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.

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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…?

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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.

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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…

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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. 

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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?

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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?

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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!