Sunday, August 25, 2019

HOMILY Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time August 25,2019

HOMILY    Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time              August 25,2019

          In our second reading today we hear, from the Letter to the Hebrews, this statement: “God treats you as sons.”    Do you like that statement?
          There is a problem with this, and it is the implication of gender.  When the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of “sons” it is really talking about what we today would call “children”, because it includes both males and females.        You get this in the first line of our reading where the Letter states: “You have forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as children.”  This exhortation is not about gender, but about our being children of God, all of us.
          The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible translates this passage from the Letter to the Hebrews thus: “God is training you like children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?”   This is not the exact words in the Letter, but it is more faithful to the idea of what is being communicated.  
          So, this passage applies to all, regardless of gender. 
With that out of the way, let’s look at what the Letter to the Hebrews is telling us.
          It says: “Endure trials for the sake of discipline.  God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?” 
          So parents, do you discipline your children?  I hope so.  A child who is not disciplined, or not adequately disciplined, we called “spoiled”.  They grow up not reaching their potential.  They don’t have the self-discipline necessary to achieve their potential or to contribute fully to society.
          Disciplining is not easy.  It has to be consistent.  It has to be appropriate to the particular child.  As the oldest of six I believe that what worked for me would not necessarily work for my brothers or sisters.  Each child is different and has different needs.  Some need clear structure or they feel lost.  Others would feel smothered by that much structure.  I believe that disciplining children is more of an art than it is a science. 
          In any case, the Letter to the Hebrews teaches us that our trials are a form of discipline.  Even that they are a sign of God’s care for us.  “God is training you like children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?”  
          Now of course we are not happy about this disciplining.  As the Letter states: “Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.    

And we want to avoid what is painful and unpleasant.  However, growth requires effort and pain. 
          We are called to be disciples.  Disciples are people who are disciplined.  People who not only want to follow Jesus, but people who have developed the strength, the self-control, the endurance and discipline to follow Jesus when it is difficult, when the road is long, when it is unpopular, when it is tough. 
          Fortunately, the Holy Spirit strengthens and sustains us.  Inspiring and helping us when it is hard to speak the truth, when we want to be stingy rather than generous, when we want to take the easy path and follow the crowd rather than be a true disciple, and follow Jesus.
          In the Gospel today Jesus instructs us, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”
          Only if we are disciplined, if we are true disciples, will we be strong enough to be able enter through the narrow gate. 
          Trials will come if we invite them or not.  The Letter to the Hebrews gives us good advice on dealing with them. 
          “Endure trials for the sake of discipline.  God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?” … 
“So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees.  Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.” 

God bless.  AMEN. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Fr. Chuck's Column, August 18, 2019

Continuing our tour of the side altars of our church we come to not an altar but a shrine holding the very large, nearly life-size, crucifix. The body of Jesus is hanging on a very large wooden cross - the difference between a cross and a crucifix is the presence of the depiction of the body of Jesus.
At the top of the crucifix is a sign with the letters IRNI. Occasionally someone asks “what is INRI?” This is a set of Latin initials, an abbreviation for Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, which in English is Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. In Latin “I” and “J” are the same, which is confusing. In any case, we are told in the Gospel of John (19:19) Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” Now many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.” If the full inscription was written out in three different languages using three different alphabets, it would go on for considerable length. Hence the convention is to abbreviate it with just the Latin initials, IRNI.
Notice the fingers on Jesus’ right hand. The index and middle finger are straight, while the other fingers are closed or bent. This is the traditional hand posture for blessing by popes and other ecclesiastics. Why this particular gesture? Some have postulated that St. Peter, the first Pope, had nerve damage in his arm and so extending all his fingers was not possible or not comfortable. So that is how St. Peter blessed, and all popes since, and many papal wannabes, bishops and others, have adopted this gesture. In any case, we are to infer from the placement of Jesus’ fingers on his right hand that He is blessing us from the cross. Indeed, He blessed us with His entire body and all of His being as He hung upon the cross. Therefore, while the scene depicted, a brutal state execution designed to cause terrible suffering and pain, and inflict maximum humiliation and degradation, is yet at the same time the ultimate sign of total love and complete sacrifice. In His death throes, Jesus forms His hand in a sign of blessing, indicating the profound meaning and the boundless power of His unique sacrifice.
On Jesus’ other hand one of the fingers is broken and missing. I believe that occurred prior to my coming here, and I have not been able to find any information about how this damage occurred.
While all the side altars and the statues of Saints Peter and Paul are obviously from the same workshop, this piece of art seems different. Not only is it not a side altar, but the composition and feel are different from the side altars, which are very stylized. This has caused me to wonder if this large crucifix was not already in the first St. Austin church and then incorporated into the new church? Or perhaps a certain donor wanted such a large crucifix in the body of the church? I just don’t know.
Nonetheless, it is, relatively speaking, among the more popular shrines in our church. It is not uncommon to see people kneeling or sitting at the foot of this crucifix in deep prayer. Its strong emotional power calls for a strong response, certainly more so than the other stylized depictions of saints. It is the most receptive space in our church for someone to pour out their sorrows and troubles, their losses and fears, and to ask for blessing and succor and aid. Therefore, many use this space for their personal prayer. I hope you, if you find yourself in need, can find it a place of solace and strength.

Fr. Chuck's Column, August 11, 2019

I would like to continue my look at the side altars of our church, which I began in last week’s bulletin. On the north side of the church, closest to the deacon’s door (side door), we have an eclectic combination. The icon in the center of the wall is our patron saint, St. Augustine of Canterbury. He is not to be confused with the more famous St. Augustine of Hippo. Our Augustine was a Roman monk who, in about the year 600, was sent off to England by Pope Gregory the Great to convert the pagan English. Augustine did not ask for this job, and about halfway there he got cold feet and went back to Rome. The Pope ordered him a second time, and that time he made it to the Kingdom of Kent. The wife of the King of Kent was a Christian and the sister of the King of the Franks. She brought Augustine to the King, who converted, and therefore Augustine became the “Apostle to the English” and the Pope made him an archbishop. So he did pretty well, and so we consider him the patron saint of second chances.
The icon you see was done by a former Paulist seminarian, Nicholas Markell. Visit our parish website at, where you will find a longer (and more accurate) biography of our patron saint, as well as a wonderful explanation of our icon and all the rich symbolism that it includes. I think you will find that investigation worthwhile.
How is it that we call St. Augustine of Canterbury “St. Austin?” Well, Austin is a variant form of Augustine in English, much like “Chuck” is a short form for Charles. And so we also know our patron saint by the name of Austin. St. Austin pray for us!
Also at this side altar is a metal bust of Fr. Isaac Hecker. He, with four priest friends, founded the Paulist Fathers who have staffed this parish since its beginning. Isaac Hecker was the impetus and driver for the founding of the Paulist order.
Fr. Hecker was born December 18, 1819 - we are coming up on Isaac’s 200th birthday in just a few months! He grew up in New York, was a searcher in the early communes of the day, converted to Catholicism and became a Redemptorist priest. He and his four Redemptorist friends, all Native Americans who had converted to Catholicism, wanted to start a mission band reaching out to Americans. Most Catholics at the time were immigrants, especially Irish, but these priest felt a call to convert Americans. The Redemptorist superiors, overwhelmed by the pastoral care of so many Catholic immigrants, did not see a need to reach out to the native Protestants who they thought were all going to hell anyway. Eventually a Roman Cardinal named Barnabo brought Hecker to Pope Pius IX, who said there was more than enough work for everybody, and separated Isaac Hecker and his friends from the Redemptorists. This freed them to found their own order, and the Paulists were born July 7, 1858. You can read more about Isaac Hecker, and the effort to seek his canonization, on the Paulist website at

Fr. Chuck's Column, August 4, 2019

For nearly three years now our parish community has been working to have a mixed-use development on our property that would give us a new school, new church offices and meeting rooms, and a new rectory. This is big a project.
We were hoping that by Aug. 1 we would have a positive decision from the Diocese of Austin (DOA) Finance Council, the DOA board of priest consultors, and our Bishop, approving of this project. But this is taking longer than expected.
The size of this project is large. Actually, enormous. The cost of just our portion of the project (church offices, school and rectory) is roughly $40 million. The cost of construction and furnishing is also a large number, $400/square foot. It will take approximately thirty-five years of ground lease payments to pay off the debt from constructing our new buildings. These large numbers are, not surprisingly, giving the diocesan officials pause.
Since we are building in the midst of a booming urban landscape, the high cost is the reality of doing business here. If we were building this new facility in Bastrop, for example, it would be less. It is both a blessing and a curse that we are smack in the middle of one of the hottest development areas in the country.
Therefore, it is taking longer to get everyone comfortable with the idea. Everyone recognizes the need to do something. Are there ways to reduce costs? How do we reasonably prepare for our future as a congregation/community that serves and reaches out, and especially proclaims the good news of the Gospel on the Drag? It is complicated and complex.
Meanwhile, the developer with which we are working (Greystar) is also finding it’s taking longer to do their planning and due diligence. The bottom line is that the project is taking longer to plan and be approved than we had originally anticipated. This is not a surprise.
So now is the time to really PRAY for guidance and success in preparing for future evangelization. We all need to pray now for wisdom and perseverance. We need to pray for guidance to steer our parish/school community into a brighter future. We really need to pray.
I urge you, I encourage you, I implore you to pray for guidance and success for our proposed development project, in whatever form that may be. Pray that we are all wise enough to know what we need to do to enhance our mission in the future. Pray that we be courageous enough to act boldly to further our mission. Pray that we be attentive enough to the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that we can move forward with confidence and hope. Keep praying! God bless!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Homily for the Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time Aug 18, 2019

Homily for the Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time   Aug 18, 2019

          Our Gospel today is a rather difficult one, and I would like to take a look at it.
          First of all, if you have ever been stressed, say you have tried to drive in Austin traffic, then you can identify with Jesus.  In the Gospel Jesus states: “There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!”   “how great is my anguish..”  The NRSV translates this as “and what stress I am under…”  
The Orthodox Study Bible has, “and how distressed I am till it is accomplished.’
And the Jerusalem Bible renders this as “and how great is my distress till it is over!”
          In short, Jesus is stressed.  And the news He gives is pretty stressful: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?  NO, I tell you, but rather division.  From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three, a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”  
          Ouch!  That sounds pretty stressful.  What is going on?  What gives?  Did not Jesus promise us His peace?  Did He not say, “my peace I leave you, my peace I give you”???   
Was Jesus just having a really bad day?  ….  No, I don’t think so. 
          The way I understand this teaching of Jesus is this.  There are two kinds of peace.  One type of peace is the absence of violence.  At its best this peace is just tolerance.  
         This is the kind of peace that exists along the border between North and South Korea.  There is not active shooting, though there are animosity, distrust, and hard feelings.  
          This is the kind of peace that exists in some poor and minority neighborhoods.   There are sporadic acts of violence, but on the surface it is usually controlled and calm, though the hatred, the fear and suspicion are just below the surface, and the “peace” operates out of resentment and represion. 
          This is the kind of peace that exists in some well-to-do, exclusive, gated neighborhoods that focus on keeping out the wrong kind of person, and operate out of fear, creating barriers and distance. 
          This is the kind of peace can be found in some relationships and marriages and families.  The parties really don’t like each other, but tolerate the others in the family, bearing grudges and memories of past hurts, always on the defensive, looking for opportunities to score points, hurt back, or get an advantage without open conflict. 
          This is the kind of peace that is nothing more than the absence of violence.
          The other kind of peace is more like the Biblical concept of SHALOM.  Far beyond mere tolerance, this peace actively seeks the well-being of the other.  It seeks not just a lack of conflict, but genuine harmony.  It wills and seeks the well-being and wholeness of the other.  It actively promotes growth of all in the community.  Such peace is the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It is the kind of peace the angels sang of on the night of Jesus’ birth when they proclaimed “peace to people of Good Will”.  It is what we are supposed to be wishing when we offer each other the sign of peace at Mass.   

It is the type of peace Jesus gave us as His gift.  Shalom.  Well-being.   Fullness of life. 
          Two types of peace.  They are opposed.  The temptation is to settle for the one sort of peace, the avoiding of conflict, rather than do the hard, painful, scary work of establishing true SHALOM in our relationships.
          To achieve SHALOM, we first of all have to speak the truth.  This peace is founded on honesty.  There can be no real peace based on lies.  Or even on evasions and equivocations.  Genuine peace cannot be based on the phony.  It must be based on the truth.  And as Jesus knew from first hand experience, speaking the truth causes problems.  It divides households, a father against his son and the son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother.  But until the truth is spoken there can be no real unity, and no real peace. 
          And the truth must not be used as a weapon.   The speaking of the truth must not be done as a way to bludgeon the other, but as a genuine search for the truth.  None of us has the full truth.  We must not only speak our truth, but must listen deeply to others.  In this sharing, this coming together without accusation or blame or rancor, the truth that heals and gives life can be found.  And it leads to peace, to Shalom.
          This is a difficult Gospel.  Jesus challenges us to go beyond tolerating one another, to honestly speak truth compassionately, to seek true harmony, to seek true peace, to seek His gift of Shalom.