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– if I have sex outside of marriage – if I steal, or talk badly about my neighbor – if I don’t conform myself to some outdated moral code – then I’ll go to some place called hell that is eternal torment?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…

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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!!

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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.

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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.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Recognizing the Shepherd's Voice

Easter 4th Sunday - 2017 Yr A
Ss. Peter & Paul - Danville, KY

A few years ago I spent the summer working as a chaplain at St. Joseph hospital in Lexington.  I was often the only on-call chaplain for the whole system, which included the Women & Children’s Center at St. Joseph East out on Richmond Road.  Let me tell you:  Newborns are adorable, and new moms and dads are precious to behold.  It is difficult to be welcomed into the moment of new life without feeling uplifted.

I often watched in amazement at how these newborns recognized their fathers.  It was really no surprise to me that there was a natural attachment and response to the mother – after all, the infants had spent every moment since their conception with mom.  But I was amazed at their ability to recognize their fathers.  What was most interesting to me was what they most often seemed to recognize.  Dad’s touch was more scary than anything else – little baby David had never met dad’s touch before, it would take him time to learn that dad’s touch was safe, protective, tender, and warm.  But Dad’s voice was very often instantly recognized and tremendously calming.  Even from across the room.
  
I’ll never forget meeting a very grumpy little infant.  Newborns are able to produce a volume and pitch of sound completely disproportionate to their size.  This little guy could have provided the early warning system for all of Boyle County.  I’d been there for three or four minutes, listening to him scream and wail while the doctors were taking care of his momma, when the most amazing thing happened:  dad walked into the room and – from clear across the room – quietly said, ‘What’s the matter little guy?’  It was magic – it was amazing – the silence and calm that descended over the room was as comforting and peaceful as warm blankets on a cold night.  He hadn’t come within 15 feet of his little one – but the sound of his voice calmed and soothed him.  This newborn – just hours old – instantly recognized his dad’s voice – and it calmed him…made everything all right.

I marveled to these new parents about what had just taken place.  ‘Isn’t it amazing that your son recognized his father’s voice,’ I asked.  The new mother smiled with such love up to her husband as she gently took his hand and said, ‘Not really all that amazing, actually.  He’s been talking to him for months now – it just makes sense that he knows his voice.

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That’s the message of Easter – that’s what Jesus says in today’s Gospel.  Even before we were knit together in our mother’s womb, Jesus was talking to us, calling our name, reaching out to us.  And, though perhaps not at first – and certainly not every time and in every way – but eventually, we begin to recognize His voice.  Why?  Because He knows us.  Don’t you see – the message of Easter is that the One through whom all things were created, like a shepherd, continually calls to us.  Even when we run from Him, even when we stray from Him, He calls.  He calls us because He knows us – and eventually hearing His voice becomes recognizing His voice – and with time, and grace, and relationship and the sacraments, recognizing His voice becomes following His voice.

“…the sheep hear His voice, as the Shepherd calls His own sheep by name and leads them out…He walks ahead of them, and they follow Him, because they recognize His voice…”

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Brothers and sisters, we are an Easter people.  We are far from perfect – we are not always the best sheep – we don’t always follow, we aren’t always listening.  But our story is an Easter story; we have an Easter destiny.  Even when we are imperfect, frail, afraid, stubborn, or downright obstinate, the Good Shepherd calls our name, and we hear His voice.  He calls us today – calls us to gather at this altar – calls us to Himself.

Can you hear Him?  Do you recognize His voice?