Monday, February 25, 2013

HOMILY Second Sunday of Lent Cycle C February 24, 2013

“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”     Lk 9:28b-36

          Jesus takes three of his friends, Peter, John and James, and goes up to the top of a mountain to pray.   The Apostles promptly proceed to fall asleep, and while Jesus is praying, something happens.  His appearance changes, Moses and Elijah appear conversing with Jesus.  When they are about to leave, Peter – now awake - says he wants to set up three tents.  And then comes the climax, the highpoint.  A cloud en-velops them, and from the cloud a voice says, “This is my chosen Son.  Listen to him.” 
          Now think about what the voice of God says.  “Listen to him.”  I find that a little strange.  God could have said, “worship him”, or “obey him”, or “follow him”, or (like Mary at the wedding feast of Cana) “do what he tells you”.   But instead God says, “Listen to him.”   Why?
          Well, to fully understand this I think we need to know the reading.  How should this heavenly statement be heard?  Is this a great booming voice, like Charleton Heston, or James Earl Jones, God from on high, like on top of that other Biblical mountain, Mount Sinai, God authoritatively delivering another commandment: “THOU SHALT LISTEN TO HIM”?
          This is the way we have traditionally heard this.   The early Paulist and great preacher, Walter Elliot wrote a sermon for this Sunday, which began:  “Doubtless, my brethren, the voice of the Eternal Father commanding the three Apostles to hear and heed His Divine Son was a terrible sound; it overpowered them with fear.” 
          Maybe.  But as I was praying over this Gospel in preparing for this homily, I heard it differently: not so much a commandment, but rather as a sincere, almost imploring, invitation: “This is my SON, my Chosen, my Beloved, and that means I am sending you my HEART.  I have given you the Law, represented by Moses, and you did not get it.  I have sent you prophet after prophet after prophet, represented by Elijah, and you did not listen.  But now, I am sending you my only Son, my Chosen and Beloved One.  This is the most I can give.  “Listen to him!”  
Almost pleading, a cry from the heart.  This, I propose, is how this Gospel should be heard.               God is anxious, even desperate, for us to LISTEN to His Son, Jesus Christ.  That is how God speaks to us this evening/morning.
          Listen!        So simple, and yet so difficult.  Did you ever have the experience of trying to explain something to someone, who thought they already understood, but had it all wrong, and as you tried to explain it, they kept interrupting, assuming they knew the answer?  Never letting you finish.  You say, “Listen to me!”   Frustrating, isn’t it?  
          On the other hand, did you ever have the experience of being deeply listened to?  Someone really paying attention?  Giving you their full, undivided attention?  Really trying to hear what you had to say, really understand your position?  Such experiences are as wonderful as they are rare.  For listening is not easy.  It is difficult!
          And yet this is what God wants.  What God asks of us.  “LISTEN to him.”
          What do we have to do to listen?   Well, first of all we have to stop talking.  We have to shut up.  Both verbally and mentally.  We have to stop formulating our response, what we are going to say, and instead attend to the other, in this case God.
We must be silent.
          Then we have to turn down the noise, turn off the TV, the DVD player, the phone, the i-noise, and all the other distractions, so that we can listen.  To listen to God we have to quiet ourselves and welcome the silence. 
          Then we have to open ourselves to receive what the other has to say, suspending our judgement, our critical comments, our knee-jerk reactions, and accept the other on their terms.
          Finally we have to pay attention, attend to the other, seek to see with their eyes, hear with their ears, smell with their nose, and think with their mind.  Then we finally hear.  Then we at last listen.
          This is what God asks of us this Lent, today, to do for His Son, Jesus Christ.   Listen to him.           This is a wonderful Lenten practice. 
Listen to Him.


Monday, February 18, 2013

1st Sunday of Lent Cycle C Feb 17, 2013

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord 
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved.”
    So proclaims St. Paul in our second reading today to the Romans.

OK.  Being saved, Salvation, is what Christianity sells.  It is our product.  It is what we offer you.

So,   ¿Do you want to be saved?  Do you have a need to be saved?  Are you yearning and longing for salvation?  Apparently, today, for a lot of people this is NOT a felt need.

          If your life is going along pretty well, if your health is OK, if you have a fairly decent job, if your relationships are not in turmoil, if you have an array of various toys and material possessions, if you are basically satisfied, then you very well might not have a burning concern for salvation.  Salvation may not even be attractive to you because things are by and large pretty good the way they are.  What is there to be saved from?   What is there to be saved for?  
          And that lack of a felt need for salvation is a real problem.  If you are comfortable with how your life is now, that is a great danger.
          Lent is a time to get uncomfortable.  Lent is a time to recognize the danger of contentment.  Lent is a time to get in touch with our need, our desperate need, for salvation and hence for a Savior.  
          In our first reading today the Israelites recalled their need for a savior.  They recited “When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, imposing hard labor upon us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and he heard our cry and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.” 
          As modern Texans it may seem difficult, even ridiculous, for us to identify with that statement.  We have never been slaves.  We are not maltreated and oppressed.  So what need to do we have for deliverance, for emancipation, for a savior? 
          To quote the medieval theologian St. Anselm, “you have not yet considered what a heavy burden sin is.” 
          Anyone who has tried to break a bad habit of using swear words, or of gossip, or of  a habit of lying, or of procrastination,     much less anyone who has tried to get out of the bondage of alcoholism, or addiction to pornography, or to drugs or racial prejudice, knows that these are tenacious and cruel oppressions. 
          Who has not experienced this dilemma?  We know what we must do to do good.  I know I shouldn’t eat that second chocolate glazed donut.  And we want to do the good.  I want to lose weight.  But we are weak and enslaved and against our better will we do what is evil.  St. Paul says: So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand.  For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Miserable one that I am!  Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Rom 7:18-24
          Like St Paul none of us can conquer sin on our own.  All of us are caught, ensnared and enmeshed in the tangle of hate, greed, lust, sloth, selfishness and fear.   Where can we find someone so free, so true to God and to himself, as to provide for us not just an example, but a helping hand?   Where can we find someone not caught in the web of sin who can show us the way out?  Where can we find a Savior?
          In the Gospel today we see that person.  Jesus is tempted to rely on material things, on power, and on fame.  Each time Jesus decidedly and definitively puts God first.  One does not live on bread alone,” implying the second part of that quote from the Book of Dueteronomy 8:3 “but by all that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.”    
And then “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”
And finally “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
          Jesus consistently puts God first, which is where God belongs.  Jesus is the one who can set us free from the bondage to sin and save us to live fully as God’s beloved children. 
          This Lent I urge you to confront the ways are you are bound and enslaved to the forces of greed, of fear, of selfishness, anger and lust:  to all the ways we humans are in need of redemption.  Jesus can be a Savior for us only if we recognize our need for a savior.  Jesus offers us salvation.  But we have to recognize, and to feel, our need for it.
          For “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, February 10

Though you may have just put away the Christmas decorations and recovered from the holiday season, Lent is already here! This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.
This is an opportunity, i.e.: a blessing, to stop and realign our priorities: to give greater time and emphasis to the spiritual side of our life. It is so easy in this modern world to be caught up in hectic schedules, endless activities, a plethora of meetings, so many things you should do, that the spiritual side of our livesall that deals with meaning and purpose and value and especially our relationship with Godgets easily overwhelmed, overlooked, and under-appreciated. It is just a part of human nature that we need Lent as a reminder to re-adjust our priorities and give God a bigger part of our attention and effort. So give some thought this week as to how you want to observe Lent this year. Don’t just let it happen. Make a conscious choice to engage Lent in a positive way.
There are many aids available to you at St. Austin Parish.  Check out our bulletin and our web site for classes, discussions, Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession), prayer times and weekday Masses. Or you can do spiritually beneficial practices on your own. More than “giving something up,” Lent is a time for doing something positive to grow as a spiritual person. The traditional practices for Lent are Prayer, Fasting, and Alms Giving. Prayer can be done at anytime, anywhere. There is really no good excuse not to pray. But when you pray don’t start by asking for something. It is best to start by first of all saying “thank you.
Fasting is expected of all adults on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and highly encouraged on the Fridays of Lent as well.  Fasting should not only be from food, though that is the traditional basis of fasting, but also fasting from using bad words, from anger, from gossip and snide remarks, from resentments and impatience.
Alms Giving means charity. The food you save from fasting is meant to go to the poor. Generosity of money, of material goods, of time and even of interest in and compassion for other people is all good, and part of alms giving. We gain and grow as disciples by giving things (and ultimately ourselves) away. Paradoxical but true.
I pray you have a good Lent. When Easter arrives may you be so close to the Lord that you will be overflowing with Resurrection joy!
God Bless! 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, February 3

This weekend at all Masses we Paulists come to you inviting (i.e. asking) you to participate in the annual Paulist Appeal with your prayers and financial support, and so I would like to reflect on the Paulist presence here in Austin, Texas.

The Paulists have been here in Central Texas for some time.  We came back in 1908, and so a goodly number of Paulists have passed through here. In conversations around the parish I still hear names like Jack Campbell, Peter Shea, Alan Oakes, Dave O’Brien, Bob Scott, Phil O’Hearn, Jack Collins, Jim Wiesner, Mike McGarry, Jim Brucz, Ed Pietrucha, P.J., Tom Foley and Steven Bell. For those of you who know most of these men, you can quickly see that it is a rather heterogeneous group of individuals. Indeed, what this group has in common (and I would add the current staff of Paulists to this grouping) is their individuality. That is as it should be.

I want to point out that in spite of their individuality, they all have a common mission; to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to North America. The Paulists are bound together by a similar vision. It is not just the fact that Paulists are individuals that gives us our identity, rather it is that we are individuals with a common mission.

Indeed, it is the play between individuality and solidarity in mission that “makes” the Paulists, and that makes us truly “catholic.”  Paulists, for all our differences in temperament and style, do not approach our work, or mission, as individuals but as a community. We rely and depend on each other. We support and compete with each other. We need each other. We are individuals, AND we are community. And the interesting thing is that even though this generates some tensions between the desires and needs of individuals versus the community, when it works, it becomes a mutually supportive symbiosis that promotes individuality in community and a community of individuals.  They really are not contradictory, but as in St. Paul’s image of the various parts of the body (which we heard in the second reading last week, 1 Cor 12: 12-30), the differences are necessary for the unity of the body.

We Paulists need each other. We also need the staffs we work with at our various foundations, and we need you, the members of St. Austin Parish and the other communities with which we work. We all have a common mission, to help spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all of North America.

I hope that you will keep the Paulists in your prayers. I ask that you generously support us with your financial donations. I hope that you will strive to carry out our common mission in your workplace, your school, your neighborhood and home.


God Bless!