Monday, November 20, 2017

Thirty Third Sunday in Ord Time Cycle A November 19, 2017

We just heard this long Gospel.   Do you like it?   What do you think? 
          I don’t much care for it.  It kind of frightens me.  The reason is more that I have to preach on this Gospel, and I think it can be very easily mistaken to sound like you need to earn your salvation;  you need to show a profit and that salvation is a reward for works righteousness. 
          You worked hard, invested yourself wisely, made a profit, SO….. welcome to the Kingdom of God.  OR You didn’t work hard and showed no profit, like the third servant, and so then you are thrown into the outer darkness where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
          One could, rather easily I think, mistake this Gospel for an endorsement of salvation by works.  And that is a heresy called “Pelagianism”.    And especially  here in Texas, where we have a respect for people who earn their own way and pull themselves us by their bootstraps, that sense of self-sufficiency can subtly carry over into wanting to earn our own salvation. 
          But being a Paulist, I have a concern for St Paul’s insistence that salvation is a free gift, that ALL is grace, that we are saved not by our goodness but by God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, which makes us good.   And I fear I could end up preaching a homily exhorting you to strive to do good and invest your talents well, which I think is NOT the real point of this Gospel.
          I think the key to understanding the Gospel is FEAR.
The third servant fails to act out of fear.  Over and over again in the Scriptures, fear is the enemy.   The most repeated injunction in the New Testament is “Do not be afraid.”  Fear is the enemy.
          The first two servants act with confidence, boldness, daring, risk-taking, and they make a profit.  They do not act out of fear.
          I really would like to re-write this Gospel and introduce a fourth servant.  And let’s say he gets three-and-a-half talents, so we can distinguish him from the others.  And this three-and-a-half talent servant went off and invested his talents just like the first two.  And he acted with the same boldness and the same intelligence as the first two, BUT his investments did not turn out.  Through no fault of his own, but due rather to something way beyond his control - a natural disaster, a foreign war, a blight on the crops - something he had nothing to do with and could not foresee, he lost the entire three-and-a-half talents.  He is broke.
          How would the master judge him?  Because as everyone who owns stocks knows, not every investment succeeds.  And sometimes it is due to circumstances beyond our control.  However, this three-and-a-half talent servant showed all the same gumption and ability to take a risk that the five and the two talent guys showed.  So how would the master judge him?
          I would argue that the Master, gruff and tough demanding curmudgeon that he is, would still praise this three-and-a-half talent servant for his industry and engagement.  He was involved in life.
          You see the real enemy is not loss, but fear.  Fear paralyzes us just as it paralyzed that one talent fellow. 

          Stinginess is a type of fear, that immobilizes and freezes us up.   Greed does the same thing.  Racial prejudice, homophobia and dislike of immigrants and refugees is a type of fear.  Self-centeredness is fear.  And all that stops us from investing the gifts, the talents, the compassion, the concern, the love we have is FEAR.  
          The one talent servant is not condemned because he failed to make a profit, but because he acted out of FEAR. 
          Over and over again the Scriptures tell us, DO NOT BE AFRAID.
          Today we have a very special second collection:  for the Campaign for Human Development.  There are those in the church and in society who are afraid of this collection, afraid of the effort to lift up dis-advantaged people and help them become self-sufficient, self-determining, and contributing members of society.  It is a shame.  I ask you to overcome fear and respond generously to our second collection today.
          We cannot be afraid.  We have been given great gifts in faith, in the promise of salvation in Jesus, and in the knowledge of God’s love for us.  {{At this Mass we welcomed Majida into the Catechumenate, and Zachary, Clayton, Payton, Michael and Ryan we welcomed into the process of becoming Roman Catholic.}} 
We need not to tell them, but rather to show them, how not to live in fear.

          We show our faith by acts of hope and charity.  Use the gifts you have been given.  Do not be afraid.   

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, November 12, 2017

We look forward this week to celebrating THANKSGIVING. Hopefully, you have much for which to be thankful. Certainly, as a parish and school community we have much to be thankful for.  
I am so thankful that we have so many dedicated and talented parishioners and school parents. I go to lots of committee meetings here, and I am constantly amazed at the high level of talent, and even more of dedication and enthusiasm, that our parish and school community enjoys. For example, working with the Development Committee on the possible mixed-use development has impressed me with both the level of talent in this community, and even more the willingness to work hard for the good of our parish and school. It is inspiring. And the same is true for the School Advisory Board, the Parish Pastoral Council, the parish and school Finance Councils, the Investment Committee, the Property Committee, and many, many more. We all owe them a debt of gratitude.
I am also grateful for the progress on our major renovation of the exterior of our rectory and church, with the additions of new bathrooms and meeting space. It is coming along right on schedule, and now we can begin to see some of the results. The church looks great! I am sure it has not looked this good in decades. When the crosses and the new light sconces are added, it will be beautiful. No longer will it look like an abandoned building. The only problem with beautifying our church and rectory along Guadalupe Street is that now Newman Hall, in contrast, looks even worse. Maybe we will be able to have it painted.
Also, I am very grateful for the great success we have had in our capital campaign, “Faithful to Our Mission.” We raised over $5 Million, and in our second phase we added a few more families participating, and succeeded in getting covered much of the additional items we want to add to the project. THANK YOU!
I am grateful for all those who serve us in our worship, as lectors, Eucharistic Ministers, greeters, and ushers, and for all the talented people who invest their time and effort in making beautiful and uplifting music for our worship. With the loss of Dr. Hoffman I have been especially grateful to those who have stepped forward into the breach to help us continue to make a “joyful noise unto the Lord!”

And I could go on about our parish staff, my fellow Paulists here, the support we have from the Diocese, and even that we FINALLY are enjoying cool weather, but you get the idea. We as a parish have a great deal for which to be thankful. So as we celebrate Thanksgiving, please remember to give thanks not only for all the blessings in your own life, but also for the blessings in our life as a parish/school community.   

Monday, November 6, 2017

Fr. Chuck's Column, November 5, 2017

Our renovation is now moving into a new phase. All of the old stone has been removed from the front of the church and the rectory, and replaced with new stone. That is why the scaffolding in front of the church is gone. Now the workers are building the new lobby and bathrooms that will occupy the space between the church and the rectory. It is really happening.
Another part of the construction is the remodeling of the front half of the first floor of the rectory, where the nursery is. The nursery will be back, with a new bathroom and a new emergency exit onto the courtyard. The rest of that floor, where the old offices of the parish were years ago, is being remodeled to be meeting room space. We can certainly use more meeting rooms! It could serve as a bride’s room for weddings, a place for the family to gather prior to a funeral, as a location for children’s Liturgy of the Word, for adult education gatherings, and as a meeting space for committees and small groups. We will have no problem finding many uses for it.
But how to designate this new space? It needs a name. Instead of saying let’s meet in the first floor of the rectory, we should give this space a name. We already have Paulist Hall, Hecker Hall, Our Lady of Guadalupe Room, St. Augustine Room, Sts. Joan and Raymond Room and so on. In this manner we should also name this room next to the nursery.
I have several suggestions, in keeping with the overall Paulist theme in names.  St. Barnabas Room. An early disciple, the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to check on the church in Antioch, which was the first to admit Gentiles into Christianity. Barnabas, from Cyprus, is described as “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” (Acts 11: 28). It was Barnabas who got St. Paul involved in missionary work. He was a faithful companion of St. Paul on several of Paul’s missionary journeys. So he would be a good choice for naming the room.
Another option would be St. Phoebe Room. She too was a companion and helper to St. Paul. In Romans 16:1 St. Paul commends her to the Romans and refers to her as a deacon. Paul comments “she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well,” so she is a good patron for donors. 
Sts Priscilla and Aquila were sort of an advance team for St. Paul. He met this wife and husband in Corinth (Acts 18:2). They had been in Rome but the Emperor Claudius had expelled all Jews from Rome. They became very close to St. Paul and accompanied him on his missionary journey to Ephesus. Later they became an advance team preparing the way for St. Paul in Rome, where they were known. In Romans 16:3 St. Paul wrote: “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus, and who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.” I think they should be better known, and it would be interesting to have a room in the rectory named after a married couple.
Another possibility, especially since this room will be adjacent to the nursery, is to name it after the Holy Family. You can’t go wrong with that. 

I invite all those who have participated in the renovation effort to express your preference to a member of the Parish Pastoral Council. You can find the PPC members at church wearing their blue PPC name tags. Or you can email your thoughts to the PPC at The Parish Council will consider your input and early next year choose a name for this renewed room.