Monday, March 27, 2017

Homily Fourth Sunday of Lent Cycle A March 26, 2017

          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?  

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, March 19, 2017

I hope you all had a relaxing and enjoyable Spring Break!!!
Hopefully you will notice that our project to renovate the exterior of our church and rectory buildings has entered a new phase. It is kind of hard to ignore.

Traffic flow and entrance/exit from the church is affected. This will go on till the middle of next February. YIPES! So just settle down and get used to the dust, the disruption, the noise. Your patience and cooperation are very much appreciated.

But when we are done things will be MUCH BETTER. First and most importantly of all, we will have a safe church. You will not have to worry about a stone falling off the wall and crashing on to you. That alone makes this whole project, and its cost, and its disruption, worthwhile.

But that is not all! In addition, we will get BATHROOMS! Real handicapped accessible bathrooms for both women and men, just like in a grown-up church! We will have MORE bathrooms and BETTER bathrooms. It will be WONDERFUL!!!

But that is not all! We will have a refreshed and renewed nursery in the front of the rectory, and NEW usable space for meetings, classes, Children’s Liturgy of the Word, and many other activities. And believe me, we need more meeting space, especially on Sunday during Faith Formation (formerly “religious ed”).

But that is not all! The appearance of our church will be vastly improved. Instead of being mistaken for abandoned buildings (
as has happened), we will be noticed as one of the most attractive and attention grabbing houses of worship on the Drag! Instead of at every wedding and funeral people tell us “I have driven up and down Guadalupe for a dozen years and never knew there was a church here,” now people will tell new comers to Austin that UT is near where St. Austin is, because we will be so well known.
Yes, we have much to look forward to. But in the meantime, we must all practice some patience. There will be confusion, dust, noise, parking difficulties, but we can handle it. Indeed, we can thrive! 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, Mary 12, 2017

As you may know, there has been a wave of bomb threats (well over 100) in the last couple of months against Jewish community centers and schools in our country. There have also been continuing acts of vandalism and threats against mosques and Muslim centers as well.

We have neighbors who are justifiably frightened, upset, and scared. It is a terrible situation. We, as people of faith, as well as good neighbors, are concerned for our neighbors who feel threatened, specifically the Hillel Center across the street from our gym, the Nueces Street Mosque two blocks from us, and the Chabad Student Center on 21st Street.

We not only want to pray for them and their safety, but to reassure them of our prayerful support. So we are doing a couple of things to put that concern into action. First, I have given to the leaders of the Hillel Center a list of emergency contact numbers here at St. Austin so that, God forbid, in the case of a bomb threat and they have to evacuate the building (as has happened around the country) they can contact us and we will make our facilities available to them for the emergency sheltering of people, especially if it is raining or at night. We are ready to assist them.

Secondly, to let them know of our prayerful concern, we have presented each of the three communities listed above with one of the candles that were blessed at the end of each Mass last weekend. We will have one of the candles here, which we will light, as a reminder to us that we are committed to pray for these neighboring communities of faith, especially for their safety. We hope that they will light the candle they receive as a reminder that we are praying for them and that they will pray for us.

I urge you to pray for the safety of all our neighbors, and for our country. Acts of hatred and violence must not be tolerated.

The following is from the blessing of candles at the end of Mass last weekend:
“God of mercy, hear our prayers and the prayers of all people of goodwill. Unite us all in your love. Protect all people of faith from persecution and physical harm. Bless us and + all who are united in prayer before you, O God.

Through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.”

Monday, March 13, 2017

2nd Sunday of Lent: March 12, 2017 St Austin’s Church

Well it is Lent.  It is a good time for COMMANDMENTS.  And we hear of three directives or commandments in our readings today.
          In the first reading, from the Book of Genesis, we heard God tell Abram: “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father's house to a land that I will show you.”    Go forth!
          In the second reading from St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy we hear: “Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.”  Bear your share of hardship for the gospel!
          And in the Gospel today we heard God’s voice from the cloud declare: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;  listen to him."   Listen to him!
          So we hear three injunctions or commands: “Go forth!”  “Bear your share of hardship for the gospel!” and “Listen to him!”
          I think it is worthwhile reflecting on each of these a bit.  Together they form a wonderful prescription for a good Lent. 
          “Go forth!”  God commands Abram to become a migrant, an immigrant, a refugee.  “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father's house to a land that I will show you.”  Given that Abram was leaving an area that is now Syria or Iraq, Abram may very well be blocked from coming here to Texas if his trip were in this day and age.  And we could discuss what a Christian and humanitarian policy towards refugees and immigrants would look like, and what it would NOT look like.  But I direct you instead to the US Catholic Bishop’s website,, or their immigration website,, for the strong statements issued by our Bishop, Joe Vasquez on this issue. 
     Rather, I wish to reflect on the life of faith as a journey.  Even if we never leave our home town for our entire life, every one of us is called by God to “Go forth!”  We are called to go forth out of our comfort zones, out of the assurances and prejudices we have inherited, to risk the journey of faith.  That means we have to appropriate our faith and truly make it our own.  Sometimes that command to go forth means being the first to reach out in reconciliation and forgiveness.  Maybe it means going forth to help in a soup kitchen or Thursday Outreach, dealing with people you usually try to avoid.  Maybe that going forth is volunteering to tutor, or lector, or be an altar server.  Maybe that going forth is even to investigate becoming a priest or religious sister or permanent deacon.  But in any case this going forth calls us to go out of ourselves to go deeper into the mystery of God, which is always somewhat scary because it is a journey into the unknown.   For this Lent resolve to go forth!
          Secondly we are told in our second reading, Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.”   Well, doesn’t that sound like fun!
What is your share of the hardship for the gospel?  Well, I think it basically has two forms, those hardships or difficulties that come from within us, and those that come from without.  The difficulties most of us struggle with most of the time are the ones that come from within. 
The Gospel calls us to live in a certain way, as children of God and as disciples of Jesus.  But all of us find resistance to this in our unredeemed human nature:  our selfishness, our greed, our envy and pride, our laziness, our prejudices, our lust, our sin.  This Lent you and I are called to bear our share of the hardship of living the Gospel more fully and completely.  We pray, we fast, we give alms, we strive to be fuller, better Christians.  We rely on the strength that comes from God.  It is a struggle.  It is a fight.  And our enemy is ourself.  But God helps and encourages us to become people of integrity, of compassion, of service, of righteousness, of joy.  It is a tough fight, but it is worth it.  Keep up the good fight.
The other part of the hardship that we bear for the Gospel comes from outside us.  Sometimes this is anti-Catholic or anti-Christian prejudice.  Sometimes this is pressure to go along with the crowd in things that are not right.  Sometimes it is mocking of our sharing and standing with the week, the outcast, the loosers in our world.  Again, this can be very difficult, especially for young people who have a natural desire to fit into the group.  It takes great courage and a strong sense of self to oppose the wrong and evil all around us.  It is easier to ignore it.
          But God helps us with this, strengthening us to resist and to overcome.  It requires courage.  The Holy Spirit can and will encourage us, making us strong in the Spirit. 
          So for this Lent I urge you to Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.”
          Finally, in the Gospel we are told: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him."   Listen to him!
          In this day and age of so many distractions, so many gadgets vying for our attention, so many messages bombarding us continually, genuine listening, deep listening, is so very difficult.  And yet it is so important.  It is what God the Father urges, pleads with us, commands us to do.   LISTEN to him! 
          Lent is a time of listening.  Carve out some time.  Turn off the distractions.  Quiet the incessant inner voices telling you of the million things you have to get done.  Settle down in the Lord.  And Listen.  Maybe a good way for you to do this would attending weekday Mass once or twice a week during Lent.  Maybe you can get some time at night before bed, or even while driving to work.  One way I like to do this is to take a Gospel story, read it slowly, see if anything jumps out, then create the scene in my imagination.  What does Jesus look like?  What are the disciples doing?  What are the onlookers engaged in?  Where am I in the scene?  And then just let it speak to me.
          But in some way or another to consciously and deliberately heed the Father’s call this Lent, “Listen to Him!”

          This Lent there is still plenty of time to heed the commands in today’s Scripture readings.  Go forth on the journey of faith.  Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.  And most importantly, really listen to Jesus this Lent.  Then you will have a successful, fruitful, and wonderful Lent.  God bless!

Monday, March 6, 2017

HOMILY First Sunday of Lent Cycle A March 5, 2017

In our Gospel today we are told: At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.   He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry.”
          Well, of course Jesus was hungry.  But for WHAT was Jesus hungry?
For what did Jesus hunger?   For food?  That is what the devil thought.  And so the tempter tempts Jesus to turn stones into bread in order to satisfy His hunger.  But the tempter has misread the situation.  Jesus is indeed hungry for bread, but after 40 days of prayer and communion with this Father in Heaven, Jesus is much more hungry for union with God, for God’s Will to be done, than Jesus is for physical food.   And so it is entirely understandable that Jesus responds “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”  Jesus hungers for union with God.
          In two weeks we will hear the Gospel of John about Jesus’ meeting and interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well.  Jesus is thirsty and says to the woman, “Give me a drink.”  But it is clear that it is not physical water that Jesus seeks, but rather the faith of the woman.  Jesus thirsts for her response in faith.  That is what really motivates Jesus. 
          Lent is about hunger and thirst.  But not only, or even primarily, about physical hunger and thirst.  Lent is really about hungering and thirsting for God, for God’s Will to be done, for holiness, for union with God. 
          As the 42nd Psalm beautifully puts it: As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, the living God.”
           Lent is a time of hunger and of thirst.   The important question is, “what are you hungering for?   For what do you thirst?”   Do you thirst for the living God?
          In Lent we try to let go of our thirsts and hungers for food, for fame, for importance, for power, for domination, for greed, for pleasure, for me, me, me.   Instead we try to open ourselves to thirsting and hungering for righteousness, for justice, for compassion, for humility, for chastity, for honesty, for holiness, for forgiveness, for GOD.  Fasting is about re-orienting our wants and our desires, our longings and hunger and thirst.  We are called to hunger for God’s Will in our life.
          Lent is about getting our thirsts and hungers right.   As the Most Interesting Man in the World tells us on the commercials, “Stay thirsty my friend.”
          This Lent, stay thirsty and hungry for God’s Will in your life.  May you sing with the Psalmist:  “As the deer longs for streams of water,
so my soul longs for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, the living God.”

Blessed Lent!