Sunday, August 26, 2012


Have you ever had the experience of saying something and then all the people around you got upset?   Been there, done that.  Then you can identify with Jesus in today’s Gospel. 

            “Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
            What is this hard saying?   Well, just four verses earlier, in last Sunday’s Gospel, we heard Jesus state: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”
            This is presumably the saying that the disciples found hard to accept.  Now it is important for us to understand why they found it hard to accept.  Are the disciples taking Jesus’ statement too literally?  Are they repulsed by the idea of physically eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking Jesus’ blood?  Are they misunderstanding Jesus as advocating cannibalism?
            I think that solution lets us off the hook too easily.  Because you see, WE know that Jesus is not advocating cannibalism.  We know that Jesus is speaking figuratively, or better, sacramentally.  We know that Jesus gives us His flesh under the form of bread, and His blood under the form of wine.  And so we know this hard statement is not about cannibalism.
            But the disciples of Jesus’ day were not literalist dummies.  Just a few verses before this, in verses 27-28, they understood perfectly well that Jesus was speaking figuratively.  When Jesus instructed them: Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life,...."    The disciples responded: “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?"  [John 6:27-28] They understood well that Jesus was not talking about physical food, but rather about doing the works of God.  
            So then, why did they get so upset that they turn away and abandoned Jesus?  I think it was not because they misunderstood Jesus in some literalistic repugnance to cannibalism.   Rather they understood all too well what Jesus was talking about, and it was because they understood that they left Jesus.
            “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”
            What is Jesus talking about?   If Jesus is not to be taken in a simplistically literal way, then how should we understand Him? 
            “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”  This is a statement about very deep closeness, about very intense union, about intimacy.  It is about being known deeply and completely by the Lord, and knowing Jesus closely.  For to eat something is to become one with it.  When we eat food it becomes a part of us.  In this case, in the Eucharist, as St. Augustine pointed out long ago, we become part of what we eat.  We become part of the Body of Christ.  It is no longer our life that animates us, but the Life of Christ in us.  That is intimate.
            And the thing with intimacy is that it is scary.  It is threatening because intimacy makes us vulnerable.  You cannot be intimate in a suit of armor.  Genuine intimacy is also a lot of work.  To truly be intimate with someone you have to share your hopes, your dreams, your fears, your desires, your likes and dislikes, your very being.  You have to argue and laugh and cry and speak profoundly about who you are. 
            Genuine intimacy is difficult.  And yet that is what Jesus is talking about:   “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”   This is about intimate union, a deep personal closeness.  This is about love.   
            St. Paul, in our second reading today tells us: “For no one hates his own flesh
but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church,”
- that is the gathering of Christ’s people - “because we are members of his body.”    St. Paul is talking here about a close and intimate union between Jesus and His people, who are all like members of one body. 
            Then St. Paul goes on to quote the Book of Genesis, and says: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”    St. Paul then makes this outrageous comment on the quote from Genesis: “This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and (His people) the church.”   “Mystery” or mysterion in Greek, gets translated into “sacramentum” in Latin,  that is, St. Paul says that Christian marriage is a sacrament of the union between Christ and His people, the church. 
            St. Paul is boldly using the image of marriage, and indeed even of sexual union, to try to capture this mystery of the intimacy that we are called to with Christ.  
            As the man and wife are joined and become one flesh, so we take Jesus into us, eat His flesh and drink His blood, so that His life is within us, and we become no longer two, but one body in Him. 
            That is pretty radical.  That is powerful.  And it is scary.  It demands a great deal of us, just as deep intimacy with any other human demands a great deal of us; in terms of honesty, in terms of being vulnerable, in terms of dependability and loyalty, in terms of commitment.  To eat Jesus’ flesh and drink His blood demands an absolute and thorough commitment from us, the same kind of commitment Jesus makes in giving us Himself.  It is to remain in Him and He in us.  That is POWERFUL.
            Commitment precludes options.  We belong to Christ now and He to us.  Commitment defines who we are: people who live in and for Christ.
            And a lot of us have a problem with such heavy-duty commitment.  So did those early disciples we hear about in today’s Gospel.  They weren’t just confused and so left Jesus over a misunderstanding.  No.  Rather they understood Him all too well, and so they are a challenge to us.  We are now presented with this invitation to radical intimacy with The Lord.   We too are tempted to pull back and walk away. 
            So Jesus’ question today is also addressed to us: “Do you also want to leave?”
The price of staying is steep.  The demand of committed discipleship is high.  But it is the only way to the fullness of life. 
            We answer with Simon Peter: “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.   We have come to believe and are convinced  
that you are the Holy One of God.”

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, August 26

"In the beginning was the Word..."

So begins the beautiful prologue to St. John’s Gospel. “The Word” is an important concept in Greek philosophy and has become an even more dynamic and important concept in our theology. Jesus is the Word of God, the full, complete, authentic expression of the God the Father. It is through the Word that all that is has come to be and abides in being. “God said “Let there be light!” and there was light” (Ex 1:3). God creates by speaking. Each of us, as creatures of God, are God’s words as well. God calls us into being at every instant.
So theologically, words and speech are very important for us.  Our main acts of worship are made up primarily of words,  either sung or spoken. We also know in our human relationships that words are very significant. Who has never uttered a word that almost instantly you wish you take back? Who has never longed for a word from a parent or spouse or loved one?  Words build up or they tear down. Words cut or they heal.  Words encourage or they burden. Words speak the truth or they spread lies.
Words are incredibly powerful. Jesus, with no armies or treasures, but with wonderful words and profound teaching initiated the Kingdom of God and changed all of history. Hitler, with words of hate and violence, plunged the world into destruction and death, all with the power of words. Words are incredibly powerful.
We are now living in contentious times. We have conflicts over politics in our nation, we have conflicts in our Church, and we may have conflicts in our school, workplace, neighborhood and even our family. In this kind of situation it is very important that we pay attention to our words. The model of discourse our political leaders on the national level are providing to us is not helpful. In fact it is a downright disgrace. We should not follow the example of the politicians and the news media. We can, and must, do better than that in our own speech. As followers of Jesus we have much better examples.  St. Paul, in his Letter to the Ephesians, put it this way: “Never let evil talk pass you lips; say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them” (4:29).
Here at St. Austin we are blessed with great diversity: ethnic diversity, people from all over the country and the world, all kinds of people and so on. We also have great political diversity in this parish. There are members of our community who work in the State Government administration and are strongly Republican. We have members of our community from the University community who are strongly Democratic. Our parish includes a spectrum from very conservative to very liberal, from very red to very blue. THAT IS NOT A BAD THING!!!  Indeed, it is a blessing, especially if we can model that we can all respect each other in Christ and work together. But we all need to hold ourselves accountable for what we say.
Sometimes the best words are words that are not spoken.  There is still wisdom in the old saying, “Silence is golden.” Or as Abraham Lincoln put it: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Be careful what you say. Because words matter.
God bless!

Monday, August 20, 2012


First of all, a disclaimer.  For those who care about these things, the following is not a homily – that is, a faith reflection on the Scriptural readings – so much as a catechetical sermon.  So adjust the dials on your mental receptors from homily to sermon.  Now to begin.

While I am confident that HERE at St. Austin’s there is no confusion or doubt about the Catholic teaching that in Mass the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, in some places, I understand, that there is. 
The teaching itself is actually fairly clear: The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: #1374 "In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ, is truly, really, and substantially contained.’  This presence is called ‘real’".
Yet according to some surveys in the past two decades, 60 - 65 % of Catholics in the U.S. say they don’t believe that.  We will not take a show of hands. 
That is a problem.  So, on this third week of hearing passages from Jesus on the Bread of Life, I want to talk about our belief in the Real Presence.
The bread and the wine are obviously not physically the Body and Blood of Christ.  Simple observation proves that.  The consecrated bread and wine don’t smell, taste, weigh, or look like flesh and blood.  Yet we state that the bread and wine really and truly become the Body and Blood of Christ.  How can the bread and wine be not physically the Body and Blood of Christ, and yet be really and truly the Body and Blood of Christ? 
Is there more to reality than just the physical? 
Part of the problem is that, in our technological and scientific world view, we identify the physical with the real.  But "is that all there is?"
I contend, (and I am in pretty good company with the rest of the Christian Community, at least traditionally,) that such an approach is a much too narrow and cramped concept of reality.  There are dimensions of reality beyond the physical. 
Love, commitment, beauty, the spiritual, are all real, even if not physical.  Their manifestations are physical, and hence capable of being studied, measured, analyzed  and explained by science.  But the realities themselves exist outside of, or beyond the physical.  Who can explain why a person falls in love with one person but not with  another?  “What does she see in that guy?” we ask. 
Beauty is real, and we experience it, even if we cannot explain how it captivates and enthralls us, and we cannot give a complete description of its power to move us.
The same is true with the reality of Presence, specifically the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Consider Presence: Have you ever observed someone be physically present, but not really and truly present?  Happens all the time.  Especially in hot, stuffy churches during sermons.  If any of you are teachers, and it doesn’t make any difference if you teach little children, or high school kids, or college students or post-doc fellows, you most certainly have had the experience of speaking to a group that is physically present but not really all there.  If any of you have been a parent to a teen-ager, then certainly you know that someone can be physically present, the atoms of their body are all there, but they most certainly are not. 
Now the reverse is also possible: that someone may not be physically present, yet their legacy is so strong in an organization or family, their personality so dominant, the memory of them still so very alive, that the absent person continues to have the same effect on the thoughts and feelings and behaviors of those who remain as when the person was physically there.  In effect, that is to say in reality, the person is still present even though physically absent. 
Perhaps you have been part of a family gathering where some deceased family member was so remembered and loved and spoken of that, in effect, they were still present.  And the effect that the loved one’s presence had in the past still has the same effect even long after she or he is gone.  Fr. Bob Scott’s presence was with us at his Memorial on Thursday as we recalled and remembered him. 
When Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem and the roads of Palestine, His presence made a difference. He had a lasting and profound effect on people.  He gave them hope, He healed them, He liberated them from burdens of guilt and sin, He reconciled them to God, to each other, to their deepest self.  The earliest disciples experienced this wonderful gift of Jesus’ presence, and knew the kind of effect that Jesus’ presence had on them. 
But on Ascension Thursday Jesus passed from this physical world of matter to a higher realm of reality.  He was no longer physically present with us. 
But He was not gone!  For when those same disciples gathered to remember Jesus, and do what He had commanded them to do, they sensed that Jesus was still very much with them.  As St. Luke tells us, "they came to know him in the breaking of the bread."  (Luke 24:35)
They came to understand that in the Eucharist Jesus was really and truly present to them.  The same effect that His physical presence had when He walked among them they now experienced in the Eucharist.  Jesus was really and truly present, but not physically present, rather sacramentally present in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the wine. 
This sacramental presence is a real and true presence.  Not just a symbolic reminder of Jesus, but His actual presence with the power to effect deep and profound changes in us: to heal, to console, to forgive, to encourage.  Indeed, this Real Presence in the Eucharist has the power to change us into the Body and Blood of Christ; so that we might have Christ’s life in us, and live - not our lives - but His.
The question is not so much Jesus’ Real Presence - for that is guaranteed by Jesus’ own word: "This is my Body" and "This is my Blood".  The Risen Christ will always be present to us in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.   Rather the question is our presence.  How present are we to the reality of Christ in this Sacrament and in this gathering of disciples?
Are we all here?  Do we pay attention?  Do we participate?  Do we join in the singing and responses?  Do we open ourselves to being touched and transformed by The Lord?   Or do we bring just a piece of ourselves to Mass, hanging back, keep our distance, afraid of connecting with other believers, afraid of the intimacy of deep union with Christ, a union so deep that we truly eat His flesh and drink His blood, take His life into us, and become one with Him?  That is pretty intimate.  And so our presence is the real question.                So Jesus says to us today:
"Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man
and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 
Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life,
and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 
Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”  AMEN.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, August 19

Here is another article in the occasional series on our church windows. We now come to the last pair of windows on the left (near the choir loft) as you stand facing the altar. For a very long time this set of windows mystified me. On the left as you face the pair of windows you see some red and white designs, which have some brown, three-leafed twigs stuck in. At first I took these to be palm trees (probably influenced by the palm in the next window) on fire, but that made no sense. I have since come to recognize it as a representation of the burning bush from the Book of Exodus (Ex 3:2) “There the angel of the Lord appeared to Moses  as fire flaming out of a bush.  When he looked, although the bush was on fire, it was not being consumed.” The burning bush is a theophany (an appearance of God). There is an aspect of awe and fear in this appearance. “God said: Do not come near! Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your father,” he continued, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God” (vss 5-6). Finding a burning bush is pretty upsetting.

In the next panel we see a palm tree (one parishioner told me the palm branches look like marijuana leaves, but believe me, they are palm branches!) Flowing right in front of the palm tree is an undulating blue river. This I take to be the Garden of Eden. For people from a hot, dry desert country (not all that different than Central Texas before A/C!), shady palms and a cool river would certainly be paradise!

So these two taken together, the burning bush and the Garden of Eden, I take to be the window representing the Old Testament, or in more politically correct current terminology, the Hebrew Scriptures. We have these windows due to the generosity of “Mr. and Mrs. Sammie F. Joseph and Family” according to the plaque in the foyer.

Now I don’t know how you could encompass the entire O.T. in two window panels, but I think the artist has done a very nice job. Rudolph Otto was a very famous German theologian and philosopher about religion, and he described the experience of the divine as “mysterium tremendum et fascinans,” that is, a mystery at once both overwhelming and scary (tremendum) and at the same time alluring and compelling (fascinans). We see this contradictory combination in these two windows. The burning bush is a disturbing experience; Moses must remove his shoes for he is on holy ground. He must not come nearer or he will be overcome by its power. He is afraid to look at God and so hides his face. The experience of the divine induces trembling, fear and dread. On the other hand, the divine is the source of life, of fertility, of refreshment. The Garden of Eden in the companion window represents the fascinating, alluring, attractive aspect of the divine. It represents the life we all long for. As St. Augustine (not ours, the other one, of Hippo) said many centuries ago, “Our hearts are restless till they rest in You.

In pairing the burning bush and the Garden of Eden I think the artist nicely captured a wonderful aspect of the Old Testament: God who both is totally other and who is also intimate to us.  There is something to reflect on in this window. 

God bless!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Rev. Robert Titus Scott, CSP Month’s Mind Memorial Mass Thursday, August 16, 2012

[This is the homily as best as I remember giving it.  It may not be exactly word-for-word, but it does contain the general drift of the homily.   Fr Chuck Kullmann, CSP]

Good evening.  My name is Fr Chuck Kullmann, and on behalf of all the Paulists I want to thank you most sincerely for coming out this evening to honor Fr. Bob Scott.

I want to tell you about FIVE loves of Fr. Bob Scott. 

First of all, Fr. Bob LOVED being a Paulist.  His Paulist identity and vocation were very important to him.  He was proud of being a Paulist.  He loved singing the Paulist anthem, “Lead Us Great Teacher Paul.”  The Paulist Associates here know this as the “Paulist fight song”.  It is on the front of your worship aide and we will sing it tonight.  Fr Bob loved being a Paulist.

Fr. Bob LOVED being a priest.  He loved saying Mass and preaching.  He loved being with people at important junctures in their lives for Baptisms, Weddings, Anniversaries, even Reconciliation and Funerals.  Fr Bob loved being a priest.

Fr. Bob LOVED being a Catholic.  He was proud of and loved his faith.  His greatest joy was to share that faith with others.  Nothing else made his as happy.  I am sure that many of you here had Fr Bob witness to you about the faith, try to talk you into becoming Catholic, instructed you to become Catholic or celebrated your becoming Catholic.  Fr. Bob loved being a Catholic.

Fr. Bob LOVED life. He lived life fully, with total engagement.  He loved sports, singing, being with people, laughing.  Fr. Bob loved life.

And Fr. Bob LOVED God.  One thing we can be pretty sure of is that he is now in love with God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit – far more deeply and intensely than he has ever been before.

Now we have gathered this evening to remember Fr. Bob Scott, and to pray that God will be good to this fine man, and finally to honor him.  Well the best way that we can honor Fr. Bob is to love our life more fully and to love God.  That is how we can truly honor him.  To love our life fully and to love God more is the best memorial for Fr. Bob. 


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, August 12

This coming week here at St. Austin Parish promises to be a full one. On Tuesday, August 14, St. Austin School opens for another year of learning, friendship and fun. Please keep the students and the teachers in your prayers.

On Wednesday the 15th we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a holy day of obligation in the U.S.A. Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven. However, ALL of us hope and pray for eternal life and heaven and confidently look forward to the resurrection of our bodies on the last day. Mary’s special privilege is that she does not have to wait until the Final Judgment (the fulfillment of all time and history) to enjoy the fullness of Christ’s redemption in the totality of her being, body and soul. She got it immediately at the end of her life as a special favor. So she is a kind of preview of coming attractions, if I may put it that way. What she enjoys now we hope to share in on the Day of Judgment and the raising of the dead. We see now in Mary what we someday hope to be.

The Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, defining the dogma of the Assumption, states: “…it seems almost impossible to think of her who conceived Christ, bore Him, nourished Him with her milk, held Him in her arms, and pressed Him to her breast, as separated from Him after this earthly life in her body, even though not in soul. Since our Redeemer is the Son of Mary, surely, as the most perfect observer of divine law, He could not refuse to honor, in addition to His Eternal Father, His most beloved Mother also. And, since He could adorn her with so great a gift as to keep her unharmed by the corruption of the tomb, it must be believed that He actually did this.”

In other words, since Jesus is a good son who loves His mother very much, and since Jesus could do this favor for Mary, then of course He must have done this for her. This is logic of the heart, not of the head. The Marian doctrines engage us on levels deeper than rational theology.

And then on Thursday, August 16 we will honor the memory and celebrate the life of our dear friend and brother, Fr. Bob Scott, CSP. It seems altogether fitting that the day after we celebrate the Blessed Mother’s Assumption into heaven, we recall the life and memory of Fr. Bob Scott, another friend and “family member” who we have good reason to believe is in heaven. I am sure that Fr. Bob is enjoying the company of the BVM and she his. Please join us on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. at University Catholic Center, 2010 University Avenue. A reception will follow.  

God bless!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, August 5

On Sunday, August 5, Fr. Chuck was enjoying some R&R with friends in Oregon. St. Austin's newest Associate Pastor, Fr. Bob Cary, CSP, wrote a guest post for the parish bulletin.

My Name Is . . .

Several years ago I was at a family gathering where a young great nephew was telling us about his first days in school. He was excited about all his new friends so I asked him what his friends’ names were. He named two friends and then, still excited but a tad bewildered, he said “I don’t remember all their names! There are a lot of them.”

These days I feel like my young nephew. My name is Fr. Bob Cary, and as the new associate pastor at St. Austin Catholic Parish there are many new names for me to learn. (Remember you only need to learn one name, I have hundreds to learn.) Names can be a basic learning task but the far more significant experience is hearing the story that an individual name represents. In fact, in my experience, a name often doesn’t really stick until I associate the name with other information about the person. That is a mantra you will often hear from me: stories matter.  So here are some basics of my story.

I was born and raised in Detroit the middle child of fivefour sons then a daughter. My parents are deceased but my brothers and sister and their families live around the country but mostly in Michigan. We had a wonderful family reunion this past June. After education by the Jesuits in high school and college, and a stint at teaching and graduating from law school, I became an assistant city attorney in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I primarily handled real estate matters for the city and found professional satisfaction being involved in the development, regulation and redevelopment of an urban community. But my growing sense that community was deeper than mere physical structures lead to a call to switch from “the law to the prophets.” I entered seminary with the Paulist Fathers, obtained an M-Div from Catholic University and was ordained May 19, 1984. (Fr. René and I share an ordination anniversary date.)

Since then I have served in parish ministry, campus ministry and adult education in Minneapolis, UCLA, Chicago, Ohio State, Grand Rapids, Memphis and a few other assignments including a few years in the mid-90s at the University Catholic Center here at UT. I also served as General Treasurer of the Paulist Community and along the way obtained an MA in Bioethics and Healthcare Policy from the medical school at Loyola University of Chicago. I have served as a pastor or director a few times but now am quite content to be an associate again (Most of my friends from college are now retiring). One of my hopes is to use my degree in bioethics and focus on issues and pastoral care in healthcare. We will see how this evolves.

I can hear our bulletin editor saying “Stop!” so I will for now. I look forward to serving at and with St. Austin Parish, meeting you and sharing stories.

Click here to contact Fr. Cary via email.