Homily 5th Sunday of Easter Cycle C May 19, 2019

It’s an experience that most of us have had at one time in our lives, or more than once. Especially if we’re of the older sort. The experience is this: that someone we love greatly will be with us here in this life for just a little while longer. It may be a matter of hours, a matter of days or weeks, a matter of a few months based on medical diagnosis.

               Most of us have looked at someone we love and thought to ourselves, “Today is Sunday. By next Sunday, one short week, they will not be with us anymore.” The death watch commences at some point. It proceeds forward as time marches on. Eventually, in a short period of time, the watch ends.

               In today’s Gospel, we hear of Jesus’ death watch, which looks a little different from the death watches we’ve experienced with loved ones and friends. Mostly, our death watches proceed forward in a hospital room, a nursing home, in a hospital bed in one’s own living room, in assisted living, under the auspices of hospice. In some place where we witness life being drained from the physical body of a family member or friend.

               As the Apostles are invited into Jesus’ death watch by the Lord’s own admission: “I will be with you only a little while longer,” they look at the One about to die in a short time and see a pretty healthy person. They have a hard time taking Jesus serious. The Lord doesn’t have cancer, or heart disease, or blocked arteries from all the fried food he’s consumed over his life. He looks as healthy as he ever was. Healthy as a horse, even one disqualified from the Kentucky Derby. But instead of being disqualified from a horse race, Jesus is going to be “disqualified” from the likes of this world, after Judas left them and commenced his dirty deed of betrayal.

               Therefore, it’s very difficult for the Apostles in the Upper Room, sitting there in the presence of the Master Teacher, listening to him speak of his impending death…. It’s very difficult for them to picture his dying anytime soon as we would see someone we know is dying before us.

               There’s a certain comfort in embracing this Gospel reading 5 weeks into the Easter Season of celebrating our Lord’s resurrection from death. Jesus’ death watch brings us back to a state of reality that, even though in our hearts and minds we live the holy truth that God raised his Son from the dead, we never stop confronting the harsh reality that death for ourselves or those we love is never far distant in our lives. Even when someone looks quite robust and heathy, like Jesus does in this Upper Room gathering.

               With that taken note of, we turn to our other readings today to be enlightened by actions that call us to live beyond the death watch, not remaining in a place we’re never meant to stay after some intense sorrow and pain.

               The first event is, shall we say, down to earth. In Acts, Paul and Barnabas find that the Spirit has led them to the great ancient city of Antioch, the city where they were first called Christians. And the message they share with believers of Jesus in that city is a universal, everlasting message; “Persevere in the faith.” Not just persevere, somehow on your own. But persevere in the faith. In Christ. Persevere in the center of our lives. Because the times of perseverance, as we know, are not infrequent. But it’s those few times in our lives when the death watch and the death reality can overtake our belief that Jesus has won the victory for good.  

               Persevering in the faith keeps us moving forward with the theological virtue of hope. Not a false hope, as some may say who lack faith and wisdom. Instead, a true hope grounded in the witness of the Apostles who stood before Christ after his death watch and his subsequent death, reporting it for all generations. What they reported allows us to persevere in the faith.

               The second event connected to the death watch of Jesus in John’s Gospel, chapter 12, is the Gospel writer’s vision from the Book of Revelation. The one who sees a new heaven and a new earth, where the former heaven and the former earth had passed away. We’ve all seen some pretty amazing things in our lives, one of them being the Red Sox actually winning a World Series. We’ve all seen some visuals never to be forgotten. The birth of a child. Three 7’s coming up on a slot machine. But how about a new heaven and a new earth?

               The Apostle John is blessed to witness mystically, firsthand, a vision that God bestows upon him, reporting it for the eternal benefit of all generations. John sees that God’s dwelling is with the human race, right here and now in the body of believers. Many who come together as one. He reports from this mystical event also that God will wipe every tear from our eyes – only tears of joy in heaven – and that there is no more death, wailing, mourning, or pain. No more pain of politics? I can’t get there fast enough!

               John’s holy vision, of course, is a post-death watch and the post-death of the Son of Man, to which he is a witness to both. A vision centered in our joy being made complete. The best part about it? It’s not a fairy tale. It’s the real deal. It’s the cash settlement of why Jesus did what he did. A cash settlement that is not partial, but more than we ever bargained for.

               The death watch of Jesus culminates in his death; he didn’t lie to them about the Cross that was coming quickly after Judas left, whether Christ was healthy looking or not. So, carry with you the great anticipation of seeing again those you watched die, and now in a state of blessedness we pray. For he truly is raised, and so are we.   

Homily 3rd Sunday of Easter Cycle C May 5, 2019

It would be accurate to say that some important conversations take place at the breakfast table. Sometimes those conversations are with others, and other times they are with ourselves. I have some of my best conversations when I’m sitting at the kitchen table eating my oatmeal over here, when nobody else is around.

            Breakfast conversations tend to set the path, the mood, the purpose for the upcoming day. Even conversations where you have to speak loudly to the other person you’re talking to, so they can hear, like you would have to do at the usually loud Gold Star Restaurant.

            But here on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, the conversation proceeds in much softer tones and voices, calm minds and hearts, with confidence and assurance that who they see sitting there before them is the real deal, for the 3rd time. This breakfast conversation with Jesus is what every breakfast should look like and taste like in this passing world.

            And the look and taste is, “Do you love me?” “Yes, Lord, I do.” “Do you love me?” Yes, Lord, I just said I do. Didn’t hear me?” “Do you love me?” “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you. Why do you ask me three times in this breakfast conversation? Do you think I’m hard-headed or deaf?” “Yes Peter, I do. But that will change soon. Feed my sheep.”

            Breakfast conversations with Christ, the conversation that sets the tone for each day of our lives, is less about stuffing our own stomachs with oatmeal, eggs, home fries, and English muffins. And much more about feeding others.

            In the Gospel accounts, this is the last time Jesus will eat with them here. When’s the last time Jesus will eat with us? We don’t know, but we know it’s soon. Feed his sheep.

            Most days, the breakfast conversation is the one that sets the path for another day that God gives us here, knowing that those days are growing less in number. And it’s in the quiet of the early morning seashore that the Lord sets us up for the remainder of our lives with “Do you love me?” 3 times.

            “Yes, Lord, I do. And we will prove it throughout this day, this evening, and all days.”

Schedule for Holy Week

The following is the schedule for Masses and Services for Holy Week at Immaculate Conception. Weekday Mass on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are at 9:00 a.m. There is no weekday morning Mass on Holy Thursday, April 18. Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening, April 18, will be held at 7:00 p.m. Our Church will be open until 11:00 p.m. on Holy Thursday for quiet Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Stations of the Cross will be held on Good Friday, April 19, at Noon. Our Good Friday Service will be held at 3:00 p.m. The Easter Vigil Mass, April 20, will begin at 7:30 p.m. Easter Sunday Masses, April 21, will be held at 7:30 a.m. & 10:00 a.m.

Homily Passion Sunday Cycle C April 14, 2019

Every movement, every word, every action performed by Jesus during the length of his 33 years points to something higher, greater, and more fulfilling for us. Christ does not worry about his personal joy and happiness. He is the Source of all joy and happiness.

               The action of Palm Sunday is an action that does indeed point to something for us that is higher and greater. The action being Jesus’ victorious entrance into the holy city of Jerusalem.

               For anyone who has had the opportunity to do so, an entrance into the holy city today would be most likely on a bus, as tourists, arriving at the old city walls that outline the size and makeup of Jerusalem in our Lord’s time. The bus for us today was Jesus’ donkey. The bus would pass by some of the same landmarks and areas that the Lord knew so well. Passing by the Garden of Gethsemane outside the old walls, where later this week Jesus will be arrested and led to Pilate back inside the walls by a band of soldiers and one traitor who will, in his own way, regret his decision against the Savior of the world.

               The bus would provide us with a spectacular view of the Mount of Olives, where olive trees were once numerous. We would see the Kidron Valley in front of us on our riding metal donkey, the valley where numerous tombs of the deceased are clearly visible. From a short distance our bus would provide us a visual of the other mount, the Temple Mount, a holy site for Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. And, we would see what Jesus saw; a city encased inside a wall.

               Our triumphal ride into Jerusalem would not be quite on par with the entrance of Jesus, if only because there would be no palms or celebration for us. After stepping off our donkey with tires, the natives would say about us, “Another group of them! Tourists!” At the end of the day, our ride into the holy city would be anticlimactic in the eyes of the natives.

               But Jesus; anything but anticlimactic. Instead, a popular uprising. An uprising of rejoicing and celebration, like Lazarus walking out of his tomb after four days. Shouting, cheers, proclamations; “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” And not, “Oh, another bus of them!”

               The only comparable situation where the Lord could be considered as having ridden on a bus were all those times he came up to Jerusalem from Nazareth with his family for the Passover as one young boy or young man among thousands arriving in the holy city for the high holy days. In a vast sea of humanity those first 30 years of his life, Jesus of Nazareth was just another tiny part of the bus train. Just another young kid. Just another young Jewish man arriving to commemorate their exodus from the slavery of Egypt. But today He separates himself from the vast sea of humanity, and makes an entrance that portends to something greater and higher.

               The Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem on what we now know as Palm Sunday is a movement and action that points to a future movement for us. “I go and prepare a place for you.” Today’s entrance is the beginning of his going. We must always carry within us that truth that all that Jesus said and did was spoken and done for our eternal benefit. In a culture whose memory is fast slipping away from having a vision of eternal benefits, and planting ourselves in a passing world and a life that runs faster than a greyhound (dog or bus), Jesus Christ is zeroed in on our eternal benefit. That our joy may be made complete.

               The entrance of Christ into Jerusalem filled with hosannas and blessings is an entrance that points to our personal entrance into the joy of heaven one day. The people in the city crying out the Lord’s praises symbolize the angels who will rejoice at our presence, but especially after our act of repentance. No repentance, no heaven. There is more joy in heaven when one lost sheep comes back to the fold. The palms waved at Jesus symbolize the hands of the angels, giving us a standing ovation for safely making it home, again, through repentance, the message of Lent.

               And, the victorious entrance of Christ our Lord into Jerusalem points to his walking out of a tomb. As he entered the city that day, and a tourist can capture this same spiritual truth on a bus, Jesus is leaving behind, as he enters through the gate, the tomb of a passing world outside the walls. Instead of entering a bustling city with shops and merchants and one holy Temple, Christ enters -in his Person- to what we now know as the New Jerusalem. He is the New Jerusalem.

               The New Jerusalem is what he has prepared for those who love him. And today’s entrance on a donkey leads all of us believers to that greater and higher entrance won for us in one week.    

Homily 4th Sunday of Lent Cycle C March 31, 2019

In the words of the Lord in this powerful gospel, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

               In this great miracle story of the healing of the man born blind, we’re given a visual of how the Lord cannot do nothing. When confronting and addressing the results of original sin, in this case the result being blindness, Jesus couldn’t walk by without performing some act of love toward this blind beggar. And when he did so, it was never a halfway action or lukewarm performance. We ourselves will do things in half-hearted ways, unless some part of life really grabs our attention, like being a sports fan, or playing a sport, or praying a daily Rosary which so many do. Then we put in the full effort if it’s a joyful action for us. But with other things, the effort can be lukewarm at best.

               With Christ, there is no lukewarm. There’s no saying, “I’ll cure your right eye today, and if you come back tomorrow at the same time, I’ll see what I can do about the other eye.” When many folks today have cataract surgery, and both eyes need the surgery, the eye doctor performs the procedure on one eye per surgery weeks apart, so both eyes will not have to deal with the effects of the surgery at the same time. Jesus takes care of it all at once, and it’s accomplished with complete success. We can bet the man born blind never had to go in for cataract surgery after being cured of his blindness from the Master Healer.

               The great spiritual point in this incredible story for the 4th Sunday of Lent, our halfway point, is not so much Jesus healing the man born blind, as he did for countless people with their various illnesses. The great spiritual point is that the Lord, whatever he does while in the world, is accomplished with unconditional love and no holding back for 2nd surgeries. 10 lepers would not have to deal with leprosy ever again. Maybe something else, like a kidney stone, but not leprosy. Because once the power of God touched the life of the sick and dying, the physical illness was done away with. Except in one situation, and we’ll hear that next week with Lazarus, who will go on to die a second time. But God saves his greatest miracle for last.

               “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Therefore, one question to be asked is, “Is Jesus still in the world? Is the light that came down from heaven still in our midst? In the midst of great suffering, blindness (physical and spiritual) in the midst of infanticide, financial pressures, in the midst of depression and addiction, cancer and Alzheimer’s? Where is the light of the world? Where are you, Jesus, when it seems there are so many places and events where you are absent?”

               For us, and no pun intended here, it takes a certain set of eyes. Eyes that see Christ present through our actions of love and compassion. Eyes that remain open when we’re confronted with a challenging situation that demands from us a reaction of jumping in, and not turning away or running away. In my dealings with the People of God in this Parish, I have joyfully witnessed much jumping in, and very little turning away from any life crisis.

               Again, as Jesus walks by the man born blind, we would have to say this is the first time he crosses paths with this blind beggar, and the Lord cannot not do something. He cannot not react. He was all in then; he is all in now. He’s all in with us. Jesus healing blindness one eye at a time would have been like us giving brownish coins – pennies – to a person standing on the corner with a sign.

At the end of their corner shift, they throw the pennies on the ground, keeping the silver and the paper. I know this because I’ve seen the pennies on the sidewalk when out walking, approaching the intersection of Park Ave. and Salisbury. Don’t give that guy pennies, because he throws them out. Or, one eye at a time is like a priest performing half of the Sacrament of Anointing. Which is not good enough.

               How to see Christ in our culture today takes a very personal response from each of us. To not see him is to be controlled by doubt and lack of faith. How good is the question in this Gospel by the man who can now see, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” “The one speaking with you is he.” To see him in our midst is realized when we practice our faith with full force, and not the halfway stuff that produces little good.

               As mentioned, the one exception where the miracle work of Christ is not total forever is when he brings a person back to life who will die again. While he is in the world, he is the light of the world. While he is in the world, he must also leave the world for a few days to finish the work that destroys the one exception that affects all of us, the exception of death. The doing away of that one exception we celebrate in a few short weeks.        

Homily 1st Sunday of Lent Cycle C March 10, 2019

Looks like everyone cleaned their foreheads from the other day. That day of fasting and being reminded that we are dust, and that same dust awaits our return. But before we arrive back into dust – no time soon, I hope – we need to talk about a few temptations.

               The first one, on the surface, is about food. Command stones to turn into bread. What’s the big deal? “I know you’re very hungry right now Jesus. You just spent 40 days not eating, and I know those stones look more like bagels with cream cheese.”

               Why is this temptation so horrendous? What’s so bad about telling Jesus to turn rocks into food? Doesn’t the devil want Jesus’ appetite satiated? This is the problem with looking at the surface only. There’s usually a motive, and from the devil there’s always a motive.

               Our Lord comes to us, not for any purpose to satisfy his physical needs. Rocks to bread satisfies the physical hunger, leading to more hunger about 5 hours later. Lent leads us to satisfy our spiritual dimension, which is why I highly recommend spiritual reading above and beyond what we may or may not already do. Pick a holy thought from that person’s brain, and make it our own. For example, the day after Lent came this observation from one of our spiritual books: “Only one day after the start of Lent, and already the resolve of yesterday takes a hit from the challenges and chores of day-to-day life …. I need to make a sincere commitment to the practices of Lent – prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.” Lent is not about tailgating, or backyard cookouts, or even, dare I say, Wright’s Chicken Farm.

               Jesus does away with this seemingly unharmful temptation because, first, the devil doesn’t tell God what to do and succeed. He’s still living in his fantasy world of thinking he’s in control, when the Lord is, always and forever. And second, our Lord’s food must match up with our daily diet, being the food that endures to eternal life. Prayer, fasting, almsgiving, works of mercy, Eucharist, God’s word. That’s the daily diet of a Catholic.

 Nazareth is in the rearview mirror of Jesus’ life. Meaning, Mary the Mother is not cooking her Son’s meals anymore. The rocks into bread temptation says to Jesus, “Why don’t you go back to Nazareth and be fed by your mother. Just be nice and comfortable there, stay there Jesus, die there too, and I’ll take care of things here on earth.” Jesus responds, “No thanks, Satan. My food is to do the will of my Father.” That’s our everyday food.

               The second temptation is much more serious on the surface; the worshipping temptation. Fortunately for us and our redemption, Christ has not even the tiniest desire to share his worship. Even though many adults today – and always – fall for this temptation because of oversized egos and inflated self-praise, Jesus remains firm, and some of us hate it.

               What’s hated here is that God doesn’t share with us – or any fallen or non-fallen angels – even a fraction of worship that is transferred to sinful humanity or the angelic world. “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.” This temptation more than the other two drives many egomaniacs crazy, because they dare think they’re worthy of being worshipped. And here we have the devil working hard at getting God to transfer all of the worship owed to Christ, and is rightfully his, to this pitiful, wayward angel who made the eternal mistake of rejecting God.

               Lent for us is a continual transformation of being rid of any worship of any person, and the devil, and staying centered in Christ. Because the Word is near you, in your mouth in your consuming the Eucharist, and in your heart in the Spirit.  

               And the third temptation could actually be the most human for many of us; testing God. “Why are you doing things that way, Lord? That’s not my plan, how can it be yours?” The urge to test God and tell Jesus to throw himself off the parapet of the temple is symbolic for us controlling God, even to the point if it means his death in our lives. This urge is always before us. The urge we can have that commands the Lord to conform to our weak human wills and desires.

But Christ won’t throw himself off the hanger, allowing ourselves to become the devil. The result would be us making up our own religion, satisfying our ego, and become the boss of our own little world. We can have that if we want, but it isn’t Christian.

               Lent, for us, when practiced faithfully with effort and time, this holy season allows us the opportunity to further conform our lives to God’s plan. To see him as he is, and ourselves as we are. The devil in this temptation speaks like he has no chance at being one with his Creator again. Which is true for Satan, but that’s not so for us. The devil is attempting something in temptation number 3 that we must never do ourselves; to create an eternal separation from our Beloved. Some folks do so, may we not be one of them. Our joy is realized in conforming our lives to God’s will, and not putting the Lord, you God, to the test.

               Rocks to bread; false personal worship; and diving off parapets. Three spiritual dimensions to avoid, knowing who is at the center of them. Replaced by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, knowing who is at the heart of those. Christ the Lord.  

Homily 8th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle C March 3, 2019

We all know how some people can talk a mile a minute, and others who are on the rather quiet side. Personalities abound in God’s good creation. It’s the same with nature too. Birds love to chirp, especially in the spring and summer, at times waking us up from our slumber, telling their tales to each other from a distance or close-up. Yet, deer who inhabit the woods are the quietest animals, walking softly, not barking like dogs needing attention, not howling like coyotes. Nature runs the entire spectrum of sound, from quiet to loud, like the neighbor’s dog who never stops barking.

               One theme for this week’s readings as we prepare for the upcoming penitential season of Lent, is that of speaking. Knowing when to and when not to, having the wisdom to remain quiet, and the fortitude to speak, and knowing when to do each. But even more, speaking in such ways that produces fruit, or the store of goodness that Jesus calls it, and doing away with the store of evil that produces nothing good.

               The first topic in this regard would be that of gossip. Gossip produces evil because it sets us up as the momentary ultimate judge of another person, when God is always the final arbiter. So, if we say, “Hey, that guy over there, that billionaire over there who owns a football team, did you hear that he was caught in a massage parlor doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing?”

               I had a priest friend from another unnamed state call me up last week to tell me that story, with a little hint of glee in his voice. He felt I needed to know. “Hey, did you hear that Bob Kraft got caught in a prostitution sting?” He’s lucky I didn’t hang up on him. Gossip is a killer, whether we speak the truth or not. Gossip has nothing – ZERO – to do with truth. It has everything to do with judgment, and even more than everything to do with the wooden beam in our own eye. Because while my priest friend was speaking the actions of the owner of a local football team, he was also, at the same time, producing from his “store of evil.”

               So, as Christians, what are we to speak? What words, or actions, speak to the truer reflection of Christ, where the labor of our words are not spoken in vain? I suppose we can always go right to the first importance that touches our lives, that being death is swallowed up in victory, as St. Paul so kindly reminds us.           

               When’s the last conversation we had with someone where the topic was solely focused on the topic of death, and how the sting of death and the so-called victory of death has been destroyed? If we want a positive conversation, where the Spirit will provide words for our mouths that will bring hope to others and to ourselves, there it is. Death, and how death has been trampled upon by Jesus, crushed by his Cross, flattened by the sandals on his feet, and done away with like a dead mouse.

               So, next time you’re sitting next to someone you don’t know in a restaurant or some other setting, say to them, “Hey, have you heard that Jesus destroyed death, and I look forward to seeing you again in heaven?” And they’ll look at you and say in between bites, “Really? That’s pretty cool. That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. Enjoy your meal.”

               The Christian life is a journey toward building up God’s Kingdom through our voices and actions, while at the same time speaking and addressing certain important truths that are taking place in our society under our noses. Truths that are at times wonderful and uplifting, and other times truths that produce the evil Jesus refers to. Such as the truth of the present expansion of abortion bills in states where certain government leaders have created laws that destroy human life even after he or she has been born.

That stuff does not belong in a loving, caring, compassionate society, which is what we’re supposed to be here, are we not? That language on paper, and those actions in medical clinics and hospitals, is from what Jesus calls “the store of evil” in this Gospel. And that revelation on the Church’s part must be spoken, revealed, and seen for what it is.

               In the midst of that horrific messiness created by some very sick human souls, we as Christians do not pull back from proclaiming the Good News. The Good News that death is swallowed up in victory, even the death of infants who will die at the hands of a law that belongs only in a barbaric culture. We speak the Good News that the Master has conquered the wooden beam and all the splinters in our eyes. He has conquered the effects of our sinful human weakness.

               This is a rightful thought walking into Lent this coming Ash Wednesday, receiving ashes on our foreheads that coldly remind us that we are not long for this world. We’re created for life eternal.

               Speak the good things of Christ in our daily vocabulary. Death is destroyed, sin is overcome, blood has been poured out for us, and the God-Man on the Cross is still the King of the Universe.

Homily 7th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle C February 24, 2019

I remember well my Church History class in seminary, taught by Fr. Tim Kulbicki, a Polish Franciscan who had in his head every fact about the Church’s history, large and small, all wrapped together in one human Catholic brain. Fr. Tim could spout facts about some obscure event in the 11th century connected somehow to the Church like he lived through it, providing every little detail along the way. Really, to the point where a student could ask, “How does he keep all that information in one human brain?” It was important to be a good notetaker in his classes, Church History I, followed up the next semester by Church History II, just in case we didn’t get enough info in the first semester. Those 2 notebooks had more paper used than all my other classes combined in 5 years of studies. And the end of each class came with a sore hand. Lots of teaching; lots of facts; lots of knowledge; lots to study and ponder and try to squeeze some of that info into my own brain. Those Church History classes remind me of today’s Gospel from Luke, this small section from chapter 6 – only 12 verses – but it comes across like 50 teachings by Jesus in this short space. As a preacher, we look at these central teachings by our Lord and say, “Well, which one or two of them is best to preach on?” But at the heart of these many Christian teachings right from the Master Teacher himself are two words that stand out on these topics of enemies, money, and measures; love and forgiveness. It’s like Jesus takes those two words and builds a mountain of Christian discipline around them. By the time the Lord is finished building his virtuous hill, the heads of the Disciples are spinning, they have sore arms from all their note-taking, and most important, a new way of worshipping God. Jesus builds this Divine mountain on top of the word love. Love is the foundation of his mountain. It’s taught in a way the disciples never heard or read before in all the Hebrew Scriptures, and a teaching we still grapple with today after 2000 years of Christianity; love your enemies. Truth be told, if we can love an enemy, or enemies, we can love anyone. Enemies are the first test of Christian love. We know well who the first enemy is; the one with the pitchfork. But that’s not the enemy Jesus is commanding us to love. Under no circumstances is that to be the case. The Devil is the enemy of all mortal beings, who seeks our total destruction and misery for eternity. He’s the enemy of God, and our enemy forever. But especially now in this life where his evil influence can reach us. When our Lord builds a huge portion of his mountain on top of the word love in regard to enemies, he’s referring only to other persons. People we know, and people we don’t know. The longstanding goal of Christian living is to build a world – through God’s grace – where love is the virtue that first defines our lives, in like manner of Christ. I don’t need to go into the million possible scenarios we encounter along the way that will directly test “love your enemies.” We don’t live in a monastery up in Spencer making beer and eating chocolates. God bless those guys up there in the long robes, but they don’t deal with “love your enemies” to any large degree. We live in the world; they don’t. They just pray for everyone. And our Church and our world need what they do in a big way. Then our Lord continues to build his mountain of love in a way that addresses money, repayment amounts, and this fundamental Christian teaching, “Don’t lose your head over it.” Threats, civil lawsuits, and personal anxieties are tossed around because of money more than any other issue. On this part of Jesus’ mountain, of course, are the words generosity and kindness. But also the word “credit.” “What credit is that to you?” Jesus asks, because you received back what you doled out in one lump sum. To better understand this new teaching of Christ on repayment and forgiveness, which also cannot be found in the law of Moses, it’s best when tied into the teaching on redemption. On us being redeemed by God. And how Jesus has paid the debt, snatching us from eternal death and bringing us to eternal life with the Saints. We owed God bigtime for Adam & Eve’s disobedience. The Lord never looked for us to pay it back. Our repayment to God is found nowhere in the 10 Commandments or any New Testament reading. God paid back what was owed him from the Adam & Eve debacle by way of his Son’s death. Good Friday is the day we became square with our Creator, all thanks to his Son, and no thanks to us. And on top of this mountain is the word “forgive.” We’re all familiar with this word. We all struggle with it at times. We may even despise that word at times. But there it is, sitting on top of love, like whipped cream on a hot fudge sundae. “Forgive” can be addressed in a thousand different ways. But for the sake of our Lord’s teaching in Luke 6, we understand this Christian virtue in terms of measurement. All of us here will need forgiveness the day and hour we look into the face of God. If our present measurement is in the negative, that’s not a good place to be for judgment. If we give an inch of forgiveness, what happens if God’s face is a mile away? That makes him out of reach, which is better than being in the negative, but not good enough. What if we give a mile or two, or coast to coast where needed? Then that will come back to us when most needed. Jesus has built his mountain with many trees, shrubbery, bushes, rocks, and open trails in today’s Gospel. But his entire mountain is built on love and forgiveness, in every part of our lives. With God’s grace, we can move this mountain in our lives, without having to take a lot of notes.

Homily 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time Cycle C February 17, 2019

As a priest, I’ve believed for a long time now that the strongest and closest presence of Jesus is found, after the Eucharist, among the suffering. Among the dying, those dealing with any number of illnesses; those fighting the awful battle of depression or any sort of addiction. Those of us who are healthy on the other side, awaiting our turn for something to come along and snatch away our good body, mind, or spirit, our reaction towards those who are fighting some difficult condition, such reactions will run the gamut. Reactions will go from true compassion and understanding to the point of getting deeply involved in the life of someone we know and love, and sometimes even a stranger. It could be someone dealing with addiction or any life crisis, knowing they may have little time left on this side of the grave. From that reaction to the other end that totally dismisses and avoids a person who is suffering, because we may not know how to be around someone who is ill, which is never a comfortable situation. It’s like, “What do I say? What do I do? I’m too uncomfortable in those situations, so its best to avoid them.” Or, telling an addict to just get over their problem, grow up, and move on. If it were only that easy! One thing’s for sure, though, and you can take this to your religious, spiritual, Christian bank; where suffering is found, whatever the reasons and whatever the cause, you can bet that Jesus the Cross-carrier is intimately present. I believe his deepest, most loving presence is found, not even in the beauty of nature where God can be experienced in moving ways, but rather in a place like a hospital, or nursing home, or anywhere where human brokenness and bondage is found. How can the poor, the hungry, the weeping, those who are hated and insulted time and time again, how can they be called blessed by Jesus? What’s so blessed about any of those real, human conditions? So, all those hundreds of people; men, women and children who appear most days at the St. Francis Xavier Soup Kitchen at St. John’s Church on Temple St. here in lovely Worcester, Jesus says all of them – every one of them – is blessed for being hungry. Have you seen that crowd? If looks mean anything, then they don’t look blessed. Yet, looks mean something to Jesus. Remember the Gospel where the Lord is openly critical of the religious leaders wearing their long robes, their beautiful tassels and phylacteries, the best shoes around, sit at the best places at the banquets where they can be seen by all, but they don’t lift a finger to ease someone’s burden? Looks do matter to the Lord. And the number one look for Jesus, if you will, is not found on the big screen, or the athletic field of any professional sports team, as impressive as Fenway Park is. Our Lord’s number one look is found in the person or the group, no matter what they wear, who dress themselves every day with the shirt of compassion, the pants of mercy, the tie of kindness, the dress of love. Better known as the look of love. These are the ones for whom these words in Jeremiah are written; ‘Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is in the Lord.” In the 4 blessings of Luke’s Gospel in chapter 6, each blessing that Jesus speaks is not only for one type of person; the poor, the hungry, the weeping, the hated. Every blessing addresses two types of persons; the poor, and those who ease their burden. The hungry, and those who feed them, such as the many at the Soup Kitchen who volunteer, being just as blessed as those who walk through the doors in search of a meal, where each volunteer and each hungry person become one in Christ. It’s a form of social Christian marriage in that moment, where the feeder is feeding the feedee. And there’s the weeping, and those who remain strong enough to offer comfort and solace to a sorrowful soul, being another form of Christian marriage, if you will, where the sorrowing and the comforter become one in Christ. And the fourth blessing of Jesus, the hated, the despised, and the insulted, and the “lover.” The one who brings spiritual love to the many whose reputations are torn asunder, to the prisoner, to those who are insulted for being true to God’s holy teachings. In each blessing there are two people; the one who is tormented in some way, and the one who eases the torment instead of piling it on. In each of our Lord’s blessings we’re in need of finding ourselves in there somewhere. To not find ourselves in these blessings is a matter of being indifferent, or being fearful of becoming a partner in any social Christian marriage, to which Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.” Divine presence is most deeply found in the suffering, the suffering of body, mind, and spirit. In those real situations, we’re invited to turn them into blessings by becoming one with another person in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord.