Monday, June 26, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, June 25, 2017

First of all, Happy Birthday to St John the Baptist, which was Saturday, June 24. This also means that it is only six months to CHRISTMAS! This year Christmas falls on a Monday, which creates a mess with the Fourth Sunday of Advent on December 24, and then celebrating Christmas on December 24/25. We also will have continuing construction on our church which will also complicate things. But we will get through it. 
And while we are talking about dates, Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day are the same day next year, February 14, 2018. Ashes and chocolates? It will be interesting!
Changing topics to construction, our renovation is going pretty much according to plan. The schedule calls for the renovation project to be complete next February, which really means March-April. I am hoping we can have a re-dedication and blessing of all the new work next spring, maybe around the feast of our patron, St. Augustine.
As you have probably noticed the door to the back side of the church is in very bad shape. A new door is being made for that entrance that will look much more like a church door. So if you can be patient and put up with the old dilapidated door for a few more months, it will all be fine.
Meanwhile, the life of the parish moves on. Our garage has finally begun to make a profit, which is really good because, as with any business, it needs constant upkeep and maintenance. The bid on the repair of the elevators to keep them functioning properly is about $30,000. Also the money taking machine/gates are well past their life expectancy and need replacement. The bid on that is nearly $100,000, so we are trying to find alternate bids. 
The developer of the Marriott hotel on the current McDonald’s site is taking longer than what we were originally told. We had expected that they would begin excavation on the site in May and that much of the excavation would happen during the summer when school is closed. Obviously, that did not happen.  We are still negotiating with the licensing agreements about a tree that is half on our property and half on theirs, tieback rods that would extend into our property, cranes swinging over our property, insuring against any damage to our buildings, etc. As far as we can tell, the City of Austin has not yet issued them a full building permit. So that project is going to take a lot longer than originally envisioned. Meanwhile, you can still get your McDonald’s.
This past Monday, the committee heading up the exploration of the development of our properties had a very positive meeting with representatives of the Diocese of Austin. They were positive in their reaction and grateful for our update. Investigation will continue over the summer, and hopefully we will be able to make some decisions next Fall about going forward or not.

There is always much going on at St. Austin. We should never be bored!  

HOMILY Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time June 25, 2017

          In the 1986 horror movie, The Fly, there is the line, “Be afraid.  Be very afraid.”  This phrase has since entered the common parlance, since it captures a very real emotion.  “Be afraid.  Be very afraid.”
          There is much to arouse fear in us.  There is a plethora a reasons to keep you awake at night.  Rogue nations with nuclear weapons.  Terrorists with biological weapons.  Hackers stealing your passwords and all your money.  Irrevocable degradation of the environment and natural disasters.  Cancer.  Politics.  And more.
          So the phrase “Be afraid.  Be very afraid” can ring all too true.
          Our Gospel today takes a totally different approach.   In the Gospel we just heard Jesus tells us: “Fear no one.”  A little later He says:  “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”   And still later, “So do not be afraid.”
          Do not be afraid.  OK.  How do you do that??  By a shear act of will?   I can’t do that.  Can you?  I don’t think so.
          However, we read in the First Letter of St. John, chapter 4, verse 18: There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear ....
          Perfect love drives out fear.  If we could love perfectly, we could drive out all fear from our hearts.  But that is a pretty tall order.  Fortunately, the love with witch Jesus loves us is perfect.  It is total and complete.  And so it drives out fear.  This is why St. John in the very next verse states: “We love because he first loved us.”  
          Brothers and sisters, the more we can open ourselves to the love Jesus has for each of us, the more we can love in return, and then we will be so strong, so powerful, that we can let go of fear.  We are, each of us, God’s beloved children.  So do not be afraid. 

          AMEN.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, June 11, 2017

Even though we are now back in Ordinary Time, we are not yet wearing green on the weekends. Even after eight weeks of Easter celebration, it is almost like we don’t want to give it up. And so, the weekend after Pentecost (this weekend), we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, and then, to keep the celebration going, next weekend we celebrate the impressively titled Solemnity of “The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.” Then, liturgically exhausted, we finally return to plain old, humdrum, Ordinary Time. 
But today we celebrate the Trinity. Our belief in the Trinity distinguishes Christians from Jews, Muslims, Unitarians, and just about everybody else. We believe in one God, like other monotheists, but we complicate it by claiming in this one God three distinct persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Some call them Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. They have three different roles, but one unique God. It is a bit like saying that one equals three, which leads, of course, to a lot of head scratching.
Even though I had a good theological education and knew the history of the development of the doctrine of the Trinity and the various theological explanations of the Trinity, the impact of this doctrine never came home to me till I had the opportunity to discuss it with a group of Muslims. 
In 2008, through the San Francisco Interfaith Council, I was privileged to attend the World Parliament of Religions held in Melbourne, Australia. It was a wonderful experience. And while there I had the opportunity to meet followers of many of the world’s religions (including my only experience of a Zoroastrian), including a good discussion with several Muslims.
Muslims are monotheists. The belief that there is no God but Allah is fundamental to Muslim belief and worship. You could even say, as I have heard Muslims describe themselves, they are “radical monotheists.” Not radical in the sense of terrorism, but rather radical in the sense that monotheism is at the root of their religion. So Muslims are NOT trinitarians. That smacks to them too much of worshipping three gods. There is only ONE God, period.
The logical result of their radical monotheism is that God is always and completely “other.” God is holy, which we are not. God is inscrutable, we can’t figure God out. God’s will can never be questioned. And so God always appears distant, different, other.
Only in discussing with Muslims did I come to realize this, and so realize the very different feel or sense or understanding of Christianity where God is not only all holy and total mystery, wholly other than us, but God also truly became one of us in time and place and has a human face in Jesus, AND God is closer to us than our own breath in the indwelling Holy Spirit. Trinitarian spirituality is VERY different than strictly monotheistic spirituality. For us, the wholly other (God) is also fully involved in our human history and intimately involved in us in the Holy Spirit. And that makes a profound difference. 

So as we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, give thanks that, even though difficult to understand and put into words, this Mystery brings God close to us and involves us intimately in the Divine Life itself.