Wednesday, December 12, 2018


Happy Thanksgiving!        I’d like to look at the setting of today’s Gospel.
          Jesus is continuing His journey to Jerusalem.  ¿What’s going to happen when He gets there, in Jerusalem?  ….  Not good.
          The Gospel states: “He traveled through Samaria and Galilee…”  Samaria was Samaritan territory and Galilee Jewish territory.  Jews and Samaritans were enemies.  Samaritans were descendants of the ten northern tribes of Israel that broke away after King Solomon, formed their own country, and with it their own worship.  There was a bitter civil war.  Jews worshiped in Jerusalem, the Samaritans on Mt. Gerazim, and they looked on each other as heretics.
          So Jesus is in a border area, a border between two opponents.  It would be like travelling today through Gaza and Israel, or Texas and Northern Mexico.  Lots of tension, lots of armed guards, lots of animosity.  It is a conflicted situation that is uneasy and not at all settled.
          In this situation ten lepers approach Jesus.  It is a mixed group.  Men and women perhaps?  Jews and Samaritans.  Young and old probably?   Their differences erased by their common affliction and misery.  Their identity was reduced to their disease.  Ten lepers.
          They shout, “Jesus, Master!  Have pity on us!” 
And Jesus does.  He tells them to “Go show yourselves to the priests” so that they can be declared healed and clean, and return to community.
          All ten are healed.  One returns.  And he is a Samaritan.  The one enemy is the one who returns to give thanks to God.  He is the only one to whom Jesus proclaims “Your faith has saved you.”  The heretic is the one with faith. 
          Wouldn’t you like to know what happened in this guy’s life after that?  Here is an opening for some speculation and midrash.  Did he follow Jesus?  Go back to Samaria?  Become a disciple?   Who knows?
          But this Gospel is about us.  How do we come to Jesus looking to be cleansed?  Cleansed of spiritual leprosy: of selfishness?  Of lies?  Of gossip and greed and lust and hard-heartedness?  Cleansed of fear so that we may truly be alive?
          Do we first of all have the wisdom and the courage to cry out, “Jesus, Master!  Have pity on us?”     That raises the question:  Is Jesus our Master?  And, do we recognize our need for healing? 
          The correct response to Jesus’ healing is gratitude.  Gratitude.
What are we as St. Austin Parish grateful for?  
- Anyone grateful for new bathrooms, nursery and new lobby area? 
- Anyone grateful for the Christmas Basket project that has been going on here for many years?
- And the for St. Vincent de Paul Society, and Thursday Outreach, which do such great but often quiet work through the WHOLE year, not just at the holidays??
- Anyone here grateful for our wonderful St Austin School, that not only does such a great job of preparing our children academically but even more importantly does a remarkable job of forming and developing our students’ morally and spiritually?
- How about the music ministries here, the lectors, ushers, eucharistic ministers, our deacons and the Paulists?  Anyone grateful for them?
- How about the phenomenal Kristallnact program we just had here, that was beautiful, touching, thought provoking, challenging, and so professionally done? 
          I am especially grateful for the Parish Pastoral Council, the Property Committee, the Finance Council, the School Advisory Board, the Development Committee, the Investment Committee, and many other boards and councils, and all the dedicated and talented people who generously share their time and talent in this plethora of endless meetings.  We can even be grateful for meetings!   AMEN?
Brothers and sisters, just like in the time of Jesus, we too are in a time of tension, of conflict, of animosity and disease.  But just like in the time of Jesus we also have much for which to give thanks.
          Our model is the Samaritan, who returned glorifying God in a loud voice, fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him.   Let us do the same.  AMEN. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Fr. Chuck's Column, December 2, 2018

Welcome to Advent. Happy New (Liturgical) Year everyone.
This coming Saturday is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, is the Patroness of the United States. On May 13, 1846, the Catholic bishops of the United States unanimously chose the Virgin Mary, conceived without sin, as the official patroness of our country. Pope Pius IX approved this decision on Feb. 7 of the following year and published it in a decree of July 2, 1847. Why the bishops in those days made this choice is unclear to me. Certainly, our nation was not conceived without sin, since racism and genocide of indigenous people played such a large part in the founding of our nation.
If it had been up to me, I think I may have chosen one of the Apostles, like Peter or Paul or Andrew as the Patron of our country. Someone who was bold and missionary and had a vision. That would fit the kind of pioneering spirit of our land, growing, expanding, pressing forward, and missionary. Or maybe Saint George, a warrior, slaying the dragon. But that probably was not a good choice because of King George of England, from whom our country broke away.
But the bishops, unanimously, chose Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception. Perhaps this is a good choice after all. The point of the doctrine, at least as I understand it, was not so much what Mary lacked, which was original sin, but rather what she always had, or as the Angel Gabriel addressed her, “Full of Grace.” Mary had always been free from sin only because she was indeed Full of Grace, that is, of God’s love and life.
So maybe the Bishops in 1847 chose Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception as the patroness of our country because our nation, unlike almost any other, did not come about because of a particular ethnic group, or particular tribe or culture or historic area, but rather as a choice, constructed by people consciously choosing to do so. Our nation was, in a sense, free to be what it wanted to be. It was conceived out of ideals, not out of geography nor history nor ethnic group.
As we celebrate this Holy Day later this week, it seems to me a blessed opportunity to pray for our nation. We need prayer for our country right now. We need to live up to the ideals on which our nation was founded. Our institutions are under much strain. The checks and balances that our founders enshrined to protect us from becoming a monarchy again are severely tested. We all need wisdom, guidance, and perseverance to ensure that our descendants will also enjoy the benefits of a democracy in a republic committed to our founding ideals. Perhaps the bishops in 1847 knew what they were doing after all.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Fr. Chuck's Column, November 25, 2018

First of all, a VERY BIG THANK YOU to all who helped last week to make our remembrance of Kristallnact such a MOVING and IMPORTANT event. The participation of the St. Austin School students, the parishioners, the visitors, was all so impressive. A very special thank you goes to Lynn Hayden and to her wonderful team who did such a great job. You are truly a blessing to this parish. Thank You!
This is the last week of the Liturgical Year. Next Sunday, Dec 2, is the First Sunday of Advent, and that marks the beginning of a new year of grace, a new liturgical year.
Advent has an aspect of yearning and longing, not just for Christmas to come, but more importantly for God’s Kingdom to come on earth. It begins in our hearts, and every one of us is able to make greater room for the Lord in our hearts during the holy season of Advent.
Advent has some of the best liturgical music. It is almost a shame Advent is less than a month long, since we hardly have an opportunity to use all the wonderful Advent music that exists. Advent is a great time to sing. If God has blessed you with musical talent and a good voice, then you can sing along with Fr. Rich. If not, then you can join me singing with enthusiasm and volume! Either way, God will be praised!
I wish you all a joyful and holy Advent. Come Lord Jesus! Maranatha!