Homily 6th Sunday of Easter Cycle C May 1, 2016

The farewell tour for David Ortiz, aka Big Papi, is in full swing, no pun intended. I wonder if he has any speeches already written, or if he’s going to speak from the heart without a text. If he does that, I hope he keeps all the bad words out. I saw a photograph of him this past week, and he was wearing a Cowboy hat, a gift given to him from the baseball team in Houston, TX. He could be the first cowboy from the Dominican Republic. They probably gave him a Cowboy hat because a big cow from Texas wouldn’t fit in his suitcase, so they gave him something that would, a Cowboy hat. It’s the first of what will probably be a list of strange gifts given throughout the season as his farewell tour continues until October.

Jesus is on a farewell tour also in this Gospel on the 6th Sunday of Easter. He’s preparing his Disciples for life without him in the way they now see him. Where they can look into his eyes, shake his hand, converse back and forth, eat dinner together, and pray together. And so forth. But all good things must come to an end, as David Ortiz knows so well. Eventually, age catches up to us in certain ways, like playing professional baseball on the highest level. Not many make it to their 40’s like he has. Their skills begin to wane. Their speed slows down. The wrinkles and gray hair start to show. And, the young players take over.

Jesus is preparing his team of 12, this original team of young players, to take over the most serious issues of salvation and redemption. But before they begin in earnest, the Lord finds it necessary to offer a farewell speech before all the bad stuff happens to him, particularly a Cross. It’s a very different sort of farewell tour that Jesus goes on. Whereas Mr. Ortiz will say goodbye, maybe showing up at Fenway Park next year once or twice, and in the years following, Jesus’ leaving is more of a paradox; “I am going away and I will come back to you,’ he promises them.

That’s like Big Papi saying to his teammates and all Boston fans, “At the end of this year, I’m going to take off for good the uniform with # 34 on the back of the shirt, but then I’m going to put it back on again….With a Cowboy hat from Texas.” How can our reaction not be, “You’re taking off the uniform for good; they will retire your number, and you will become a positive memory in the hearts of the Red Sox faithful for generations to come. But you’re leaving as a player, and you’re taking your Cowboy hat with you…along with whatever other funny gifts you receive this year.” How can that not be our reaction?

Human beings come back in a limited capacity to places we previously occupied. Jesus comes back in a much greater capacity than when he left. Because when he left them, he had a body like ours; one that could die. And one that would die. But his promise of coming back to the Disciples is far beyond a return in a limited capacity. His return to them is the Mother of all returns; in a body that will not die again. And that’s how Jesus returns to us. His farewell speech is more a setup for an eternal hello. An eternal hello from God. And who wouldn’t want that?

This eternal hello from God’s Son is what all those Saints in Italy heard because of their faith and obedience to God’s beautiful commands. I know how much you missed me when I was over there. I bet you didn’t even know I was gone. Italy is a country with a collage of Saints. Here in the United States we’re centuries behind them. They had a big headstart in the Saint department since we’re only 240 years old. They have restaurants older than that over there.

But the joy of living, studying, and learning the history of our Catholic faith is a quest to grow deeper in understanding Jesus’ return to us, and why it’s greater than all human returns. When St. Peter was crucified upside down in Rome around the year 60 or so, he didn’t feel worthy enough to die in the same position of his Lord, being upright. What gave him the courage to offer his life for Christ to the tyranny of Caesar was Jesus’ return in a body that did away with death. St. Peter lost all fear of political tyranny, and gained the eternal presence of Jesus Christ.

St. Paul, the most violent and noted persecutor in the early Church, took the route of John the Baptist and was beheaded. I’m not trying to make your dinner (breakfast) taste awful tonight (today). I love you too much to do that. What gave St. Paul the staying power to not run away from his responsibilities as an Apostle was seeing Jesus alive on the Road to Damascus.

For ourselves, do we trust and have the faith that Jesus did in fact return in a way where death is destroyed? Because if we do, if we trust in the power of the Resurrection, and have faith that God raised his Son from the dead – like all those Italian Saints – that Jesus returned after his death in a permanent way, and not part-time like Big Papi will do, then we can bring some hope and joy to folks who are lost. And we can continue to perform works of love and mercy to the poor and despised. And we can bring some comfort and peace, like some of you have already done, to the sick and dying. And we’ll understand and live that the world does not revolve around us, but around those who need us. And we will bring peace, not war. Patience and not violence. A helping hand rather than a shove.

Such is the power and force behind the return of Jesus. It’s not an ordinary return to his Disciples, like Fr. Riley returned from Italy. Big deal! Jesus’ return is a statement of forever. It’s a statement of eternal love for us, commanding us to share the Good News with others. It looks like no other return. Because it’s a return from the grave. And we believe he will do the same for us.

Homily 3rd Sunday of Easter Cycle C April 10, 2016

Fishing. Breakfast. Questions.

Simon Peter said, “I am going fishing.” I’m glad I wasn’t there. I would have said to Peter, “Have a nice time.” If he said “I am going golfing,” I would have said, “Let me grab my clubs and I’ll join you.” Instead, the other Disciples are much more agreeable with the fishing comment saying to Peter, “We also will come with you.”

Now anyone who saw this group of guys heading to the boat to go fishing, I’m sure they never would have thought to themselves, “Those are some of the guys who have seen the Risen Lord twice already.” Twice in the Upper Room. Once without Thomas, and once with Thomas. Those are the same group of guys who locked themselves in a room for fear of the authorities coming to take them away. But look at them now. They unlocked the door to the Upper Room, the 3rd floor on the 3-decker, they came out in public, and going to do what they do best; “I am going fishing.”

Yes, Peter, you are going fishing. But not only for the ones that are in the sea. You’re going to fish for the ones that occupy the land also. The ones in the sea, you can eat or sell on the market, make a few dollars. The fish on the land you can fill with the food of heaven.

Fishing is an industry. It provides a livelihood for many workers. But it all depends on the catch. If we’re really good at it, we can live in a mansion by the sea. Or in the skies. If we’re lousy at it, then we’d probably be homeless.

Peter says, “I am going fishing,” begging the question, “How much fishing do we do for Christ?” Do we fish for ourselves only, or do we seek a big catch that reveals the presence of the Risen Lord in our midst? Peter and the rest of them could have remained hidden behind locked doors, stay back on their heels, on the defensive, but they chose to go fishing. They went on the offense for souls because they saw Jesus twice after he was dead. We trust their witness.

Breakfast. The food experts call it the most important meal of the day. You know what the most important meal of the day is? The Eucharist. For any of us who work each day in the secular world, the other meals we eat are the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th most important meals, sustaining the energy level in our bodies. The food that feeds the soul, consuming the Son of God in the elements of bread and wine, is always number 1.

But breakfast is obviously very important to Jesus. The food experts would love our Lord for this. He beckons the fishermen with the words, “Come, have breakfast.” Yea, they eat some fish from the charcoal. They probably had some Florida orange juice and a gallon of Garelick Farms 1% milk to wash down the delicious breakfast fish. But this breakfast on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias is really a setup. Jesus is so good at setting them up. He’s so good at setting us up! And most times we don’t even know he’s doing it!

I wanted to be married with a family. Look at what happened! He set me up, and I didn’t even know it! “Come, have breakfast in the priesthood, Mr. UPS driver.” “What are you talking about, Master?” He set me up. How has he set up you for discipleship in his name? I promise you, he’s working on every one of us right now. And it’s a beautiful thing. Breakfast.

He calls them over to feed them fish and 1% milk. But feeding the stomach is just the start. He needs them to bring his true breakfast to the lost souls of Israel and to all the Gentile nations. Eat, be strengthened, because it’s a big job. Some people will throw the eggs and hashbrowns in your face. Shake the crumbs off the breakfast plate and move on. Most people, in their heart of hearts, want to eat this breakfast with Jesus. Salvation speaks to their hearts.

And what we have in the Catholic Church, with all due respect to our Christian sisters and brothers, is the best tasting breakfast with Jesus that can be had. It fills up a soul, because it is the fullness of the faith. “Come, have breakfast.” It’s a setup for eternal life. And it’s a beautiful thing.

Questions. Three of them. Well, actually one question asked three times; “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” To the point where it drives Peter a bit psychotic…”Yes, Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”

An answer of great wisdom on the part of Simon, son of John. Why? Because Peter knows, after three years of hanging out with Jesus, that Jesus can read his soul. In the same way he can read all of our souls right now. So Peter answers with truth; “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Questions. We have so many questions about God and for God, don’t we? Over the course of a lifetime, we wouldn’t ask Jesus the $64,000 dollar question. We will ask God 64,000 questions. Almost every one of them begins with the word “Why.” Why did that tragedy happen? Why do I have this disease? Why do I not feel worthy enough? Why are you giving me more than I can handle? Why is the gate so narrow if you are a God of love? All fair questions. 64,000 of them. And we want answers now. We don’t want to wait until we get there. So many unanswered questions.

The Risen Lord asks one question; “Do you love me?” Do you love the Lord? There are some days it’s very hard to. He knows that about us. He knows the honest answer. He can read our souls, remember? But underneath the real struggles, do we still love him?

I pray the answer is yes. Because he needs us to go fishing for him. And he wants so much for us to sit down with him and have breakfast. The fishing and breakfast is centered in our answer to his question, “Do you love me?” Answer in the affirmative. ‘Yes, Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Feed my sheep.