Homily – Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

A long time ago, when I was in college, a group of us decided to go on a trip to climb one of the White Mountains. We rented a cabin and got an early start in the morning. I soon learned that I was not in shape for mountain climbing! I soon learned that I was not in shape for mountain climbing! I sat down on a rock outcropping, and told my companions to go own ahead, I would wait for them when they came back down. My classmates were not going to allow it. They literally dragged me up to the summit! And what a view awaited us, the beauty of the White Mountains range, it was breathtaking, it was a spiritual experience.

In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah is revealing a special mountain, the mountain of the Lord of the hosts. He calls on the people to climb the mountain, to reach the summit, and experience the joy of the Lord. There is promise of healing, the promise of a feast! Something like the feast Jesus described in his parable about the king and the wedding feast. He tells of a powerful king who is having a wedding feast for his son. He invites the important people of his kingdom to come, but they “diss” the king, they insult him by not coming. The king makes those people pay for their insults. And he then calls the common folk to come to the feast.

Many writers of the spiritual life use the metaphor of one climbing the mountain of the Lord, striving reach the summit. Climbing a mountain can be hard, very hard some. The same with striving to live the Gospel, it can be hard, full of challenges spiritually! Some of us may not bother, just stay where we are, live where we are. But if we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, we can feel the pull to move on, we will have Jesus walking besides us helping us forward. Every moment we take the time to read and reflect on Scripture; every moment we enter into prayer, every time we come here to worship, to receive the Eucharist and experience intimately the presence of the Lord; we continue the journey upward, towards the summit. There have been those who gone before us, some living, some deceased, who have recorded the experience of their own climb, who can teach, but mostly inspire us onward. Jesus Christ, the King, calls out to us, “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, everything is ready, come to the feast!”

Homily for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Rough seas ahead!

1st Kings 19: 9a, 11-13a; Romans 9: 1-5; Matt 14: 22-33

I grew up in the North Shore of Massachusetts. Now, while I was a young boy, my father and one of my uncles’s co-owned a small, wooden outboard motor boat. We would bring it up with us to the Sebago lakes region, where we usually rented adjoining cabins. Now they also used to take the boat out into Lynn Harbor, where they, myself, my brothers and cousins would sometimes go fishing. Now one Saturday, it started out to be a beautiful day. We were just at the entrance of the harbor, almost into the ocean, when suddenly, this squall hit! I mean the waves started getting very big, the boat was bouncing all over the place, as my father and uncle tried to get the boat to an anchorage. After one big bounce, the rear bench we kids were on, suddenly broke, and we were sprawled on the bottom of the boat. What had been an adventure, was turning into something very scary. We finally made it safely to the Nahant town dock. But I will never forget how scared; how really scared I was.

In today’s Gospel, we see the disciples going on ahead of Jesus, by boat on the Sea of Galilee, they also, run into very rough weather, they too were being tossed about by the waves. The fishermen of the group were probably concerned, the landlubbers in the group were probably scared out of their wits. On top of everything else, there is this figure moving towards them through the stormy water, so they think, it’s got to be a ghost, right? Then Jesus calls out “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Now, Peter, wanting proof, asks Jesus to command him to come out and meet him on the water. He probably also wants to show Jesus that he has the right stuff, unlike these landlubbers. And Jesus calls him to come out to him. And he is doing it, up to a point. He suddenly realizes he is walking on water, in the middle of a squall, and he thinks “Holy “bleep!!”; what am I doing out here!!” He begins to sink into waves, and Jesus has to rescue him! So what happened? He had begun to looked at the storm around him, losing sight of Jesus, and giving into his fears! What was it Jesus said to the disciples when they first saw him, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

We are living in frightening times! We see a threat to our health, to our lives that appears invisible, but is very, very real. We see an economy that was once the envy of the world, come crashing down. We have people out there in our community, who are afraid, because they do not know how they will pay bills, buy food, pay rent or mortgage! No matter how much we may deny it, I am willing to bet that everyone one of us feels something of the fear that is abroad in this country, in this world.

“Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Peter ran into trouble because he was not focused on Jesus! We can give into fear, if we are not focused on Jesus Christ, the Son of God! We need to become aware of His Presence in our lives, in every moment. We need to really listen and focus on His Word! We are all called to look to the altar, where we see ordinary bread and wine, that will soon become the Body and Blood of Christ! And we will receive Him, and be strengthened by Him for the times that ahead. The problems may not disappear, they may get better, they may get worst. But we are not alone in our struggles, we not alone with our fear; Jesus is with us in this journey. He will always be with us, supporting us in the midst of whatever storm we are in!

“At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

A Nation In Mourning….Again!

To quote Thomas Paine, “These are times that try men (and women) souls.” We have experienced once again the horrors of mass shootings, in El Paso TX, and Dayton, OH. It should shake everyone’s being down to their souls. No other country, that is not at war or in civil strife, has suffered the casualties we have in the United States, from gun violence. People from around the world cannot understand how a country, so modern, like the United States, can let this bloodletting continue.

The answer is both simple and complicated. There are those in this country who feel they are losing control of it. That immigrants and of other races are taking what was once theirs; jobs, control of local governments. They see government, especially the Federal government taking away their lands, their jobs, for protection of the environment. They see gun ownership as the only means to protect what they see as their rights. This might only express some of the reasons why the country is so full of hate, so divided; and why some feel driven to pick up the gun.

But Jesus has said, “All who take the sword will die by the sword.” (MT 26:52). What is called for are laws to remove or at least control access to military style weapons. There also must be dialogue between peoples, to understand the desires, the needs, and the fears of all sides. We need a responsible government, whose goals are to preserve the general welfare, and not their own political power.

Jesus said that the primary commandment for his followers was to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul. The second important commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. The challenge of these two commandments have always been before us. Never before in our society’s history, had meeting that challenge been so important!

Second Sunday of Lent – A Short Reflection

“Hear, O Lord, the sound of my call; have pity on me, and answer me. Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.

Your presence, O Lord, I seek. Hide not your face from me; do not in anger repel your servant. You are my helper: cast me not off.

I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27

We have experienced many tragedies in our world, in our country, in our community, and in our Church. Our world has been shaken by the massacre of innocent Muslims in New Zealand. Our country continues to experience natural disasters. Communities in my home State have witnessed shocking violent crimes. And the Church still struggles with the effects of the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

And we speak out, where is God in all this? We seek the Lord to come to our aid; to give us comfort. The truth is that he is always with us. He is present in ones who give us help and comfort. He speaks through those who speak up for the poor and forgotten. And we feel his Presence, when we are still, and listen for his voice.

“Where is the Newborn King…?”

On this January 6, 2019, many Christians will be in church, celebrating the Epiphany of the Lord. We are celebrating the moment, when three magi, wise men, came from the east and proclaimed to the leaders of Jerusalem that the birth of the Messiah had been revealed to them. They had traveled from a far land, to see with their own eyes, this wonder. Their belief in this revelation was so strong, that they were willing to make this risky journey, guided only by a unique star, to a foreign land. And the Gospel gives no indication that they were disappointed at what they found. Finding a small child, with his peasant mother, in a simple village house; they “did him homage.”

We are all seeking that intimate encounter with Jesus Christ, with our God and Savior. Sometimes, that life journey may take many years; sometimes, the encounter can happen in just an instant. We find that we need to give up our own preconceived images of Christ; let the Holy Spirit guide us on our journey; and be open to what the Scriptures will reveal to us. And above all, open ourselves to the experience, the wonder of the Eucharist; which in a real sense, is food for the journey we are on.

There have been others, who have also been on this journey before, who, by sharing their own experiences, can help guide us on ours. Some of my favorites, Francis and Clare of Assisi, who made living the Gospel of Jesus Christ an intimate part of their lives. Teresa of Avila, founder of monasteries and mystic. Caryll Houselander, laywoman, artist and mystic; who had a vision of Christ in every passenger of a train she was on. Thomas Merton, author, monk, and mystic. Despite being in a monastery, he was always on a journey, seeking our Risen Lord. And finally, I would recommend Sister Wendy Beckett, who recently passed away. Hermit, art historian, media star; she brought a fresh look at art, with both a scholar’s and mystic’s eye.

I am still very much on journey, seeking the Lord. I have sometimes gone off course, sometimes felt like not going any further. But always, I feel that tugging to continue on; something many pilgrims feel, to finish the journey. I still am not sure what I will find; I have faith that when I truly see the Lord, with eyes of faith; I will bow and do him homage.

The Long Drought

My New ComputerIt has been several months, since last my fingers touched a keyboard for this blog. Now that I have something to say, my laptop will not load the WordPress page for it. So I am using my IPhone, and my thumbs this morning.

It is safe to say that current news involving the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church is beginning to wear me down. Living in the Boston area, the so called epicenter of the crisis, I have struggled to be both a faithful Catholic, and a supporter of accountability. I, perhaps foolishly, thought that, at least in Boston, we had begun to turn a corner and begin to rebuild the community.

Then came the report of the Pennsylvania grand jury, and other reports from other cities, states, and overseas. The amount of news of the inability of the Pope and bishops to get a handle on the situation was another blow to my “spiritual” gut.

Perhaps the among the things that has kept me from drowning in a sea of depression has been my interest in Church history. I am well acquainted with both the glorious and inglorious moments in the life of the Church. We are a world-wide community of both saints, great and small; and sinners. Many of us are to a lesser or greater degree, both. And there have been dark, indeed, some very dark moments, that the Church has risen up from and shined.

Another saving factor has been my prayer experiences. Moments when the Holy Spirit breaks through my shell of indifference and depression; and the Light of the World blazes forth within! There are moments when I am joined with others in worship, when the Presence of Christ is felt deep within me.

There will more dark moments in the life of the Church that will be revealed. We need to be open to those moments, move through the pain, sense of betrayal, and doubt. As we seek healing for ourselves; we need to be healers and reconcilers for others.

We need to hold on to that faith, and believe in the promise Jesus Christ made to the first disciples, and to us, that the powers of Hell will not prevail against His Church!

Enders Island Chapel

Feast Day of St. Ignatius of Loyola – A Reflection

St. IgnatiusThe story goes, that when I was born, my father put forward an unusual name for me.  He had been a recent graduate of Boston College, an institution founded by the Society of Jesus; also known as the Jesuits.  He had been impressed by these priests and brothers; so much so, that he wanted to name his first born after their founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola!  My mother, being of strong willed Irish-Italian stock, basically said: “No way!”

A compromise was struck, my baptismal name was given as “Francis,”  after St. Francis Xavier, SJ, one of the original members of the Society.  My connection with the Jesuits was renewed, when as part of my Deacon formation, I and my classmates attended annual retreats at Campion Hall in Weston MA.  It is a Jesuit run retreat center, as well as a retirement home for their members.  So I began to learn more about the saint, whose name I almost inherited.

St. Ignatius was born in the Basque country of northern Spain.  He originally was raised to be a soldier of Spain.  At age 30, he was seriously wounded in a battle defending a town against an invading Spanish army. One of his legs was broken by a cannon ball, and he was brought back to the family home.  During his recovery, he read the only books available to him; a life of Jesus Christ, and stories about the saints.  Reflecting on what he read, he had a conversion experience.  He dedicated his life, body and soul to Christ.  The path that he took to reach this point, he would eventually create The Spiritual Exercises.  It is a blueprint, a process to help a spiritual director guide a person into a closer, more intimate relationship with God; developing an attentiveness, an openness, and responsiveness to God.

When he was studying at the University of Paris to become a priest, he was also guiding some of his classmates through the Spiritual Exercises.  Inspired by what they experienced, six of them, along with Ignatius, decided to form a company, a society, dedicated to serving the Church, under the direction of the Pope.  Thus was the Society of Jesus formed.  Since that time, Jesuits have traveled the world; as missionaries, educators, writers, parish priests and spiritual directors.  One of St. Ignatius’ spiritual sons would be elected as head of the Catholic Church, our current Pontiff, Pope Francis.

St. Ignatius, has been recognized as more of  a founder and organizer of a powerful religious community; and not so much as a mystic, except perhaps within the Jesuit communities themselves.  That has been changing, more diocesan priests, religious, and laypersons have taken the Spiritual Exercises, and it has enriched their spiritual lives.

Prayer for Generosity

Eternal Word, only begotten Son of God,
Teach me true generosity.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve.
To give without counting the cost,
To fight heedless of wounds,
To labor without seeking rest,
To sacrifice myself without thought of any reward
Save the knowledge that I have done your will.
Amen.

St. Ignatius of Loyola

 

 

 

“So They Went Off And Preached Repentance” – 15th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Jesus sends out the TwelveAmos 7: 12-15

Ephesians 1: 3-14

Mark 6: 7-13

“Jesus summoned the Twelve, and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.”  (Mark 6: 7)

So began a different role for the followers of Jesus of Nazareth.  He sent them out to proclaim that a new day was dawning.  They went throughout the countryside, calling people to repent, to prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of God.  And they healed the sick, and freed many from the demons that possessed them; signs that the power of God was at work in the land.

In today’s Church, we need to recognize that Jesus Christ is calling us to likewise be proclaimers of the Good News. By our words, by our actions, by the example of our very lives; we reveal the love of God at work in our world. When we share how God has healed us, comforted us, guided us along the right path; we proclaim his goodness. When others witness how we care for friend and stranger alike; they see the love of God at work in the world.

This requires that we be continually open to the love of God ourselves. We must continually seek his guidance, his help, especially during times we falter. We are at our best as evangelizers, when we show our struggles, as well as our successes.

So we go forward, as spreaders of the Good News of Jesus Christ. May we bring back a bountiful harvest.

Source of Life

In the Scriptures for this past Sunday, we read from the Book of Wisdom, that God creates life, only life. He meant for humanity to be immortal. It is only because humanity allowed evil into its hearts, that death came in.

In the reading from the Gospel of Mark; we see Jesus as the source of healing and life. A woman needed only to touch his cloak, and she was healed of her illness. Jesus restores a little child to life. And he will, by his death and resurrection, will free all from the power of death.

But death can take many forms. There is physical death, and then is the slow death of one’s spirit, one’s soul. Sometimes, the harsh circumstances of life can grind us down. So much so, that we begin to to feel dead inside to the beauty of creation; the love of others; the love of God.

It is in moments like this, that we need to turn to Jesus, through Word and Sacrament; through prayer and meditation. In encountering Jesus Christ, we encounter the healer, both of body and soul. Now this does may not mean an instantaneous healing. But if we remain open to the Spirit of Christ, working within us; we may feel a little more peace, a little more hope. And a new dawn will break open for us.