Wednesday, October 30, 2019

HOMILY Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C October 27, 2019

HOMILY    Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time  Cycle C       October 27, 2019

          I want you to know that I can sing LOUDER than any other Paulist in Austin.  Such is my boast.  I mention this because our readings today are about boasting, and that is the best I could come up with. 
          In our second reading today we hear St. Paul state: I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.   From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day,…”    Well, that sounds pretty boastful.  I have competed well;  I have finished the race;  I have kept the faith!”      Way to go Paul!  You did great.  And Paul recognizes that.  He says “From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day,…”   Certainly, no false humility here.  Paul has won the crown of righteousness and has no hesitancy in telling us so.  Boast on St Paul!
          In the Gospel we hear a Pharisee boast: O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity -- greedy, dishonest, adulterous -- or even like this tax collector. 
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.”
          Doesn’t that sound just a bit like St. Paul?  Yet we hold St. Paul up as a great Saint – for Paulists the greatest Saint after Mary – and yet we scorn the Pharisee as a proud, pompous braggart.  Why?  Why is Paul’s self-promotion boasting and the Pharisee’s self-promotion bragging?  What is the difference?
          Both St. Paul and the Pharisee attribute their success to God.  The Pharisee says “O God, I thank you…”  The Pharisee is giving God the credit, at least verbally, just as St Paul does.   What is the difference?    
More importantly, how do we know when we are “boasting” appropriately and when we are being “self-righteous wind-bags”? 
          The issue that makes the difference is how you look on everyone else.  Because the Pharisee despised other people, especially those who did not live up to his moral code.  The Pharisee says: O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity -- greedy, dishonest, adulterous -- or even like this tax collector.”   The Pharisee is using his accomplishment to separate and distance himself from others and worse, to hold himself above others.  As the Gospel states, they: “were convinced of their own righteousness, and despised everyone else. 
          There are plenty people today, in the Catholic Church, who are convinced of their own righteousness and despise everyone else.  They especially despise Pope Francis for not being strict enough and adhering rigidly to Catholic doctrine, especially about sex.  Pope Francis’ pastoral outreach to the divorce and remarried, to gays and lesbians, to people of other faiths, and other cultural traditions, upsets and angers them.  You can find a lot of that upset and anger on the internet.  And I believe it is pretty clear that, like the self-righteous Pharisee in the Gospel, they despise others who do not come up to their high moral standards, especially around sex.
          St. Paul doesn’t do that.  St. Paul instead in giving God the credit recognizes just how much he is like everyone else; not how much he is unlike others.  In recognizing that everything is gift St. Paul admits that he is just like everyone else.  His accomplishments are not from himself, but are God’s gift. 

          None of us chose to be born.  None of us chose when or where to be born.  None of us chose what kind of family with what economic advantages or disadvantages we would have.  None of us earned our health, intelligence or native abilities.  None of us provided for our childhood education, or what inspirations and role-models we would have in life.  All that, and much, much more was pure gift. 
          In acknowledging our accomplishments then we really are thanking God for wonderful gifts we have received.  But we also are recognizing our fundamental identity with all human beings, no matter how enriched or how impoverished, no matter how brilliant or how mentally challenged, no matter how agile or how crippled, for we do not start out on a level playing field.  It is all gift.  All of our accomplishments are fundamentally based on gifts we have received; gifts we did not earn, gifts we did not even deserve. 

          When we boast of our successes and accomplishments, we must boast of them as gifts, and recognize they are given to us by God to share.  The gifts we have in talent and abilities and advantages are not meant for us alone, but for all.  And when we boast we must recognize how all of us - no matter the color or nationality or religion or sexual orientation or politics – all of us are all beneficiaries of God’s love.  And we are all one.  Our boasting is meant to bring us together, not to pull us apart.
          That is why the tax collector went home justified:  not only because he was repentant, but also because he recognized his fundamental humanity, the need we all have before God.  In that, we all are the same.  AMEN.  

Monday, October 21, 2019

29th Sunday in Ordinary time Cycle C October 20, 2019

29th Sunday in Ordinary time   Cycle C                  October 20, 2019
          In today’s Gospel we hear the story of the unjust judge.   I think of Jesus as having some fun with this parable.    There are colorful characters and not a little exaggeration: a notorious judge who is a real curmudgeon, and a shrewish widow who is obsessive and persistent.   Neither are particularly attractive characters.  What are we to make of all this???
          In the second reading St Paul instructs his pupil Timothy, and us, to  “be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient;”    Persistent in what?   In proclaiming the word.   St. Paul writes:  “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, …, proclaim the word;  be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient;”
          Jesus in the Gospel tells us to pray always without becoming weary, and St. Paul tells us to be persistent in proclaiming the Gospel whether it is convenient of inconvenient.  Sounds like a lot of work.  And it is.
          To be a disciple requires persistence, or to say it another way, stick-to-itiveness.  Following Jesus, being a disciple, being a Christian, requires persistence.  The task of being a disciple is not done quickly nor easily.  It takes persistence. 
          Even to be good at some sport, or some skill, or some business, requires persistence.  You don’t pick these things up overnight. 
          This is even more true for a relationship, a friendship, a marriage.  It requires persistence.  You have to push through the difficult times, the embarrassing lapses, the boredom, to achieve real, deep, relationship.
          So also with Jesus.   In Jesus’ day He had to instruct us to be persistent in prayer.  With our current addiction to instantaneous results, instant communications, with no patience, this message of the need for persistence is hard to hear.   But we need to hear it.
          I do not believe that persistence in prayer will change God’s mind.   But I hope that persistence in prayer will change me, opening and shifting and bending me to be more open to God’s Will, rather than my own. 
          I do not think that persistence in proclaiming the Word of God, whether it is convenient or inconvenient, will change other peoples’ minds and hearts, and bring large numbers of converts to Christianity.  But I do think persistently proclaiming the Word of God, both by word and even more so by action, will convert me more and more to God’s Word, and help me to grow as a disciple.  And maybe that example, and God’s grace, will convert others.
          Christianity and the life of the Spirit are not instantaneously achievable realities.  They are not instant coffee.  Like a fine wine; they take time.  They take fortitude.  They take persistence.   And, Jesus assures us, they are worth it.  
God bless!    

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Fr. Chuck's Column, September 29, 2019

It has been a long, hot summer. A very loooooong summer! As I write this, we have had over 50 days of triple digit temperatures in Austin. Will it never end? We look at the calendar and see it is the end of September. Soon the heat will break, the humidity will drop, the air will become cool and fresh, and we will open our windows and turn off the AC. Meanwhile we live in anticipation and hope.
In the same way, Christians live in anticipation and hope. We look forward to, or are supposed to look forward to, the Second Coming of Christ and the summation of history. The earliest Christian prayer we have is “Maranatha!” It is Aramaic, Jesus’ own language, and means, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Like the return of cooler weather, we anticipate and look forward to the coming of Jesus in triumph and judgement. Bring it on!
Every Sunday in the Creed we profess our belief that Jesus “is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.” OR we state “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.” While we probably don’t spend much time thinking about it, the teaching of the Second Coming is very important to our faith. It gives us a grounded hope in the future. Evil loses, God wins. It is already determined.
Vatican Council II teaches us that this Second Coming is already a work in progress.
“Already the final age of the world is with us (cf. 1 Cor 10:11) and the renewal of the world is irrevocably under way; it is even now anticipated in a certain real way, for the Church on earth is endowed already with a sanctity that is real though imperfect. However, until there be realized new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells (cf. 2 Pet. 3:13) the pilgrim Church, in its sacraments and institutions, which belong to this present age, carries the mark of the world which will pass, and she herself takes her place among the creatures which groan and travail yea and await the revelation of the sons of God (cf. Rom. 8:19-22).”
So as you know that cooler days and more comfortable nights are certain to come, have faith that God’s justice will prevail. We believe, and look forward to the coming of the Lord in glory and power to establish God’s Kingdom in all of reality. Come, Lord Jesus!