Fr. Michael's Sunday Homilies
February 18, 2018
“When I bring clouds over the earth, and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living creatures.”
As we observe Sustainability Sunday, it’s appropriate to recall the first reading from Genesis. God makes a covenant with humanity and creation. “Covenant” is a powerful word. Covenant not only implies a strong relationship, it evokes an eternal promise that God will care for, and will love, all that exists in the world. We’re not separate from creation, we are creation also – that’s beautiful!
As the CSB sustainability website states, “As a Catholic, Benedictine institution, the College of Saint Benedict accepts that all creation is a gift. In exchange, we are to care for creation and provide stewardship for the entire community of life on Earth.”
Lent is a great time to renew wise living. Lent is all about reestablishing healthy relationships – with God, with ourselves, with one another, and with creation.
As we heard on Ash Wednesday, simply, you are dust and to dust you shall return. Everything that is, every atom in your body, is a gift from God. We are dust, and that’s very good. We are born from creation, we are creation right now, and we shall return to creation. In God’s covenant, we are beautifully and radically interconnected with all that is.
Pope Francis, Laudato Si, “As never before in history, common destiny beckons us to seek a new beginning…Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life.”
February 11, 2018
February 10th, just yesterday, was the feast day of Saint Scholastica. Scholastica was the sister of Saint Benedict. Here’s her story: Benedict and Scholastica had the custom of meeting once a year in a house between their respective monasteries to spend the day talking of spiritual matters. One year, as dusk began to fall, Scholastica begged Benedict to spend the night that they might continue to share their stories. Benedict refused, citing the monastic rules – it was inappropriate for them to be away from their own monasteries at night. Scholastica then began to pray, and suddenly the sky erupted in a thunderous downpour that made travel impossible. “What have you done,” Benedict asked in alarm? Scholastica answered, “I asked you, but you would not listen to me. I asked God and God listened to me. Leave now, brother, if you can.” He couldn’t! So, Benedict stayed with her and they shared happy conversation together…The moral of the story: Scholastica was heard by God, because she loved more, for God is love. It’s a humorous story, but it also offers us good wisdom!
Benedict knew the rules, but his lack of love prohibited him from breaking the lesser rules to live the greater rule of love. I mean, Benedict, she’s your sister! She needed you! Come on! Sometimes you have to break the less important rules.
And then there’s Jesus -- our Master, our Teacher. We hear in the gospel today, “The man (the leper) went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. Jesus remained outside in deserted places.”
Why was Jesus not able to enter the towns openly? Was it because becoming more and more popular, he would have been overwhelmed by the crowds needing him, needing his healing? Sure, perhaps.
But, what if it was because Jesus broke the rules? What rules? If Jesus would have followed the rules, like in today’s first reading, Jesus would have rejected the leper – “Go away! You’re not allowed to come near!” But, because Jesus touched an unclean leper. Jesus himself became unclean by contact. In that world which was spiritually logical and ordered, the clean here and unclean far away over there, Jesus made the clean people nervous. Jesus crossed those rule barriers. The constant complaint of the religious leaders was, “Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners.” Jesus would answer, “Rules will not love you. Love is greater than your rules.”
You know, it’s not automatic that those who frequent God’s house, know how to love their neighbor. It’s not automatic! You can know the entire Bible, you can know all the right prayers, you can know the whole of theology, but to know isn’t automatically to love. Love has a better road. It requires something riskier. Let’s not forget: In front of the suffering and discrimination of so many, we cannot remain spectators. To ignore the suffering of people -- what does it mean? It means to ignore God! But, if I do get close to that man, that woman, that person who seems “unclean” to me, I get close to God. Beautiful! Powerful!
When today’s Mass is ended, we leave this church and depart. Depart into what? Into the real and messy world. In the gospel, Jesus was not afraid to minister to, to touch, to encounter the mess of this world. Jesus became unclean. And us? Who is outside, in the lonely places? Who is the rejected?
Pope Francis, in his encyclical, The Joy of the Gospel, encourages us, “Let us not be robbed of the joy of going out! I invite you to immerse yourself in the joy of the Gospel and nurture a love that can light up your vocation and your mission…The Lord’s disciples persevere in joy when they sense his presence, do his will and share with others their faith, hope and evangelical love.”
February 4, 2018
“Is not our life on earth a drudgery. Remember that my life is like the wind. I shall not see happiness again.”
That’s from today’s 1st reading from the book of Job. Wow, couldn’t we pick a happier, more upbeat reading?! I mean, Job is the epitome of “my life sucks.” But perhaps we’ve all been like Job, we’ve been there, perhaps we’re there right now – we can’t sleep, everything we do is hard, we’re unhappy.
Job’s words, though, are honest words. He was going through a really tough time – he lost his children, he lost his home. Job’s words came from the depths of a broken heart. I believe that when we’re going through a rough time in life, we need to be open about it and not hide behind fake smiles, a facade. There are many, many people who go through hard times, and it’s ok, it’s really ok, to express honestly, how bad we feel, and just as important, seek to get help. Don’t be afraid of not looking perfect. The stigma of depression and mental illness needs to end.
I wonder about Jesus sometimes. How did he handle all the stress and demands in his life? In today’s gospel, the disciples tell Jesus, “Everyone is looking for you!” I bet he heard that every day. If I were Jesus, sometimes I would also want to run away and hide.
In college, there are many demands made of you – everything needs your attention. When is it going to stop? Restless nights anyone? Turn to Jesus. Turn to Jesus. Jesus made time to be with his Father.
We hear, “Rising very early before dawn, Jesus left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.” I would say, find that time of peace and friendship with God also. Not out of duty, but out of love and friendship. Friendship is beautiful when it is cultivated. I’m convinced that for all the demands in our life, everything is secondary to meaningful relationships.
I really admire my abbot at St. John’s Abbey. He has lots of demands, but he stays energetic and quick to good laughter. I asked him once, “How do you do it all?” He said, “I exercise, and I pray.” Simple.
Through good times and in bad times, for everything in between, draw close to those who love you and to those you love. Draw close to God your creator.
Saint Augustine once famously wrote of his accepting God in his life, “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside. You were with me, but I was not with you. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me. I drew in breath and now I long for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace….Our hearts our restless, O God, until it rests in you.”
January 14, 2018
"Here I am, Lord."
Have you ever been to a store and have seen “Dummies” books? There’s lots of them: Cooking for Dummies, Plumbing for Dummies, Computers for Dummies, even Catholicism for Dummies. I could have a whole library! I heard of a guy who wanted to learn to dance, so he bought, Dancing for Dummies. He was engaged to be married, and his fiancé was a dance instructor. He was worried that at the wedding reception, at the first dance between he and his new bride, that he’d look like a klutz. So, he got the book out and read it. He even made paper footprints, taping them to the floor and numbered them. 1,2,3 & 1,2,3. After some practice, and feeling pretty confident as men are prone to do, he showed his moves to his fiancé’s friend. She saw him dance and thought, “He’s sweet, but he’s kind of a dummy!” How come? He didn’t take out the music CD in the back of the book to practice with actual music playing. She said, “You can’t dance without music!” So, he started dancing to music and did a fine job dancing with his new bride.
That’s not so unusual. We Christians too, are prone to follow the book, follow the rules and follow the obligations of our faith while forgetting the music! We go to Mass, do our daily prayers, read our Bible, and we put on a friendly, Christian smile, yet stiffly walk on to the dance floor of the Christian life with no music in our hearts. Life without music is boring!
The power of God, the experience of God, is the Holy Spirit humming in our heart. The Christian life without the Spirit living in us, making music in us, is lifeless — just 1,2,3 & 1,2,3. The Spirit is difficult to describe. Perhaps the most common mistake made regarding the Spirit is reducing the Spirit to just a power, an energy, or a force, like Star Wars.
Not a bad description, but more personal is that the Spirit is a person. The Spirit is a person, empower us to say, as in today’s readings, “Here I am, Lord.” “Here I am” is the most courageous and joyful thing we will ever say. It begins the great adventure!
A few years ago, I saw a friend of mine sitting by Lake Sagatagan, and to my
surprise she was drinking straight from a bottle of whiskey. She looked agitated, to say the least. I asked her, “What’s wrong?” She said, ”I’m giving God one last chance to change his mind.” She was debating a call to ministry and the Spirit was speaking to her powerfully. Even though she was honest in her struggle owning up to her, “Here I am,” the Spirit was making music, urging her to be brave, to seek deeper meaning in her life, to take a risk with her life. And she did!
What I want to point out today is that it’s essential that we know, we know, we know, the music, the Spirit, is in us and is for us. God, in the Spirit is making music all around us. Pray to God to move in your life and then listen. Listen to the Real Music!
For those of us who’ve spent too much time trying to do God’s job, instead of letting God be God of our life, it’s like learning to dance only to a book. We think we know what we’re doing, we got everything together, all the moves, 1,2,3; 1,2,3, and we even fool ourselves, but surprise, something’s missing — the music!
St. Teresa of Avila once wrote, “Just these two words God spoke changed my life, ‘Enjoy Me!’ What a burden I thought I was to carry -- my pitiable life. But God once said to me, ‘I know a song, would you like to hear it?’ And laughter came from every brick in the street and from every pore in the sky. In my prayers, God changed my life when God said, "Enjoy Me!" “Enjoy Me!”