Monday, September 17, 2012

You're so vain

The classic Carly Simon song comes to mind as I think about the prayer from mass taken from today's gospel.
Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word...

Taken out of context we can we so vain that we think the prayer is about us and our unworthiness. If, however, we look at it in its context we see that the prayer isn't about us but the power of Jesus and the power of his word.

The centurion who comes to Jesus explains:
For I too am a person subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes;
and to another, 'Come here,' and he comes;
and to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it."

He understands the power of words, his own words, but more importantly the words of Jesus. He doesn't need Jesus to jump around or even touch the sick man. So certain is he of the power of the words of Jesus.

When we consecrate the Eucharist we repeat the words of Jesus and before we receive the body and blood of Christ we repeat the words of this centurion in imitation of his faith. As Jesus says of him

"I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith."

As the centurion trusted that the words of Jesus could heal so we trust in the words of Jesus to transform mere bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.

Remember the first word of the prayer is not "I" it's "Lord". Jesus calls; we respond. Jesus gives; we receive. As a priest I may say the words, but it is God who consecrates.

Listening to some of our modern hymns, to borrow from Carly

We're so vain we prob'ly think that church is about us.

The centurion today reminds us that it's always really about Jesus. When the choir is bad and the homily is boring, and the foreign priest is hard to understand, it is still the greatest Gift in the world. Christ does come under our roof. We receive God and we are healed. Every single time.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Today's gospel opens with:

Jesus departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer

Today we all remember well where we were. We remember the men and women who died. We remember the loved ones whose loves were forever changed.

Perhaps for just this day we can be quiet and pray.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Who are we ?

St. Paul ends today's first reading with a simple instruction:

Therefore, let us celebrate the feast,
not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Malice and wickedness or sincerity and truth. At first glance it doesn't look like your standard pairs of opposites, but with a closer look we see that's exactly what it is.

The word he uses for malice refers to the interior disposition that is the source of the wickedness, the external act.

The internal disposition we should have is translated here as sincerity, but the word means more. It means clarity in the sense of those streak-free windows in the TV commercials that the sun shines through.

While we don't usually think of truth as the opposite of wickedness. The choice of words makes sense if we understand that by virtue of baptism, "You have become a new creation", and our true self is good. The truth of who we are as adopted children of God manifests itself in good actions. Wickedness is the opposite of our true self.

Paul reminds of a couple of very basic truths.
There is no such thing as accidental sin. Every sin, begins with a malicious thought in the heart, a decision to do wrong.
Second and more importantly if we keep our heart and mind clear what the world will see is the truth, the light of Christ shinning through us.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Divine Providence

On December 8th we celebrated the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our belief that God preserved her free from the stain of original sin, a preparation to be the fitting Mother of God.

Today, nine months later, we celebrate her birth. Unlike Jesus there is no scriptural record. We do not know precisely when nor where, but that doesn't take away the importance of celebrating her birthday.

More than just a celebration of an ancient event, this day also reminds of of two truths that apply to each of us. First, that every human life is sacred, to be cherished and protected. Secondly, we, like Mary, were all created for a purpose. Only God can ultimately know that purpose. We we willfully terminate any human life, either before birth or after, we deny these truths.

How can we dare to judge what contribution a person might make to the world? Even the person lying in a nursing home, or locked in a federal prison for life may touch some life, and be a link in a chain of events that we could never foresee.

Today as we celebrate the brith of Mary, let us celebrate every human life.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Never forgetting the roots

Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Teresa of Calcutta. Most of us remember her as Mother Teresa, but it is important to remember where she started.

She was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, of Albanian parents in what is now the Capital of Macedonia. When she was born it was one spot in the Ottoman Empire. Her father died when she was 8 years old leaving her the youngest child of a widow.

Who could have looked at her then and guessed that she would become the world renowned religious leader that she became? Her willingness to allow herself to be used by God, to listen to the prompting of the Spirit and follow it was the key to her success. She stands as proof that with God all things are possible.

As we now know from her letters, she experience long periods of emptiness, and even doubting the existence of God but despite her feelings she kept moving forward. In a time when we are somewhat obsessed with how we feel about things, and some would set up feelings as the arbiter of truth, she reminds us that feelings are fleeting and often wrong. Even when she didn't feel the presence of God she continued to strive to do what was right, she strove to do God's will.

She was the model of the virtue of fortitude, the ability to confront fear and uncertainty. Through her intercession may this virtue be strengthened in each of us.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Authority and Power

The gospel today tells us that Jesus speaks with authority and power. The Greek words here are exousia and dynamis. The second you may recognize. It is the base for English words like dynamic. It means power, the ability to do something.

The first word exousia also means power but is translated authority because it refers to the power to choose or decide. Jesus had the power to choose and the power to make that choice real.

Now look at the first reading today that tells us that the Spirit we have been given is "the mind of Christ." In baptism we are set free from slavery to sin. We too are given the power. The first reading reminds us that we are given the power to see not only the natural realities but spiritual. We know right from wrong.

Like Christ we too are free. We have the power to choose. We have authority, at least over ourselves. And we have the ability to act, to make those choices real.

This authority, this freedom is a wonderful thing, but it also makes us responsible. Generics, upbringing, culture, all these may influence us but they do not rob us of our fundamental freedom or take away our responsibility.

We too have authority and power pay attention to how we use it today.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Appropriate for Labor Day

There are no special readings for Labor Day , the readings for today are the ones that merely by coincidence land on this day. The gospel, however, does remind us of where, if we choose to follow the example of Jesus, we should focus our attention.

Today we get that great moment when Jesus returns to Nazareth, enters the synagogue on the sabbath, unrolls the scroll of Isaiah the prophet and reads:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

For such a great moment why this passage?

Jesus singles out four groups of people. Lets look more closely at who they are:
πτωχός - poor, literally a begger, the guy sitting on the street corner.
αἰχμάλωτος -captive, literally prisoners of war
τυφλός- blind, those with cloudy vision
Τεθρυοσμενους- oppressed, literally those that are bruised.

While today is not the astronomical end of summer, Labor day culturally marks for us the end of summer and vacations and the beginning of school and the return to the routine. As we get busy with our jobs and our lives how often will we even think about the four groups mentioned above. Jesus makes it clear that these are the people at the forefront of his concern. Can the same be said of us?

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.

The closing line from today's reading reminds us how far our modern culture is from being Christian. How much of what we heard this eek and will hear next week was and will be boasting, either about an individual, a party or the country? Some confuse patriotism with boasting.

Patriotism is love of one's country. A parent loves a child, but how do we feel about the parent who constantly stands around talking about how their child is better than every other child. Do we consider that simply the normal expression of love? Most of us find that parent and often their child insufferable. Even if the child is gifted is one area or the other it is still considered tacky for the parent to be constantly crowing about their child. How do we feel about the parent who refuses to ever admit that their child was wrong?

As I write this I sit on my porch looking at St. John's Church, where Patrick Henry uttered the words, "Give me liberty or give me death." Those are the parents who gave birth to this country, and saw her through the difficult infancy. They lived in a time when humility was a virtue and pride was a cardinal sin. I pastor St. Patrick's dedicated in 1860 on the eve of a civil war that almost saw the country ripped apart. How many gave their life to hold that union together?

The humble truth is that we who live today simply inherited most of what we call America. Most of us were simply blessed to be born here. We didn't earn it. We didn't make it happen. It was pure gift, and we are called to be good stewards of the gift.

I have accomplish a few things in life, but I know that it was possible only because I was blessed to be born here, and for that reason, I can honestly say I love my country. I also know that every talent or skill I have is gift from God, and I have nothing to boast about. That is why Paul tells us

Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.

Imagine how different all the chatter would be every everyone who calls themselves a Christian lived this command.