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.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Homily for The Feast of St. Paul the Apostle 2017

This weekend we Paulist Fathers celebrate our community feast day, the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle.  Our founder, Servant of God, Fr. Isaac Thomas Hecker named our community after St. Paul, to do in North America what Paul did in the Middle East;  to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ in new forms to all who will listen.  Paul did not want simply for people to “believe” in Jesus Christ, he invited them and us into a new way of life.  Paul invites us into a new LIFE-STYLE where it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us - giving shape and direction to our lives.
What happened to Paul on the road to Damascus some 2,000 years ago?  I am going to dare and say that Paul was not converted, from anything into anything.  Paul, rather, had a deep, personal, piercing INSIGHT, an aw-ha moment, an inner experience of Jesus Christ; and it changed everything about him - forever.  Paul was transformed.  He became, as he says in his letters, a new creation in Christ.  The Holy Spirit that transformed Paul’s life, transformed the early communities he founded all the way from Ephesus to Athens and Rome.  They were on fire, not just believing in the Christ but living members of His Body.
Paul did not derive his authority to say and do what he said and did from his Jewish leaders, nor from the apostles in Jerusalem; he derived his authority from the very power of Christ dwelling within him.  That same spirit dwells in every person here this morning.  We need, desperately, to rediscover the mystical roots of our faith and our religion.  So often we just settle for believing, we just settle for going to mass and receiving Holy Communion when so much more is possible.  Paul discovered this “more” on the road to Damascus; he was transformed by his awareness of Christ living in him; and Paul trusted that inner awareness.
Others, through history, trusted that same inner awareness; St. Francis of Assisi was transformed by touching and embracing the sores of lepers.  Facing his worse fears Christ transformed him into the living Gospel for all to see.  So too, with St. Clair and Theresa of Avila and Mother Theresa and Dorothy Day.  So too with Servant of God Isaac Hecker our founder.  All of them could look into their worse fears, and the darkest corners of our world and see the grander of God.
Fr. Hecker, trusting his own inner awareness of the Holy Spirit, desired a religious community whose inspiration came from the Holy Spirit, a mystical inspiration if you will.  A mystic is simply a person who can see the divine imprint baked into every single thing in existence.  Isaac Hecker could even see that goodness in our  political system here in the United States; he dreamt of religion and politics, civil and religious life working together for the common good.
Fr. Hecker knew as Paul knew and Jesus taught there is no such thing as sacred and profane.  All of creation, and everything in it, is sacred but we do desecrate it in many ways.  Gerard Manly Hopkins proclaimed that “all of creation is charged with the grandeur of God.”  

It is our call as Christians, as followers of Jesus, disciples of St. Paul, our call as Paulist Fathers, and all of us as a Paulist parish wake up and take up the task of being  the life-giving light of Christ in the darkest corners of God’s Grandeur.  We are Christ’s light by gathering in prayer here this morning; by becoming what we receive here at the table of the Lord - the very living, breathing, Body of Christ for all to see.  It doesn’t end here but begins here as we take our life in Christ out into the Streets of San Francisco.

Monday, January 23, 2017