Sunday, August 13, 2017

Drowning/Not Drowning

19 Sun OT Yr A (2017)
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville

#smh #faceplam  #headdesk  Remember?  Jesus breaking the third wall like Frank Underwood in House of Cards and saying, “There he goes again – sometimes Peter just doesn’t get it.”

I’ve always imagined the rest of the apostles them rolling their eyes at him, too.  Always the first one to speak up – like Hermione Grainger in the Harry Potter stories whose hand shot up so fast and so often her friends, even Ron and Harry, rolled their eyes at her.  ‘Oh! I know professor…call on me!  The teachers at Hogwarts began to roll their eyes at her, too – even when they knew she had the right answer.  But that’s the difference between St. Peter and Hermione Grainger.  He was always ready with an answer – but very often he was wrong.  ‘You can’t let them crucify you!’ Peter said.  Do you remember Jesus’ response?  ‘Get behind me Satan!’  Shot down! ‘It is GOOD that we are here!  We’ll build some shrines to commemorate what we just saw!’  This time, it was God Himself who seemed to roll His eyes:  ‘Hey – be quiet a minute.  That’s my Son!  Why don’t you try listening to him for a change?’  Talk about shot down!  

Peter often got it wrong, and in today’s gospel he gets it wrong big time.  He messed up the chance of a lifetime.  A chance to walk on the water – and he botched it!  What we typically see in this Gospel is just how much St. Peter got it wrong.  But maybe its time we take a look at the ways St. Peter got it right that stormy night.  After all, Peter was there, he took a risk, and he asked for help.

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Peter was there.  I find it hard to believe Peter didn’t know a storm was coming – he was a fisherman after all. But there he was anyway – right there in that boat – right there with his community of faith – gathered together and doing what they’d been asked to do even with a storm was brewing on the horizon.

I heard a story once about two car salesmen.  One was a natural – he could sell ice cubes to Eskimos.  The other guy was terrible.  He had coffee breath, his hair was always askew, he couldn’t keep up with the paperwork or the pricing strategies or even the inventory.  The natural salesman was so good, he’d show up for a few hours, sell a few cars and then go home.  He never worked weekends – he didn’t have to.  At the end of the year sales banquet everyone – everyone – was shocked that the horrible salesman took home the fattest bonus check.  The sales manager said, ‘I knew all along he’d sell more than the rest of you jokers.  He’s not be best salesman, but he showed up for work every day.’  

How good are we at showing up?  Do we use excuses about incense or Latin or liturgical style to keep us away?  Do we have better things to do than be a part of the ministry of the parish beyond weekend Mass?  Half the battle is showing up – and Peter always showed up.  He was there with his community of faith.  Peter was there…

…and he took a risk.  There he was, in a small boat crammed with tired, stinky, scared men.  The storm was raging – it probably seemed like they were just moments away from total destruction.  And to top it all off, they saw a ghost walking toward them on the water.  Not exactly the typical moment for taking a risk.  But that’s what Peter did.  ‘Lord…command me to come on the water.’

I was 15 years old when Kentucky started the lottery. What I remember most was thinking how perfect the slogan was; there’s no arguing with it.  You can’t win if you don’t play!  We don’t have to risk our money on the lottery – it’s perfectly OK if we don’t.  But it’s true:  there’s no chance of winning without playing – without taking a risk.  You can’t win if you don’t play; Peter played.  He took the risk.  He got out of the boat and began to walk on the water.

What risks have you taken lately regarding your faith?  What risks are we taking together as a parish?  If we’re showing up together, are we holding on for dear life, or are we stepping out into the miracles Jesus is inviting us to experience?  Peter took a chance – he was there, he took a risk…

...and he asked for help.  We all know Peter sank because he was afraid – I think that’s all we ever remember about this story because, like Peter, we often let our own fears become bigger and more powerful than our faith.  But what Peter does when he begins to drown is so much more important than his mistake – he cried out for help!  If only you and I were as ready to ask for help when we’re sinking!

There were two of them hanging there, remember?  Equally guilty – equally deserving of death.  Two criminals hanging there with Jesus on Calvary.  Only one of them died with the hope of life beyond the pain.  What was the difference?  The ‘good thief’ asked Jesus for help.

When was the last time you asked for help?  ‘Bless me father, for I have sinned…’  When was the last time you said those words in the confessional.  ‘I just don’t know how to pray anymore…can you help me?’  When was the last time you asked for help?  ‘I don’t know how to walk and talk with Jesus like a real honest to goodness friend.  Can you help me?  Peter would have drowned that stormy night if he hadn’t asked for help.  Our faith will die, too, if we don’t learn to cry out for help.  Peter showed up, he took a risk, and he asked for help.

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We can learn a lot from St. Peter.  All of us have been in Peter’s shoes.  What I love about this story is that it sums up Peter perfectly.  He was always there – right in the middle of things.  He always showed up.  Sometimes he made a fool of himself, sometimes he ran off at the mouth and got the crazy eye roll and rebuke for it.  But it didn’t stop him – he was always there, and he was always a risk taker.  Even after he had denied Jesus three times, he took a risk and ran right back to Jesus to let Him restore their relationship.  He never seemed to have trouble asking for help.  

Peter tried a lot – and he failed a lot – but it didn’t stop him.  I think that’s because he learned something when he took those few amazing steps on the water.  What about you?  Are you here – really here?  Are you really with us in our parish’s journey of faith and mission to spread the Gospel and save souls?  Are you stepping out of the boat – are we taking any risks together?  What risk is Jesus inviting you to take today?  Don’t let fear or uncertainty stop you – you won’t drown.  Because every time we remember Peter, and cry out for help, we’ll find exactly what he found:  Jesus stretching out His hand and catching us.

Peter was there, he took a risk, and he cried out for help.  Lord, teach us to be more like Peter!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

#FavoriteHashtagOfJesus

Transfiguration Yr A (2017)
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville

#FacePalm #HeadDesk
The Lord Jesus would have made good use of hashtags, I think.  “Please Lord, grant that my sons might sit one on your right and one on your left in heaven…”  #HeadDesk.  “Never, Lord – You cannot die – we won’t stand for it…”  #FacePalm “It is good that we are here, Lord – we’ll make three shrines right here to commemorate what just happened…”  #really #MissedTheBoat #BarkingUpTheWrongTree

I can see the Instagram post: Jesus taking a selfie with Peter in the background looking confused, Jesus breaking the third wall in the image, shrugging his shoulders, #WhataRYaGonnaDo.  I can see the meme on Facebook…Jesus transfigured into His Divine reality before them…Peter, James and John running around with slide rules and tape measures, pounding in stakes marking where the shrines will be erected, and God the Father’s voice booming from the very heavens saying #SquadGoals #Not.

Sometimes we just don’t get it.  That’s just the reality.  Even those who knew Jesus the best sometimes just completely wiffed, struck out, #clueless…  That’s the way it was even for our great patrons Peter & Paul.  Sometimes they just missed it.  #HereWeGoAgain  That’s the way it was for them…and that’s the way it is for us, sometimes, too.  Right?  

“If you are offering your gift at the altar and remember someone has something against you, go first and reconcile to them, then come and offer your worship and praise.”  But I can’t control if they’re mad at me; I’ll accept their apology when they come.  #HeadDesk  Hey – I’m at peace with everyone, see?  I hold hands during the Our Father and put on a friendly face during the Sign of Peace.  #FacePalm  

“I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.  Not a single part of the law will pass away.  Be holy, as your heavenly father is holy.  Don’t kill, or even harm another with your words – don’t commit adultery, or even look with lust on someone else – give to God what belongs to God, your worship, your priority, your faith and trust.”  But times have changed, surely Jesus didn’t understand – or the Church didn’t understand – the realities of same sex attraction; I’m only looking at these images on a screen, it doesn’t hurt anyone else, and it’s my body after all, right?  My body, my choice – it’s not a baby until its born, and until then it’s my right.  I don’t ever say mean things to someone else’s face.  Nobody takes Holy Days of Obligation seriously – Jesus understands – I’m just too busy and have other plans, so it’s no big deal – I get to Mass most weekends, that’s good enough.  Confession is antiquated – I go once in a while, and besides – I’m a good person, I try to be nice, and I haven’t killed anyone, what’s the big deal?  #HereWeGoAgain #SMH (that means ‘shaking my head’ if you don’t have your lingo on lockdown…

That’s just how it is…. it’s how it was back then, and it’s how it is with us.  Sometimes we just don’t get it. Sometimes we fumble the ball just like they did.

//

But…Jesus doesn’t just shake His head and wander off.  (Though I do think He shakes His head, smh.)  He doesn’t give up hope.  Even when He corrects or chastises, there’s more to the story.  We miss the boat – we wiff – we overlook or misunderstand – and what does Jesus do?  He tells us not to be afraidHe invites us to look at Him so that we can understand better.  He comes and touches us, He takes us by the hand and bids us stand up beside Him without fear – and instead of looking at ourselves, instead of trying to figure it out on our own, instead of feeling frustrated that we missed it again or feeling afraid that we’ll never get it – instead of leaving us confused and guessing, Jesus comes near to where we are, revealing Himself for who He truly is…because it is only in seeing Him that we can understand ourselves – it is only in seeing Him for who He is that become able to be who we really are.

That’s why we have the Eucharist and Mass – so that in our quest to become joy-filled missionary disciples, we can gaze on Jesus in all of His reality here on the altar; gaze upon the one who loved completely, sacrificed completely, so that we can see the beauty and radiance of such love and become transformed by that love into that love as we gaze upon Him.  That’s why we have the sacraments – tangible encounters with Jesus Himself – which reveal ever more deeply who He is, the one who adopts us in baptism, who commissions us for service in confirmation; Jesus who feeds us in the Eucharist and forgives us in Confession.  When Jesus lifts our gaze to Himself in the sacraments, He empowers us to become bridges to God’s family, forgiving others as we’ve been forgiven, becoming women and men who are wholly devoted to the spread of the Gospel and the salvation of souls, just like He is.  That’s the lesson of the transfiguration:  Jesus reveals Himself to his friends so we can see more clearly who we are…

You and I – we’re missing the boat sometimes.  We make Jesus shake his head, and facepalm and headdesk every now and then.  But…with a smile, I think.  A loving, gentle, hopeful smile.  And then…He takes us by the hand, leads us to the altar, brings us to the confessional, reveals Himself to us and invites us to look at Him and see our destiny.  And in His Transfiguration, we are transformed.

Then he leans back, gathers us into the selfie, takes a beautiful snapshot, and posts it:  #SquadGoals  #OnFleek  

Sunday, July 23, 2017

What if WE Are the Seed...

16 Sun OT Yr A (2017)
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville

Imagine with me for a moment… Imagine that we’re gathered here, like the early Church.  Life is busy.  And yet – when it’s time for the gathering – we rush eagerly to the place.  We’ve been looking forward to it all week.  Why?  Because “The Way” – this new way of living, this new Truth, this Jesus Christ who was so like us and yet so different from us – has changed our life.  Imagine we’re here because we’ve encountered something different in the life of faith that calls us out of dark drudgery and hamster wheel of the life that we and everyone we’ve ever known has been living.  

Imagine that we’re here because we’ve encountered the Holy Spirit, felt the change in our own lives, realized that Jesus really was loving and saving us somehow, supernaturally, through the sacraments, through our prayer.  Imagine we’re here because we know, we believe that Jesus wants to save us – and wants to save the world.  And imagine we’re here because we know He wants to save the world – and that the only thing that stands between salvation and damnation for every soul in Danville is our fruitfulness as joyful missionary disciples, empowered by the Eucharist, sanctified by the sacraments, and motivated by the mission Jesus has given to us to go, teach, and baptize.

And not just our families, our children, our friends – not just us, but all families, all children, all the people we live and work and study and play with – imagine that you and I are the only seed that has been sown in this time and place for the salvation of souls and the spread of the Gospel right here where we are.  And imagine that whether we become wheat or weed – imagine that our own salvation depends in part on how we prioritize our faith, how we let our lives be changed to love and be loved by God and allow ourselves to be instruments of His salvation to those outside these walls.

//

What would your life look like?

What would be added to your days and weeks? What would be subtracted?

How would your life be different?

//

I had a different homily planned for this week, but then I saw this quote from Robert Cardinal Sarah: “While Christians are dying for their faith and fidelity to Jesus, in the West people of the Church are trying to reduce the requirements of the Gospel to a minimum.” It hit me…he’s right.  But what if… What if we were different.  What if instead of trying to lower the bar – for ourselves and everyone else – what if we began to work together, all day, every day, to make the bar clearer and help everyone over it!  What if Jesus was right?

He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.  The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear."

What if it is true?  Not an image – not an ideal – some a story…what if is true?  How would your life be different?  What’s holding you back?  How can I help you make those changes?  How can others help you in living this reality?  How can you help others find their salvation, faith, and joy in Jesus Christ?

How can we truly become a family of joyful missionary disciples of Jesus Christ, empowered by the Eucharist, sanctified by the sacraments, and motivated by the mission Jesus has entrusted to us?

Sunday, July 9, 2017

This Is Your Commitment Day!

Solemnity of Ss. Peter & Paul 2017
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville

What comes to mind when you think of Saints Peter & Paul, the patrons of our parish?  What do you remember from their lives?

Do you remember Jesus walking along the shore and inviting Peter to follow him – and how Peter got up, left his nets, and simply went?  Wow. Do you remember how eager St. Peter was – always ready to give it a shot, ready to step out onto the water not knowing how any of it would work?  Maybe you remember how Peter often seemed to sink after just a few steps – but whenever he fell and thought he might drown, Jesus always reached out to save him.

What about St. Paul – what do you remember about St. Paul?  Do you remember that he spent his early career destroying the Church? Unwilling to believe what God was really up to?  Do you remember Jesus knocking him off his high horse, and how St. Paul let himself be transformed – let himself be converted?  Do you remember St. Paul’s Great Adventure – how he literally changed the world forever by being an authentic disciple and living his life for the spread of the gospel and the salvation of souls?  Throwing caution to the wind and living his life courageously and heroically in the faith and love of Jesus…  Do you remember how both Peter and Paul earned the martyr’s crown by not holding anything back – even giving their lives for love of Jesus?  What comes to mind when you think of Saints Peter & Paul, the patrons of our parish?  What do you remember from their lives…and what is your response?

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There’s a spark in each one of us that tries its best to grow into a flame when we hear the Great Adventure stories of the saints.  There’s a part of each one of us that thinks, “That could be me! I want to live my life like that!  I don’t know how, but I want to!  I want to go ‘all in’ and trust Jesus so completely that I give it all to Him!  Oh Jesus – that could be me, couldn’t it?  Let’s do this!  I love you!  I trust you!  You’re calling me to be a hero like St. Peter and St. Paul – I don’t know what that looks like for me – but I want to find out.  That could me, Lord – and I’m here – I’m ready – Let’s Go!!”

That spark is inside each one of us.  When we think of the saints – when we consider Peter and Paul – there’s something in us that wonders…  What would my marriage and family be like if I dared to live my faith that way?  What would happen if I chased Jesus instead of chasing money and success? Could I actually lead someone to Jesus?  Could I actually be a saint? What if I went to seminary?  What if I joined the convent?  Could I be a missionary?  What would happen in our parish – what would happen in our town – what would happen in my workplace or in my school if I stopped just going along with the mindless crowd and began to be like Peter & Paul? 

Inside each of us, when we consider the lives and adventures of the saints, we begin to wonder for a second, “Could that be me?”

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And then it happens…something steals the dream from us.  That voice – that cloud – that most ancient of all serpents who lies, and sews doubt and fear in our hearts.  He goes by all kinds of names – he calls himself Reality: “There’s not enough time or money for me to live life that way…”  He dresses up as shame and doubt and regret: “I’m not holy enough, courageous enough… I’m a sinner and I can’t quit sinning… Maybe when I was younger, but not now… Maybe when I get older, but not now… I’m just little ole me, I can’t be a hero… I can’t be a saint… I can’t change the world… That’s for people like them – not for people like me…”  And as quick as the spark comes alive, it vanishes…and we go back to our “normal lives”…

//

Whether you admit it or not, that’s happening inside you right now.  Either that, or you’ve so let the spark be dampened that the flash of fire is so distant, so unbelievable, that you don’t even notice it anymore.  That’s what the enemy wants, you know.  He wants you so trapped in the hamster wheel of ‘living life’ that the Great Adventure seems unreal.  He wants you so drunk on the world that you can’t wake up to the call of adventure.  Make no mistake – that is the work of Evil Himself, Satan, the Enemy of your soul…  The battle is real…  Thank God for Peter & Paul.

//

You see – they might seem to be giants and heroes of the faith to us – but they were just people like you and me.  They doubted.  They got it wrong.  They made mistakes. The only difference between them and us is that one day…one day they didn’t let that slithering voice dampen the flame Jesus fanned alive inside them.  They were never the same after that – and neither was the world! Peter and Paul changed the world!  And we can too!  You can too!

That’s why our patrons are so important…because they’re examples to us that we can do what they did!  They doubted, and trusted anyway.  They made mistakes, and kept going.  They sinned – and sought forgiveness.  They wondered if it was possible to live life on a Great Adventure…and then they set out anyway and kept going through their doubts…and they changed the world!

//

Close your eyes and pray for a moment – listen to the voice inside of you.  Isn’t there a part of you that wonders if you can really be a saint – isn’t there a fire somewhere inside urging you to jump into this Great Adventure of faith?  Some part of you that wants to be a hero – wants to be part of something bigger that can change the world – some part of you that wants to jump off the cliff and follow Jesus wherever He leads?  Raise your hand – forget what others will think – if that spark in you is coming alive right now, raise your hand.  In your heart say, “Jesus – I believe – I believe you are real – I believe you love me – I believe you want to use me to change the world!”  Raise your hand if that’s happening in your heart right now…  Am I the only one?

Now…keep your hands in the air – switch arms if you need to and listen to these words.  If you haven’t put your hand up yet and want to, join us anytime.  Listen to these words and make sure your hand is in the air if you want to live a life that sounds like this – this is your moment of commitment – raise your hand to tell Jesus you want to live life the way Paul describes it:

I will compete well; I will finish the race; I will keep the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who long for his appearance. The Lord stands by me and gives me strength, so that through me the Gospel might be preached and everyone around me will hear it.  The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly Kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

This is a life like no other – this is the Great Adventure!  Raise your hand and say it with me:  Saints Peter & Paul, pray for us!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Teaching Mass 1 - Vestments

Prior to the Beginning of Mass

The priest’s vestments are placed in the front of the Church and the priest – unvested – waits nearby; as each vestment is mentioned, the priest dons it while the Commentator continues.  

The Commentator (from the Cantor Stand or other place that isn’t the Ambo begins):

It would be impossible to consider in one celebration every meaning-packed movement of the Mass.  So, over the next several months we’re going to occasionally celebrate teaching Masses together.  Masses that help us reflect on something you may have never known before – that the Mass is our ‘training ground’ for living the Christian life.  Basketball and football teams practice long hours, running drills over and over, preparing to compete and win.  Actors practice their lines and musicians practice their scales – all as a way to develop the skills needed to perform well.  Mass is where we “practice” living the Christian life.  Every movement, every word, every posture - literally everything about the Mass is designed to practice something important about living the Christian life.

Today we’re going to focus on the garments worn by the priest and ministers at Mass – but this isn’t merely trivia.  Every meaning we discuss applies to all of us, too.  The priest may be the only one to wear these garments, but each of them speaks of a deeply Christian reality that, in one way or another, applies to us as well.  Ask yourself, as we do this, “What does this have to say about who I am and how I am called to live the Great Adventure of the Christian life?”

//

We’re going to start at the very beginning – actually before the beginning.  Our journey to the altar begins before we enter the Church building.  Wherever we’re coming from – whatever we have been doing – we set our eyes toward this special encounter with Jesus.  But our calling is even ‘earlier’ than that – it is rooted in our baptism – the moment we became a member of God’s family.  

That’s why the first thing we do when entering the sacred space for Mass is bless ourselves with Holy Water – it is a tangible reminder of our baptism.  That’s why there are small fonts of holy water at the doors to the sanctuary.  This Great Adventure of the Christian life began at our baptism – and we remind ourselves of that every time we come into this sacred space to pray.  

It’s also why the first garment the priest puts on is the alb. The alb is literally the baptismal garment – the same garment we give to infants when we celebrate baptisms here; the same baptismal garment you were given at your baptism with the instruction to bring it unstained to Jesus at the end of time.  Priests, deacons, and even servers put on the alb before their service at the altar as a reminder that this service is only possible because of their baptism.  Every person that is baptized receives a white garment in their baptism – and every time we serve God in the liturgical action of the Church, we put on our baptismal garment first.

Over the alb – liturgical ministers also wear a cincture – this is the ancient version of a belt. In the ancient world, one might relax around the house without the cincture, but when it was time to “suit up” and “get busy” you tied the cincture around your waist to hold everything in place while you got to work.  The cincture is a sign to all of us that living the Christian life is about ‘suiting up’ and ‘getting busy’ – there are souls to be saved, including our own…

The cincture is also a sign of being on pilgrimage – moving through a foreign land toward home (where you might once again remove the cincture and relax).  To live the Christian life is to be constantly on pilgrimage; this world is not our home, we journey through a foreign land in this life – our home is in heaven with the Lord.  We’re travelers, strangers, on pilgrimage through this time and place.  We have to ‘tighten up belt’ and keep moving…

Finally, the cincture also represents chastity according to one’s station in life.  Serving God and others well requires that we manage our passions and appetites rather than letting them manage us, so they don’t get in the way of our love for God and our role in His mission.

The priest then puts on the stole.  It’s meaning goes all the way back to the garment Jesus used to wash His disciple’s feet – a reminder that all ordained ministry is a ministry of service following the model of Christ ‘who came to serve, not to be served’.  

The stole is a sign of office – and the great responsibility of service that comes with leadership.  The deacon’s stole is ‘tied’ at the side like Jesus tied the garment around his waist when washing the disciples feet on Holy Thursday.  This represents the active ministry of the diaconate to care for the poor and marginalized, while the priest’s stole is worn across both shoulders as a sign of being ‘yoked’ to the work of Christ – like an ox or a cow tied to the plow.  This also reminds the priest that he is ‘yoked’ to Jesus, who is the one who does all the heavy lifting in ministry.

Finally – the priest dons the chasuble – originally a travelling garment, the chasuble is like putting on a coat to head out for a journey. Eventually, in the Roman Empire, the chasuble became a sign that the wearer acted as an official representative of the Emperor.  The one who spoke while wearing the chasuble spoke with the voice and authority of the Emperor.  It makes sense, then, that the chasuble is only worn by priests and bishops who serve the people of God in persona Christi capitus – in the person of Christ the Head.  Any honor or respect paid to the priest in the liturgy is only because he makes present the ministry of Jesus, the High Priest Himself. Honor and glory belong only to Jesus Christ Himself.

The priest then enters the worship space and completes his preparation for Mass.  Each priest has a different way of doing this.  But, in some way, all priests ‘formulate their intentions’ for the sacrifice they’re about to offer.  This means that the priest crawls before the throne of heaven and makes clear to our Heavenly Father what he intends to do.  He does this because, knowing his weakness and human frailty all too well, it is likely his efforts will fall short of the desire of his heart to serve God and the faithful entrusted to his care.  The priest trusts in God’s mercy – and in the love and mercy of Christ the High Priest – to make his weak attempts acceptable.  

Each one of us should find some way to prepare ourselves to fulfill our role as the praying people of God gathered to assist in the Sacrifice of the Mass.  We don’t ‘watch’ the Mass like a movie or a play – Mass is not a spectator sport.  We – each of us in our own way – actively ‘assist at the sacrifice of the Mass’ by playing our part as attentively and devoutly as the priest and ministers.  

You can usually find Fr. Alan at one side of the Church just before Mass making his prayer of intention.  Today, he will let us listen in…

God our Father, it is my intention to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass according to the Rites and Rubrics of the Holy Catholic Church, in communion with Francis our Pope and John our Bishop, and all those who – holding to the truth – hand on the Catholic and Apostolic faith.  It is my intention to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for good of all the faithful gathered here, that they might continue their journey toward You.

Most of all, Father, I offer this sacrifice for the praise and glory of Your name, which is only possible through the great gift of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name I stand, and through whose love and mercy alone could one such as me be called to so great a ministry. Lord Jesus – you know my sins and my weaknesses – heal my woundedness and grant me virtue, that I may serve your holy people worthily and well all the days of my life.  


Coming to the Lost and Found

13 Sun OT Yr A 2017
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville


“Brothers and sisters…are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death – death to sin – and reborn into a newness of life?…So, you too must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.”  No Father, you might say, we’re not unaware – that’s why we’re here after all.  Good.  Good.  But…do our words match our actions?  Do our words match the stirrings of our hearts?  What does it mean to live a life that is dead to sin?  What does it mean to go about our days and our nights – all of them, living for God in Christ Jesus?

What do our bank statements have to say about how we’re doing on that score?  One of the most telling testaments of our priorities is how we spend our money – does your bank statement proclaim that you’re dead to sin and living for God?  What about our investments in time?  If we look at how we spend our time, do we seem to be people living primarily for God?  Are we chasing riches and security, those mirages of the world – or are we living a Great Adventure that is primarily about the spread of the Gospel and the salvation of souls, our own included?  

What about our lives – whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  Jesus seems to be saying if our lives are about worldly ambition and success then our lives are lost, but if our lives are centered around knowing, loving, and following Jesus, that is a life that is found.  

These are challenging sayings – if we’re listening, they’re challenging to all of us.  That’s why we come here, to the “lost and found” – the Mass, which is the “lost and found” of our Christian journey.  We come here to realize, sometimes, that we’re missing the boat, that we’re losing our lives…but we also come here to find our lives, to encounter Jesus who brings us back, seeks us out, loves us, gives us a place to belong, and sends us on our way…restored.

When our bank accounts and time get out of balance, and it seems like our days are spent living for the world, we come to Jesus in the sacraments – in Confession and the Eucharist – we come to find ourselves – our truest selves.  And like a good friend, Jesus welcomes, loves, forgives, and encourages – He patches us up, sends us on our way, and promises to help us do better.

//

Dory has it right.  If you don’t know who Dory is, ask the children and teens among us – they’ll tell you.  We get off track pretty easily – we get off track pretty often.  The key is to come back, come back here, come back home, come back to Jesus time and again…and “just keep swimming.”  Indeed.  Just keep swimming.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Jesus...Loves Our Secrets

12 Sun OT Yr A (2017)
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville, KY

So much time spent projecting an image that isn’t authentic; so much effort making sure people don’t find out.  We pretend we have more money than we do by how me spend it.  We hide marriage troubles from the neighbors.  We ignore our bodies telling us something is wrong until it’s too late.  Lord knows we don’t darken the door of the Confessional for fear someone might know our sins.  We hide anxiety or depression because – well – what would they think?  Shame – embarrassment – and fear control more of our lives than we’d like to admit, but we’re too ashamed, embarrassed, or afraid to admit it.

And yet, Jesus tells us that all of the secrets – what we work so hard to hide – Jesus tells us it will all come to light…but He says it like it’s a good thing – as if its good news!  That tells us something important about this Jesus who loves us.  When the world would point and laugh, whisper, scoff or scorn or take advantage, Jesus loves, forgives, strengthens, and encourages.  “Fear no one – do not be afraid – even when all the secrets are made known – if you love me, if you accept me, if you acknowledge me – then I will love, accept, and acknowledge you.  No matter what.”

That’s this Jesus who comes to us at Mass – who meets us in Confession – this Jesus who longs to know you and heal you, to forgive and strengthen and sanctify you.  Are you looking for Him – talking to Him – trusting and loving Him and letting Him love and acknowledge you?  Come, Lord Jesus.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Holy Trinity...and My Snoopy

Holy Trinity Yr A 2017
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville

Studying the Trinity in seminary was challenging – at least until I came across a 12th century monk named Richard of St. Victor.  His musings were based on a key Biblical revelation we all know by heart: GOD IS LOVE.  Not just that God loves, loves us, wants us to love Him – all of that is in there.  But the Bible says, “God is love.”  From that, ole Rich of St. Vick figured out that it makes sense that God is both one and three. Don’t tune me out just because we’re talking deep theology.  Because this is awesome stuff – and because I know you want to hear a story about little Fr. Alan and his “snoopy.”

When I was just a little boy, I had a snoopy who went everywhere with me.  EVERYWHERE.  When I woke up in the morning, Snoopy had been right there all night long.  Off to shower, snoopy was there.  Outside to make the mud pies and pick the dandelions and feed the birds, Snoopy came right along.  Somehow I learned how to go through life with snoopy tucked under one arm or another.  And somehow he found a way to go through life with me too, though after several years – as you can imagine – he lost a little bit of his whiteness, along with an eye, an ear, and nearly all of the stuffing in his left leg.  I never really knew how important Snoopy was to me until the first time they said it was time to get rid of him.  “Honey, don’t you think it’s time to retire Snoopy?  He’s so awfully dirty.”  I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it.  It doesn’t take a theology degree to figure out why: “NOOOO!!” I cried at the top of my lungs.  “I WUUUVVVSS HIM!!”

A little boy loves his snoopy.  Not bad for the beginnings of a theological principle.  Don’t laugh – the first basic insight that comes from saying that GOD IS LOVE is all right there: for there to be love, there must be a lover and a beloved.  Any context that speaks about love must include at least two persons: lover and beloved.  A husband loves his wife – a wife loves her husband – a mother loves her child – and a boy loves his snoopy (lover, beloved).  There’s no way of talking about love without both one who is loved and one who loves.  Where there is love there is lover and beloved.

There’s a difference between a boy’s love of his snoopy and saying that God is love – an important difference.  Little Fr. Alan had love, expressed love, felt love, even shared love – but we say that God is love.  If God is, Himself, love, then He must be – in Himself – both lover and beloved.  There’s no other way.  We worship the One True God – but if God is love, He cannot be merely or only One: at the very least he must be two: lover and beloved.

//

There’s another important aspect to love – true love is generous.  I think I was four or five when I got the mumps.  Don’t ask me how it happened – I’d had all of my shots, but somehow it happened anyway.  What’s even worse: I gave it to my mother.  There we were – sick as could be.  If Snoopy had been a living creature, he’d have had them too.  Didn’t matter, though.  He was right there with me, every moment.  I remember going to bed, cuddling Snoopy close, and even in my unsophisticated child’s mind realizing that my love for Snoopy was such a comfort to me that I shouldn’t keep it all to myself, especially with mom in the other room at least as sick as I was, if not worse.  

So I crept into her bedroom and gently laid Snoopy on the pillow beside her head as she slept.  Sharing Snoopy with her, sharing my love of Snoopy with her, made the love more perfect somehow; more right.  And we know that to be true, don’t we?  When we see true love – wherever we see true love – we see it being shared.  Spouses in love share it with their children.  Friends share it with those around them. The love a little boy has for his snoopy is so strong that he has to share it.  True love is generous, always seeking another – a third – to share the love with.  A love that is kept, hoarded, guarded only between lover and beloved is missing something – it’s not real love.  

So…if God is LOVE…there must be lover and belovedand someone with whom these two can share their love.  The love between them is somehow less perfect if they only share it with one another, there must be a third.  To say God is love in and of Himself is to say the One God must be in Himself lover and beloved and someone with whom both freely share the love between them.

That’s the essence of Almighty God, isn’t it?  Love.  God is love – and for that to be true, God must be – in and of Himself – lover, beloved, and someone with whom love is shared.  It all seems clear, thanks to good ole Richard of St. Victor, with some help from little Fr. Alan and his Snoopy…  God is love – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Awesome…but…so what…?

//

Why does it all matter?  Well, what did we hear in the Gospel just now: “For God so loved the world that He gave us His Son…”  God is love, and even in His perfect Oneness which requires a perfect Threeness, that Love must be shared.  And God loves us enough to share Himself so you and I can love and be loved by Him and like Him.  But – do we let ourselves be loved in so complete a way?  Are we playing our part to accept that love of Jesus?  Are we doing our part to love God and others that way in return?  

You and I were made for love.  We were made by love, for love, to be loved and to love in return.  How about giving that a try this week…?

x

Sunday, June 4, 2017

It Could Happen to Us...

Pentecost - Yr A - 2017
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville, KY

Wouldn’t it be awesome if what happened that first Pentecost happened to us here in our parish?  Wouldn’t it be amazing if – while we were here celebrating Mass – the Holy Spirit came down upon us and set our hearts and souls on fire – so on fire that we began to preach the Gospel to everyone around us in a way they could understand? And on Brass Band weekend too.  We’d leave here so filled with the Holy Spirit that folks in town would whisper behind us as we headed home: “They’re preaching the mighty acts of God!

Imagine what that would be like! Couples seeking out our parish – even if they weren’t Catholic – because they see something they want to nurture happy, healthy, loving families. Centre College students make the 3 block trek down Main Street in droves – twice or three times a week because the life of faith that we live is so enticing they can’t resist the allure of the Great Adventure we’re living.  Imagine our young people eager to see what happens on the other side of Confirmation – running to find ways to participate even more fully in the life of faith (rather celebrating their ‘graduation’ from CCD.)  Imagine that the homeless turn toward us because we provide for their humanity – the drug addicted turn toward our common life of faith because they see we have the answers and healing living life centered around Jesus. 

Imagine being so drawn into the life of faith that this community – this people – this place becomes the center of our days.  That we come here often to pray, to fellowship, to learn, to serve…  Imagine…  Imagine what that would be like.

//

I think it’s possible.  In fact – I know it’s possible.  I’ve seen it happen.  I’ve seen communities of faith like our own – that are doing a good job – I’ve seen them ‘catch fire’ with the Holy Spirit and become humming centers of transformation, change, and faith for their entire town.  I’ve seen them transform the steady pace of maintenance into the exciting, energized marathon of mission.  And it always starts with the Holy Spirit.  Come Holy Spirit…

//

It happened for the apostles at Pentecost – that powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit that takes what already is and transforms it into even better.  It happened for them, and it can happen for us, too.  But how, Father – HOW?  It’s simple, really.  If we want what they had, we have to do what they did.

If we want what they had, we have to do what they did.  And what did they do?  They expected the coming of the Holy Spirit, they looked for Him wherever they were, and they remained together in one place. 

//

Are we doing that…?  Are we expecting the coming of the Holy Spirit? That means finding a way to invite the Holy Spirit into our lives – and not just where we feel safe enough to invite Him – but to invite Him into wherever and whatever He pleases, whenever He pleases.  What if we started our days by praying a simple prayer:  Come Holy Spirit – come into my life wherever and however you want – and set me on fire!  What if we prayed that with our family?  What if we prayed that before every Mass we attend?

//

And then – what if we actually began to look for the coming of the Spirit. What if we began to look for the Holy Spirit the way we look for tornadoes in the spring?  What if we began to sit up straight and listen to the readings and the homily looking for the Holy Spirit – expecting the Spirit to show up and set us on fire.  What if we walked around our homes or went about our jobs looking for the Holy Spirit?

And what if we worked hard – made it our highest priority – to really be, as a community of faith, together in one place.  The second chapter of Acts begins this way: ‘When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.’ 

Together in one place means working hard to be of similar heart and mind.  Together in one place means that we have similar objectives, similar priorities, and similar ideas about how were moving forward into the future. Together in one place means that our differences of opinion fade and become secondary to the effort we invest in moving forward together… togetherTogether in one place means we’re all us – each of us – doing our part, doing something more than sitting here once a week – doing our part to share the ministry of this parish for the spread of the Gospel and the salvation of souls. 

That first Pentecost, the apostles were so together in one place that even when they went out to the corners of the world, they somehow remained together.  Imagine what might happen in the life of our parish if our physical gatherings began to be mirrored by a more spiritual reality of truly being together…  Can you begin to pray and dream about how to make that happen?  Can you admit what part you need to play in making that happen in our parish?

//

Brothers and sisters – I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to transform the life of faith into something that is alive, all-consuming, more rewarding than we can imagine, and fruitful beyond our wildest dreams.  I believe the Holy Spirit is capable of consuming whatever lingers in us that holds us back.  I believe the Holy Spirit can ignite in us the spark of divine energy that will transform this thing we call ‘living the Christian life’ into a Great Adventure that changes the world.  And I believe you and I can catch that spark – I believe we can be set on fire with the Holy Spirit just like the apostles that first Pentecost.  I believe if we do what they did, we’ll find those tongues of fire dancing on our heads and experience this life like never before. 

If we do what they did, we’ll get what they got.  So let’s begin to expect the coming of the Holy Spirit, let’s look for the Holy Spirit wherever we go, and let’s work to be – heart and mind, truly – together in one place.  

Come Holy Spirit!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

They Doubted Too!!

Easter - Ascension - Yr A - 2017
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville

I don’t know about you, but sometimes it’s all just too much.  Am I right?  The Son of God left heaven and became a man?  Yeah right.  There’s life after death – and committing a sin can prevent me from getting there?  You mean if I tell a lie – if I have sex outside of marriage – if I steal, or talk badly about my neighbor – if I don’t conform myself to some outdated moral code – then I’ll go to some place called hell that is eternal torment?  Yeah right.  You mean the greatest of all the commandments is to love God and love other people, and love means sacrificing to do what’s best for them – all of them?  You mean if I don’t live my life in this kind of sacrifice I’ll miss the boat and be lost for all eternity?  Yeah right.  

You mean this Jesus we talk about all the time, who is supposedly the Son of God, also supposedly knew that I would have a hard time with all of this, and that’s why he lived a human life, and died a cruel human death – cut open, bled out, and was left hanging to dry like some butchered meat?  Yeah right – I mean, if He was the Son of God, would He really do that?  Do that for me – little ole me?  Yeah right.  Oh sure – sure – He didn’t stay dead.  Uh huh.  Right.  He “rose from the dead” and walked around some more, did he?  Come on Father – I know that’s the story you’re supposed to tell – that’s your job – but do you really expect anyone to believe that?

Ok – well – maybe I’ll believe all that.  But you’ve got to cut me some slack, OK?  Stop with all the rest will you?  I mean…you expect me to believe that this Jesus really somehow sent His supernatural spirit to those first apostles – that uneducated, in-fighting, common, fickle bunch who followed Him around aimlessly, watched Him die, denied ever knowing Him?  You expect me to believe that there’s something about them that gives them to power to forgive sins?  Yeah right, Father.  Nice story – but you’ve gotta be kidding me, right?  I mean – you expect me to believe these little pieces of cracker and cheap wine actually become His eternal living and divine presence among us – you’re about as crazy as they come, aren’t you?  You go ahead, Father, and bow and fall down on one knee in front of the gold box and the altar – I’ll do it, too, because it’s a nice idea.  But you don’t really expect me to believe that the Great King of All Creation is actually just sitting there in that tabernacle just so He can hang out with us whenever we show up here, do you?  Please, Father, you insult my intelligence!

I like all the stories – I like the idea of taking care of other people – I like this notion that I don’t really stop being when I die – and I even like all these quaint little notions of ritual and tradition – but you don’t really expect me to believe it’s true, do you?  I doubt it, Father – you’re a nice enough guy, but I doubt it.  It’s all just too much…

//

It is too much to believe sometimes, isn’t it friends?  It’s so far beyond making sense sometimes that we all have doubts.  Doubts aren’t bad – it’s what we do with our doubts that makes all the difference.

I discovered something in this Gospel reading: they doubted too!  The ones who had seen Him with their own eyes, seen the miracles He’d performed, seen Him dead as a doornail and three days later walking and talking and eating and living again among them!  They doubted!!  They recognized Him in the breaking of the bread, and they doubted!  They went ahead of Him to that mountain in Galilee as Jesus had ordered them to do – they followed His commands and they worshipped Him when they got there!  And – know what else they did?  When they saw Him, they worshipped Him, but they doubted.  That’s right – they doubted.  They doubted, too!  The Apostles – our forefathers in faith – they doubted!

They doubted – and what did Jesus do?  Condemn them?  Send them away?  Go looking for others who didn’t doubt?  What did Jesus do?  He sent them anyway!  He sent them to spread the Good News!  He sent them to preach all that they’d heard and seen – He sent them to share with others!  Even though they doubted, He sent them to save the world!!

//

You doubt sometimes, friends – and so do I.  Doubting is a part of living the life of faith – doubting is part of trusting in things unseen, of cultivating a true and authentic and lived faith.  We don’t have to be afraid of our doubts.  What we have to do is live past our doubts!  We have to live beyond our doubts – living in faith – living a great adventure of spreading the Gospel because we know it to be true even when we doubt.  YOU are called – YOU are chosen – YOU are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people set apart for God’s own possession – YOU are charged with living differently from the world in order to save the world around you in spite of your doubts.  Are you doing that?  How are you doing that?


"When they saw him, they worshipped, but they doubted." And what did Jesus do with these worshippers who doubted? He sent them to spread the Gospel. Doubts aren't excuses - they're part of living the life of faith. You've been sent, even with your doubts. Will you go?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Right There In Front of Us...All Along...

Easter 5th Sunday Yr A 2017
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville

There I stood, staring at the refrigerator.  I had literally looked everywhere – everywhere – and couldn’t find my phone.  But, you know, these days a phone is so much more than a phone.  Calendar.  Link to the outside world.  Address book.  Shopping list.  Photo album.  In the four years since beginning my priestly ministry, I probably haven’t been more than 25 feet away from my phone for more than a half hour.  Standing there, desperate, looking over every inch of the refrigerator, I hadn’t seen my phone for two hours.  Two hours!  What if Mom had called.  What if someone was in the hospital and needed me?  What urgent emails from the Bishop was I missing?  What if one of the seminarians was in trouble?  What if I was missing a meeting?  I had to find it!

It happens more often than I’d like to admit.  Keys.  Pens.  The phone.  Medicine.  You know what I’m talking about – it happens to you sometimes too, doesn’t it?  That thing you always have nearby – that familiar thing that is important that all of a sudden seems missing.  And what usually happens?

No – the phone wasn’t in the fridge.  It wasn’t under the couch, or in the bathroom cabinet.  It wasn’t in the car, in my briefcase, or even in the sacristy.  You know where it was when I found it, don’t you – because it happens to you sometimes, too.  Yep – you’re right.  It was right there on the kitchen counter the whole time.  Right there in one of the places it always is – right where I’d walked past a hundred times in the two hours I’d been searching for it.  The thing I was most desperately searching for was right there in front of my eyes, and I was completely overlooking it – not recognizing it – probably so familiar with it that it just blended into the background and I couldn’t see it.

//

“Master – we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?  Master, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”  Poor Philip.  Jesus was right there – He’d been as clear as He knew how to be all along.  What Philip and the disciples were most desperately searching for was right there in front of their eyes, and they were completely overlooking it – not recognizing it – probably so familiar with it that it just blended into the background and they couldn’t see it.  “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” I’m right here, Jesus says, and I’ve been right here all along.  You don’t have to search any farther.  You don’t have to stand there staring at the fridge or look under the couch – you don’t have to find the next right Bible Study or read the next Matthew Kelly book – you don’t have to study theology or sit puzzling it out – I’m right here, Jesus says, and I’ve been right here all along…just open your eyes and your heart and see.

//

All around the Church today folks are trying to figure out the key – what will make it all work again – what will keep our children in the community of faith when they grow up – what will keep the largest growing religious group in America from being ‘former Catholics’?  On a personal level we find ourselves searching, too: why don’t I feel close to God – where can I find the kind of living faith I hear other people talking about – what am I missing that leaves my faith feeling like an empty Sunday ritual rather than the cornerstone of a life lived on a Great Adventure?  We sometimes seem to be wandering around scratching our heads searching desperately, frantically, for something…when all the while its right there in front of us – He’s right there in front of us – right here in the tabernacle waiting for us – right here on this altar come to be with us, to love us, to transform us.  

He’s right here – He’s been right here all along – we just have to turn and recognize Him.  We just need to stop looking and come find Him here.  We just need to let all the distracting questions go and get back to the basics: Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  He’s right here in front of us…and He’s all we need.