Friday, March 30, 2018

HOLY THURSDAY Mass of the Lord’s Supper March 29, 2018

HOLY THURSDAY   Mass of the Lord’s Supper      March 29, 2018

“During supper, 
fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power 
and that he had come from God and was returning to God,   ….”
          What did Jesus feel at that moment?    fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power 
and that he had come from God and was returning to God,”….
          That must have been a fantastic, wonderful, special sensation.  A feeling of great harmony, of unfathomable peace, of tremendous power.  God the Father had put everything into His power.   More than that, Jesus was fully aware of Who He most deeply was, that he had come from God and was returning to God.
          To say that Jesus was at the top of his game would be a gross under statement of the phenomenal, fantastic, self-realization of Jesus.   fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power 
and that he had come from God and was returning to God,”…
          And so, what is Jesus going to do with this fantastic realization of His special relationship with God the Father?   He could do anything!  There were no limits.  No barriers.  Nothing to hinder him at all.  He could do anything.
          And what did He do?  “he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.”
          That is what Jesus did.  Fully aware of His unique and special relationship with the source of all being, all power, all potentiality, Jesus rose and took off his outer garments.
I believe this to be a highly symbolic act in the highly symbolic Gospel of John. 
          What was Jesus symbolizing in removing His outer garments?  For Jesus was not just taking off cloths, not just removing his dinner jacket, loosening his tie and getting comfortable.  No.
          He was symbolizing something much deeper.  Jesus was shedding Himself of any defensiveness.  Of any sense of worldly protection.  Fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God, Jesus let go of any and all human defense, any human concern for dignity or protection, any human claim to importance or being special, and in its place relied fully and exclusively on God.  //          Just as Jesus would be forcibly stripped of His clothes the following day at His crucifixion, so Jesus now graciously and voluntarily anticipates this humiliation by choosing to remove His outer garments.   He is already being stripped, and it is Jesus’ choice.
          Jesus strips Himself of self-importance, of His pride, of any need to look like He has it all together.  Instead Jesus is able to rely totally and completely on His relationship with His Father in complete vulnerability.   And Jesus does not need anything else.
          Freed from any concerns about His self-importance, about how He looked, about what people thought of Him, of public opinion, Jesus was so free in Himself that he could bend down and wash the feet of His disciples.  So free that He could give Himself away to us in the Eucharist.  This is my Body for you.  This is my Blood for you.  All of me for all of you.  He was perfectly free.
          Tonight’s service challenges us to enter into that mindset and that heart-set of Jesus.  We are invited to take off the outer garments of our self-importance, our pride, our dignity, our concern for how we look, our defense mechanisms, all the masks and outer garments we use to hide and protect ourselves.  We are challenged to take those off, lay them aside, and instead to trust only in the Lord’s love for us; a love that frees us to be so humble that we can be free enough to wash one another’s feet. 
          We are challenged as we receive Holy Communion to be so freed of our selves as to be able to give ourselves away to others in love.
          Tonight’s service is not for the timid, the faint of heart, the easily embarrassed, the overly cautious. 
          Tonight is a night for taking a risk.  Take off those old, ragged outer garments of pride, of prejudice, of self-importance.  Strip yourself of your defenses.  Let Jesus wash your feet, // and to love the real you. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Homily FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT Cycle B March 18, 2018

Homily    FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT   Cycle B        March 18, 2018

          I would like to talk to you today about GLORY.  Because glory is such a major theme in the Gospel of John, which we are now focusing on as we approach Holy Week.  We hear today from John’s Gospel, and we will hear John’s Passion Narrative on Good Friday, as we do each year.
          What do you think of when you think of ‘glory’
          I have thought about this and asked several people what they think of when they hear the word “glory”.  Most of the time the responses are about light:  starbursts, bright light, sunrise.  I think of gorgeous, big sky Texas sunsets with orange and pink clouds, or the sun shining through our church windows on a sunny day, blazing with glory.   That is pretty glorious.  I think of the redbud trees now fully in bloom blazing pinkish purple in the sun.  Or the mockingbird singing his heart out.  Glory! 
          One person told me they see glory when they see a new baby, full of life, of potential, of possibilities.   That is very close to the kind of glory that St John talks about in the opening of his Gospel when he says, “And we have seen his glory, the glory of an only Son, coming from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  (Jn 1:14). 
          This is not the glory of a rock star or movie actor.   It is not fame.  Glory is both deeper and more perduring than fame.  And glory is an important theme in the Gospel of St. John.  In our Gospel today Jesus prays: “Father, glorify your name."
Then a voice came from heaven, 
"I have glorified it and will glorify it again."
           Jesus covers Himself in glory when He obeys, that is, is in harmony of will and purpose, with His Father.   Jesus covers Himself with glory when He conquers sin and death.  Easter is the celebration of GLORY. 
          More to the point, Jesus offers us a share in His glory by our being joined to Him.  We can begin to live His life now.  And we share in His glory when we are faithful, when we forgive, when we resist evil, when we do
good, when we speak the truth in difficult situations, when we care the for sick, the poor, the lonely.  The Saints show us in concrete situations the way to glory.  You are called to glory.  Amazing!
          Jesus’ glory is not passing, not fading.  By sharing in Jesus’ glory we come to the fullness of our potential, we come to fully be the Children of God.  And that is truly GLORIOUS!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Fr. Chuck's Column, March 25, 2018

Last weekend, along with all the rest of the priests serving in this Diocese, I attended the impressively titled “Course over Matrimony and Family in Reference to Ex. Ap. (Apostolic Exortation) Amoris Laetitia for Bishops, Priests, Judicial Vicars (Canonist), and permanent Deacons and lay people who collaborate with Family Life and Tribunal.”  This impressively, if cumbersomely, titled workshop was presented by Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto, who is the Dean of the Roman Rota. The Roman Rota is the highest court in the Church, kind of like the Supreme Court, and Msgr. Pinto is like a Supreme Court Judge. Since I have learned from an early age that if you can’t say something nice about a person or event then it is better to say nothing at all, I will pass over this workshop in silence.
However, being with my brother priests all weekend at this event, I was struck again at the firmly held opinion of the great majority of the presbyterate of this diocese that St. Austin is a very liberal parish. Indeed, we are viewed as a roiling caldron of far left liberalism. I find this most curious, and actually rather entertaining, since it is so far from my own experience here. 
Do you think we are a liberal parish??? I don’t. I have experienced some liberal parishes in my nearly 40 years as a priest, and I am pretty sure we do not make the grade. Perhaps our proximity to the University of Texas, which is far and wide regarded as the (last?) bastion of liberalism in this state, causes us to appear more liberal than we really are.  Perhaps because we are rather lax about some of the niceties of liturgical law we are viewed as liberal, but this has everything to do with laziness and making things convenient for ourselves, and nothing to do with ideology. 
I hope that we are experienced as a friendly parish. But friendliness has nothing to do with being liberal, as I have experienced some very un-friendly liberal parishes, and some conservative parishes that were most warm and friendly.  I think of us as pretty much middle-of-the-road on liturgy and ecclesiology.
All this got me thinking about how I wish we were perceived.  What image, thought, or feeling would I wish to come to people’s minds when they think of St. Austin Parish? Well, I would like for them to think of us as friendly and welcoming. Open to diversity. Willing to embrace both Left, Right and Center. A community that puts into action its concern for those in need. A generous community. A joyful community that embodies Pope Francis’ Encyclical on the Joy of the Gospel. Ultimately and mostly, a community that is true to our mission statement on the front of the bulletin, a community that evangelizes, that spreads the Good News.
How do you experience St. Austin Parish, and how would you like to experience this parish? What can we do to better fulfill our mission?

Fr. Chuck's Column, March 11, 2018

In this Lenten season I would like to take a break from my usual gossipy column and share with you this refection on the Cross from the 4th Century Bishop, Saint Cyril of Jerusalem. Enjoy!
The Catholic Church glories in every deed of Christ. Her supreme glory, however, is the cross. Well aware of this, Paul says: God forbid that I glory in anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!
At Siloam, there was a sense of wonder, and rightly so. A man born blind recovered his sight. But of what importance is this, when there are so many blind people in the world? Lazarus rose from the dead, but even this only affected Lazarus. What of those countless numbers who have died because of their sins? Those five miraculous loaves fed five thousand people. Yet this is a small number compared to those all over the world who were starved by ignorance. After eighteen years a woman was freed from the bondage of Satan. But are we not all shackled by the chains of our own sins?
For us all, however, the cross is the crown of victory! It has brought light to those blinded by ignorance. It has released those enslaved by sin. Indeed, it has redeemed the whole of mankind!
Do not, then, be ashamed of the cross of Christ; rather, glory in it. Although it is a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles, the message of the cross is our salvation. Of course it is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of god. For it was not a mere man who died for us, but the Son of God, God made man.
In the Mosaic law a sacrificial lamb banished the destroyer. But now it is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Will he not free us from our sins even more? The blood if an animal, a sheep, brought salvation. Will not the blood of the only-begotten Son bring us greater salvation?
He was not killed by violence, he was not forced to give up his life. His was a willing sacrifice. Listen to his own words: I have the power to lay down my life and to take it up again. Yes, he willingly submitted to his own passion. He took joy in his achievement; in his crown of victory he was glad and in the salvation of man he rejoiced. He did not blush at the cross for by it he was to save the world. No, it was not a lowly man who suffered but God incarnate. He entered the contest for the reward he would win by his patience endurance.
Certainly in times of tranquility the cross should give you joy. But maintain the same faith in times of persecution. Otherwise you will be a friend of Jesus in times of peace and his enemy during war. Now you receive the forgiveness of your sins and the generous gift of grace from your king. When war comes, fight courageously for him.
Jesus never sinned; yet he was crucified for you. Will you refuse to be crucified for him, who for your sake was nailed to the cross? You are not the one who gives the favor; you have received one first. For our sake he was crucified on Golgotha. Now you are returning his favor; you are fulfilling your debt to him.

Monday, March 12, 2018


We have a very beautiful Gospel today, from John.  We also have a very interesting reading about how God has dealt in history with His chosen people in our first reading.   Either would provide good material for a homily.  But I am fond of St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, so I am going to focus on our second reading today.  
          Unfortunately, Paul’s complex thought processes, and our insipid translation, makes it difficult to understand Paul, buried under mounds of dependant clauses.  So I have taken a red pencil to today’s second reading, parsed it down to the essential structure, and this is what I came up with for the first half: “Brothers and sisters; (all of us), God .. brought us to life with Christ ...., raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus.”
          That is the core of St. Paul’s message:  God brought us to life, raised us with Christ, seated us with Christ in the heavens, so that God might show his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  WOW!
          Now does anything strike you as a little ‘odd’ about that statement?  //   It is in the past tense.  St. Paul is talking about something that has already happened.  Not something in the future that we await, but rather a done deal.  
          So, ¿Have you noticed that you have been brought to life, raised up and seated in the heavens? 
          I haven’t!  And yet Paul speaks of this as an already accomplished fact.  He states: “For by grace you have been saved through faith.....”   He does not say, “At the last Judgement, or sometime in the future, you will be saved,” but rather he insists,        
“you have been saved.”  Because God has already made it happen.  Once God decrees it, it is as good as done.
          “And this is not from you;” St. Paul continues.  Not our doing.  “It is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.”  
          We can never – by our own efforts - achieve our own salvation.  No matter how good and holy we try to be, no matter how much we fast and pray and go to church, we can never achieve our own salvation.  But that doesn’t matter.  It has already been given to us as a gift!   No strings attached!
          The one thing we most desperately want, the fullness of life, everlasting life, or in shorthand “salvation,” which we can never accomplish on our own, has already been given to us.  It is already accomplished!
          And what do we have to do?  We just have to accept it.  As we heard in today’s Gospel:  For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
          All we have to do is accept the salvation God offers, believe in Jesus as the Son of God, and give thanks.  That is what we are gathered here to do.  We celebrate Eucharist, which means thanksgiving.  We profess our faith in Jesus as our Savior, and we give thanks.  Because the heavy lifting and the hard work of securing salvation has already been done.  And it is all gift.

          It is like a song by the Damiens that I heard many years ago when I was a new priest in Alaska:  (sing) “Love that’s freely given wants to freely be received.  All the love you’ve poured on us can hardly be believed.  And all that we can offer you is thanks.  All that we can offer you is thanks.”

          God has already accomplished our salvation in Jesus Christ.  It is a done deal.  And it is pure gift, not our doing but God’s.  For, as St. Paul instructs us, “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.”
          And all that we can offer back is thanks, is Eucharist.  
Thanks be to God!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Fr. Chuck's Column, March 4, 2018

Our neighborhood is changing. Two Sundays ago the Blanton Art Museum opened the Ellsworth Kelley “Austin” on the campus of the University of Texas. According to the paper it looks like a cross between an igloo and a chapel, and I think that is a pretty fair description. It is not a functional building in that it has no purpose as such, but is rather a “work of art.” The building “works” on the play of light across the interior walls. I get this since we here at St. Austin also enjoy the fabulous light display of our colored windows on sunny mornings as the sun blazes in, and the colors slowly drift across the shell-stone walls. We have been privileged to enjoy this for 60 years now. It is something to be proud of.
Then on Thursday the 22nd of last month the new Rolling Graduate Business School opened on the campus. Located on the corner of MLK Blvd and Guadalupe Streets, it is to me something of an enigma. First of all, the decision was made to break with the historic Italianate design of most of the UT campus – which I consider an unfortunate choice. But even more perplexing is the orientation of the building. The front of this $185 million building faces the AT&T Executive Education Center, to the EAST. It is a striking front and entrance. And the interior architecture is bold and dramatic. It is definitely worth a look. 
But the result of this orientation is that the back of the building points towards the corner of MLK Blvd and Guadalupe Street, which is a very PUBLIC location in Austin. It hardly speaks of the University’s desire to interact with the City. And frankly I do not find that face of the building – the one we see – very attractive. It reminds me of a telephone exchange building near where I grew up, not architecture focused on a human scale. Perhaps I will get more used to it over time.
Meanwhile, the hole where the McDonald’s used to be gets deeper and deeper. We are told they plan to bottom out at the beginning of next month. It will be very interesting to see what this building looks like and how it will influence the neighborhood with traffic, congestion, dining opportunities, property values, guests who will attend our church on weekends, and even opportunities to support our school. Some impacts will be negative, such as traffic, but others could be positive. Maybe a few of the hotel guests will be church-going Catholics. They may even put something in the collection! It will be very interesting to see how this all plays out. 
And of course we have our own renovation project now heading into the home stretch. I think we can already feel proud of what we have done. From being one of the dumpiest and least attractive buildings on the Drag, we are becoming one of the most attractive and beautiful. In a few weeks we will have the metal panels on the tower, the light fixture on top of the tower, and the new cross mounted on the tower. That will be a proud day for our parish. Even with all the new and exciting construction in our neighborhood, we can certainly be proud of our public face on the Drag.
Architecture is very important in helping define community and expressing a quality of life. I am very pleased and proud of what our major renovation project is accomplishing, and hope that we will be grateful for it for many years to come.