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Showing posts from 2018

Offered: Feast of the Holy Family 2018

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One day years ago in Lincoln, Nebraska, a man came into the university Newman Center, definitely not a student but had found his way there somehow. There wasn’t anyone else around and we began to talk. I thought I maybe smelled some alcohol but he seemed pretty with it and he urgently asked me if I would please pray with him.

Now this is the sort of thing a campus missionary lives for, right? So it was with a full and grateful heart that I followed him into the chapel, all the way up the aisle, right to the threshold of the altar and tabernacle, where he knelt on the stone steps. I knelt next to him as he began praying aloud. Immediately he was sobbing… “Jesus… Jesus… help me… help my family…” I don’t remember all his words but they were a real cry from the heart, from someone who seemed to have been lost and was being found right next to me kneeling on those steps.

I was just silently praying along, and also thanking God for the incredible grace, the privilege to share a moment like …

Distance. Christmas 2018

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Born in 1979, I grew up with the image of Planet Earth from space. I was grown up before it was pointed out to me that that image is something pretty new. Of all the humans who’ve lived and died, no one ever saw an image of the planet Earth until fifty years ago — exactly fifty years ago, December 24th, 1968.

Of course everybody’s seen parts of it. You can climb a mountain to see more of it. You can follow the International Space Station on Instagram and see big expanses of it from orbit... but it’s still a piece you’re seeing. To really see the Earth, you have to go a whole lot farther away. There’s something a little funny about it, really. Apollo 8 went to get a closer look at the moon, but maybe its greatest contribution was to give us a farther look at the Earth.

And that’s what many people talk about when they talk about the image sent home from Apollo 8 fifty years ago tonight. It awakened a new sense of smallness, of oneness. Like: that’s us, that’s all of us. That’s the whole…

Trust all the way through: 4th Sunday Advent

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Elizabeth says to Mary, "Blessed art thou among women!" And blessed she is. And why? She was born without sin, but it's not like she can take any credit for that.  She gave birth to a child, and that’s totally incredible, but it does happen every day. Why is Mary so highly praised? Elizabeth tells her. "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."

Mary trusted God; she believed God's word with a trust so deep, so broad, so pure... it went right through her. Mary was trust all the way through — that’s another way of saying ‘full of grace,’ isn’t it? She must have had some premonition that God was asking much of her. Her life was turned completely upside down that day, and it stayed that way. She must have had an idea how hard it would be. Never make the Mother of Jesus out to be a syrupy plastic-statue cliche. Her life was too hard for that. But from the start and until the end, she trusted God. "Be it done u…

Joy. 3rd Sunday of Advent

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Let’s set things up by noticing two things in these readings that are, if not totally off the wall, at least a little attention-getting. The first is the imperative to rejoice in Zephaniah’s first reading and Paul’s second reading. They both contain this instruction, this command, to rejoice. What’s attention-getting about that is that they’re considering joy to be somehow a choice you can make. We might tend to think to be joyful is to feel a certain way, but if that’s what they meant they couldn’t command it. You can’t tell somebody to start having an emotion; they don’t work like that. You can’t tell somebody “I command you to feel happy!” So whatever they mean by rejoicing, it’s something you can make a decision to do.

The second attention-getting thing is related and it’s in Luke’s Gospel about John the Baptist. Luke says he’s proclaiming good news. But all John’s words that come before that are about judgment and repentance, and you might not associate repentance with joy.

When …

Immaculate Conception 2018

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There’s no straightforward, simple argument I can give to those who find this doctrine either improbable or simply uninteresting.  I don’t know of one big flashing sign that points to our Lady being conceived without sin.  Rather, it’s the presence of a thousand small signs that all point the same direction.  The more you study the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, the more you find over and over that it’s fitting, it’s beautiful, it’s just... really cool that God did it this way.  So in the space of a single sermon, perhaps I could talk about Mary as the new Eve, and why her immaculate conception fits that perfectly.  Or instead I could speak for several minutes about Mary as the Ark of the Covenant, and why her immaculate conception fits that so beautifully.  Or Mary as the woman of Revelation 11, or Mary as the mother of the Church, or Mary as a type and symbol of the Church, they’re all true and they’re all beautiful.  Like so many of the mysteries of our faith, the Immaculate Co…

The Lord Alone. 31st Sunday OT

The first thing that struck me about this story, this particular week, is how Jewish it is. It’s such a Jewish scene from top to bottom. Approaching Jesus is a scribe, someone whose life is dedicated to studying the Torah and other Hebrew Scriptures. And he approaches Jesus as a Rabbi, as a teacher and interpreter of the Law of Moses. Jesus, in turn, answers in a most Rabbinic way, by directly quoting the Torah word for word. Hearing our Lord in this very Jewish role reciting Deuteronomy 6:4-6, I can’t help but think of the worst anti-Semitic violence in the history of our nation, last Saturday at the Tree of Life Synagogue. Please join me through this Mass in prayer for God’s blessing and protection on our elder brothers and sisters in the faith of Abraham. Our kinship couldn’t be clearer as Jesus quotes Moses to answer this very fundamental question:  “What’s the first of all the commandments?”

I think there’s a holy impulse behind this question, a beautiful insight. It comes from a…

Holiness Isn't Optional: 22nd Sunday OT

https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2018/08/a-time-for-saints

https://twitter.com/brandonmcg/status/1034657045193142272

(thread) https://twitter.com/HaleyCarrots/status/1033692876700635137

https://www.carrotsformichaelmas.com/2018/08/28/the-church-my-mother/

The loud and clear and incredibly beautiful reaction I keep seeing from faithful Catholics who are so hurt and appalled by clerical scandals boils down to one thing: “We’ve got to be holy. I’ve got to be holy.” Who would have thought that rage and disgust could be such a great motivator to holiness? But I feel it too and, I hope, so do you. We’re needed, now more than ever. And it does have a certain logic to it. We feel down to our core that the Church is supposed to be holy. We’re not seeing the holiness we know should be there. So what’s the response?

Maybe there’s sometimes a temptation to leave the holiness to others, to feel like we can be sort of average — we wouldn’t use the words lukewarm or mediocre, but that’s what …

Stay or Go. 21st Sunday OT

Here are links to the letters of Bishop Braxton and Pope Francis, which Bishop Braxton asked to be read at all Masses, printed in bulletins, and posted on websites. We didn't get them in the bulletin but I'll have paper copies available next weekend.

In this fourth and final consecutive passage from the Bread of Life discourse in John 6, we get to see the fallout from this teaching of Jesus. He’s been shocking and even disturbing them. You tell me, how would you react to a man who was telling you you’d live forever if you drank his blood? But the more they press Him, the more he just doubles down: Yes, I’m really saying that. You have to eat my Body and drink my Blood.

Many Christians react the same way today, and again, it’s no wonder. Surely Jesus means something symbolic or poetic here. But there’s a very good reason that belief can’t work. And it’s what we’re going to focus on this week. The first focus was the Eucharist as receiving Jesus, and the second was the Eucharist…

Bread of Life, Body of Christ: 20th Sunday OT

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It's the third of four consecutive Sundays that we hear from John 6, from what’s called the Bread of Life discourse. It offers a chance to look at the Eucharist from a few different perspectives. So two weeks ago, the focus on receiving Jesus. Last week, the focus on offering Jesus. This week we'll take a more personal angle.

My summer Mass schedule has just changed a lot with the end of the Sunday night camp Masses, shuttling between Gallatin County and Camp Ondessonk. It’s a big shift to make in the space of an hour’s drive. I love them both, but they’re really different! The most obvious difference at Camp is that we’re outside, under the overhanging Grotto, looking out over Lake St. Isaac and up at God’s universe and the swallows flying around the bluff. It can also be swelteringly hot in vestments, but the spirit and energy of those liturgies is amazing. My preaching there is very different as well. The sermons here wouldn’t work there, and the sermons there definitely wou…

On the Pennsylvania abuse report: a letter from a pastor

The following is being distributed in our bulletin this weekend. It reflects my weak attempt to offer something at least better than silence. It had to be composed hastily and it certainly doesn't feel adequate, but I don't think anything would. I think it's important for parents to know that the number of abuse cases since 2002 seems very few. I almost hate to say that, out of fear that it sounds like minimizing or downplaying what should never be downplayed. But parents need to know the current situation as well as the past. What we've done since 2002 seems to have had a huge impact. In whatever remains to be done, I am anxious to work with anyone who has ideas.


Dear Friends in Christ,

“Grand jurors are just regular people who are randomly selected for service. We don’t get paid much, the hours are bad, and the work can be heartbreaking. What makes it worthwhile is knowing we can do some kind of justice. We spent 24 months dredging up the most depraved behavior, only…

Given Up: 19th Sunday OT

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Sometimes, standing in the back of the church aisle, about to give the go-ahead for the processional hymn, I’ll ask the servers: “Ready to go save the world?” That's putting it in a kind of lighthearted way, but it’s absolutely not a joke. I’m reminding them, and even more reminding myself, of exactly what it is we are about to do. Because it’s a simple truth that the Mass saves the world.

“Wait!,” someone shouts, “The Cross of Jesus Christ saves the world!” That’s absolutely right, but what do you think the Mass is? It is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross, extended through time and space. Think of Good Friday as a point on the timeline of history. What Jesus did that day on Calvary offers salvation to every human being who ever lived before Him, and every human being who will ever live after Him. It’s like that Cross comes down from Heaven and plants itself right there in 33 A.D. outside Jerusalem, and ripples out through all time and space. Those ripples are the Holy Sa…

Transfigured - a coauthored article for CCLI

Guest blogging is getting to be a fun side hustle! This one's a collaboration with Forest Hempen of the Couple-to-Couple League International.

https://ccli.org/2018/08/transfigured/

St. Jean Vianney & NFP: guest blog for CCLI

I've been doing a little moonlighting over at Couple-to-Couple League International:

https://ccli.org/2018/08/on-st-jean-vianney-and-nfp/

The brief was to tie the feast of the patron Saint of parish priests, St. Jean (John) Vianney, into a short article on Natural Family Planning... kind of the priest's point of view I guess.

Here for Him: 18th Sunday OT

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This is the second of five weeks of readings from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. Last week was the set-up, the story of the feeding of five thousand from a few loaves and fishes. It’s a great miracle; like I said, one of my favorites! But that miracle was only a foretaste, only a shadow of what is coming next.

Because what’s coming next, as the sixth chapter of John continues, is that Jesus begins teaching about the Bread of Life.

Since that miracle of the loaves and fishes, Jesus and the Apostles have travelled back to Capernaum, but the people follow them there. You may have noticed this is kind of a pattern. Why? This great crowd that is following Jesus around everywhere, what are they seeking? That's where He begins the conversation today. He challenges their reasons for following Him around. What are they looking for?

We could ask the same question of ourselves, right here, right now. We’ve got a crowd here, come to gather around Jesus. A full church, a beautiful sight! …

All we've got: 17th Sunday OT

This miracle gives us a glimpse of what can happen when we stop telling Jesus what we need and start giving Him what we have. Like us, the Apostles’ starting point is what they don’t have, what they’re missing, our own true and obvious inadequacy. Look at all these hungry people! There’s no way we can manage this. Sorry, Jesus, but this seems pretty hopeless. Nothing we can do. We don’t have enough.

What do you have?

Not enough! That’s what we have. Not even close. Not enough to make a dent, to even make a little difference. The gap between what we need and what we have, it’s almost funny if it weren’t such a desperate situation.

What do you HAVE?

Please listen to me, I’m telling you we need more. We have practically nothing.

What do you have?

We have parishes closing all over the diocese. We have only a minority of the people baptized in this parish who practice their faith. Nationally we have six people leaving the Church for every one who joins. We have ten priests under the age of 50…

Restoration: 16th Sunday OT 2018

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Last week Jesus sent out his twelve Apostles on mission, and in today’s Gospel they’ve just come back. They report to Jesus “everything they had done and taught.” I saw one comment that this shows a very human failing: focusing on ourselves and what we do, instead of on God and what He’s doing. So at the end of something, we’re likely to think of it as ours, as something we did, our work, our achievement. When really it is God from whom anything truly good comes, and it’s grace that gives any success to what we do. Surely this isn’t a condemnation of the Apostles… but as they grow spiritually, they will have less to say about their work and more to say about what God has done.

Human self-centeredness notwithstanding, the Gospel is catching fire, and people are starting to come. The Apostles had gone out to spread the word among the towns, and now people from all over are coming to see Jesus. You can imagine a few people coming the first day, then more… then getting to be a crowd, and …