Monday, April 24, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, April 23, 2017

ALLELUIA! We survived Easter! Thanks to all who made this celebration so special: the lectors, ushers, servers, environment decorators, musicians, Eucharistic ministers, my brother priests, and all who attended and sang and prayed. ALLELUIA!
Meanwhile, the renovation of our church exterior continues. The large stone cross on top of the tower has been removed. It was held on literally by chicken wire and aluminum foil. I breathed easier after it was taken down. All the stone has now been taken off the exterior of the tower, and by the time you read this they should be removing the stone from the front of the church. They will start at the top and work their way down to the bottom. Once there, they will then start installing the new stone, starting this time at the bottom and working their way up. It should take a couple of months. Then they will go on to replace the front of the rectory.
They also have been busy in the interior of the first floor of the rectory, framing out the new nursery and the new, more usable meeting space. Through all this my brother Paulists have been extraordinarily patient and understanding with the noise, the dust, the disruption of construction crews wandering through our house, etc. We will all be glad when it is done.
And after all the stone work is completed, construction will begin on the new lobby and bathrooms. The lobby will be an additional entrance onto Guadalupe Street that will open onto the new bathrooms.
Meanwhile, a crew from Illinois is working on cleaning, repairing, re-patching and sealing the exterior walls on the other three sides of the church and rectory. That is a tough job, and it has taken them many tries with different products to find what will work best on our stubborn stains. But they are persistent and are getting results. One parishioner told me that she was pleasantly surprised with the results of one test section and that it reminded her of Jerusalem! Needless to say, that made my day. If we can go from being a gray, grungy and particularly unattractive exterior to reminding people of Jerusalem, we will really have accomplished something worthwhile in this project.
So as we go through the noise, dust and disruptions, know that it is all for a good cause. Thanks to all the donors of this project, thanks to the architects and engineers and Property Committee and those who figured this project out, thanks to the workers and contractors and laborers who are making it happen, thanks to all of you for your patience and support. We will soon have not only a beautiful church community but a beautiful church exterior to match. 

HOMILY Second Sunday of Easter April 22/23, 2017

          It is Easter Sunday night, and the disciples, fearful and afraid are hiding in a locked room.  They are terrified that what happened to their leader, Jesus, would now happen to them.  I too would be afraid if I were in their sandals.
          Suddenly, without warning, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them: “Where were you guys on Friday when I needed you?  Some “friends” you jerks turned to be.”  Then Jesus showed them his hands and his side.  “See what happened to me because you guys all deserted me?” he taunted them.  “Well now I am back and it is a whole new show!”  And with that Jesus blasted them all to smithereens. 
          The young Sylvester Stallone plays Jesus.
          Fortunately for us, that is NOT what happened.  Instead of blaming, or criticizing, or accusing, Jesus’ first words were “Peace be with you.”  Jesus had every reason to be bitterly disappointed, upset and angry at the Apostles.  But instead Jesus says, “Peace be with you.”
          Then Jesus showed them his hands and his side.  Why?  So they could see the wounds.  Not to shame or embarrass the Apostles, but to show to them the ultimate proof of His love for them and for us. 
          Jesus again says “Peace be with you.”  Then Jesus does something extraordinary.  He sends them out on mission.  “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  
          What?!?  These guys have just proven conclusively that they are worse than useless. Not only do they desert him and run away, but like Peter they deny that they know him.  So it is remarkable that Jesus now entrusts His mission to them. 
“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
          But Jesus knows what He is doing.  He knows His death and resurrection changes everything.  His death and resurrection usher in a whole new phase of history, a fundamental and epic change in humanity.  Because now the Holy Spirit is powerfully sent into the world. 
          Jesus breathed on them, just like God had breathed the breath of life into the first man, so Jesus is now making them new with new life in the Spirit.  
          Jesus said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.   Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."
          This is the initiation of a whole new relationship with God, due to the saving death and resurrection of Jesus.
          Each of us has been baptized into that new relationship with God in Jesus Christ.  We too have been given the Holy Spirit.  This means we are to no longer to live in the old way of force and revenge, of getting even and grabbing all we can for ourselves, but rather to live in the new way of forgiveness and peace. 
          We do not do this because of our own inherent goodness and virtue, because we are such great and holy people, but rather because we have been given the Holy Spirit who empowers us to live in a whole new way.  The way of Jesus.  The way of forgiveness, not revenge.  The way of holiness, not sin.  The way of Life, not death. 
          The Gift of the Holy Spirit empowers you to live in a whole new way.  Follow Jesus!
This morning at this Mass, three children, Jolene, Emmaline and Caroline, will be Baptized.  They will receive the precious gift of the Holy Spirit just as the Apostles did in that locked room so many years ago.  We pray that the Holy Spirit will be strong in their lives, and in ours too. All this is due to the saving death and resurrection of Jesus.  

Happy Easter!  Alleluia!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter! Christ is Risen! ALLELUIA!
It is wonderful to have you with us on this most Holy Day!  Thank you for joining in our celebration of Jesus Christ’s triumph over sin and over death. THANK YOU also for your patience and understanding as we live and celebrate our way through all the dust and inconvenience of the major renovation of the exterior of our church. Easter happens regardless!
May this celebration of the victory of Christ’s love 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. A future of LIFE and of LOVE!!! 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. And your presence today adds to the JOY!
Happy Easter! Christ is Risen! ALLELUIA!   

Monday, April 17, 2017

Homily Easter Vigil 2017

          I have here a stone.   It has got some heft to it, even though it isn’t very big.  Still, you wouldn’t want this to fall on your head.  Any idea where this stone came from?  (from the construction on the church).
          Well, for reasons that I hope are quite obvious, I have been thinking quite a bit about stone lately.  So the stone in our Gospel this evening caught my attention.
          You remember the stone.  At the end of the proclamation of the Passion last Sunday we heard that Joseph of Arimathea had put the body of Jesus in a new tomb hewn out of the rock. And then they sealed the tomb with a huge stone.  Only Matthew, whose Gospel we read tonight, tells us that it was a HUGE stone.  It was massive, and very, very heavy. 
          Not only that, at the end of the Passion last Sunday we heard that fearing the disciples might steal the body of Jesus the chief priests secured the stone, put a seal on it to make sure it was not tampered with, and finally posted a guard.  That stone was going no-place.  //  So they thought.
          I think St Matthew, in the way he presents his Gospel, has a special significance for that huge stone.
          I think this huge stone represents the crushing weight of all the world’s sins that was supposed to crush and block out the Light.  They falsely condemned Jesus, executed Him in a most horrific and degrading way, then put Him into the ground and sealed the tomb shut with all the insensitivity, greed, hostility, laziness, lust, anger, jealousy, dishonesty, superstition, prejudice, indifference, stubborn hard-hardeness and sin of the world.  It was an enormous weight.  They buried the Light and the greatest hope for humanity under that crushing and immovable weight of all the sin in the world: all things degrading, false, crooked, wrong. 
          But they couldn’t even keep Him in the ground. 
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.  What was there to see?  There was nothing there but the rocky hillside that the tomb was in and the huge rock sealing the entrance to the tomb.  But they went anyway.
          And what did they see?  An angel, appearing like lightning, descends from heaven, easily rolls back the huge stone and sits on it.  That huge stone, representative of all the sins and offenses of humanity, that appeared so immovable and weighty, gets easily rolled aside and becomes a stool for Jesus’ messenger boy.  He sat on it.
          The tomb was empty.  Even before the stone was rolled away Jesus was gone.  He was raised up!  He had risen!  Alleluia!
          The very first thing that Angel says to the women: “Do not be afraid!”    The very first thing that Jesus says to the women: “Do not be afraid!”   What the Gospel is telling you tonight is: “DO NOT BE AFRAID!!” 
          Catechumens and candidates:  You are soon to make a commitment to Christ and to His Body the Church.  You will receive special blessing and graces in the Sacraments you are soon to receive.  You will be strengthened to do and be more like Christ.  It will bring challenges and hardships.  DO NOT BE AFRAID! 
          Because Jesus has overcome that great weight of all the world’s sin.  Christ has conquered death.  Jesus is alive, He is Risen, He is with us here this evening.  He will strengthen and lead you, and all of us. 
          Jesus is Risen!   Alleluia!     Happy Easter!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, April 9, 2017

Today we celebrate Palm Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday. We hear the proclamation of the Passion. This year it is according to the Gospel of Matthew. The Passion story is full of drama, intrigue, confrontation, violence, brutality, conflict and passion. What there is not so much of is blood and gore. Unlike some movies about the Passion of Christ that emphasize the physical goriness of crucifixion, St. Matthew makes it only a passing comment: “After they had crucified him…” There is no dwelling on the act of crucifixion.
The emphasis of the Gospel writers is not on the intensity of the pain and suffering, but rather on the mental attitude and inner disposition of Jesus. The point is the interior fidelity of Jesus to the Will of God. It is captured beautifully in Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus prays, “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” 

This attitude is called obedience. Jesus saves us not by the amount He suffered, but by His complete obedience to the Will of the Father. It is not the Father’s Will that Jesus suffer horribly, but rather that Jesus remain faithful no matter what. And that is what Jesus does. By His obedience to the Father’s Will, Jesus effects His sacrifice.          
Sacrifice is not ultimately about suffering or pain. The English word sacrifice comes from two Latin words, “sacra” (meaning holy or sacred) and “facere” (meaning to make). Sacrifice is really about “making holy.” Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is not about how much he suffered, but about how totally in tune with the Father’s Will Jesus was, or in other words, how obedient Jesus was.
Jesus saved us not by hurting a lot, but rather by healing the wound of our refusal to recognize God as Creator and ourselves as creatures and then going off doing our own thing, disobedient to the Will of God. Jesus makes it possible, even in the very worst of circumstances, even in crucifixion, to remain faithful and obedient to God. That is Jesus’ real sacrifice.
This is also called a “sacrifice of praise,” because to recognize God as God, and conform ourselves to God’s Will, is really the highest form of praise. This is also how the Mass is a sacrifice. We are all invited to associate ourselves with the one sacrifice of Jesus in adopting interiorly Jesus’ attitude of obedience, recognizing God as God, and ourselves as beloved children of God. 
Have a blessed Passion Sunday! 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, April 2, 2017

Busy this past week with many meetings and then being away, I have not come up with a good idea for a column this week. However, I do wish to pass on to you the following statement from the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Administrative Committee.  It is timely and important, so I recommend it to you.
God bless! 
Fr. Chuck
Living as a People of God in Unsettled Times, March 22, 2017
A pastoral reflection from the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
The word of God is truly alive today.  “When an alien resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one.  You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt” (Lev. 19:33-34).
To live as a people of God is to live in the hope of the resurrection. To live in Christ is to draw upon the limitless love of Jesus to fortify us against the temptation of fear.  Pray that our engagement in the debate over immigration and refugee issues may bring peace and comfort to those most affected by current and proposed national policy changes.
Let us not lose sight of the fact that behind every policy is the story of a person in search of a better life. They may be an immigrant or refugee family sacrificing so that their children might have a brighter future.  As shepherds of a pilgrim Church, we will not tire in saying to families who have the courage to set out from their despair onto the road of hope: “We are with you.” They may also be a family seeking security from an increased threat of extremist violence. It is necessary to safeguard the United States in a manner that does not cause us to lose our humanity.
Intense debate is essential to healthy democracy, but the rhetoric of fear does not serve us well.  When we look at one another do we see with the heart of Jesus?  Within our diverse backgrounds are found common dreams for our children.  Hope in the next generation is how the nation will realize its founding motto, “out of many, one.” In doing so, we will also realize God’s hope for all His children:  that we would see each other as valued sisters and brothers regardless of race, religion or national origin.
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh (Jn. 1:14), strengthens us to bring our words to life.  How might we, as Catholics and in our own small way, bring our words of solidarity for migrants and refugees to life?
1.      Pray for an end to the root causes of violent hatred that force mothers and fathers to flee the only home they may have known in search of economic and physical security for their children.
2.      Meet with members of your parish who are newcomers, listen to their story and share your own. Hundreds of Catholic parishes across the country have programs for immigrants and refugees both to comfort them and to help them know their rights. It is also important to reach out in loving dialogue to those who may disagree with us.  The more we come to understand each other’s concerns the better we can serve one another.  Together, we are one body in Christ.
3.      Call, write or visit your elected representative and ask them to fix our broken immigration system in a way that safeguards both our security and our humanity through a generous opportunity for legal immigration.
As Pope Francis said, “To migrate is the expression of that inherent desire for the happiness proper to every human being, a happiness that is to be sought and pursued.  For us Christians, all human life is an itinerant journey towards our heavenly homeland.” 

Monday, April 3, 2017


          When I was a little boy my Dad used to love to watch old cowboy movies on Saturday afternoons on the TV.  He called them “dusties” because there were always clouds of dust.  And the highly dramatic climax of these movies usually consisted in a wagon train full of brave settlers under attack from enormous hoards of hostile Indians.  And just when it seemed the settlers’ ammunition was about to run out and they would all be overrun and massacred, off in the distance you could hear a bugle, dutta da data….   And just in the nick of time the wagon train and its occupants were saved by the arrival of the cavalry.
          And ever since then, up to this very day, the brave hero and heroine are still being saved just in the nick of time, be it Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings, or Thor or any action movie you can name. 
          The reason we love to see rescue and salvation coming just in the nick of time is it has great dramatic power, and because that is the way we want life to be.
          But our Gospel today is so different, because Jesus shows up too late.
          The sisters of Lazarus send word to Jesus. “The one you love is sick.”   The implication is clear.  Come quick!  But what does Jesus do?  Jump on his horse and ride to the rescue?  No!  He plays a few games of solitaire on the computer, has another cup of coffee, chats about the prospects for the Jerusalem sports teams with the Apostles, does a little fishing.             In short, Jesus dilly dallies for two whole days. 
          Finally, he goes.  And poor Lazarus is no longer sick.  He is not only dead, He is in the tomb four days and beginning to decompose.  It is way too late.  Lazarus stinks.
          You see that in the reaction of the people when Jesus arrives.   The Jews say: “He opened the eyes of the blind man.  Why could he not have done something to stop this man from dying?” 
          The first words out the mouths of the sisters are the same thing: “Lord, if you had been here, (if you had come when we called you) my brother would never have died.”  Independently they both reproach Jesus for being so tardy.  Why didn’t you come when we called you? 

          I can identify with that.  I have said that.  “Lord, why didn’t you come when I called you, when I really needed you?”   Haven’t we all done that? 
Haven’t we all said, at least to our selves: “Lord, if you had been here, I would have thought twice before making such a stupid comment;  my marriage would not have failed; I would not have made a mess of this relationship; I would not have been stuck in this dead end job; my child would not have become a drug addict or an alcoholic; my spouse, my parent, my child, my loved one would not have died; Whatever.  Lord, if only you had come before it was too late.
          Jesus shows up when it is way too late: Lazarus is dead, in the tomb four days already, and stinking. 
           Only for God it is never too late.  God has possibilities we cannot imagine; options we can’t conceive of.  When all is lost, when everything has been tried and failed, and the situation is hopeless - from the human point of view - God is just getting started. 
          Isn’t that what we are preparing to celebrate at Easter?  That when all is lost, when Good Friday brutally occurs, when Jesus has been condemned, whipped, beaten, crucified, put in the tomb and then it is sealed with a huge stone, when it is all over and done and beyond any human possibility of being saved, God’s possibilities are still limitless.  Only God can pull off Easter.

          Jesus in the Gospel today tells us: “I am the resurrection and the life: whoever believes in me, though he should die, will come to life; and whoever is alive and believes in me will never die.”
          Jesus offers us the fullness of life, complete life, eternal life: in other words, all we yearn and long for, the deepest desires of our souls: full life and complete union with God.  That is the Gospel, the Good News!
          No matter what failures, heartbreaks, divorces, bankruptcies, illnesses, shattered dreams, grievous sins and bitter disappointments occur in our lives, we still have before us the hope of full, complete, eternal life.  For God it is never too lateFor God it is never too late

“Did I not assure you” Jesus tells us, “that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”