Saturday, April 26, 2014

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, April 27

Today in Rome two great Popes are being canonized as Saints. They are Pope John XXIII, called “Good Pope John,” and Pope John Paul II, called “The Great.” It is a happy day for the Church, and I am sure it will be quite a wonderful and moving ceremony in Rome. I would like to look briefly at each of these newly minted Saints, examining Pope St. John XXIII today, and next week Pope St. John Paul II.
Pope John XXIII is (at least to me) a very inspirational figure. He was a great pastor who loved people, and a man of courage. He was born in northern Italy, near Bergamo, the first son and fourth child of local sharecroppers. He was one of 13 children. Through his entire life Pope John XXIII maintained his common touch and connection to ordinary people, and I think that is what made him both so beloved and so wise.
He was ordained a priest in 1904, studied Canon Law and became the Bishop’s secretary, which was a career path up in the Church. In WWI he became a stretcher bearer in the Italian army and had first-hand experience of the horror of war. He then became a Papal diplomat. During WWII in Turkey it is estimated he helped to save about 24,000 Jews from the Nazis. Sometimes he did this by issuing bogus baptismal certificates. This was a man who understood that human lives are more important than church records. He had his priorities right.
In 1953 he was named Cardinal of Venice. He would have been content to stay there, but a month before his 78th birthday, he was elected Pope. He had gone to Rome for the Papal election with a return ticket to Venice, so clearly he did not expect to be elected. Pope John XXIII took his office very seriously, but never took himself too seriously. His pithy wit and humorous sayings were legendary. When asked how many people work in the Vatican, he replied “about half.”
Less than three months after his election as Pope, Good Pope John delivered a bombshell at a Papal Audience on January 25 (the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul!), when he announced that he was calling an Ecumenical Council. It came as a shock to the Cardinals present (and for many an unwelcome one), who remained stonily silent. That evening, under a full moon, Pope John XXIII held a candlelight audience in St. Peter’s Square. He spoke warmly and personally to the crowd, and told them to go home and to “give their children a kiss of goodnight, from the Pope" himself. John had all the warmth and human tenderness we now see in Pope Francis.
In the opening session of Vatican Council II Pope John stated:
“What is needed at the present time is a new enthusiasm, a new joy and serenity of mind in the unreserved acceptance by all of the entire Christian faith…What is needed, and what everyone imbued with a truly Christian, Catholic and apostolic spirit craves today, is that this doctrine shall be more widely known, more deeply understood, and more penetrating in its effects on men's moral lives. What is needed is that this certain and immutable doctrine, to which the faithful owe obedience, be studied afresh and reformulated in contemporary terms. For this deposit of faith, or truths which are contained in our time-honored teaching is one thing; the manner in which these truths are set forth…is something else.”
Having started the great work of Vatican Council II, Pope John XXIII would not see it completed. He died June 3, 1963 after only one session of the Council. May Pope St. John XXIII pray for us!
God bless,

Sunday, April 20, 2014

HOMILY Easter Vigil April 20, 2014 St Austin, Austin, TX

          I want to emphasize that the stone was HUGE.  For this was no ordinary, run-of-the-mill, simple stone.  Oh no.  This stone had tremendous symbolic value.  For this stone represents all the sin, all the evil, all that was contrary to the Will of God; all the pettiness, all the anger, all the lust, all the greed, all the fear, all the lies, all the jealousy, everything that was dirty, that was evil, that was petty, that was selfish, that was false, that was bad.  So truly it was a HUGE stone.          If you have ever struggled under the weight of guilt, remorse, shame, you know how heavy this stone can be.  And this was not just one person’s guilt, but the guilt of us all.
          This stone symbolically was HUMONGOUS.  This stone made the rock that Sisyphus pushed look puny.  This stone made Enchanted Rock out near Fredericksburg look like a little pebble.  This rock was everything that was against God and it was put there deliberately to bury the light.  This stone was meant to seal the tomb, to bury once and for all The Light of the World, and to keep The Light buried under guilt, regret and shame for all eternity.  It was the weight of all the world’s sin.  Truly, it was HUGE.
          It was meant to stay there, blocking the Light, for all eternity.   It lasted about a day.
          “After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning,* Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.   And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.”
          The angel sat upon it.  This great stone, so impressive and oppressive, so threatening and intimidating, becomes a stool for God’s messenger boy to sit on. 
He sat upon it!
          For you see, after sin and evil and pride had done their worst, they couldn’t even keep Jesus in the ground!  
          Jesus has been raised up!  Alleluia!  Death and sin are beaten.  The devil is vanquished.  There is no more need to fear.  Jesus has been raised and we are promised immortal and eternal life.  
          Be open to something unexpected, something totally surprising.  Expect an
earthquake in your outlook and understanding!  Let the message of God role away the
stone of fear and sin and all that keeps Jesus from living in you fully. 
           The huge stone of evil and sin does not block the Light anymore.   The Gospel tonight proclaims that Jesus “Has been raised from the dead,”!!  Jesus is with us still!  This is something New and earth-shattering! 
Love is stronger than hate! 
Life conquers death! 

God wins!   Alleluia!!!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, April 20

Happy Easter! Christ is Risen! ALLELUIA!
May this celebration of the victory of Christ’s love over sin and death fill you will Joy and Happiness! The Resurrection of Jesus has changed all history and given it new and limitless meaning. It is because of the great event that we celebrate today that you and I have a future, indeed an eternal future. Alleluia!
So don’t be sad, don’t worry, don’t brood over injuries and bad times and misfortunes. Today is a time to REJOICE and be GLAD. Life has purpose and meaning. Life is filled with infinite worth and possibility. Death has been conquered! Sin has been overcome! Any other problem is very small potatoes. We have great reason to rejoice.
Happy Easter! Christ is Risen! ALLELUIA!
God bless,

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, April 13

Well, here we are, at the beginning of Holy Week. Perhaps you thought Lent would never end. As for me, it seemed to zip by in the twinkling of an eye. How can it be Palm Sunday already? Well, ready or not, here we go. We enter into the holiest week of the year. It is also one of the most dramatic weeks, at least liturgically. I hope that you will take advantage of the good music and liturgy that we offer here at St Austin, and join us for the celebrations of the Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday evening and of course, Easter Sunday. It is a lot, but it is all wonderful.

By these celebrations (and they are celebrations, not lectures nor classes nor performances) we enter into the saving mysteries of the faith. In a sense we relive these saving events. Imaginatively and spiritually we are there. We learn them from the inside by experiencing them, and not just study them from the outside. We open ourselves to feel the excitement and exultation of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem today. We see the washing of feet on Thursday and so are challenged to a deeper level of Christian service. We celebrate the founding of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, the great gift of Jesus of His very flesh and blood for all of us. We witness the trial of Jesus before Pilate, the long road to Calvary, and the bitter heartbreak and disappointment of the Crucifixion. And then the unexpected gift of God in the Resurrection, amplified in the creation of new Christians by Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist on Holy Saturday night, and then the joyful celebration of God’s triumph over sin and death in the Resurrection of Jesus as we celebrate Easter. It is quite a ride and it is wonderful.

We celebrate these mysteries every year so that we can grow into them, going deeper and deeper into their mystery, letting their power conform and shape us more and more into the image of Jesus Christ. It is an opportunity not to be missed, so I hope you will join us.

I also want to invite you to join our parish community as we prepare an Easter basket for the Micah 6 Food Pantry, of which St. Austin is a founding member. Please bring with you to church between now and Easter some healthy, non-perishable food stuffs, like canned foods, and place them in the basket in front of the St. Joseph side altar. No candy or jelly-beans please!

See you in church!

God bless,

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, April 6

Well, Lent is flying on by. Next week is already Passion (Palm) Sunday, and the following week is Easter! It will be here before you know it. When I was young, many, many years ago back in the dark ages, I used to look forward to Easter because every Easter I got an Easter basket. Perhaps you got one as a child as well, and maybe your children still do. The Easter basket was brightly colored, filled with crinkly artificial grass, jelly beans, malted milk ball eggs, cream-filled chocolate eggs, even some brightly dyed hard-boiled real eggs, and of course the Pièce de résistance, a chocolate Easter bunny. Yum! Easter baskets are a lovely, as well as tasty, tradition.

Following up on this Easter tradition, I propose that we here at St. Austin make up an Easter basket for the Micah 6 Food Bank, of which we are a member. Twice a week the Food Bank, which operates out of the basement of University Presbyterian Church, provides food to hundreds of “shoppers,” people who represent families who do not have enough food. It is surprising how much food insecurity there is here in our community.

Each week Micah 6 distributes more than 10,000 pounds of food. Much of the food comes from the Capital Area Food Bank, but recently, due to politics with the Farm Bill in Congress, the Capital Area Food Bank has not been able to meet the demand. Local Micah 6 congregations, like St. Austin, help make up the difference to keep our food bank going.

So let us make an Easter basket for Micah 6, not of jelly beans and chocolate and hard-boiled eggs, but of nutritious foods for hungry families to share. Between now and Easter please bring with you to church some non-perishable food items for our basket: canned meats like tuna or stew or chili, pasta and pasta sauce, canned vegetables, beans, peanut butter, healthy cereals, and items like that. Please place them in the bin at the St. Joseph altar. You can bring food any time up to and including Easter Sunday, April 20. By Easter we will have an Easter basket of nutritious food to assist those in our community who are hungry. That will be an Easter basket much better than any amount of jelly beans and chocolate rabbits! It will be a great way for us as a parish to wish “Happy Easter” to our neighbors in need.

God bless!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Homily Fourth Sunday of Lent Cycle A March 30, 2014

          Seen any good movies lately?   Our readings today are about sight.  About seeing.  They raise the question, “What do you see?”  This is an important question because what you see determines what you understand, and judge, and so what you do.
          Not everyone sees the same thing.  We heard in the first reading: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” 
          To be able to see only the appearance – only the outward manifestation of something, only the physical appearance of something or someone, is to have a kind of blindness.  It is to grope around in the dark – seeing only the surface of things and not penetrating into the reasons for why things are the way they are, and so to fail to truly understand.  It is to lack wisdom, or in other words, to be foolish.
          Physical sight is wonderful, but it gives us only the plain physical appearance of things.   To go deeper, to penetrate and understand the whys, the meanings, the importance of others, we need a different kind of sight, a spiritual insight.  This Jesus gives us.
          In the Gospel He says: “I am the Light of the world.”  Jesus does not mean He is physical light, like what we get from the sun or from a light-bulb.  Rather Jesus is the source of spiritual light – letting us see more deeply into the reality of things, into our own life experience, and so to understand more fully the nature of ourselves and others, their purpose and worth.  He gives us wisdom.
          In today’s world there are people who see only science.  Science is a wonderful adventure, revealing marvelous things about creation.  But no matter how wonderful and marvelous it is, true science never even attempts to answer why things are the way they are, nor the reason and purpose of all this wonderful creation.  Like physical sight science can only answer questions in its own realm, and can never penetrate to explain the meaning and true purpose of something, and so reveal the things true value and worth.
          Science describes and reveals some truly awe-inspiring phenomena.  But science can never explain why these phemonema elicit awe,
or what the true purpose and meaning of the awe is.  Likewise there are many parts of creation that are hauntingly beautiful.  Big sky Texas sunsets for example.  But science cannot explain why they are beautiful, nor the reason and purpose of such beauty, nor why beauty haunts us so. 
          For those kind of questions we need to see more deeply into realities, and that sight comes from Christ.  
          Let me give you an example:  an unplanned pregnancy, with one set of eyes, can only be seen as at best a bother, and perhaps also an intolerable burden, and a threat to future dreams, and even to the advancement of children already born.  But with a deeper insight, life – even when it is a burden – is always seen as a blessing, something wonderful, always a gift.  Two people look at the same situation and see two radically divergent things.  Why?  Because one sees only the surface, the other sees deeply into the nature of the situation.
          Or again:  someone looks at undocumented workers and sees illegal aliens, law breakers, an economic threat who are taking jobs of citizens, a cause of crime and social unrest.  Someone else seeing the same situation with different eyes sees people struggling to make a better future for their family, sees people with the gumption to risk leaving all they know and find familiar to try for a better life in a new situation, sees persons who have basic human rights and who are loved by God as God’s children.  Two people look at the same situation and see two radically divergent things.  Why?  Because one sees only the surface, the other sees deeply into the nature of the situation.
          Jesus is the one who heals our blindness and helps us to see beyond the surface, to penetrate deeply into the reality of things.  Then we can see the beauty of creation and know it speaks to us of the beauty of the Creator.  We can not only feel the awe but see the source of the awe which beckons us to Itself.  We can see the dignity, beauty and worth of our own lives, and of all those around us.  In Christ we begin to truly see.
          Only Jesus can truly, deeply, heal us of blindness.  

          What do you see?