Wednesday, April 20, 2011

 

My Theme for Easter 2011

In recent weeks I have been focused on the migratary nature of G-d. He is love that cannot be contained. He is compassion poured out. In the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, G-d is a migrant who leaves behind that which He is accustomed, not grasping for it or trying to cling to it, and takes up residence in a world that rejects Him because it doesn't understand Him and is uncomfortable with His ways. But what does G-d do? He forgives our inhumanity and opens a border previously closed as a result of our own pride that allows us to move freely toward and eventually into a new home of eternal peace an joy. Are we as eager to become migrants to the bosom of G-d as my grandparents were to come to Buffalo, New York, in the mid-1920's or as the Latino and Hispanic peoples of the western hemisphere are to find promise and relief among us today? What about our understanding of our brothers and sisters? What about our openness to "new" ways? What about our compassion, our love, our forgiveness? How do we try to contain it? Our easily do we pour it out? Just a thought in the hours before the dawn of Holy thursday.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

 

The Present Reality of Easter

Good morning everyone. Happy Easter. Alleluia! It sure feels good to say that. Seeing the church bursting at the seams gives me a really good feeling. May the rest of the day be as joyful for you as this moment is for me.
Every time I celebrate a big holiday I can’t help but think back to my childhood. I love to recall the anticipation, the parties, the great food, the presents, the candy, and the traditions --- Easter egg hunts, tree-trimming, and playing tug-of-war with the wishbone, to name a few. They were good memories --- I still treasure them to this day. But as someone who has had a lot of formal religious training, I can’t help but also think back to the different ways I understood these holidays from a religious standpoint. Thanksgiving, the most secular of the three, had to do with the pilgrims, the Mayflower, Native Americans, and of course turkey. I don’t remember thinking about God too much on that day. Christmas was different. I knew that God had something to do with that. But for me it was simply Jesus’ birthday --- a good reason to have a party and exchange presents. I knew Jesus was special, but beyond that I didn’t give it much thought.
Easter, for me, was the most overtly religious day of the three. And I still remember how I understood Easter, how I had been taught to think about it in my religious education classes (or CCD for those of us of a certain age). As a child, I understood Easter to be simply the day Jesus rose from the dead and opened up the gates of heaven. That’s it. Very succinct and to the point. Jesus died and rose from the dead to open up the gates of heaven. That’s what Easter meant to me. And I certainly wasn’t wrong.
Obviously, when we teach our young children, it’s probably good to keep things simple. Giving them a detailed or nuanced explanation of something might only confuse or frustrate them. We’re wise to make sure they have the basics first. But when we never really revisit what we learned as children, we might grow into adulthood with an impoverished understanding of something --- one which might mislead us as we grow older.
For me, Easter was a little like that. You see, for many years after that, probably into my twenties, I still saw Easter as the day Jesus “opened up the gates of heaven”. And you may wonder what’s wrong with believing that, what could be the problem? Well, it’s not so much what is explicitly in that statement – it’s what the statement implies that is the problem. Simply put, as I thought about Easter in that way, I was, at least to a small degree, falsely clinging to the idea that Jesus suffered, died and rose so that something could be better for me in the future, at the end of my days. No longer would I have to fear death. It was precisely because of Jesus’ saving act that I could now hope to be in heaven with God for all eternity. The blessings, graces, promises, and fruits of Easter assured me of good things in the distant future, years from now. In other words, I would have to wait (possibly a long time) before Easter made a difference for me. And nothing could be further from the truth.
My dear friends, today we come together to celebrate and give thanks to our Lord and
God for his incredible act of love. We know we don’t deserve it. We know we never could have done it on our own. And we certainly know that we could never have earned it, no matter how many acts of kindness we perform over the course of our lives. The incredible life-changing power of the resurrection is pure gift, the gift of God’s very self to each of us. God has shown us just how powerful love is, the incredible difference love can make in this world. The most perfect expression of the power of love has come to be through the one who loved perfectly --- even in the face of great pain, sorrow, and suffering. Jesus loved completely to the very end, and as a result, even death no longer had power over him. Jesus did indeed open the gates, heal the wounds, bridge the chasm, reconcile a broken world. And we are forever grateful.
But make no mistake about it. Jesus’ triumphant resurrection is not simply for the future. That’s the narrowest understanding of the resurrection we could ever hold. Rather, the power of his saving act has been unleashed on the world, in every time and place, in every situation, and in every human heart --- and none of us need ever be the same again. Jesus loved and everything changed. If we are able to love, even if imperfectly and in small ways, we too can share in that transformation --- and thereby change the world. This is no pipe-dream. This is God’s promise. God didn’t die so that everything (especially us) could remain the same. He died so that we could be new creations --- sharers in an abundance of life beyond our biggest dreams and wildest imagination.
Love has the power to change everything it touches. Jesus showed us that. And no one is transformed more by love than the one doing the loving. And so maybe the best way to give thanks to the Lord for his incredible act of love is to look for more opportunities to love in our own little corners of the world, and thereby begin living the new life God wants for each of us. Jesus may have died so that we can be with God in heaven. That is true. But that heavenly experience --- that communion with God, the sharing in his life, the tapping into his love and mercy --- begins this very moment, and is renewed in us each and every day of our lives. In a certain sense, heaven has already begun.
This is the Paschal Mystery, an embracing and carrying of whatever comes our way in this life, knowing that those things will never have the last word, never get the best of us. But more than that --- the struggles of our loved ones, the brokenness we see in so many places and relationships, the crosses we individually carry --- do not simply have to be endured. Rather, they can be rendered powerless and transformed by doing something simple but difficult at times --- loving no matter what, no matter what hand we are dealt, no matter what comes our way. The difficulties of life will often still be there, but the way we see them and experience them can be completely different. God died, in part, so that this could be so, so that we could be truly created anew.
Alleluia! He is risen! Let’s truly celebrate this day by choosing to love --- and by doing so, allow God not to simply change the world, but change each and every one of us too.

Monday, October 16, 2006

 

OF THINGS ORANGE: The BCS Is NOT Scientific

OK. The first BCS poll was released yesterday afternoon. I can understand how Ohio State is in first place. (I will pull even for them to win the National Chanpionship if an SEC team fails to make the title game.) But, there are several things I just do not understand about the rankings. Call it "sour grapes" if you want, but I am completely befuddled. How can Southern Cal (oops...-ifornia) be ranked second? With the exception of their win over Arkansas, which put a solid drumming on Auburn (then #2) just a week ago, USC has barely won every game, eeking out victory after victory over questionable opponents. Yes, they are undefeated, but compare their accomplishments to those of Michigan with its annihilation of Notre Dame and solid wins in every other game they have played. And, pray tell, how in the name of the football dieties is Caifornia ranked ahead of Tennessee, who had them 35-0 until they put in their THIRD STRING in the 4th quarter and still beat them 35-18? Tennessee has beaten two Top 10 teams (at the time the games were played) and lost by a single point to the Gaytors. WHO have the Golden Bears beaten? Give me a break! The computers used in the BCS have to be on crack because they certainly aren't scientific!

 

OF THINGS DIVINE: What Will You Do Next? (OT28-B)

In an age when many of us find it difficult to make ends meet, contemporary society bombards us with a set of values based on the need for material security. It judges our success by the size of our bank account, the extent of our possessions and the exclusiveness of the area in which we choose to live. But the wisdom that comes from God, described in today's first reading, measures differently and ranks power and riches as nothing. Nada. There is more to life than what is immediately apparent, and spiritual values run deeper than worldly standards. We are reminded in today’s liturgy that we cannot buy our way into heaven. If we listen closely, we are being reminded that wealth mixes with worship of God just about as well as oil with water.

The rich young man prided himself on his goodness. He was the essence of respectability; a stickler for going to church and observing the commandments, a stickler for observing teh holy days, a stickler for praying, and stickler for paying his tithes. He had his act together and was assertive enough to come forward to ask Jesus a fundamental question” “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The answer he got was more than he bargained for. His big boast was that he had done nothing wrong in his life, but Jesus was not all that interested in the fact that he had kept out of harm’s way. Christ was more interested in the use he had made of his life, in the good he had done and whether he was prepared to go out of his way to help others. He looked him straight in the eyes with his own piercing eyes described so beautifully in the Book of Revelation and loved him. He looked into his very soul and invited him to sell all he had and to come follow him. Here was a young man brimming with life, yet the peace that he sought was placed beyond his reach because his vision was limited to the material world and was blinded to teh needs of his soul. He went away saddened because he was unable to make the sacrifice. Far from regarding him as a model to be imitated, Jesus singles him out as a warning for those who witnessed the exchange and for every generation that has followed, including ours..

Being rich and having lots of money may not be our problem but all of us are invited to answer the Lord's call: “Come, follow me.” Jesus, when speaking to our hearts in his response to teh young man, is subtly posing an even more important question: “Am I worth following?” He is not asking us to just admire his way of life but to live it, and live it fully not as part-timers but every day. Discipleship is always costly, and following Jesus makes very stark demands on every aspect of our lifestyle. Our following Christ means making the best of our present situation and placing our lives in God’s hands. We have only one life, and Jesus Christ is inviting us to leave the world a better place for our presence than we found it. We achieve this by helping others, and not by grasping everything for ourselves and hoarding it for our posterity.

I want to share with you a story of a man who died in Cleveland, Ohio, late last year, who had two wills, one for the disposition of his earthly goods and one he called a "spiritual will." The son of Polish immigrants, he founded a chain of retail stores across northern Ohio, and his children expected to be well-set for life upon his death, their mother having passed away some years earlier. They were surprised to learn that he had sold all his interest in the retail stores and left all of his accumulated wealth to various forms of Catholic charities that included his local parish, the diocese, various seminaries, Catholic carities, St. Vincent DePaul Society, the Catholic Extesion Society, and a variety of Catholic foreign missions. At his funeral, another will was read by the parish priest. It said: "To my children, I leave my greatest and most valuable possession becasue of my great love for you. Because I came into this world with nothing and leave this world with nothing I hope you will treasure what I have held so dear throughout my life. I leave you my faith. With it I have loved you, nurtured you and helped form you to become the wonderful children you are today. Believe what I have taught you. Love the Lord with all your heart. And try to live more generously than you think yourselves capable. As for your faith: believe it, love it, and live it every day. And your motehr and I will be waiting for you."

It takes faith to accept the Lord’s invitation. It takes courage to live a Christian life in a world that rejects sacrifice and simplicity while embracing the self-indugent accummulation of "stuff." It takes great love to put others first without regard to what others might think or say or what you are afraid they might say about you. But, the reward is much greater and more enduring that anything this world has to offer. The choice seems simple enough.

The young man asked Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life.

Jesus asks us, “What must you do next to gain eternal life?”

Monday, September 04, 2006

 

Of Things Orange: Happy Days Are Here Again

Forgive me, but I only saw the last 27 seconds of the Tennessee entrapment of the Golden Bears on Saturday. Weddings are necessary evils during pigskin season and I was witnessing one for some dear people, but I was able to check the flow of the game by looking at my text messages being sent by a volunteer army of friends at the game seated in ZZ13. (I hope Kenneth from Murfreesboro, who bought my four tickets for this game, enjoyed himself.) Robert Meachem should get some kind of award for his performance. What about Ainge? We knew the kid could do; we were just afraid he wouldn't. Everyone take a deep breath and make a sigh of relief. If the team holds together and keeps praying together with their focus on the Big Prize I fear for the likes of George, Florida, and LSU. I look forward to watching the Air Force game on PPV this weekend I sold my tickets to a friend whose son just enlisted in the Army and leave for bootcamp on the 13th so he and his family can make the trip together one last time before Jeff's departure). Then, I will join all my crazy friends in ZZ13 for the Florida game. I really think 5-0 and a Top 5 ranking is within reach this month. GO BIG ORANGE!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

 

Of Things Orange: 2 Days and Counting


The University of Tennessee Volunteers kickoff at 5:30 pm (EDT) on Saturday. I will be in the air on the way to a commitment in New Jersey, but I will have my orange and white rosary with me to assure that someone is praying for the Men of Orange play to the best capabilities against the Golden Bears who enter the season a Top 10 choice in most polls. Yesterday, The UT quarterback, Erik Ainge, said that the demons of 2005 are behind him and the team; time will tell. I am nervous before every game, and the fact that the oddsmakers have made the Big Orange a 2-point favorite makes me more nervous because my team doesn't cover the spread very often. Too bad I have this commitment because my heart is singing: Wish that I was on ol' Rocky Top down in those Tennessee hills. Ain't no smoggy smoke on Rocky Top; ain't no telephone bills. Once two strangers climbed ol' Rocky Top lookin' for a moonshine still. Strangers ain't come down from Rocky Top; reckon they never will. Rocky Top, you'll always be home sweet home to me. Good ol' Rocky Top, Rocky Top Tennessee!

 

Of Things Orange: 2 Days and Counting


The University of Tennessee Volunteers kickoff at 5:30 pm (EDT) on Saturday. I will be in the air on the way to a commitment in New Jersey, but I will have my orange and white rosary with me to assure that someone is praying for the Men of Orange play to the best capabilities against the Golden Bears who enter the season a Top 10 choice in most polls. Yesterday, The UT quarterback, Erik Ainge, said that the demons of 2005 are behind him and the team; time will tell. I am nervous before every game, and the fact that the oddsmakers have made the Big Orange a 2-point favorite makes me more nervous because my team doesn't cover the spread very often. Too bad I have this commitment because my heart is singing: Wish that I was on ol' Rocky Top down in those Tennessee hills. Ain't no smoggy smoke on Rocky Top; ain't no telephone bills. Once two strangers climbed ol' Rocky Top lookin' for a moonshine still. Strangers ain't come down from Rocky Top; reckon they never will. Rocky Top, you'll always be home sweet home to me. Good ol' Rocky Top, Rocky Top Tennessee!

 

Of Things Canine: Puppies at Four weeks Old

Here are some pictures of Bailey's puppies by Ch. Timbe's Monsignor O'Bryan. They were four weeks old on Sunday. You will notice some stitches in the eys lids. These are called "eye tacks" and are used to lift the heavy brow caused by wrinling so the puppies can open their eyes and see the worlf. The boy has had to have tacks from the beginning. The girl with tacks made the unfortunate mistake of walking under one of teh adult dogs whihile he was relieveing himself and got urine in her eyes, causing her eyes to slam shut for a couple of days. They are growing nicely and have great personalities. Today, the are outside for most of the morning with Bailey, who has been a wonderful brood bitch.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

 

Of Things Divine: The Transforming Power of the Eucharist, Ordinary Time 20-B

Recently I received over the Internet the story of a woman arrested for road rage. It seems she was quite angry at the man driving in front of her. She was blowing her horn in an effort to get him to speed up. At the stop light, she rolled down her window and was shouting obscenities at the man, who must have been a saint for the way he controlled himself. A police officer pulled up behind her and watched her temperamental explosion, and when she stuck her hand out of the window toward the man’s car to give him a digital expression of her mind the policeman got out of his car and ordered the woman out of hers. He arrested her on the spot. After questioning her for a few hours at the precinct house, the office apologized to the woman for arresting her. He said, “I am sorry, ma’am, but with all the bumper stickers on the back of your car like ‘Jesus is my co-pilot’ and ‘I vote for Life’ and ‘Every human being is a child of God’ and ‘Honk if you love Jesus’ I would have sworn by your conduct that you had stolen that car.”

It’s sad, but true. Too often we make mistakes about what is important. For that poor woman the mistake was wearing her Christianity on her car and not in her heart.

A similar mistake occurs all too frequently with the way we think about meals. We make the mistake of thinking that the most important part of a meal is the food which sustains our bodies, but there is a deeper significance to meals than the dishes that are served. What really matters when we share a meal is not the food on the table but the chatter and fun shared while eating. That is what binds us together and refreshes our hearts and creates friendship and family.

It was no different for Jesus. At the last supper he shared with his apostles Jesus’ love and friendship overflowed as he showed the Twelve how to be brothers to one another. Every time we come together to celebrate the Eucharist we relive that event. We meet Jesus as both brother and Savior and receive the shared life of God in our gathering and our fellowship.

Today’s Gospel tells us clearly that Jesus offers us his Body and Blood as the necessary food for our journey through life. It is not just spiritual food. It is real food: his flesh, his blood. And, he warns of the consequences of not accepting the gift he offers. If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you will not have life within you.

We are reminded today of the closeness of the union into which Jesus calls us in every celebration of the Eucharist. It is a union which reaches its fulfillment in eternity. Jesus is offering us a life that will not grow old but will go on for ever. In the Eucharist, we are offered the life that Jesus shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and he offers it so that we might have life.

Jesus is not present on our altars simply for our adoration and admiration. Jesus is present so that we can be united with him perfectly. Our celebration and reception of the Eucharist can be an empty pageant, an empty ritual as I mentioned last week, if it is confined to one hour in church on Sunday and doesn’t flow into the rest of our lives. Unless we are very much a part of what we are doing and have our hearts set on drawing closer to Jesus and becoming more Christ-like we can end up leading a pagan’s life tinged with certain Christian practices. We could become that woman who proclaimed her Christianity in all the wrong ways.

Receiving the Eucharist is meaningless and profitless if we fail to live what we celebrate. We must take our religion out of the church with us and bring it into the marketplace, onto the playground, into our social gatherings. For instance, there is not much point in speaking about God’s love without making an effort to spread it.

At the end of Mass each week we are sent out into the world to serve the Lord Jesus where were we live and work and play as Christ-bearers living his life, making Jesus present in a world that would otherwise conceal him.

Today, we thank God in a special way for the great gift of his Son who is with us and leading us to the Father, both physically and spiritually. Every act, every word, every thought placed on the altar of Christ benefits our world. Without frequent returns to the Bread of Life, we are unable to keep the spirit of Christ alive in our hearts.

This week, do something positive for your faith. Think of a member of our parish who you don’t see at Mass, except rarely. Call that brother or sister in Christ and invite them to meet you at Mass next weekend. After all, you wouldn’t let your brothers and sisters starve to death, would you? The power of the Eucharist is not contained in letters from the pastor or in newsletters sent to members of the Church who have fallen into the pit of spiritual sloth. The power of the Eucharist is not even confined to this beautiful tabernacle. No, the power of the Eucharist resides in you who become living tabernacles sent into the world to proclaim the Good News by the way you live the life of Jesus every day.

So, at the end of Mass today, go and tell that non-practicing member of the Church just how much God loved you today at Mass and how He filled you with the Banquet of Life. Invite them to rediscover the joy of Mass.

And, invite your neighbors, too. There is always room for one more at Mass!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

 

Of Things Orange: 17 Days And Counting


The Vols open the 2006 campaign in just a week and a half! What an opener it will be in Knoxville against the Golden Bears of the University of California at Berkely, a team ranked in the Top 10 by most preseason polls. Unfortunately, I will not be at the game nor do I expect a positive outcome for Tennessee. My friend Mike (see picture as he enjoys our seats in ZZ 7: 5-8) says I am the eternal pessimist when it comes to UT Sports, but then I see him as the eternal optimist; and I love him for his confidence even when the Vols are down midway through the fourth quarter. But, I am just not getting good vibes from K-ville this year. Erik Ainge seems to be stuck in mediocrity and the off-the-field problems continue with two freshmen -- yes, freshman -- already dismissed from the team for disciplinary reasons. The first scrimmage was hardly a thing of beauty. Please, God, let there be significant improvement this Saturday! I hope I will be pleased with the outcome as I watch on a television in Morristown, NJ, where I will be on personal business. I plan on getting to the Florida, Memphis, Alabama, and LSU games this year and already have my substitutes as needed for those weekends.

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