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Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Thursday) 2018

March 30, 2018

THE NECESSITY OF CONVERSION

Thomas Merton wrote, “The secret of my identity is hidden in the love and mercy of God. To know this truth, is to pray for our own discovery.”

Tonight, we recognize that love and mercy – that identity made to us through the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and the connected imperative to serve others – to offer ourselves as “bread for the world.”  Fundamentally, we celebrate the necessity of conversion.  We recognize that Christianity is a transformational religion – that we cannot be Christian and stay as we are.  This is at the heart of the Eucharistic and what we participate in every time we celebrate the Mass.  To come here is to lay down the part of ourselves that is in need of change so that we may live as Christ lived.

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5th Sunday of Lent

March 19, 2018

THERE IS A KIND OF DEATH IN HOSPITALITY

In our first reading today, we hear that God is doing something new:  a new covenant is being written, different than what we previously known, and established in the hearts of everyone.  It will no longer be the responsibility of a select few to teach or defend the law, for everyone will know God.

As I reflect upon these words, I am reminded of Rabbi Abraham Heschel’s own thoughts about our relationship with God.  He said, that we die when we cease to be surprised.

God is a God of surprises.  As soon as we think we know what to expect, or have all the answers, over and over again, God breaks through and shows us something new.

Unless a grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies, it remains but a grain.  But if it dies, it produces much fruit.  As we continue to think about our own Lenten theme of letting go, the question is what do each of us need to let go of in order to produce better fruit?  The question is also for this worshipping community:  what do we need to let go of in order to produce better fruit?

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Parish Mission 2018 (Part Three)

March 15, 2018

GENEROUS DIALOGUE (Part Three)

(This Mission was presented at St. Albert the Great Newman Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico)

Many years ago, I was speaking to a student about confession.  He just did not see why it was necessary to confess his sins to a priest, when his sins were really just between him and God.  After we spoke about how our sins are always communal and that the priest represents the community, he paused and said, “but I don’t feel community when I go to church.”  I just paused and acknowledged how very true that feels.

For all of our talk about the church as a community, most of us walk in, sit in our pew, and have almost no interaction with the people around us.  Earlier I mentioned that in his book, Community, David Block distinguishes between Citizens and Consumers.  Citizens are those who are willing to be held accountable for and committed to the well-being of the whole.   One who produces the future, not wait, beg or dream for it.  Consumers are the antithesis of a Citizen.  They give power away.

I dare say that, for many people, church is where we exercise more consumerism than citizenship.  However, this is also a good reason for this:  because it is hard to belong without the opportunity for creativity and generativity.

Book References:

  • Block, Peter.  Community:  The Structure of Belonging.    San Francisco:  Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.  2008, p. 63.
  • Carrón, Julián.  Disarming Beauty:  Essays on Faith, Truth and Freedom.  University of Notre Dame Press, 2017.
  • D’Antonio, William V., et al.  American Catholics Today: New Realities of Their Faith and Their Church.  Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2007.
  • Ryan, C.P., Robin.  Young Adults and the Catholic Church.   Presented at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Illinois.  September 17, 2010.
  • Pope Francis.  Amoris Laetitia, 37.
  • Heschel, Abraham.  God in Search of Man:  A Philosophy of Judaism.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Reprint edition (June 1, 1976)
  • Tippett, Krista.  On Being:  The Opposite of Good is Indifference. Interview with Arnold Eisen.  September 21, 2017.  https://onbeing.org/programs/arnold-eisen-the-opposite-of-good-is-indifference-sep2017/
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Parish Mission 2018 (Part Two)

March 14, 2018

GENEROUS DIALOGUE (Part Two)

(This Mission was presented at St. Albert the Great Newman Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico)

The best image of God, for me, is that of a parent who carefully watches over you ensuring that you have what you need to find your own way, and then eventually releases you into your own autonomy.    Sadly, I don’t think this is the notion of God that is passed down, even in our churches.  Most of the time, I find people hear what that student heard.  Is it any wonder why people no longer feel the connection to God or religion as they once did?  In our hyper-connected world, people are not interesting in investing in that which divides us.  In a world with so much uncertainty, they are looking for that which we all have in common and which grounds us.  This is God, but it is often not the God of people’s conversations.  Thus, it should not be surprising if the world rejects this God, because as Robert Wright has suggested, we have evolved to know better.

Years ago, I used to be a regular lecturer in a comparative religions class.  While it was impressive to see these students analyse that study the various tenants of the world’s major religions, I frequently reminded them that religion cannot be understood through the mind, but through the mind and the heart.  For any religion to make sense in one’s life, it must be experienced.  If it is a narrative of faith, religion is more poetry than prose.  It is like saying you have experienced a country our culture by reading about it.  Until you visit and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells; until you speak with the people that call it home; it makes very little sense.

Book References:

  • Tippet, Krista.  Becoming Wise:  An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living.   Penguin Press, 2016.
  • Wright, Robert.   The Evolution of God.  Back Bay Books, May 2010.
  • Hines, Mary.  “Dr. Terry Eagleton”  Tapestry.  Interview.  Toronto:  CBC,  November 9, 2009.
  • Hines, Mary.  “Fear”  Tapestry.  Interview with Rabbi Harold Kushner.  Toronto:  CBC, January 10, 2010.
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Parish Mission 2018

March 13, 2018

GENEROUS DIALOGUE (Part One)

(This Mission was presented at St. Albert the Great Newman Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico)

In their book Being Generous, business ethicists John Dalla Costa and Lucinda Vardey write, “Generosity is not only about giving but about generating.  It is a creative act rather than a handout, an attitude or ethos rather than an exchange between someone who has too much and someone who has too little.  It is the expansive quality energizing hope and happiness.  It generates change, opportunity, and transformations.

The misunderstanding is that it is often used as a synonym for charity.  Charity is being moved to give.  Generosity is being moved to change.  Charity is mostly a reaction or responsibility based on sympathy, while generosity is also an anticipation or imagination sparked by empathy.  There are overlaps, but in general terms, people are charitable with what is of surplus to them and generous with what is important to them. Generosity is a type of wisdom, a mix of knowledge, experience and love.

Book References:

  • John Dalla Costa & Lucinda Vardey. Being Generous.   Knopf Canada 2007.
  • Block, Peter.  Community:  The Structure of Belonging.    San Francisco:  Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.  2008.
  • Lyons, Gabe.  The Next Christians:  Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World.   Multonmah Books:  2010.
  • Brooks, David.  The Road to Character.  New York:  Random House Publishing, 2015. 
  • Kasper, Walter.  Mercy.  Kardinal Walter Kasper Instituts für Theologie, Ökumene and Spiritualiät., 2013.  Trans. Paulist Press, 2014. 
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4th Sunday of Lent

March 11, 2018

HOPE FOR THE JOURNEY

It is tempting, in such times, to give way to doubt in the darkness; but doing so would be to forget who we are.  We are people of light, we are daughters and sons of God; we are created out of love for love.  And love is not so easily shaken.  Our belief is not so easily dispelled.

I have long felt that belief is stronger than knowledge, which may sound a little strange to a university community.  But I am convinced it is true because knowledge, while important, is static, whereas belief is dynamic.  Knowledge is necessary because it offers us a foundation and tells us what might be possible.  But belief helps us to see beyond the impossible, because belief is always woven with a thread of hope.

Belief is what allows us to see through the darkness and it is what lightens our load.  As Pope Francis writes in Lumen Fidei, “Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey.”

But all the good that our faith contains, it is also disruptive.  And if you are the one in control, such a faith can be very scary.  This is, after all, why Jesus was killed, because he disrupted the structures of power that are built on control and security.

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3rd Sunday in Lent

March 5, 2018

THE GREAT LESSONS OF JESUS

The third Sunday of Lent begins the Scrutinies for those who are preparing for Baptism at the Easter Vigil.  One homily focuses on the Samaritan Women at the well; the other on the essential teachings of Jesus as an evolution of the 10 commandments.

Every one of John’s Gospel accounts is rich and layered.  The story of the Samaritan woman at the well is no different.  There are so many symbols meant to convey that Jesus is clearly not just the Son of God, but also the continuation of the Abrahamic line.  The reference to Jacob, the setting of the well, the mountain and the thirst itself – all convey to the reader the identity of Jesus.

Undoubtedly, the central metaphor in John’s Gospel is water.  Even Jesus needs it to survive.  A little water is wonderful, but a lot of water is one of the most destructive forces on earth. As essential as it is, it can also be quite terrifying.  Water in us – gives life.  Us in water, can quickly take life.  So you see it is all about how you approach it.  The same is true with our sins.  The great lesson of the Samaritan woman for us today is that our sins are not obstacles for God.  They are obstacles for us – if we let them.

In the second Homily, the students at the University consider the Beatitudes as the evolution of the 10 commandments as we continue our theme of letting go of misconceptions and out-dated ideas.