Sunday, May 8, 2022

4th Easter Vocation Sunday May 8, 2022

 4th Easter   Vocation Sunday   May 8, 2022

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”    Who are these “sheep”?    We are!

Being compared to sheep is not particularly complimentary in our society.  The words “dumb” and “sheep” seem naturally to go together.  

However, that is not the affect or feeling of this statement.  Rather “sheep” is a name of endearment, more like “lamb”.  It is a sign of affection, and care.  “My sheep hear my voice,”  This is a sign of recognition and of trust.  “I know them”, an indication of closeness and intimacy.   “and they follow me,” a designation of discipleship and union. 

Altogether the Lord’s statement is a sign of closeness and intimacy.  My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.”

Because of this beautiful passage in the Gospel today, this Sunday is called Vocation Sunday.  It is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the call that we have received from Jesus to be His follower.  Regardless of our station in life, as Christians we have been chosen, called and consecrated to the Lord Jesus’ service, regardless if we do that as a single person, a married person, a professed religious, or a deacon, priest or bishop. 

All of us here are the subjects of Jesus’ affirming statement: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  Then Jesus goes on to say something remarkable: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”  How very beautiful.  How wonderful.  “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”  We have great things to look forward to!

While this assurance is given to all of us who are baptized and are a part of the Lord’s people, in a particular way today we focus on the vocation of service to the Lord’s people as a priest, deacon, or religious. This is, in addition to Mother’s Day, also “Vocation Sunday”. 

God’s holy people need more priests, women and men religious, and deacons.  Not so much bishops.  We have enough bishops, but we do need more priests, deacons and women religious. 

At the end of this week I will have been ordained 44 years.  I can hardly imagine that.  During that time I have been extraordinarily blessed with several great assignments, every one of them giving me the opportunity to know and work with some truly gifted and holy people: other priests, religious women, and dedicated lay people.  It has been fulfilling beyond my greatest expectations; challenging to continual growth; and never dull.  My life has been full of surprises, most of them wonderful or pleasant, several of them challenging to growth, and some scary and uncomfortable.  But always graced.

We, as God’s holy people, badly need more vocations to the priesthood, the diaconate, and to religious life.  Recently I had the great opportunity to visit four missions on Navajo and Zuni Reservations in Arizona and New Mexico.  The work there of the women religious, who are the constant stay and backbone of those ministries, is phenomenal and inspiring.  But like me, they are all getting old.  Fr Rich Andre is leaving.   We were blessed these past two years to have three priests on the parish staff, but that will not continue. 

So please pray for vocations.  Keep praying.  Your prayers are really, really important. 

If you know of someone who you think might make a good priest, deacon or religious sister, TELL THEM THAT.  They may have had the idea or inkling, but thought they couldn’t do it.  Your affirming statement is really, really important. 

 If you are under 40 or so, and have been thinking about the possibility of priesthood, religious life, permanent diaconate, or service in the church, I urge you to be open to God’s call, and to talk to some wise person about the possibility of a religious vocation.  I assure you, you will not regret it.

When I joined the Paulists, and was ordained a priest, I had certain ideas of what priesthood was all about and what I would do.  The reality, however, was much different.  But what is important to know, the reality was much BETTER than I had even imagined.  I am truly blessed to have received a vocation to Paulist priesthood.  I hope and pray that some of you may be similarly blessed.    AMEN. 

Monday, May 2, 2022

HOMILY Second Sunday of Easter Cycle C April 24, 2022

 HOMILY   Second Sunday of Easter    Cycle C     April 24, 2022

Our Gospel starts with Locked Doors.  The doors were locked … for fear of the Jews.        Do you lock the doors of your house or your apartment at night?  Of course you do.   You probably lock then during the day also.  I do. 

Maybe we long for a simpler, safer time when people left their doors open, but now we all lock our doors.  Not for aesthetic reasons, as if a locked door was prettier than an open door, but rather for safety.  Or as the Gospel states, “for fear..”  For fear. 

And it becomes second nature to us to lock doors: of our houses and apartments, of our cars, our gates, our rooms, even the church.  And it becomes so usual, so routine, so unexceptional, so habitual and ordinary to lock our doors and windows and gates, that it naturally carries over to locking our hearts, our feelings, and even our minds.  And that is a shame.

But locked doors and windows and security gates are no match for Jesus.  In spite of the locked doors, Jesus came and stood in the midst of the disciples.  The disciples were cowering in fear.  In fear of the Jews.  But their fear could not keep out Jesus.

We also are a gathering of disciples, just like in the Gospel.  And we sometimes lock ourselves in because of fear: fear of covid; fear of having our ideas challenged; fear of people who are different or seem dangerous; fear of looking foolish; and many other types of fears too numerous to mention.  But regardless of the label we put on the fear, all fear has the same effect: fear isolates and debilitates.  So we lock down our emotions, we lock down our questions, we lock down our doubts, we lock down anything within in us that causes us to probe and to question.      

 Locking down is work and it takes energy to hold and keep all that stuff locked.  It can be wearying. 

But none of that stops or hinders Jesus.  In spite of the locked doors, or even locked hearts, Jesus can appear in our midst.  When Jesus appeared to the disciples on Easter Sunday evening, Jesus did not blame the disciples for deserting Him.  He did not accuse them of being cowards and false friends.  He did not castigate them as useless and worthless disciples.  He had every right to, but He didn’t.

No.  He said: “Peace be with you.”   That was the first thing He said.  And do you remember the second thing He said to them?  “Peace be with you” again.    //

Then Jesus gives them a job, or in a more fancy way of saying it, Jesus commissions them.  He says: “Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” 

Jesus shows His Mercy first of all in not accusing the disciples with cowardice and desertion, and pointing out to them their complete failure.  But then Jesus goes even further to commission the disciples to be Jesus’ representatives and agents of mercy: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  

Jesus knows they are weak, but He empowers them to carry on His mission of proclaiming the Gospel, the Good News, by proclaiming forgiveness and mercy. 

 

Likewise for us, Jesus empowers us to proclaim our faith by the quality of our lives, and to live mercy just as Jesus has shown us mercy.  We have the awesome power to forgive those who have harmed us.  We are enabled to live Jesus’ way of mercy.  We can pattern our lives after Jesus by doing what He did, by forgiving those who have hurt us, disappointed us, let us down.  And in being merciful, we open ourselves to receive the mercy Jesus so badly desires to give us.  Open the doors of your heart!

God bless! 

Monday, April 4, 2022

Homily 5th Lent APRIL 3, 2022 St Austin Church, Austin TEXAS

 Homily    5th Lent  APRIL 3, 2022

          Our Gospel opens with Jesus teaching in the Temple area.  Then a crowd of scribes and Pharisees arrives with a woman caught in the very act of adultery.  They demand to know what Jesus says about this case.  Will he side with the Law of Moses and thereby incur the wrath of the occupying Romans who reserved the death penalty to themselves, or will Jesus obey the Roman occupiers and sell out the Law of God?  Pretty dramatic.

          Well first of all we can tell right off that the crowd of Pharisees and scribes is NOT primarily concerned with justice nor with God’s law.  There are two obvious indications of this.  First, they bring only the woman.  Even in Jesus’ day the crime of adultery required two conspirators.  The woman did not commit this crime alone.  So where is the guy?

          The Jewish law, both in the Book of Leviticus chapter 20 verse10 and in the Book of Deuteronomy chapter 22 verse 22 prescribes the death penalty for BOTH parties.  Deuteronomy states:  If a man is discovered lying with a woman who is married to another, they both shall die, the man who was lying with the woman as well as the woman. Thus shall you purge the evil from Israel.”  The Law calls for evenhanded justice.  However, the crowd before Jesus seem interested only in the woman.

          Even more telling is that they drag this woman to Jesus.  They did not take her to the authorities, to the priests or the judges for proper judgment, but to Jesus.  Jesus is not a civil official.  He has no civic rank or public office.  He is not a judge or magistrate.  But they come to Jesus because they not only want to embarrass and degrade the woman (they “made her stand in the middle”) but they also want to trap and embarrass Jesus as well. Jesus, that bleeding heart liberal who is always welcoming sinners and eating with them.

TWO                    TWO                    TWO                    April 3, 2022

          What is going on here?  Well, in as much as the crime of rape is more about violence and humiliation than it is about sex, this mob is, in effect, a gang rape.  That is why the guilty male is not of interest to this group.  And to make their crime complete they want to humiliate Jesus as well.  It is all about building up their own sense of power by humiliating and violating others.  They are bullies.

          But Jesus is difficult to trap.  Jesus does not buy into their twisted logic, driven by their twisted hearts and desires.  He pulls back from the whole twisted scene.  Instead He bent down and began to doodle, sketching in the dust.

          Have you ever been in a long, boring class, where the teacher drones on and on and on?  And so you begin to draw little figures and maps and designs in the margins of your notebook?  That is what Jesus does.  He doodles.  He is pulling himself mentally and emotionally out of the exchange with the Pharisees and instead is killing time.  He refuses to be caught in the mentality of the mob.

          Impatient, the scribes and Pharisees press Jesus for an answer.   “He straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  

          I don’t think Jesus is talking about their past sins.  I don’t think Jesus was writing their sins in the dust.  I think Jesus is talking about right here and now.  In effect Jesus is saying, “if your motives in wanting to stone this woman are pure, if your concern really is the holiness of God, if you are motivated by a sincere and holy concern for God’s law, if what you are about is pure in the eyes of God, then throw a stone.”

 

THREE                THREE                         THREE                April 3, 2022

But if you are now motivated by a desire to hurt, to dominate, to show your power over a helpless person, to push your sufferings and your sexual urges on to another, to unleash the beasts of lust and domination that rage in your own hearts onto a helpless scapegoat, then this is sin.  Sin.  It is NOT the Will of God. 

          Jesus forces them to confront the evil of their own motivations.

The passions of the elders cool first, and as they come to their senses, as they realize what they really are involved in, they drop their stones and slink away, one by one. 

          Finally Jesus is left alone with the woman.  Jesus condemns the sin, but not the woman.  “Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”   She replied, “No one, sir.”  Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” 

 

The lesson for us, I think, is to examine our motivations whenever we condemn or blame another.  Are we truly interested in Justice?  In God’s law?  In respect for God’s Will?  Or are we – subtly or not so subtly - exulting in our own power, our own purity, our own rectitude?  Are we pushing our darkness and sin on to another?     //

On the 21st of this month the State of Texas is scheduled to execute Carl Buntion, who just turned 82 this past week.  He was convicted of the 1990 shooting death of a 37 year old Houston police officer.  

On the following week the State of Texas is scheduled to execute Melissa Lucio, a 54 year old woman who was convicted of the 2007 abuse and death of her two year old son. 

FOUR                           FOUR                           FOUR    April 3, 2022

 

These crimes are truly heinous and cry out to heaven.  But what is our motivation in executing these criminals?  Are we truly without sin?  Are we really concerned with Justice and upholding God’s way?  If that is completely true then why are the great majority of those executed the poor, minorities, the poorly educated? 

 

“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.”

 

Jesus does not condemn us.  We should be likewise reluctant to condemn.