Monday, March 27, 2017

Homily Fourth Sunday of Lent Cycle A March 26, 2017

          Seen any good movies lately?   Our readings today are about sight.  About seeing.  They raise the question, “What do you see?”  This is an important question because what you see determines what you understand, and judge, and so what you do.
          Not everyone sees the same thing.  We heard in the first reading: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” 
          To be able to see only the appearance – only the outward manifestation of something, only the physical appearance of something or someone, is to have a kind of blindness.  It is to grope around in the dark – seeing only the surface of things and not penetrating into the reasons for why things are the way they are, and so to fail to truly understand.  It is to lack wisdom, or in other words, to be foolish.
          Physical sight is wonderful, but it gives us only the plain physical appearance of things.   To go deeper, to penetrate and understand the whys, the meanings, the importance of others, we need a different kind of sight, a spiritual insight.  This Jesus gives us.
          In the Gospel He says: “I am the Light of the world.”  Jesus does not mean He is physical light, like what we get from the sun or from a light-bulb.  Rather Jesus is the source of spiritual light – letting us see more deeply into the reality of things, into our own life experience, and so to understand more fully the nature of ourselves and others, their purpose and worth.  He gives us wisdom.
          In today’s world there are people who see only science.  Science is a wonderful adventure, revealing marvelous things about creation.   But no matter how wonderful and marvelous it is, true science never even attempts to answer why things are the way they are, nor the reason and purpose of all this wonderful creation.  Like physical sight science can only answer questions in its own realm, and can never penetrate to explain the meaning and true purpose of something, and so reveal the things true value and worth.
          Science describes and reveals some truly awe-inspiring phenomena.  But science can never explain why these phemonema elicit awe,
or what the true purpose and meaning of the awe is.  Likewise there are many parts of creation that are hauntingly beautiful.  Big sky Texas sunsets for example.  But science cannot explain why they are beautiful, nor the reason and purpose of such beauty, nor why beauty haunts us so. 
          For those kind of questions we need to see more deeply into realities, and that sight comes from Christ.  
          Let me give you an example:  an unplanned pregnancy, with one set of eyes, can only be seen as at best a bother, and perhaps also an intolerable burden, and a threat to future dreams, and even to the advancement of children already born.  But with a deeper insight, life – even when it is a burden – is always seen as a blessing, something wonderful, always a gift.  Two people look at the same situation and see two radically divergent things.  Why?  Because one sees only the surface, the other sees deeply into the nature of the situation.
          Or again:  someone looks at undocumented workers and sees illegal aliens, law breakers, an economic threat who are taking jobs of citizens, a cause of crime and social unrest.  Someone else seeing the same situation with different eyes sees people struggling to make a better future for their family, sees people with the gumption to risk leaving all they know and find familiar to try for a better life in a new situation, sees persons who have basic human rights and who are loved by God as God’s children.  Two people look at the same situation and see two radically divergent things.  Why?  Because one sees only the surface, the other sees deeply into the nature of the situation.
          Jesus is the one who heals our blindness and helps us to see beyond the surface, to penetrate deeply into the reality of things.  Then we can see the beauty of creation and know it speaks to us of the beauty of the Creator.  We can not only feel the awe but see the source of the awe which beckons us to Itself.  We can see the dignity, beauty and worth of our own lives, and of all those around us.  In Christ we begin to truly see.
          Only Jesus can truly, deeply, heal us of blindness.  

          What do you see?  

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, March 19, 2017

I hope you all had a relaxing and enjoyable Spring Break!!!
Hopefully you will notice that our project to renovate the exterior of our church and rectory buildings has entered a new phase. It is kind of hard to ignore.

Traffic flow and entrance/exit from the church is affected. This will go on till the middle of next February. YIPES! So just settle down and get used to the dust, the disruption, the noise. Your patience and cooperation are very much appreciated.

But when we are done things will be MUCH BETTER. First and most importantly of all, we will have a safe church. You will not have to worry about a stone falling off the wall and crashing on to you. That alone makes this whole project, and its cost, and its disruption, worthwhile.

But that is not all! In addition, we will get BATHROOMS! Real handicapped accessible bathrooms for both women and men, just like in a grown-up church! We will have MORE bathrooms and BETTER bathrooms. It will be WONDERFUL!!!

But that is not all! We will have a refreshed and renewed nursery in the front of the rectory, and NEW usable space for meetings, classes, Children’s Liturgy of the Word, and many other activities. And believe me, we need more meeting space, especially on Sunday during Faith Formation (formerly “religious ed”).

But that is not all! The appearance of our church will be vastly improved. Instead of being mistaken for abandoned buildings (
as has happened), we will be noticed as one of the most attractive and attention grabbing houses of worship on the Drag! Instead of at every wedding and funeral people tell us “I have driven up and down Guadalupe for a dozen years and never knew there was a church here,” now people will tell new comers to Austin that UT is near where St. Austin is, because we will be so well known.
Yes, we have much to look forward to. But in the meantime, we must all practice some patience. There will be confusion, dust, noise, parking difficulties, but we can handle it. Indeed, we can thrive! 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, Mary 12, 2017

As you may know, there has been a wave of bomb threats (well over 100) in the last couple of months against Jewish community centers and schools in our country. There have also been continuing acts of vandalism and threats against mosques and Muslim centers as well.

We have neighbors who are justifiably frightened, upset, and scared. It is a terrible situation. We, as people of faith, as well as good neighbors, are concerned for our neighbors who feel threatened, specifically the Hillel Center across the street from our gym, the Nueces Street Mosque two blocks from us, and the Chabad Student Center on 21st Street.

We not only want to pray for them and their safety, but to reassure them of our prayerful support. So we are doing a couple of things to put that concern into action. First, I have given to the leaders of the Hillel Center a list of emergency contact numbers here at St. Austin so that, God forbid, in the case of a bomb threat and they have to evacuate the building (as has happened around the country) they can contact us and we will make our facilities available to them for the emergency sheltering of people, especially if it is raining or at night. We are ready to assist them.

Secondly, to let them know of our prayerful concern, we have presented each of the three communities listed above with one of the candles that were blessed at the end of each Mass last weekend. We will have one of the candles here, which we will light, as a reminder to us that we are committed to pray for these neighboring communities of faith, especially for their safety. We hope that they will light the candle they receive as a reminder that we are praying for them and that they will pray for us.

I urge you to pray for the safety of all our neighbors, and for our country. Acts of hatred and violence must not be tolerated.

The following is from the blessing of candles at the end of Mass last weekend:
“God of mercy, hear our prayers and the prayers of all people of goodwill. Unite us all in your love. Protect all people of faith from persecution and physical harm. Bless us and + all who are united in prayer before you, O God.

Through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.”