Homily 26th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle C September 29, 2019

It’s the greatest happening in human history. Yet, some toss it aside like a bad-tasting carrot. But a bad carrot it’s not. It’s a good carrot. Good for the eyes, as my mother used to tell me about eating my carrots. It’s good for the body and good for the soul. It’s good for the entire person. What is it? Someone rising from the dead. And, if it can happen once, it can happen again.

               We get the name of the poor man in our Lord’s parable. Lazarus. Jesus must have asked Lazarus from Bethany, the brother of Martha & Mary, if he didn’t mind if he used his name in a story of someone rising from the dead. An event in which Lazarus from Bethany would be very familiar with. “Lazarus, come out!” So, Lazarus from Bethany said to his good friend Jesus, “Sure, Lord. Use my name if it brings people home to heaven, and how to get there.”

               On the other hand, the rich man is … the rich man. With no name. I suspect Jesus wasn’t too chummy with any rich men at this point in his ministry. But we further suspect that our Lord wasn’t into using people’s names in ways that would cause others to walk away from him. He always used people’s names in a way that showed their dignity as a child of his heavenly Father. Thus, he’s the rich man, and not George or Harry, whom Jesus is trying to personally embarrass. God doesn’t stoop that low.

               So, what we have in this parable are two names; Lazarus, and the rich man. One known, the other unknown. Also, one silent, for Lazarus in the parable speaks not a word. And, one who talks a lot, begging Abraham to do something he cannot do. Something reserved for God alone; welcoming a soul into heaven.

               And in the parable what we have at stake are some pre-resurrection issues. The issues of neglect, intentional avoidance (“I know you’re at my front step, Lazarus, but I don’t see you”); the issue of the material goods of the world, and how they can blind a human soul, preventing us from acts of love; and, the issue that “You Lazarus, don’t even exist in my world.”

               Let’s admit it; it’s very difficult to believe that the rich man doesn’t see Lazarus sitting at his front door every day. But he likely doesn’t see him. Because if he did, he would have Lazarus removed by a couple henchmen. “Get that poor beggar out of here! Remove his carcass from my step!” But no. There’s no removal of Lazarus, because he really doesn’t see him. Lazarus is a non-entity; a zero; a nothing. How can anyone be so blind? Is that even possible? When’s the last we entered our home, and there was a poor person sitting at our front step, and we didn’t see them? I guess it’s possible, according to how Jesus tells the parable.

               Even though it’s a parable, a story Jesus put together, we can be certain there are people who live like the unnamed rich man. It’s a real person somewhere. Otherwise, Jesus wouldn’t waste his breath telling the story.

               So, our Lord does tell the story, with an emphasis on neglect and avoidance, and how as Christians we are to avoid neglect and avoidance in our faith lives, which is all the time. Is there anything that makes us more uncomfortable, or feel like we’re at the bottom of our humanity, than when we intentionally avoid someone in need? I can say firsthand there’s nothing I can think of, because I’ve done that. I’ve been guilty of such neglect on my part. But I’ve confessed those sins. And God has forgiven me.

               But we also know, I pray, the immense joy it brings to our spirit when we make a loving difference in someone’s life. There’s nothing better. When we see them “sitting at our front door,” and treat them with Christian dignity. In the same way God treats us sinners.

               The parable, however, is not centered in good works alone. This story of Jesus is centered in good eternal life. The life all of us are walking toward and will arrive faster than we would like. (Except for all those older folks who say, “Father, why doesn’t God take me? He doesn’t like me.” “Yes, he does, Mrs. Smith. God likes you. He’s still painting your room right now, and he needs to buy you some furniture. He’ll be done shortly.”)

               Good eternal life is our destiny. It’s the final, lasting stage of our humanity. Jesus tells this parable because there is the real possibility that some folks, like the rich man, will miss the mark. After death, they will take a route to the other side that corresponds to their lack of faith in God, their absence of fear of the Lord, and their lack of good actions. Their soul will take a route, a highway, that God did not lay out, or pave. The route God has paved for us is the road that that travels through the Cross of our Lord. Lazarus was familiar with this route before his death into eternal life. The rich man was not.

               Our Lord’s parable seeks to call our attention to the joy of our final, everlasting destiny. In a world that grows more and more less afraid of God, and less believing in God’s gift of eternal life, where more and more humans are pretending to be God, and play God, we are to remain steadfast in the humble truth that as authentic Christians, we love and care for those in need. It is a sign to the world that we are Church. We recognize the value of every person, because God does.

               The good side of the chasm is our destiny, our true home. And whether we are rich or poor, or somewhere in between, we take joy in the truth that Jesus knows our name.                 

Immaculate Conception Parish Council Meeting: 15 SEP 19

Attendees:

Fr. Riley
Deacon Kevin
Matthew Foster
Adam Foster
Ann Marie Sheehan
Stephen Sycks
Polly Flynn

Topics:


Mr. Sycks gave a finance overview.  Discussed in detail the Legacy of Hope results and we had a brief discussion on the projects that will impact the parish as a result.  Also mentioned a new subgroup focusing on the lifecycle management of the church property in support of budgeting for infrastructure needs.  There was a discussion about the growing changes in the trending of our annual giving and the change in demographics of the parish community. 


Fr. Riley reported that the parish will be removing the old oil tanks from the basement and is pursuing quotes for that work.  He mentioned some upcoming parish projects to include the design and layout of the new adoration chapel.  There was a discussion regarding the 9th division mass and that the changing of the colors ceremony will be held on Oct 20th after the 10AM mass.  There was a discussion about investigating how best to post some signs and possible paint on the pavement to prevent cars from driving poorly and protecting the people.  Also, we discussed the Ice Cream social, but have yet to lock in a date for the event.

Mr. Foster discussed the scouts of Troop 84 and how there is a push this year to recruit more from the parish.  He discussed a plan to advertise and support the church with the troop and attempt to swell the ranks with boys from within the parish community.  The troop is planning to help with the signage initiative mentioned above, support the 9th division ceremony and plan a trip this year to Gettysburg as a learning trip.


Next meeting will be set in January.

Father Riley gave the closing prayer.

Homily 25th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle C September 22, 2019

And since all of us are servants, servants for Christ, we cannot serve two masters. Stop trying to perform the impossible, the unreachable, the unattainable, the unwanted situations in life that do great damage to the human soul at the end of the day.

               We cannot serve both God and cheating. We cannot God and greed. We cannot serve God and infidelity. We cannot both God and selfishness. We cannot God and a false human brand of marriage that more and more Christians have no issue with, while God continues to be insulted. We cannot serve both God and Planned Parenthood, as they continue to treat the beautiful gift of human life as easily disposable, and then sell parts of it for a little extra mammon. We cannot serve both God and a sports team, or Sunday morning sports, or yelling at the television. But we can serve God and enjoy any sports in a healthy context.

               This is one of those parables Jesus tells to his disciples where at the end of it, either your head is spinning out of control, trying to figure out exactly what he’s saying, or, there’s a natural understanding in one’s heart that he’s teaching something rather simple. I prefer the simple interpretation. Such as, don’t place your politics and bank accounts beyond the reach of humbly kneeling before a merciful God who desires our prayer, prudence, and penance, and not our punishment.

               This parable, simply, points to the power of Divine forgiveness and the master’s willingness to let go of some debt owed to him, rather than hold that debt – that sin – against the foolish steward, which we all are at times. The foolishness of acting in a manner that is unworthy of the master’s compassion is reversed by the steward – us – acting prudently on behalf of the master, and not oneself.

This parable is like a semi-conversion story, where the steward realizes he’s in some very deep do-do because of his intentional waywardness. The line in the sand has been crossed. The wall has been hit hard. He’s in trouble, and he knows there’s no place where he can go that will take him beyond the reach of God. There’s nowhere in this created world, even to the farthest ends of the universe, where God will not see us. Beautiful Psalm 139. Read it please. “O where can I go from your spirit, or where can I flee from your face? If I climb to the heavens you are there. If I lie in the grave you are there.”

               The steward has nowhere to go. Nowhere to hide form the Master, the Savior. And neither do we. So the steward’s best bet, coming to his senses like the Prodigal Son, is to give in, somewhat. It reminds of St. Augustine’s famous quip, “Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.” The steward becomes prudent instead of greedy; In his fear he says, “I’ll do something in favor of my master instead of against him before my master does something to me. I’ll beat him to the punch, and hopefully avoid his punch.”

               The good news is the turning away, at least momentarily, from serving himself in greed, and serving the goodness of his master. I suspect that’s a continuous temptation for many of us…where the blessings and the temptations of a passing world can override being a faithful, humble servant to Christ on his terms. And representing our Lord with truth and accuracy. Prudent acts are required on our part, be they spiritual or physical, to allow God’s grace to carry us back to a better place where we stand before the Master.

               Interestingly, the master in the parable admires and commends the semi-conversion of his unfaithful steward. “Here’s your promissory note for 50 measures of olive oil, instead of 100 owed, which is better than zero collected.” You know what that is in the world of eternal thinking? That’s a recipe for Purgatory. The semi-conversion keeps us out of eternal damnation; H-E- Double Hockey Sticks. So the master here is okay – for now – with semi-conversion. The prudent acts of the steward on behalf of the master means the master doesn’t have to wipe out the steward. Because of mercy and compassion.

               This parable reveals very clearly that we have much to say about our final destination. However, in being servants for Christ, it’s okay to have some semi-conversions along the way over the years, as long as we don’t stay there. But not serving both God and mammon is a teaching from Jesus that calls us to full conversion.

               Full conversion to Christ is nothing short of maintaining a daily life of prayer; performing consistent works of mercy – from the sick to the poor; being faithful to the teachings of our Christian faith without watering them down, or trying to change the unchangeable. Full conversion to Christ incorporates the prudent act of reading about the lives of the Saints, and increasing in our lives the virtues in their lives that raised them to a holy Communion.

Full conversion to Christ, the only true master between God and men, must be grounded in the reception of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. Many folks are satisfied with collecting promissory notes for 50 when 100 is available and owed to Christ.

               The steward in this parable is satisfied with Purgatory. Through God’s mercy and compassion, he has at least been saved for the moment through acts of prudence. Our goal is not Purgatory. Our goal is heaven, which means full conversion to Christ.       

Homily 23rd Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle C September 8, 2019

Normally, on September 8 each year, the Church proclaims the readings from the birthday of Mary, the mother of Jesus. If she was conceived on December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, then we go forward 9 months to the day of her birth, September 8.

               But falling on a Sunday this year, as will December 8 also, we blow out the candles for Mary’s birthday and light the candles for Jesus’ resurrection, as we do every Sabbath. Thus, our readings direct us toward that great event that will consume our lives on the day of the Lord, the day Jesus returns in glory and comes to snatch you out of your grave, to snatch you from the jaws of hell, to raise your undefiled and never again to be corrupted body to the place where Blessed Mary prays and waits for us.

               Along the way, meaning now, we seek to build a tower. Building it through the countless blessings that God extends to us as we journey as pilgrims. And we’re all in different places on this road to salvation. A father who’s supposed to hate his children according to the words of Jesus – can you believe we still worship him after speaking those words? – the father is further along the path than the child. We’re all in different spots on this journey, as long as we make it to old age. And that’s no guarantee for some of us.

               Remember when our past President spoke what became a popular phrase during his Presidency, “You didn’t build that!” Well, there is some truth to those words. You didn’t build your body. God created you. You were created in the mind of God. You had no say in your existence. So you didn’t build your nose, your legs, your voice, or your brain. I suspect if we all built our brains, we’d be someone else right now. I’d be John Paul II. I wouldn’t just look like him, I’d think like him.

               But, constructing our tower, and making sure we have enough tools to finish the job, is not beyond our talent. It is within the circle and reach of our talent. We have much say in how this tower continues to be built. God does not control us. But he does, in his unconditional love, provide the tools to finish the work we’re responsible for, each of us in a unique way particular to our lives.

               First, the hating family teaching by Jesus in this Gospel does not mean hate your family literally. These words of Christ do not give free reign to family strife. God is always the God of love. These words – at least in the 2000-year history of the Catholic Church of Jesus Christ – we do not take literal. They’re spoken for the purpose of loving our Creator and Savior above all. Christ teaches radical love, not pure hatred. The hatred here in the Gospel points to a prioritized love. The priority of eternal concerns over temporal goods, which includes our families.

               Second, the tower we build, and have so much say in building it, must be finished by the time the angels come for our souls. It must be completed, even if the angels show up unexpectedly or unannounced on a day and hour we don’t know. There are many spiritual and physical directions to travel with this tower-building image that Jesus speaks. But I offer you just one. And we’ll use today’s second reading as a proper example.

               Paul is in prison. No big shocker there. Prison was his second home for preaching Christ as Lord. Paul has a guy from the outside serving his needs while in prison. Back then, if there was no one to serve your basic needs in prison, you would die in prison by starvation and thirst. There were no 3 square meals a day in the prisons of the Roman Empire. The guy serving the basic needs of Paul, ironically, is a slave. The slave is free, he’s not in prison, and Paul the free man who is a slave for Christ, has lost his physical freedom.

               The slave’s name is Onesimus. Paul writes a letter to the master of Onesimus, whose name is Philemon. And Paul basically says, “Philemon, I’m sending Onesimus back to you, although I need him more than you do. When he returns after be AWOL from you,” – literally absent without permission from his master – “I want you to treat him kindly because his kindness toward me has saved my life.” And then Paul writes this one point of tower-building for every Christian. He writes, “In fact, Philemon, I not only want you to be kind to Onesimus, but if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.” Welcome this slave equally as you would welcome an Apostle of the Lord.

               What Paul is teaching Philemon is that this fellow Christian, Onesimus the slave, has the very same dignity, worth, and equality before God. Paul has finished constructing his tower. He will live for more years. But his tower of Christian love is built, and will be standing on the day the angels appear and take his soul to God.                For our tower to be finished and ready for the day and hour when the angels come by, it is fundamentally Christian to live the truth that Christ died for all. Or, as we say in the Eucharistic prayer, “for the many,” which means all. He did not die for any of us more than he did for someone else, such as someone in prison. He died for all of us, every person, equally, with unconditional love. Our Christian tower is completed when we treat all people as having equal dignity in the eyes