Saturday, November 26, 2016

Merry Chrismahanukwanzakah!


One day, a man received a parrot as a gift, but the parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird’s mouth was rude and obnoxious. The man tried to change the bird’s attitude by saying only polite words and prayers. Finally, fed up, he yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back. He shook the parrot. It only got angrier. In desperation, he grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and screamed, but then suddenly there was total quiet. Fearing that he’d hurt the parrot, the man opened the door to the freezer. The parrot calmly stepped out and said “Sir, I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I’m very sorry and I fully intend to correct my rude behavior.” The man was stunned and as he was about to ask the parrot what had changed his behavior, the bird pointed to the item next to him in the freezer and said, “May I ask what the turkey did wrong?”

A little turkey humor for you on this Thanksgiving weekend. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. If you’re like me, you’re still full from Thursday. One of the interesting Thanksgiving suggestions I saw on a cooking show was the Turduken. If you don’t know it, it is a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken. This is a season of mash-ups. I remember hearing the ultimate mash-up a few years ago with the word, Chrismahanukwanzakah – a mash-up of Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanza into one mega-holiday. I saw a new one online this week, a holiday dessert called Cherpumple. Have you heard of this? It’s essentially three different pies – cherry pie, pumpkin pie and apple pie – all stacked one on top of the other all brought together with a sugary frosting. Guaranteed to put you into a diabetic coma! It will go nicely with your TurDucKen. I’m not sure why we are so fascinated with mash-ups is this time of year. Maybe we just feel like there isn’t enough time to get it all done?

In the midst of this silliness, the Church gives us this beautiful, peaceful, and calming season of Advent. I think it is purposefully given to us right in the middle of the busiest time of the year. In the midst of holidays, parties, and shopping, the Church invites us today to stop, to breathe, to reflect, to take our time, to be renewed and refreshed once again in Jesus.

We’re invited to stop and spend some time pulling apart all that the world has tried to mash together for us. It isn’t Christmas yet. There aren’t a million things to be done. You haven’t fallen behind. Stop, pause, and let the wonder of truth of this season unfold. Embrace the waiting and watching and anticipation Advent welcoms us into.

Our readings today have a message for us: wake up! Our second reading told us that now “is the hour for you to awake from sleep.” Jesus was more direct saying simply, “Stay awake!” I hope it isn’t reflective of the quality of the homily and its ability to lull you to sleep. Instead, we are being reminded to stay awake because something is on the horizon; wake up because something is about to happen; something new is around the corner and we don’t want to miss it. We want to prepare; we want to be ready; to see with new eyes.

What are we waiting for? What are we meant to be awake for? Of course, for Jesus. But, not merely to recall His birth on Christmas Day. But, to be awakened to remember, once again, that He never left; that He is always right here and if we are not awake, we might be in danger of missing the presence of God in our midst.

My friends, here we are, all of us, often living in apprehension and anxiety; trying to make sense of our world, coping with our struggles as best we can – sickness, death, disappointment, loss, loneliness and fear. And in the eternal now that is our God, Jesus comes to join us; to comfort us as only God can comfort us and make us feel loved, as only God can make us feel loved. And, that is the point of Advent – to slow down, to wake up, to see that Jesus is right here. So, let Him wrap you – wrap your struggles, your anxieties, your fears and disappointments; as well as, your joys, your triumphs, your love and your blessings – let God wrap all of that tightly in His loving and cradling arms. He wants to be present to you; to comfort you and share His profound love for you and with you.

The world wants to tempt you with its busyness, with its activity, with its Chrismahanukwanzakah and even with its Cherpumple. But, resist the temptation and instead enter Adventtime where Jesus wants to penetrate that busyness and be made present to us once again; present on this altar as bread and the wine become Body and Blood for us; present in our hearts and in our lives, so that we can become the comfort and love that He wants to extend to everyone we meet.

My friends, let us stay awake so that we may not miss the Visitation of Christ in our midst. Stay awake and let God comfort us, love us, and prepare us to welcome Him with renewed joy at Christmas.

May the Lord give you peace.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Feeling mercy changes everything


Pope Francis has frequently told a story which he says was the source of his vocation and spirituality. When he was a young man of 17, he was heading to the train in Buenos Aires one day for his school’s annual picnic and thinking of proposing to his girlfriend there. But, as he passed by the local church, he decided to stop in to say a prayer. There he met a young, friendly priest and decided to go to confession. Something happened in that confession which Pope Francis describes as an encounter with God who had been waiting for him. In that encounter he experienced unmistakably and powerfully the mercy of God for him and for all people. He knew from that experience that the only meaning his life could have would be to show everyone the mercy of God. In that moment, He felt converted. He felt called and he discovered a special vocation of mercy. He did not go to the train or the picnic that day. He did not propose to his girlfriend. His life and its course was completely changed in that moment. And, he tells us that because of that experience of mercy more than 60 years ago he adopted the motto as archbishop, cardinal, and pope “miserando atque eligendo” which is translated “having been shown mercy and chosen to show mercy.”

Today, as you may know, brings to a conclusion the Jubilee Year of Mercy called for by Pope Francis throughout the world. What an extraordinary experience this year has been, and what a reminder of how much we need more mercy in our lives and in our world. Even though the Year of Mercy is ending, God’s gift of mercy to us and our call to be merciful to others is never ending. It is the very heart of our Christian way of life.

The Pope said last year in one of his Angelus messages devoted to the topic of mercy, “I think we are the people who, on the one hand, want to listen to Jesus, but on the other hand, at times, like to condemn others. And Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think — and I say it with humility — that this is the Lord's most powerful message: mercy.”

Extending mercy begins with realizing that we are first recipients of mercy from God. The Pope said, “It is not easy to entrust oneself to God's mercy, because it is deep beyond our comprehension. But we must! We might say, ‘Oh, I am a great sinner!’ All the better! Go to Jesus: He likes you to tell him these things! He forgets, He has a very special capacity for forgetting. Brothers and Sisters, God's face is the face of a merciful father who is always patient. That is His mercy. He always has patience with us, He understands us, He waits for us, He does not tire of forgiving us. ‘Great is God's mercy.’”

The wellspring of God’s mercy for us is deep beyond our imagination. But, God wants us to live by showing that same mercy to others. Mercy is our common call, it is our vocation as followers of Christ. As recipients of mercy from God, we have plenty of mercy to offer to others. So, where do we need to show more mercy in our lives? Who do we encounter on a regular basis that we encounter with judgment who could instead be greeted with mercy? After all, they are no different than us – they are simply people in need of an encounter with a good and loving God that they meet through good, loving and merciful people like you and like me.

Pope Francis said, “In the past few days I have been reading a book that said that ‘feeling mercy changes everything’. This is the best thing we can feel: it changes the world. A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly the mercy of God, this merciful Father who is so patient. Let us remember the Prophet Isaiah who says that even if our sins were scarlet, God's love would make them white as snow. This mercy is beautiful.”

Feeling mercy changes everything. When we let God’s mercy change us – like it changed Pope Francis as a young man – and when we show that mercy to others, it will have the power to transform them too; to change them; to move them into a new way of being and interacting. Receiving mercy when they were expecting judgment opens people to new possibilities that include forgiveness and healing; possibilities that include the healing power of God in their lives. And couldn’t our world use more of this mercy, love, kindness, compassion, forgiveness and healing? Especially now?

Pope Francis said just today, “We live at a time in which polarization and exclusion are considered the only way to resolve conflicts. We see how quickly those among us who are a stranger, an immigrant, or a refugee, become a threat, take on the status of an enemy. An enemy because they come from a distant country or have different customs. An enemy because of the color of their skin, their language or their social class. An enemy because they think differently or have a different faith. Little by little, our differences turn into symptoms of hostility, threats and violence. We are not immune from this and we need to take care lest such attitudes find a place in our hearts, because this would be contrary to the richness and universality of the Church. None of this makes us enemies; instead, it is one of our greatest riches. Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus constantly desires to enter the crossroads of our history to proclaim the Gospel of Mercy. Jesus continues to call us and to send us where our people dwell. He continues to invite us to spend our lives sustaining our people in hope, so that they can be signs of reconciliation.”

Let us be grateful today for the gift of this Year of Mercy, but let us also pledge to be more aware of the mercy God extends to us, and our call to be the very presence of God’s mercy in our world. This Year of Mercy has been a special time for the Church; hopefully a time when the merciful witness of believers – of you and me – might grow stronger and more effective. My friends, feeling mercy changes everything. And, offering mercy changes everything. Couldn’t we all use a little more mercy in our lives? Couldn’t we all extend a little more mercy in our lives?

May the Lord give you peace.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

"Tonight in America, Children Are Afraid... We Are Better Than This" | Archbishop Gomez

NOTE: This comes to us from Whispers in the Loggia
Two hundred twenty-five years to the day since the first Stateside bishop delivered his enduring prayer "for the Welfare of the Republic," tonight, the decade-old seat of the largest fold American Catholicism has ever known resounded with a call likely to make its own mark in the history of the faithful on these shores.

Amid protests, fear and broader tensions in the 5 million-member(/70 percent Latino) archdiocese of Los Angeles – a scene likewise present in other major cities – in the wake of Tuesday's vote for President-elect Trump, Archbishop José Gomez (himself a Mexican-born immigrant) delivered the following, deeply potent homily at an evening prayer service "for Hope and Unity" organized on some four hours' notice, its congregation not shown given the extent of anxiety among the undocumented in attendance....

My dear brothers and sisters,

We are here tonight because our people are hurting and they feel afraid. We are here to listen to their voices, because they feel they are being forgotten.

In our country, we need to start building bridges and bringing people together. We need to reach out to those who are hurting. Now is the time to build unity and heal communities, through our love for our neighbor and our care for those in need.

Estamos aquí esta noche porque muchos entre nosotros están heridos y con miedo. Nos reunimos para ponernos en la presencia de Dios que es nuestro Padre y unirnos todos como hijos e hijas de Dios.

That’s what tonight is about. Not politics. It’s about people.

We stand in the presence of God who is our Father in heaven and we are his children. And that means we are all brothers and sisters.

Those are the words of Jesus that we just heard: “I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father”

This is our true identity — every one of us. We are not liberals or conservatives. Before everything else, we are children of God.

In the past couple days since the election — we have children in our schools who are scared. They think the government is going to come and deport their parents, any day now.

Right now — all across this city, and in cities all across this country — there are children who are going to bed scared.

There are men and women who can’t sleep because they are trying to figure out what to do next. Trying to figure what to do when the government comes to take them away from their kids and their loved ones.

En los últimos días, como todos sabemos, muchos de nuestros hermanos y hermanas, adultos y niños están temerosos pensando que los van a deportar y por tanto separarlos de sus familias.

This should not be happening in America. We are not this kind of people. We are better than this.

My brothers and sisters, we have allowed this issue of immigration to consume us, as a nation. Our immigration system has been broken for a long time. Our leaders could have come together and solved this problem — at any time in the last 15 or 20 years.

More than 2 million people have been deported in the last eight years. Nobody seems to care. Except that little girl who comes home at night — and she knows her father isn’t there anymore.

We are better people than this. We should not accept that this is the best we can hope for — in our politics or in ourselves.

Como todos sabemos el tema de la inmigración nos preocupa mucho.

El sistema de inmigración no funciona desde hace muchos años y nuestros líderes lo podrían haber arreglado desde hace mucho. Más de 2 millones de personas han sido deportadas en los últimos 8 años.  No puede ser. Somos mejor gente que eso en este país. Tenemos que seguir insistiendo que tiene que haber una solución justa y digna de nuestro país.

And so this is where we are at. Tonight in America — children are afraid; men and women are worried and anxious, thinking about where they can run and hide. This is happening tonight, in America.

The answer is not angry words or violence in the streets. It never solves anything; it only inflames things more.

We need to be people of peace, people of compassion. Love not hate. Mercy not revenge. These are the tools to rebuild our nation and renew the American dream.

Tonight we promise our brothers and sisters who are undocumented — we will never leave you alone. !En las buenas y en las malas! In good times and in bad, we are with you. You are family. We are brothers and sisters.
Nuestra reacción a esta realidad no es de violencia o disgusto descontrolado. Somos un pueblo de paz, de compasión y todos juntos, con la ayuda de Dios, encontraremos esa solución y la Iglesia esta con todos los inmigrantes que no tienen documentos, como decimos, ‘en las buenas y en las malas’. ¡Somos familia!

¡Siempre con la seguridad de que con Dios y la intercesión de nuestra Madre Santísima de Guadalupe, lo conseguiremos!

Also tonight — as we come gather to pray for unity and to “bind the wounds of division” — tonight we pray for our leaders, including our President-elect. May God grant them wisdom and mercy, and the heart to feel the pain of those who are suffering.

Let’s pray tonight, in a special way — that our leaders will find it in their hearts to make a beautiful, humanitarian gesture. Let’s pray that they can come together, in a spirit of national unity, and agree to stop the threat of deportations — until we can fix our broken immigration system.

También nos reunimos para pedir por la unidad en nuestro país y para que se curen las heridas de la división después de las elecciones del martes pasado.

Pedimos por nuestros líderes, incluyendo al presidente electo y su familia, para que Dios les conceda sabiduría y misericordia y un corazón abierto a las necesidades de todos los que sufren.

And may Our Lady of Guadalupe — the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all the peoples of the Americas — may she watch over us and help us to truly become one nation under God.

¡Santa Maria de Guadalupe, ruega por nosotros, por nuestros líderes y por nuestro país! Amen

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


NOTE: This makes some really great points, some similar to my Sunday homily. Worth reading as we head into this new era after today. - FT
In 2012, I suggested a list of five things Catholics should learn from this election season (see it here) – given the weirdness and uniqueness of the current election season, I’m offering my new, revised list:
1.Don’t underestimate the power of evil. This was number five on my 2012 list. It probably should have been #1 then, too, but it’s gotten to a whole new level this year. I cannot quite grasp how people think it’s okay to be mean to each other (“deplorables” and “nasty woman” and pussies and all the rest of it). I want to know how racism disguised as “making sure all the votes are legitimate” isn’t just, well, the intrinsically evil sin of racism.  I can’t think how Fr. Pavone thinks putting a second trimester aborted baby on display during a Eucharist is anything other than evil.
2. Don’t underestimate the power of legitimizing evil by explaining it away. All of the evil things above, and more, have had some version of the following response: “Yes, but if you don’t vote this way, the world will end.” Well, the world will end some day anyway – and no one’s perfect, but we’ve been treating the candidates as though one, or the other, could be perfection incarnate (sure idolatry). The legitimization is a sign to me of the ever-encroaching, small-minded, and apparent ordinariness of evil. We can accept all sorts of evil in the name of not accepting the greater evil that we fear – which is, in fact, our own fear of what might happen. We Catholics have been as guilty as the rest of America in trying to legitimize positions by saying that it’s in service of the greater good, or at least in service of not leading us straight to our doom in the apocalypse.  Come on, people. This isn’t worthy of our time or our faith. God is not so small that God won’t be there regardless of how all of us vote, but we treat God that way. God will be there the Wednesday after the election.
3. Libertarianism is still the new communism – whether we’re speaking of social or economic libertarianism, I think we’re speaking of the basic philosophical mindset that tends to work against the Gospel. Back in 2012, I put it this way:
It is the new great ideological opponent of Christianity, alongside the closely related cousin of moral relativism.  I see trends in both the major parties that suggest a wholesale focus on individual autonomy and freedom of choice from both the government and society in general.  These libertarian impulses take on different foci (abortion, economic policy, etc).  But no matter where the focus begins, the architecture of the argument itself makes it very, very easy to capitulate to all kinds of evils – even coming from “the other side”.   Individual choice and conscience are important – but taken to extreme, a focus on individual choice means that I can always dismiss my neighbors’ concerns because “they made their own choices and have to deal with the consequences”.
4. The vote is NOT everything. I think that we have run into trouble precisely because we speak and act as though our very lives are hanging on the votes. Certainly, the outcome of an election is scary in many ways – and yes, some peoples’ lives, maybe even many peoples’ lives, could be radically changed depending on who is elected. But our Catholic lives of witness are not hanging in the balance here. We have a clear and strong call to witness to Christ, even when it looks like all is lost, even in the face of governments that threaten to oppress. We are called to be the people who welcome the migrants, the hungry, the lost, the ones without health insurance, the nasty women, the unborn babies, the poor, the dead, the ones who have no voices, and so on. There is no shortage of action that we Catholics might take with and for people who need love and community.
5. It is time for some different political action. I think we ought to start a different kind of political party. But more than that, we ought to be political activists at a local level – people who seek change where we live. That’s actually what the document Faithful Citizenship calls for, and what the pope has suggested.
We need to participate for the common good. Sometimes we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true: good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern.”
– Pope Francis, 9/16/13 (Cited from the website)
Let us reject evil. Let us offer our best selves. Let us seek always to witness to Jesus Christ.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Heaven looks like God's love

NOTE: I have prepared two homilies for this Sunday. Which one should I give? - FT


One day, a young preacher came upon a farmer working in his field. Concerned for the farmer’s soul the preacher asked, “Are you laboring in the vineyard of the Lord?” Not even looking up at the preacher the farmer replied, “No sir, I’m planting wheat.” “You don’t understand,” said the preacher. “Are you a Christian?” With the same amount of disinterest, the farmer said, “Nope my name is Jones. You must be lookin’ for Jim Christian. He lives a mile down the road.” The determined preacher tried again asking, “Are you lost?” “No sir! I’ve lived here all my life,” answered the farmer. Frustrated the preacher asked, “Are you prepared for the resurrection?” Finally, this caught the farmer’s attention and he asked, “When’s it gonna be?” Thinking he had accomplished something the preacher replied, “It could be today, tomorrow, or the next day.” Wiping his brow, the farmer remarked, “Well, don’t mention it to my wife. She don’t get out much and she’ll wanna go all three days.”

My friends, our Scriptures today are asking us essentially the same question: are you prepared for the resurrection or, perhaps more simply, what happens to us when we die? Is there any more profound question? I’m sure there’s not one among us who hasn’t asked this question at some point. November is a good time to think about these things as the leaves fall, our skies begin to turn gray and we celebrate a month of prayer for our beloved deceased. It is a good time to hear today’s Gospel and Jesus’ own words about what lies beyond earthly life.

There is nothing more central to our faith than the resurrection from the dead that Jesus came to bring us. “I have come to give life and give it to the full.” But, many people today can be confused by belief in the resurrection. After all, when was the last time someone you knew rose from the dead and came back to talk about it? But what people don’t realize is that this questioning of the resurrection is not modern at all. Even at the time of Jesus there were people who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead – namely the Sadducees. “Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to Jesus.”

In today’s gospel, some Sadducees came to Jesus and wanted to prove to Him how absurd it is for any reasonable person to believe in the resurrection. They came up with this story of seven brothers who were all in turn married to the same woman and asked, “In the resurrection whose wife will the woman be?” Jesus replied that it was impossible to understand life in Heaven in the same way that we understand life on earth.

Notice that the problem of the Sadducees has to do with how things are in the resurrected life, whereas Jesus’ response has to do with the why of the resurrection. There is a resurrection quite simply because our God is God of the living. God has created us from the moment of our conception for life and not for ultimate extinction. God does not breathe life into us like bubbles, here now, gone in a moment. No, God gifts us with life even after our time on earth is complete.

Jesus fundamental point is that our hope of life beyond death is not based on wishful thinking or a fear of death. Our belief is based on the nature of God. The God who Jesus reveals is not an unknown, unseen, architect of the universe. Our God is the God of the living, and this God of the living is a loving God who wants only one thing from us – our love and our eternal dwelling with Him.

If there is one belief that the men and women of our world need today it is the belief in the resurrection. Why? Because it is the effective antidote to the infectious disease of materialism that focuses all our energy on the here and now, on the grabbing of things, the destructive nature of power, the accumulating of money, the competition of ownership. The resurrection looks at that and says, “so what?” Our God loves us individually. He has counted even the hairs on our heads. He knows us so well, and wants us to be with Him forever.

What will heaven look like? We simply don’t know – or just maybe we do. Heaven looks like the love that God has for us. And, I think in this extraordinary time of Pope Francis, we are continually being shown some passing glimpses of this love. Think of some of the images that stick with us from these three years: the way that he washed the feet of prisoners on his first Holy Thursday, his embrace of a young boy with cerebral palsy on his first Easter. Or so powerfully you’ll recall the images of Pope Francis embracing a man whose body was covered in disfiguring boils, a condition known as neurofibromatosis. It was a compelling image. As a Franciscan, it reminds me of the singular moment in the life of St. Francis when in the early stages of his conversion, he embraced a leper in the countryside of Assisi. He got off his horse, embraced and kissed that leper – the kind of people that he formerly despised - and after he had done that, the man disappeared. He later understood that man to have been Christ incarnate. That encounter changed the course of his life, he would later describe it this way, “What was bitter to me had been changed to sweetness of body and soul.” And now this new Francis, Pope Francis, does similar things on a near daily basis. And perhaps this profound act of love, God’s love on display for the world to see, is meant to change us again.

In the Pope’s embrace of this disfigured man we see something so powerful. The Pope’s kiss, his embrace, reminds us of God. Pope Francis is reminding us that this is the way God loves us. He is reminding us that God loves us in all our pain, in all our struggles, in all our humanity. Few of us suffer the way this man is suffering. We are not physically disfigured the way he is. But maybe our scars are on the inside. Maybe there is something in us that makes us feel unworthy of God’s unconditional love. Yet our gracious and loving God wants nothing more than to embrace us as tightly and as lovingly as the Pope embraced that man.

So, what will heaven look like? What does God’s love look like? Look no further than Jesus. Look no further than our beautiful and loving Pope. And look no further than the daily opportunities to give and receive love that God places before us every day. Do we embrace them or do we run away?

My friends, resurrection is real. God’s unconditional and unending love for us – which is the most basic definition of Heaven – is real. Jesus doesn’t give us the final answers about heaven, but He does give us the way to prepare for our homecoming – through Him, with Him and in Him. “God is not a God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive.” So, let us live for God. Let us have the courage to love others as God loves and we too will know the joy of Heaven.

May the Lord give you peace.

Make American Kind Again

NOTE: I have prepared two homilies for this Sunday. Which one should I give? - FT


A priest went into a barbershop in Washington, D.C. for a haircut. When done he asked how much he owed. “No charge, Father,” the barber said. “I consider it my service to the Lord.” The next morning, the barber found a dozen prayer books and rosaries on the stoop along with a thank you note from the priest. A few days later a police officer came in. “How much do I owe you?” the cop asked after his haircut. “No charge, officer,” the barber answered. “I consider it my service to the community.” The next morning the barber found a dozen doughnuts with a thank you note from the officer. A few days after that, a politician came for a haircut. “How much do I owe you?” he asked afterward. “No charge,” the barber replied. “I consider it my service to our country.” The next morning when he arrived at the shop, the barber found a dozen more politicians waiting for a haircut.

As you all know, we have a big day ahead of us this week on election day. I thought and prayed a lot about addressing this during Mass today and came down on the side of saying a few words. Now, don’t worry, I’m not about to advocate for a candidate or a party, as that is never appropriate from the pulpit or from church officials. But, I do think there are significant things that we need to think about, pray about and act upon as followers of Jesus. It is appropriate to speak about things that are effecting the flock, especially things that effect the flock in harmful ways.

I think you would agree with me that this is an election like no other, at least in modern times. I cannot recall another election that has sown so much anxiety and fear, anger and conflict, and even sadness and depression among people. You are probably like me and those in a CNN poll this week that reported that 82% of Americans are disgusted by this election cycle.

So what are we – people of faith – to do with all of this? Well, thankfully, this election is almost over, just a few more days. But, if we are to make a difference, the real work of Christians begins on November 9th, as we try to make our society a better place. This election has been a race to the bottom, not to the top. Our candidates have denigrated each other continuously and have used language that denigrates so many people and groups of people in our country and beyond. But, as concerned as we should all be about the quality of the candidates presented to us, and the harmful dialogue that has accompanied the campaigns, I’m even more concerned about something else – what has all of this done to us, the men and women of this nation; to us, good people of faith throughout this country?

I think part of the problem is that we have been doing this largely in backwards order. We wait for the candidates to be presented to us and then we struggle to come to terms with which one of them is more or less in line with our Catholic values and which of our Catholic values should receive the highest priority at the time. As we know, especially now, this is a highly unsatisfying approach. It leaves us frustrated, anxious and concerned.

Instead, we need to work on doing things the other way around. Long before we bring our faith into the ballot box, we need to be working day-and-night to bring our faith into the world. It is not by casting our vote that we will help our world become a more kind, loving, forgiving, compassionate and joyful place. It is by living all of those values in our daily life, in a public way, that we will actively transform our world into a place that also values those things and better candidates will arise, if we demand them.

The Second Vatican Council, in its document, Lumen Gentium (which means “light of the nations”), said this about our involvement in the public realm, “The laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God…Led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity.”

Imagine that thought – we are a leaven to society. We raise up those who are downcast, those who are on the margins, those who no one cares for. We raise up the dialogue to a level of civility and respect, the connections between people, the hope for a better tomorrow – and we do all of this through a “life resplendent in faith, hope and charity.” This is our great task this week and beyond. November 8th, we’ll do the best we can. But, November 9th, we must engage our world in a new, different and renewed way – one that is defined by our faith in Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis spoke about this in The Joy of the Gospel, “An authentic faith always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it…All Christians…are called to show concern for the building of a better world. This is essential, for the Church’s social thought is primarily positive: it offers proposals, it works for change and in this sense it constantly points to the hope born of the loving heart of Jesus Christ.”

So, our challenge, made so incredibly clear this election, is to actively and publicly confront the issues of our time. Ever present within each of them is life as gift and responsibility. The freedom, dignity and kindness of our society depends on how we face challenges like the innocent victims of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, racism and misogyny on the rise, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment harmed by our too-often predatory relationship with nature.

Pope Francis said, “The future of humanity does not lie in the hands of great leaders, the great powers and the elites. It is fundamentally in the hands of people. It is in [your] hands, which can guide this process of change with humility and conviction…Keep up your struggle. I am with you.”

It is interesting during elections to listen to campaign slogans. If you’re curious, there were no presidential campaign slogans until the election of 1840 and William Henry Harrison. The first slogan ever, “Tippecanoe and Tyler too!” Very inspiring stuff! They’ve gotten a bit better since then. This year’s slogans have been more basic and descriptive like, “I’m with Her”. We had this year perhaps the shortest slogan ever, “Jeb!” We had some scary ones like Rand Paul’s, “Defeat the Washington Machine” or Bernie Sander’s “A revolution is coming!” Some I personally find funny, like Chris Christies, “Telling it like it is!” There are the ones that hope to be inspirational and aspirational like Ben Carson’s, “Heal. Inspire. Revive,” or Carly Fiorina’s, “New Possibilities,” Hillary Clinton’s “Stronger Together” or Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again”, which by the way was also Ronald Reagan’s slogan in 1980, so no points for originality there.

To play with these a little bit, the challenge that lies before us in the days after this election is to first acknowledge that we need to be “Faithful Together” as brothers and sisters, especially connected with the most marginalized in our society.We must make it our mission statement to make America kind again, civil again. We must make America loving again and forgiving again. We must make our world merciful and united so that together we can bring forth the Kingdom.

It is easy to complain about the state of politics and give in to despair about society. But this is not a Christian attitude. As believers in Christ, our faith should give us the conviction of hope, because we know that Jesus conquered sin and death. Our hope is not in politicians, political parties, laws or institutions. Our hope is in Christ, who is able to transform our society and its people, if we let him work in us and through us.

The more that we become leaven to society, the more that our society will value the things we value. The greatest problem facing our society today is not emails or tax returns, it is the fact that we are increasingly polarized, increasingly individualistic, increasingly disconnected. We look at those in our world and instead of seeing a brother or a sister, we simply see an “other” or worse, we see an enemy.

The power to effect real transformative change in the world comes from the light of God within us. It is amazing how little leaven it takes to raise a loaf of bread. That is because within those little particles of yeast is found the power to ferment, to change the wet dough into a loaf of aromatic, tasty, nourishing bread. St. Pope John 23rd wrote, “Every believer, in this, our world, must be a spark of light, a center of love, a vivifying ferment in the dough: They will be so to the degree that, in their innermost being, they live in communion with God. In fact, there can be no peace among us if there is no peace within us.”

My friends, as we move forward from Tuesday, let us take a deep breath and let out all of that anxiety. Let us remember that God is in charge. And let us pledge to be the leaven, to be the spark of light, to raise up our society to one this kinder, more loving and forgiving, one in which all find their place, all find a home; and one that more closely reflects the Kingdom of God in our midst.

May the Lord give you peace.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Called to be messengers of mercy and tenderness


Let me begin today with a bit of an informal poll. By a show of hands, how many of you would say you are a saint? How many want to be a saint? And, finally, how many would like to go to Heaven at the end of our lives?

Today on this Solemnity of All Saints, we heard a question proclaimed from the Book of Revelation that echoes out to us, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” Or perhaps, closer to our own language, who are these saints that we celebrate today and how did they become saints?

It’s hard to believe that one of our newest saints, Saint Pope John Paul II, passed away 11 years ago already, but you might remember the amazing scene of his funeral attended by millions in Rome and televised around the world. One of the incredible parts of that Mass were the numerous signs and the vocal chants in St. Peter’s Square of, “Santo Subito!” or loosely translated, “Make him a saint immediately.” The late, great Holy Father had lived such a public life that witnessed to holiness that those gathered to lay him to rest could do nothing less than acclaim the sanctity of this holy man who lived in our day, in our time, in our midst. “Santo Subito” proclaimed the widespread popular belief that John Paul had lived the kind of life that made him a saint in God’s presence, and thus worthy of the Church’s veneration as a saint.

So, “who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” The great answer to this question about those in white robes is that they, my brothers and sisters, are us. All Saints Day is not a celebration of the few-and-far-between who have attained the glory of heaven. It is a celebration of our common call to follow Jesus, to be holy, to live the life of the saints. In my informal poll, I asked two questions – one about being saints, the other about going to Heaven. Notice how few hands went up for the first question and how many went up for the last one. And yet, they are truly same question. If you want to go to Heaven, as most of you said, you are saying that you want to be a saint. After all, that is all that a saint is – someone who lived a life worthy of heaven. Becoming saints is the common call of each one of us.

But, as much as we focus on how much they are like God, we are also called to remember especially today – the saints are also like us. They did not enter into the world as perfect and holy. They did not receive an extra dose of God’s grace to become the holy women and men that they were. They did not receive something that we have not. They are just like us. They were born into families. They had joys and struggles. They had sins they struggled with and spiritual victories they rejoiced in. But, in the end, they lived lives that were more and more journeys toward the Lord. They made God the priority and followed His will; His path; His call. And, so can we.

How do we become saints? Jesus has given us the best instructions for attaining the sainthood our hearts desire. “Those in white robes” we heard about have followed that good instruction. And they are crowned as God’s heroes, God’s holy ones. The instruction that Jesus gave is the one we heard in the Gospel: the Beatitudes. Blessed, or saintly, are we when we are poor in spirit, when we mourn, when we are meek, when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, when we are merciful, and clean of heart, when we are peacemakers, or persecuted for the sake of righteousness. These are God’s best instructions for living as followers of Jesus Christ, as saints-in-training. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”

And Pope Francis in his own homily today said we are called “to confront the troubles and anxieties of our age with the spirit and love of Jesus.” And the Pope added a new list of Beatitudes for modern Christians. He said, “Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others and forgive them from their heart. Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized and show them their closeness. Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him. Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home. Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others. Blessed are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians.”

“All these are messengers of God’s mercy and tenderness,” Pope Francis said. “Surely they will receive from him their merited reward.”

Few of us would expect chants of “Santo Subito” at our funeral. If we are honest, we know that we often fail at fully following the Gospel teaching of Jesus. But, God has given us the same grace, the same call, the same possibility as all of those who have been memorialized in the statues in our church and the stained glass of our windows. They were just like us and we can be just like them. The only difference is our choice. It’s up to us to live as though we too will one day be saints.

Today, on this festival day in honor of all the saints, named and unnamed, the veil between our earthly world and the heavenly world parts just a little bit. With the eyes of faith, we get some glimpse of the happiness and glory to which God has called his innumerable sons and daughters throughout the ages; the glory he calls us to as well. Let us all live as though destined for that same glory. Leon Bloy wrote, “There is only one sadness in life: not to be a saint.”

“Who are these wearing white robes?” My friends, they are us.

May the Lord give you peace.

Changing the impossible

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