Homily 15th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle C July 14, 2019

So, the guy was down and out. Not on his back only, but on his life. He was just beaten up by those who carry out the forces of evil, those who need to cheat, lie, steal, rob, and get violent in order to satisfy their original sin. The kind we try to avoid at all costs, I hope.

               They beat him, left him on the side of the road, fortunately still alive, but half dead, and who comes lollygagging down the road but a priest on his way to a wedding. The priest can’t touch the beaten man, or assist him, because if he gets any of the blood on his person, then he becomes unclean and will no longer be available to perform the upcoming wedding ceremony. And, he will lose out on his $1000 stipend, which is not in the back of his mind, but in the front of it.

               The priest has memorized God’s commandment of loving your neighbor. But in the moment, he takes that loving commandment of God, a commandment meant to bring forth the best in us, and says to himself in the moment, “That commandment is too mysterious and remote for me. It’s too far up in the sky. I can’t reach that far up in the sky and grab it for this encounter before me with a beaten man. I can’t carry it out. I need a spaceship. I need Apollo 11 to go up and get it on their way to the moon and bring it back to me, this commandment of mercy.” So, off he goes to the wedding, a thousand dollars richer.

               Next, the Levite hops down the road in his new sandals. He sees the same sight as the priest, stands there for a moment as he encounters two things; a beaten man, and, his own conscience. “I really should help this guy. I know it’s the right thing to do before God. But I think this is a setup on the road to Jericho. That blood looks like Hollywood blood, the fake kind that came over from the land of tinsel and fake. That blood looks too real to be real.”

               So, the Levite convinces himself that God’s commandment of mercy is too far across the sea. “Who’s gonna to take a cruise and get it for me, and bring it back so I can carry it out? Who would like to take a cruise across the sea for the Levite, find that mysterious and remote commandment and bring it back, so a beaten man can be cared for with love and mercy?” The Levite’s conscience is not up to par; he’s in need of some spiritual help, like our prayers. His spiritual life matches that of the beaten man’s physical appearance.” Off he goes into the wild blue yonder of the desert.

               And then comes along the Christian. I’m sorry, the Samaritan, who imitates a Christian. Where the commandment of mercy, love, care, and assistance is not too far up in the sky, and not too far across the sea, so far above or beyond where he cannot reach it. The Christian, I mean the Samaritan, makes no excuses. He has the natural law within him. The same law that resides in every person of goodwill. The law that speaks from heaven, “He’s my brother. He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.” The natural law that carries out naturally in the moment, that the answer is not avoidance and excuses, but love and attention.

               Our Savior has shared with us many beautiful teachings and, yes, commandments. And not one of them – not a single one – is too far up in the sky, or too far across the sea, to apply. They are within. Within our conscience, and within our power with the strength of Spirit to carry out.                “What must I do to inherit eternal life, Good Teacher?” The answer is twofold: make no excuses, like priests and Levites, and, know that God’s power of mercy and love is within you, because that’s how much he loves us.                                                                                                                                                                

Homily The Most Holy Trinity Cycle C June 16, 2019

From Resurrection to Ascension to Pentecost to Trinity. A natural progression of Divine love. First, in actions, and then in the essence of his being.

               In order to be a person of authentic love in our world today, a person who best reflects the love of God we carry in our hearts, such love must be revealed in the actions of our lives. To say we love God and speak ill of others, or ignore the basic needs of those who battle each day for their basic needs – and there are many who do – that would be somewhat tantamount to God promising us his love, and then not raising his Son from the dead, leaving him in the grave. Thus, leaving us also in the grave. What sort of love is that?  

               God would be speaking the language of love for us, which he has done in Jesus, while performing actions that are inconsistent with his words. But that’s not how God works. At times, we may operate on that level of inconsistency, but not the Almighty.

               The feast of the Trinity is the stamp of approval for all that we’ve celebrated since the Annunciation to Mary, when Jesus was conceived in her womb. Every action that followed that most holy meeting in the Judean countryside between an angel and a Virgin has been about Jesus. Thus, every action has centered on the virtues of love and sacrifice. Annunciation; Nativity; Ministry; Death; Resurrection; Ascension; Pentecost; and the thousand parts of his life I have no time to cover in a short few minutes. The whole message of Trinity is love. That’s where it begins, and that’s where is will never end.

               Every action that came down from heaven from the goodness of our Heavenly Father, to the actions of Jesus his Son, to the sending of the Holy Spirit infusing the hearts and minds of the Apostles – an infusion I’d love to see happen to a few million other people – are all actions of love. First, second, third, and last.

               Our celebration of the Most Holy Trinity affords us the opportunity, if you like, to remove the clutter we may carry within, such as why God did this, or why God didn’t do that, or why God allowed this to happen, or why God seems to be varied and inconsistent at times, or why God is so fickle when we are the ones who are fickle. The Most Holy Trinity affords us the opportunity to re-center our image of God, if you like. An image that may be skewed, or off the path just a few yards, or 100 miles, and have the wisdom and courage to go to the heart of who he is, and discover the loving actions he carries out on our behalf, backing up all the words he has spoken through the Scriptures.

               In today’s Gospel where, again, Jesus is preparing his Disciples for his impending departure on Savior Airlines before his return to them in a new resurrected body. He says to them, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.” I know how he feels. There are homilies where I would love to not hold back one vowel. But even Jesus holds back for the moment.

               However, his holding back, knowing they cannot at this time bear the entire truth of his words, is not centered in any fear of his losing them, or having them walk away like many did when his words about eating his body and drinking his blood were too difficult for their ears, so they left their salvation never to return. Jesus’ holding back is centered in his love for them. And that’s why I hold back at times; because I love you. The same reason I don’t hold back at times. The next step in preparing the Apostles to change the world from its evil ways to the ways of love and goodness, and teach the good things of God supplanting the pagan actions of not knowing God, is the sending of the Spirit, a Divine action of pure love.

               The same Spirit still abides with us. He challenges us to challenge the spirit of the age, another way of saying the rejection of God and his love for us. The spirit of the age today is very pervasive. Remember in the 1st reading, the wisdom of God spoke these words; “and I found delight in the human race.”

               After mentioning the heavens, the mountains, the hills, the earth, the deep, the skies above, the sea that so many of you enjoy visiting in the warm weather, the wisdom of God proclaims delight in one part of creation; the human race. The same human race we may look at in certain settings and say correctly, “That’s less than human. Aborting a child in its mother’s womb is less than human. That’s sub-human!” Instead, God delights in us, aside of our horrific actions. He delights in us because he loves us first, far above the rest of creation. A love he did not hold back when raising his Son from the dead.

               It is said by many that the Most Holy Trinity is impossible to grasp, to understand, to figure out. Sort of like the Red Sox this year. But there’s the ground zero of God’s being that is not hard to get. And that is, “God is love.” The premiere human understanding of our Creator.

               Just look at a young child, a toddler, a baby, and you will see the premiere understanding of our Creator. Which is why Jesus says, ‘Let the children come to me.” In the face of that child, in the wonder of their being, we see the love of God in its perfect vision, from Annunciation, to Incarnation, to Death, to Resurrection, to Ascension, to Pentecost, to the Most Holy Trinity.   

Homily Pentecost Sunday Cycle C June 9, 2019

“No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” And, through the Holy Spirit. And with the Holy Spirit. For the Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, who knows no lies, and wherever the Spirit leads us in words or actions, we can trust that God is the One working through us.

               There are many folks who, for one reason or another, deal with a spirit that is not holy, and would never say, “Jesus is Lord.” In the charged-up world of political correctness, we might even fear offending another person or another faith if we were to say “Jesus is Lord” by the Holy Spirit. Maybe a good question for us would be, “When’s the last time we spoke publicly, “Jesus is Lord?”

               It’s true that actions speak louder than words. A person who professes Christ with the actions of their lives – such as continuous works of mercy, or prayer for others – they speak “Jesus is Lord” in what they do. But St. Paul is on to something here when writing about saying “Jesus is Lord.” When speaking those words in the stillness of the night, for example, speaking them to ourselves in prayer, it is appropriate and calming. But our belief in Jesus is not only a private faith for private moments, such as the darkness and quiet of the night. It’s easy to be one with the Holy Spirit in those moments, and speak words by the Spirit.

But our faith in Christ is also a communal, public faith to be shared openly in the culture, where speaking and stating the obvious for us that “Jesus is Lord” is a pleasant reminder of who he is and what he has accomplished on our behalf. Yet, there are those times when much of the spokenness of “Jesus is Lord” has been watered down and privatized. We are certainly in need of capturing some of St. Paul’s zeal with the holy words, “Jesus is Lord,” and let the Spirit lead us. And not live a watered-down version where political correctness controls our faith in the Risen One.

Pentecost Sunday is when the tide shifts for the Apostles, and for us too. The tide shifts for them by way of being infused with everlasting courage – although they will still have their moments. They are infused with preaching, teaching, and fully embracing “Jesus is Lord” in their many languages. They receive the Spirit powerfully from Christ breathing on them first, and then again in the Upper Room after the Lord’s Ascension. That’s a lot of Spirit. Now they’re ready to hit the road and bring some Good News with them. And do so under threats, imprisonment, stoning and death. The only part missing from that short list today is the stoning.

The Pentecostal tide shifts more for us over the length of our lives by way of our being open to the Spirit. If the Spirit was infused into us the same way it happened to the Disciples, we’d be babbling too like they did. We’d be speaking like we were drunk. “What language is Fr. Riley speaking? He never spoke that before!”

My friends, we want to know that what we say and do each day for Christ is worth our effort and commitment to him. That saying “Jesus is Lord” by the Holy Spirit has a good outcome beyond the boundaries of this world and into the good side of eternal life. The way to know it’s all worth our effort of wanting the Spirit of Pentecost to lead us is to seek the 3 gifts of Christ in this Gospel.

First, he offers peace. Our Lord’s peace is not contentment and perfect solitude in this life, as attractive as that is. We are not monks who live in a town called Spencer. As good as they are, they still have their moments, especially if they drink a little too much of their beer called Spencer Ale. Our Lord’s peace – “Peace be with you” – is the continual building up of our faith over a lifetime, trusting in the end that God will not abandon us.

Peace is most fulfilling with some holy, spiritual company, present when most needed. This is why I love the Communion of Saints. They can help us find some lost keys, or pray to Jesus to remove that cancer in us, or help my team win a Stanley Cup, which is all good. But if their prayers and presence are not there at the end, bringing God’s peace that it was all worth the effort of living “Jesus is Lord,” then I will be roundly disappointed.

2nd, instead of disappointment, I’m confident there will be for us the rejoicing of the Apostles in this Gospel setting. What was the cause for their rejoicing? They saw the Risen Lord. And so will you. It was in that moment they realized that “Jesus is Lord.” 

And a 3rd way the tide shifts for us on Pentecost is the sweet breath of Jesus. Our Lord’s breath is less about smell and scent, and much more about courage, guts, and memory. The courage to let the breath of Christ lead, the guts to bring forth his Good News, and the memory to speak with accuracy what God has given to the world in his Son.

This Pentecost, I pray the Spirit may penetrate every part of your life. That he infuses you. That you will be open to God’s gracious will for you. And that we will unabashedly say by the Spirit, “Jesus is Lord.”  

Homily 7th Sunday of Easter Cycle C June 2, 2019

“Father, they are your gift to me.”

               That’s the Son of God speaking about a few fishermen, a former tax collector, and whatever else they did before they were called away from their former employment and former way of life. Now, they are fishers of men and women, collecting the good taxes of eternal life.

               Is there anything better than witnessing one person raise the dignity of another person? Where the one who is in some sort of bind, some great need; illness, financial woes, depression, addiction, loneliness, in prison, and more. Where the one who is in the greatest need of having their dignity raised from the pit of destruction, has it raised by the love, concern, and good actions of another?

               We see this in many places, such as a hospital setting, where family members go above and beyond by way of presence, words, silence, sustained concern for their loved one. We see such dignity being raised in the ordinary, quick actions of everyday life too, where an open door will remain opened for you by the hand of a total stranger, rather than shut in your face. It’s an act of your dignity being raised as a person. If there was a skunk following you into a building, you wouldn’t hold the door open for a skunk, would you? Thus, we have greater dignity than a skunk.

               We do this for each other countless times a day, sometimes without realizing it, calling it common courtesy. Its human dignity being raised on the spot. And those acts of love and kindness do not go unnoticed; nor do they go unnoticed when they are not performed.

               On the 7th Sunday of Easter the Church gives us the Gospel setting of intimacy with Christ, which, I pray, we all seek and desire, as St. Stephen did in the 1st reading. He couldn’t wait to be with Jesus. In the Gospel, we see an intimacy never before seen, heard, experienced, or known by any other person, even in Old Testament times. This scene with Jesus and his Disciples is more intimate than all that God did with the great Moses in bringing his people out of Egypt, with Noah in the beautiful divine symbol of the rainbow that symbolized a covenant with the holy and divine, or with Abraham and the Lord’s promise of countless descendants.

               All those previous signs, wonders, and promises accomplished through intimacy with God, do not reach the height of intimacy we see in this Upper Room setting. Here, the closeness to God is realized in the human presence of the Divine. It’s most appropriate that this intimacy with Christ occurs in a place called the Upper Room, because he takes their fisherman and tax collector dignity and raises it above that of Abraham and Moses.

               “Father, they are your gift to me.” That’s God in Person speaking about mere mortals. Mortals who heeded his call, as we do. Mortals who witnessed much over 3 years; demons being cast out; thousands upon thousands being fed by a few fish and loaves of bread; raising dead bodies to life; teaching the teaching of God’s perfection in the Beatitudes. Mere mortals, whom Jesus calls his gift, who ate and drank with him, who abandoned him, who returned to him, as we pray many will do, by way of God’s mercy.

               “Father, they are your gift to me.” These smelly fishermen, these tax collectors who cheat, are God’s gift to his Son. Really? That’s really cute! “I wish that where I am, they also may be with me.” God never spoke those words about Abraham or Moses. Abraham would have descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. But these simple, hard-working Disciples sitting before Jesus, they would have – and still have centuries later – descendants for Christ as numerous as the stars in 20 skies, not just one.

               Jesus raises the dignity of his disciples from their knowing so little about God, to living with Him forever, and being called his friends. For that, my friends, is what we are. We are friends of God. We are friends of the Cross-Carrier. The Sufferer. The Redeemer. The Savior. A friendship that was torn asunder is now repaired in the Resurrection. Repaired not in some sort of neutral way, where two people will say, “Let’s agree to disagree, so we can live in peace.” “Let’s agree to disagree” is a neutral stance that wisely avoids anguish and bitterness.

               But the Lord carries us far beyond neutrality. He calls us his gift. And he says it to the Father who is listening. Jesus has sealed us to God forever. This is our dignity that the world can’t come close to giving. This world can’t even protect the unborn child. We create stupid laws that protect their destruction, where human dignity is violently crushed.

               Jesus does the polar opposite. And every professed Christian should put some of that in their pipe and smoke it for awhile. Christ sees the gift that we are, even in our weakness. He raises our dignity as Christians even beyond that of Moses and Abraham. And he tells the Father so. That’s what love looks like. And we participate in this Gospel scene, in this human giftedness, every time we do the same for others.    

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.