Monday, April 23, 2018

Fr. Chuck's Column, April 22, 2018

Happy Easter! Alleluia!!! Much has been going on around our parish and school and our area. So I would like to take this opportunity to update you on several things.
This past weekend we had a very successful Volunteer Appreciation Day. Thanks to all of our marvelous volunteers who make this parish such a special place.
By the time you read this Bishop Danny Garcia should have celebrated the 100th Anniversary Mass with our St Austin Catholic School on Fri., April 20. He was originally scheduled to do this back on Dec. 8, but that was cancelled due to snow and ice. Hopefully all went well this time.
Sat., April 21 is St Austin Catholic School’s biggest fund-raiser for the year, the Grand Tour.
This Sun., April 22, Bishop Joe Vasquez will join us to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation. There are about 25 teenage candidates from our parish, and another 25-30 young adult and teen candidates from the University Catholic Center, which will make for a wonderful celebration. The Holy Spirit will be very active!
Next Sat. is Parish Family Service Day. We pray that they will have good weather and a wonderful experience of giving and helping as a family.
On Sat., May 5 at 10 a.m. we will celebrate First Communion for nearly 50 of our second graders from both St Austin Catholic School and the parish religious education program. Congrats to them and their families!
On May 12 & 13, there will be a reception following each Mass to honor both Fr Dick Sparks, CSP and Fr Chuck Kullmann, CSP, who will celebrate their 40th Ordination Anniversaries. All are welcome!
On Sun., May 27, the feast day of our parish patron St. Augustine of Canterbury, we will bless and give thanks for the renovation of our church plant. We will have a short program with notable guests following the 8:45 a.m. Mass, then a special Mass of Thanksgiving at 11:30 a.m. Please watch the bulletin for further details.
And on Sun., June 3, the Feast of the Body & Blood of Christ, we will have a parish blood drive. If you give blood regularly, as I do, I encourage you to hold off till June 3 so you can participate in this parish drive, since you are allowed to give blood only once every eight weeks.
Meanwhile, the renovation continues on. At the end of April we expect to erect the light fixture for the top of the tower and the new metal cross. Things are coming together nicely.
The Property Committee has begun consideration of a Phase 2 renovation for the interior of the church, looking to update the antiquated wiring in the church so that we could re-lamp the church and make it brighter. Seeing how the lobby has been brightened with new lights, we are investigating what could be done for the main worship area. We are also investigating the possibility of replacing our outdated sound system, which is  getting a bit “wonky.” And the possibility of some additional art requested by a group of women in the parish. No decisions have been made on any this other than to investigate what our current condition is and what could be done.
Finally, the development project is moving along rather quietly. There has been considerable interest in the Request For Proposal (RFP) website, and at least one group has requested a walk through to physically see the plant. In the next several weeks the Development Committee will begin to interview developers who submit proposals.
It is never dull around St Austin parish and school. Please keep your prayers coming so we can move forward to better accomplish our parish mission.

HOMILY Fourth Sunday of Easter April 22, 2018 St Austin, Austin, TX

HOMILY    Fourth Sunday of Easter    April 22, 2018  St Austin, Austin, TX

          In the second reading we just heard St John assures us “Beloved, we are God’s children now.”  
          Ain’t that GREAT!?!    We are God’s children NOW.  Not in some distant future, not at some unspecified time, but NOW.  That is who we are.   And it is GOOD to know who we are.
          But with that knowledge comes some responsibility.  Of course.  The teaching of Vatican Council II is that we are the Church, and that as the Church we are a SACRAMENT of the salvation of the whole world.   How does that work?
          In the Gospel Jesus tells us: “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice and there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
          In these days when the divisions between peoples seem to be growing and deepening, when there is growing animosity between religions and beliefs, between nations and races, we need to hear Jesus’ surprising, indeed outrageous, statement that there will be one flock and one shepherd. 
          Who are these other sheep that Jesus must lead?  It is everyone.  Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Jews, Moslems, Hindus, Bahais, Zoroastrians, Atheists, everybody.
          Jesus plainly tells us, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” 
          Why is this?  Well, St. Peter in our first reading today, from the Acts of the Apostles, clearly tells us: “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race byque
which we are to be saved.”    There is no other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.
          Then how can all these billions of people who do NOT call upon the name of Jesus be saved?
          Ahhh, that is where YOU come in.  Because we who DO call upon the Name of Jesus are a SACRAMENT of the salvation of the whole world.  A Sacrament is an effective sign that makes real and present a spiritual reality.  And according to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, YOU are the Church, and therefore YOU are an effective sign which makes real the salvation of all the world.  You are God’s children now.  But not for your sake only, but primarily for the sake of ALL THE WORLD.  [See Catechist of the Catholic Church numbers 774 through 780.]
          Just as the bread and the wine consecrated at this altar become a Sacrament, an effective sign of the real presence of Jesus with us, verily His Body and His Blood, so we, Baptized into His Body, coming from every race, language, nationality, sexual orientation, political party, gender and class, forming one Body in Christ, are a Sacrament of the salvation of the whole world.  We are a sign that effectively makes present the reality of the salvation of all the world.  Ohhh.  That is a pretty big job. 
          Brothers and sisters, we used to teach that “extra ecclesiam nulla salus”, or “outside the church there is no salvation.”   The church was seen as the barque, or ship of St Peter, like the ship up there in the window.  The ship of St Peter brought us safe over the choppy, dangerous waters of life.  Our job was to stay inside the ship and NOT TO ROCK the boat.  Obedience was the primary virtue of the laity. 
          But that changed with Vatican Council II.  Given the situation we find ourselves in today, and thanks to the hard work of many Biblical and Patristic scholars, the Church was re-envisioned as a Pilgrim People, travelling through time to the full Kingdom of God.  The primary virtue of the laity now is WITNESS.  Witness by your lives and your words to the power of Jesus Christ in your life.  Because, you are God’s children NOW, and you are therefore called to be a sacrament of salvation for the whole world.  We make present and real the Will of God to save all people in Jesus Christ. 
          We, as the Church, are greatly blessed.  But this blessing is not only for our personal salvation.  Rather we have a mission and a ministry to be a sacrament for the salvation of all the world.  So that Jesus Christ may ultimately be the Good Shepherd of all people everywhere.  How this will happen is hidden in God’s plan.  But our part is clear.  How we lead our lives, how we pray, how we think of ourselves, are all important.  We are the sacrament of salvation for the whole world.   We are God’s children now. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Third Sunday of Easter Cycle B April 13/15, 2018 Austin, TX

Our Gospel today is from the Gospel of Luke.  And I think it bears some examination. 
          It opens with two disciples - some think this was a married couple - who recount what had just happened to them.   Jesus had appeared to them as they walked along to Emmaus, but they did not know it was Jesus.  He explained to them the passages in the Old Testament that referred to Him.  That evening Jesus broke bread with them, and then they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread, whereupon Jesus vanished.  The couple got up and hastened back to Jerusalem, where our Gospel today finds them regaling the Apostles with their experience on the road and how they had come to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.  Which we call Eucharist. 
          Suddenly, why they were still speaking, Jesus appears. 
          The first thing Jesus says to them is “Peace be with you.”  That was important, because there are many things Jesus could have said to them.  He could of said “Some friends you guys turned out to be.   Where were you on Friday when I needed you?”          He could have accused them of cowardice.  He could have blasted them to smithereens.  But Jesus did not do any of that.   Instead, He said “Peace be with you.”           Jesus is forgiving them, reconciling them, healing them.   The same is true for us.  When we screw up, when we act selfishly, cowardly, greedily, and we go to Jesus, He does not condemn, He does not chastise, He does not ridicule us.  Instead, He says what He always says: “Peace be with you.”  Jesus is always ready to forgive and welcome us back.
          The disciples are overwhelmed.  They think they are seeing a ghost.  So Jesus says, “Look at my hands and my feet.”  Why His hands and His feet?  That seems like a strange way to recognize a person.  Why not ‘look at my face’?    That is because Jesus shows them the nail marks from His crucifixion, to show that it is really, truly Him.  The marks on Jesus’ hands and feet are the marks of how great His love is for each one of us: that out of love He gave even His life for us on the Cross.
          Jesus than says, “Touch me and see,…”   Jesus is mixing His metaphors here.  Either He could say ‘touch me and feel..” or ‘look at me and see…’  But clearly Jesus is not using “see” in the sense of visible sight, but rather in the sense of understanding and insight.  “Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”
          Then Jesus does something strange, He asks “Have you anything here to eat?”  This is a strange question for two reasons.  First of all, Jesus in His resurrected state of glory would have known if there was anything there to eat.  He did not ask in order to find out.  I think Jesus asks instead as a way of being polite. 
          And secondly Jesus does not ask because He is hungry, as if being resurrected is a real workout that leaves you famished.  I don’t think so.  Rather Jesus eats to convince them He is really and truly with them.  So often the meals that Jesus shared with His disciples were significant times of teaching and bonding, especially the last meal Jesus shared with them at the Last Supper.  By eating again with them Jesus re-affirms that bond of friendship and dedication, and His commitment to them.  Just as Jesus does at this Mass, as we together commune with Him in the Eucharist.
           Jesus wants them, and us, to know He is truly present with us.  That is why He tells them, “Touch me and see…”   Touch is so important and so powerful.  We know it is crucial for the development of infants to be touched and held. 
          Many years ago when I was a novice, just starting out with the Paulists, I worked two days a week at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Patterson, NJ.  The two Catholic priests who were the full-time chaplains there were wonderful guys and great mentors.  I was visiting patients on the cardiac care floor, which included a number of younger guys who had been very ambitious, burned their candle and both ends, and ended up having a heart attack.  They had to lie rather quietly for some time as part of their recovery.  And they were not used to that enforced inaction.  The priest chaplains told me that when I went in to meet them to shake their hand, and then let them terminate the handshake.  I could stand their talking to them for 15 minutes, and invariably, they never let go. 
          And in the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, the laying on of hands while praying silently, is also, very powerful.
          Touch is so powerful.  And in the Gospel Jesus invites us, “Touch me and see, …”   Well Jesus is not going to appear before us like He did on that Easter night so many years ago.  But on the other hand, sitting all around you is the Body of Christ.  It may not look on the surface like Christ, but this congregation is truly His Body in the world, which receives His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, to be strengthened to go forth and continue Jesus’ mission here and now. 
           So when you come to the sign of peace in about 15 minutes or so, and you reach out to touch those around you, know that in addition to the fellow parishioner who is there, you are also touching the true Body of Christ.  Touch and see, opening the eyes of your heart, and know that Jesus truly is Risen.  Alleluia!