Friday, August 28, 2015

You Always Have a Home Here

21 Sun OT Yr B/2015
(Holy Spirit Parish/UK Newman Center)

          “…to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
                   In families, sometimes it is financial trouble, relationship trouble.  Sometimes it’s the smallest of things – toothpaste tubes and toilet seats.  In relationships it might be dishonesty, infidelity, not receiving enough attention from your beloved.  Sometimes the beginning of the academic year brings its own set of frustrations that threaten to push us over the edge.  New roommates who don’t seem to have an adequate sense of cleanliness or personal space.  That stupid shelf that just won’t seem to put itself together the right way.  8am classes.  (The closest class I ever came to failing in college was because it met at 8am…)  The new year brings the challenge of meeting new people – some of us here would rather rip out our fingernails than have to try to make new friends.  Finding your way around campus – finding a parking space – finding the right coffee shop.  Sometimes it can all just seem to be too much and sooner than we thought, we’re ready to throw in the towel.
          We’re not exempt from that feeling or experience in the Church are we?  That new parochial vicar – what’s his name?  Who does he think he is?  He prays Mass in a way I don’t like.  And his homilies – dear Lord save us!  Maybe it’s the Church herself.  If have to hear someone talk about the Church’s stance on (fill in the blank) one more time, that’s it!  I’m hitting the road.  I just can’t stomach it anymore!
          Truth is, friends, whatever has brought us here today, we all share two things in common, whether we realize it or not.  First, we’re all searching for something – someone, actually – whether we know it or not – like that great children’s book called The Missing Piece, we’re all rolling around the world, living this thing called life, searching for that God shaped hole in all of us.  We’re here either because we’re still looking – or because we’ve found that missing piece in the Lord Jesus Christ and the Eucharist.  We’re all searching for something – and – even when we’ve found it, the second thing we have in common is that sometimes it all gets to be too much and we want to just give up.  The Church’s teachings become too demanding, or life becomes more demanding than we feel like tackling – moving to a new place, meeting new friends, handling the demands of busy academic, business, ministry or family life.
          We’re all searching for something – and sometimes we all get fed up and want to throw in the towel.  You might not admit it out loud – but we all know it to be true.  The good news is…we’re not alone.  It’s been that way from the very beginning – and it’s that way today.  Look around you – and you’ll see the faces of brothers and sisters who are looking for something and who sometimes get completely fed up.  Look at the Gospel today and you’ll see it, too: 
Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.
          But – you see friends – that’s never the end of our story, is it?  We search, sometimes we struggle…sometimes we feel like giving up.  But if you’re here today, you’re here because you realize what Peter had to say was true:  Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
          Friends – this is the place where we encounter Jesus – this is the place where we find our missing piece – this is the place where we come to throw up our hands in loving surrender to God – and rather than giving up, we are refreshed in our commitment to the Lord:  where else can we go, Lord?  You have the words of eternal life?  You’re my missing piece!  In this place, in this community, with these folks – this is where I find you, where I hear you, where you support and love and encourage and strengthen me!
          I want to speak just a moment to our student parishioners.  If you’re a UK student I’d like to ask you to stand up.  It doesn’t matter if you’re new or not.  Stand up just for a second.
          My dear brothers and sisters – what an adventure you’re on!  New friends.  New things to learn.  New experiences.  Becoming the man or woman God called you to be.  Sometimes that is life-giving and amazing…sometimes it’s a struggle.  Sometimes it all seems too much – too hard to accept – too much trouble.  Sometimes you just want to go and travel another path.  But I want you to know – here in this place, among these people, in this community of faith, you are always welcome, and you always can and always will encounter Jesus Christ who loves you, and accepts you, and calls you, and cares for you – and for all your days, you have a home in this place and with these people.  God loves you, the Church loves you, these parishioners love you, our staff loves you, Fr. Steve and I love you…

          …and when the journey seems long, and the struggle seems all too much – just remember what St. Peter had to say and think of this place:  Where else can we go…  Wherever you find yourself – you can always come here – here you’ll find the words of eternal life.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Eucharist Gives Us LIFE!

20 Sun OT/Yr B/2015
(Holy Spirit Parish/UK Newman Center)

Some of you might remember (from my time here as a Deacon in the summer of 2012) that I wasn’t raised Catholic.  You were so wonderful to welcome my mother and grandmother among you – and I will be eternally grateful for that.  They experienced the warmness and community of Catholic Christianity here as they have so many other places in our diocese.  Louise, my Gammaw, even enjoyed crocheting with the Warm Up America group in that time.  Though she’s gone on to the life to come, she remembered my time here warmly, and I do too.
And that’s saying something – because to many Christians around the world, we Catholics can seem strange.  What’s common about the Christian faith is our solid belief and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to love and save us – to give us faith and grace in this life so that we might journey with Him toward life forever with the Father, Son and Spirit in the life to come.  But what’s uncommon about the faith of the apostles that we practice with fidelity in the embrace of Mother Church is our complete devotion to the Eucharist as the Source and Summit or our life.  Everything we have in this journey finds its origin and power and beauty in the Sacrifice of Christ made present on this altar when He makes Himself present in the bread and wine we offer to the Father and receive into our very selves.  Everything we do and experience that’s part of our journey – the struggles and the victories, the mountains and the valleys, our wrestling with vice and growth in virtue – all of it leads us back to the same Jesus Christ who comes to be with us, body, blood, soul and divinity right here, right now, on this altar, at the hands of this unworthy priest.
Some people find it too much to take in – some find it too hard to believe – some find it hard to accept as anything more than symbol or allegory.  And it’s been that way from the beginning.  Next week we’ll hear that this teaching was too hard for some and many turned away.  But we – you and I – we don’t turn away from this teaching.  I was raised to believe that Sacred Scripture was the inspired word of God – that when Jesus said something, He meant it. 
And so when the Lord began to call me into the Catholic Church, belief in the Eucharist wasn’t as big a challenge for me as I thought it might be.  I turned to Sacred Scripture.  I read the Lord Jesus say, “This is my body…” and “This is my blood…”  And I realized – Jesus was a smart man and God incarnate; He knew how to choose His words, and those words were faithfully recorded in Scripture.  If He’d wanted to say ‘This is a symbol of my body and blood,’ He would have said so.  But He didn’t.  He said ‘this is my body…’  And today he says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven – whoever eats this bread will live forever – and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”  Not the bread that I will give is like my flesh…but the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.  Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you.
That’s something isn’t it?  Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you.  Friends – I’m new at this ‘priesting’ thing, and I have a ton to learn.  I can’t wait to learn along with you.  I can’t wait to learn from you.  But even though I’m new at this priesting thing, there’s one thing I’ve discovered along the way that shows itself to be true over and over again in every parish I’ve ever encountered:  if you look around this room and make a list of those who seem to have a lot of life within them…you’ll always find women and men who believe in the divine presence of Christ in the Eucharist without any qualification or hesitation. 
Go ahead and give it a shot – look around this Church right now and make a list in your mind of those who seem to be so alive in life and faith and love and service to the poor & marginalized that they’re almost vibrating with it – notice those folks whose joy in the Lord Jesus and the Gospel is completely evident and contagious, and who being in their presence sets you on fire with love for God neighbor…and you’ll see.  The names you’re calling to mind right now are women and men whose belief in the Lord Jesus Christ come to abide with us in the Eucharist, come to strengthen and empower us in the Eucharist, and call us into mission in and through the Eucharist – their belief is so solid and evident that they have that life within them Jesus was talking about so much so that it is noticeable to everyone they meet…so much so that it changes everyone they meet…

I’m in love with the Lord Jesus Christ, and I know you are too.  We are a family of faith committed 110% to being a beacon of love, and service, and faith to a world and a city and a campus in need.  We are a people who seek the Lord with our whole body, and mind and soul – and where we realize we fall short of that complete falling head over heels in love with Jesus Christ – when we fall short, all we have to do is turn our focus and attention right back here, right back to this altar, right back to the tabernacle, right back to the Eucharist.  Because when we take Jesus at His word – He shows us that He’s as deeply in love with us as we are called to be with Him.  And flowing from our encounter with Him in the Eucharist, His divine life swells up within us, and pours out as joy and peace and service…and life.