Thursday, April 16, 2009

You oceans...Bless the Lord

We are so blessed on Long Island because the Ocean and beautiful beaches are literally our front yard. Even in still chilly Spring temperatures, folks find themselves contemplating the waves and are soothed by their consistent pattern. And yet God is greater. Not even these crashing waves and its life giving waters can fully present God's power, creativity and love. Let's Bless the Lord for the beauty and awesome power he places at our feet!

Monday, April 13, 2009

No place like home?

Well it's the home opener at Shea Stadium -- uh Citi Field. I am hoping for two things today. First a Met win, with some offense. So far they are still looking like the same old team, no offense and surprisingly still some bullpen issues. The second thing is that Citi Field starts to feel more like a home to the Mets. I was there for exhibition game against Boston. Its a great park and it will be a fun place to watch a game. But it did not feel like the Mets' home. Not enough Met history or branding. And even worse -- all those exclusive restaurants and bars. I felt like my old friend moved to a new house, in a new neighborhood, got cooler friends and I feel left out.

But in any case -- LET'S GO METS!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bishop Bob

Ordination of Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, Charleston SC.  I am pictured with the Bishop and other priests of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting.

Easter Sunday Homily

Click here for Easter Sunday readings
Remember those without hope, who do not know that you have risen

I recently came across these words in the intercessory prayers of Holy Saturday evening prayer. These words got me thinking about who it is that does not know the story of the resurrection. Certainly none of those who come to Easter Mass are surprised by the story.Those who do not share our Christian faith have certainly heard what it is that we are celebrating today. And while it is true that there are still places in our world that have not heard the Gospel, I have a feeling that someone more than them is implied.I believe that this prayer acknowledges a universal truth -- many have heard of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but many do not know, the resurrection. We may know the facts but have yet to experience, through faith, what resurrection is. The prayer speaks for those who may have heard the facts but are yet to know the transformative power of Christ resurrection and are still without hope.

In this morning’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we hear Peter delivering a speech in the house of Cornelius, a faithful Roman centurion. Peter gives them brief history of what he has witnessed in the public ministry of Jesus Christ and his resurrection.The people to whom he speaks know the facts that Peter is sharing with them, as the story has already been told for ten years. Peter speaks not to just give them facts but to encourage them to believe, to seek Christ and to receive his merciful love as he has. In the same way, Saint Paul, in his letter to the Colossians written approximately 30 years after the events of the resurrection, tells the people to seek what is above, to look with eyes of faith for the risen Christ and not simply be focused on the earthly things around us. Paul writes these words from prison sharing with others the hope that sustains him.

Knowing resurrection is an active pursuit, even as it is revealed in the Gospel today. Mary of Magdala goes to the tomb and finds the stone removed from the tomb, she runs to Peter and the other disciple, and they run to the tomb.There is much confusion and as the Gospel says they had yet to understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. There is much confusion and much running around and still the Gospel tells us that in the midst of that chaotic pursuit the one disciple saw and believed. He did not have facts; he had not yet seen the resurrected Christ but he believed and was among the first to know he had risen, he was among the first to have hope.

We see ourselves in this morning’s Gospel account. Our lives are filled with moments of running here and there. Our obligations are great and so are our longings. We seek and we search and sometimes we give up. We know lots of things and yet we still struggle to know the one thing that truly gives us hope – that death has no power over us. You may have seen the cover of Newsweek last week which proclaimed the decline and fall of the Christian America. That was followed by a statement made by the President in which he said that one of the greatest strengths of the United States is that we do not consider ourselves a Christian, Jewish or Muslim nation but, “a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.” The Newsweek issue and the president’s statement reflect a truth about the culture in which we live; in many ways the pursuit of faith is secondary to other ideals. We don’t know the resurrection because sometimes we stop seeking it. This is not to say that we are bad people or that we are deliberately opposing God in our lives. It is simply because of the nature of human life that we sometimes stop looking.

Sometimes we stop looking because for the moment we are satisfied. It is so easy for us to find comfort in the things we buy, the company we keep, achievement at work and at school and the leisure activities we enjoy. We know that none of these are bad in themselves and can in fact be understood as blessings. We must also know, however, that they are temporary. When we do not listen to the encouragement of St. Paul and focus simply on the earthly things and not what is above, we can not know resurrection, we can not know hope. When our satisfaction is found only in the here and now and not in an eternal life in heaven awaiting us -- we stop looking for the resurrection and we can not therefore know it.

Sometimes we stop looking because we meet Good Friday. Tragedy, sorrow, disappointment and betrayal are devastating. We can not make sense of these things. Suffering is unbearable and confusing. Moving beyond Good Friday, pain and all its sorrow comes with grace. Each one of us moves at our own pace, and sometimes we need to linger at the cross or the tomb. Ironically, though, Good Friday is necessary in order for us to know resurrection. We can not know resurrection without first knowing suffering and death. Good Friday is a stumbling block to knowing resurrection and it is also a necessary stepping stone. We pray for the grace to move when we are ready, to seek the resurrected Christ beyond our sorrow.

Lastly we sometimes stop looking for the resurrection when we find emptiness. In the Gospel they find the tomb empty and nothing more but they do not stop at the emptiness. Many, who come to church, who are faithful to the sacraments, who pray on a regular basis and who do good things still profess emptiness in their spiritual life. Their experience is no different than the experience of those we recognize as saints. St. John of the Cross is known famously for his description of the Dark Night of the Soul and more recently we have come to know of the doubt and dryness of spirit experienced by Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta. Empty tombs and empty souls are realities we encounter in the spiritual journey and in our life of faith. Yet they too are necessary to knowing resurrection. How can one define faith without being able to compare it to doubt? How can one appreciate hope without first knowing empty despair?

Who is this Easter prayer for? It is for each of us. It is for our friends, neighbors and family members, who like us may know facts but have yet to experience resurrection. Our lives are continuation of the paschal mystery. We each experience passion and death and we all seek to know resurrection. We celebrate Easter today not just because we know the fact that Christ is risen, but we seek to know the power of resurrection in our lives. We seek to move past earthly satisfaction, sorrow and emptiness. We seek the hope that is known only when we realize that death does in fact have no power over us. May each of us have hope and know that he is risen.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Good Friday Homily

Click here for Good Friday readings
"Father can you bless this crucifix? It’s from my aunt. It was my grandfather’s. It’s for my godson who is being baptized next week. It’s for my daughter who is being deployed overseas, It’s for my friend who has cancer."

Rarely have I been asked to bless a crucifix or any other sacred object that did not have the story of a relationship behind it. More specifically the request to bless a crucifix typically reveals not just an ordinary relationship but a relationship for which one is passionate. Passionate relationships are the most significant ones in our lives. They reflect our deepest love and often the place of our deepest suffering; suffering because we love.

This Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion and the entire journey of Lent itself is one that is marked by relationships, a passionate relationship between God and his people, Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd and his flock. It began in the dessert with a passionate relationship with evil and temptation. In the transfiguration, the Father’s passionate love is revealed within the relationship of the law and the prophets, represented by Moses and Elijah. Throughout his public ministry Jesus' passion for his disciples is clear as they struggle to understand who he is. The passionate relationship between Christ and the Scribes and Pharisees is one that challenges the religious leaders to authenticity in faith. Christ’s passion is reveled in the anger displayed to the money changers and merchants as well as the wisdom he shares with Jew, Greek and Roman. He is passionate about the remarkable figures of the woman at the well, the blind man whose sight is restored and Lazarus who is raised from the dead. Through intimate relationships there is passionate for those who fail him in denial and betrayal as well as those who remain at the foot of the cross.

The Passion of Jesus Christ makes no sense without relationship. It is the relationship with the chosen people of the covenant and ultimately the entire human family for which this suffering exists. It is for us who worship today. As the letter to the Hebrews explains, this High Priest could not know sin but chooses to know its effects, suffering, because of his passionate relationship with us.

When we use the word, "passion" the word, "love" is implied and suffering is understood. The greatest suffering in our lives comes about because we love first. Passionate love finds expression in suffering, because it is through the willingness to suffer, that the commitment to love is confirmed. In the passionate suffering of Christ we witness not only his love for us but the challenge to be imitators of that love.

In a reflection on the crucifixion, St. Thomas Aquinas instructs that if one seeks an example of love, there is no greater love than Christ on the cross. If one seeks an example of patience there is no greater example then Christ who patiently suffers what he could have avoided. If one seeks humility we should look on the one who willingly allowed himself to be judged by Pilate. If we see an example of obedience, follow him who became obedient to the father. If we seek to be detached from earthly things and only to what is everlasting see the one who was stripped, beaten and mocked. The giving of one's whole self, humility, obedience and detachment are examples of passionate love lived out and examples of how to love passionately.

On this Good Friday we offer universal prayers in our General Intercessions. We pray not only for ourselves, for those who share our faith and all people of faith, but we also pray for those who have no faith and even those who oppose faith; because this passionate love of the cross is for all. This passionate love seeks relationship with friend and enemy; believer and non-believer. We venerate the Holy Cross today and not just the corpus on it; because this instrument of death, is an instrument of passionate suffering. We embrace the cross and our suffering; we unite our suffering to his because the two great phrases of this week are, “Do this in memory of me,” and “Love one another as I have loved you.”

When I am asked, “Can you bless this Father?” I can not help but think that it already is because of the passionate love it depicts and so too is the relationship it represents. Today we witness how greatly we are loved and we accept the challenge to passionately love as we have been loved.