Monday, November 30, 2020

FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT Cycle B November 29, 2020

 FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT     Cycle B         November 29, 2020

           As we begin this new liturgical year, we have a passage from the beginning of St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.  He says something rather interesting.    He proclaims:  “I give thanks to my God always      on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus,   that in Him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, …, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift…”


          Hmm.  I don’t know about you, but I feel like I am lacking plenty in spiritual gifts:  in wisdom to know what to say.  In patience with my brother Paulists.  In hope and endurance in this never-ending pandemic and all the difficulty and hardship and heartache it causes.  In peace, as I get irritated and impatient with our church and bishops, our country, our situation in Covid-19.  I am lacking PLENTY of spiritual gifts.   How about you? 

          So, is St. Paul totally off-base?  Does he not know what he is talking about?   Well, we tend to hear this differently than what St. Paul intended.  There is a failure in translation.  You see, when Paul is writing to the Corinthian Christian community, he is writing to them as a community, a group.  Not as individuals.  When St. Paul says, “you are not lacking in any spiritual gift...” he is talking to the Corinthians as a community, or in Paul’s favorite image, as one body with many parts. 

          Therefore, when you hear this passage, don’t think about it addressed to you individually, but hear it addressed to all of us together as one body.  It should be translated, “so that y’all, all of you together, are not lacking in any spiritual gift…”

    We, St Austin parish, or the Diocese of Austin, as a Christian community, are not lacking in any spiritual gift!   We have among us all the gifts and talents we need as a community to follow the Lord fully and faithfully, even in the midst of economic and political turmoil, in the midst of this pandemic, in the midst of confusion about going to church or staying home, in the pain of loneliness and isolation, in the face of confusion, doubt, and uncertainty.

          St. Paul assures us: “He will keep you firm to the end.”   We, as a Christian Community, as the Body of Christ, have the staying power to endure all the confusion, the misunderstanding, the opposition, the indifference and laziness, the scorn and opprobrium of the world, even our own faint-heartedness, and not only endure till the end, but to conquer overwhelmingly in Christ. 

          But we do NOT do this alone, by ourself.  We need to rely on each other.  We must each play our part.  Maybe that is volunteering for a ministry in the parish.  Maybe that is joining faithfully in worship virtually while the pandemic rages.  Maybe that is striving to be more patient and more Christian with your family members, your neighbors, your fellow parishioners and others.  Maybe it is to stretch to help with more of the special collections.  Maybe it is to dedicate yourself more fully to prayer.  Maybe it is to work to truly be grateful for what you have, not disappointed and resentful over what you lack. 

          Together, as the Body of Christ, we can rely upon the power of Christ, which is the power that not only created all that is, the entire universe, but also the power that decisively and completely beat death.  You cannot get any more powerful than that.

          So take heart.  Our Christian family has been “enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, …, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift…”    And that is Good News indeed!   

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Homily Feast of Christ the King November 22, 2020

 Homily   Feast of Christ the King  November 22, 2020

          Did the like the Gospel we just heard?   You know, sometimes the Gospel is obscure, difficult to figure out, or to apply to our daily life.  Sometimes we don’t understand the customs or the figures of speech from the times and society of Jesus.  We read the Gospel and end up scratching our heads.

          But not our Gospel today.  It is clear and definite.  Whatever you do or fail to do for the least of the brothers and sisters of the Lord, you did or failed to do for Him.  Pretty simple.

          So, who are the brothers and sisters of the Lord?  It is EVEYONE. 

I urge you to take this seriously, because this is of the utmost importance.  I told the St. Austin School students on Friday a week ago that this is the Final Final, the ultimate test, the test you want to pass and ace more than any other test or final exam.  Because the results are eternal.

          Jesus makes it very clear.  He tells us precisely the material on which we will be examined at the end of our life.  And it is NOT about what church you belonged to, nor what name you used for God, nor what theology you held, not what prayers you said, not what political party or nation you belonged to.  None of that will be on the test. 

          It is all about how you treated others, especially those most in need.  Did you wear a mask during the pandemic in order to help keep your neighbor healthy, or did you not care about their health because the mask was uncomfortable?  Did you let go of your desire to hug and chat and instead maintain at least six feet distance from others out of concern for their well being and yours? 

          This is about stuff that is practical and concrete.  It is not about lofty sentiments and good feelings of brotherhood and sisterhood.  None of that will count on the final exam of life. It is about concrete actions, actual acts to help another person.   That could be donating to today’s second collection, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.  It could be choosing to not pass on the latest funny but nasty and derogatory political tweet.  It could be calling that neighbor or relative or coworker who you know is isolated and lonely.  It could be writing a letter to your elected officials to urge them to protect the environment, to pass just laws, to protect all human life from conception to natural death, to care for the 666 children still separated from their parents at the border.  It could be offering to go grocery shopping for the elderly or sick neighbor.  It could be just listening patiently to your spouse or child or a lonely person. 

          It does not have to be dramatic or heroic or noteworthy.  But is does have to be done.  You have to do it. Not wish it, nor think about it, nor feel it, not study it, not talk about it, but DO it.

          Don’t put this off.  Today and everyday take this Gospel to heart.  It is the best investment you could ever make.  The rewards are eternal.

          And the king will say to those in reply, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me.”

God bless! 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Fr. Chuck's Column, November 15, 2020


As I write this the work on the interior renovation is proceeding apace. The scaffolding is coming down even as I write this. The new lighting and the new sound system will make quite a difference I believe, and our newly refurbished worship space will be waiting for us when we can all gather together in prayer and praise.

We have run into one snafu. The new hanging lights, that are LED and dimmable, are not long enough. So new, longer rods that hold the lights to the ceiling are on the way. We are still waiting on news about the length of time for shipping. But so far that has been the biggest obstacle on this construction project. It could be a lot worse.

Looking forward to this coming Wednesday, November 18, which is (in the United States) the Feast of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne. She was a French nun back in the 18th – 19th Century who as a young girl had a burning desire to come and work among native Americans. She was sent by her Order to St. Charles, MO, just up the Missouri River from St. Louis. She spent most of her life working with the children of pioneers in that area. Finally, in 1841, at the age of 78, she was able to fulfill her life-long dream and went to work among the Potawatomi Indians in Kansas. Unfortunately, she was not able to learn the Indian language, but she spent her time praying for the mission. Her dedication to prayer impressed the Native Americans, and they called her “the lady who prays always.”

She is buried in St. Charles, MO. Last August, when I went to visit my Dad who was in his last days in a nursing home in St. Peter’s, MO (a town next to St. Charles; the early French named their settlements after Saints), I went to visit the shrine of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne. I met a docent there (the shrine had just re-opened), and asked her about St. Rose’s relationship with the Native Americans. This was the time when statues of St. Junipero Serra were being toppled in California, and Christopher Columbus was being accused of mistreating and enslaving natives. The docent told me that every Autumn an elderly Potawatomi lady comes from Kansas to visit and pray at the shrine of St. Rose. When the docent had asked this lady why she did this, the lady related a story that had been passed down for generations in her family.

Originally the Potawatomi were not in Kansas, but around Georgia. They were forced out and relocated to Kansas on the Trail of Tears, or the Trail of Death as the Native American lady called it. This lady’s great-great grandmother was a little child, and recalled and retold the story of St. Rose picking her up, setting her on her lap, rocking and comforting her as a child. This story has been passed down from generation to generation in her family, and now this descendant of that little girl comes annually to pray at the grave of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne. I found that story very touching, and so I wanted to share it with you. It was such a simple gesture, and yet the impact of that act of kindness continues to reverberate through the generations