Monday, May 25, 2020

Ascension homily 2020 May 24


Ascension homily    2020

          The readings today present a problem for 21st century people: you know, the classy, informed, educated, questioning people like us.   The problem is easy to state, but difficult to resolve.  It is a problem of geography. 
          In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard, “While meeting with them, he (that is, Jesus) enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem,  but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak;…”  So Jesus tells the Apostles to stay in Jerusalem.  Do not depart from Jerusalem.  Fine.
          But in our Gospel today we hear: “The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.”   Galilee?  That’s a good ways distant from Jerusalem.  And “the mountain”?  Which mountain? 
          So did Jesus tell the disciples to stay in Jerusalem, a la Luke, or did Jesus order them to go to a mountain in Galilee, a la Matthew?
          Clearly Jesus could not order them to be in two places at once.  Either Luke is wrong, or Matthew is.  Jerusalem or Galilee?  Where did Jesus last appear to His Apostles after the Resurrection?
          Well, and this is the difficult part for us, who think scientifically, who think that a thing is just that thing and nothing more, and a place is a geographical spot on the earth and that is it.
          Because Luke and Matthew are NOT talking about specific, identifiable places.  They are not talking geography.   Rather, they are giving us spiritual paradigms, stories to make a point.  They are not concerned about telling us accurate details, but telling us stories that are guides, or patterns for our life. 


In that spiritual sense, this, right here, is Jerusalem.  This, right here, is “the mountain” in Galilee.
          These are not geographical places in the Gospel, but spiritual places, images that can be anywhere and everywhere, and at all times. 
          Luke, written after Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, wants to show a continuity between his community of Christians and the founders of the Christian community.  Matthew wants to show the missionary aspect of the new Way of Jesus: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,…” 

          When we read these Gospel passages, we need to understand that  they are not about long ago and far away.   They are about here and now.  They are about US.  This is our lived reality.  This is Jerusalem.  This is the mountain in Galilee.  For Jesus blesses us just like He blessed His disciples in the Acts of the Apostles, and Jesus commissions us to go forth, to “make disciples of all nations” just as He did in the Gospel of Matthew. 
          These readings, and this Feast of the Ascension, are not about long ago and far away.  They speak to us here, today, and call us to follow the Lord, and to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel, right now, right where we are.   God bless! 

Monday, May 18, 2020

HOMILY FOR SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER May 17, 2020


HOMILY FOR SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER    May 17, 2020

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
A long way from home.

          This 19th Century black spiritual captures a feeling that you may be having during this time of pandemic, of sickness and death, of isolation and distance from friends and church community and relatives, of economic hardship and great loss.  To feel like a motherless child is to feel abandoned, vulnerable, lost.
          In contrast in the Gospel today Jesus assures us “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”  With Jesus we are never, ever alone.  We are never like a motherless child.  We are deeply loved and cared for.
          Jesus declares to us in the Gospel, “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live.”  Jesus is not talking here about normal physical life, but a much greater, deeper and more wonderful life: life in the Holy Spirit.
          Jesus continues: “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father / and you are in me / and I in you.”   Jesus is speaking of very deep intimacy.  Of spiritual union.  This is what the life of the Holy Trinity is like: Jesus in the Father, the Holy Spirit in Jesus and in the Father, the Father in all.  Jesus is inviting us into the intimacy of God’s own inner, Trinitarian, life.
          Jesus tells us: “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.”   Love is not about words, not about protestations, not about feelings.  Love is about DOING.  Observing the Lord’s commandment to love one another is the way to love the Lord.
          Jesus promises us: “And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them, and reveal myself to them.”  We come to know Jesus in loving Him, and the more we truly know Him, the more we love Him.  That overcomes any pandemic.
          Jesus give us great assurance in the Gospel today.  “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”  Simple, but great news, GOOD NEWS.  AMEN. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

HOMILY Third Sunday of Easter Cycle A April 26, 2020

HOMILY    Thirds Sunday of Easter   Cycle A     April 26, 2020

          Some disciples are on the way to a village called Emmaus.  A pair of disciples, on the road. 
          ‘The Road’ is an image of life, as in many Hollywood road pictures.   All of us are on a journey, from birth to death.  For some it is a short road, for others, like my Dad who thankfully is doing better, it is a long road.  For some it is pretty bumpy, with lots of twists and turns, several diversions and back-tracks and blind alleys.  And for others it is pretty straight and mostly smooth.  But all of us are on the journey of life. 
          All of us are on our own journey to Emmaus.  And as the couple in the Gospel, Cleopas and his companion, maybe his wife, go along, who shows up but Jesus?  Of course, they don’t recognize that it is Jesus.  They are too absorbed in their own grief, their own bewilderment, their own issues, and so they don’t recognize Jesus.
          So also for us, as we go along the path of life, Jesus is often there, on the road with us.  But also for us, we often don’t recognize Him, because sometimes we too are to absorbed in our own plans, our own issues, our own worries, and so we don’t recognize Jesus.  
          In short, this pair of disciples is a lot like us.
          Jesus asks a simple question: “What are you discussing as you walk along?”   Be careful of those innocent questions Jesus asks, especially when they look simple and innocuous.   
          “What are you discussing as you walk along your path of life?”  What preoccupies you in life?  What do you concern yourself with?  What do you spend your time and energy on?  What interests you as you go through life?  What are YOU discussing as you walk along?
          Brothers and sisters, like this pair of companions on the road to Emmaus, we too, on the journey of life, often don’t get it.  We are concerned with the wrong things: with our self-importance.  Our comfort, with looking good, with having it all.  What are you discussing as you walk along the pathways of life?
          Jesus gives them something of a rude awakening: “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe…” 
          Jesus observes and listens to you on the Journey of Life.  What is His reaction to you?  For me, I am afraid it would be very similar to Jesus’ reaction to Cleopas and his companion.  “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe…  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?”       //
          Right now, a lot of you are having a hard or difficult time.  A time with suffering.  Maybe suffering sickness in this pandemic.  Or economic hardship.  Sorrowful over relatives or friends who have fallen sick or died.  Fearful what the future brings as the bills mount up and the bank account drains.  Suffering from loneliness and isolation, wanting to be with other people, to hug family and friends and loved ones.  O what I would give for a good hand-shake right now, much less a hug!   
          Or suffering from too much closeness to family, cooped up in a small space, getting on each other’s nerves.  Or suffering from confusion about what to do?  Or just bored silly.         //
          I believe that Jesus is on the road with us.  Jesus certainly understands suffering much more deeply than we do.  He has been there.  Not just physical pain, but bitter betrayal by his followers and friends, rejection by His own people, and worst, the sense of abandonment by God. 

          But,,, Jesus came through all that, and entered into His glory.  We celebrated that just two weeks ago on Easter.  Jesus is Risen!  Alleluia!
          Now Jesus walks along with us. To instruct us. To reassure us.  To comfort us.  To challenge us, so that we may not be foolish.
          Life is not about popularity, nor bank accounts, nor the kind of car you drive. Life is about relationship, and especially relationship with Jesus.  He walks along with us in Life.  He challenges us, but we can rely on Him.
          The two disciples came to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread, an early name for the Eucharist.  Breaking.  Jesus was broken for us.  But in being broken, He was thereby opened to receive the glory the Father yearned to give Him.  As we heard in the preaching of St Peter in the first reading today, “God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses.  Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father.”  Jesus taught us that we too need to be broken open for others, and so be open to receive His love and life.  Happy Easter!  Alleluia

Fr. Chuck's Column, April 26, 2020


I hope this finds you and your family well. I pray that you are safe. Some of you are lonely. Some are bored. Some are tense and irritable from being cooped up and the disruption of routine. Some are facing increasing economic hardship, facing the prospect of ruin. Some are angry and frustrated. Some are sick. It is a difficult time.
Our character is being tested. Some handle it better than others, but I am confident that as a community, as a parish and school, we will get through this. We have a mission to accomplish that is more important than the temporary troubles of the pandemic.
Recognizing that eventually we shall come through the other side of this, I encourage you to join us next Sun., May 3, for the online presentation of our parish and school development update. It will be given twice, once at 11 a.m. and then again at 2 p.m. We can accommodate 180 computers per presentation, please sign up as soon as possible before the slots fill. Please register for the webinar early here. There is also a link on the front page of the St. Austin website. Sign-in instructions will be emailed to you on Sat., May 2, so watch your inbox! (Please note, if you registered for the Apr 5 session that was canceled, you must register again.) I hope that many of you will do so, and will join as a family to watch our presentation.
If nothing else, it will get you to stop thinking about all the difficulties of today, and think about the problems and possibilities of tomorrow. The Development Committee has done a great deal of work over hundreds of hours. I hope you will find the presentation both enlightening and encouraging. Our parish and school have a dynamic and wonderful future ahead of us!
There is a great deal of work yet to be done. There are significant hurdles to overcome. There are important decisions to be made. There is just a lot to do! Please continue to support our development project by your prayers. And I hope to see you online next Sun., May 3.
Wishing you all Health and Safety!


Fr. Chuck's Column, April 19, 2020

We have just negotiated and survived one of the most unusual Holy Weeks Easters I have ever expe-rienced. Thanks to all who pitched in and helped with our live streaming of Masses and services. We are still learning how to master all this way of do-ing church in a virtual, electronic way. Thank you to all who have tuned in, and continue to support our parish with your prayers, donations, and good wishes.
We will be social distancing for at least a few more weeks. By the end of it, we will all have become experts at living a more con-fined life. The hermits and monks will have nothing on us! So many funerals, baptisms, confirmations, weddings, celebrations, anniversaries and other events have been put on hold. How will we ever catch up when this is finally over?
I do hope and pray that we will be able to gather by Pentecost. That would be wonderful. In any case, we will strictly adhere to and follow whatever are the social distancing regulations and sug-gestions to keep us safe. Especially as Christians we are called to care for our neighbor, and there is no more basic form of care than avoiding getting your neighbor sick.
I am perplexed, and more than a little upset, by those Christians claiming a “right” to worship who ignore the regulations for so-cial distancing, and have large gatherings in church during this pandemic. That is just not Christian. Jesus calls us to love our neighbor. Insisting on my personal right to gather for worship, rather than act in the care of my neighbor’s (and my own) health, just strikes me as very selfish and profoundly un-Christian. Jesus did nothing like that.
So while it is awkward, uncomfortable, financially ruinous and even depressing to practice social isolation for weeks and weeks on end, it really is the most loving thing to do. Jesus laid down His life for us. We are called to lay down our “rights” out of con-cern for our neighbor, as well as for ourselves.

Fr. Chuck's Column, April 12, 2020


ALLELUIA! Happy Easter! My dear St. Austin parishioners, this must be one of the most unusual, weirdest, and most uncomfortable Easters we have experienced in quite some time. No public Holy Week or Easter Sunday celebrations! No Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist of the Catechumens. No reception into the Catholic Church for candidates. No blessing of the Easter fire. No gathering with friends and family and neighbors. It is all just disjointed, out of whack, off kilter, and strange. The whole thing is just plain weird. There is fear of getting too close. There is sadness and grief over friends, family, co-workers, fellow parishioners, and neighbors who have fallen ill, and some have died. Who will get it next? The more we love, the more we worry.
Yet we also approach this Feast in a stance of faith. Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death. He is Risen! Alleluia! We know in the short-term things could be very bad indeed. But our faith tells us that in the long run Christ is triumphant, so much so that the troubles and travails of today are made bearable, for we bear them in HOPE. So to say “alleluia” in this difficult and painful time is an act of faith. We can not unthinkingly say “alleluia.” To say “alleluia” in the face of our current experience is an act of defiance against illness and death. It is an affirmation of Jesus’ Resurrection. It is a cry of hope that transcends the fear and pain we currently experience. Even with bitterness and sorrow, we cry in faith, “ALLELUIA!”
So this Easter, be intentional about your faith. We have ample reason to rejoice. ALLELUIA!   


Fr. Chuck's Column, April 5, 2020


I hope this finds you all well, not suffering from the caronavirus, nor going stir-crazy from home seclusion with either your family, your pet, or just yourself. All of those options have their particular benefits and challenges. I am spending much more time in contact with five brother Paulists, and I must say so far it has been going quite well. Better than I expected if I am honest about it. Ask me again after a month.
This will be a particularly unusual Passion/Palm Sunday. There will be no blessing of palms. No weaving of crosses out of palms. No gathering in front of the Harry Ransom Center with the congregation from University Catholic Center for the blessing of palms and processions to our respective worship areas. That is particularly disappointing because this is the last Palm Sunday with my brother Paulists staffing the University Catholic Center. It is a shame. (You can take that several different ways!)
This weekend was also to have been the weekend our parish religious education program and our school’s second grade celebrated First Holy Communion. This must be a bitter disappointment to the 65 second graders who were anticipating their first reception of the Body and Blood of Christ this weekend. And possibly disappointed because they are not able to get all dressed up for their First Holy Communion with all their classmates. And perhaps even some disappointment in not receiving any presents they expected. In many ways it is a shame.
Of course this does NOT mean that they are denied the Eucharist forever. It just means we need to wait until it is SAFE for us to congregate and worship as a body of believers. Maybe that will be in a month or two. Hopefully it will be soon. So while the festive and party aspects of First Holy Communion may be downplayed, when it finally does occur, the much more important spiritual aspect of Holy Communion will be just as real, just as meaningful, just as formative and just as powerful as if we celebrated it on the original schedule. In some ways this delay may increase the first communicants longing for this wonderful gift. I hope that not being able to receive the Eucharist every Sunday is increasing in you a greater appreciation of what a gift the Sunday Eucharist is. Unfortunately, we need to lose somethings in order to better appreciate what value and importance they have. We all look forward to when we can again gather in church as the body of Christ, to receive the Body of Christ.
God bless!


Fr. Chuck's Column, March 29, 2020


We are now fully in pandemic response mode. Again, you are excused from Sunday Mass attendance. If you are sick, or just not feeling well, or have been exposed to someone who has been exposed to the virus, or are sixty years or older, PLEASE STAY HOME!!! Your obligation is not to attend Mass but rather to NOT attend Mass. We don’t know what will happen in the long run. We can say that Holy Week and Easter will happen with or without a congregation. We can say that we will get through this.
Hopefully, most of us will not get sick as younger people and children seem relatively more immune to this virus. Eventually life will resume a normal pace. Some of us will get sick, and then get better. It will be like a bad case of the flu. By next year we could have a vaccine for this virus, and we will be much better at controlling it.
Some of us will, no doubt, get sick, not recover, and die from it. That is just the reality. But none of us live forever anyway. In fact, we know through faith that our ultimate destiny is NOT here in this life, but with God forever in Heaven. A few years more or less on this earth really doesn’t make much difference in the long run. That is not our society’s common wisdom, but it is the truth. We approach this current crisis, as we approach all things in life, from the perspective of faith. At least that is what we are called to do. Our society values a LONG life. Our faith values a HOLY life. The two are not the same. In the long run a short, holy life is much better than a long, unholy life.
Meanwhile, we have to deal with the daily disruptions caused by the virus. Everyone has their favorite “folk-remedy” methods of staying healthy. Mine is to drink more coffee and take naps. Even if that doesn’t really help, it makes me feel better.
Wishing us all Good Health and Peace,


Friday, April 24, 2020

FRIDAY April 24 School Mass Homily


In the Gospel we just heard, it says: “Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to Jesus, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are those for so many?’”   Remember that?

“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.”  Hmmm.  Who is this boy?  What’s his name?  What is he doing there with five loaves of barley bread and two whole fish?                 We don’t know.

But we can imagine.  We can speculate. We can give what is known as a “midrash”, a filling in of some details, provide some background and context, for this story. 

This Gospel story is set in Galilee.  That was the area, or state, where Jesus grew up, where he was from, from Nazareth of Galilee.  So this boy was a Galilean, just like Jesus.  You are a Texan, because you grow up in Texas.  This boy was a Galilean, from Galilee.

Let’s give him a name.  We don’t know what his name really was, but we will call him Joseph, or Joe for short. So, Joe from Galilee, and he has five barley loaves and two fish. 

Barley loaves are a type of bread, but not like the white bread you have for your sandwiches.  This was a coarser bread, a cheaper bread, the bread of the poor.  Rich people ate white bread made from wheat, and the poor ate cheaper bread made from barley and oats.  Like what we feed to horses today.

Joe also has two whole fish.  Maybe Joe had been fishing.  Maybe his Mother gave the fish to Joe.  But two whole fish seems like a lot for one boy to eat.  I think that instead, Joe was enterprising.  Joe was an entrepanuer.  Joe was a budding business man.  And when Joe saw the large crowd following Jesus, and knew they would be with Jesus for a while, Joe got the bright idea to sell bread and fish to the crowds and make some money.

So Joe took his savings, all his allowance and what he had earned doing odd jobs around the town, and went and bought all he could, which was just five barley loaves and two whole fish.  It was not a lot, but to Joe it represented all he had, and he figured he could double or triple his money, because he knew people would be hungry and he would have no competition.  Joe planned on making a killing.  Joe the bread and fish king!

Joe started to think about what he could do with his profits, daydreaming about a new robe, and maybe brand new sandals, not like the hand-me-downs he wore when he didn’t have to go barefoot.

That was Joe’s plan.  But when he got there, the Apostle Andrew saw him, and brought him to Jesus.  And everything changed for Joe.

Joe had never seen or met anyone like Jesus.  Jesus just radiated Peace.  And acceptance.  And love.  It did not seem to matter how you were dressed; if you were an important person or just a peasant; or even just a mere child like Joe.  Jesus just loved.

With Jesus there was acceptance and something very different for Joe: unconditional love.  It made Joe very happy, but also kind of uneasy.  It was so unusual.  Joe didn’t know what to make of it, didn’t know what to do.

Then Jesus turned to Joe, smiled at him, and reached out His hand.  Then Joe knew what he had to do.   Joe dropped his dreams of profit, of a new robe, even of brand-new sandals that nobody else had ever worn, and simply handed his five loaves and two fish to Jesus. 

Jesus nodded to Joe in gratitude, then Jesus lifted His eyes to heaven, gave thanks, and began to break the bread and pass out the fish.  But the strangest thing happened.  The more Jesus gave out, the more there was.  Then the Apostles started helping to share, and the bread and the fish just kept coming.  Thousands and thousands of people ate their fill of the five barley loaves and two fish.

Joe also ate until he was stuffed.  Never had he had such delicious bread, such tasty fresh fish!   It was a meal he would never, ever, forget.  And it made Joe very, very happy that he had given his bread and fish to Jesus.  He felt good, and satisfied, and proud.  He knew he had done the right thing, and that was better than the best robe or the most expensive sandals.

After a while the crowd started to disperse.  It was getting late and the people were heading home, full of the five loaves and two fish that Joe had brought.  Joe felt happy that they were so satisfied with his bread and fish.  He was all warm inside.

As the Apostle were gathering up the leftovers, the fragments left over, Andrew the Apostle came over to Joe.  “Thank you, Joe, for sharing your fish and bread with us” said Andrew.  “Oh, that’s OK” said Joe.  He suddenly found it hard to talk.

Andrew said to him.  “We have twelve wicker baskets full of fragments of bread and fish from what you had brought.  We will never use that much.  Here, take this basket full of left overs to your home.” 

Joe joyfully took the basket of fragments of bread and fish. And he knew what he wanted to do with them.  Not sell them for his own sake, but share them with his family and neighbors, because now Joe knew the true value and worth of sharing.  And Joe was very happy indeed.

Amen.

EASTER SUNDAY HOMILY 2020


HAPPY EASTER!!!    ALLELUIA!!!
       In the Gospel we just heard, there is the following provocative statement: “Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.” 
       The question is, WHAT did he see that caused him to believe?   There was nothing and no one there.  Just an empty tomb with some discarded burial cloths.  He did not see the Risen Jesus.  He did not see an angel, like in Matthew’s Gospel.  All he saw was an empty tomb. 
       Well, obviously he did not see only with his physical eyes, but rather with the eyes of FAITH.
       Sisters and brothers, we too must look, not with our physical eyes, but with the eyes of faith.  What are we looking at?  What are we looking for?  A resurrected body?  A kind of Hollywood special-effects spectacular?  
       Well, not really.  Rather we are looking for something both more subtle and more powerful: the PRESENCE of the Resurrected Lord in our lives.   We are looking for the power, impact, and influence of the Risen Jesus on our feelings, on our senses, on our relationships, on our actions, on our deepest selves.
       On the physical level, before us there is only an empty tomb.   What do you see?  In this time of terrible pandemic, is all we see economic hardship, isolation, worry, loneliness, suffering, sickness and death?  The Gospel today, and our Faith, call us to look in a different way – like the other disciple does, for we are that “other disciple” –  called to see and believe: to see the heroic generosity and bravery of EMS workers, nurses, doctors, researchers, and all who are battling this disease.  To see generosity, compassion, bravery and even heroism in our very selves.  To see the victory of Christ over death in 100 ways in our lives and in the lives of others.  To see and believe!
       Alleluia!  Happy Easter! 

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Holy Thursday April 9, 2020 St Austin Church


Holy Thursday homily     April 9, 2020     St Austin Church

        How odd and disconcerting this year is.  We gather – not in person but electronically, “virtually” – to celebrate the institution of the Eucharist – Jesus’ great gift to us of His own Body and Blood – and yet are unable to participate in receiving His Body and Blood.
        Liturgically this is all wrong.  Frankly, it stinks.  Do you agree?
        However, the Eucharist is not primarily about a ritual action or a meal.  It is about a whole new mind-set, a whole new way of looking at things; A completely fresh way of acting, of thinking, of feeling, of being.  Of being made “holy” – which is what SACRIFICE is all about, “sacra ficere”, to make holy. 
        So, in the Gospel of John which we just heard, at the Last Supper there is no report or description of the institution of the Eucharist:  No telling of Jesus breaking bread, of sharing the cup, and declaring; “THIS IS MY BODY, THIS IS MY BLOOD.”
        Instead we have the washing of feet, an act of humble service, of self-giving, of dying to self.
        The message and the impact of the Eucharist – other serving love – is encapsulated and expressed by the act of service in washing the disciples’ feet.
        Jesus gave Himself for us on the Cross.   That radical act of Love is symbolized BOTH by the breaking and sharing of the bread, AND by the humble washing of feet.  They BOTH express the same reality of laying down your life for others.

        To all of you at home:  You cannot partake of Holy Communion right now.  You cannot receive the consecrated host and drink from the cup of blessing.
        That is a bummer.  And we long for the day when we will be able to fully celebrate Mass together as the Body of Christ receiving the Body of Christ.
        HOWEVER, you can still live eucharistically, still incorporate the meaning and power of the Eucharist in your life by living out Jesus’ other-serving love: because that is what Eucharist is all about.
        Wash each other’s feet.   Not literally, but actually:  helping each other in this time of trial.  Listening patiently to the lonely person.  Play a silly game with the child who is bored and also scarred.  Comfort the parent or spouse stressed out over loss of work and mounting bills.  Take groceries to the elderly or shut in neighbor.  Put on a smile when you are bored and depressed.  Compliment others.   Give of yourself in service.  Wash each other’s feet.  Then you will live what Eucharist is all about.
        And eventually, hopefully, when this horrible scourge is lifted, and we can go back to something more normal, and we again gather here in church to celebrate Eucharist, it will be a far more real, meaningful, authentic celebration.  For we shall have first lived it.
        God bless!


Sunday, March 29, 2020

HOMILY FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT CYCLE A March 29, 2020


HOMILY    FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT   CYCLE A        March 29, 2020

Today we have another long Gospel.  Well, it is Lent after all.
          The Gospel is a little odd, in that Jesus throughout the Gospel comes across as kind of out-of-sorts, or even upset and unhappy.  This is true especially to Scripture scholars more attuned to the nuances of the original Greek.
          What is going on?  Why is Jesus up-tight?  First of all, even though Jesus knows that Lazarus, his friend, is deathly sick, Jesus does nothing.  He goofs off for a couple of days till He is pretty sure it is already too late. 
          That doesn’t much seem like what a good friend would do.  I mean, before all this carona virus stuff started, if you knew a good friend was deathly sick you would go see the person, or at least call.  But Jesus plunks down and remains where He is for two whole days. 
          This was on purpose.  Because Jesus wants His friends and His apostles, and us too, to recognize Him as something much, much more than a wonder worker who fixes problems.  Jesus wants them, and us, to come to faith in Him in a much, much deeper way as our Saviour.
          Finally, Jesus decides to go when He is sure Lazarus is dead and it is too late to save him.   Jesus has something else in mind.  Jesus talks on one level, but His disciples and Lazurus’ sisters talk on another level.   Jesus says that He is going to awaken Lazarus.  The disciples mis-understand.  They think Jesus is talking about ordinary sleep.  Jesus is referring to death.  Jesus is always talking on a level above the others, and it is hard for them, and us, to make that leap.
          Jesus gets there and Martha goes out to meet Him.  “Lord, if you had been here, (if you had come when I called you and not dilly-dallied), my TWO                            brother would not have died.”    Sounds like an accusation to me.  Martha is looking for a miracle worker.  Someone who can fix things in this life.
          But Jesus wants her – and us – to come to a much, much deeper faith.   That Jesus is not just a wonder worker, but He is Life Himself.  Jesus states: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  Jesus is teaching Martha, and us, that He is much more than just a panacea for our passing problems.

          Martha alerts Mary, and she comes to Jesus.  She says the same thing: “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.”   In other words, you came too late.  Mary is also thinking of Jesus as a wonder-worker.
          This greatly bothers Jesus, because He is looking for a different and deeper kind of faith.  The Gospel states, “he became perturbed and deeply troubled.”  Jesus is upset, not by the presence of death, but because of the lack of understanding, comprehension, and faith in Him in a much deeper way.  
          We are told, “Jesus wept.”  So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” But in the Gospel of John they are always getting it wrong.  The Greek means that Jesus is so frustrated, so upset, so angry that He weeps.   What Jesus is looking for is faith, and that is the last thing Jesus is getting.
          Some of the Jews said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”   They are continually misreading Jesus as a wonder worker, a faith healer, and not going deeper to understand His true nature as the Son of God. 

And so the Gospel states, “So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.”   Perturbed yet again.  Through most of this Gospel Jesus is frustrated and upset.
          Jesus, to help us see deeper into Who He truly is, calls Lazarus back to life. 
          Good for Lazarus?   Well, not really.  Being called back to life was not really a very good solution for Lazarus.  He would still face aches and pains.  We know he faced persecution, because in the next chapter of John we are told: “And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him.   And Lazarus had to die yet again.
          Jesus does not come to give temporary, partial fixes.  Jesus died for our salvation, to live fully and eternally with Him.  That is a real solution. That is a permanent fix, if you will. 
          Jesus may keep us from getting the carona virus.  Or our family, or our loved ones and friends.  But more likely He won’t intervene.  It will seem to us like He is still at the beginning of today’s Gospel, dilly dallying and fooling around and not paying any attention.   We pray, “Jesus save us, heal us!”   But He seems not to listen.

          But Jesus did not become human, did not suffer and die on the cross and be raised up to eternal life, in order to save us from the carona virus.  Instead, Jesus saved us for something far better, far more wonderful, and much much longer than life on earth.  Because we all eventually will die.  If not from carona virus, then something else.  Eventually every one of us will succumb. 

          But, in this Gospel Jesus assures us of something extremely important: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  That is much bigger than any epidemic.  That is the Good News.  That is Gospel. 
God bless!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Fr. Chuck's Column, March 22, 2020


When I was a young priest and only weighed a fraction of what I do now, I went to visit my missionary friend, Sr. Evie Vasquez ICM, in Neuvo Santa Rosa, Guatemala. I accompanied her as she went out to visit several small aldeas, or villages, that were part of the larger, central parish. There were no roads such as we know them, so we went on horseback (as I stated, I was younger and lighter!). One place we went to visit was a village named “La Monta┼ła” which appropriately was on top of a volcanic mountain. To get there we rode numerous switchbacks back and forth up the mountainside. Because of this, the people in the village could see us from a long way off. When we finally got to the top and rode down the main street the people welcomed us joyously with ringing the school bell (they had no church) and shooting off fireworks. I turned to Sister and said, “Boy, they really like you!” But she replied: “This is not for me, but for you! They have not had Mass here for over six months.”
I recall this now as we are being instructed to stay home from Mass during this caronavirus crisis. In some sense, we are now experiencing what a very large part of the Catholic Church has been experiencing for centuries: fasting from the Eucharist. For so long we have had plentiful opportunities to attend and participate in Mass. On Sundays, within less than a mile of each other, there have regularly been a dozen or so Masses at St Austin’s, the University Catholic Center, and St. Mary’s Cathedral. We’ve had the choice of several styles of music and preaching as well as times that would fit conveniently into our schedules. But that was not the worldwide norm, and perhaps we had come to take it for granted, and were even somewhat spoiled by it.
While this disruption of the usual Mass schedule is inconvenient and even disturbing, perhaps it can also help us to be in greater solidarity with the many, many Catholic communities around the globe who cannot take for granted the availability of Mass at a convenient time. Or even at all! Perhaps in missing the Eucharist we will begin to rethink its value and place in our life, coming to greater appreciation for the great gift that the Mass is. Perhaps in missing the witness and fellowship of the Catholic Christian community, our particular parish, the people we see and greet when we come to church, our appreciation and respect for the great gift that the community of like-minded and like-hearted believers is, and the benefit of our participation in that community of Christians, will deepen our longing for active membership in the Body of Christ.
Absence, they say, makes the heart grow fonder. We are now experiencing the absence of so many things: regular Mass attendance, school, work, travel, so many events and activities postponed and canceled, etc. May we use the absence of Mass to long for, and grow in appreciation of, the wonderful gift of the Eucharist.


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Fr. Chuck's Column, March 15, 2020


Here we are already at the third Sunday of Lent. We are about halfway through already! How time flies when you are having fun! If your Lent has so far been going well, you are practicing the three traditional penitential practices of prayer, fasting and alms-giving, and you are moving forward in your Lenten practice, then congratulations and keep up the good work!
If Lent has snuck up on you and those good intentions you had on Ash Wednesday have not yet come to fruition, then know it is not yet too late. Begin today your Lenten practice, and make this holy season a time of growing closer to the Lord and your fellow Christians, and becoming more fully a true disciple of Jesus Christ. Now is the time to start!
If you have already been doing well and would like to add some additional penitential practices to your observance of Lent, or you are looking for some alternative ways of doing penance, let me suggest a few other ways of practicing your discipleship. One is to arrive on time, even early, for Mass on the weekend. This requires discipline and fortitude, getting up in time, leaving the house early, and getting to the church before Mass begins. This holds the added benefit of having time to calm down when you get the church, settle yourself, and prepare mentally and spiritually for the Mass. You will also be able to hear all the readings. Arriving for Mass on time is a great way to practice Lent.
Another suggested penance for those who really want to excel is to move to the center of the pew. Leave the end for those Christians who arrive late. This practice is just short of martyrdom and will certainly gain you a higher place in heaven.
While coming to and from the garage you can also practice penance by picking up trash on the church grounds. We have lots of traffic go by us on Guadalupe and San Antonio Streets. The winds in the evening blow all sorts of cups, wrappers, paper and assorted junk onto our campus. Our maintenance people do a very good job of trying to stay on top of all the litter, but they cannot be everywhere. This is YOUR church and school campus. Please treat it like your own home. Trash and litter makes our grounds look shabby, and less then welcoming. We all are responsible for the appearance of our parish. Make it attractive and welcoming by picking up stray trash and depositing it in the waste cans.
Finally, in addition to giving alms, you can also give compliments and encouragements. Give a compliment to the altar server, lector, usher, Eucharistic minister, greeter, musician or choir and ensemble members. These people donate their time and talent to help us make our worship friendly, beautiful, and flow smoothly. Let them know that they are appreciated.
With a little imagination I am sure you can come up with other ways to do penance that are meaningful for you. Have a blessed Lent!


Fr. Chuck's Column, March 8, 2020


Many things are going on in the parish and here is a brief update. First of all, as you know, at the initiative of the Diocese, we have temporarily changed several of our liturgical practices out of an abundance of concern for health and safety. For the time being we will not have holy water in the holy water fonts, we will distribute Holy Communion only in the hand, and we will no longer offer the common cup. We also highly recommend to stay home if you do not feel well. Also, wash your hands frequently; feel free to refrain from shaking or holding hands.
Meanwhile we continue our job search for our new director of stewardship and development. It took us months to find Dr. Andrea Pobanz, our director of music and liturgy, so this is not unexpected. Feel free to add this need to your prayer list.
The possible development project continues churning along with many meetings, much discussion, and scores of revisions. I would very much like to show you schematic designs, which are at least 50% completed. However, they seem to change several times a week, and until we have settled on something that is certain I don’t want to confuse you (or unduly raise your expectations) over something that likely will never come to be. However, I think we are close to something worth showing, at least in terms of schematics. I hope that will be in a couple of weeks.
We are also planning the renovation of the second floor offices and the former Subway space in our garage into a temporary home for our church offices and ministries during the construction period. That is moving along well.
Several real estate agents in the parish are scouting out locations where the priests may temporarily land during our “pilgrimage.” With the unexpected news that the Diocese will take over pastoral concern of the University Catholic Center come July, that has made it a little easier task. But so far, no decision has been made as to where the priests will live.
Also, the Property Committee has been busy. We are researching various parking management companies to see if it would be advantageous to us to have a professional company manage our garage. This would be a relief for our parish staff and provide better service to our customers and parishioners who use the garage.
We are also having locks installed on the elevators in the garage to be able to close them down at night, in an effort to better maintain them; the cost of this is $11,000.00.
We have been planning with our sound and light consultant, our architect and contractor to begin the renovation of the interior of the church. This is the replacement of our sound system and the upgrade of our lighting, which will occur in June, July and August. Because of the need to have a scissor-lift inside the church to reach the ceiling, all the pews will be moved. This means we will most likely be out of the church for several weeks during the summer. No weddings are planned for this period and Sunday Mass may be either in the school library or the gym, and weekday Mass likely again in the Our Lady of Guadalupe room. A fuller report on the interior work will come soon.
Meanwhile prayers are still requested and appreciated. Your patient support has been most helpful and conducive to all these projects moving forward.


Fr. Chuck's Column, March 1, 2020


Lent is a time to think more seriously about the deeper aspects of life. One of the more neglected areas of theology is eschatology, all those issues involved in Christ’s Second Coming and the world to come.
Eschatology is an important part of our faith. Every Sunday, in the Creed we state either “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end” OR He “is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.”
One of the earliest Christian prayers is “Maranatha!”, which is Aramaic (the language Jesus spoke) and translates as “Come, Lord Jesus!”
St. Paul fully expected the Second Coming in his own lifetime. St. Paul wanted badly to go to Spain so that he could complete preaching to the whole world, thus ensuring the prompt arrival of the Second Coming. However, St Paul’s geography was not very good, and there was a lot more to the world than he realized. Now, twenty centuries later, we know that the Gospel has been preached all over the world. But we also know that there is a great deal more to the universe than what ancient peoples realized.
Will the Gospel be taken to other planets in other star systems? To other galaxies? Are there other intelligent, self-reflective creatures in need of the Good News and salvation? Our understanding of the universe is so vast, so mind-boggling, that it is hard to comprehend. If “all things were created through Him” as we say in the Creed, what part does the rest of the cosmos play in salvation history? Is all that enormous space and material spiritually irrelevant? Will it all somehow be redeemed as St. Paul tells us (cf Rom 8:22)?
In any case, we know the day of judgement is coming for all of us, and probably much sooner than the Second Coming of Christ. Gifted with the Holy Spirit, we look forward to that day, not with dread, but with the hope of redemption and reward. Come, Lord Jesus!