Monday, November 26, 2012

HOMILY Feast of Christ the King November 24/25, 2012


          If you have seen the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy from a decade ago, you will know that the third and concluding portion was “The Return of the King”.  In this final part of the trilogy there is a battle of cosmic proportions, the evil ring is destroyed, good finally triumphs, peace and justice are restored, and the rightful king is established on his throne.  With the return of the King things are put right again, balance and harmony return, and justice flourishes.
          That is an image of what we are celebrating today.  For we too are awaiting the return of the King.  From the Book of Revelation we heard: “Behold, he is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him.
All the peoples of the earth will lament him. Yes. Amen.
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, " says the Lord God,
"the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty."
          And from the Book of Daniel we heard: “the one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away,
his kingship shall not be destroyed.”
          We Christians are looking for the return and establishment of the world’s rightful ruler, for justice and peace to be finally and definitively established, for right to prevail over might, for the rights of the poor to be respected, for harmony and health and goodwill to flourish.  We eagerly await the establishment of the Kingdom of God.  We yearn for the return of the King. 
          This is basic to Christianity.  In the Creed which we will profess in just a few minutes we state: “He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty, from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.”
One of the earliest Christian prayers we have, in Jesus’ own Aramaic language, is Maranatha!  “O Lord, Come!” 
          Now the words we have today from the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation are mythic language.  They tell us the truth about the meaning and import of Christ’s Kingship, and that it will be definitively established.  But this is not an literal description of a future historic event.  We don’t have the mental categories, much less the language, to be able to describe such an event.  But we don’t need to.  We know the meaning and the fact of the coming of God’s Kingdom, even if we don’t have a full description of the “how.”
          And this is important because this knowledge gives us hope.  In the grand cosmic struggle between good and evil, darkness and light, right and wrong, life and death, God wins.  In fact, in Christ Jesus, King of the Cosmos, God has already won.  The Resurrection of Jesus is the definitive triumph of God over sin, over death, over evil.  The issue is not in doubt.  Jesus is King.  But the full working out of His triumph has not yet occurred, and especially has not yet fully happened in my life nor in yours.  We still struggle against our frailties and sins to make Jesus the King of my life NOW.
          But this faith in Jesus the King does give us hope.  This hope is different from optimism.  Things may get worse before they get better.  Our leaders may, and probably will, mess it up.  We may, and probably will, give in to greed or fear or hate or lust or envy.  The power of sin is still very real.  But the ultimate victory is assured.  Because the victory does not depend on us; not on the skill and effectiveness of our political system, not on the brilliance of our universities, not on the productivity of our economy, not on the creativity of our artistic community, not on the might of our military, not even on the sanctity of our churches. 
          The victory depends on the King.  On Christ Jesus.  On the Cross.  And it is already won. 
          More importantly, He loves us.  Maranatha!   O Lord, Come!  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, November 25


This is Thanksgiving Day weekend, a time for shopping, overeating and football. Hopefully it is also a time of counting our blessings, so I want to take this opportunity to look at the experience of gratitude.

Gratitude is not so much a specific action like ‘thank you’ to someone as it is a mind-set, or better yet, a heart-set. It is an attitude, an approach to life. Gratitude is a fundamental awareness of having been blessed, and that makes a BIG difference. If we believe/sense/feel that God has been good to us in the past, and we trust that God is not some willy-nilly nit that is forever changing his divine mind or playing tricks, but rather that it is in God’s nature to be constant and faithful, then we can approach the future in trust rather than in fear. Trust in God’s goodness to us impels us to lead into life anticipating goodness, rather than holding back in caution and fear.

When we come to recognize that God blesses us, then we can be freed up to open ourselves in generosity, for we then do not have such a need to grasp and cling. After all, God is faithful and will continue to be good to us. As St. Paul tells us, “God who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” (Rom 8:32) We have been given God’s own beloved Son! We can count on God’s continued blessing.

Gratitude leads to freedom and that leads us to more life. Generosity is generative, that is, life giving, and generosity is the result of gratitude. Stinginess and greed are sterile, a form of death, for they center on the self and do not lead to life. This clasping attitude comes from fear and a failure to recognize our blessedness.

As Christians we have been exorbitantly blessed by God. Indeed, I think one of the problems with the Christian message is that it is so wonderful that it is almost too good to be true. We are hesitant to accept that we have been so wildly and extravagantly loved by God. How are we to react to such overwhelming love?

There is an old song by the Damiens that captures the appropriate response in the song’s refrain: “And all that we can offer you is thanks, and all that we can offer you is thanks.”

As Christians we are called to be people of gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving!

God bless! 

 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, November 18

This week Fr. Robert Cary, CSP, is guest posting for Fr. Chuck's bulletin column!


Fr. Bob’s Occasional

Last month, October, was Respect Life Month. As Catholics we seek to respect and protect human life against what Pope John Paul II called a culture of death in our society that too readily accepts abortion, the death penalty, euthanasia, and war as the solutions to problems in society.

November is traditionally the month that we remember and pray for the deceased, those who have passed from this life to new life in the communion of saints. Remembering the dead and believing in their new life calls us to acknowledge and accept death as a part of life. As Christians we accept death with hope in our resurrection with Jesus Christ. So truthfully, November should be Respect Death month.

As humans, when we face serious illness, advanced age or imminent death, we can turn to certain guiding principles from scripture and Catholic tradition, but are also accessible to all persons as natural law. These principles are 1.) human dignity, 2.) duty to preserve life, 3.) fact of human finitude, 4.) the diversity of humans, and 5.) social nature of humans. Modern medicine provides us wonderful new technologies and treatments to help us preserve life, but medicine has limits and cannot postpone death forever. In addition, sometimes medical technologies and treatments intended to help actually hurt or burden persons under certain circumstance. What is our duty in caring for ourselves in such situations? What should be our loving and responsible actions for those we serve as caregivers?

Our Catholic tradition provides us very helpful guidelines in the Ethical and Religious Directives for healthcare givers (ERD). Depending upon the circumstances of a particular patient we respect his/her human dignity and unique nature and circumstancessome medical technologies and treatments may not be necessary to preserve human life and the patient can forego them. To the objection this seems like suicide or euthanasia the ERD would respond that foregoing these treatments, when they would provide little or no value to the patient or impose an excessive burden, is simply allowing a patient to die. Respecting life means respecting death when the times comes. As believers we allow the human person to move on to the next stage of their journey with God.

Our physical life is very important and we have a duty to preserve it, but it is not an absolute value. Our relationship with God our soulis absolute. As Christians we place a limited faith and hope in medicine. Our absolute faith and hope is in the resurrection. In faith and hope we respect death.

There will be a workshop, Tough Decisions, on Saturday, December 1 when this issue and related issues will be discussed. All are welcome. Bring your friends and relatives.

Fr. Bob Cary, CSP

 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, November 11


Happy Veterans Day! Our gratitude goes out to all veterans in our community: veterans of all the wars and conflicts in living memory, and those who helped preserve the peace in times of tension and conflict. Our gratitude cannot remain just a pleasant feeling but must be translated into concrete actions of support, especially for those physically, psychologically or emotionally wounded in the many conflicts of this century. Congratulations to you all! Thank you! Happy Veterans Day!

This coming week I will be at St Paul’s College in Washington, D.C. for the annual Paulist Pastors/Superiors meeting. This is a chance for the “middle management” of the Paulists to gather and get some updating. Last year we had an interesting presentation on our legal and moral responsibilities as managers for the use of parish and institutional internet and websites. We managers can be held responsible for illegal or inappropriate use of the internet in our organizations (parishes) if we have not stated that such use is not permitted. It seems like a no-brainer, but in this litigious society such is the case. The result was the inclusion of an “internet use policy” in our parish personnel handbook, which each employee signed. It is just part of all the wonderful aspects of being a modern pastor!

This year the presentation at the Pastors’ meeting will be by Dr. Marti Jewell, an assistant professor of theology in the School of Ministry at the University of Dallas. Her presentation will focus on reaching out to those who have left the Church and even more especially to those under 30 years of age. This is a big and growing problem in the United States. I hope I come back with some great suggestions to share with you. In this Year of Faith, with its theme “The Door of Faith is Always Open,” unfortunately the door swings both ways. Not only is the Door of Faith open to welcome everyone, too often it is open for people to leave the Church. In this country, for every person we bring into the Church through the RCIA, four others remove themselves. The most effective type of “New Evangelization” we could devise would be to stop loosing so many adherents.

Next weekend Austin hosts the first of the Formula One races to be held here. As I am sure you have heard, we are expecting MANY visitors to our city for this event, something like 300,000! I am avoiding the crowd by not attempting to fly back into Austin on the weekend after my meeting in D.C., but will stop to visit my family in St. Louis, Missouri and then return to Austin on Monday as the crowds are leaving.  However, for all of you I pray that you will have an easy time coming to church on Saturday or Sunday. Avoid downtown! Our garage will of course be open and available, so parking should not be any problem, and we are just far enough from downtown to avoid street closures and the brunt of the traffic. Therefore I encourage you to not be scared away from church next weekend. 

God bless!

 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, November 4



For the next several years we will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. There is a great resource for observing this historic event produced right here in our own parish by your fellow parishioners. It is about 40 different personal reflections, each one on a different document or facet of VCII. Each week a different reflection is available in the pamphlet racks in the back of the church, but a much wider selection is available at the parish website, www.staustin.org. Currently FIVE different reflections are available, and more will be added as time goes by. Hopefully YOU will be inspired to submit your own reflection on VCII.

There are two ways to find the reflections on our website. The easy way is to watch the scrolling picture in the upper left of the home page and when it comes to the picture that says on top “THE YEAR OF FAITH” and on the bottom “Click to read parishioner reflections” just click anywhere on the picture. For those more technically prone who enjoy navigating web pages, put your cursor on the grey headline banner over the word “FORMATION.” This produces a drop-down menu, the last item of which is “YEAR OF FAITH.” Click on that and you will come to a short page that, not surprisingly, is a description of the Year of Faith. Anyway, on the left of that page is a column labeled “LINKS.” The first item in that column has the snappy title: “Parishioner Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.” Click on that and you at last arrive at the page with the St. Austin parishioners’ personal reflections on VCII. To go directly to the webpage, just type. (Or my technical director says you can just type www.staustin.org/V2Reflections into your web browser.)

It is worth the effort to go to this page because in addition to the personal reflections on VCII, there are links to a great many other resources. There is a timeline for VCII, videos on the history of VCII, synopsis of the VCII documents if you want to get just the gist of them, the full and complete versions of all the Vatican Council II documents – in several languages – and various commentaries on the meaning of Vatican II from different points of view. My favorite is the last one, the blog by Fr. William Grimm, a Maryknoll priest in Japan. So enjoy!

While you are navigating around our parish website, I recommend you place your cursor on the word “ABOUT” on the grey banner on the home page. On the drop-down menu that appears, click on the line that says “Parish Staff.” On that page you can see two very nice videos one an interview with Fr. RenĂ© Constanza and the other with Deacon Billy Atkins, giving you a chance to meet and learn about them in a more relaxed, personal way. Eventually we will add video interviews with other staff members, such as Fr. Bob Cary.

While you are on the parish website, why not upload a picture of your family to the parish online picture directory? Help make this resource a great help for the parish staff (with so many new Paulists here this would be a fantastic help), and for all of the parish. You may even find out who that is who always sits in front of you at church! The only way I know to do this is go to the parish website, www.staustin.org, on the top grey banner go to the word “COMMUNICATIONS.” On the drop-down menu that appears click on Weekly Bulletins. Then click on Bulletin – October 14, 2012. When that loads scroll down to about the fifth page, where the right hand column is titled: “Are you ready for our online directory?” There you will find instructions to upload your family photo. Pretty neat.  (Or as my technical director points out, visit www.staustin.org/churchdb and look for the Directory instruction page.)

Our parish website is a great resource and tool. I encourage you to take advantage of it.

God bless!