Saturday, October 27, 2012

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

           “He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people.  This section of Scripture from the letter to the Hebrews—from our second reading—is one of the top four or five verses I prayed with during my time at seminary and now as a priest because it gives me great comfort.  It is a truly humbling experience being called to be a priest.  I know of my own weaknesses and sins and am not worthy of such a call.  Nevertheless, God does call us in our brokenness to do His work and a priest has the chance to be patient and compassionate in working with the weak because that is what he is.
            In our other readings we see a prophecy fulfilled.  Jeremiah prophesied hundreds of years before Christ that “I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst…”  In the Gospel we see the blind man Bartimaeus healed of his blindness.  Indeed “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
            Yet in another place in the Scriptures—in the Gospel of John—Jesus promises Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father.  Jesus promises that His disciples would heal the blind and lame, feed the hungry and even raise the dead.
            Jesus fulfills His promise by establishing His Church and giving her priests in the order of Melchizedek.  And if you think about it, priests do continue Christ’s work and do even greater.  For instance, Jesus never baptized anyone.  Yet billions of souls have been baptized into Christ at the hands of priests.  Jesus told a number of individuals that their sins were forgiven.  Countless men and women have been forgiven of their sins—just as Christ forgave sins two thousand years ago—in the sacrament of Confession.  Jesus fed the hungry crowds by multiplying loaves and fish.  Priests have fed billions by taking bread and wine and consecrating them into Jesus’ Body and Blood.  In my short time as a priest I have consecrated more hosts than Jesus multiplied loaves.  Jesus raised at least two people from the dead.  Yet how many souls have been healed, sometimes physically but always spiritually at the end of life in the Anointing of the Sick.
            Of course, it is not the priest in His own power who administers the sacraments.  It is the priest living in persona Christi that Christ continues to work in our Church.  Thus, we have even more reason to proclaim, “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
            Having been a baby priest for a few months now (some of the kids at school now say I am a toddler priest…my hair is coming in and I am starting to walk in my priesthood) I have often asked myself, if I could have one wish for the parishioners I have the honor of serving, what would that wish be?  My first wish is that everyone would come to Mass every week and daily if possible.  Since you are here I think I should get a different first wish.  My one wish, then, is that all of you would go to Confession regularly.
            I went to Confession this afternoon.  Again, I am myself beset with weakness and sinfulness and can only strive to be a good priest, handing on Christ’s love and mercy to you, by receiving such love and mercy myself.  I try to go to Confession every couple of weeks and would suggest that high school students and older ought to go to Confession every month. 
Now it might be nerve wracking coming to Confession to Fr. Rich or myself because you are familiar with us.  If that is the case, remember you live in Duluth and not in Bigfork and there are many parishes and priests right down the road with convenient Confession times.  Most get nervous confessing their sins.  Yet I told our twelfth graders last week and I will tell you now—Confessions can be quite boring.  I say this, not to belittle our sins, but to put you at ease that we have heard it all and that all Confessions sound almost identical.  All Confessions feature someone who wants nothing more than God’s grace and forgiveness, and that is all we priests want to give you.
            Be like Bartimaeus who called out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.  Be like Bartimaeus who, “threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.  Please come to Confession and make my one wish come true.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Basic Bible Reading Tips

Thursday afternoon marked the twentieth time I read through the Good Word.  I share this, not to draw attention to myself, but to praise the Lord for the great gift of the Bible through which He has changed my life and planted and is now growing the vocation of the priesthood.  I also use this as an example of what reading the Bible ten to fifteen minutes a day can add up to over a period of years.  (Well, I must add that I had the chance to study the Bible more seriously in a personal and academic way during my six years of seminary, another great blessing in my life and vocation).

I should add that the Lord planted His Word in my heart at a young age.  At the age of seven or eight, I would from time to time pick up my Precious Moments Bible and read.  In third grade I won a Student Bible at a non-denominational Bible camp after memorizing twenty-five Proverbs in a week.  This Bible included a three year track through the Scriptures.  This was quite a task to undertake as an elementary student (I started this project as a ten year old), and after putting this down for several years completed this track (with the seven Deuterocanonical books--the Bible I had won was a Protestant version) in the fall of my junior year of high school.

Another key moment of God feeding the fire in my heart for the Scriptures came in junior high.  During this time I spent a lot of time with my friend, Drew Stifter.  While I neglected my faith as a junior high student, I saw Drew frequently take time to read his Bible when I went to his house.  He left ESPN and video games (neither of which I had at my house) to read.  (I should also mention that Drew won the same Bible that I did in third grade!)

My conversion in the Scriptures came at a Together Encounter Christ (TEC) retreat as a high school student.  During this retreat, one of my best friends (at the time I had just met him), Brandon Moravitz (now Fr. Brandon) was giving a talk about the Scriptures.  As he did he called upon another young man, Ben Frost (another one of my best friends to this day) and asked to use his Bible.  Brandon exhorted us all, "This is what a Bible should look like!"  I saw before me a clearly used book that had stickers on the cover and was filled with highlights, notes, bookmarks and dog ears.  I looked down at my own Bible (the Good News Bible I received at my first TEC weekend) in disappointment.  My Bible had been opened only a couple of times and if I was to sell it on Amazon I would had to label it "like new".  I thought to myself, "My Bible will never look like this again."  I have read my Bible daily since then.

That was over eleven years ago, and I have now been through the Scriptures twenty times since, received an MAT degree in Theology with an emphasis in Scripture, and now have the privilege to work and pray with God's word on a weekly and daily basis in my preaching.  Praise God for Drew, Brandon, Ben and all the men and women who have inspired me in their teaching and writing on the best book of all time.

Here are some of the basics I have learned about Sacred Scripture during this time:

*The Bible is the greatest story ever told for at least two reasons.  First, it is a book that can never be finished (like a novel) as it is deep enough for an elephant to swim in (yet shallow enough for a child to wade in!).  Second, we enter into the story in our own Christian lives.
*I would summarize the Bible in eight words: God loves us.  We sin.  God is faithful.
*If I had to pick one verse to summarize the entire Bible it would be John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
*God's Word is healing, transformative and nourishing in our spiritual, emotional and psychological being.
*We can hear God's voice--the same voice Moses heard on Mount Sinai, the prophets heard in their ministry and the evangelists as well--any moment we choose.  We only have to pick up the Bible and read and pray.  While God could speak to us with a booming voice from the sky (like He did to Saul) he makes Himself utterly simple to us.  All we have to do is open the good Book.
*We should never leave home without the Bible, especially in our technologically advanced world in which the Bible can be downloaded onto a cell phone, tablet or computer.
*As St. Augustine said, the New Testament is hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New.  We ought to read both and this is why we hear from both at Mass.
*We ought to soak in God's Word both in our personal and public prayer lives.  The preeminent place to meditate on the Scriptures is at Mass.
*When it comes to the Old Testament, we cannot lose the forest for the sake of the trees.  Many readers in the twenty-first century Western world are shocked at the violence, confused by all the meticulous laws and may be scandalized by God's choice of the Israelites over all the other nations and people in the world.  We must remember that the Old Testament, on its own, is not complete, and is only fulfilled by Jesus Christ and the New Testament.
*The Scriptures, while necessary in our faith, is not sufficient.  God's Word is actually complete with both Scripture and sacred Tradition.
*The Bible was written by the Holy Spirit Who used men as His sacred authors.  It was written by believers for believers for the sake of belief.  It is not and never was meant to be what we modern readers consider scientific or historical.  This is why we believe the Bible is without error while at the literary level may include things we know not to be the case (for example, the mustard is not the smallest of all seeds, the cosmos was probably not created in seven twenty-four hour days, etc.)
*The official interpretation of the Scriptures belongs to the Church Christ founded.  Jesus did not write the Bible as a man but He gave us a Church who gave us the Scriptures.  Similar to the previous point, the Bible was put together by Christians for Christians for belief in Christ.
*Scriptures + Eucharistic Adoration = Awesome
*The Holy Land is rightly called "the fifth Gospel".  I have had the great privilege to have traveled their and experienced the Word broken open in a whole new way.  If you ever have the chance to go, please do.  You will never read the Gospels, New and Old Testaments the same way again.
*As one of my heros (Fr. Matthew Fedewa, who actually started the TEC retreat program at which I experienced great conversion in my life and who then served as my spiritual director at seminary and also vested me as a priest at my ordination) said, "It isn't about how many times we go through the Scriptures.  It is about how many times the Scriptures go through us."  In addition to reading the Bible, we do well to take time to chew on and meditate with them.  Lectio divina (divine reading) is a great way to do this as we take a small section, verse or parable and read through it slowly and repeatedly and use the words of the sacred text to pray.
*Make a plan to read your Bible every day.

I pray that you will continue to approach the Word of God daily in your personal prayer life and at Mass.  This gift is truly "living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword" (cf. Hebrews 4:12) and will change your life and faith.  Never let your Bible look like mine did as a high school student and wear it out!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Daily Mass Homily: Wednesday, October 24th, 2012 (School Mass)

            We heard an important line in our readings this morning which was read so nicely by N.  “…the mystery was made known to me by revelation.”  But I need a hand with a couple of words in this line.
            First, what is a mystery?  [First grader says]  “Something you can’t quite figure out.”  Yep, good thought.  Anyone else?  [Third grader says]  “Like when you’ve lost something and can’t find it.”  Another good example.  I have many mysteries in my life, then, because I lose everything!  So a mystery, then, is something we know a little bit about but not everything.  And in this part of the Bible, what is the mystery we are talking about?  [Kindergartener says]  “Jesus.”  Yep, exactly!  Jesus Christ is the greatest mystery that has been made known to us.
            Jesus was made known by revelation.  What is revelation?  [Fourth grader says]  “When God shows something or reveals something, especially about Jesus.”  Very good.  God has revealed to us His Son and Himself. 
God does this in a special way.  Who has God used to help reveal Himself?  [First grader says]  “God.”  Yep.  And who did God use to help Him with this?  [Fifth grader says]  “The authors of the Bible.”  Bingo!  Just what I was looking for.  The authors of the Bible are also known as evangelists (evangelist actually means “Good News,” which is what they shared).  Does anyone know of an evangelist by name? 
[Third grader says]  “St. John the Evangelist!”  Excellent.  St. John the Evangelist, the one for whom we are named at our parish.  What reminds us of St. John the Evangelist here in Church?  [Kindergarten student points up front and says]  “Is that statue?” [referring to the icon of St. John the Evangelist]  You mean that statue wearing the green vestments who looks like he’s asleep?  [Referring to Fr. Rich!]  You mean that icon?  Yep, that is an icon of St. John the Evangelist.  Anything else?  [Third grader says]  “The new stained glass window!”  Very good.  Yes, we just had a new stained glass window of St. John the Evangelist put by the main doors.  Anything else?  [First grader points to the ambo and says]  “Up there.”  Another good one.  Here we see the symbol of St. John the Evangelist—the eagle.  The eagle represents how he soared in the heights of spiritually to make the mystery of Jesus made known.  Anyone else?  [Fourth grader points behind him at the blue stained glass window and says]  “The eagle in the blue window.”  Awesome.  Once more we see a symbol to remind us of our patron at Church.
As we come to Mass once more, we gather to remember the great mystery, Jesus Christ, which has been made known to us by God’s revelation.  Our patron has helped make this known and so we ask, St. John the Evangelist, pray for us.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Daily Mass Homily: Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

           There are many wrong notions in our society of what peace really is.  One of the most aggravating for me is the person who believes, “Why can’t we just set aside our differences and all get along?”  Now certainly this has a grain of truth to it and we need to be well mannered in our world with those who are different from ourselves, but we Christians should never settle in these sentiments.
            The fact is we are different as Christians.  We believe in Jesus Christ who is peace.  We believe in Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth and the life.  We ought never set aside this difference and merely “get along” with the world.  Rather, we should embrace what makes us different and evangelize the world to share the Good News.
            We prayed in our Psalm, “The Lord speaks of peace to his people.”  It is only the Lord—not from world leaders, presidents, senators or humanitarians—that gives true peace.  May we taste this peace at Mass this morning and share this peace in those we meet today.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

            I have a bizarre fantasy of creating a new category of Mass readings which I call the Debbie-Downer-Monday-only readings.  We have one today—“The LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity…”  In hearing this I imagine the caricature of God as an angry child on an ant hill with a magnifying glass who enjoys watching things burn.
            The LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity?  Well, yes, actually.  But who is the him in this verse referring to?
            This reading from Isaiah is from one of the four suffering servant songs.  These are well known and we hear from them fairly often, especially in Lent.  The suffering servant was the one who would come to redeem Israel.  He would have the spirit of God and instill justice in the world.  A bruised reed he would not break; a smoldering wick he would not quench.  He would be beaten.  His beard would be plucked.  He would be spit on.  Today, in the fourth servant song, we learn that “through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.”
            The suffering servant is Jesus Christ—specifically Jesus Christ crucified.  So yes, God was pleased that Jesus was crushed in His infirmity.  Not that God enjoyed the suffering in itself, but He was pleased that His beloved Son endured His passion and death to redeem us.
            Jesus Christ gives us great hope in our own suffering.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way.”  Jesus never promised our Christian walk would be easy—in fact,  He promised we would suffer as He did: “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized…”  What are you suffering from right now?  What have you suffered with in your life?  
Suffering isn’t easy, but God is infinitely pleased when we suffer well.  When we do, we can grow in humility as we realize how truly frail and weak we are and that we are completely dependent for our very existence.  We can more easily forgive as we see life as a bigger thing that petty disagreements.  We can grow in love as we lay down our lives for our friends.  To do this, we must first face our suffering.  
            To illustrate this, I’d like to use compare suffering to hunting.  I know this is out there a bit, but bear with me.  If you’ve ever had the experience of grouse or pheasant hunting with a good dog, you are blessed.  It’s a blast seeing a dog get on a bird’s trail.  They get a scent and follow this until they find the bird.  Yet sometimes these birds don’t fly—they’re actually quite dumb and sometimes you almost need to kick them.  A few times I have witnessed by Dad’s dog pounce several times on a clump of brush to get the dang thing to fly.
            Facing suffering is difficult, but like a good hunting dog we do well to sniff it out.  Sometimes we need to be very diligent and pounce on difficult situations head on to “flush it out”.  When we do God can shoot it down.  And unlike my Dad, or brother, or (rarely) myself—God never misses. 
            One of the most powerful ways to surrender our trials and sufferings is to bring them to Christ at Mass.  Just as we give the Lord our money and present Him bread and wine, we should offer Him what is most difficult in our lives.  Just as the Lord consecrates bread and wine into Jesus’ Body and Blood He will consecrate our suffering to make a pleasing offering to His Father and ours.
            As we celebrate Mass this morning, we give God our suffering.  As the letter to the Hebrews says, may we “…confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”

Friday, October 19, 2012

Daily Mass Homily: Friday, October 19th, 2012 (Memorial of the North American Martyrs)

           When I first think of saints and martyrs, I often think of people who have lived and died overseas in Europe, Africa or the Middle East.  We have a good reminder this morning that people have done tremendous deeds for the faith here in our country, even to the point of shedding their blood.  The North American martyrs did so in the north eastern portions of the United States and the south eastern territories in Canada.
            Even closer to home, we have some amazing witnesses to the faith.  Now Venerable Bishop Baraga was the Great Lakes missionary and Monsignor Joseph Buh the patriarch of our own Diocese.  Both of these men came from Slovenia to this land as missionaries to plant the seeds of faith.  Picture that—only 150 years ago this place we live had never heard the Gospel!
            Once again, we here Jesus call his disciples friends and it is these men and women who were “…chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ.”
            We follow the great witnesses of St. Isaac Jogues, St. John and their companions, as well as men like Venerable Baraga and Monsignor Buh.  We, too, are called friends of Christ and we strive in our lives to give Christ everything.

Daily Mass Homily: Thursday, October 18th (Feast of St. Luke)

           Today we celebrate the feast of St. Luke—the evangelist who wrote the Gospel according to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.  In a special way, Luke fulfills our Psalm this morning—“Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.”  Luke did so by emphasizing in his ordered writings the poor, women, Samaritans and others who were considered weak in the world’s eyes.
St. Luke holds a special place in my heart as a symbol of the gift of the Sacred Scriptures God has given us.  He is represented on my chalice, which my parents gave me for my ordination, with the symbol of the ox.
It is interesting to note that Luke probably did not know Jesus personally.  At the same time, he can truly be called a friend of Jesus because Luke worked closely with St. Paul and Mary, the Mother of Jesus—two of Jesus’ greatest disciples.  In a different passage, Jesus says, “No longer do I call you servants…I have called you friends…”  No one would convert the world for a master.  No one would die for a master.  St. Luke not only contributed to the world’s conversion but also shed his blood for his friend.
We dare to live in friendship with Jesus Christ.  In so doing we strive to evangelize our families, friends and coworkers, even if this costs our very lives.
St. Luke, pray for us!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Presidential Election

As I began doing some more research for the upcoming presidential election, I came across an interesting article that took off from a 2002 Illinois Senate discussion.  In his article "Why Obama Really Voted for Infanticide" Andrew C. McCarthy summarizes how our current president added to a discussion about the proposed "Born Alive" bill which discussed what practical steps doctors and nurses should take after a "failed" abortion.  I cite this article as some food for thought as I do not know enough information about who Mr. McCarthy is or what his credentials are.  Yet as food for thought I think it will get your political juices flowing if you choose to read it.

In a moment I will cite a particular excerpt from the Illinois Senate proceedings.  Before doing, I would like to muse a little bit.

First, a lot of our political energies have been spent discussing the upcoming Marriage Amendment.  This in itself is good, especially in our attempts to let the Gospel of Jesus Christ guide our civil laws and constitutions regarding marriage between one man and one woman.  With that stated, we must not forget other key issues at stake in the upcoming election and especially those that center around the right to life itself.  Jesus Himself said, "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10b).

Second, in my reading of sections of this transcript, it might be overzealous to label our president as a proponent of infanticide.  Senator Obama does state his confidence that a doctor in a room in which a "failed" abortion has taken place would act according to medical practice to provide medical aid for that child.  His particular point relates to the requirement of having a second doctor's opinion about the life of this newly born child.  At the same time I just stated, "it might be overzealous" (I am assuming the best of intentions of Senator Obama) because a law requiring the counsel of another doctor seems like a good and just way to prevent a doctor--who just "failed" in procuring an abortion--to neglect this innocent life.  Senator Obama seems more concerned about the liabilities faced by the doctor than the life of the child.

Third, I lament our two party system in which neither party wholly fits the beautiful teachings of the Catholic faith.  One practical example of this is the fact that many conclude that, because the Church teaches against x, y or z, the Church endorses the opposite party.  To illustrate this clearer, consider the fact that the Church teaches against abortion.  Many in our society conclude that the Church subsequently rejects Democrats and supports Republicans with respect to pro-life issues.  Many point to the Church for limiting who to vote for.  Yet the Church teaches against abortion in China, Germany and around the world regardless of what political system is in play in various countries.  She would exhort the faithful not to vote for a pro-choice candidate whether there was three, four or fifteen different political parties in a democratic form of government.  I hope that people who criticize the Church and her leaders for speaking out against moral depravity in our country realize the onus should be on our government, not our Church, for putting us voters in sticky situations with voting.

With this stated, here is an excerpt from the transcript which shows some troubling positions held by our current president:

OBAMA: Yeah. Just along the same lines. Obviously, this is an issue that we’ve debated extensively both in committee an on the floor so I — you know, I don’t want to belabor it. But I did want to point out, as I understood it, during the course of the discussion in committee, one of the things that we were concerned about, or at least I expressed some concern about, was what impact this would have with respect to the relationship between the doctor and the patient and what liabilities the doctor might have in this situation. So, can you just describe for me, under this legislation, what’s going to be required for a doctor to meet the requirements you’ve set forth?
SENATOR O’MALLEY: First of all, there is established, under this legislation, that a child born under such circumstances would receive all reasonable measures consistent with good medical practice, and that’s as defined, of course, by the … practice of medicine in the community where this would occur. It also requires, in two instances, that … an attending physician be brought in to assist and advise with respect to the issue of viability and, in particular, where … there’s a suspicion on behalf of the physician that the child … may be [viable,] … the attending physician would make that determination as to whether that would be the case…. The other one is where the child is actually born alive … in which case, then, the physician would call as soon as practically possible for a second physician to come in and determine the viability.
SENATOR OBAMA: So — and again, I’m — I’m not going to prolong this, but I just want to be clear because I think this was the source of the objections of the Medical SocietyAs I understand it, this puts the burden on the attending physician who has determined, since they were performing this procedure, that, in fact, this is a nonviable fetus; that if that fetus, or child — however way you want to describe it — is now outside the mother’s womb and the doctor continues to think that it’s nonviable but there’s, let’s say, movement or some indication that, in fact, they’re not just coming out limp and dead, that, in fact, they would then have to call a second physician to monitor and check off and make sure that this is not a live child that could be saved. Is that correct?
SENATOR O’MALLEY: In the first instance, obviously the physician that is performing the procedure would make the determination. The second situation is where the child actually is born and is alive, and then there’s an assessment — an independent assessment of viability by … another physician at the soonest practical … time.
SENATOR OBAMA: Let me just go to the bill, very quickly. Essentially, I think as — as this emerged during debate and during committee, the only plausible rationale, to my mind, for this legislation would be if you had a suspicion that a doctor, the attending physician, who has made an assessment that this is a nonviable fetus and that, let’s say for the purpose of the mother’s health, is being — that — that — labor is being induced, that that physician (a) is going to make the wrong assessment and (b) if the physician discovered, after the labor had been induced, that, in fact, he made an error, or she made an error, and, in fact, that this was not a nonviable fetus but, in fact, a live child, that that physician, of his own accord or her own accord, would not try to exercise the sort of medical measures and practices that would be involved in saving that child. Now, it — if you think there are possibilities that doctors would not do that, then maybe this bill makes sense, but I — I suspect and my impression is, is that the Medical Society suspects as well that doctors feel that they would be under that obligation, that they would already be making these determinations and that, essentially, adding a — an additional doctor who then has to be called in an emergency situation to come in and make these assessments is really designed simply to burden the original decision of the woman and the physician to induce labor and perform an abortion. Now, if that’s the case — and — and I know that some of us feel very strongly one way or another on that issue — that’s fine, but I think it’s important to understand that this issue ultimately is about abortion and not live births. Because if these are children who are being born alive, I, at least, have confidence that a doctor who is in that room is going to make sure that they’re looked after.  (Emphasis McCarthy's)
(The transcript from this senate discussion can be found here.)  The moral of the story: vote well November 6th!

Daily Mass Homily: Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

            In our busy American culture, we can often fall into the trap of spending a lot of time making it look like we have it all together.  Whether we are in school studying, working, raising kids or other activities we try to put on our best face for others to see and notice.
            This in itself is not a bad thing, but if it is the primary focus of our lives—simply looking good—Jesus tells us, “You fools.”  The Pharisees were concerned about ensuring the cleanliness of the outside of the dish—the part of the dish that people see.  While the outside was sparkling clean, the inside of the same dish was neglected and dirty.
            St. Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians, “For freedom Christ has set you free.”  What is it that enslaves us?  What sin or habit soils our inside to prevent the whole dish from being cleansed?
            This isn’t always easy to consider, but such discernment is truly refreshing.  When we note the ways our soul needs to be cleansed it actually can be.  Simply take these sins and bad habits to a priest in Confession and Jesus will do the rest.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Daily Mass Homily: Monday, October 15th, 2012

           We have a couple tough readings this morning that deal with rejection.  In our first, God chooses Isaac yet rejects Ishmael.  In the Gospel Jesus denounces this evil generation for not responding to the signs that even Sodom and Gomorrah or the queen of Sheba would have.
            If you’re coming to Mass on a weekday, you have responded to God’s calling and signs.  You are one of the chosen who want God’s grace to work in your life.  Yet you must continue to progress towards the Lord in order to avoid slipping into our evil generation.
            The greatest way we can do this is through prayer.  As faithful Mass goers you have had a lifetime to learn how to pray.  If we want to have the heart and mind of Christ in our daily lives, we must get to know intimately Christ’s own heart and mind. 
One thought to consider regarding this is my favorite line from St. Theresa of Avila, whose memorial we celebrate today.  She said, “Pray as you can, not as you can’t.”  This maxim gives us the freedom to pray in ways that work well for us, whether that is through reading, journaling, contemplation, praise and worship and others.  It also gives us permission to discontinue a particular prayer that isn’t working well after a decent try.
We give God thanks and praise this morning for calling us to be in relationship with Him.  We ask for the grace to continue praying in order to put on Jesus’ mind and heart in our daily lives.

Head Shaving

Well I recently lost a bet to my Boss (Fr. Rich Kunst).  He raised more money than I did for our annual Pick-A-Thon fundraiser at St. John's school than I did.  In all, the kids raised over $25,000 and as part of this event went around the Woodland community and cleaned up.  Since I raised less money (barely!) I got to have my head shaved in front of all the school kids.  The weather feels much cooler these days.  Grow hair, grow!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

           “As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’”  In our Gospel we have an eager and zealous man.  He didn’t just come up and say, “Hey, Jesus” and shake His hand.  He ran to the Lord.  He knelt before Him.  Note this man’s earnestness as he asks a great question—though this question isn’t the end of the story as I’ll explain in a minute.
            When I first read through this narrative, I was reminded of how much I like lists.  I’m the kind of guy that likes tracking my progress using stickie notes (and they even have these on computer), check lists and ordered tasks.  What I thought of is this man asking Jesus of the list of things to do in order to receive salvation.
            I get this quality from my Dad who takes seriously the maxim—the failure to prepare is preparing to fail.  Sometimes he might do this excessively.  For example, my family and I love to go camping in the Boundary Waters.  For each trip he has an exhaustive list.  At the risk of disobeying the commandment “honor your father and mother” I’d like to share this with you.  (To capture the full effect, see his list here:  I’ve often wanted to do a study on this list about the number of hats, footwear and fishing tackle needed to survive in the woods.  And this is totally off topic, but I actually edited this list (  If you're going into the woods, my list is all you need.
            I said that this question isn’t the end of the story.  In a sense, this question is the wrong question to ask because there is nothing we can do to earn salvation.  Why we are called to do good works on the path of salvation we must not forget that salvation is a pure gift from God.  It is a gift from Jesus, who became man, and died on a cross for each of us.
            As Catholic Christians we shouldn’t think of our faith as a checklist but as a conversion and transformation.  One of my spiritual directors at seminary used to tell me, “Ben, we are human beings, not human doings”.  It isn’t so much about what we do, but who we are, and who we become with God’s grace.
            The Word of God this morning—which is living and active—gives us to means to such transformation.  The first is wisdom.  We learn about this in our first reading from the book of Wisdom.  We hear the sacred author describe wisdom as more costly than gold, more precious than silver and worth more than jewels.  Wisdom isn’t about gaining factual knowledge, but growing in the real important stuff of life—the true, the good, the beautiful and the one.  We must strive to learn the good and then do it, not because we want to check things off a list but because we want to act as Jesus did.  This requires conversion of heart to know His heart.
            The second is love.  As Catholics we are all about love.  After hearing the man’s question, Jesus ironically “looking at him, loved him…”  He then told this man to sell all he had and give to the poor.  In so doing, Jesus wasn’t adding another item to check off but to show him there is a deeper reality we must follow—to love God above all and our neighbors as ourselves. 
            And all of this goes to show something about how we think of God.  I suspect my earlier picture of God was similar to this man—someone who examines our life and points out every flaw and sin.  In my mind I thought of God as a crabby teacher with a big and fat red marker ready to tear apart the test of my life, someone who was eager to make check marks and edits galore.
            The fact is, God is not a crabby teacher but a Father—our Father—Who loves us more than we can ask or imagine.  He wants us now—not after we have crossed everything off a list, conquered every sin or after we have figured everything out.  Sometimes we may think we are only good Catholics when we do such things.  God wants us in our brokenness, sinfulness and weakness.
            We pray this morning that we may allow God’s grace to transform us through wisdom and love.  We then go forth this week to our families, coworkers and friends to live in this wisdom and love and pass it on.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

How to Become a Follower...

I've had a couple thirteen, fourteen people say becoming a follower of this blog is a bit challenging.  Here's how to do it.  First, you need a gmail email address.  If you have this, click on the blue icon that says "Join this site" which is to the right of the top post on the page.  Simply click on this, sign in on your gmail and follow the listed steps.  You should be good to go then.

Also, I would welcome your feedback via the comment section.  This helps me know what is helpful for my readers for future posts.

Keep diving into God's Word!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Daily Mass Homily: Friday, October 12th, 2012

            In our Gospel this morning, Jesus stresses the importance of unity.  He says, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house.  And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?” 
            We can all see the importance of unity on a daily basis in our families, jobs, and other endeavors.  It’s a good thing to be on the same page with those we love and with those we work with.
            At the human level, our Church often faces disunity or fragmentation.  This occurs because of sin or lack of understanding particular Church teachings.
            Yet at the divine level—the deeper level—the Church is the exception to the rule that “every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste”.  Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church.  He promised that He would be with His Church until the end of time.  Because of these facts we may declare at every Sunday Mass, “I believe in one, holy, Catholic apostolic Church.”  We believe the Church is one.
Thus, if we experience disunity with the Church the onus is on us—not the Church—to find unity once more.  It is on us to seek freedom from sin and greater understanding of the teachings of Christ’s mystical body.  In doing so we will find greater unity in our own lives with the one Church.   

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Catholicism 101 Book List

Here are ten great books that cover a broad range of learning about the Catholic faith:

·      Mass of the Early Christians by Mike Aquilina
o   A simple read about how the early Christians celebrated Mass.  This works contains a number of ancient texts from which the Mass was prayed and many of these same texts are still used verbatim in our Mass today.
·      Confessions by St. Augustine
o   One of the greatest conversion stories ever told, and in this case, told in autobiographical form by Augustine himself.  Notable lines include, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee,” and “Late have I loved you, beauty ever ancient, beauty ever new…”
·      A Concise History of the Catholic Church by Thomas Bokenkotter
o   One of the most succinct and simple reads that examines the Catholic Church from day one until our present day.
·      Born Fundamentalist Born Again Catholic by David Currie
o   Great apologetical work (an “apologetic” means a defense of something, not saying sorry) on how Catholicism is different than Fundamentalist denominations of Christianity.
·      Models of the Church by Avery Cardinal Dulles
o   A great examination of what we mean by speaking of “the Church”.  Dulles argues that the Church can be and must be viewed from many different angles, similar to capturing the beauty of a diamond.  He sets forth five different models from which to observe.
·      The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn
o   The best book I have seen about the book of Revelation.  Scott Hahn argues, successfully in my opinion, that Revelation is a sort of code that described the Mass to persecuted Christians.
·      Love is Stronger than Death by Peter Kreeft
o   A delightful read which describes why death is a necessary part of every Christian’s life.
·      You Can Understand the Bible by Peter Kreeft
o   A book-by-book summary of the Bible.  This is an easy read with a lot of good nuggets to chew on.
·      Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
o   Here C.S. Lewis reasons why Christianity is a reasonable option for people to believe.  He asks many of the basic questions like, “Does God exist?”  “What is God like?”  “How can I know God?” and the like.
·      Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West
o   A great work which summarizes John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.  In it, John Paul II explores human sexuality and marriage to discern how God works through our masculine/feminine bodies.  JPII’s work is very technical and philosophical and Christopher West summarizes this down to an average reader’s level.