Sunday, August 12, 2018

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle B August 12, 2018

Homily Number 1        When the Gospel opens, the Jews are murmering.   Murmer grumble murmer.  Lets all murmer.   Murmer, grumble, murmer…
          They murmer because they are upset at Jesus.  They think He is puffing himself up and putting on airs, when they know He is nothing special, just the carpenter’s kid.  They ask; “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?  Do we not know his father and mother?  Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”   They want to puncture Jesus’ balloon and bring him down to earth.   They even take glee in setting Jesus straight and deflating Jesus’ high-fallutin airs. 
          But Jesus is not doing this in a proud or haughty or boastful way.  Quite the opposite.  He says of himself “I am the bread of life.”   Now bread is ordinary.  Bread is common.  Bread is humble.  It is not something extraordinary and special.  But it is vitally important.
          Jesus could have said he was the standing rib roast of life, or the moist BBQ brisket of life, or the steak and lobster special of life.  But no, rather he says, “I am the bread of life.”  I am what sustains and nourishes you. 
          Jesus states simply but boldly, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven, whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”   Jesus gives us Himself, as bread, so that we might have His life, the life of God, in us.

Homily Number 2        Now put that over on the side for a moment and let’s change our focus and look at today’s second reading from St. Paul to the Ephesians, one of my favorite letters of St. Paul.
          Paul tells the Ephesians, and us, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.”    Who here has been sealed with the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption??? 
           Well, if you have been Confirmed, you have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of God for the day of redemption.  When a Bishop confirms, or when I confirm on Holy Saturday, we say “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  Notice the wording.  Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. 
          The Sacrament of Confirmation is not something we do or accomplish, but is rather a gift given to us.  All the Sacraments are gifts.  We can not earn nor deserve them.  They are grace, which means “free”.  True, we make the high school confirmation candidates go to a number of classes, learn the gifts of the Holy Spirit, do a certain number of service projects, and generally treat the sacrament as if it were a merit badge that the teens earn by doing all that stuff.  But that is our hang-up, not God’s.  Confirmation is God’s free gift.  We don’t earn it, nor deserve it, nor have a claim on it.  It is gift.  It is grace.
          Anyway, those who are confirmed by God are sealed with the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption.  When Jesus comes in His glory, we will have our confirmation that we are members of His Body.  Just like you need your confirmation number when you reserve a hotel or book a flight, so your Confirmation confirms that you are part of the Body of Christ, a member of God’s people.
          But in the meantime, it calls us to live in a certain way.  A very strange way.  St. Paul tells us: “All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.”  Wow.  How odd!  Because you know what I thought of immediately upon reading   
 that statement as I prepared for this homily?   What do you think it was?   IT was our current situation in this country with politics and the public sector.  All you seem to get today is exactly what we are supposed to get rid of: “all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.”   How are we going to enter into any political or social discussion and debate without any of that stuff?? 
          And yet, that is what we are called to.  St Paul tells us: “And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.”  Oh my!
          If we do this, the likelihood that we will be misunderstood, misinterpreted, misrepresented, deliberately skewed and mocked, is pretty much guaranteed.  Civility and compassion will be misread for weakness, or simple-mindedness, or just plain stupid. 
          And that brings us back to Jesus in the Gospel, being misunderstood, mis-read, totally missed.  That is what Jesus experienced. 
          It is tempting to NOT follow Him.  To not follow such a foolish and difficult path.  ¿Put aside all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling along with all malice?  ¿Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ?   That is a big challenge.
          But it is the way to life.   LIFE.  Jesus is the bread of life.  He tells us:  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”    You can’t do better than that.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Fr. Chuck's Column, August 5, 2018

Recently I enjoyed leading a book discussion of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, “Rejoice and Be Glad.” As the title indicates, and as Pope Francis himself often exhibits, it is an uplifting and positive document. However, there was one section that caused our discussion group to grapple with the Pope’s instruction. In Chapter 5, titled “Spiritual Combat, Vigilance and Discernment,” Pope Francis insists on the reality of the devil, the prince of evil. Pope Francis states: “It is precisely the conviction that this malign power is present in our midst that enables us to understand how evil can at times have so much destructive force.” (Para 160) And in the next paragraph states, “Hence, we should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea.” (Para 161).
The Devil as an actual being seems a rather quaint idea. But the Pope warns us: “This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable. The devil does not need to possess us. He poisons us with the venom of hatred, desolation, envy and vice.” (Para 161) 
Truly there is immense evil in the world, so much so that it seems inexplicable: Buddhists persecuting Muslims in Myanmar, Hindus murdering Muslims in India, Muslims attacking and killing Christians in their churches in Pakistan, a virulent resurgence of racism and xenophobia in our own country in towns and cities and on college campuses. Some of this is so awful and horrific as to beg the imagination. Can there be some logical explanation for the brutal beheadings, gruesome murders, and wholesale destruction of priceless cultural artifacts that we have seen in the Middle East perpetrated by the Islamic State and other radical groups? More and more around the world we see democratic structures attacked by and succumb to forces of strong men dictators, from Poland to the Philippines, to Nicaragua, to Turkey, not to mention Russia and China. In our own country we hear terrible stories of child abuse and the most vicious sort of rapes and attacks, that really make no sense. There seems to be some force, a strong force, working for evil, that relishes evil, that desires evil simply for the sake of evil.
And Pope Francis reminds and challenges to take this force for evil seriously. And he names it the Devil. Fortunately, we have the weapons to resist and to conquer this evil. St. Paul, long ago, told us, “Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.  So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Eph :13-17
So as St Paul encouraged his disciple Timothy, let us all take to heart St Paul’s words, “Fight the good fight of the faith: take hold of the eternal life, to which we were called and for which you made the good profession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Tim 6:12  

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Fr. Chuck's Column, July 29, 2018

Recently the New York Times had a front-page article about Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. He has been removed from active ministry because of credible allegations against him of sexual abuse of a minor decades ago. This makes Cardinal McCarrick the highest-ranking Bishop to be removed from ministry over the clergy sexual abuse scandal. Which is a terrible and shameful thing.
Unfortunately, as we have seen in sports, academics, Boy Scouts, the military, entertainment, and business, in just about every profession and walk of life, there have been scandals over inappropriate sexual behavior. So it is an ugly fact of life. We must learn how to protect ourselves, those we love, and all innocent victims. One very practical, concrete action we can take is to learn about the signs of sexual abuse and to know how to react. We can make it stop. 
Fortunately, we have a good program for that, called Ethics and Integrity in Ministry (EIM). It is sponsored by the Diocese of Austin. All those who volunteer in ministry, such as lectors and Eucharistic Ministers, teachers and helpers with Religious Education and Sacramental Preparation, and even people who volunteer on boards, councils and work groups at the parish are required, or strongly urged, to complete the EIM process. 
The process consists of signing up, of a having a background check conducted on you, and attending a workshop of two hours, which must be repeated every three years. The session consists of a movie that is really very good and (at least to me) interesting. I urge EVERYONE in the parish who is 18 or older to go through this program. It is very worthwhile. Knowing the signs of sexual abuse, or that there is something wrong going on, and knowing then how to appropriately react and report such observations, is critically important. You could save someone a great deal of heartache and pain. 
To find out more about EIM and to sign up, the easiest way is to go to our parish website, and it will lead you through the steps in signing up. Or you can go to the Diocese of Austin website,
We have scheduled EIM workshops here at St Austin for our school and our parish on August 18 and September 8. You are welcome to register and to join us. There are other workshops at other parishes around on different dates, and it does not make any difference which one you attend.
So I urge you to investigate EIM and get EIM certified. It will enable you to be a more active and responsible member of our great parish family.