Homily 4th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle C January 31, 2016

In modern psychology, they call it passive-aggressive. This is when the switch of peace is turned off and the switch of anger and violence is turned on, very quickly at times. What causes the switch of anger to be turned on for the entire town of Nazareth is Jesus telling them of their lack of belief in him. So, very quickly, they go from amazement with him, to pushing him to the edge of a hill.

However, Jesus is now in mission mode. From the time of his Baptism to the end of time, Jesus is in mission mode. He’s no longer a child in Nazareth growing up, working next to Joseph in the carpenter’s shop, or sitting next to his mother at table waiting to pray and eat dinner. In the words of St. Paul today, “When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child.” Jesus is no longer a child in Nazareth. He is a man come back to Nazareth. And with adulthood comes a new way of being in the world. As St. Paul further writes about himself and for all adults, “When I became a man I put aside childish things.”

When did Paul become a man? Or when did you and I become adults in the faith? We celebrated in the Church Paul’s manhood, if you will, this past Monday when we celebrated the Conversion of St. Paul. The day he was knocked on his rear end by Jesus, was the day he officially entered adulthood, because it was the day that Paul came to know and believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Hopefully that’s not what it takes for all of us.

It’s a very, very special teenager who can stand before their peers and the world and say, “Jesus is my Lord, Jesus is my Savior. And I love him with all my heart.” They’re out there, those teenagers. I’d like to think we have some at Immaculate Conception. Because that’s the day, the hour, the moment when one leaves behind the ways of being a child and truly becomes a man or a woman.

Why is Nazareth so angry at Jesus? The answer is, because they’re still children…for the wrong reasons. Jesus does say elsewhere that “unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3). But the child Jesus refers to is the child who is dependent upon the higher power (parents). It’s the child who is filled with a certain innocence before the world poisons their heart and soul. It’s the child who wants to be loved, and is open to being loved by others. That’s the adult-child Jesus talks about who will enter the kingdom of heaven.

But what we have in Nazareth, and what we must guard against, are a bunch of spoiled children of adult age who have a very difficult time dealing with the truth that is being spoken about them by the greatest and most loving adult who ever lived. He’s calling them on their lack of belief in him, and they don’t like it. They ask, “Isn’t he the son of Joseph, that carpenter we all know so well?” They ask in such a way where they see Jesus as the child he used to be rather than the man he has grown into. A man in mission mode.

Sometimes this is an issue with parents and friends and relatives where they will not allow someone to grow into the man or woman God has destined them to be. Nazareth wants the 12 year-old who got lost in the Temple. They can handle and control him. They can box that kid into a corner and take away his smart phone or some other piece of technology. Instead, what they have in their presence is the Son of God in mission mode who speaks the truth…because he is the Truth. As much as they try, and a much as we may try, the grownup Jesus who speaks the truth cannot be controlled. But when he’s accepted in our hearts, that’s when we become adults and find true freedom.

So after he speaks the truth about their lack of belief in him, they aggressively push him to the edge of a hill. That’s how they deal with the truth of his words. This is what children do, as what adults who are still children will do, when they get angry. They can’t handle the truth that comes from God, so they lash out, thinking that their violence will somehow fill you with fear, and that you will back down from your deeply held convictions and Christian beliefs, and maybe even begin to take on their false ways. The only things missing from this Gospel are that Jesus is not called a bigot, a racist, or intolerant. Those words belong to the 21st century used against Christians who believe and accept the longstanding teachings handed on to us by the Apostles. This is what Jesus gets for being a man, speaking the truth, and no longer being a 12 year-old child who gets “lost” in the Temple.

Here’s how these readings speak to us. The words of Jesus Christ are sometimes difficult. Such as, ‘Love your enemies, and pray for your persecutors.” No messing around here. Is Jesus crazy, commanding us to do that? He’s crazy in love with us, that’s for sure!

His teachings at times can seem impossible. But the truth is that they are not. Otherwise he wouldn’t challenge the Nazoreans to believe in him as God’s Messiah and command us to love enemies. Which is why there is faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love. Love changes the world, and it changes the world in God’s favor. To be a Christian adult is to love, especially when it’s difficult.

Christian adults do not say about Jesus’ words, “That’s not possible!” Christian adults say, “God, grant me the grace to do this. Grant me the grace to do what you command.” That’s an adult!

Adults do not get violent, either physically or verbally, when they don’t hear what they want to hear. That’s a child. And there’s enough adult children in our world.

In this Gospel, Jesus is now a man on a mission. We are called to be Christian men and women on a mission for our Lord who died for us. Put aside all childish ways, such as saying the Church is wrong on marriage or abortion. That’s an adult who is a child who has not grown up spiritually.

We live for the Lord, including all his difficult words. And when he corrects us, may we be humble enough to allow ourselves to be corrected. Jesus is a man, the Son of God inviting us into spiritual adulthood until the day we go home.

Homily 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle C January 24, 2016

In the words of the Old Testament Prophet today, “Today is holy to the Lord your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep…Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength…” Even if the Patriots lose today…Do not be sad, and do not weep, for today is holy to the Lord your God.

I have a feeling the NFL likes to think they own Sundays, especially between the months of September and January, ending on Super Bowl Sunday. It’s just another example of a human organization who think they have the power, the product, and the smarts to draw people away from the foundation and truest meaning of Sunday. Granted, I like football as well, but to make a day of it to the point where some folks disregard and dismiss the truest meaning of the day – the resurrection of Jesus and his victory over death – leaves a void in the soul.

The readings this 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time point to the sacredness of the Sabbath. For Christians, the Sabbath is Sunday because of Jesus’ resurrection. What remains the original Sabbath in the Jewish Tradition, being Friday sundown through Saturday, is now Sunday in the Christian Tradition.

The first reading from Nehemiah reminds us that this day is holy. Even when it snows. And it’s not just holy, but holy to the Lord our God. That God has set aside this day for the glory and praise of his name, and not for the glory and praise of Tom Brady’s name, as much as I like Tom Brady. As a society, we know we’ve lost a deep sense of the sacredness and holiness of Sunday. Many distractions have set in and taken over the time that used to be set aside for worshipping God. Like my mother used to say, “We have more excuses than Carter has liver pills.” I never knew who Carter was, and I never knew they made liver pills. But the way my mother said it, I always assumed they made thousands of them, if not millions, similar to excuses for not giving time to God in the Body of the Church. I know I’m preaching to the choir here. But we all know someone, or many others, who at one time gave devotion and praise to God, and no longer do.

Based on these words in the 1st reading, “For rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength,” preserving the sacredness of Sunday is the real source of our strength and joy.

The challenge for us is to not live in any sense of false happiness. This is very easy to do with many Sunday distractions, such as saying, “The only thing that matters to me today is that the New England Patriots win their football game. If they win, I’ll rejoice and be happy! If they lose, I’m not sure I’ll be able to make it to work tomorrow.” “Well, my friend, are you happy that Jesus rose from the dead so that you can live forever in peace, love and joy?” “Oh yes, Father, I’m happy that Jesus is alive. But I’ll be much more joyful if the Patriots make it to the Super Bowl!” “Well, in the case, my friend, we’ll see you in Purgatory. Hopefully you make it there with your Patriots sweatshirt.”

The sacredness of Sunday is cloaked in Jesus’ resurrection, and is the source of our true rejoicing and strength.

St Paul provides an image of what the sacredness of Sunday looks like. Basically, we need ears, eyes, heads, legs and arms, uniting as one body in order to reach our Christian potential. If the ear doesn’t show up, then how can we hear the word of God proclaimed? If the arms are not present in the body of the Church, then how can we bring the Eucharist to the homebound? The sacredness of Sunday allows us the opportunity to bring all our gifts together as one body in Christ, and from here, go out there and let the Spirit lead us in the ways of transforming our world. What happens here in the body of the Church is the springboard for using our personal gifts for the greater glory of God.

And as Paul writes, when one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it. The mark of a Christian community is one that suffers with its suffering members. We walk with them. We pray for them. We inquire about them. We care about their suffering with a deep sense of compassion, like Jesus did. And if one part of the body is honored, all the parts share its joy. When one is healed, or finds work, or is honored for their labor, then all rejoice in the good result. The sacredness of Sunday provides the strength to suffer and rejoice with other members of the body of Christ.

And in the Gospel, Jesus is the One who raises the sacredness and importance of the Sabbath to its highest form. He enters the synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath, proclaiming glad tidings to the poor and liberty to those captive to the ways of sin and struggle. Jesus is one who frees. He frees the body from death and our souls from torment.

But Jesus transforms the Sabbath from Saturday, the day God rested after six days of creation, to Sunday when he rose from the dead, never to die again. This transformation of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday is a holy and sacred transformation. One where we are invited to participate in each week and gain a spiritual sense why this day is so holy to God, and not just a day of football playoffs.

When Jesus rolled up the scroll and handed it back to the synagogue attendant, thus began a three-year ministry toward the celebration and holiness of Sunday as the Lord’s Day. Thus began his promise of resurrection to us.

May we always keep this day holy in our lives each week we are blessed to experience it in this world. It’s a day that is holy to the Lord our God; not a day of sadness – unless the Patriots lose – for rejoicing in the Lord must be our strength. It is a day of victory, celebration and holiness. Sunday is sacred for Christians. May we share this with those inclined to accept the Good News.

Homily 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time Cycle C January 17, 2016

The first time wine is associated with Jesus in John’s Gospel is at this wedding, this happy occasion in a small town called Cana. The wine if first class, the best it can possibly be, better than anything you can buy at Austin Liquors, because it is made by the hand of God.

I’m not a wine connoisseur – maybe a few of you are. But I would guess this was the best wine that was ever made…and no one had to stomp on the grapes. Six stone jars carrying 20-30 gallons each, filled to the brim. Let’s enjoy Jesus’ wine.

But the wine in this Gospel, unlike at the end of his life, is simply good-tasting wine. Everyone will eventually head home and brag about how good the latter batch of wine was at the Cana wedding – if they remember anything about it – thank the couple for their hospitality, and head back to another work week. It went in one end, out the other, and everyone’s smiling because of it.

But this Gospel points to another wine setting in the Upper Room. By this time his hour had arrived, the wine poured out will become his blood for the life of the world, and it’s an offering that will be re-presented at many thousands of altars throughout the world each day.

The movement is amazing, from Cana to the Upper Room. It’s eye-popping. The good tasting wine of Cana becomes, later on, the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. The wedding at Cana grows into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. And some in the crowd attending the wedding will become witnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus from the grave. What begins as a simple taste of good wine can lead to our destination in heaven. Careful what you drink!

This very Eucharistic Gospel shows the power of God working through people: Mary, the servants, and the headwaiter who is totally oblivious as to where the good liquid was kept. And God taking their willingness to work with him to bring about better results. That’s the true water turned into the best-tasting wine.

Mary offers the best advice we will ever hear about Jesus in our personal relationship with her Son; “Do whatever he tells you.” Which begs the question, “How in tune are our hearts with Jesus’ will for us? Do we live each day doing what we want to do, making little difference in the end, or do we do what he wants us to do, where living our Christian faith will be brought into the world we encounter?” Mary’s advice of “Do whatever he tells you” is cause to focus on the work God gives to us.

And the servants: the power of God is working through them because they are doing exactly what Jesus tells them. There’s no, “Lord, that sounds too difficult.” Or, “Lord, these jugs are too heavy to carry. This assignment that you’re giving me, Lord, this assignment of helping to care for a sick family member, that’s a jug that’s too heavy to carry!” There’s none of that reaction with the servants.

Sometimes we have to carry a heavy jug. God gives us the grace to carry a heavy jug, if only we trust in him. It’s not like Jesus said, “Take that jug filled with water become great wine, dance with it like it’s a beautiful woman, toss it back and forth with another servant like it’s a football, roll it on the ground and see how many people you can knock over at the wedding, and don’t spill any of the wine!” “Well Jesus, thanks for the impossible assignment.”

Although it may seem so at times, God does not send along impossible tasks to be performed on his behalf, and in his name. He provides the grace and power.

And then there’s God’s power working through this poor headwaiter. The one who looked like a fool because he thought he had served the best wine first. It was the best wine, until Jesus received his wedding invitation.

Here’s the deal with this guy: he’s a fool for God. And I mean that in the best of ways. Do you know how many Saints were fools for God? Probably every one of them. In fact, we should all be fools for Christ. What this means is that God reserves the right to take our good honest work in his name; our feeding, our giving drink, our visiting, our prayers for others, our caring for creation, and the countless works of mercy we can perform in union with the Spirit, to take them and turn them into something much greater than we expected. God reserves the right to alter our thinking and do great things with us even when we are blindsided by his incredible goodness like the headwaiter was. He reserves the right to turn our water into wine. Really, really good-tasting wine.

As Paul writes in this beautiful 2nd reading to the people of Corinth, there are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit who produces all of them. There’s Mary, the Mother of God, with the best advice found in Scripture; “Do whatever he tells you.” You won’t find that in the useless horoscope column.

The servants who carry out God’s will without question or complaint. ‘Fill up the jugs.” It’s done. If everyone in the Church acted as these servants, we’d be an unstoppable force for God rather than being seen as weak pushovers. Fill the jugs of faith!

And the headwaiter, who God literally uses to bring about even greater results than he could have dreamed of. All the same Spirit working through different people for one big happy Jewish wedding in Cana. These are the things that can happen when we invite Jesus in.