Saturday, August 16, 2014

Jesus and the Canaanite woman - Sunday homily

This passage about Jesus and the Canaanite woman produces some of the funniest biblical commentaries.  Commentators range from the mildly crazy to the ludicrous.  For example: One says the woman caught Jesus off guard. Another says Jesus insulted her. One says it “depicts the woman as an aggressive single parent who defies cultural taboos and acts to free Jesus from his sexism and racism by catching him in a bad mood with his compassion down, besting him in an argument, and thereby becoming a vehicle of his liberation…” In my high view of Christ, I disagree with all those.  I say he knows her faith, and he knows the thoughts of his disciples.  So He says their thoughts to show it to them. 
We see a major shift of great significance happening in the Gospel today and it is supported by both of the other readings and the psalm.

As today’s Gospel begins, it seems that salvation is only for the Jews, or as Jesus calls them: “The lost sheep of the house of Israel.” So that’s the historical mindset at the time. Only a few will be saved. Then after the Canaanite woman persistently asks that Jesus heal her daughter, we see that salvation is for all peoples.

Isn’t this good news? Only the Jews were going to be saved, but now the nations can be saved. That includes us. That should bring us great joy. We get a glimpse of this every time we participate at Mass. As the priest says the words of Jesus consecrating the wine that becomes His Precious Blood, he says: “[It] will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Not just a few, but many. Salvation is offered to many nations, not just one. Salvation is offered to the multitudes. That’s awesome!

Our first reading and psalm both predict this shift that the nations will have the opportunity for salvation, not just the Jews. Several hundred years before Jesus, Isaiah foretold that foreigners would come to the Lord’s holy mountain. Isaiah called God’s temple a house of prayer for all peoples. This is a new idea for that time. And St. Paul supports it in our second reading when he points out that the Gentiles are offered salvation.

What does this mean for us? The Gospel is our invitation to accept the Lord Jesus and have faith in Him. We are also called to imitate the faith and perseverance of the Canaanite woman.

We see at first, Jesus is hesitant to heed her request and heal her daughter. Why? Is He testing her? Maybe.  But he is definitely allowing her to be a witness for his followers. He is even allowing her to be a witness for his closest disciples. We know these guys. Sometimes their faith was weak. With great perseverance the Canaanite woman is a witness to faith in Jesus.

We could acknowledge that having a chronically ill or possessed child would have been a terrible trial for the Canaanite woman, and it could even have wrecked her spirit thus sending her into the despair of defeat. Then it looks like Jesus may be adding insult to injury. But he knows her heart. He knows she has faith. And that faith is a game changer. She does not despair in her difficulty, but she perseveres.

St. John Paul II says faith is the adherence of the intellect to the Truth revealed, a submission of the will, and our gift of self to God. This Canaanite woman had all three of these aspects of faith. She had adherence to the intellectual idea of Jesus as Messiah. She called him Lord and Son of David. She had submission of the will and offered her gift of self to God. In great humility, she risked ridicule and discomfort approaching Jesus asking him to heal her daughter. In humility, she acknowledges her own insignificance and it pleases the Lord. When Jesus used the analogy of feeding dogs, she didn’t pipe in and say: Hey, wait, how dare you insult me?” In her great humility, she said even the dogs get the scraps.

In her humility, she was able to show great faith. And her faith seemed far more advanced than even some of Jesus’ closest disciples. They would learn that salvation is offered to all who believe in the Lord and keep His commandments. Our national origin and social condition don’t matter.

God has offered both Jews and Gentiles a common path to salvation through the cross of Jesus Christ. All have sinned. All need salvation.

All have been offered salvation in Christ.

We see a really awesome parallel happening: In the mystery of the Incarnation, God takes on human flesh. He uses the human to bring us to divinity. He is using this opportunity with the Canaanite woman to bring the disciples to a greater righteousness.

Jesus already sent the 12 to the lost sheep of Israel. Now, He is getting them ready for a wider ministry. They have great work to do. They have to learn to be a conduit not obstacles for people to meet the Lord.

Eventually, at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus finally sent his disciples to make disciples of all nations. He gives the Church its universal mission, its catholic mission. The Lord gives all of us that same opportunity to be witnesses to him with our faith.

The faith and perseverance of the Canaanite woman moved Jesus. Our faith and perseverance move Jesus as well. Jesus’ silence makes her belief that much firmer. Can we persevere in prayer through the silent times?

This Eucharist gives us the grace and strength to witness to our faith in Jesus every day. Let us be insistent in that faith and persevere in prayer. Let us respond by acting on that faith in our daily lives.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Undercover Boss

The following is my homily from Sunday, May 4, 2014 – The Third Sunday of Easter:

This Gospel passage might have been the inspiration for the TV series “Undercover Boss”.  I’ve only seen, at most, maybe one and a half episodes of the show.  But from what I’ve seen, the boss usually undergoes some kind of conversion.  The boss realizes that procedures and policies are inadequate and need to be better communicated to the employees.  So the boss sets up new processes to fix the issues. 

But in this Gospel story, we see a conversion in the two disciples.  They are still stuck in the old mindset.  St. Luke tells us they were looking downcast.  Why?  They have heard reports of a vision of Angels announcing the Lord’s Resurrection and an empty tomb!  And they are still looking downcast?  Then one of them says: “We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel.”  Aha, there’s the issue.  They missed the Lord’s invitation to conversion.  Jesus did redeem Israel, but it wasn’t a redemption that fit their mindset or agenda.  They wanted Israel to become politically free from the oppression of the Romans.  They are looking for a worldly redemption.  Jesus offers them a different redemption, one that frees them from the oppression of sin and death.  And not only did the Lord redeem Israel, He redeems the whole world, all of humanity, you and me.  That’s the Good News.

And this Good News comes with an invitation to conversion, just like it did for those two disciples.  The Lord calls us to a conversion of heart according to his agenda, not some worldly agenda we might have.

In this Gospel, we see the most awesome catalyst for this conversion of heart that all of us need.  It has two parts: Liturgy of the Word, and Liturgy of the Eucharist.  St. Luke tells us Jesus interpreted the Scriptures for them.  That’s the Liturgy of the Word.  St. Luke said He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.  That’s the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  That’s what we are doing right here today.  The Lord Himself gives us the means to transmit the Good News to the entire world and down through the ages: the Holy Mass.

Notice in the Gospel, after their conversion, understanding and embracing the Lord’s agenda, and letting go of their own, what do they do?  They go and share the good news with others.  They are normal Christians and they are called to spread the Gospel.  You and I are charged with the same task: spread the Gospel.

We have a great opportunity to invite people to this most awesome catalyst for conversion of heart.  Many Catholics blow off Sunday Mass.  They are missing out in this intimate encounter with the Living God.  They are missing out on the profound joy and fulfillment that comes from the conversion of heart to which the Lord invites us.  So we have the opportunity to invite them.  We all know people in this situation.  Perhaps we can make a resolution to invite at least one person to come and encounter the living God on an upcoming Sunday.

The living God is not only here for us to encounter during Mass.  He stays… right here in this tabernacle.  We can come in and make a visit, and adore the Lord who is present in the tabernacle, Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity.

Some people don’t come to Mass and don’t spend time adoring the Lord because they say they don’t feel anything happening.  Notice the disciples in today’s Gospel.  They didn’t notice until later that their hearts were burning within them.

It reminds me of a Catholic speaker who uses an analogy.  When he started surfing, he spent four hours surfing in overcast weather without sunscreen.  He figured since he couldn’t see the sun or feel anything, he would not get sunburned, but he did.  His roommate, an experienced surfer, told him it doesn’t matter what you see or feel.  Something is still happening.  A few weeks later, the same novice surfer went surfing on a cold sunny day without sunscreen thinking once again that he would not get burnt in the cold temperatures because he didn’t feel anything.  After a second bad sunburn, his roommate asked him: “How many times to I have to tell you it doesn’t matter what you feel?”

The disciples noticed later that their hearts were burning within them.  Perhaps we will notice something later today, maybe next week, maybe next year.

Let’s continue our intimate encounter with the Living God.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

New Contracts

In the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, teachers of all the archdiocesan schools were introduced to their new contract last week.  I see the new contract as an enormously positive thing; however, some people seem negative about it.  I think this negativity comes from fear and ignorance.  The first thing to point out is that the standard has not changed.  By signing the contract, teachers are agreeing to the exact same standard to which they have agreed for years.  But now, they are able to do it with more clarity.  Before, in the old contract, the language about Church doctrine and scandal was vague.  Now common areas of scandal are spelled out clearly.  One would think that more clarity and more information would be a positive thing, making one freer to make a decision as an adult.
Secondly, it seems to me that few people take the time to find out why the Church teaches what she does.  When we go to such effort, we find out that the Church's teachings are the most loving set of doctrines in the world.  We find that her teachings are reasonable, based on both reason and revelation from Christ.
I am confident that those who sign these new and improved contracts in good faith and embrace the Church's teachings will be holier and more fulfilled.  Mission accomplished!  Some human beings would be on the way to salvation.  And the ripple effect would cause those around them to be more likely on the path of salvation also.  However, it seems that we are wired as human beings to think that living according to Church teaching will make life boring or sad.  The happiest people I know are those who strive to live the Faith.  The saddest and most miserable people I know are those who reject Church teaching and try to find fulfillment in worldly things.
One concern I have heard is that our Catholic schools may lose some of the better teachers because of the new contract.  I think the answer to this supposed problem is in the contract itself where the teachers are now referred to as "teacher-minister".  This makes it clear that teaching at a Catholic school is not just a job but a ministry, not just a job but a mission.  I would hope that parents would not lament the loss of supposed "better teachers" who may not be witnessing the way to Heaven.  Inversely, I would hope that parents would celebrate the teachers who embrace the Church's teachings and show their children the way to Heaven.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The UN is not a friend

It has been awhile since I have read up on the amount of our money the United States government alocates to propping up the UN.  I don't even want to look because it will probably make me sick to see how my tax dollars and those of so many hard working Americans are being spent to prop up such a corrupt, anti-American, anti-Christian, pro-abortion organization.

This past week's "report" from the UN child protection committee is clearly not a true report but a piece of anti-life, anti-Catholic propaganda.  In their corruption, they clearly want to control the Church.  In reality, just like the hijacking of airliners, the sexual abuse of minors at the hands of clergy is largely a thing of the past.  There are effective safeguards in place to prevent terrorists from taking over airliners.  Plus, the other people on the airliner will not tolerate it.  Since 9/11/01 several terrorist attempts have been stopped by the people.

Sure, more stories of abuse will come out in the future, but we notice that these cases are almost exclusively from decades past.  In the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, effective processes were put in place way back in 1993, nine years prior to the issues that came to light in 2002.  Notice how the vast majority of cases are decades old not new.  At every level: local, national and global, effective child protection measures are in place and working extremely well.  Plus, the people will not tolerate it.

The thing that blows me away is the lack of intellectual honesty in the "report".  This UN committee says the Vatican has to do more to protect the little ones from harm but then also says the Vatican has to do more to allow the killing of the little ones in the womb. 

I pray that some day the rest of the world will notice that the Church's teachings on contraception and homosexuality are the most loving and reasonable in the entire world.  Contraception has only, and will only weaken families by opening the doors for further infidelity and spousal abuse.  Since the family is the basic building block of society, we have a weak society when we have weak families.  One would think that the UN would try to do what works for making a strong society: strong families.

It is not politically correct to point out the fact that practice of the Church's teaching would eradicate AIDS in Africa and everywhere else in the world in just one generation.  Don't have sex before marriage.  A simple blood test shows if a prospective spouse has AIDS.  Maybe think twice about marrying that person.  If only the UN would put our resources behind that agenda!

The Church has been a constant voice of the demand of Christ to love all people no matter his or her sins, background, religion, race, etc.  There is no other option besides love and respect for all.  This UN "report" charges the Church with the opposite without showing any evidence.

Where do they get the gall to demand the Church change unchangable teachings based in natural law reasoning?  So much more could be written on the hypocracy of the UN and their lack of reason.
Here are some excellent links to more information:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Catalytic Converter

I have chosen a new name for my blog.  The old one, "The Faceless Man", was the name of my first blog post as I wrote about the liturgical "East" of ad orientem.  Christ is the focus of the liturgy, not the priest, who is merely a faceless man standing in persona Christi leading the faithful in a procession to the Father.

I have chosen "Catalytic Converter" for several reasons.  First, I am a bit if a gear head.  As I child I enjoyed working on my own bikes.  Then in high school, I enjoyed working on two different 80cc dirt bikes, my 1963 Fairlane, and my 1981 Mustang, which actually had catalytic converter issues and was too slow to get out of its own way and really didn't deserve the name Mustang.  I continued tinkering on my 1990 Ford Probe, 1988 Ranger, and 1992 Toyota pickup.  However I notice that the older I get and the newer my cars get, the less I am able to work on them.  I was able to do very little on the 2008 FJ Cruiser and now even less on the Diesel engine of my 2013 Volkswagen.

The second reason for the new name is that another gear head may accidentally stumble upon my blog and hear the Good News of the Gospel.  Or a thief who steals catalytic converters for the scrap money may stumble upon it and have a conversion experience.

The most important reason for the new name is in reference to the Holy Spirit.  At an archdiocesan priests' convocation last year, the Most Reverend  Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R, Archbishop of Indianapolis, gave a keynote address to the priests of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.  In the address, Archbishop Tobin referred to the Holy Spirit as the "Catalytic Converter".  That imagery blew me away.  Isn't the Holy Spirit the most awesome Catalyst for everything good we do?  And isn't the Holy Spirit the true Converter, even though we are sometimes tempted to take credit?

In the Gospels, Jesus tells us of the crucial importance of conversion that we may live.  Since then, Holy Mother Church has been passing on to each generation the importance of our need for daily conversion.  My prayer is that all of us will open our hearts to ultimate Catalyst and Converter, the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Presentation of the Lord

It has been 40 days since Christmas.  Some churches remain decorated for Christmas until today.  Since then we have celebrated a whole series of epiphanies, or events of God showing Himself to the world: Christmas, the Epiphany when the magi bring their gifts, the Lord’s Baptism in the Jordan, the Wedding Feast at Cana are all epiphanies of the Lord showing Himself.  Today we celebrate another one.  When Jesus is presented in the temple, God is showing himself to the world.

All the candles for the year are blessed on today which is also known as Candlemas.  It is appropriate to focus on the candles because they bring light into the church.  We recall that day when the Light of the world, Jesus was brought into the temple.  Sin and evil hide in the dark shadows.  But Christ comes as the brilliant shining light.

And what a rich story we hear today: Old Simeon recognized the Christ of the Lord.Do we recognize Christ?

The Canticle of Simeon is prayed daily at Compline or Night Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours.  He says: “My eyes have seen your salvation,” not just Christ, but salvation, the act of being saved.  Saved from what?  Is there something that will ruin us?  Yes, sin entered the world.  Sin messed things up.

Today’s feast only makes sense to us if we acknowledge sin as a reality in our world.  A couple days ago, Pope Francis quoted Pope Pius XII: “The greatest sin today is that people have lost a sense of sin.”  And because of that we lose the meaning of the Kingdom of God.  If sin is not real or not important, then anything goes.  So why has God made His presence with us?  Because it is real, it is important, and He loves us too much to be separated from us.

We baptized Christians are called to build up the Kingdom of God.  The pope said that the loss of a sense of sin is always a sign that the Kingdom of God is diminishing.  We pray for the coming of the Kingdom daily in the Lord’s prayer: “Thy Kingdom come.”  We’ll pray it here together in a few minutes.  We are praying that we will allow the Kingdom of God to grow in our midst.  We need salvation.  Pope Francis points out that it can’t come from our cunning, our cleverness, or our intelligence in doing business.  It comes from God’s grace and how we train for it every day in the Christian life.  He reminds us that Christian mediocrity will never cut it.

The good news is we have a Redeemer to imitate.  We need a redeemer.  We have been redeemed.

And there is more good news.  Simeon reminds us that Jesus is for the people of Israel and the Gentiles, all nations.

It’s interesting that the Presentation we celebrate today is one of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.  It is a joyous occasion.  It is an epiphany when God shows himself to us.  But notice this Gospel is also used when we celebrate Mary as our Sorrowful Mother.  Simeon predicts “you yourself a sword will pierce.”  She would witness her Son’s act of redemption as he is tortured and dies on the Cross.

Anna is a great witness to all of us of the importance of redemption, the importance of God in our lives.  She worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.

As if that’s not already enough good news, we hear a little bit about how God does it in our second reading from the letter to the Hebrews:  Jesus shared in our humanity fully – flesh and blood.  He redeems everything he assumes.  He assumes our flesh and blood – He redeems our flesh and blood.

The temple was God’s dwelling place.  We acknowledge Mary as God’s dwelling place as she carried him in her womb and presented him to the world.  What about us?  We are also God’s dwelling place.  We receive him in a very real way in the Eucharist and the other sacraments.  Now, our task is to present him to the world.  Mary brought the Light to those in darkness.  We must also bring Christ the Light to those in darkness until no one remains in the darkness.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Pro-life homily

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Behold love.  Behold the one who offers himself as a gift so that we may have life and have it abundantly.  That is the definition of love.  And great saints have been imitating the love of Christ for 2,000 years.  They realized that love is sacrificing one’s own comfort for the good of another, and they imitated that love.  That sacrificial love of the Lamb of God is the Good News.

You and I are also called to imitate that sacrificial love.  Parents daily make sacrifices so their children may have life and have it abundantly.  There is nothing more beautiful.

But there’s bad news today.  Love’s opposite runs rampant in our land.  Some who get the news they are parents ask the child to sacrifice her life for the comfort of the parent.  On this Respect Life Sunday, we acknowledge that this is the opposite of love.  And it has been legal in our country for 41 years.  And it happens over 3,000 times a day.  Meanwhile married couples waiting to give sacrificial love through adoption continue waiting.

Today the words of Isaiah from our first reading have special meaning.  “Now the Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb.”  The Lord formed all of us to be His servants from the womb.  All of us have a unique task to serve the Lord and each other, no matter if we are wanted or unwanted in the womb.

No reason will ever justify taking the life of the child in the womb.  Some may say:  The mother is poor.  She can’t afford a child.  We don’t fight poverty by killing born people who are poor.  So we can’t fight poverty by killing unborn people who are poor.  It can’t happen anymore and we are the ones who have to stop it.

It is up to us to actively change the culture of death into a culture of life.  We can’t be shy about speaking up about the beauty of sacrificial love.  We have to get engaged in the battle for God’s most precious gift of life.  If we don’t know what to say, we have to find out what to say.  We can ask someone engaged in pro-life work how to get trained.

We have to let our politicians know we are pro-life, and killing the unborn is not acceptable.  It is our duty to let them know with our voice and with our vote. 

Now is the time to pray and act.  Please pray for our youth groups who are traveling to Washington for the March for Life on Wednesday.  I’m taking 21 students from Fenwick with 4 other chaperones.  These students will brave the severe cold to give a voice to those whose voice cannot yet be heard.  These students will make a sacrifice so that others may have life.  Their love encourages me.  More importantly, pray for the healing of those who suffer the wounds of past abortions.  Many of them were told lies.  Many of them were convinced they had no choice.  The burden of regret is becoming more well-known for both men and women.  Nobody needs to carry that burden.  The Lord will bring them to healing through his Church.