Monthly Archives: July 2017

Homily for July 23, 2017

 

HOMILY – JULY 23

We all recall what happened when the Apostles asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.”  Our Lord and Savior gave us the Lord’s Prayer, the “Our Father.”  No Christian worthy of the name lets a day pass without joining Jesus in that prayer at least once.  That in itself would be a good examination of conscience:  Since my last confession, have I let even a single day go by without at least once praying as Jesus taught us?  How can I call him my Lord and Savior if I don’t bother praying as he taught?  And it shouldn’t be just a matter of rattling it off thoughtlessly, just to say I said it.  Imagine a wife asking her husband’s reassurance, “Honey, do you really love me?” only to be answered with a brusque, “Yeah, yeah, I love ya, okay?” as he’s running out the door for his third night in a row out with the boys.

What Jesus did in teaching us to pray is nothing new.  God’s own Word in the Old Testament instructs us in prayer many times.  The Book of Psalms is a collection of 150 song-prayers that have easily assisted us believers in our prayers for 3,000 years.  We have marvelous examples of heartfelt prayers of praise, thanksgiving, repentance, and petition in nearly every book of both the Old and New Testaments.  From St. Luke’s Gospel, the Benedictus of Zechariah and the Magnificat of the Blessed Mother, respectively, adorn the official morning and evening prayer of the Church in the Liturgy of the Hours.  And in our first reading today, from the Book of Wisdom, we have an excellent example of God teaching us even while we’re using his own divinely-given words to worship him.

Mt dear friend, Father Charles Dautremont, has long been the premier theologian in our diocese.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with Father Charles, no matter how brief, in which I didn’t come away having learned something, and usually a great deal.  Scripture, theology, philosophy, Church and world history, languages, you name it, he has truly been a lifelong professor for many of us.  Psalm 37, verse 30, describes him well:  “The mouth of the just man murmurs wisdom.”  MURMURS, that is, even his casual mutterings are worthy of note.  If we can say that about an esteemed scholar, what about God himself?  Every page, every LINE of his Word in the Scriptures has SOMETHING to teach us, and this prayer in the Book of Wisdom is no exception.

Listen to that one line again from the prayer in the first reading:  “You taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are JUST must be KIND.”  Did you ever wonder what God means when he says in Deuteronomy 32, “‘Vengeance is mine,’ says the Lord”?  God knows that we don’t know how to use vengeance, or revenge.  So he says, “Leave it to me, I’LL take care of it.”  If we complain (and we often do) that God’s justice is too slow for us, too weak for us, too little for us, not effective enough for those whom we think need it, that’s simply proof that WE DON’T KNOW HOW TO USE IT!!  Leave it to us, we’ll always go overboard, always go to extremes.  When we get a thirst for revenge, we won’t rest until we see one who has offended us ground into the dust.  That’s why God says, “Leave it to ME!!  Those who are JUST must be KIND.”

Look at the parable in today’s Gospel.  Having discovered weeds sown among the wheat, the slaves go to the landowner, who calmly surveys the situation.  He recognizes the enemy’s hand at work.  The slaves are anxious to obliterate every trace of the enemy’s work, but the boss wisely warns, “No, right now, they’re all intertwined.  Pull up the weeds and you’ll lose the wheat as well.  Wait.  Wait till the harvest.  Then it can all be sorted out.”  And there is our lesson for life.  If those words were heard in our hearts, would we ever be estranged from family members?  Would we ever have any FORMER friends?  Would we ever write off anyone who can’t overcome some sin or shortcoming in their own life, and won’t even admit that it’s a problem?  Would the streets of Chicago, or of ANY neighborhood or country, be running with blood if people heeded these words of the Scriptures?  “Those who are JUST must be KIND.”  What a recipe for life!  What a PRAYER to teach us how to behave in a godly way!  What a work of the Spirit, as St. Paul tells us in the second reading, from Romans, as “the Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness,” interceding for us who do not know how to pray as we ought.  Lord, again and again, TEACH US TO PRAY!

Homily for July 9, 2017

HOMILY – JULY 9

The prophet Zechariah never met Jesus.  In fact, he lived about 500 years before Christ.  But as with the prophecies of Isaiah about the Suffering Servant of God, the description in today’s first reading of the true King of Israel would be uncanny if it weren’t for the fact that it’s divine prophecy.  “Your king shall come to you, Jerusalem, meek, and riding on an ass, a beast of burden.”  Zechariah’s family seems to have been of the priestly class, because he shows great familiarity with the Temple and Temple worship and ceremony.  The priests and elders, more than others, should have been the ones to recognize the signs of the Messiah when he finally arrived.  The signs were all there, but it took the Holy Spirit to put them together for a few humble fishermen and a tax collector, upon whom God would build his expanded Kingdom.

The priests and elders, because they had their OWN ideas of what the Messiah should look like, were not ready to accept the radical simplicity of life and the preference for the poor and for sinners which God’s Word-made-Flesh manifested when he walked among us.  The very thought that the Messiah could be meek and humble and riding on an ass, as Jesus in fact DID on Palm Sunday, was as abhorrent to the Jewish priests and elders of Jesus’ time as the thought of God becoming man is to Muslims.  The Almighty would not LOWER himself to do such a thing.  WE wouldn’t think so.  But God REVEALED himself in this way, very much to our surprise.  God took the initiative.  And no one can say he didn’t prepare us.

As we’ve already said, the second portion of the prophet Isaiah is likewise full of imagery about the Suffering Servant of God.  These four plaintive hymns are remarkably fulfilled in the Lord Jesus.  The four Evangelists were careful to note from eyewitnesses the details of what happened to Jesus in those redemptive hours of his Passion.  It’s amazing how Isaiah, seven hundred years before Christ, painted such a powerful verbal image of the One by whose “stripes we were healed.”

This might not seem all that appealing to us.  Even if we’re reconciled to the Christian concept of redemptive suffering with Christ, the ACTUAL suffering is, well, SUFFERING!  We can accept intellectually the truth of the Letter to the Colossians, chapter 1, verse 24, when the Apostle says, “I make up IN MY OWN BODY what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.”  We can accept in faith that we who bear the name of Christ as Christians will most certainly in some way be called to bear some portion of his Cross.  No Cross, no crown, after all.  But then how can Jesus offer us this splendid invitation in the Gospel, “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. . .  My yoke is easy, and my burden light.”  Easy?  Light?  These words come from the mouth of the Divine Savior, who first walked and LIVED the Stations of the Cross for us, bearing the weight of the world’s sins as no mere man could ever do.

Keep in mind that if you find your own yoke difficult, if you find your own burden heavy, Jesus doesn’t dismiss it.  He doesn’t tell you it’s nothing.  He says, take HIS yoke upon your shoulders and learn from him.  Then you will find the meekness and the humility of heart to begin to understand that your OWN yoke is a share in his.  But only a share, only a sliver of that saving Cross.  Christ will never crush us with the whole thing.  But he allows us to participate in it.  And that, my friends, brings us to Mass.

Everything we do as believers, every virtuous act, every kind word, every prayer for someone in need, all of these things we bring to the Altar, which is Christ; to be offered by the Priest, who is in the person of Christ; with the Lamb of Sacrifice, who is Christ.  This is our worship in a nutshell.  In participating in the sacrifice of Christ here in the Eucharist, we, the Bride of Christ, are nourished with the very Body and Blood of our heavenly Bridegroom.  Like the Israelites of old, we are nourished by the very Paschal Lamb whose Blood is shed to save us.

This is the Mystery to which our little brother Finley is being introduced this morning in the waters of baptism.  As God shares his life and Spirit with him, we are told by St. Paul in the second reading from Romans, “If the Spirit of God dwells in you, the One who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also.”  Finley, eternal life begins for you this morning, not just in your soul, but in your BODY.  Like Christ himself in the Incarnation, eternal life is not just a spiritual reality.  It’s deeply physical as well.  That’s why we speak words, and pour water, and anoint you with oil.  Eternal life is God’s gift to you.  OUR gift is our pledge to do all WE can to help you never forget it.  And in our greeting of peace, just before Communion, we pledge that to one another, too.

 

Homily for July 2, 2017

HOMILY – JULY 2

I’ve been fortunate, I think, to have had only about four surgeries when I had to be put out with anesthesia.  Having surgery scheduled is awful.  No matter what happens, you have THE DATE hanging over your head; and there’s usually a low-level anxiety underlying everything else in your life at that point.  You wish you didn’t have to go through it, you wish the doctor would call and tell you he made a mistake and you’re fine, but usually, no such luck.

THE DATE arrives, and you often have to be at the hospital before you can say your morning prayers, because even God hasn’t gotten up yet.  It’s so early in the morning it’s depressing, and there you are stumbling and mumbling and, out of nervousness, making bad jokes that the nurses have heard a million times before.  When they’ve had enough of you, they call the anesthesiologist in.  And YOU go OUT!  Without even realizing it.

The best part of surgery — usually — is waking up in recovery.  You don’t know where you are, you don’t usually feel any pain, and a cheerful nurse asks you if you need anything.  You don’t recognize her, and you ask when you’re going for surgery.  And then comes the best part.  She says, “Why, you’re in recovery!  You’ve already HAD surgery!  You came through just fine!”  You can scarcely believe it, but a kind of euphoria settles over you and it becomes easy to say some grateful prayers.

All that is the best thing I can think of to compare to St. Paul’s words to us this morning in the second reading, from his letter to the Romans.  He intends it to be a great relief, just like it sounds.  Do you have any fear of death?  Guess what?  YOU ALREADY DIED!  It’s over and done.  And St. Paul is like the nurse in the recovery room.  He says, Jesus took the plunge into crucifixion and death FOR you and WITH you.  When you took the plunge with HIM into the waters of baptism, you came up and out, and — YOU HAD ALREADY DIED WITH HIM!  THAT was the real death, your death to sin.  It was the beginning of your eternal life.  The only thing that could ever interrupt the sanctifying grace of that action of Christ in you would be your own foolish choice to go back to sin.

Now, what happens to us is what happens with most of us when we recover from an operation.  All the joy and relief of that wonderful moment in recovery when we woke up and were told, “You’ve already HAD surgery, you’re fine,” is eventually put on the back burner and forgotten.  And little by little, we go back to our former ways that we swore we’d never do again so we wouldn’t have to face surgery again:  that beautiful apple fritter, that dozen or so Oreos, that pack — and then, carton — of smokes, that autumn football marathon in the easy chair with lots of beer and pretzels.  None of them might be serious sins in themselves, but eventually they’re going to defeat the purpose of the surgery you had.

Death, and the thought of our own death, makes people uncomfortable.  God knows that, and that’s why he has St. Paul remind us of the truth of what Christ does for us in baptism:  YOU’VE ALREADY DIED!!!  So don’t worry.  Go about the wonderful work of being a Christian, and don’t worry.  You know neither the day nor the hour, but don’t worry.  The very best preparation for your death is not to worry about it.  Make the necessary preparations for others’ sake, the insurance, the will, all that stuff, but then just get busy about the Lord’s work.  YOU’VE ALREADY DIED!!! That’s the beauty of baptism.  So now you can get busy and LIVE, because it’s FOREVER!

It’s not pie-in-the-sky, it’s not fantasy.  Jesus Christ guarantees it for you.  And he is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.  You can’t do better than to spend your life walking with him.  You might not always LIKE where he leads you — but ultimately you’ll LOVE it, because HE’S leading you — all the way HOME!!!