Monday, April 27, 2015

4th Sunday of Easter April 26, 2015

Did you know that according to the on-line Yellow Pages that there are 30 results for Paternity Testing in the Austin area?  30 places locally to find out ‘Who is Your Daddy?’  Now I have not had occasion to avail myself of any of these services recently, but from looking at a few of the websites it seems that for about $250 to $300 you can check on the paternity of your child, or of yourself, or just about anyone.  And it is a good thing to know who is your biological father; for issues about health matters, genetics, inheritance issues, child support, and other areas.  It is good to know “who is your daddy.” 
          On the spiritual level, this question is even more important.  Vastly more important in fact.  And today’s second reading addresses the issue. 
          St. John tells us:  “Beloved:”   Now when St. John calls us “Beloved”, it certainly means that we are beloved of God Almighty, and also that St. John loves all of us as well, but it also is St. John’s short-hand way of saying:  “SIT UP and PAY ATTENTION ‘cause I am about to tell you something IMPORTANT!”. 
          So he says: “Beloved:  See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called children of God.  Yet so we are.”  ¿Who is your Daddy?  God is your Father.  God is MY Father.  For all us together, God is our Father.  That is a wonderful, special, and fantastic reality.  We are not out in the universe all alone, unconnected, disinherited, nameless.  We have family connections on the cosmic level.  God is our Father.  And that is a very great thing.  We are children of God.
          Now, there are times when frankly I don’t much look like a child of God.  And there are times when I don’t feel like a child of God.  And unfortunately there are way too many times when I don’t act like a child of God.   So when I do think about these things I usually end up hoping that someday I will have my act together and I will finally become a true child of God. 
          But that way of thinking is wrong.  Because in today’s second reading St. John tells us:  “Beloved” – oh, there that word is again, calling us to attention – “Beloved, we are God’s children NOW;”  This is not something we hope to achieve in the future, it is a present reality.  Because, it doesn’t depend upon me.  This is all God’s doing.  Not ours. 
          Just like you did not choose your physical parents, and it was in no way your doing who your physical parents are, so it is in no way your doing that God is your Father.  “Beloved, we are God’s children NOW;”  
We may be disobedient children.  We may be a big disappointment to our Heavenly Father as children sometimes are.  We may not appreciate our spiritual inheritance, but still, “Beloved, we are God’s children NOW;” 
          But there is more.  St. John goes on, “What we shall be has not yet been revealed.”  Oh my.  Do you like surprises?   I hope so, because if St. John is right, we are all in for a BIG surprise!  We are destined to become something beyond our wildest dreams, beyond what we can imagine or even hope for. Sounds pretty exciting to me!
          We have some clues though.  St. John tells us:  “We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”    We shall be like him, like Father like son, or like daughter.  We will have a very clear and distinctive family resemblance to God.  What will that be?  Will we be all powerful, almighty, invincible, all-knowing and all seeing, everywhere and infinite?  Well, no.  Rather, we will be like God in the way Jesus was able to fully be God and still be weak, vulnerable, limited, human.  And that way is to be full of love.  Because God, as St. John tell us, IS love. 
          So when we see God as He is, in what is called the Beatific Vision, we will be like God in that we will be filled entirely and completely with love. Nothing but love.  No bitterness, no fear, no recriminations, no regrets, no anxiety nor worry, no hatred nor envy nor revenge, no greed, no lust, no laziness, no indifference, no spite, not even any impatience!  Nothing but love, love, love. 
And it will be wonderful!  LOVE is all we will be filled with, because we shall be like Our loving Father.  We shall see – that is we will truly know and understand – God as He is. 

          Who is your Daddy?  St. John today gives us the answer:  “Beloved:  See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called children of God.  Yet so we are.”    Amen.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, April 26

Next weekend at all the Masses we will celebrate the success of the “Faithful To Our Mission” capital campaign. We appreciate all the campaign volunteers, all the donors, and all who prayed for our parish to be successful. THANK YOU!

Now we need to get on with the project. Currently the parish property committee is refining the conceptual drawings and pricing of materials. There is still much work to be done before a final design is nailed down.

Because of the bad experience with discovering unforeseen conditions on the garage construction project (finding all sorts of buried tanks that cost a great deal to remove and environmentally remediate), we have been trying to proceed cautiously and find out exactly what the conditions are that we will be dealing with.

Our testing (you can see some of the holes in the walls from the testing) has actually produced some surprise good news. First of all we discovered that the limestone façade is glued directly onto the supporting wall. There is not an airspace - for insulation and to allow moisture to drip down – between the façade and the main support wall. That would be usual construction practice, and what we expected, but it is not what we have. We then tested the mastic (the glue) that holds the stones onto the support wall fearing there would be asbestos in the mastic. If you have been part of the parish for a long time you may remember that asbestos was discovered in the ceiling of the church and it was all removed. So we suspected it in the wall as well. Because of environmental and health concerns, removal of asbestos is complicated and costly. Fortunately, we found NO asbestos behind the stone façade. So that was good news.

We also discovered that while the metal clips on the east side of the church and rectory are very badly degraded, some of them entirely rusted through, the clips on the west and south sides are almost like brand new. They will be good for another century. Because the removal of the stone is costly, we have decided that on the sides where the façade is still in very good shape (i.e., south and west), rather than bust off the stone and replace it with all new material, we will power-wash the stone, tuck point the walls, and then seal them. This is a much more cost effective way to deal with the walls and allow us to make sure we will be able to do the other parts of the program such as ADA compliant bathrooms, debt reduction and enhanced ministry space in the old parish offices on the first floor of the rectory. It does present a challenge to the architects to make sure the new material and the old blend well. They seem up to the challenge.

Fortunately, the places where the façade is in good shape are exactly the places that are less visible, especially on the south and west sides.

We will remove the stone from the east (Guadalupe facing) side of the church and rectory, the tower (which is in bad shape) and at least a portion of the north side of the rectory. How much depends on how much we can afford. We are trying to proceed cautiously, in part to be responsible, in part due to the unhappy experience of great cost overruns on the garage construction project.

Please continue to keep our parish, and especially the parish property committee, in your prayers!

God bless,

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, April 12

Many thanks to all the RCIA team, musicians, lectors, fellow clergy, liturgical ministers, ushers and all who attended and participated and made our Lenten and Holy Week celebrations such beautiful and moving testaments of faith. We have real reason to celebrate, and thanks to so much hard work and talent from many people here, we had great celebrations! Thank you!
I also want to THANK all the volunteers and workers on the Faithful To Our Mission capital campaign. Thank you especially to all of you who have put your commitment to St. Austin’s parish into action and have contributed generously to the campaign. I am very happy to announce that we have reached our goal of Four Million Dollars! YAY! Much work, planning, phone calling, visiting and prayer went into reaching this wonderful result and I want to THANK all who participated in any way.
But we cannot rest on our laurels. While we have reached our dollar goal, we have not yet had 100% participation by our parish family. We have been able to dig deep with many generous gifts to be able to reach our dollar goal. Now we have to go wide to reach our goal of a high rate of participation by our parishioners. So far, 27% of our registered households (which could be a family or a single individual) have made a gift or commitment to our campaign. I am hoping we can do more.
For our campaign to succeed, we need not only the dollars but real buy-in by the parish. I want a very broad spectrum of this parish to have some skin in the game, to have ownership and a genuine sense of involvement in this campaign. I believe this campaign is very important for the future of our parish, and not just for the construction issues.
So if you have NOT yet made a commitment or gift to the Faithful To Our Mission capital campaign, I ask you PLEASE take a pledge card and envelope from one of the blue folders in the pews, pray over your response, and then make a gift to the campaign by returning the card next weekend. You may believe your contribution is not large enough to make a difference, but it does. And your participation is even more important. So no matter the amount, please join us in the Faithful To Our Mission campaign.
God bless you and Thank you! 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, April 5

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!! Happy Easter!!!
Easter is the celebration of the greatest triumph and the most spectacular victory in the entire history of the Cosmos. There is nothing else to compare to Easter. Not only is the victory that Jesus Christ won on the cross more complete, total, final and lasting than any other triumph in all of history, it is different in its very being. It is radical in the original sense of going to the root. 
For the Victory of the Cross is not a victory imposed from above, an overwhelming force that crushes its opposition with brute strength and force. Rather the Easter Triumph is radical in that it conquers from below than rather from above. Jesus allowed Himself to be betrayed, unjustly condemned, abandoned, mocked, tortured and brutally executed. And when sin and evil had done their very worst, when sin and death had exhausted their threat and power and could do no more; when all hope and any possibility of escape were obliterated; it is then that Jesus rose up from the depths of the grave and changed death into glory!
Jesus not only conquered, He transformed! Jesus not only vanquished, He fully restored Life. Death changed from being an ever-lasting punishment to become the doorway to eternal glory! Alleluia!
This is not our doing, not our accomplishment. Humanity could never accomplish such an astonishing and radical victory over the age-old enemies of sin and death. This is purely God’s free gift, accomplished in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. 
And it is ours! So we have good reason to celebrate and rejoice. Alleluia! Happy Easter!