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!


Sunday, March 15, 2020

HOMILY Third Sunday of Lent Cycle A March 15, 2020


HOMILY    Third Sunday of Lent   Cycle A         March 15, 2020

          The Gospel we have been privileged to just hear is not only long, it is theologically and spiritually very meaty and rich.  I would like to focus on the overall transformation of the Samaritan woman from being a sinner and an outcast, to becoming a disciple of Jesus, and ultimately a missionary.  I see that movement as an archetype for all of us in our relationship to the Good News of Jesus, moving from sin and isolation to discipleship that blossoms in missionary witness to the Gospel.
          The Gospel opens with the statement that it was about noon.  Living in central Texas we all know that means it was getting to the hottest part of the day.  All the other women in the village had come earlier, in the cooler morning to draw their water, which made the most sense.  But this woman comes alone, at an uncomfortable time, presumably to avoid the shaming and taunts and rejection by the other women of the village.  Perhaps, since it was not a big village, she had slept with several of their husbands, and she rightly feared that they may throw more than insults.  So she comes in the heat of the day when she knows no one else will be there.
          Sin and guilt isolate.  Sin always alienates us from God, from other people, and even from ourselves.  That is what sin does.
          Jesus engages her in conversation.  That was against the rules and norms of that society, but Jesus came to seek out and save what is lost, and He does not let social conventions and niceties get in His way.  Like Nannie McPhee, Jesus sometime shows up when He is needed but not wanted. 
          I have had the experience of wanting to do something my way, according to my rules and my plan, but some cautionary thought comes to mind, or a passage of scripture pops into my head, or some good advice comes from a staff member or another Paulist, and I need to confront my not-so-Christian desires.  Likewise, Jesus inconveniently appears in the life of this woman.  Perhaps you have had that experience too.
          Jesus challenges her.  “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.”   Jesus states the facts, without sugar coating it.
          Scripture scholars tell us that the Samaritans worshipped other gods besides Yahweh.  This is why the conversation of the woman with Jesus turns to the issue of worshipping God.  And in the Old Testament there is a literary theme of espousal between God and His chosen people.  Therefore Jesus may not be speaking only about the woman having several sexual partners, but rather about the worship of false gods.  So also for us, our making pleasure or fame or power or wealth or other created realities our “gods”, is a type of faithlessness and infidelity to God.  Jesus calls each of us on our spiritual “adulteries” when we do not put God first in our life. 
          The woman leaves her water jar.  St John mentions this I believe as a symbolic action.  The woman has now received the living water that Jesus gives, or better, that Jesus is, “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” and no longer relies on the former forms of quenching her thirst for love.  The water jar is superfluous.
          The woman goes and spreads the Good News about Jesus.  “Could he possibly be the Christ?” she asks.  She witnessed to Jesus and His saving work in her life.   That is what every one of us, as a disciple of Jesus, is called to do.  Maybe in a less dramatic fashion than this woman did, but still we are called to witness to the saving work of Jesus in our lives.   Not primarily by words, but by the quality of our lives and actions.  We are to demonstrate that we have heard Good News in our lives.
          The Gospel states: “Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I have done.”
She became a missionary disciple, which is what every one of us is called to be.  She is a role model for us.  By an encounter with Jesus, and by His grace, we are commissioned and empowered to proclaim the Good News of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. 
          This Third Sunday of Lent, may we open our hearts to the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that we too my proclaim with the Samaritans of that town, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

Monday, March 2, 2020

HOMILY First Sunday of Lent Cycle A 2020


HOMILY    First Sunday of Lent      Cycle A        2020

          I have been tempted in many different ways in my life.   And you too probably have experienced various types of temptations.   I bet we could come up with a pretty thorough catalog of various types of temptation just from the people in this room.  But not once can I recall being tempted to turn stones into bread, nor to jump off a temple, nor to prostrate myself and worship Satan.  And if we did a survey of the congregation here I bet we would come up with at most a handful of persons who were ever tempted in any of these strange ways.  What is going on in this Gospel?
          Well, I believe that these three unusual temptations of Jesus in the desert are variations of what the serpent said to Eve in the first reading: “You will be like gods.  That is the come-on, the sales pitch, the line the devil uses.  The ultimate temptation is to refuse our status as creatures and want to be fully in control, answerable to no one, dependant on no one but our own self.   It is, in effect, a rejection of our status as creatures and as humans, which is always to be dependent and contingent. 
          Jesus rejects these temptations by fully embracing his humanity, with its limitations and shortfalls, its aches and pains, its uncertainty and confusion, its weakness and vulnerability, its full human-ness.  Jesus does not accept the power to turn stones into bread and so escape human need and want.  Jesus does not accept being protected by a circle of angels and so be invincible.  Jesus rejects the politics of power and force and accomplishing His goals by strength and might and intimidation.   Jesus accepts fully what it means to be human.  And that is to be limited, contingent.

          But Jesus also shows us that that is OK, because of the trust we have in God our loving Father.  Just as children can feel safe and protected when they are with loving parents, so you and I, as disciples of Christ, find our security and comfort, not in our ability to handle everything that comes our way, but instead in secure confidence in God’s ultimate care for us. 
          That is a risk.  That is kind of scary.  But that is what Jesus does in the Gospel today, and that is what we are called to as well.
          We want to be in charge of our lives.   But we did not cause ourselves to be.  We did not choose the accidents of our birth: our gender, our nationality, our abilities, our weaknesses.  We will not choose the number of years we are here on earth, nor when will be our proper time to die.  We cannot control the development of the carona virus, nor how others act, nor so many important factors that shape our lives.  We really are not in charge.
          But we are beloved.  We do not have to try to be like gods.  Rather, we have to allow ourselves to be loved by God, and open our hearts and wills to God’s plan for us. 
          This Lent is a special time to renew our devotion and submission to God.  With all our heart let us join Jesus in shouting, “Get away Satan!  It is written: “The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”    AMEN.