Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, May 21, 2017

First of all, I want to encourage all of you to attend one of the information sessions being given after each of the Masses this weekend. You can find out what is being done – and what is NOT being done – as we move forward to investigate the potential and possibility of developing our campus for a mixed-use development. Nothing has been decided so far except to explore this possibility. We have a broker to assist us, and we are gathering information (such as an accurate survey of our campus, a title search of our pieces of property, etc.). This will be a LONG process. It will help if you understand both what is being done, and have patience with the drawn-out nature of this process. So go to one of the presentations this weekend!
Just a couple of weeks ago we had a very successful First Communion celebration. About 50 of our young parishioners made their First Holy Communion. Not only did they look absolutely adorable, but more importantly, they were well prepared and without exception received Holy Communion reverently and correctly. Since our second graders did such a beautiful job of receiving Holy Communion, I think it would be well for all of us to examine our practice of receiving Holy Communion. They are a model for us. 
When you come forward, place your right hand under your left (the opposite if you are left handed) and receive the Host in the palm of your hand. St Cyril of Jerusalem, way back in the third century, told his new Christians to “make a throne of your hands for the Lord.” Respond “Amen”, pick up the host, and communicate yourself. As an older person with a bad back I ask you to hold your hands up level with your chest, so that I do not have to bend over so much. THANKS. 
You may, of course, also receive Holy Communion on the tongue. In this case please OPEN your mouth and STICK OUT your tongue. This makes it much easier for the Communion minister, and more importantly, reduces the chance of getting your salvia on the minister’s hand and then communicating that to the next person.
I also urge you to open your eyes and look at the person ministering to you the Host and the Chalice. I believe that this human interaction is an important part of the interpersonal communion upon which the Sacrament of Holy Communion is based. By receiving the Body of Christ we become a part of the Body of Christ, and recognizing that in each other is a significant part of the human reality on which this Sacrament is based. When someone comes up to me to receive Holy Communion and immediately shuts their eyes I always have the impression that they think Holy Communion, while good for them, is somehow going to taste awful and terrible, like some awful cough syrup. The Ministers of Holy Communion cannot be replaced by robots or machines distributing the Body and Blood of Jesus, because the human interaction is an integral part of the experience of communing. Grace, in good Thomistic teaching, builds on nature. So try looking, really looking, at the person who is giving you the Body or the Blood of Christ. That person is not a distraction, but part of the sacrament of the Body of Christ in which you are sharing.  

Monday, May 15, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, May 14, 2017

Happy Mothers’ Day! Beyond the flowers, candy, cards and presents, it is important to tell your mother “thank you.” This extends not only to your birth mother, but also to all those who have nurtured and sustained you whether they be aunts or grandmothers or teachers or whoever. Happy Mothers Day to all who nurture, educate, and help us grow. Mothers who balance both a career and child-rearing are taking on quite a lot, often more than two full time jobs! It is amazing that so many do so well in fulfilling both roles. We all owe mothers a debt of gratitude. Happy Mothers Day!
Mothers (and Fathers) have always had a difficult task, but today the demands and expectations for what a parent should be are so high, and so all-encompassing, as to seem almost impossible to fulfill. Since they are human, no mother is perfect. Every mother has, somewhere along the line, in spite of all the love that is in her heart, been too tired, too distracted, too confused, too ill-equipped, too inexperienced, too uneducated, to be the perfect mother at all times. And some mothers have been downright controlling, vindictive or even abusive. Not every woman is fit to be a mother. And those in their charge have suffered.
On this Mothers Day, perhaps the best gift you can give your mother is really a gift to yourself: the gift of forgiveness. By letting go of bitterness, hurt, bruised and damaged feelings, resentment, and losses, you not only forgive your mother but also free yourself. This is a gift much greater than any amount of flowers, candy, or sentimental cards. It is a gift you can give not only to the living, but also to mothers and grandmothers who have died. Forgiveness is a wonderful gift to give on Mothers Day, or any day of the year.
We have not only a physical and biological mother, but also a spiritual mother. That mother is the Church, or in the traditional phrase, “Holy Mother Church.” As anyone who has read a newspaper or listened to TV or radio in the last several years well knows, the Church has been far from a perfect mother. Sin is an aspect, an all too prominent part, of the Church on Earth. So it has been from the beginning (read the letters of St. Paul), and so it will be till the Lord comes again. The clergy sexual abuse, the financial malfeasance, and other scandals should not be unexpected, even though they are disheartening and discouraging. A wise old priest and former president of the Paulist Fathers once told me that when you see the church doing stupid and inhuman things it “is like seeing your mother drunk.” It is embarrassing.
What are we to do? No more than we can change the fact that we are our mothers children can we change the fact of our spiritual bond to the Church. Giving in to feelings of hurt, bitterness, resentment, anger, and desires for revenge will hurt ourselves as much as anyone else. Working through to forgiveness frees us to grow as spiritually mature people. The Church needs reform. The Church needs to listen. We need to work for the protection of children and all people. We need bishops who are shepherds, not careerists. Fortunately, Pope Francis gets it and is appointing men who are shepherds.

And we also have our part to play. We also need, like adult children of alcoholics, to not collude in lies, but to take responsibility for our own actions, and especially to open our hearts and souls to forgiveness. Being responsible, adult, loving children of the Church is the best gift we can give our “Holy Mother Church.   

Friday, May 12, 2017

HOMILY Fourth Sunday of Easter Cycle A May 11, 2014 St Austin, Austin, TX

          In the Gospel today Jesus makes a rather odd or unusual claim:  “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.”    “I am the gate.”   It just seems an odd thing to say.  Jesus says in the Gospel “I am the light of the world, I am living water, I am the bread of life, I am the way, the truth and the life,” and so on.  Jesus says He is many things.  But “gate” seems to me one of the odder choices. 
          Of course, gates are very important.  I grew up in St. Louis and while I was in high-school they built this huge stainless steel arch there.  Anyone ever see the Arch in St. Louis?  Do you know what it is called?   It is the “Gateway Arch”, because St. Louis was the gateway to the West.  It is where Lewis and Clark began and ended their journey of discovery, and for many years St. Louis was the jumping off point, the gateway, for Western exploration and expansion.  So gates are points of new beginnings and explorations.
          Before coming here to Austin I was pastor for 8 years in San Francisco, CA.  The iconic symbol of San Francisco, recognized all over the world, is this very long bright orange bridge.  Anybody know the name of that bridge?  It is the Golden Gate Bridge, because it spans the famous Golden Gate, a relatively narrow passage between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay and the interior of California.  The whole reason that San Francisco is there at all is because of the Golden Gate.  For over a hundred years sailors sailed right past it and never knew it was there, because of the fog.  Only later did the Spaniards discover it when they came upon it from the land side, from the East.  But only because of that all-important gate, allowing access to the Bay, did San Francisco come to be.
          Gates are important.  And Jesus tells us, “Amen, Amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.”   Well, who are the sheep?  Raise your hand because that is us.  Jesus is the gate for us.
          Where does this gate allow us to go?  Where does Jesus make it possible for you and me to go?  Well, Jesus enables us to go somewhere far better than the Wild West or San Francisco Bay.   Jesus tells us “Whoever enters through me will be saved,
and will come in and go out and find pasture.
”  Jesus is telling us that through Him we can be saved and find what we need for the fullness of life.
           All of us want to be alive.  Not just breathing and continuing in existence, not bored, not barely existing; but to love what we do, to be full of enthusiasm, joy, excitement, energy, to really be alive.  That is what eternal life is about.  Not just a long duration – which would be pretty boring – but rather to be fully, completely and intensely  alive.  That is what Jesus promises us.  He says at the end of the Gospel today: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” 
          Abundant life is wonderful.  And rare.  So many people in our society are barely alive.  They don’t know why they are here.  They don’t know what they want.  They don’t know what will make them truly happy.  They are only partly alive, like zombies, going through the motions, with a huge hole in their hearts where the love of God should be. 
          Is it any wonder that there is so much alcohol and drug abuse in our society, that people try to deaden the pain of being only partly alive, with no idea what their life means or what any of all this drama is about?  Or whose they are and why they are here?
          Jesus says “A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy;”   Drugs and alcohol, greed and materialism, ceaseless activity and frenetic schedules, pornography and sex for the sake of escape; all of these are thieves.  They rob us of life.  These things come only to steal and slaughter and destroy.
          But Jesus is entirely different.  He tells us:  “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”   
At this Mass two boys, Liam Christopher  & Robert William, will be Baptized, Confirmed and make their First Holy Communion.  They will receive that new life in Christ, and become God’s adopted children, sharing in the abundant life of Jesus.
          Jesus is the gate through which we can come to purpose and meaning and dignity in our lives.  Whoever enters through Him will be saved and find life-giving pasture; in service, in fidelity, in integrity, in honesty, in dignity, in love. 

          Jesus is the gate to salvation.  Jesus is the gate to the fullness of life.  As He assures us in the Gospel today:  “Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.
A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy;
I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”      
AMEN.