Sunday, March 29, 2020

HOMILY FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT CYCLE A March 29, 2020


HOMILY    FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT   CYCLE A        March 29, 2020

Today we have another long Gospel.  Well, it is Lent after all.
          The Gospel is a little odd, in that Jesus throughout the Gospel comes across as kind of out-of-sorts, or even upset and unhappy.  This is true especially to Scripture scholars more attuned to the nuances of the original Greek.
          What is going on?  Why is Jesus up-tight?  First of all, even though Jesus knows that Lazarus, his friend, is deathly sick, Jesus does nothing.  He goofs off for a couple of days till He is pretty sure it is already too late. 
          That doesn’t much seem like what a good friend would do.  I mean, before all this carona virus stuff started, if you knew a good friend was deathly sick you would go see the person, or at least call.  But Jesus plunks down and remains where He is for two whole days. 
          This was on purpose.  Because Jesus wants His friends and His apostles, and us too, to recognize Him as something much, much more than a wonder worker who fixes problems.  Jesus wants them, and us, to come to faith in Him in a much, much deeper way as our Saviour.
          Finally, Jesus decides to go when He is sure Lazarus is dead and it is too late to save him.   Jesus has something else in mind.  Jesus talks on one level, but His disciples and Lazurus’ sisters talk on another level.   Jesus says that He is going to awaken Lazarus.  The disciples mis-understand.  They think Jesus is talking about ordinary sleep.  Jesus is referring to death.  Jesus is always talking on a level above the others, and it is hard for them, and us, to make that leap.
          Jesus gets there and Martha goes out to meet Him.  “Lord, if you had been here, (if you had come when I called you and not dilly-dallied), my TWO                            brother would not have died.”    Sounds like an accusation to me.  Martha is looking for a miracle worker.  Someone who can fix things in this life.
          But Jesus wants her – and us – to come to a much, much deeper faith.   That Jesus is not just a wonder worker, but He is Life Himself.  Jesus states: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  Jesus is teaching Martha, and us, that He is much more than just a panacea for our passing problems.

          Martha alerts Mary, and she comes to Jesus.  She says the same thing: “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.”   In other words, you came too late.  Mary is also thinking of Jesus as a wonder-worker.
          This greatly bothers Jesus, because He is looking for a different and deeper kind of faith.  The Gospel states, “he became perturbed and deeply troubled.”  Jesus is upset, not by the presence of death, but because of the lack of understanding, comprehension, and faith in Him in a much deeper way.  
          We are told, “Jesus wept.”  So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” But in the Gospel of John they are always getting it wrong.  The Greek means that Jesus is so frustrated, so upset, so angry that He weeps.   What Jesus is looking for is faith, and that is the last thing Jesus is getting.
          Some of the Jews said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”   They are continually misreading Jesus as a wonder worker, a faith healer, and not going deeper to understand His true nature as the Son of God. 

And so the Gospel states, “So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.”   Perturbed yet again.  Through most of this Gospel Jesus is frustrated and upset.
          Jesus, to help us see deeper into Who He truly is, calls Lazarus back to life. 
          Good for Lazarus?   Well, not really.  Being called back to life was not really a very good solution for Lazarus.  He would still face aches and pains.  We know he faced persecution, because in the next chapter of John we are told: “And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him.   And Lazarus had to die yet again.
          Jesus does not come to give temporary, partial fixes.  Jesus died for our salvation, to live fully and eternally with Him.  That is a real solution. That is a permanent fix, if you will. 
          Jesus may keep us from getting the carona virus.  Or our family, or our loved ones and friends.  But more likely He won’t intervene.  It will seem to us like He is still at the beginning of today’s Gospel, dilly dallying and fooling around and not paying any attention.   We pray, “Jesus save us, heal us!”   But He seems not to listen.

          But Jesus did not become human, did not suffer and die on the cross and be raised up to eternal life, in order to save us from the carona virus.  Instead, Jesus saved us for something far better, far more wonderful, and much much longer than life on earth.  Because we all eventually will die.  If not from carona virus, then something else.  Eventually every one of us will succumb. 

          But, in this Gospel Jesus assures us of something extremely important: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  That is much bigger than any epidemic.  That is the Good News.  That is Gospel. 
God bless!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Fr. Chuck's Column, March 22, 2020


When I was a young priest and only weighed a fraction of what I do now, I went to visit my missionary friend, Sr. Evie Vasquez ICM, in Neuvo Santa Rosa, Guatemala. I accompanied her as she went out to visit several small aldeas, or villages, that were part of the larger, central parish. There were no roads such as we know them, so we went on horseback (as I stated, I was younger and lighter!). One place we went to visit was a village named “La Monta┼ła” which appropriately was on top of a volcanic mountain. To get there we rode numerous switchbacks back and forth up the mountainside. Because of this, the people in the village could see us from a long way off. When we finally got to the top and rode down the main street the people welcomed us joyously with ringing the school bell (they had no church) and shooting off fireworks. I turned to Sister and said, “Boy, they really like you!” But she replied: “This is not for me, but for you! They have not had Mass here for over six months.”
I recall this now as we are being instructed to stay home from Mass during this caronavirus crisis. In some sense, we are now experiencing what a very large part of the Catholic Church has been experiencing for centuries: fasting from the Eucharist. For so long we have had plentiful opportunities to attend and participate in Mass. On Sundays, within less than a mile of each other, there have regularly been a dozen or so Masses at St Austin’s, the University Catholic Center, and St. Mary’s Cathedral. We’ve had the choice of several styles of music and preaching as well as times that would fit conveniently into our schedules. But that was not the worldwide norm, and perhaps we had come to take it for granted, and were even somewhat spoiled by it.
While this disruption of the usual Mass schedule is inconvenient and even disturbing, perhaps it can also help us to be in greater solidarity with the many, many Catholic communities around the globe who cannot take for granted the availability of Mass at a convenient time. Or even at all! Perhaps in missing the Eucharist we will begin to rethink its value and place in our life, coming to greater appreciation for the great gift that the Mass is. Perhaps in missing the witness and fellowship of the Catholic Christian community, our particular parish, the people we see and greet when we come to church, our appreciation and respect for the great gift that the community of like-minded and like-hearted believers is, and the benefit of our participation in that community of Christians, will deepen our longing for active membership in the Body of Christ.
Absence, they say, makes the heart grow fonder. We are now experiencing the absence of so many things: regular Mass attendance, school, work, travel, so many events and activities postponed and canceled, etc. May we use the absence of Mass to long for, and grow in appreciation of, the wonderful gift of the Eucharist.


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Fr. Chuck's Column, March 15, 2020


Here we are already at the third Sunday of Lent. We are about halfway through already! How time flies when you are having fun! If your Lent has so far been going well, you are practicing the three traditional penitential practices of prayer, fasting and alms-giving, and you are moving forward in your Lenten practice, then congratulations and keep up the good work!
If Lent has snuck up on you and those good intentions you had on Ash Wednesday have not yet come to fruition, then know it is not yet too late. Begin today your Lenten practice, and make this holy season a time of growing closer to the Lord and your fellow Christians, and becoming more fully a true disciple of Jesus Christ. Now is the time to start!
If you have already been doing well and would like to add some additional penitential practices to your observance of Lent, or you are looking for some alternative ways of doing penance, let me suggest a few other ways of practicing your discipleship. One is to arrive on time, even early, for Mass on the weekend. This requires discipline and fortitude, getting up in time, leaving the house early, and getting to the church before Mass begins. This holds the added benefit of having time to calm down when you get the church, settle yourself, and prepare mentally and spiritually for the Mass. You will also be able to hear all the readings. Arriving for Mass on time is a great way to practice Lent.
Another suggested penance for those who really want to excel is to move to the center of the pew. Leave the end for those Christians who arrive late. This practice is just short of martyrdom and will certainly gain you a higher place in heaven.
While coming to and from the garage you can also practice penance by picking up trash on the church grounds. We have lots of traffic go by us on Guadalupe and San Antonio Streets. The winds in the evening blow all sorts of cups, wrappers, paper and assorted junk onto our campus. Our maintenance people do a very good job of trying to stay on top of all the litter, but they cannot be everywhere. This is YOUR church and school campus. Please treat it like your own home. Trash and litter makes our grounds look shabby, and less then welcoming. We all are responsible for the appearance of our parish. Make it attractive and welcoming by picking up stray trash and depositing it in the waste cans.
Finally, in addition to giving alms, you can also give compliments and encouragements. Give a compliment to the altar server, lector, usher, Eucharistic minister, greeter, musician or choir and ensemble members. These people donate their time and talent to help us make our worship friendly, beautiful, and flow smoothly. Let them know that they are appreciated.
With a little imagination I am sure you can come up with other ways to do penance that are meaningful for you. Have a blessed Lent!