Wednesday, April 30, 2014

No need to be afraid of the dark: Daily Mass Homily--Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

           Who here is scared of the dark?  [Most kids raise their hands].  Adults, how about you?  [Some raise their hands].  I lost my fear of the dark years ago, but last fall I had one night where I got spooked.
            It all started with a BANG!  It was the middle of the night and there was a noise so loud I woke up thinking someone might be breaking in.  I texted Fr. Rich: “Did you hear that?”  As he was sleeping, there was no answer.  Then the next morning he asked me, “Fr. Ben, was it the boogie-man?”  Turns out it was just the boiler.
            The following Sunday I heard a similar noise that woke me up again.  This time it kept repeating itself and I was creeped out again.  At that moment, Fr. Rich called me!  I asked him, “Are you scared of the boogie-man?”  He replied, “I’m locked in my room…get me out!”  You know what I did?  I walked to the door in bare feet, summoned my inner Chuck Norris and kicked it down [as I demonstrate this in real life].
            Sometimes the darkness can be scary.  But do you know what the first words are in the Bible?  Do you know what God first commands?  Let there be light.”
John uses light and darkness beautifully to contrast good and evil, belief and unbelief.  When we walk in the truth of our faith, we walk in the light and have nothing to fear.  No matter what darkness is in our lives or souls—suffering, death, cancer, depression—Jesus will light our path.
You parents help children (and even some adults) sleep well at night by putting a Scooby-Doo night-light in their room.  Or when the boogie-man rears his ugly head, you turn the light on and check under their bed.  When times are tough, put in the night-light of prayer and confidence in Jesus.  Turn the lights on and be reminded that God is with you always.
In this Easter season we celebrate Jesus—the light of the world—and through his suffering, death and resurrection, we no longer need to be scared of the dark.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My Baptism anniversary!: Daily Mass Homily--Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

           Today is a very important day in my life because on April 29th, 1984 I was baptized.  While I recently celebrated my thirtieth birthday, I am now thirty in our Christian faith!  (I’m getting old).  To my parents’ credit, we celebrated our Baptismal anniversary every year and lit our candle.
            Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born anew…” and this is precisely what Baptism is for.  Here are a few fun facts about Baptism.
            This first sacrament is so important that in emergencies anyone can baptize.  This even includes non-Christians so long as they pour water three times and say, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
            We know of no other ordinary way for salvation than through Baptism.  (Having said this, in extraordinary circumstances we always trust God’s grace to save).  Baptism is a requirement for salvation.  While obviously critical to our faith, receiving communion isn’t always a condition for salvation (for example, a baptized child who has not received Eucharist yet).
            An easy way to remember the effects of Baptism in the soul is a simple definition my seminary professor used to say: sin out, God in, in the Church.  Baptism takes away all sin—original and actual.  God enters the soul in a completely new way and one becomes part of the family of our faith.
            Finally, we are baptized into the three munera of Christ (there’s a good cocktail party word for you).  These munera—duties or functions—of Christ include his role as priest, prophet and king.  We are baptized into his priesthood and are commissioned to sanctify the world.  So too are we called to be prophets to share God’s Word in the world.  And as Christ, the King of kings, came not to be served but to serve, we are called to be humble servants in the world.
            I thank God for the gift of Baptism in my life and for the priest—Fr. Jude—who brought me into the Church.  I’m also grateful for the honor it is to baptize little babies and adults as a priest.
            Remember your baptism today.  You are in a special relationship with God and the Church and are commissioned to be Christ’s priest, prophet and king to help build up His kingdom.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Preach the Word with boldness: Daily Mass Homily--Monday, April 28th, 2014

            We have two vivid images of the Holy Spirit in the readings today.  Jesus tells Nicodemus that, “The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  This is particularly fitting on this blustery Duluth day.  While it is far from beautiful consider just how powerful the wind is.  This is what Jesus compares the Holy Spirit with.
            The Holy Spirit also manifests His power in the book of Acts: “As they prayed, the place where they were gathered shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.”
            In both contexts the Spirit is connected with the sacraments, especially Baptism.  It was through the graces received through being “born of water and Spirit” that allowed the disciples to speak with boldness about the Word of God.
            This begs the question—do you boldly proclaim God’s Word?  You have been baptized and confirmed and have the strength to do so!  Remember that being bold doesn’t mean being annoying or standing on a street corner shouting at people.  What it does mean is that you have the courage to share your experience of Jesus with others.  It means you will always be ready to witness to your Catholic faith.
            In the glorious Easter season, preach God’s Word with boldness and always remember the graces of the sacraments and the power of the Holy Spirit are with you.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

2nd Sunday of Easter: Divine Mercy Sunday

            It’s been said that Jesus’ other name—God’s other name—is mercy.
Let the house of Israel say, ‘His mercy endures forever.’  Let the house of Aaron say, ‘His mercy endures forever.’  Let those who fear the LORD say, ‘His mercy endures forever.’”  St. Peter writes basically the same in his first letter: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…”
Mercy is one of those Christian words we use or hear frequently.  But what, exactly, is mercy?  According to the Mirriam-Webster dictionary, mercy is “…compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one's power.”  We might tweak this secular definition and simplify it in the process.  Mercy is simply love trumping justice.  Mercy is what we celebrate on the second Sunday of Easter—Divine Mercy Sunday—and is the basic foundation of our faith.
I hope you know you can always receive God’s mercy.  You can never be away from God too long to come back.  Nothing you can do cannot be forgiven.  God doesn’t sit upstairs thinking, “Get it right and get back to me!” or, “I can’t wait to condemn you!” or, “I told you not to do that!” 
Remember the great parable of God’s mercy: the Prodigal Son.  This rebellious son asked for his father’s inheritance, moved away and wasted all of this money in debauchery before having a conversion, returning home and saying sorry to his dad.  Where was the father during this time?  He was waiting on the road for his son to come home.  He wanted to take his son back into his arms and lavish his love upon him.
One of the greatest joys of being a priest is the humbling role of representing God’s mercy.  When I’m in the Confession and hear, “Bless me, father, for I have sinned.  I haven’t been to Confession in decades and I have no idea what I am doing,” my heart leaps with joy.  What an honor to be there for you to absolve sins!
Please receive God’s mercy, primarily in Confession.  After I greet you after Mass I will head to the confessional.  I’ll even wait for my donut Sunday to begin!  (That’s how much I will sacrifice for you!)  If it has been a while, please come and soak in God’s forgiveness and love.
Also, as we receive God’s mercy we must show mercy to others: “…forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Are you a person who shows mercy?  Do you let love trump justice with your spouse, children, coworkers, those who annoy you, those on the opposite side of the political platform or even enemies?
As we conclude the glorious octave of Easter, remember what our faith is all about: mercy.

Feast of Mark trumped (but I'll still preach about him): Friday of the Octave of Easter

            Most years, April 25th is the celebration of the feast of St. Mark.  This is a rare instance in which Mark’s day is replaced by the Octave of Easter, though I don’t think he minds.  While we will not be celebrating St. Mark’s feast today I would still like to focus on his Gospel account. 
            Mark’s story has been called a passion narrative with an introduction.  It is the shortest of the four Gospels and its tone suggests, “Let’s get to the point!”  The words and phrases he uses encourage the focus on the main event—Jesus’ crucifixion.
            For instance, the word for immediately is used all the time (and more often than Matthew, Luke and John combined).  “Immediately Jesus…after the healing, immediately they…he immediately…”  This suggests to the reader a hurried pace as Mark focuses on the climax of his Gospel.
            Mark also employs on the road/way several times, again more frequently than the other Gospels.  In so doing he uses a literary device to show how Jesus is always on the way to his Father’s will on Calvary.
            Finally, there is a struggle throughout his Gospel between Jesus’ divinity and the crowds’ desire to make him a king.  Jesus frequently orders that no one tell about a work he did to avoid becoming an earthly king.  Scholars have labeled this the Marcan secret.  This, too, comes to a head when the Roman centurion declared, “Truly, this man was the son of God!” after Jesus’ death.
              Mark’s account is well worth the read and it could be completed in one sitting.  Its tone, vocabulary and structure all point to Jesus’ crucifixion and what we celebrate in the Easter Octave is Jesus’ triumph over sin and death which led him to the cross.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Old Testament points to Christ: Thursday of the Octave of Easter

            It is worth remembering that when Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” he was teaching about the Old Testament.  The New Testament hadn’t even been written yet.  Jesus explains, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled…Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
            The Old Testament can get a bad rap.  For instance, those without faith often say something as follows: “How can God destroy a community?  I cannot follow such a God.”  Some groups of Christians often ignore the Old, focusing exclusively on the New.  Admittedly, there are difficult passages in the Old Testament that make even faithful Catholics ask questions which must be approached with wise interpretation.
            Yet St. Augustine maintains, “The New Testament is hidden in the Old and the Old is fulfilled in the New.”  Jesus came, not to abolish the Old, but to fulfill it.  He shows that a proper reading of the Law, prophets and Psalms points directly to himself.
The first part of the Bible does this consistently.  In the third chapter of Genesis, God promises that a son of Adam and Eve would crush the serpent.  The Passover Lamb—on which we focused on Holy Thursday—provided salvation for the Israelites.  Manna from above fed them.  King David led the people to peace and prosperity.  Over and over again we see signs of the coming Messiah.
I encourage you to get to know the Old Testament of the Bible, both at Mass and in your daily prayer.  If you know the Old well the New Testament will be all the more powerful and life giving.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Walk to Emmaus and walking of a beggar: Wednesday of the Octave of Easter

            I love the rich readings during the Easter Octave.
            In the story of the walk to Emmaus, we can observe the Mass in primitive form.  Jesus first explained the Scriptures to Cleopas and his companion, and when they sat at table Jesus, “took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.  With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.”  While Jesus may have physically vanished, he could still be seen with the eyes of faith in his gift of the Eucharist.
            On Monday some of you shared that this Gospel account used to be read on Easter Monday.  Apparently this was known as “Emmaus Day” and it was tradition to take a walk with Jesus.  Well today I won’t be walking seven miles but running three in the Reif Run with our students.  I hope to see some of you on the course!
            The first reading reminds me of a common question I have discussed with students, Nathan and Jess in Campus Ministry and friends.  The situation is when a homeless person asks for money as you pass them on the street—what should you do?
            Some would say, “Oh, he’ll just spend it on booze—why give him anything?” and simply pass by.  Assuming prudence dictates a safe situation, I would think it is okay to give a buck or so.  After all, your choice is to help an individual in need.  He needs to make a choice to use the gift wisely, but that is out of your control.
            You may be like me—I rarely carry cash when I am out and about.  Or you may decide it is not prudent to give a stranger money at that time.  Yet you can give them something.  Here we see the wisdom of Peter’s response to the beggar who was asking for money: “But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’  He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them.  Peter said, ‘I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.’”
            Peter and John looked intently at this beggar.  In fact, they didn’t see a beggar at all but a brother of Christ.  They didn’t give him money, but through Christ they gave him physical healing.  Now I dare you to try this out in your next encounter with someone living in poverty.  But even greater than physical healing, this man received love as a person.  We can give such love even if a gift of money or healing doesn’t happen through a smile, wave, “Hello,” or simply human acknowledgement.
            On day four of Easter we recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread at Mass.  And through this recognition may we strive to serve God and neighbor—especially the poor—well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Baptism and names: Tuesday of the Octave of Easter

            I had a cool experience at the Easter Vigil Saturday evening—I had the honor of baptizing my first adult.  I absolutely love Baptisms and it was awesome bringing an adult into the faith!
            Baptism is intricately connected to Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Here one dies with Christ—goes under water—and rises again as a new person.  Baptism is a requirement for following Christ.  Peter reflects this belief when he repeats the words of Jesus: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you.”
            One of the parts of the Baptismal Rite can seem unimportant to us but is in fact crucial: the naming of the child.  One of the first things the priest or deacon says to the parents is, “What name do you give [have you given] this child?”  This simple question has its roots in early Christianity when children were named after foreign deities or other secular sources.  As a sign of newness in Christ, the baptized received a new name—a Christian name.  This tradition is still used around the world today, especially in mission territories like Ghana.
            In the Gospel according to John, Mary recognizes Jesus when he addresses her by name: “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’”  This is exactly what happens in Baptism.  By receiving a Christian name (or keeping a Christian birth name), Jesus calls us by name so we can recognize him.
            On this third day of Easter, thank God for the gift of your baptism.  Thank God for all the newly baptized received into the Church at the Easter Vigil.  This sacrament makes us completely new in Christ and allows us to recognize him.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Did Jesus rise from the dead?: Monday of the Octave of Easter (CSS Sisters)

            I would ask you to think about the following question during this octave of Easter.  This question has a simple yes or no answer and it is objective.  It is true whether or not we believe it.  The question is simply: did Jesus really rise from the dead?
            Of course the answer is yes!  And because it is true, we Christians are different and this difference is a good thing.  We have been separated from the world through our Baptism, and your call to religious life brought you into a unique relationship with God.
            We should strive to be different in our life of holiness.  Every thought and action of ours should be illuminated by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
            Since Jesus rose from the dead we can trust mother Church 100%.  Each of us have questions with respect to Church teaching.  Our personal thoughts may at times disagree from what the Church upholds.  But if Jesus really rose from the dead, it is nothing for him to guide his Church from heaven.  In fact, he promised to be with us for all time.  Thus, even where we would disagree, we can submit to our Church trusting that it is Christ who is our leader.
            We should also live joyful lives.  Whether we face sickness, trials, death of a loved one or earthly anxiety, joy can persevere through it all because Christ has made all things new. 
            Finally, we should always seek to bring the Good News of Jesus to others.  The resurrection should consistently be in the back of our mind and we should be active in sharing our experience with others.  Indeed, if Jesus rose from the dead, why wouldn’t we share this with others?!
            Here is a fact for you.  As we remember an event from 2000 years ago, think 2000 years from now.  While the Church and your Benedictine order will be around, you and I will not be.  More than this, we may not even be remembered!  You might be thinking to yourself, “Why would you bring this depressing fact up on Easter Monday?”  I do, because this should be anything but terrifying.  Jesus rose from the dead!  If we really believe this and live our lives in union with Christ’s Church, with joy and bring others to this life, we have nothing to fear.
            Jesus Christ is risen!  Indeed, he is truly risen! 

Three Questions: Easter Sunday

            Happy Easter to you all!
            I would like to ask you three questions this morning.  These questions have simple answers—either yes or no.  And they are objective, meaning that your answer does not determine whether or not the question is actually true or not.
            The first question: does God exist?
            Second: was Jesus God?
            Third: did Jesus rise from the dead?
            If you answered yes to these questions, you are in the right place.  You belong here!  You are home.  And we are glad you and your family are here today. 
            The Catholic Church has always affirmed these deep crucial questions.  And she does so, not because she invented the answers, but because they are in fact true.  And since they are true, a few results should follow.
If you answered yes to these questions, your life should be different.  You should stand out in our world.  As St. Paul states, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above and not what is from below.
And since God exists, Jesus was God and Jesus did rise from the dead, you can trust holy Mother Church.  You can trust that what the Catholic Church upholds is right—even those teachings which you question or initially disagree with.  After all, it is a cakewalk for Jesus to lead the Church he established from heaven if he passed from death to life as a man.  Jesus’ last promise as a man: “Lo, I am with you, to the close of the age.”  He continues to be with us through his Church and we can trust every Church teaching.
Finally, each of us is searching for happiness.  Every day we make choices that we think will fulfill this desire.  Jesus told us, “I came that they might have life and have it abundantly,” showing that he desires that we experience true happiness—joy.  We can only live with such joy—even when we face tragedy—by living out our faith to the full.  (To the full means not picking and choosing what we like, but submitting to all our Church believes in).
We have a gift for each of you in gratitude for joining us at St. John’s on this glorious Easter Sunday: The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic by Matthew Kelly.  Please pick up a copy after Mass and read it.  I just finished this book and was impressed by its readability, practicality and insight.  Like Jesus, Matthew Kelly meets his audience where they are and encourages them to take daily small steps to grow closer to God.
Here is another fact.  Today we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, an event that took place nearly 2000 years ago.  Fast-forward 2000 years in the future.  The fact is, none of us will be here on earth in 2000 years.  And I would bet that people in the year 4000 probably won’t even know who we were! 
You might be thinking, “Fr. Ben, what a Debbie-downer idea—especially for Easter Sunday!”  Yet this is precisely the point.  If we really believe God exists, Jesus was God and Jesus rose from the dead, 2000 years from now will be infinitely better for us than now.  We have nothing to fear simply because Christ rose from the dead.  We don’t need to fear anxiety, depression, poverty, hunger, sin or death. 
            Praise God!  Jesus Christ is risen—he is truly risen.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A tree transformed and transforming: Good Friday

            One of God’s most useful creations is something we see all the time in northern Minnesota: trees.
            Think about it.  You are sitting on a pew made out of wood in a lovely church covered with wood paneling.  Trees give us raw material for building.  They also provide food.  As we get our last snowfall (better be!) tomorrow, it might help to picture an orange tree down south on a warm sunny day.  They provide shade for rest and relaxation.
            The tree is used as a metaphor in both the prophets and Psalms.  Just as a tree would not survive without growing deep roots, we cannot survive in the spiritual life without doing the same.  A tree that has a solid foundation will survive drought, storms, heat and cold as it is nourished from the deep.  So, too, we can face any situation (joyful or tragic) with confidence if our roots of faith are connected to God.
            Did you know that a tree bookends the entire Bible?  Genesis 2—the second chapter of the whole Bible—narrates as follows: “And out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”  Fast forward to the last chapter of the Bible—Revelation 22—and note the presence of the same tree: “Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
            In disobeying God’s command not to eat of the fruit of the tree in Eden, Adam and Eve brought sin and death into the human experience.  Yet in Revelation 22—which portrays a vision of heaven—this same tree gives healing and life.  How did this happen?
            For the whole reason we are celebrating Good Friday!  Where Adam and Eve sinned, the new Adam followed God’s will perfectly.  He took the tree of Eden—from which came sin and death—and mounted another tree: the cross.  He made atonement for our sin and now everyone who tastes the fruit of the cross may find healing and abundant life.
            Jesus took something we see (in northern Minnesota) everyday—a tree—and made it the center of salvation history.  “Behold the wood of the cross on which hangs the salvation of the world.  Come, let us adore.”

Eucharist and Priesthood: Holy Thursday

            Have you ever suspected you might be having a last family gathering with a loved one?  I remember when my Grandma Betty was getting up there in years wondering if this would be the last Christmas she would spend at my family’s house.  Or the last Easter.  Or the last Fourth of July.  Knowing she wouldn’t live forever helped me appreciate these last gatherings all the more.  I cherished the time I had with her and soaked in her stories and conversation.
            This is the context in which the Last Supper took place.  Jesus knew his Father’s will would soon be fulfilled.  Given the fact the disciples were often slow to understand, I wonder if they knew what was about to happen.  But having the benefit of hindsight, we can come to this Holy Thursday liturgy recognizing this was truly Jesus’ last supper.
            Jesus gave us two essential gifts during the Last Supper.  These gifts would ensure that we were never left as orphans, and that he would be with us until the end of the age.  They are so important that the Missal actually instructs priests to preach about them tonight.  These gifts are the Eucharist and the priesthood.
            In giving the disciples the Eucharist, he gave them his body and blood, soul and divinity.  He ensured his presence—his real presence—to be with his Church.  He did so in the context of the greatest Jewish feast—the Passover—in which he became the lamb to be sacrificed to atone for the sins of the people.
            It is interesting that Matthew, Mark and Luke each record the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.  But in John 13—in which a supper is alluded to but not explained in detail—there is a different focus: the washing of the feet.  Between the four Gospel accounts, we know that both the institution and the foot washing happened.  And putting this together reveals that the Eucharist must never be divorced from service of God and neighbor: “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.”  We can’t have the Eucharist alone.  We can’t have service alone.  We must have both.
            Mother Teresa was a great example of this unity.  She went to Mass everyday and spent a holy hour in Eucharistic adoration in order to serve the poor in Calcutta.  Today we have the living example of Pope Francis who likewise has Mass and spends significant time before the Blessed Sacrament.  All the while he has captivated the media with his heroic efforts with the poor.
            Jesus also gave us the priesthood.  I can’t express how grateful I am for the priests in my life.  A priest baptized me.  A priest heard my first confession and gave me first communion.  Due to a transition of bishops in our diocese, I was confirmed by a priest.  In my journey of faith countless priests have heard my confession, given me spiritual direction and friendship.  I would not be where I am in the faith today—and certainly not a priest—without the priesthood.  On Monday the priests around the diocese renewed the promises they made at ordination.  What an honor it was to be in their midst!
            And reflecting on the priesthood gives me abundant joy.  I thank God each morning for another day to serve Him and His people as a priest.  I close each day by thanking Him again.  The priesthood is the greatest gift God has given me.
            As I approach my second anniversary of ordination, it has been interesting seeing the honeymoon phase wear off.  Indeed, the priesthood is not a fairly tale.  In seminary many men were set to conquer the world, pluck souls from hell, be the priest in shining armor and get patted on the back for it.  True—all Christians are called to conquer the world for Christ and priests in a particular way lead the faithful on the path to salvation.  Yet it isn’t always glorious—sometimes being a priest is like trudging through the muck of life with someone who desperately needs help.  Bad things—suicide, rape, sickness and suffering—are realities in our broken world and a priest is meant to walk with those who are burdened.  Even in the good times—weddings, baptisms and first communions—there is an intensity to what we do.  Priesthood is not a fairy tale—it is better.
            Let’s hang onto Jesus words and actions throughout the Last Supper liturgy.  Be fervent in prayer and enter into the first stage of the Holy Triduum.  And in your prayer give God thanks and praise for the Eucharist and priesthood.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The holiest time of year: Daily Mass Homily--Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

            My first question for the students this morning: what is your favorite time of year?  “Easter!”  And why Easter?  “You get candy.”  Well we’ll get back to that one in a second.  Who else?  “July 15th.”  [His younger brother then yelled]  “That’s his birthday!”  Cool, birthdays are good times of the year.  Anyone else?  “Christmas, because I get to open presents.”  Yep, and Jesus was born!  I’m surprised no one mentioned the weather.  I’d say any day in Duluth over 70 degrees is my favorite time of the year.
            Now a different question—what is the holiest time of year?  “Easter.”  Yep, Easter is part of the answer.  But what is this whole week called?  “Holy Week!”  You bet.  We are currently in the holiest time of the year.
            Tell me about this week.  What happens on Thursday?  “On Thursday we have the Last Supper and foot washing.”  Great memory.  We indeed celebrate the Lord’s Supper and also the beginning of the priesthood of Jesus.  And Friday?  [To a kindergarten student]: What happens Friday?  What’s above the altar?  “Jesus.”  Exactly.  And what did Jesus do for us?  “He died for our sins.”  And Saturday evening is the best because Jesus’ death is not the end of the story.  He rose from the dead and thus conquers death and sin.
            Does anyone know what these three days are called?  I’ll give you a hint—it means three days in Latin.  Maybe that’s not a good hint…[Sixth grader says]: “Holy Triduum.”  Yep, and the Triduum—three days—is one celebration over three days.  I hope you and your families can participate in Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil as it is the holiest time of the year.
            One final point I would like to make.  Actually, Fr. Rich made this point in his homily yesterday.  (I copied his homily last night when I had Mass.  Whenever I have Mass after him I ask him about what he preached.  For the first time I told him, “That is good.  I’ll copy it!”)  Fr. Rich’s point was comparing two of Jesus’ disciples.  One of them was in the Gospel this morning.  Who was this?  “Judas.”  Both Judas and Peter did something bad to Jesus.  What did they do?  “Judas betrayed Jesus.  Peter denied him three times.”  Right.  Then what happened?  They responded to their sin in very different ways.  “Judas didn’t ask for forgiveness.”  Great answer.  Judas didn’t ask for forgiveness because he didn’t think Jesus would forgive him.  Peter did and Jesus showed him mercy.
            Each of us, like Judas and Peter, does bad things.  Whenever we tease each other, disobey our parents or don’t follow directions from our teacher, we actually sin against Jesus.  We all sin against Christ and betray him.  Yet remember that Jesus will always forgive you if you ask for forgiveness.  There is no sin that Jesus can’t forgive so always respond like Peter.
            Holy Week is the best time of the year to think about our sin and Jesus’ solution.  Through his passion, death and resurrection we see both the consequence of sin and its redemption.  Have a wonderful Holy Week!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Judas and Peter: Daily Mass Homily--Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 (CSS)

            I made a deal with someone here that if they came to Mass I would guarantee a homily under three minutes.  N., do you have a watch.  “No.”  Well I’ll hold my end up anyway!
            I learned in my education classes at CSS (as I studied math teaching) to beg, borrow and steal.  Now I don’t give you permission to do this on exams and papers.  But in teaching, and any practice really, if we see someone excel we don’t need to reinvent the wheel.  If something works, do it.
            I say this because I am going to copy Fr. Rich’s homily from this morning.  Whenever I have a later Mass, I ask my boss about what he preached in the morning.  For the first time, I told him, “That’s good.  I’m going to use it.”
            He pointed out that Judas and Peter had very similar experiences of Jesus.  They both heard him teach and preach for several years.  They both witnessed miracles.  They both were his friends.  Yet after they both made egregious mistakes (Judas betrayed Jesus and Peter denied him) they responded in completely different ways.  Peter repented and asked for forgiveness.  Judas hanged himself.
            If you’re at Mass on a Tuesday night, God is at work in your life.  You may be tempted to think, “Why isn’t my roommate here?  Why does my sister not live out her faith?”  In my own family my brothers and I had similar experiences of the faith.  One of them will join our family for one of two Masses he attends each year at Easter.  Another lives his faith in an exemplary fashion.  And I’m a priest.  What gives?
            Here we must not be hoity-toity Catholics who think we have it all together.  We must never judge another in their path with God.  After all, God called a man named Saul who was on his way to kill Christians.  What we ought to do is pray for our family, friends and classmates who haven’t experienced Christ in an intimate way.  And when we can we should share our experience of Jesus with them, inviting them to join in the joy of the Christian life.
            What’s the time?  “Under three minutes.”  Amen.