Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Fr. Chuck's Column, February 18, 2018

It is time for another update on the various projects going on around here. As you have seen, there is a HUGE building boom in the West Campus (or as UT prefers to call it, “West of Guadalupe”) area. Many very big dorms are being built all around us. When these are all open it will bring many more university students into our immediate area. This will have an impact on traffic in our area, especially foot traffic during the school year. It will have impacts on our parish ministry, as we will be closer to many students than the University Catholic Center, and some of those, either out of liturgical preference or out of sheer laziness, will opt to join us for Mass rather than walk two blocks more to UCC. We will see.
Also, the demolition of the old McDonald’s and the excavation for the Marriott hotels is now, after multiple delays, moving forward rapidly. That is quite a big hole they are digging! I understand that there is to be underground parking for 250 cars, going down three and a half stories.
So far, the school has been doing very well and not much bothered by the construction at all. We hope it stays that way, and certainly by the end of summer the hotel excavation will be complete and they will be into interior construction, which will be much quieter and much cleaner. For now, we have moved several of the upper grades to classrooms we are renting from Hillel, across 21st Street from us, and then moved some of the other grades into the Middle School classrooms. This has worked out better than expected, as the teachers and the students like being in the newer facilities at Hillel. It has also been an opportunity to learn more about our Jewish neighbors.
As for the renovation of our campus, we are now about 80% complete. There is still work to be done in the new lobby area and installing the new bathrooms, as well as work on the tower. Metal panels will be put on the sides of the tower, new ladders inside the tower, and the cross and light fixture mounted on the top of the tower. We are pretty close to schedule and pretty close to budget. And I am very happy so far with the results. Already the church looks much better, and it will really look nice when all is done.
We are planning a special ceremony of blessing and thanksgiving on Sunday morning, May 27. That is the Feast of the Holy Trinity, but it is also the Feast Day of St Augustine of Canterbury, or as we know him, St. Austin. A more public event will take place after the 8:30 a.m. Mass, followed by a dedication Mass at 11:30 a.m.
We are also continuing our search for a new Director of Liturgy and Music. More candidates continue to apply, and we have learned a lot. In the meantime, parishioners have stepped up and made our worship continue to be a source of pride and beauty.
Finally, we are still waiting for permission from the Diocese of Austin to go public with our Request For Proposal (RFP) to developers for the development of our campus property. I hope to be able to report to you soon that we have been able to move forward. My next meeting with the Bishops and the Diocesan Consultors is set for Monday morning, February 19. Keep us in your prayers!
Thank you all for your patience and understanding, and your support during this busy time. As things develop I will continue to keep you updated.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Fr. Chuck's Column, February 4, 2018

For the last several weeks, I have been ruminating on the nature of religious Truth. Now I want to look more specifically at the Mystery of the Virgin Birth. 
What is important is the truth about this religious mystery, not the facts. At this point, 2000 years later, it is impossible to ascertain the facts of this mystery. Since Mary had only X chromosomes, and Jesus as a male would have had to have both an X and a Y chromosome (since He is like us in all things but sin), where did the Y chromosome come from? Did God create one out of nothing, or make a miraculous copy of Joseph’s Y chromosome? We don’t know, we cannot know at this point, and frankly it is of no significance. God is Jesus’ Father, and that is what is significant. How that took place is probably beyond our understanding. That it took place is what matters.
What we do know is this: Jesus is totally and completely God’s free gift to us and all the human race. We owe to no man the phenomenal gift of God’s own self in Jesus Christ. Our salvation is not in any way a human achievement, but rather pure gift from God. We could never have achieved the Incarnation on our own. It is all GRACE.
The early Church Fathers and Mothers had a great time speculating on this Mystery. For many early church writers, it made sense that since Adam had no parents, and since Eve was born from a man alone, and since all the rest of us are born of both a man and a woman, therefore Jesus should be born with the only unique option left: namely born of a woman alone. Jesus’ miraculous birth therefor represents a new beginning for humanity in grace and union with God.
The Incarnation is a whole new event in human history. It is in truth a new beginning, a fresh start, a resetting of the relationship between God and humanity. It means that, henceforth and for all time, all flesh has the potential to be united to God. As Jesus became one with us in the Incarnation, so we now have the possibility of becoming one with God in the flesh. The Resurrection flows directly from the Incarnation, which is manifest in the Virgin Birth of Jesus.
The Virgin Birth is the Truth of a fresh beginning, a new start. We humans pretty badly mucked it up. We were trapped in the futility of sin. But the Virgin Birth broke through that endless repetition of sin with a whole new beginning. The Virgin Birth is the truth of God’s surprising and unique action to enter dramatically and conclusively into our history, to become one with us, and to save us – not from the outside – but from within. The Virgin Birth is the great sign of hope for all of us sinners to truly become children of God. And that is Good News. And it is TRUE!  

Monday, January 29, 2018

Fr. Chuck's Column, January 28, 2018

I am continuing to look at the nature of religious mysteries, specifically the Virgin Birth of Jesus. 
Now, it would not make much sense to read a phone book as if it were a novel. Lots of characters but not much plot. And it would not make sense to read a cookbook if what you wanted was today’s news. Each type of writing requires a different way of approaching it. That seems obvious, but when it comes to reading Sacred Scripture, we often forget that.
Our Scriptures were written between 3,000 and 2,000 years ago, give or take a century. The approaches that the Scriptures take to telling a story is not our modern, fact-based approach. We often read the Scriptures as if it were a newspaper report giving us the facts, or a history book describing what happened. But the Scriptures tell us what happened in the sense of what it all really meant, not in the sense of what physically took place. This is not an attempt to mislead us. The Scriptures are very clear in what they are trying to tell us, and that is the meaning of what really happened, not necessarily the actual occurrences. St. Mark is very clear in the opening line of his Gospel. He blandly states: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. St. Mark’s intention is clear. What he tells you is going to help you understand that Jesus is the Son of God. In the same way, St. John, at the end of his Gospel, states: Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book.   But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name. (John 20: 30-1) St. John has a purpose in how he tells you his Gospel, and he is open and clear about it. So we need to read him on his terms.
The Gospel writers tell us not the factual occurrences of Jesus’ life, but rather the TRUTH about who Jesus is and what Jesus means for us. They arrange their stories to make this clear, not always as it may have occurred in fact. So, for example, Jesus gives the Beatitudes in a sermon on the plain in St. Luke’s Gospel, but on a mountain in St. Matthew’s Gospel. Did Jesus give the same sermon twice (all preachers re-use their good material after all)? Perhaps. But the actual historical location is not nearly as important as the truth of understanding who Jesus is and what He is all about. Thus, St. Matthew, writing to a congregation of mixed Jewish and Gentile Christians, wants badly to show that Jesus is the new Moses, the new giver of the Law. Moses received the tablets of the Law on a mountain, so it is important that Jesus, the new Moses, gives the New Law on a mountain. Matthew doesn’t mention the name or location of this mountain, because it is not so much an actual, physical location as a spiritual, religious truth. The mountain represents Jesus’ authority as the new Moses, not an actual place.

In the same way, an evil ruler tries to kill the infant Jesus, just as Pharaoh tried to kill the infant Moses. Just as Moses came out of Egypt, so Jesus, re-capitulating the history of the Chosen People, has to flee to Egypt in St. Matthew’s Gospel. Did Jesus actually, in physical fact, go to Egypt? It seems highly unlikely. But, in St. Matthew’s Gospel, the Flight into Egypt helps reveal the truth about Who Jesus really is. Jesus is the summation and fulfillment of all the hopes and dreams of the Jewish people. Jesus incorporates in himself all the promises God had made and all the preparation the Jewish people had gone through. In short, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets, and St. Matthew tells us that truth through stories that are true rather than factual. The facts do not save, the Truth does.