Sunday, March 31, 2013

Homily Easter Vigil 2013 Cycle "C" Luke 24:1-12 NAB

Happy Easter!!!  ALLELUIA!   Christ is Risen!  Death and sin are defeated.  God triumphs!  Love and Life are ETERNAL.  ALLELUIA!

The Gospel this evening tells us: "the women came to the tomb bringing the spices they had prepared."    Why were they bringing spices to the tomb?  Well, to embalm the corpse.  That is how they did it in those days.  And so they go to the tomb looking for a dead body.  That is what they expected to find.  But their expectations are disappointed.  They don’t find any body.
We’ve all had that experience of expecting one thing, but finding something else. Usually it is because we expect too much, and are disappointed when our expectations don’t turn out.  But this time it was because the women expected too little: way, way, way too little.
So they are confused.  All they see is an empty space.  The Gospel says: "they were still at a loss what to think about this."  So picture this:  The stone has been rolled back, the tomb is empty, and they don’t get it.  They are just perplexed.  The thick veil of grief, of loss, of most bitter disappointment lays so heavily on their hearts, that the women see the empty tomb.  But they don’t see, they don’t perceive, they don’t understand. 
Fortunately, they get some help. [ask Fr René & Deacon Billy to please stand.  Point at them and say]  "Two men in dazzling garments appeared beside them."  [Ask them to be seated]  These are the answer men.  And they say: "Why do you search for the living One among the dead?"  There is a note of frustration in their voices, like, "¿How can you make such an obvious mistake?" 
Then these guys in dazzling suits that would put Armani to shame, say "He is not here;" among the dead in the tombs, "he has been raised up!  They ask a very important question:  ¿Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee - that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again?"   It’s not like He didn’t tell you all this.  Several times in fact!  ¿Remember?
The Gospel says simply: "And they remembered his words."  This is much more than a simple recalling of fact, like where you left the car keys.  This is much more profound.  The women literally re-member, they put the parts back together again, they start to make the connections, they recall Jesus’ teaching and they GET IT. He is RISEN!   
Finally it dawns on them.  With the help of the two fashionably dressed men, they get it.  And so the women go off to tell the Apostles and other men.
The challenge in the Gospel for us this evening is the same, to “remember His words,” to truly take to heart what the Lord taught us and promised us.   We don’t see any more or any less than the women at the tomb saw: just an empty space.  But that is enough, IF we remember His Words, IF we open our hearts to be touched by the power of Faith.
Five people this evening will be baptized, will enter into that resurrected life.  Most of the rest of us have already been baptized.  We are challenged by the Gospel tonight to risk belief in the Lord Jesus, to truly open our hearts and to “remember His words.” 
This is our Easter faith.  For Christ our Lord has conquered sin and death! 
Jesus Christ is Risen!!!    ALLELUIA!      Happy Easter!     

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, March 31

What can I say but “ALLELUIA!” Christ is Risen! ALLELUIA!

Easter is the highpoint of the entire liturgical year, the center of our faith, the whole “point” of Jesus birth, life, miracles, teaching and death. It all culminates and comes to fruition in the Resurrection. Truly the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the most important event in the entire history of the cosmos.

So we have something of the greatest significance to celebrate: victory over death! Every other success, accomplishment, discovery or victory pales compared to the total victory over sin and over death that Jesus won on the cross. No event has had as much impact on the history of the world as what occurred so early on that first Easter morning. Jesus rose to the fullness of life. Death was conquered! Alleluia!

On behalf of my fellow Paulists, Fr. Bob Cary and Fr. René Constanza, Deacon Billy Atkins and the entire staff at St. Austin Parish, I wish you and yours a truly Joyous and Happy Easter!

God bless,

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, March 24

We are now into the last week of Lent. Where did the time go? How did it slip by so fast?

And how did your Lent go? Did you accomplish what you intended to do in Lent? Did you lose 10 pounds? Did you become a more patient person? Did you pray the rosary daily? Did you get to weekday Mass at least once a week? Did you grow in holiness? Did you avoid chocolate in all its forms during Lent?

If you have followed your Lenten resolutions faithfully and fully, then more power to you. I am in awe of your will power. You are truly on the way to holiness and sainthood!

But if you experienced some setback in your Lenten resolves and perhaps slacked off a bit (or a lot) during the long weeks of Lent, if you found your temper not so amenable to correction  or could not resist every piece of chocolate or just plain gave into temptation, do not despair or worry. There is still time. During this Holy Week resolve to double your efforts and close in on the goal. While 40 days may be a long haul for observing penitential practicesa little too long and a bit fanaticala week is a much more reasonable and achievable goal. It is doable. And Holy Week is the week to do it!

So pick yourself up and commit to this final week of Lent of really trying to respond to the Lord’s call to repent. Repentance requires penance, and the three classic ways of doing penance are prayer, fasting and alms-giving. There is still time to accomplish all three. Get yourself spiritually ready to celebrate a wonderful Easter this year. Make your own Holy Week truly holy for you.    

God bless,

Monday, March 18, 2013


Do you like change?  Not the coins you have in your pocket, I mean change in the sense of new and improved, of something you haven’t seen before, of something novel, like a new Pope.    Do you like that?    I hope so, because that is what our readings today promise us.
          In the first reading today, from the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord tells us, “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!”
OOOOOH, New and Improved!   Straight from God!   What is it? 
          We’ll come back to that in a minute.  But now let us look at today’s second reading, from St Paul to the Philippians.  Paul is in jail as he writes this.  And so he has time on his hands.  Does he use the time to reflect on his life, on all that God has accomplished through him, to write his memoirs, to recount all the wonderful adventures Paul has had preaching the Gospel, the fascinating people he has met, the exotic places he has been to, and so on????   NO!   Not at all.  Rather, Paul says:  “Just one thing:   forgetting what lies behind       but straining forward to what lies ahead,
I continue my pursuit toward the goal,    the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.”
          Paul is looking for something NEW, something up ahead in the future: “the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.”    God’s upward calling.   A funny phrase.   A call “UP”, spiritually higher, above the low, the sordid, the failure and the sin of our current life.  “the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.”   This is the new reality that Isaiah is prophesying, that we heard about in our first reading!
          In the Gospel today we have an example of that new reality, that upward calling in action.  
          Scripture Scholars tell us this Gospel story of the woman taken in adultery is not in its original location.  Today it resides in the 8th Chapter of the Gospel of John, but it doesn’t fit there very well.  In fact, because of the language used most scholars think this was originally part of the Gospel of Luke.  And in some very early Bibles it appears in Luke’s Gospel. 
          Although this story of the woman taken in adultery, and Jesus’ confrontation with the accusing men and His forgiveness of the woman, even though it is very beautiful, it seems that this story had a hard time getting excepted into the Gospel.   
          Why?   Because it is too new.  As the great Catholic Biblical Scholar, Ray Brown states about this Gospel,  The ease with which Jesus forgave the adulteress was hard to reconcile with the stern penitential discipline in vogue in the early Church.”  
          It was too much.  What shocked the early Christians, is that Jesus DOESN’T condemn the woman, even though she is clearly guilty.  Unlike the Law, in Chapter 20 of Leviticus or Chapter 22 of Deuteronomy which set the death penalty for adultery, Jesus does something entirely NEW:  “Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.   Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
          Here we see the upward calling of God, in Christ Jesus, clearly and brilliantly displayed in action. 
          In Christ Jesus God sets you and me free, just like Jesus set that woman free.  Jesus set her free from a sentence of physical death, but He also set her free from shame, from guilt, from embarrassment, from bitter disappointment over how she had screwed up her life, from feelings of worthlessness, and most importantly from sin.  “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” 
            God, in Christ Jesus, is doing something NEW.   “Remember not the events of the past,  the things of long ago consider not;   see, (says the Lord) I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

          God, in Christ Jesus, is calling you and me UPWARD, out of the morass and swamp of self-pity, of indifference and laziness, out of lust and anger and revenge and greed and prejudice and fear, out of guilt and shame and feelings of worthlessness, out of pride and disobedience and sin, to live a new life as Children of God.  “the  prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.”  Jesus frees us to live a NEW kind of life.
            In the Sacrament of Baptism for those who will be Baptized on Holy Saturday night, and in the beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation for all of us who are already Baptized, through the human words of the priest, Jesus says to each of us:  “Neither do I condemn you.  Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
            Now that is a NEW thing worth celebrating!   God bless!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, March 17

This week on Tuesday we celebrate St. Joseph’s Day, or to be more liturgically correct, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Joseph is a popular Saint and appropriately so. He is a patron Saint of workers, of Fathers, and also often invoked for the grace of a happy death. Some even engage in the superstitious practice of burying his image upside down on a property they hope to sell. I imagine St. Joseph stays quite busy.
St. Joseph is no publicity hound. He always seems to be in the background. He appears in the infancy narratives of Matthew (where he has a central role) and of Luke (where he is decidedly second fiddle to Mary). He has only the briefest cameo role in the Gospel of John (6:42 where the people ask, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph…?”) and does not appear in Mark’s Gospel at all. By the time of Jesus’ public ministry, Joseph has disappeared, never heard of again. What happened to him remains a mystery to this day.
It was Pope John XXIII who, during the first session of Vatican Council II, included St Joseph in the canon of the Mass. The story I heard years ago is that during the debates of the first session, on the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, an elderly prelate from Eastern Europe who had suffered much from the hands of the Nazi’s and then the Communists, got up and made an impassioned plea for the inclusion of St. Joseph in the canon. The other Council Fathers, discussing much broader and more important concepts about the liturgy, kind of ignored him and pooh-poohed his suggestion. However, John XXIII, who was listening to the sessions over an intercom, did pay attention and the next day ordered the inclusion of St. Joseph in the Canon of the Mass. And in Eucharistic Prayer 1 today (the old Roman Canon) immediately following Mary, and before the Apostles, is listed “and blessed Joseph, her Spouse.”
Many churches have a statue of St. Joseph. Usually it is located on the right side of the altar as you face the altar from the body of the church. Joseph balances the scene with Mary on the opposite side of the altar. These are used as memory devices by the priest to remember which side of the church is the bride’s side (Mary of course) and which side the groom’s side (Joseph). However in our church, St. Joseph’s traditional place has been usurped by St. Paul (this parish is staffed by the Paulist Fathers after all!), and St. Joseph has been relegated to the front side chapel on that side.
Actually, I rather like the St. Joseph side altar, especially the way it is lit. Have you noticed that the lighting shines mostly on Joseph’s feet? His face is pretty well hidden in shadow. I feel this representation fits very well with the rather sketchy and partial presentation of St. Joseph in the scriptures. We know he was a descendant of King David, but hardly anything else about his background. He was a dreamer and paid attention to his dreams, and so seems a little mystical, even impractical, deciding in the middle of the night to take his family and flee to Egypt all on the basis of a dream. So the rather shadowy, mysterious presentation of him in our church seems altogether fitting and proper.
As we celebrate St. Joseph’s solemnity this week I urge you to pray for all fathers, for workers and craftspeople and artisans, and for all who are dying. And thank St. Joseph for the great job he did as Jesus’ foster-father. 
God bless,

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A reflection on the election of a new Pope

Almost all of us have an interest in the process now underway to select the new Pope, the new Roman Pontiff. Furthermore, we and all Catholics have a spiritual responsibility to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in this selection process. All of us will be affected by the selection. We pray that the new Pope will be a holy person, able to lead and guide us closer to Jesus Christ, who alone is our salvation.

But I would also like to express a reservation. The constant and rather frenetic media coverage of this event could easily lead us to overstress the direct importance to us of this election. After all, it is in our home parish that our faith life is mostly lived out. To a very great degree, like politics, all religion is local.  While the election of a new Pope does matter, the day-to-day impact on each of us pales in comparison to what happens, or fails to happen, right here in our local parish community. This is where we pray, worship, learn, work together, and by-and-large this is where we meet the Risen Christ. That far exceeds in importance for us what happens at the conclave in Rome.          

So I encourage you not be distracted by the media hype. The Body of Christ we meet, that we belong to, is right here in our local parish community. 
God bless! 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Homily, 4th Sunday of Lent "C" March 10, 2013

          A question:  The name of the parable that we have in this morning’s Gospel is???  The Prodigal Son.  This younger son certainly is a significant character in the story.  With great brashness and insensitivity he asks for his share of the inheritance before the Father is even sick, much less dead, and then goes off and wastes it all on "loose living".  This younger son certainly did some stupid, mean, and very destructive things.  He hurt his family, wasted his money, and very easily could have ended up dead.
          Now you could argue that the Father was not very wise, and not even very loving, in giving in so easily to the younger son’s demand.  Would it not have been better, for the younger son’s own good!, for the Father to not give the son any money, to take away the car keys, and to ground the younger son for a year or more until he got sane again? 
I often think this way. 
          But we know, in fact, that God has given us a terrible freedom, and does not prevent us from doing horribly wrong things.  We know we are free to do mean, hateful, demeaning things that are destructive to ourselves and to others, things with really serious consequences.  We know this because we read about them in the paper every day.  We know this because we’ve ourselves have done them.  And God does not stop us.  God does not protect us from ourselves.  I wish God would.  Think of all the heartache, embarrassment, painful regret and lasting, gnawing guilt that we could avoid if God would only stop us before we do something mean or vile or stupid.  If you’ve ever awakened some morning and said, ..”Oh God, what did I do?”… you know what I am talking about.
          But God so badly wants us to be free to give ourselves to Him, that God even allows us to freely hurt one another and our own selves.  And so the Father lets the younger son go.  Freedom is tough. 
          The younger son is very significant to the story.  In many ways he is the protagonist.  But still, he is not the key to understanding the parable.
          Then there is the Father.  He is a very important character too in the story.  If for no other reason, than for the fact that he is a stand in for .....?   GOD!  And what an image for God.  Here is an image of God Who is anxious and eager to forgive.  The Father stands on the hill top, anxiously searching the horizon for the younger son’s return.  As soon as he sees him, still a long way off, the Father runs out to meet him, throws his arms around him, kisses him, won’t let the son finish his little rehearsed speech of apology, gives him a new outfit and throws a big party.  This Father is more prodigal with his love and forgiveness than even the younger son was with his inheritance.  The Father is a great lover and a great image of God.  For Jesus knows a God who is always, always, always, eager and anxious to forgive.  God wants badly to reconcile us and heal us and love us. 
          The Father is very significant to the story.  He teaches us so much.  But still, he is not the key to understanding the parable.
          Finally, there is the older son.  Given the dynamics of the parable, the way the story works as a story, he is the key.  For at the end of the parable the issue is not with the younger son.  That is resolved.  Nor is the issue with the Father.  He’s O.K.  The critical issue is with the older son.  ¿Will he go into the party and accept his Father’s love and accept his brother as his brother, or will the older son remain caught in his bitterness, pride and self-righteousness, and choose to isolate himself? 
          We are given a clue to the centrality of the older son at the beginning of the Gospel.  You remember that the sinners and tax collectors were all gathering around Jesus to hear him.  This upset the Pharisees and the scribes.  They murmured and grumbled about this.  They didn’t approve. 
          You see, they didn’t think it was fair.  The Pharisees and scribes could tell that Jesus was something special, that he was very much in tune with God.  But here they were, the good people, the people who worked hard at keeping the law, doing what was pleasing to God, keeping the commandments, not sleeping in on Sunday morning but getting up and coming to church, and they end up standing on the outside of the circle around Jesus.  Meanwhile, all these sinners, tax collectors, drug dealers and prostitutes, had elbowed and pushed and squirmed their way up to the front, right in front of Jesus.  And instead of shooing them away and sending them to the back of the crowd, where they belonged, Jesus welcomed them.  And the Pharisees and the scribes did not approve.
          And so, Jesus addresses this parable to them.  Not to the disciples.   Not to the sinners and tax collectors, but to the Pharisees and the scribes.
          The Pharisees and scribes have gotten a bum rap.  They weren’t bad people.  In fact, they were the good people, the people who worked at it, who tried to do what was right. They were like us.  But they did have a problem.  They, like so many of us, began to believe that they did it. 
          That is understandable.  It is so easily, almost inevitable it seems, that when we have put a lot of effort and energy into something, worked hard at it, tried our best, stayed with it and succeeded, that we begin to believe that we did it.  But that is not true.  ¿Where did the talent, the energy, the perseverance, the intelligence, even the time and the opportunity come from?             We are tempted to believe that they all came from ourselves.  But they didn’t.  They came from God.  Everything is a grace.
          The older son thought he could earn the Father’s love.  "For years now I have slaved for you.  I never disobeyed one of your orders, ..."    And he thought the Father owed him.  And so he thought the Father’s celebration at the return of his brother was terribly unfair.
          The Pharisees and scribes worked hard at doing what was right, at being pleasing to God.  They thought they could earn their justification, and God’s love.  They thought God owed them, that they belonged up close to Jesus. 
And so they thought Jesus’ welcoming and eating with sinners was terribly unfair.
          We can, and do, easily fall into this trap as well, working hard at doing what is right, subtly beginning to think of our goodness as our accomplishment, with some claim on God; God owes us, earning our salvation and God’s love; and even thinking that God’s prodigal love for all is terribly unfair.  But that is wrong. 
          The correct understanding is given to us today by St. Paul in the second reading: "All this has been done by God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation." 
           "All this has been done by God,"   God does it.  God chooses us to be His children.  Any choosing we do is irrelevant compared to that.  God reconciles us to himself through Christ, and any good that we accomplish is the result of God’s grace, not the prerequisite for earning it. 
          This beautiful parable of the prodigal son is not addressed to the sinners out there on the streets, not addressed to the indifferent people out having coffee at Starbucks this Sunday morning, but to us, the church goers, the good people.  The parable instructs and warns us not to take our goodness as our accomplishment, but as God’s gift to us. 
           "All this has been done by God,"          "All this has been done by God,"
Thanks be to God!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, March 10

Recently I was wandering around the internet on a page of the World Wide Web titled “Demography Is Destiny.” I find demography very interesting because, while it is difficult to predict the future, we can pretty well assume that people will continue to age and, at a certain point, pass on. That gives us some idea of what the future will look like. For example, there is now no majority race in California, and the same will soon be true of Texas. The future makeup of the state’s population has implications for the economy, politics and even religion.
Anyway, as I was on this demographic web site I saw a comment on an article about the Japanese demographic implosion. The comment was from a 72-year-old Catholic (that is what caught my attention) who in part stated, “More than once I’ve told my three children that one of the worst mistakes I ever made was to decide to have no more children than the three of them.”  What surprised me was that the following three comments were all in the same vein, all people expressing regret that they had stopped after two or three children and wished they had more. Now of course it is too late.
Frequently I have heard parents express frustration and exasperation over their own grown children who put off starting a family till late, sometimes too late. I wonder why some of my nieces and nephews are waiting to start a family. No doubt having children is a huge financial, emotional and energy drain. But what a blessing! I cannot help but think that 15 or 20 years from now the memory of a ski vacation will not have the same impact as the memory of a child’s first step, much less of a child’s birth.
Having a child is a huge commitment. To attempt to have more than three would require starting fairly early in life, practically in college, and I don’t see how that is possible. That our modern world makes this almost impossible is kind of a shame. Having grown up as the oldest of six siblings, I am very grateful for that experience and for the on-going relationship with my five brothers and sisters. It is always a great experience when we gather. Of course none of my siblings have six children themselves, and I have none. Sometimes I wonder what kind of a father (without the capital “F”) I would have made.
Life is always a blessing. Often it is a difficult or stressful blessing, but it is still a blessing. Births out of wedlock or in poverty are terribly difficult, but they are still blessings. Life is always a wonderful gift.  So I recommend to you the wonderful work of the Gabriel Ministry, that provides emotional, spiritual and material support to pregnant ladies in need. You can get more information by calling the Gabriel Project central office at 512-238-1246 or  toll-free 1-877-WeCare2.  There is a chapter at St. Austin Parish, and more information is on the parish website under Ministries → Social Justice Ministries → Pro Life → Gabriel Project. They are struggling and could certainly use your help.
If perhaps you have some regrets about children you didn’t have then I encourage you to help those in need who are having children. You can help bring a blessing into the world.
God bless!

PS:  I want to thank all those who responded so generously to my request in last week’s column for assistance in replacing our Christmas Crib figurines. Indeed, we received more help than we needed.  THANK YOU, ALL!  

Monday, March 4, 2013

Homily THIRD SUN LENT Cycle "A" March 3, 2013

At the beginning of our Gospel we find Jesus sitting at Jacob’s well, thirsty.  A woman comes – who sees Him but doesn't see Him.  There is a big wall of silence between them labeled  "different genders", “different nationalities”, and "different religions". They are from different groups.  US and THEM.  The rule is avoidance, silence, isolation.   We all know the rule.      
Except, Jesus breaks the rules, because Jesus is a rule breaker; especially rules that isolate people.    He breaks down the wall of silence.  He says: simply but profoundly  "Give me a drink."
The Woman reacts:  ¿What?   ???  She is threatened.  "How can you ask me, a Samaritan and a woman, for a drink?"      Well, Jesus doesn’t pay much attention to walls.  Especially when He has a need.
Jesus tells her, "Give me a drink."  Jesus is thirsty.  Not only for water, but much more for the woman’s faith, for her commitment and love.  Jesus is thirsting for a response from her in Faith.  For unlike the woman who doesn’t really see Jesus, Jesus sees the woman, - not just “a Samaritan and a woman”, not as some type, but rather as a living, unique individual, just as Jesus sees you.  Jesus really sees her, and sees her pain, the desolation and emptiness in her life.
Jesus has this same thirst for all of us, for us to respond in faith and in love.   He longs for that relationship with us.  He sees us as we really are.
The woman too is thirsty.  Jesus offers her living water: If only you recognized God’s gift, and who it is that is asking you for a drink, and you would have asked him instead, and he would have given you living water."   Jesus offers her the fulfillment of her deepest desires, her greatest longings and thirsts.
For this woman is terribly thirsty.  She thirsts for life, and for love.  Jesus tells her, go, call your husband.  But she has no husband.  She is now living with her sixth partner.  She's had plenty of sex, but no love, no real husband, and she is thirsting for committed love.
She recognizes that Jesus is a prophet.  She begins to understand who Jesus is.  She doesn’t have a full understanding of Jesus yet, but it is growing.  Later she will call him Messiah and finally “the Christ”.
Then the conversation changes.  Perhaps to divert the discussion away from the painful topic of her failed relationships, the woman raises a theological question: where to worship God?  In Jerusalem, as the Jews claim, or in Samaria, on Mt. Gerizim, as the Samaritans claim?  
Just as Jesus was not hampered by the walls of silence, of custom and social division between the woman and himself, so Jesus is not restricted to a particular place in His worship of the Father. 
He says:  an hour is coming, and is already here, when authentic worshipers
will worship the Father is Spirit and in truth.
Indeed, it is just such worshipers the Father seeks.
God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.”    Jesus’ vision of God is so free, so expansive.  Spirit and truth are not formalities, not outward rituals nor regulations, but interior realities of conviction and commitment.  God does not seek children who worship out of fear and obligation, but out of conviction, out of a living faith, out of gratitude and love.  To worship God in Spirit and truth changes our whole life - for then we must live what we pray. 
Jesus enables us to do this.  He leads us out of the sterility of sin into the life of harmony with God.  Through Him we are able to worship in Spirit and truth.  This is why the Catechumens today undergo a scrutiny: not to focus on their sins and failures, but to come out of that into the life of harmony with God in Jesus Christ.  It is why all of us are invited to the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Lent.
Jesus offers to this woman living water, the living water that will quench her thirst for life and love.  To worship God in Spirit and truth puts her in an authentic relationship with God, restores her lost integrity and dignity, and satisfies her deepest longings, her deepest thirsts.
Jesus offers us this living water as well, that brings us to life as authentic worshipers of our God who is Spirit and truth.

There is another passage in the Gospel of John where Jesus it is thirsty.  We will hear it on Good Friday with the proclamation of the Passion.  It is while Jesus is hanging on the cross:   John 19:28 states, “After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.”
          Jesus, the source of living water, thirsts for your faith, for your love.  The Cross is the great sign of that. 
          As St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading: “God proves his love for us
in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, March 3

Here it is the Third Sunday of Lent already, so let’s talk about CHRISTMAS! Why not?
One of the hallowed Christmas traditions here, and at almost every Catholic church, is the nativity scene or crèche. Figurines of the ox and the ass, the shepherds and wise men, sheep and camels, and of course the figures of Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus, are displayed in every parish across the country and around the globe.
We have a set of such figures that have given us much good service for a great many years, but they are now getting tired.  They have been repaired and touched up several times during the years, including a major overhaul over a dozen years ago when then Fr. Alan Oakes was on the parish staff. But now they are fragile and suffering from continued handling. Like Pope Benedict XVI, it is time to allow them to retire. After providing faithful service for decades, these figurines deserve a rest.
So we are left with two issues: first what do to with these venerable figurines and second, how to replace them. For the first, it seems rather unceremonious to dump them in the trash, like used hamburger wrappers. Should we sell them? Someone once told me that “chalkware” has collectable value, but I know nothing about that. Should we raffle them off? Should we give them a proper burial in the ground? What is your idea?
Secondly, we would like to replace them with similar sized figures by Fontanini, which these days are made from much more durable resin. A set of the proper size that includes Jesus, Mary and Joseph, a shepherd and a sheep, 3 wise men and a camel, and an angel and an ox comes for about $1,900. These things don’t come cheap. And that doesn’t even include a donkey! This is not the kind of cash we have sitting around. If you have some ideas about how to address this issue, please let me know.
While we are on the topic of Christmas, I must say that I have been very impressed and pleased with the interior Christmas decorations of our church. The use of a Della Robbia (Italian Renaissance) Christmas theme has served our church very well.  It has made such a difference over the tired decorations that were in place when I first arrived. We owe our talented team of decorators a debt of gratitude.
Now I would like to take the next step and broaden the decorations to include the exterior of the church. I am thinking primarily of lights on the front of the church.
There is a very specific reason for doing this. At many a wedding, funeral, or other gathering at our church of people from outside of the parish, I have frequently heard comments, “I never knew there was a church here and I have driven by here for years!” We must face the fact that the exterior of our church is non-descript, bland, painfully plain. It does not make an impression; in fact it barely registers on people’s consciousness.  Christmas provides us with a wonderful opportunity to change that. A computer generated light show could be displayed on the vast blank canvas of the front of our church. It would not be flashy like the excessive and loud Christmas light displays that suburban computer geeks construct to outdo each other every yuletide. I would hope it would keep the same theme of an Italian Renaissance Christmas that we have in the interior of our church and so be attractive and eye-catching. Of course I know nothing about how to make this happen, but I believe there are talented people in our community who would be interested in seeing if this can happen. If you have computer skills, or design skills, or electrical knowhow, or interest in such a project, please send me an email. Perhaps by next Christmas we can put together a design, find some money to make it happen, and have the outside of our church begin to match the inside in beauty. It is a dream, but that is how all great projects begin.  
God bless!