Monday, April 30, 2012

4th Sunday of Easter April 29, 2012

Did you know that according to the on-line Yellow Pages that there are 20 results for Paternity Testing in the immediate Austin area?  20 places locally to find out Who is Your Daddy?  Now I have not had occasion to avail myself of any of these services recently, but from looking at a few of the websites it seems that for about $250 to $300  you can check on the paternity of your child, or of yourself, or just about anyone.  And it is a good thing to know who is your biological father, for issues about health matters, genetics, inheritance issues, child support, and other areas.  It is good to know “who is your daddy.” 
            On the spiritual level, this question is even more important.  Vastly more important in fact.  And today’s second reading addresses the issue. 
            St. John tells us:  “Beloved:”   Now when St. John calls us “Beloved”, it certainly means that we are beloved of God Almighty, and also that St. John loves all of us as well, but it also is St. John’s short-hand way of saying:  “SIT UP and PAY ATTENTION ‘cause I am about to tell you something IMPORTANT!”. 
            So he says: “Beloved:  See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called children of God.  Yet so we are.”  ¿Who is your Daddy?  God is your Father.  God is MY Father.  For all us together, God is our Father.  That is a wonderful, special, and fantastic reality.  We are not out in the universe all alone, unconnected, disinherited, nameless.  We have family connections on the cosmic level.  God is our Father.  And that is a very great thing.  We are children of God.
            Now, there are times when frankly I don’t much look like a child of God.  And there are times when I don’t feel like a child of God.  And unfortunately there are way too many times when I don’t act like a child of God.   So when I do think about these things I usually end up hoping that someday I will have my act together and I will finally become a true child of God. 
            But that way of thinking is wrong.  Because in today’s second reading St. John tells us:  Beloved”oh, there that word is again, calling us to attention – “Beloved, we are God’s children NOW;”  This is not something we hope to achieve in the future, it is a present reality.  Because, it doesn’t depend upon me.  This is all God’s doing.  Not ours. 
           Just like you did not choose your parents, and it was in no way your doing who your physical parents are, so it is in no way your doing that God is your Father.  “Beloved, we are God’s children NOW;”  
We may be disobedient children.  We may be a big disappointment to our Heavenly Father as children sometimes are.  We may not appreciate our spiritual inheritance, but still, “Beloved, we are God’s children NOW;” 
            But there is more.  St. John goes on, “What we shall be has not yet been revealed.”  Oh my.  Do you like surprises?   I hope so, because if St. John is right, we are all in for a BIG surprise!  We are destined to become something beyond our wildest dreams, beyond what we can imagine or even hope for. Sounds pretty exciting to me!
            We have some clues though.  St. John tells us: We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”    We shall be like him, like Father like son, or like daughter.  We will have a very clear and distinctive family resemblance to God.  What will that be?  Will we be all powerful, almighty, invincible, all-knowing and all seeing, everywhere and infinite?  Well, no.  Rather, we will be like God in the way Jesus was able to fully be God and still be weak, vulnerable, limited, human.  And that way is to be full of love.  Because God, as St. John tell us, IS love. 
            So when we see God as He is, in what is called the Beatific Vision, we will be like God in that we will be filled entirely and completely with love. Nothing but love.  No bitterness, no fear, no recriminations, no anxiety nor worry, no hatred nor envy nor revenge, no greed, no lust, no laziness, no indifference, no spite, not even any impatience!  Nothing but love, love, love. 
And it will be wonderful!  LOVE is all we will be filled with, because we shall be like Our loving Father.  We shall see – that is we will truly know and understand – God as he is. 
            Who is your Daddy?  St. John today gives us the answer:  “Beloved:  See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called children of God.  Yet so we are.”    Amen.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, April 29

Alleluia! We are in the Easter Season and so Happy Easter! Alleluia! Last week in this column I wandered into the minefield of appropriate dress at Mass, and since I am already there, I thought would share a few more thoughts on the religious significance of dress.

For me the celebration of Easter brings the importance of clothing to mind. On Easter Sunday I preached on the young man “dressed in a white robe” who appears in the Gospel of Mark seated in the tomb and on the significance of his outfit. (You can read the homily on my blog at

On Holy Saturday night, at the Easter Vigil, the six catechumens began the evening dressed in drab, brown robes. Immediately after their Baptisms they were each presented with and donned a white robe. The change of clothing is a dramatic moment in the liturgy that was played out in churches all across the globe.  Dress has importance.

In the ancient world dress was very significant in indicating what city or tribe you belonged to, your civil status (free, senator, slave, etc.) and even your trade or occupation. We retain a little of that in police uniforms, nurses smocks, and clerical collars.  So at the beginning of Christianity, putting on the new, white robe was significant. It meant accepting a whole new identity.  Originally, the catechumens were baptized naked admittedly, a more dramatic event than in our more sensitive (squeamish?) age and immediately after baptism were clothed in the new, white robe. St. Paul alludes to this when he says “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal 3:27), and again, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh” (Rom 13:14). So from the earliest days of Christianity, clothing holds special significance.

I suspect that the subtle psychological effects of clothing have not really diminished. The almost uniform dress of university students in T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops is in effect a uniform.  A sort of group identity is reinforced by the common dress. It was so back in my day as an undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis. Way back then the uniform dress of university students consisted of sweatshirts, torn jeans and sneakers (St. Louis has different weather than Austin). Every once in a while I would exercise my contrarian, non-conformist spirit by wearing a white shirt and tie to class. My classmates would ask “Do you have a job interview?” or “Going to a funeral?” or something like that. I would tell them no, that I just felt like wearing a shirt and tie. It was sometimes quite amazing the illiberal reaction of avowed liberals to infractions of the unstated dress code. Casual dress was quite formally required. It always gave me a chuckle to poke that unspoken social regulation.

Anyway clothing has a power because it has a significance. I think it is good for us to reflect on this and for us to take care in what we signify.
God bless! 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, April 22

Alleluia! We are in the Easter Season and so still celebrating the triumph of our redemption.  It takes a full 50 days to celebrate this victory appropriately. Alleluia!

I was struck by the large crowds we had on Easter Sunday. It was wonderful! I was also struck, especially at the 5:30 p.m. Mass on Easter, at the large number of people who attended Easter Mass in T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops. I found that rather disturbing.

Now all people are always welcome to our church, and unless it is truly outrageous or immodest, we are happy to have people come to us as they are dressed. God reads our hearts, not our outfits. God knows one can certainly go overboard on concern over dress and get into not-very-subtle competition over dressing up. I remember one choir director who I worked with in another state who could tell you a week later exactly what each lady in the congregation wore the previous Sunday. I was amazed by such feats of memory, but to me that seemed an over-concern with dress.
There is a significance and meaning to clothing, especially for a big feast and Easter is the biggest. Dressing up is important. It is part of engaging in the feast. The priest wears special robes, the servers and the choir members don special garb and traditionally the congregation, as participants, would put on their “Sunday best.” Dressing up is part of participating in the Mass.

Going to Mass is NOT like going to a movie, where you are there to watch and hear the action. The members of the congregation at Mass are not spectators, but participants. As participants it helps to “dress the part.” All of us together are doing something special and significant: worshiping the Father, giving thanks through Jesus the Son and rejoicing in the Holy Spirit. Our inner attitude is most important, but it is shown forth and reinforced by how we present ourselves: how we stand, how we sing, how we participate and by how we dress.

I know that when I get dressed up, in my rabbi (a formal priest’s collar) and black suit, or in a white shirt and tie, I feel differently about myself. It is a reminder to me that this is not just plain-old slouch around time, but that I am engaged in something a bit more formal and significant. It affects the way I feel.

Dress helps convey and re-enforce a sense of identity. When I was in Guatemala in January and we went into the uplands around Lake Atitlán, the native peoples largely wore their traditional dress. The Tzutzuxil people are able to afford modern, Western clothes, but they cling to their traditional dress as a way of preserving and holding onto their sense of identity and tradition. No one forces them to do it; rather they do it to maintain their cultural heritage. They value that heritage and so work to maintain it.

Our culture seems impoverished in comparison. We have much, much more in way of material goods than the Tzutzuxil people of Guatemala, but in another way, in culture and identity and appreciation of family, they seem richer. When I see all the people coming to Easter celebration in shorts and flip-flops, it strikes me as an example of cultural poverty. So that is my take on it, and I hope it gives you something to think about.

God bless! 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Homily 2nd Sunday of Easter April 14/15, 2012

In our Gospel today from St. John, Jesus appears on Easter Sunday evening to the disciples in a locked room.  They are frightened, confused, scared.  Suddenly Jesus is with them.  He looks at them and says:  “Where were you bums on Friday when I needed you?  Some “friends” you clowns turned out to be.  You didn’t think I would be coming back, but here I am, and now it payback time.”  Jesus pointed his finger at them and “blam!”, blew them all to smithereens.    Sylvester Stalone plays Jesus.
            Well, obviously that is NOT what happened.  What happened instead is even more remarkable.  Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you."  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you." 
            After they had proven themselves untrustworthy, weak and faithless, Jesus not only forgives them, telling them “Peace be with you”, but He also trusts them.  He even entrusts His ministry to them:  “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”   How can Jesus trust them?!?  Didn’t the disciples just show how untrustworthy they are?  Is Jesus stupid?
            Well, this is not naive stupidity on Jesus’ part.  Rather Jesus knows that He is empowering them to change, to be different people, to do much more than they had been capable of in the past. 
            And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
"Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained." 
            Jesus breaths on them just like God, in the Book of Genesis, breaths the breath of life into the nostrils of the man God had formed out of clay of the ground, “and the man became a living being.” 
            So with the breath of the Holy Spirit the disciples come to life, so to speak.  They receive not only the power to forgive sins, but the courage to go out and proclaim and to live the Good News.  It is not their talent and their courage and their wisdom that Jesus is relying on, but rather the power of the Holy Spirit that is now in them.  And we all know how they succeeded.  More than 2,000 years later, here we are!
            What about us?  Well, the ending of our Gospel passage today is very interesting.  Listen again to these words of the Gospel of John.  “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 Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.”
            Today, if we read this in a book, or heard this at the end of a movie, we would know instantly that they were setting us up for a sequel, “The Gospel of John TWO”, or something like that.
            Well, John never wrote the sequel, but in a sense that sequel does exist, and is being written still today.  Because we, by our lives, continue the story of the Gospel.  “But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” 
            You and I have come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and through this belief we have LIFE in His name. 
            This is not our doing.  It is a wonderful, wonderful gift from God.  Like those frightened, sad and bewildered disciples in the upper room, we too have our limitations.  On our own we often fail. But just as Jesus  empowered them to change, to be different people, to do much more than they had been capable of in the past, so Jesus breathes on us the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that we are empowered to change, to be different people, to do much more than we had been capable of in the past.
            We are able to have Faith in the goodness and love of God expressed in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.  We are able to have well founded Hope that looks beyond the dark limit of death to new life in Christ Jesus.  We open ourselves to receive the Love of God, and in return to love God, ourselves, and all those around us.  This love is expressed in speaking the truth, in doing the right, in helping those in need, in spending ourselves in service and concern. 
            Every day, by the quality of our lives, we are writing the sequel to the Gospel of John, believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and through this belief enjoying life in His name. 
             Today I want to speak to you about one way of living out that faith.  It is a practical, and I believe an effective way, of expressing your gratitude for God’s many gifts.  I say “Many gifts”, because our life itself is gift.  Every breath we take is another gift.  The Faith in Jesus that gives our life meaning and purpose and inestimable value, that sustains us in times of sorrow and gives focus to our joy, that faith is NOT our accomplishment, but rather God’s gift. 
            It is IMPORTANT to say “Thank You” for life, and for faith, and for all the other gifts.  Gratitude opens us to more and more of God’s blessings.  Gratitude helps us to see how blessed we are, and thus empowers us to approach life – not from a stance of fear and hoarding, but from an openness that is alive and life affirming.  Gratitude draws us closer to the giver, to God.  And the closer we are to God, the source of all blessing, the more we are blessed.
            Next weekend is our annual Pledge Weekend, when we ask our parishioners to commit to financially support our parish.  You either have - or soon will be receiving - a letter from me.  I ask you to take some time to read it, of course.  Even more I ask you to take some time to consider how you are blessed, and especially what a blessing your Catholic Faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is to you personally.  Then please pray over your response, discuss it with your family, and make a generous, grateful, pledge to support our parish. 
            Many wonderful things go on here at St. Austin’s.  We have just completed another beautiful, powerful and moving Holy Week.  There are lots of good reasons to support this parish because of its strengths and needs, but I don’t ask you to support our parish on that basis.  Rather I ask you to do this out of gratitude for the blessings you have received, and receive every day.  As a way of saying THANK YOU, I ask you to make a pledge to St. Austin’s parish community.  Because we need to say Thank You.  God bless.  

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, April 15

Happy Easter! ALLELUIA!

What a great weekend we had last weekend: wonderful music, great preaching, huge crowds, fabulous decorations and flowers, and a warm, lively spirit. It was a great celebration of Easter.  


Many thanks to all those who made it possible. The biggest thanks, of course, go to God the Father, the Holy Spirit and to Jesus. Without God’s phenomenal gift to us of His Only Son, and Jesus’ acceptance of the cross, we would have nothing to celebrate. But God’s love is so great, so forceful, so pervasive and unstoppable that it has overcome death and sin. WOW!  We have something to celebrate not only on Easter, but every day of our lives.

The proper response is gratitude and thanks. Unlike the Government (hope you all have your taxes done, for this is also tax day!), God does not withhold any of our earnings. God allows us to graciously respond in generosity, as we are moved by gratitude, never coerced or forced.

We all have an opportunity to respond in gratitude to God’s phenomenal generosity to us next weekend, April 21-22, as we observe our annual PLEDGE WEEKEND here at St. Austin.

Less than a quarter (about 22%) of our parish makes an annual pledge. The pledge is a commitment of membership and belonging, of taking a share in the responsibility of supporting and growing our parish community. Regardless of the size of the pledge, the very act of making a pledge is tantamount to accepting responsibility of this parish community as an active member. Spiritually, it is a good thing to do, so I urge you to pledge.

My hope is that we will be able to increase the number of parish families who pledge by 10% this year. The main focus is on giving in thanksgiving and in gratitude for God’s countless blessings. Our giving is always a response to what God has done for us first. So first of all you have to consider how you have been blessed by God, and there is no better time for that than the Easter Season.

I ask that you please read the letter and materials you will soon be receiving from me. If you do not get one this week, call the church office (512-477-9471), and we will send you one.  Please pray over how God has blessed you and your family. Take some time to study the Guide to Weekly Giving that is printed on the back side of the Financial Support form. This is meant to be a reality check to help challenge you to greater gratitude – not a guilt trip. And of course, make your pledge by returning the form in next weekend’s collection, or online, or by mail.  THANK YOU!

God has given His Beloved Son so that we might become Children of God.  Please respond it gratitude. 

God bless! 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Check out our Facebook page!

If you use Facebook haven't liked St. Austin Catholic Parish's page yet, please consider doing so. You can find us at   There are some great pictures posted from the Triduum, and you can stay up-to-date with our current events.

God Bless,

EASTER SUNDAY April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!!!  ALLELUIA!   Christ is Risen!  Death and sin are defeated.  God triumphs!  Love and Life are ETERNAL.  ALLELUIA!
            Today we hear the beautiful Gospel of St. Mark.  Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices so that they might go and anoint Jesus, and very early on Sunday morning they go to the tomb.  They are wondering about how they are going to get in the tomb since there is a huge stone blocking the entrance.    But when they get there, just after sunrise, they discover the stone is rolled away!  With concern and trepidation they gingerly make their way into the tomb, and there they see something that utterly amazes them.  Anybody remember what they saw? 
            If you answered “An Angel” that is WRONG!  They did NOT see an angel.  In St. Matthew’s Gospel the women see an angel.  In St. Luke’s Gospel the women meet two gentlemen in dazzling apparel who could be angels.  And in St. John’s Gospel Mary Magdalene sees no one there at first, but on returning later she meets Jesus Himself. 
            But our Gospel today is good old Mark, and he does not have an angel.  What the women find in the tomb that utterly amazes them is “a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe.”    Now let’s see, do we have any young men in white robes with us today?  Will the servers please stand?   [[point to server]]  This is what St. Mark tells us the women saw a young man in a white robe.  Let’s give the server a big round of applause… 
Mark knew perfectly well the word for angel, and if he had meant an angel he would have written, “an angel”.   But instead he wrote “a young man … clothed in a white robe.” 
            Now ¿who is this guy?  What is he doing here?  Well, I think we have seen him before.  Think back to last Sunday, to Palm Sunday when we heard St Mark’s version of the Passion of our Lord, and the events that lead up to today’s Gospel.  Was there any young man in that story?   Well, yes there was. 
Do you remember in the Garden of Gethsemani, when Jesus was arrested, St. Mark states: "With that, all deserted him and fled."   Then St. Mark adds an unusual detail that only he recounts: "There was a young man following him who was covered by nothing but a linen cloth.  As they seized him he left the cloth behind and ran off naked."  [Hold up white cloth.]  ¿Remember him, the streaker?  How could you forget?  What an image!    I mean it is so Austin!
What is this all about?  This is a deeply symbolic passage.  For the Scriptures nakedness is not erotic.  Rather nakedness is a cause for shame.  In the Garden of Eden, before they sinned, Adam and Eve are presented as being perfectly comfortable with being naked.  But once they sinned, nakedness became a source of shame. 
And they hid themselves from God, because they were afraid.  Nakedness becomes a source of alienation and separation from God and from each other.
In the Bible nakedness is a symbol of vulnerability, of powerlessness, of poverty, of being without identity and not belonging.  In the Bible, nakedness is not a good place to be.
This young man in Mark’s Gospel, naked, defenseless, terrified, running for his life, ashamed and scarred, is a symbol for all of us when we are without God’s grace.  We run scarred through a terrifying and indifferent universe, with no meaning, no belonging, no identity.
But, something has dramatically changed!  Because the young man wearing the white robe in the tomb is the same guy who was running naked from the Garden of Gethsemani. 
On Thursday he was naked; on Easter he is clothed in a white garment.
On Thursday he was running for his life; on Easter he is seated calmly.
On Thursday he was terrified, frightened, scarred; on Easter he is calm, assured, and at peace.
Before Jesus’ death and resurrection, this young man flees naked from the Garden, just like Adam and Eve fled from the Garden when they discovered they were naked and hid from God.
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, this same young man is now dressed in a white robe and boldly proclaims the resurrection: "He has been raised up; he is not here!"
Something really important changed.  The sign of that interior change is signified by going from being naked to being dressed in a white robe, which is the Baptismal robe, the sign of Baptism, just like the six people Baptized here last night received and were dressed in a white robe.
My friends, that young man in the Gospel, a symbolic figure, represents every one of us. Not just the new baptized in white, but every one of us.  Before the salvific death of Christ, before redemption was won for us, we stood fearful and ashamed before God.  We were naked sinners, and ran away from God.  But now that Christ has conquered sin and death we have been clothed in a new dignity, a new identity through Baptism.  Now we are God’s beloved children, and stand before God unashamed.
We have put on the Lord Jesus Christ, which is the very best of all Easter outfits.  At our baptisms we wore white.  But every day we wear that baptismal dignity as a member of the Body of Christ. 
By our lives, like that young man in the Gospel, we too proclaim the power of Christ’s resurrection: "He has been raised up.”  Christ is not among the dead in the tombs.  The Risen Christ is here, among us.
What a beautiful Easter outfit!   HAPPY EASTER!   ALLELUIA!!!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Easter Sunday, April 8

Alleluia!!! Alleluia!!! Happy Easter! WELCOME TO ALL!

To all our regular parishioners, friends, visitors, guests, newcomers, tourists, neighbors, people passing through, in short to everyone, WELCOME!

Easter is the wonderful celebration of the victory of light over darkness, of life over death, of love over hate, of holiness over sin. This is for us all: everyone belongs and all are welcome. It is all God’s doing.

We are glad you are with us for this wonderful celebration of Easter because we truly have something wonderful to celebrate. CHRIST IS RISEN! ALLELUIA!!!

German = Halleluja

French = Alléluia

Polish = Alleluja

Czech = Aleluja

Finnish = Alleluia

Greek = Αλληλούια

Hindi = Alleluia

Italian = Alleluia

Japanese = ハレルヤ

Norwegian = Alleluia

Portugese = Aleluia

Russian = Аллилуиа

Swedish = Alleluia

Chinese =

Well, you get the idea. No matter how you say it, it all comes out as ALLELUIA!

Happy Easter!

God bless,

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Passion (Palm) Sunday April 1, 2012

A magazine I have subscribed to for a long time, and that I very much enjoy, is this one, Military History.  Now you might find it rather odd that a man in my profession, publicly and professionally committed to making peace, would be so interested in strife, warfare, and things military.  But I am.  And one of the primary reasons is that I am fascinated by how people, men mostly, react to the extreme conditions of battle.  There is very little room for posturing, pretense, false fronts when life and death are in the balance.  And so you see what people are really made of: those who respond with uncommon courage and good sense like Joshua Chamberlain at Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg, or General McAuliffe and the Americans at Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge.   And you also see a lot of cowardice, a lot of stupidity, and basic incompetence.  A person’s true character is revealed in the extreme conditions of battle and war.
            We have just heard the Passion of Our Lord according to Mark.  There is a tremendous amount at stake in this story.  It is every bit as much about life and death as any battle. It is certainly a case of extreme conditions.  And so in the story people’s true character is revealed.  The chief priests with their plotting and conniving and grasping at power; Pilate fearful and suspicious, pushed into a corner; Judas, greedy and a traitor; Peter full of braggadocio and revealed as a denier and a coward; the other disciples all just fair weather friends; the women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome, and others, who hang in there, looking on from a distance, but still faithful; and Joseph of Arimathea, who “courageously went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.” 
            Where do we see ourselves?  In the retelling, we are there too.  Am I with the crowd calling for blood?, with the Roman soldiers bored and indifferent, just another messy job?, with the disciples, afraid and frightened?, with the women, sorrowful and anxious?….
            And then of course there is Jesus.  His character is revealed in the story too.  Knowing that the trial before the high priest, and later before Pilate, is just a kangaroo-court with a foregone conclusion, Jesus refuses to participate in the spectacle and largely remains silent.  He does not play games.
            Jesus rather reveals His character by his actions, by how he accepts and even embraces His death, in total trust of the Father’s care for him.  And so, “When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God.’”  
            In His suffering and death Jesus reveals His true self.  “Truly this man was the Son of God.”