Wednesday, May 15, 2013
I had a homily prepared for this morning. It was quite good, a valedictory homily in which I compared seminary life to the genres of Greek drama. Perhaps that is not surprise. I connected St. Paul’s final days with the elements of stagecraft in the ancient world and pulled it all together with a clever simile to our current situation, standing as we are in the final hours of the last days. Then I received the call this morning telling me that Father Scott had died. When I spoke with his pastor on the phone, I quickly calculated in my head: About 40 hours. He was a priest about 40 hours. And I thought to myself, that was enough. It was enough. St. Paul says in today’s first reading: “Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you. No one will attack and harm you, for I have many people in this city.” How true these words are still for us today. We are at the close of the formation year. Some are going away sad. Some are going away mad. Some are just going away. At least one of our graduates, Fr. Carroll has gone to a better place than CPE, Guatemala, IPF, a parish summer, a first assignment, a new job. Scott has gone on that other journey, winding his way up the mountain to heaven. Our time will come. No one will attack and harm you, for I have many people in this city.” Do we know that? Do you know how many people here will continue to pray for you, to love you, to be with you, to rally for you even if you go away mad tomorrow? It is true. All of us are bound on that journey to which Scott precedes us today. We have other stops to make. None of us does it alone. You have many people in this sandstone city set on a Hill. And many others as yet unknown and un-named who are praying for you. Jesus says in the Gospel today: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy. Is that what we are about? I hope it is. I know my thoughts are a bit disjointed this morning. Well, you might have had Greek drama. Instead you just got the old rector saying a last sentimental word. When I went into my office at 4:00 this morning, someone had slipped a paper under my door. I will quote you the last two sentences of this paper: It is in my vulnerability that I can love. It is in my weakness that I am made strong. We know that of course, and yet we don’t. Scott knew it and is now living it. Also in this paper was a quote from Boethius; If you want the doctor to heal your wounds, you are going to have to uncover them” I am thinking of that one picture of Fr. Scott that got passed around the cybernation yesterday. We all know, at least I hope we know, that it was a picture of us.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
And it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians. The disciples of Jesus were first called by name in Antioch Where was it for you? In these now balmier Easter days we find ourselves living the high life of reminiscence with the early Church. Churches are founded in places whose names we can barely pronounce much less understand. Christians are made from the most unlikely of candidates, old sinners, filthy gentiles, some reconstituted Jews. From the raw material of a seething, teeming reality these new Christians, these followers of Christ were made and seemingly, named for the first time. When were you named for the first time? Perhaps it was, as it should be, at your baptism. In the purified waters of a font in a suburban parish, or in a country place where half the folks were family already and the others as near as they ought to be. As a little red creature struggling mightily in his mother’s arms, refusing with steadfast voice the gift of grace. Announcing conversion with a wail and a tiny shaking fist. Was it then? Was it in the waters of the font that you first became a Christian? Or was it later? Was it perhaps on a cold day in winter in some little Church, praying for help, for guidance through the turbulence of adolescence, or some crisis whose details you can only faintly recall, or in the company of some priest or sister, or in the vicissitudes of, well, life. Perhaps on your knees all alone in the depth of need you first knew yourself as a Christian. Or perhaps somewhere else? In a schoolroom searching for answers in books that merely confused with their circumscribed characters? Or at a weekend lockdown or a retreat that seemed useless until you did it. Or in the back seat of a car fumbling for some mistaken predominance of identity? In the withering disposition of a pack mentality, the final notes of sarcasm in a fraternity of desperation? And it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians. Or perhaps even now, even here it is yet to happen? When do we become Christians? In the struggle of infidelity Or in that moment, that singular moment at the end of a long journey of conversion when our hearts are finally turned to the life of the living God and away from our own sordidness. Is it yet to come? Staved off as long as we harbor all that junk that still lingers from our personal lents As long as we hold on to grudges, handicaps, heartaches, sinister dreams, dishonesties. As long as we cling to what we think must be right even when it has proved time and again to be wrong, very wrong As long as we keep stored up in ourselves the well-rehearsed scripts of indifference, ineptitude, pain, doubt, self-loathing. As long as we think we know the answers, after all that’s what mamma said, until we see that the world is more complicated than the truth we learned at our mother’s knee Brothers and sisters, there is one thing and one thing only that we need. We need Antioch. We need that identity. We need Antioch because we must learn to call ourselves something other than forsaken. We need Antioch. We need to learn to love rather than judge, to give rather than take, to provide for one another rather than constantly seeking the self, the damn self that will be truly damned if we cannot give ourselves over to Christ, all to Christ, fully to Christ, forever to Christ. Where will it be? Where will it be then? If not in Antioch, where will it be? Brothers and sisters we continue to revel in this Easter season knowing I hope full well that the complex completeness of Easter did not come on that solemn night of proclamation. Antioch beckons us in the name of towns and places as yet unseen, unknown, unexplored. And we respond full of hope that the fullness of Easter is still rushing in.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
And the story has circulated to this very day. Indeed it has. Gossip is one thing, but real news is another. Stories get around. Things that might best have been left unknown become known. Sometimes it seems that our lives are circumscribed by stories, heritage stories, personal narratives, future projects. How many of us have not daydreamed or gone to sleep with a familiar narrative in our brains, seared somehow into our imagination? The Bible is filled with narratives, stories, in fact, it could be argued that all 2316 pages (in the Novus Vulgatus) are filled with a single story, a great arc of a story, the story of the Word from before time began until this very day. Of all the stories of the Bible, however, there can be none more powerful than what we have been hearing over the past several days, what we hear today. It is the story of men, disciples at a loss for words and identity, cowering in the confines of the upper room who nevertheless run at the startling word of the women It is the story of women, frightened and marginalized, yet not lacking in the courage to make their way to the tomb of a convicted criminal in the early hours of the morning. It is the story of a people longing to hear a word of encouragement, longing to hear a story that does not bear the old refrain of loss, of sin, of rejection, of doubt, of pain. It is the story of the world, a world that knows not its own potential, the potential for love over war, the power of life over death. It is the story of Jesus, the story he was born in time to tell, a story that is uniquely his and yet ours as well. And of course, the story of Easter, the story of Jesus does not end at the mouth of an empty tomb. Now, for fifty days that story will spill over, it will catch like straw caught by flame and we will hear, indeed relive the story of Easter. The story of Easter is the story of men and women, men and women who longed for freedom and found it in the story of a man from Galilee, a man who told stories of his own, a man who had the courage to put aside what was rightfully his to serve, to lay down his life. The story of Easter is the story of a people caught in the crossfire of competing narratives, a people who are ready to move through the Red Sea of human corruption to a promised land, a place of peace. The story of Easter is the story that the world which has inherited the mantle of Adam longs to hear, a story beyond the confines of human sin, beyond the parameters of the human imagination, an imagination mired in the lassitude of its own forgetfulness. The story of Easter is our story. We have inherited the mantle of John, of Matthew, of Luke and Mark. We are the evangelists of today and just as those men of old had only one thing to say, so we: He is risen. He is risen in the arch of the sunrise He is risen in the thousands longing to breath freely He is risen in the young and old, in the rich and the destitute, in the enemy and in the neighbor. He is risen in you and in me. He is risen in us. He is risen. He is risen indeed. And we have a question posed to us in the light of the resurrection. What will our legacy be? In the rawness of the Easter light, what will our gift to the world be? In the freshness of Easter air, what will we do to help those trapped in a world of dankness breath freely? In the brilliance of an Easter morning, in the joy of a candle flame, in the intoxicating scent of lilies, what will we offer to a world that cannot see, cannot breath? Brothers and sisters, why are you here? There must be more to this than the trickery of light. There must be more to our lives than our own failure. I am intrigued by a statement made by Pope Francis at the Chrism Mass in Rome about priests. He said: Priests must be shepherds that have the smell of their own sheep. That implies something, that implies passion, that there must be some passion, passion for service, passion for the needy, passion that extends beyond our own passion for comfort and consolation. There must be resurrection, rising to challenges even when we cannot see the goal, rising to excellence, rising to the joy of an eternal Easter, risen in our flesh and in the body of this community of faith. Why are we here? We are here because of a word, spoken in time, spoken through the ages, a word that proclaims: God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. Exalted at the right hand of God, he poured forth the promise of the Holy Spirit that he received from the Father, as you both see and hear. See and hear. We gather and so we believe. He is risen He is risen indeed. O my brothers and sisters, how far can we go on that promise? It is a story that has circulated to this very day. Indeed it has.
Monday, March 25, 2013
Brothers and sister, our times are times of change. All times are, but perhaps in these days we feel it more keenly in the Church with the election of our new pope, a man from a new place, a man with a new name. In the coming days, we expect to see change in our Church, change at the hands of our new pope, Francis. Yesterday, with his inauguration, I think we witnessed that the Holy Father is going to show us something new, that is something new and something old. He is going to show us that our concern for the poor and for each other can extend beyond aesthetics. I think the new pope is going to take us away from the world of the caustic blogosphere and give us some keen new insight into serving Christ in one another. Yesterday the blogs were alive with criticism of his style. I say, who cares? The state of things is too desperate. It is time for us to face one another without the intervening contraceptive world of the internet. It is time for us to look the world squarely in the eye, rather than through the protected veil of lace. Change. Metanoia. Change seems to be in the air in these waning days of winter. Our times are changing as we see our brother deacons in the community prepare to witness to Christ in a new way, as they move forward in faith to the priesthood and to new challenges in their communities of faith around the world. Our times are changing as the earth around us is changing, a world ready to reawaken in the strength of Spring, replicating in the things of the earth the reawakening of Christ in the joy of Easter, the paschal mystery that we will soon be entering in a focused way in Holy Week and beyond. Our times are times of change as men in our seminary prepare to accept ordination for service to the Church as deacons, some in a few weeks from now and many others in the months to come. Times are changing as some of you are preparing to go forward to the next year of formation, or to pastoral years, or to new challenges in the world. Times are changing and we bless God for those changes, for those challenges, and for those opportunities he has so richly afforded us. It is interesting to reflect that, when I began this series of conferences on the work of Pope Benedict, he was the reigning pontiff; now we have another and the world continues to turn. It is the nature of time to change, and yet, as we are reminded in Scripture, the Word of the Lord stands forever. This week, as I conclude my Lenten reflections on the infancy narratives drawn from the book of Pope Benedict, I am reminded more than ever of this truth. In the past conferences, I have focused on the teachings of the emeritus pope on the infancy of Christ found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Today, I will turn my attention to the Gospel of St. John, the Gospel that Benedict begins with in his small book. We notice immediately that John does not offer us a reflection on the birth of Christ. He offers us something more, a theological insight into who Christ really was, the Word which has come down from heaven to dwell with us. This, of course, is the central theme of John’s Gospel. Christ is the Word made flesh, the true manifestation of God come into the world. The Christ of John’s Gospel knows who he is and what his mission is. It is a mission born before the beginning of time, born in the Father’s love, born for us before we ever were. It is a mission that never had to happen except insofar as we are sinners and God is merciful. It is a mission not to be taken for granted, something that we never merited. St. John gives us insight into the saving mission of Christ. The evangelist does this by reminding us keenly about how things are. We often lose sight of how things are. In the world in which we live, we can become absorbed with many things, with many illusions masquerade as realities. We forget how things are when we fail to properly prioritize in our lives, placing the meaningless in a place of meaning or seeing the passing and ephemeral as something lasting, something permanent. We forget how things are when we fail to recognize the true pastoral opportunities that fall into our laps every day by focusing on issues that are not central to our salvation, by giving too much credence to the trivial and not enough to the cosmic that we also daily encounter. We forget how things are when we place ourselves squarely in the center of our lives, see ourselves as the source and end of history, believe ourselves to be our own telos, indeed the only word every spoken. We forget how things are and so we become wrapped up in the illusory and the temporal when the true and the real and the permanent is staring us in the face. Life is a beautiful gift, a multifaceted gift, a gift as unique as an individual snowflake that we, hopefully, do not eradicate in our inability to know it. Life is a struggle, assuredly, but a struggle worth engaging in order that our individuality might be caught up in the glory of what is present to all, the richness of God’s glory Life is a blessing, even in its occasional harshness. In the trials of life, we are shown opportunity for ourselves. And in overcoming those trials, we are shown the opportunity to serve others in our wisdom formed in the crucible. And death is nothing. It is a mere stopping place, a transit point for what is next, for what transcends. Death is not even an inconvenience, because it provides us with that catalyst by which we truly become who we are called to be, in fact already are, God’s children living in the unapproachable light of his love, his care, his mercy, his radiance. Death is hard for us, but not hard for those who endure it. It we could only see beyond this world to that heaven that we glimpse as in a mirror darkly in manifold ways and will, after trials, see face to face. That is St. John’s promise: that the place from which the Word originated is not only a place for the Word; it is a place for us who are united in him in such an intimate way that we consume Him even as He consumes us. How powerful is our reflection on what we have when we can remember who we truly are, sons and daughters of God, transformed individually and collectively in the Father’s love. And here is the miracle. Even now, even here in this land of exile… We have the power of the Word among us in countless opportunities for expressions of love and charity, even the simplest expressions in a community that longs, indeed is dying for, the expression of Christ’s care brought about in our hands, our faces, our arms, our energies. We have the grace to experience the wisdom of God brought about in us in actions of the mind, in the work we engage daily in reading, studying, arguing, and discoursing. We have the benefit of God’s presence daily to us in our chapel, given to us in the public display of worship, in the liturgy, in times of silence, in moments of contemplation. Even in the earliest hours of the morning, we are never alone there. His presence abides. It is tangible. God among us, Emmanuel reigns here and there, as in our hearts, our minds, our very souls. We see it in the joy of discovery, in the delight of children, in simple pleasures wrought in the midst of trial and disappointment. We have the authority of God spoken in the life of the Church, not only in its formal decrees but in manifold ways, in charity, in social endeavor, in secret places, in the confessional, in the sacrament of the sick, in nodding heads and ready hearts, nodding and ready to comprehend the mystery of the human person laid bare. We have it. It is surely here within our grasp if only we can reach out to that Word spoken of in St. John’s Gospel. If only we can give that Word credence, believe it. How can we do that? I think the plan is clear: by having an open mind, an open heart, a receptive spirit. God wants to show us his love if only we let him. God wants to speak his word if only the complexities of its translation can be attained by our simplicity of heart. Brothers and sisters, we make life so difficult for ourselves. We struggle and complain. We fight at every turn. We are disappointed. We are disillusioned. We meet despair at every crossroads. We hate ourselves. We hate our brothers and sisters. We are on the edge, on the verge, continually. And yet, we hate to leave it. It is a paradox, perhaps the paradox of the human condition. Pope Benedict speaks sparely in this book; he allows the lesson of Christ to speak through him. We perhaps little realized how deeply that lesson was being felt in the pope’s own life. Lately, in reflecting on this book, I wonder how much of the pope’s thought in writing it was wrapped up in his plan for the future, his future, and by extension, the future of the Church. Even though the former pope has indicated on many occasions that the writing he does as a theologian is to be considered as something apart from his papal writings, it is the same man who writes as Joseph Ratzinger and who writes as Pope Benedict XVI. Here is a man of power, of tremendous power, who has endeared himself to the world through an acknowledgement of his weakness. How much does the former pope embody the teaching of St. Paul: “When I am weak, then I am strong”? He has demonstrated to each of us in such a powerful way how necessary it is to be honest and truthful about who we are and what we can and cannot do. Here is a man of influence, a man who looks after with pastoral care the lives of millions upon millions, the souls of those millions. He has influence beyond that of any other person, and yet he has chosen in his retirement a life of seclusion and prayer, a life away from the spotlight, a place of obscurity. Here is a man of strength who knows what real strength is, that strength is strength lived on the knees, that radical strength is radical honesty. Here is a man of authority who has shrugged off a mantle that many might wantonly wish to wear, but can never wear without the authority of Christ the Lord. And what has he done? Like the Word, he has humbled himself, insinuated himself into obscurity, just as did the Word in taking on human flesh. Doesn’t this book that we have read for Lent tell us more about its author than perhaps he intended, and doesn’t it tell us also a great deal about ourselves? What do people need to hear today? What do we need to hear today? We need to hear the Gospel preached without compromise and we need to hear all of the Gospel, preached boldly without apology. Is there any other way for us to confront the malaise of faith our Church contends with in this historic time? We need to experience the Word, we need to have the fullness of Jesus in our lives, not in some superficial or partial way, but deeply incorporated into our being. We need to bear witness to the public nature of the Word in our lives lived in the glare of engagement, but we must also experience the Word in the privacy of our rooms, in hidden places and in secluded moments. The Word must inundate us, whether we are being watched or not. We need to acknowledge the Truth, not a truth of our making but the Truth, the authentic reality not only about our world but about ourselves. We have lingered too long already in the realm of idealism, refusing to accept the overwhelming Truth that should, that must, confront us in every turn. Are we ready, willing, to face reality squarely in the eye, never relying on our own self-generated perceptions, but acknowledging always what is true without and within? We need it, as Benedict points out. Brothers and sisters, I believe that this little book, and its occasion, have invited us to a deep introspection. We are now nearing the end of Lent, another Lent. What has it been for us? How are we coming to Easter transformed? Do we feel it, not only in our spirit but in our body, as Christ did? Pope Benedict said that those who believe in Christ’s name receive a new origin through that name. Here we are on the threshold of a new origin. I hope that this Lent has been a time of serious question for each of us. I hope that this Lent has given us the opportunity to put away some aspects of our lives that we needed to lose in order to bring into sharper focus those things which need to be accentuated more. I hope this Lent has made us better people, a people better able to serve one another, better able to open our hearts, better able to find the Christ in one another, and in ourselves. The election of the new Holy Father has also brought new life to the Church, as every election does. May we feel it in our community as well, and let us resolve to know Christ more fully tomorrow than we did today. May we hear it in the voice of Pope Francis and experience it in his ministry. The Year of Faith is drawing on. Perhaps recent events have given us ample reason to overlook the celebration we have been observing this year. The Year of Faith has offered us the opportunity to recall the very foundations of who we are as Christian men and women. The Year of Faith has invited us to look back at the Second Vatican Council in order to gain insight, not only of the Church in the Modern World, but of ourselves in the modern world. We are the Church in the modern world. Pope Benedict has given us food for the journey. In thanksgiving for his Petrine ministry and in anticipation of the future of our Church under the care of Pope Francis, let us call upon Our Lady, that most blessed of intercessors, as we say:
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone. Brothers and sisters in the Gospel today we encounter the compelling story of the woman taken in adultery. It is a powerful story, filled with images of sin, of guilt, of forgiveness and perhaps, most significantly of hypocrisy. Jesus’ challenge to the crowd gathered is one that has echoed down the corridors of spiritual time, right into our own times, undoubtedly into our own lives. Let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone. As is so often the case in the Scripture, we are asked an important, indeed a central implied question: Who are we in the story? We might be chastised into believing that we are the Pharisees, the accusers who stand in judgment like Susannah’s accusers in the Old testament. We might be relieved by believing that we are Christ, the instrument of forgiveness for those who find themselves at odds with Christian precepts. Indeed, most of us here are already or are preparing to be in the office of Christ through our instrumental forgiveness of sin. It would be tempting But the one with whom I think we are called to identify most closely, most consistently with is the woman herself. Here is a question. How has Lent been for you? I am sure for many of us it has been, well mostly, successful. Who here today has not run against a snag however? Who has not cheated a bit? Who has not counted a bit too much on the “rules of Lent” Who has not compromised themselves, playing the pharisaical game of sacrifice publically yet imperfectly? It would be great if perfection, certainly our goal when facing the startling challenges of Ash Wednesday, it would be great if perfection was our accomplishment. But if you are like me Lent has been filled with some compromise. So is life The woman taken in adultery undoubtedly did not plan to end up in the midst of this spectacle today. What was she like? Was she someone accustomed to finding herself on the wrong side of the Mosaic law? Was she someone who tried to do her best but failed? Was she someone who orchestrated the symphony of shame she finds herself in today? Was she someone who has stumbled into perdition and embarrassment? We do know this. In the Gospel she finds herself compromised. She has sinned. She has failed. She is on the other side of God’s plan. But she also reminds us of something else. Jesus did not come to congratulate the perfect. He came to write his message in the shifting sands of human folly. What is that message. Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more. What does our adultery look like? Undoubtedly pretty tame stuff, after all, there’s not much fire in the old purgatorial furnace here, although perhaps we need to realize that the real danger might just come with the slow simmer. What is it? Lingering too long at the lingerie website? Wondering what we can ogle at Google without tripping the old rector’s tox screen? Facebooking that special anonymous lady in the wee hours of the morning? Tipping the cheap beer bottle back for the how many times? Gossiping and griping behind the closed doors of our “safe place”? Whispering devastating little witticisms for my friend’s ears only about all the crap that is wrong around here? Tame stuff really, not adultery surely, but harmless? Hardly. Hardly. Jesus came to honor the Father’s vision that all might be given the opportunity to turn their lives around. He came to help us realize who we are truly called to be. He came to hear the desperate cry of humanity, the cry of the barrio, the cry of the poor, the cry of the neglected, the cry of the disingenuous, the cry of sinful humanity, the cry of the hypocrite, the cry of the penitent, the cry of hopelessness, the cry of desperation, a cry we hear every day in this place. Oh brothers and sisters if only this were a house of perfection, but it is not. It is a house filled with sin, but also, thanks be to God, filled with the forgiveness of the one who came not to save the righteous but sinners. God forgives, but can we? Don’t we love to stand and condemn? Don’t we believe we are better than others because of the little, the very little sacrifices we make? And so the pot simmers slowly. Listen again to the words of Saint Paul . Forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus. What is Lent? It is a time to say without compromise I stumble. I fall. I fail. And I get up and that makes me true. That makes me authentic. That makes me humble. That makes me loving That makes me what God wants – compassionate. Formation here and in our parishes is not about learning to be perfect. God will take care of that in heaven. It is about learning to be men and women who are compassionate – who suffer with. That is what Jesus did. He suffered when he did not have to in order to teach us. He suffers with us. Let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone. And yet he did not. Lent is drawing to a close. Soon we will discover ourselves standing on the precipice of another Holy Week. Soon the din of Hosannas will give way to the frightening cries of crucify him. Soon the consolation of the Last Supper will fall in the darkening shadow of Gethsemane. Soon the attentive apostles and all the others will fall by the wayside, overcome by fear, overwhelmed by a sacrifice that they could never make. Soon, in real time, we will stand with Christ at the place of the skull, Calvary and we will watch the drama unfold, the drama for which he came into human time, the story for which he was preparing since the foundation of the world. And our world is not so far removed from that place, that drama. Yesterday a bus crashed in Pennsylvania killing a high school lacrosse coach and her unborn child. Yesterday authorities ID’s 3 who died in a small plane crash in Florida Yesterday two heroes died saving a boy in a South Dakota river Yesterday, politicians fought, and celebrities were vapid, and some people just didn’t care about anything at all. Too many people didn’t care about anything at all. Yesterday folks lingered over the lingerie website, and facebooked their anonymous friends, and drank too much, and gossiped too much and complained too much. Yesterday, millions of hearts were broken And we find our righteousness not in perfection, but in broken hearts, hearts broken to love, hearts broken to receive the gift of God presented for us in broken bread and spilled wine, His Body and Blood, shed for the woman, shed for us, that sacrifice which takes away the sin of the world, and removes all our compromises. Blessed are we to be called to the supper of the Lamb.
Friday, March 15, 2013
Priesthood Promises Brothers and sisters, aware as we are of the historic events in the life of our Church, it comes as no, new revelation that tonight, we stand at a crossroads. The election of a new pope, from the new world, with a new name. The election of Pope Francis is a revolution in the life of the Church, a truly Catholic Church. None of us here tonight are unaware of the challenges that await our new Holy Father. None of us are unaware of the challenges that confront every faithful member of the Holy Church in this day. We need only make a casual perusal of the headlines, or perhaps more significantly the comments sections of the news stories. We know the animosity with which the Church is confronted not only in alien places but in our own country, our own dioceses. The actions of a few have robbed the Church of much needed credibility at a time of transition and change. It isn’t necessary for me to go on tonight about what the situation is. It isn’t something that we need to hear. There is something however tonight, in this momentous time in the life of the Church that is important for us to hear and that is the Word of the Gospel. What did Jesus say to us tonight? If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true. I do not accept human praise How true these words are, not only in the context in which our Lord spoke them, but also in the context of our world today, even in the context of the celebration we observe on this night, in this privileged place. Do any of us here tonight expect that our lives will be easier than the life of Christ? Do you expect that privilege will be offered to you because of the sacrifices you are making? Do you believe that there are easier days ahead than the hell you are currently enduring? Brothers and sisters do not kid yourselves, we are not living in an age of comfort or a time of privilege. We are living in a moment in history when the world must hear the word of God proclaimed boldly and fearlessly, or the world must perish. We are living in a time when we in the Church must be bold and fearless or we shall perish, or worse, we shall render ourselves useless. Tonight some brothers of ours are coming here to publically acknowledge what is true in their lives. They are here to acknowledge the One to whom they owe fidelity. They are here to profess what they believe. They are here to say that in a time of coercion, in a time when the vicissitudes of culture are yapping at their heels, that they are free. They are free to do what they are about to do. And it is momentous. Tonight we gather to experience something radical, the reality that there is still, in our Church and in our world, something beyond the commonplace, something that transcends the everyday. And this is not something new. This is something that has been spoken to us in countless ways In the childhood ways of playing mass and hearing in simple ways the voice of the Lord inviting us into his radical life. Be mine. It is something experienced in the throes of adolescence, finding in desperate moments the strength to resist peer pressure, the fortitude to overcome what was expected for what was ideal. I am yours Lord. It is something we found in the fervor of conversion, eyes filled with tears on bended knees before the Blessed Sacrament, found in the piercing question: Why me? It is something we discovered in the words of parents or grandparents. friends or strangers. Have you ever considered? It is this something that gives us the courage, the fortitude brothers and sisters to believe in our day that the God who called Moses, the God who overwhelmed Egypt, the God who uttered words of comfort through the prophets, the God who enthroned David, The God who comforted those in exile, the God of armies, the God of hosts, the God of stormclouds, the God who in the fullness of time insinuated himself into the womb of a poor girl, the child of conquered people, the God who became flesh, this God today is calling us. He is calling us deeply and profoundly. He is calling us, just as he did those ancestors of old to something heroic. Can we believe that God is calling these weak men and calling us to something heroic? What did Jesus say to us tonight? If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true. I do not accept human praise Where do we stand? Can there be a little corner of ourselves that still seeks God unconditionally? Brothers and sisters, the radical is within our grasp. Ask God for the grace to help you persevere in your vocation. Ask God and you will find in a world of doubt and confusion what is really important. You will find the love of all because you want to love. Love in the name of Jesus, love in the name of His holy Church. Love in the name of the misunderstood Christ. Love in the eyes of the old and the dying seized with mortal anguish at the threshold of the awesomeness of eternity, love in the sparkle of the new parent, love in the forceful embrace of little ones, in the handholding of the housebound, the trembling grasp of the grieving. Love without compromise and without cost. Love the unlovable, the stranger, the unbeliever, the prisoner, the street-person, the defiant one. Love with all your hearts and you will never be lonely, never lacking in friends. His love, as you give it away, will be sufficient for you. Love with the conviction that God alone will turn our sorrows and our sense of being outcast into gladness, into the fullness of joy, so ask Him. The troubled words of Jesus in the Gospel tonight make sense to us when our troubled lives meet his in the everlasting mystery of what we do here every day. But now my brothers, your time spent at Saint Meinrad is coming to an end. In a few weeks you will leave this Hill for the last time. You will no longer have the daily support of seminary life to keep you faithful to the promises you make. You will have to be sustained by humility, the humility to implore the God of crossroads and challenges to be true to His word. He will give you the strength to be true to yours. Brothers and sisters, aware as we are of the historic events in the life of our Church, it comes as no, new revelation that tonight, we stand at a crossroads. Let us go forward in confidence, let us press on in faith.
Sunday, March 3, 2013
It’s kind of boring around here. I mean, there is just not that much going on. For example … Why has it been snowing all weekend and the ground is still brown and bare? I think the winter doldrums are here. Everyone feels kind of gray and dull. It’s not warm, but it’s not thrillingly frozen either. The brown, lukewarm world sleeps and we are, well, a little bored with it all. As we lean into the middle of Lent, maybe that’s just us. The first fervor of fasting, prayer and almsgiving is losing steam. We find ourselves wondering how to “get out” of our Lenten observances. We look through the unwritten rule book for something to restore the ascetical magic of Ash Wednesday. We approach the readings today with a little bit of a jaded eye. It would be nice to have a burning bush to tell us what to do, or at least warm things up a little because … I have to say that I am rather intrigued by this flammable vegetation. God said, “Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your fathers, “ he continued, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God That is good stuff. That is cinemascopic. That would be something to warm up Lent a little, get the fires burning again. And perhaps that is what we look for. We want to have the mountaintop experience. We want to see and hear God. We want to believe that God only comes to us in the wild and improbable moments of life. And sometimes we get it. All of us have had that time, that afternoon, that moment of theophany. We seem to get God. We seem to understand. We seem to be able for once to penetrate that veil which surrounds the sacred mountain and know what we cannot say, understand what we cannot fathom. Sometimes we get it but … Often we get the valley, the daily, the usual, the brown and wintry. We get it so much that perhaps it is time for us to realize, grow up and realize that Our job is not in gearing ourselves for the peak Our job is to learn to read the valley After all, Moses saw and heard the burning bush one afternoon while tending the flocks of his father-in-law, and then he wandered forty years in the desert. What advice do we get from Jesus? What wisdom does the savior offer a people mired in the mud of lent, wishing for a little drama? What does Jesus say? Let it be Just look around See what is going on in your own backyard, theophanies that might rival the vision of the mountain See what is happening in the tucked recesses of your own life, brilliance that might transcend the tragedy of Siloam See what is transpiring in this school, in your homes, happenings that may out Pilate Pilate. Who knows? What is Jesus asking us to do in the middle of Lent? See, see and act Become Engage Speak words of comfort Find in ourselves … Kindness Gentleness Wonder Beauty Find in ourselves what we may have never experienced, love. If only we could have a community of broken hearts If only we could be a people of faith who seek Christ in every one we meet If only our hearts could burn with the brightness of a summer’s day in the bleak midwinter I have commented many times on how the seminary is a kind of seed bed, as the word implies. This is what Christ wants ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future.” We live in a place of cultivation, a hot house not confined to the vicissitudes of weather or mood. What does that look like? It looks like becoming men who want to grow, who strive to go beyond … Beyond the boundaries of a cyber-intoxicated self reference, it means looking away from the technological interface that sterilizes human engagement and looking instead into the lost, the forsaken eyes of your neighbor, one who craves the messy insanity of human contact. It looks like becoming men who strive to go beyond … Beyond the dead end of finding comfort for loneliness in the arms of a lifestyle that robs us of our dignity even as it robs its victims of their dignity. It looks like becoming men who strive to go beyond … Beyond the suspicion and doubt that casts formator against seminarian or seminarian against seminarian, looking beyond into the brightness of a new possibility of respect It looks like becoming men who strive to go beyond … Beyond the meanness of telling lies to get my way, of coping with pressure through pouting or self-medicating, of being the killjoy of all honest laughter and fun. Can we become men beyond? Can we stand? Can we speak? Can we be? Can we realize in this community that the only meaning that we can have in this life is to be chosen by Christ, cultivated by Christ, anchored in Christ, supported by Christ, inspired by Christ, mired in Christ, brought to fulfillment in Christ If you are looking for a challenge this Lent, there it is. Here it is. Grow where you are planted. We demonstrate our true character, not in the heights but in the depths, not on the mountaintop but in the valley, on the road, in the possibility of allowing ourselves to be cultivated by God and brought fruitful into his kingdom. Today we gather to do what we do, eat and drink, being nourished from this altar to be what we are called to be, the living presence of Christ in a world burning for love, a people burning bright even in the dullness of a boring winter’s day.