Thursday, May 30, 2019

Homily 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time May 16, 2019

Homily     6th Sunday of Ordinary Time     May 16, 2019
          In the first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles we heard Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers,
‘Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice,
you cannot be saved.’   Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about this question.”
          And then we hear later of the resolution of this issue.   First of all, note that “there arose no little dissention and debate” among them.   Does this sound at all familiar?   We have plenty of dissension and debate in our own day: in politics certainly.  But also in many other areas, including the Church.  Just as in the earliest days of Christianity there was a division between those who upheld the Mosaic Law, and especially the requirement of circumcision, against the party of Barnabas and Paul, who held that we are saved by faith in Jesus, not by the Law.  A fundamental and basic difference, and it caused bitter division.
          St. Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, summarizes and frankly papers over the extent and contentiousness of the debate.  The parties go to Jerusalem, lay out their arguments to the Apostles, and they make a decision that gentile converts do not have to be circumcised, and everyone is happy.  But we know historically that is not what happened.  If you read the epistles of St. Paul you can see that he was dogged and criticized and fought with the pro-Law party, the circumcision party, for the rest of his life.  Paul was far from a complete success.  Only later, when Christianity broke completely with Judaism after the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., did the issue finally get resolved. 
           I bring this up for two reasons.  First, in the Gospel today Jesus tells us: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
          It sounds as if the Holy Spirit will come to us and solve all of our issues and problems, teaching us everything, and we will all be at peace and in harmony with each other.  I wish.
          But obviously that is not true.  Because the second reason I bring this up is that all through history, and into our day and time, there have been bitter divisions and dissention in the church.  And it is still here. 
          For centuries the church fought over the nature of Jesus:  was he a man adopted by God as His Son, as some passages of St. Paul seem to indicate?  Or was He God dressed up like a man?  It took centuries for the church to figure out that Jesus is true God, and true man, and truly one and the same.  Mind boggling but true.
          There were more fights over the Trinity.  Over the Real Presence in the Eucharist.  Over the nature of grace.  Over whether the earth or the sun is at the center of the universe.  Over many other issues.
          Historically, teachings change.  For centuries the Catholic Church taught that slavery was natural, part of the nature of things, and condoned by the Bible.  St. Paul tells slaves to be obedient to their masters.  Until the beginning of the 20th Century the Holy Office in Rome defended this teaching on slavery.  But now, if you read Pope Saint John Paul the II on human trafficking – which is another name for slavery – it is fiercely condemned as sinful.   A turn-around of 180 degrees.
           And today we have plenty of controversies about gender, about the role of women, homosexuality, mandatory celibacy for priests, and so on.   Two hundred years from now we will probably know the answer to all these questions.  But then we will have new questions.  Can extra-terrestrials be saved, perhaps? 
          Where is the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, in all this?  Jesus promised that the Advocate “will teach you everything.”  Everything.   But Jesus did not promise that the Holy Spirit would teach us everything immediately.  And that is a great disappointment.  Because it means that we have to work and struggle towards the truth.  And like the experience of St. Paul, that is disturbing, painful, confusing and a lot of work facing opposition.
          But it means that we are part of that search for the truth.  An important part.  We do not receive the truth pre-digested as if we were infants.  Somehow, through the Holy Spirit, we are an integral part of the search for truth.  And ultimately, we have faith that the Holy Spirit will never let us stray too far or too long from the truth, but speaking to our hearts, will continually lead us to the fullness of God’s truth. 
          //        Immediately on promising us the gift of the Holy Spirit, and perhaps knowing that this would not be an easy gift, but a struggle fraught with doubt and confusion, Jesus assures us: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”
The Peace of Jesus does not make everything go smooth and calm.  Jesus’ peace does not make things easy for us.  Rather, His peace is a type of strength, a strength to hang in there and remain committed to the truth, even when it is difficult and unpleasant.  Not as the world gives peace - which is the absence of conflict - does Jesus give us peace, but rather as a strength that commits us to seeking His truth.   And He will be with us.  That is why Jesus can assure us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”

Inspired by the example of St. Paul, and all those seekers of truth who have gone before us, let us put our trust in the Lord, and patiently, but persistently, seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to a fuller and fuller understanding of the Truth.   And ultimately, when we find the Truth, we will find that His name is Jesus.  

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Fr. Chuck's Column, May 26, 2019

There is much going on around here this week. This weekend is Commencement weekend at UT. Congratulations to ALL graduates, from grade school, high school, vocational and technical school, from college and university! Kudos on your accomplishment.
Graduation seems to be a part of life. It represents moving on to the next phase of our life and career. Eventually we all “graduate” from this life to the next life. Hopefully we have learned our lessons well here on Earth and will graduate Suma Cum Laude into the next state of being. May we all be Valedictorians in the graduation to eternal life!
And while on the subject of the hereafter, this Monday we also observe and celebrate Memorial Day. This is the day we recall and honor those who gave their lives in the defense of our country. I invite you to join us on Monday morning for Mass at 8 a.m. It is a day not just to remember but to be inspired by their example of heroic sacrifice and to renew and strengthen our commitment to our wonderful nation and the ideals for which it stands. The forces working against the good of our nation are many, strong, and complex, both inside and outside of our country. We need to be more committed to working and sacrificing to protect what our nation stands for, with liberty and justice for ALL.
Thursday is the non-observance of Ascension Thursday. Here in Texas, as in most of the United States, the observance of this Feast is moved to the following Sunday. But in some dioceses, mostly in the northeast, Jesus still ascends on Thursday. So if you are travelling it is possible to celebrate the Ascension twice, both on Thursday in some dioceses and on Sunday in other dioceses. We will celebrate this Feast on next Sunday, June 2.
God bless!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Fr. Chuck's Column, May 19, 2019

This weekend Paulist Evan Cummings is being ordained at the Paulist Mother Church, St. Paul the Apostle in New York City. Longtime parishioners may remember that Evan was with us as a novice during Lent (much as Chris Lawton recently was with us) almost five years ago. It is a happy day for the Paulists!
Also this weekend, at all the Masses, we will hear from a seminarian of the Diocese of Austin, Mr. Matthew Jewell. Matthew is in his second year of theology at St. Joseph's Seminary, in Convington LA.
This seems like an appropriate opportunity to talk about vocations, especially vocations to the priesthood, the permanent diaconate, and to the Paulists. The church cannot operate without priests and deacons. We have no shortage of bishops; that is not a problem. But we do have a shortage of priests and of permanent deacons. Both the Paulist Fathers and the Diocese of Austin need more priests to be able to carry on the mission we already have. Not to expand our mission but just to maintain what we already do.
The Paulists today number 114 including seminarians. Over half of our priests are 70 years old or older. This means I am still in the younger half! As our men age and retire we will have to adjust our ministerial commitments around the country. That is inevitable. We will probably leave more foundations, which is always painful.
Therefore, I urge you to continue to pray for priests to serve our parish and diocese. If you know of a young man who would make a good priest, tell him so. That encouragement is invaluable, important, and critical.
If you are a young man and the thought of priesthood has passed through your head, talk to someone about it; someone you know who has a sense of spirituality and of church. Investigating such a call will require some guts on your part, but I can assure you from personal experience that the Lord is never outdone in generosity. The life of a priest, and of a Paulist, is never dull.
Will the Church ever change the requirements for ordination to the priesthood and accept women or married men? None of us know for certain. And right now, in the real world, and not some hypothetical world that may or may not be in the future, we need more good priests and permanent deacons.

Fr. Chuck's Column May 12, 2019

Happy Mothers’ Day! Beyond the flowers, candy, and cards, it’s important to tell your mother “thank you.” This extends to your birth mother and to all  who have nurtured and sustained you. Happy Mothers’ Day to all who help us to grow. Mothers who balance both a career and child-rearing take on quite a lot! It’s amazing that so many do so well in fulfilling both roles. We all owe mothers a debt of gratitude.
Mothers (and Fathers) have always had a difficult task, but today the demands on parents are so high as to seem almost impossible to fulfill. Since they are human, no mother is perfect. Every mother has somewhere along the line, in spite of all the love that is in her heart, been too tired or too ill-equipped to fulfill an ideal. And some mothers have been downright controlling or even abusive. Not everyone is fit to be a mother. And those in their charge have suffered.
On this Mothers’ Day, perhaps the best gift you can give your mother is really a gift to yourself: forgiveness. By letting go of bitterness and resentment, you not only forgive your mother but also free yourself. This is a gift much greater than any amount of flowers, candy, or cards. You can also give it to those who have died. Forgiveness is a wonderful gift to give on Mothers’ Day.
We have both a biological mother and also a spiritual mother. That mother is the Church, or in the traditional phrase “Holy Mother the Church.” As anyone who has listened to the news in the last several years knows, the Church has been far from a perfect mother. Sin is an all too prominent part of the Church on Earth. So it has been from the beginning (read the letters of St. Paul), and so it will be until the Lord comes again. The clergy sexual abuse, the financial malfeasance, and other scandals are disheartening and discouraging but also a reflection of our humanity. A wise old priest and former president of the Paulist Fathers once told me that when you see the Church doing stupid and cruel things it “is like seeing your mother drunk.”
What are we to do? No more than we can change the fact that we are our mothers’ child can we change the fact of our spiritual bond to the Church. Giving in to resentment will hurt ourselves as much as anyone else. Working to forgiveness frees us to grow as spiritually mature people. The Church needs reform. The Church needs to listen. We need to work for the protection of children and all people. We need bishops who are shepherds, not careerists. Fortunately, Pope Francis gets it and is appointing true shepherds.
And we also have our part to play. We also need, like adult children of alcoholics, to not collude in lies, but to take responsibility for our own actions. We benefit especially from opening our hearts to forgiveness. Being responsible, loving children of the Church is the best gift we can give our “Holy Mother the Church.”

Homily for 5th Sunday of Easter May 19, 2019

This homily is titled, “Bring on the New!”    //
          Do you like things that are new?  Of course you do.  We Americans love new things!
          In the Gospel today Jesus gives us a new commandment.  It is not complicated.  It is not complex.  It is not difficult to understand, not difficult to comprehend, though it often can be difficult to put into practice.   It is this; “Love one another.”  Three simple words.  But they pack a whallop!
          Then Jesus comments, This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”   
          So, if you wish to be a disciple of Jesus, then what you have to do is love.       Love, love, love, love, love, love, love.  That’s all. 
          Simple, but difficult.  Because the kind of love that Jesus is talking about is NOT an emotion, not a feeling, not a sentiment.  The kind of love that Jesus is talking about is the kind of love He practiced.  And His love was not gushy, not sentimental, not gooey.  His love is other directed.  His love is for the other.  His love pushes through the embarrassment and the inconvenience and the self-consciousness, and focusses on the other.   Jesus’ love is mature and strong and other-directed.  His love is constant.  His love shares.  His love looks out for the other.  His love is tough and strong and real.  And that is how we are to love.  “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
          Such love does not come easily.  It takes work.  Just like gaining proficiency in a sport takes work, and learning calculus or another language takes work, or building a business takes work, or just about any significant accomplishment takes work, so loving one another is work. 
          This is why in our first reading we heard: “They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying,
"It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”   
          It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.   What kind of encouragement is that?   Does it make you want to sign up right away?  Wow, this is going to be difficult, with many hardships!   I can hardly wait! 
          Well, it is honest.  It is truthful.  Our nature is lazy and self-centered and stingy.  Loving one another is fine when it makes us feel all warm and fuzzy.  But loving one another goes against the grain when it requires work, and sacrifice, and persistent commitment.  Yes, it IS necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.  God’s Kingdom ain’t for sissies.
          It is hard.  But it is worth it.  And you and I, all of us here, are invited into this wonderful Kingdom.  How do we get there?  The Gospel today tells us.  Love one another. 
          That is something all of us can do.  If you are rich or poor;  if you are man or woman;  if you are black or white or brown or green;  if you are straight or gay or confused;  if you are native-born or immigrant;  if you are Republican or Democrat or Independent;  if you are Longhorn or Aggie;  if you are brilliant or very, very  simple;  it does not matter.  You can keep this commandment of Jesus to love.  Love one another. 
          Jesus tells us this is a new commandment.  It is not new in the sense of never being heard before.  Rather, it is new instead in terms of its radical centrality, its import, its place as the essence of Jesus’ teaching.   Love one another.
          And this new commandment, simple yet profound, begins to usher in God’s Kingdom here on earth, now in this time.  This commandment - in its effect and centrality - is new.  
          We are given a vision of that newness, that fresh start this new commandment ushers in in the second reading today from the Book of Revelations:
"Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race.
He will dwell with them and they will be his people
and God himself will always be with them as their God.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain,
for the old order has passed away.”
The One who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new.” 
          And that newness is the commandment to love one another.   AMEN. 

Saturday, May 18, 2019


Phone books.   Anyone here remember phone books?  Big printed books with lots of names and numbers.  Try and find one these days.  We have many more phones, but very few phone books. 
Even in this digital age, when some people read everything on their phone or tablet, we still know the difference between a novel and a phone book. You cannot read them the same.  You would not read the phone book as if it were a novel.  If you did, you would say, "Lots of characters, little plot".   On the other hand, if you read the novel like the phone book, you would find it very confusing, disorganized, un-informative.   So you need to know how to "read" a particular piece.
The same is true for Scripture.  The Bible is really not a book, but a library, with all sorts of literary forms in it: history, law, narrative, novella, poetry, prayers, songs, letters, and other forms.  If you want to understand Scripture, you need to know what form of literature you are looking at, and read it accordingly.
Today’s Gospel is very short, but powerful.  It contains a lot of emotions.  It strikes me as a love letter. These are tender words, private words, words spoken in intimacy between lovers.  They should be spoken softly, almost whispered, with sincerity and feeling. 
"Jesus said: ‘My sheep hear my voice."    "My sheep" is a term of affection and endearment.   When the Lamb of God refers to us as "My sheep", this is not a put-down, like “what a dumb bunch of sheep”, but rather an address of great tenderness.  Maybe you have a special name for a child or spouse or sweetheart; a name that expresses a lot of affection and care and tenderness. ...  My sheep” should be spoken the same way.                        
"My sheep hear my voice."  How important genuine listening is to communication!  To hear Jesus’ voice is open our hearts to Him.  It is communication and union on a level of intimacy.  To really hear another is a truly great gift.
"I know them," Jesus says.  This is much, much more than book knowledge, or information gathered from the internet.   Rather this is personal knowledge.  It comes from intimacy.  It is certainly not “I know what you are up to” kind of reading.
No, this is intimacy, shared secrets and hopes.  It is not knowing just about the person, but knowing the person herself.  Jesus knows us in this deep and close way.
"I know them, and they follow me."  Several times in the Gospels Jesus invites and commands: "Follow me."  This is what we do.  We are in love, and so want to be with Jesus, the Beloved.  We follow Him, because He is the desire of our hearts.
"I give them eternal life," Jesus continues.  This love is fruitful, fecund, lifegiving. 
Eternal life is not just life that goes on and on and on without end, but is rather full, complete, total, absolute life, all that we long and yearn for.  This is what Jesus gives us, the fullness of life, eternal life.
"And they shall never perish."  Jesus is faithful.  He is not a faithless lover.  All of us have been wounded and hurt by the pain of abandonment, by disappointment, by heartbreak.  But not with Jesus.  His love is firm.  It endures.  It prevails.   We can count on him.   "And they shall never perish."
"No one shall snatch them out of my hand.  My Father is greater than all, in what he has given me, and there is no snatching out of his hand."  There is safety with the Lord.  This relationship brings security.  As we heard in the second reading today: "Never again shall they know hunger or thirst, nor shall the sun or its heat beat down on them, for the Lamb on the throne will shepherd them.  He will lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe every tear from their eyes."
There is no more need for fear, for anxiety and crippling worry, for headaches and sleepless nights, for the concern and worry that ties your stomach in knots.  All that ceases, for The Lord is our Shepherd, protecting and watching over us. "And there is no snatching out of his hand."  We are safe.
Finally, Jesus says: "The Father and I are one."  This is the deepest of all communion, of intimacy, of sharing life, of love.  The union between the Father and the Son is the fullness and perfection of love.  This is the love that birthed the universe, the love that is the completion of all that there is.  And this perfect love is the model of our union with Jesus.  As the Father and Son are one in love, so are we to be one with Jesus in love. 

The Gospel today is short, but powerful.  For the words are packed with meaning and emotion.  They speak to us of the tender love and care that Jesus has for us.  And that is wonderful.                   ALLELUIA!