are fathers, pray to be the image of God the Father, a Father out working in the world, to see your children as they are, and to help them grow into who they are called to be. We look to the creator of all things, to see us for who we are, and we trust God the Father sees us that way, and we know that each of us are loved so very much. We live in that love and give thanks for our fathers today.


Friday, February 16, 2018

SELF-RIGHTEOUS OR GOD-RIGHTEOUS?

Ash Wednesday

Saint Boniface Parish

February 14, 2018




It is just amazing to see so many of you here to celebrate Saint Valentine! I just can't imagine how this happened. Saint Valentine, you may may or may not know, because it is Saint Valentine's Day, even though, because of changes in the liturgical calendar, many more secular celebrations of Valentine actually take place than religious celebrations. His saint day was today and it was celebrated throughout the universal church before Vatican II when much of the calendar was kind of uncluttered. In this way many of the minor Saints didn't get demoted, per-se, but their celebrations were kept on particular country’s liturgical calendars and removed from the universal calendar. But make no mistake about it: Saint Valentine, as Saint Valentine, doesn't care. He doesn't care at all. He lived for CHRIST, and he died for CHRIST - that is what he cares about. He does not miss those days when his feast was more widely celebrated, and I doubt he really bemoans the fact that it has become a secular holiday especially now that he is with CHRIST for all eternity: the one whom he loved and longed for. He probably would prefer that his memory lead others to CHRIST, but ultimately he has done his part.

Check out Portraits of Saints

Truly, as corny as it may sound, life really is all about love. Our Gospel for today reminds us not to be righteous and as a teenager, a few years ago, I was from time to time reminded by my mother that I was being self-righteous and that of course is a bad thing. To be self righteous is to assume that we know everything, that it's all about us, that we are the source of our own greatness. We become our own source of understanding - we make it happen, all the things that the world tries to convince us of. But it's not our own righteousness that brings us here today, and it's not out of our own righteousness that we pray, and we give alms, and we fast. It is not out of our own righteousness that we wear these ashes on our foreheads. If we were doing it for our own righteousness I would imagine we would do it more for all 40 days of Lent! We wear ashes for the start to remind ourselves, and others, that this is an important time in our faith. This is important time as a community to remember the one who loved us so much to go out of GOD’s way to travel this far to become one of us and ultimately to die for us. That is a sign of love and by it we are made for righteous.


Righteousness in itself is not necessarily bad. GOD is righteous. GOD is right, always perfectly right and just, and so we take part in that. We are made righteous, we are made holy by following the ways of GOD. And so I ask you, if the same Roman soldiers who came for Saint Valentine almost two thousand years ago, if they came and searched your room, your apartment, your vehicle, your bag, maybe even your pockets would they find reason to convict you? Would they find enough evidence of your faith in GOD, in CHRIST JESUS, to sentence you to death? Now we don't know everything about Saint Valentine, and it is very difficult at this time to separate historical fact from legend, but we understand that the soldiers bludgeoned him to death with a club. They tortured him and beheaded him. They buried him in an unmarked grave and his followers, those who desired to respect his sacrifice, went under the cover of darkness - for fear of their own brutal execution, to dig him up and give him a proper burial. Are you prepared for something similar? Some say that it couldn't happen again, we say that we're far from that, but have we really advanced that much? I don't know, some days I really don't think we’ve come nearly as far as we think.


We wear these ashes, not for our own righteousness, but to remind others that God sees fit to make sinners like you and me, hypocrites like you and me, to make us righteous in HIS eyes. Because HE died for you, just as much as HE died for me, just as he died for St. Valentine, Mother Teresa, John Paul II and all the rest. HE died for you and for me to make us righteous, to bring us to the fullness of what we are called to be. Today we wear ashes and for the next 40 days we pray, we fast, and we give alms to remind ourselves that all of that stuff that draws our attention so very easily is not really worth it. With this celebration we are talking about our eternal happiness. Let us lift up that desire to God who makes us righteous in his eyes.



Monday, February 5, 2018

SUFFERING CALLS US TO LOVE

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary

Saint Patrick Parish

February 3-4, 2018

USCCB Lectionary Readings





If there's anyone who just loves suffering, I’d like you to go ahead and let me know, you can jump up and shout and let us all know... nobody, well Ok, I guess that's all right. Yesterday evening, before we began Mass, Father Jeff asks “what are you preaching on?” And I said “suffering,” he says “of course you are.” He knows me too well. I begin with suffering but I hope to end with hope - and so that's where we are headed. Suffering is something that every one of us, in one way or another, from the moment of our birth, or more than likely even before our birth, our mothers will certainly tell us that. Definitely from the moment of our birth, to the moment of our death, we experience suffering to some degree. The mere fact that we, as human beings, as material creatures, will experience hunger after a few hours of going without food is evidence of the reality of suffering. It starts there, and just works its way out from there. Life means suffering, to one degree or another, and because suffering is such a basic part of life much as been said about the nature of suffering.


I often think about suffering. In fact one of my favorite ancient, wise, spiritual gurus, who often wears green - and no, I'm not talking about Father Oz, I’m talking about Yoda. Yoda says that fear leads to anger, anger leads to hatred, and hatred leads to suffering. Suffering in turn leads of course to the dark side. In many ways I think that's where our culture takes suffering. We don't deal with it very well, if at all. We don't want to look at suffering, we don't want to deal with it. We'd rather just forget about it. But, as I've just made known, suffering is part of our lives. It is because we don't do very well with suffering that we don't do well with sacrifice either. I think Yoda's stopped a little too soon. Suffering can lead to sacrifice, and sacrifice can lead to Sacrament. And ultimately Sacrament leads us back to GOD. Yoda stopped a little too soon. We, all of us, have suffering in our lives and we can, if we're able, turn that over, turn it into something greater than what it seems to be. We don't do that very well; and since we don't do sacrifice very well I think that's evidenced in the problems we have in our families, the difficulty in marriage, the fact that we have a shortage of priests, is evidence of the reality that we don't do sacrifice very well. I invite you to listen attentively to the rest of our liturgy, sacrifice and suffering are all throughout the words of our Eucharistic Prayer and of our liturgy itself. That's why we are here, not for our own personal pleasure, or own personal fulfillment, that may be important, but we we are here to offer the sacrifice of JESUS CHRIST who first sacrificed for us. Sacrifice and suffering are all throughout our Catholic life. 


As a culture we have kicked virtues out the window. We just chucked them right out the window. Virtues like patience, prudence, justice, fortitude, faith, hope, love and charity. All of these are too complicated so out they go. Instead the ‘virtue’ we prefer is positivity. Positivity, a false virtue. Positivity if a virtue makes suffering a sin. How dare you? How dare you force your suffering upon me? How dare you take away my positivity, my joy of life, and everything! Scripture tells us that there is a time to live and a time to cry, and I wonder if, as a culture, we have collectively decided that we should be laughing all the time - and leave the crying for behind closed doors. Perhaps, instead, we should be laughing and crying in more equal measure. That balance acknowledges the place of suffering in our lives. It doesn't hide it away, it doesn't try to bury it, disguise it, or shame it. Real virtue lets suffering be what it is - human, and in a very real way it makes it  beautiful. There is beauty in suffering; if you're able to look at it, if they're able to see it for what it truly is - for what it calls out from within us.


Just yesterday, I was on a bit of an Anointing of the Sick circuit. I was called out to do four different Anointings. I would have preached about suffering anyways, but this experience added just the right human touch. By the way, all of these aren't parishioners, and so we can avoid trying to figure out who it is and just listen. First up was a young woman, very much in pain, suffering with addiction, and for years and years has felt pulled into that destructive pattern. She is currently at that moment in her life where she just might be able, if she's willing, to turn that suffering into sacrifice. She needs prayers and we need to pray for her. Second, an elderly man, who, if he hasn't already, was transitioning to his next life. I was able to be there, with his family, to offer him the Sacrament of Anointing and the Sacrament of the Eucharist, to assist him in that transition. His suffering is leading his family and others to CHRIST. We pray for them. While I was with that family another patient’s son invited me into his mother's room. She is a delightful woman, who isn't sure what is going on, but she is suffering and she is leading others to CHRIST - including the the nurse technician who was there to do some tests on her. A very kind, very holy woman, who, by her mere presence invites others to trust in CHRIST. And finally the family of an older gentleman, who has suffered quite a bit in the last several months, who has had his ups and downs. The cancer seems to have returned once more, and they're not quite sure what they're going to do, but we pray for them. We pray for them all and in fact I asked each one of them to pray for the others. That's what we do. We take our suffering, and through that we hope to open our hearts to the suffering of others. Suffering reminds us of our humanness, it reminds us of our need for others, our need to pray for others, our need to count on others.


Just this morning there are people throughout the state of Kentucky, and beyond, who will be going to Mass the only way they know how - by watching Mass of the Air, a ministry that is led by our own Deacon Mark. This is a ministry that allows people, who have access to a television, in any number of situations, to be able to at least be in the presence of Mass, to hear Mass being said, and hopefully have someone bring them the Eucharist as well. A couple of weeks ago I taped, with the assistance of the whole crew of course, it doesn't just happen without the work of many dedicated people, Mass for this the Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time. While preparing for that taping it occurred to me that there are many reasons why these individuals aren't here with us. Many have physical ailments that prevent them from being here, and they suffer because of that. Some have spiritual ailments, a confusion that causes them to imagine that they are not welcome here, and they suffer because of that. Some have mental ailments, they are perhaps stuck in their homes, or in some other institution that prevents them from coming here. In many ways they just don't feel like they're safe leaving wherever it is that they're at, or they are in some kind of situation that is preventing them. Almost all of those who watch Mass of the Air suffer in some terrible way, and I was able to look into that camera, hopefully looking into their eyes, as they sit at home or wherever they find themselves, and tell them that they are loved. This culture, this society, would quickly dismiss them say that they are a burden, they say their pain has no purpose, that they as human beings have no purpose. To look in their eyes, and say that you are loved, that CHRIST loves you, and you're suffering, even if you don't understand it at this moment, it does have a purpose. That suffering is bringing us together as the body of CHRIST. I pray that there are many people out there hearing that message this morning.


Our readings for today are just full of suffering. If anyone needs spiritual guidance in their suffering, I often point them to the Book of Job, our first reading. Now don't just start reading it and then stop, it won't do you any good, in fact it will probably going to make it worse. You've got to get to the end of the story. Read Job, he helps us understand what it is to suffer in our lives. The second reading, from St. Paul, he is speaking of how he suffers for the benefit of the Good News. How his suffering is leading others to CHRIST, without charge, how he preaches the Gospel, which he has freely received, and which he freely gives. Paul suffers for CHRIST, but he finds meaning through the suffering. Finally we have our Gospel, the Gospel in which Peter's mother-in-law, herself a woman so close to CHRIST, we must ask if anyone could have said “why is it that I am suffering? Don't you know? Couldn't you have stopped this?” This woman is scared for her life, she is suffering and the fever has almost overtaken her. It is at this moment that CHRIST is invited into her life. Surely HE knew, as the divine person that HE is, that there was suffering going on - he could have just prevented it from the outside, and yet she was allowed to suffer, for a moment, so that she could be introduced to CHRIST. In fact after CHRIST raises her, heals her, and calls her to a new way of life, HE goes to pray, and HIS apostles come to HIM saying that everyone is looking for HIM. Isn't that really what it is. Everyone who suffers, all of us, in one way or another, we are all looking for CHRIST. Looking for HIM who has the answer, HIM who calls us to a new way of life. We, as the body of CHRIST, we are meant to be that person in their lives. They are looking for CHRIST, and for better or for worse, they have us, not just me, all of us. They look to us in their lives to offer them CHRIST's presence.

Christ Healing the Mother of Simon Peter’s Wife by John Bridges, 1839

There are many ways in which our society tries to answer the question of suffering, and these are the top 3 hits, my three favorites. Number one - everything happens for a reason. Now, isn’t that lovely, nothing like taking a huge problem and dismissing it with everything happens for a reason. Two - GOD doesn't give you anything you can't handle. Well that’s nice, GOD becomes some kind of chess player, or something. Finally, my personal favorite, the one I've heard most recently - GOD gives HIS greatest battles to HIS bravest warriors. I didn’t know GOD is such a battle general. All of these saying, in one way or another, do have some hint of truth to them, but I think they are ultimately simple answers to a complicated question. I was discussing this question with a group of seniors at Sacred Heart and one in the back raised her hand and she said “well, are you saying that everything doesn't happen for a reason?” I stopped, and thought for a moment, and I said “actually yes, I think everything does happen for a reason, but it's not as simple as just saying it happens for a reason, the reason is love.” Love ultimately means vulnerability, and vulnerability means suffering. If we love, we open our hearts to the capacity to hurt, and the capacity to hurt will eventually lead us to hurting. Either we love, or in the words of Yoda, we turn towards fear - we turn away from one another. I do think everything does happen for a reason, in a way none of us will ever fully understand, but at the same time it calls us to love. Suffering calls us to recognize that each and every one of us suffers to a degree, and it really doesn't help to compare suffering either, by the way, we all suffer and some of us do suffer more than others, but it doesn’t really help to do those calculations. This line of thinking doesn’t lift anyone up, it quickly leads to the line of thinking that says “just get over it, you're not one of those starving children in the middle of a developing country” or “just look at all the good things you have.” This isn’t loving, it’s shaming, and the suffering remains, along with feelings of shame for suffering. No matter the level of suffering  your suffering still has value. Let's not demote suffering too quickly.


Today we also have the the Saint Blaise blessing of throats. Here is a living example of what one person’s suffering can do. A young boy who lived centuries and centuries ago, was choking on a fish bone. We don’t know the boys name, but he would have long ago been completely forgotten, if not for his suffering. His suffering introduced him to Saint Blaise, who was able to heal him, and introduce him to CHRIST, and the effects of that boy’s suffering lives on in the love that the Church expresses through this blessing. That boy, along with Saint Blaise, are introducing us to CHRIST this very day. Suffering can lead to sacrifice and sacrifice can lead to Sacrament, if we suffer with love. The number of prayers and blessings that the Church has that take one person’s suffering and introduces others to CHRIST through it, it’s astounding!   


So we are called, as the people of GOD to be CHRIST for others both in our own suffering and through the suffering of others. I have never see a crucifix with the smiling JESUS on it. It's a simple truth but I think it tells us a lot. HE suffered for us. HE came much farther than we ever will, to suffer for us, to sacrifice for us, to call us to Sacrament. You, as the lay faithful have an opportunity at every Mass to connect suffering to Sacrament. We as the clergy have a mass intention, someone has asked us to pray for them. You are invited to pray for them as well, but you can have your own mass intention for yourselves. So I want you in the next few moments to bring to mind someone who is suffering. Prayer connects us. Prayer binds us together. Hold that person in your heart. If it's you that's fine, if you're the person who's suffering the most in your life right now, pray for yourself. Let us all brings someone to mind so that we can be connected one to another, so that we won't forget that suffering indeed does have a purpose, suffering calls us to love.