Saturday, November 11, 2017

Homily for Week 23A, November 12, 2017

I’d like to know something.  How many wise or foolish virgins do we have here today?  Just as I expected , well, you will be happy to know this Gospel is not about wise or foolish virgins.  Have any of you been caught sleeping on the job?  You don’t have to answer that; and you will be pleased to know that this Gospel isn’t about sleeping on the job either.  So, what is this Gospel about?  It is about hope.
A friend of mine said, this doesn’t seem like a Gospel about hope.  Maybe not directly, but indirectly I think it is.  You see, all the virgins, wise and foolish, fall asleep.  Some, the wise ones, had a bit more hope than the foolish — at least they brought some extra oil with them.  None of them seem very excited about the coming of the bridegroom.  Welcoming bridegrooms isn’t their day job and we can imagine them being worn out by whatever labor they may have been involved in.  Another way to look at it is that they probably all wanted to get married, no one has asked them, and here they are being asked, again, to celebrate someone else’s good fortune.
The Bridegroom in this Gospel is Jesus.  Maybe we aren’t all that excited about His coming into our lives, or we have lost hope that He will come into our lives.  We go through the motions, saying our prayers, coming to mass on Sundays, round and round we go and nothing seems to change all that much.  It was the same for the people in the Gospel story.  The entire town got involved in weddings in those days, they ushered many a groom from his house to the house of the bride, celebrated many, many times and not much was changing in their life either.
The question is; “who or what is most important in my life — what gives me hope?”  What, or who glues my life together, gives it shape, form and direction?  We may feel, because we are in church, that we have to say Jesus.  Maybe yes, maybe no, or maybe  just a little bit.  All honest answers.  This is a start. Establishing and deepening a living, daily, relationship with Jesus is very important.
A week ago, this past Friday, I shared with the morning mass people my anxiety about going to get my California drivers license.  I had put it off for over a year.  God I hate going through that process.  I’ve never not passed one of those tests; heck I have never had a ticket or an accident, and yet I felt hopeless to get another one.  It is all very silly but there you go; big things I don’t worry about, drivers licenses I do.  What can I say.
I had to pray over the situation but not the way I use to “Oh please Jesus let me have the license, please, please, please.  No, calm meditation was what was needed and it got me to a point where it just didn’t matter whether or not I got the license — it just doesn't matter; and that’s the truth.  I became clear headed with not a worry in the world.  When the woman at the DMV desk remarked “you must be really worried about the test.”  I said nope, not at all.  I was full of hope and confidence because it just didn’t matter.

Prayer, meditation, contemplation can bring me to a place where I know I am loved and cared for:  To a point where I realize I am not dependent on having or not having a license, a particular job, the  right car or the house; we discover that we are fundamentally okay — that we are loved  into hope so we can take on whatever comes our way.  Mind you, these moments don’t last forever which is why we continue to gather here in prayer each week, and on a daily basis — constantly renewing our hope-filled friendship with Jesus who is constantly coming into our lives; so trim your lamps — pray — and welcome the bridegroom.  It will change your life.

Friday, November 10, 2017


Let America be America again

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
The free?
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Homily for 24th Week in Ordinary Time

How many times do I have to forgive my brother or sister?  Seven times?  No, Jesus answers, seventy times seven times.  Now if you are counting on your fingers trying to figure out how many times you need to forgive someone - you’ve missed the whole point of the Gospel.
Jesus is asking for universal forgiveness, a kind of universal spiritual healthcare.  Jesus is calling forth in us an attitude of forgiveness in all times and places.  I can hear the voices being raised:  nice ideal, impossible, can’t be done, there are just too many jerks wandering around… the list goes on and on.  We can only contain so much; anger, resentment, negativity,, ticked-off-ness before we reach a breaking point.  Not only our spiritual wellbeing, but our physical and mental wellbeing are at stake here.
Forgiveness takes many forms.  The word, forgive, says it all; you give, before all else, expecting nothing in return.  A forgiving word may, or may not, change another person but it will have already changed you.  So, when you get up in the morning have no expectation that anything, or anyone will do things the way you want them done.  I guarantee you two things, you won’t be disappointed and you might be in store for a few surprises along the way.  At least you won’t be fretting about anything and everything and everyone all day long.
Now, all of this doesn’t mean you can’t have opinions; you can have very strong opinions you just don’t have to let them tear you apart if they are not realized immediately.  Some years ago a new family moved in across the street from my mom and dad.  We lived in a very friendly beach community - everyone talked and chatted with everyone but not this guy.  My dad would see him every morning and give him a big smile and a loud “good morning” and then — nothing, not a word or even a nod.  My dad had a very strong opinion about him - I think the word he used was curmudgeon.  My dad was not a person to give up on anything easily and it took him the better part of a year to get a hello out of him and over time they became pretty good neighbors and friends.  Finally, the neighbor became free but the important part is that my dad was free all along.
The ability to forgive is really the the realization and celebration of our freedom, that we have been completely and unconditionally set free by God’s forgiveness of us.  Our salvation is a done deal, there is nothing for us to do, we can’t earn it, or work for it; we are only invited to participate in this freely given gift of forgiveness by paying it forward, doing unto others what God has done and is doing in us.  Every wrong we have ever done, are doing or will do has already been nailed to the cross and forgiven - it’s a done deal and what God’s asks of us is to begin participating in the very freedom of our salvation - to have and to live “life to the full.” 

This is the mistake of the servant in the Gospel.  He wanted to be free of the debt, and the master freed him, but the servant kept it for his own personal possession.  The servant would not be truly free of the debt until he too gave it away - through loving forgiveness of his fellow servants.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Letting off steam

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Homily for Week 20 Ordinary Time: "The Hate Stops Here"

I am full, completely full, of partial forgiveness, of others and of myself. “I will forgive only in so far as….” You fill in the blank: only if the other person doesn’t do it again, or is really REALLY sorry - whatever. In today’s Gospel Jesus is bluntly saying “THE HATE STOPS HERE.” We often forget that Jesus was not a Catholic (we only began to be called Catholic some three hundred years after death and resurrection Jesus.). Jesus wasn’t even Christian (we weren’t called Christian until around 44ad, some 14years after His death and resurrection. We forget that Jesus was a Jew, a very good Jew who knew the Law and the Prophets and he practiced His faith. Early believers were simply Jews who believed Jesus was the promised Messiah; they continued to worship in the temple and obey the Mosaic Law, though they added going to their homes “in the evening” and “break bread” in memory of Him as He told them and us to do. The relationship between Jews and foreigners, as in today’s Gospel story — of a Canaanite woman — was complicated at best and riddled with hostility. Jesus is bluntly saying THE HATE STOPS HERE. The entire ministry of Jesus is about forgiveness, healing and reconciliation and is the mission of all those who follow Him including ourselves. If it weren’t for our Jewish ancestors in Faith we wouldn’t be sitting here and praying in this church today. The victory we celebrate in Jesus is a work in progress. Jesus lived up to and beyond the cross because He was full of forgiveness — no partial forgiver was He. We too must live up to and beyond our crosses by being people, a community of Faith, full of forgiveness. Forgiveness is difficult. This is why I said I am full of partial forgiveness but partial forgiveness only sets us free partially. I can only think of two times when I have fully forgiven; once when my dad fully forgave me for shooting my mother’s brand new VW with a 30 odd six and I fully accepted his forgiveness; and second when I became a recovering alcoholic — I totally stopped my self accusations, guilt, remorse and accepted the unconditional love AA afforded me -- and I became truly free. I’m getting better at it, I’m a work in progress. We continue to live through a difficult week and it seems we will be living through a particular difficult time in our history. What are we to do? Forgive, heal and reconcile wherever we can, in every moment we can and we must do so nonviolently. The trick is to witness and witness powerfully against racism, hatred, violence in whatever form it takes and by any and whatever group espouses it in any way. The trick is to do so without succumbing to violence and hatred ourselves; this will enslave us, not free us, and will only perpetuate the violence. When we hold hatred in our hearts for any group, we drag their darkness and hatred into our lives, into our hearts and we all become darker for it. A year or so ago I was giving a workshop on forgiveness. I said that we must even love Isis. One woman came up to be at the break saying how much she was enjoying the workshop but said “I am going to continue to hate Isis. I said okay. Thinking about it during the bread I began the next session with, “we may continue to hate Isis but we only bring their darkness and violence into our lives.” Forgiveness is never about the other person, or letting anyone get away with anything. It is about bring. Peace into our own lives — a peace the world may not understand. For our own peace of mind HATE MUST STOP RIGHT HERE.