Sunday, October 31, 2010

Have you seen Jesus?

Homily for the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Wisdom 11.12-12.2 Psalm 145 2 Thessalonians 1.11-2.2 Luke 19.1-10

Click here to listen to or download an audio (mp3) version of this homily.

Have you seen Jesus today? Here is here, I assure you, but have you seen him? Of course, we aren’t like Zacchaeus, we can’t simply climb a tree to get above the crowd and see Jesus from there; we won’t find Jesus in the flesh walking along our roads, inviting himself to our homes. But he is here – in this church, in the words of Scripture, in the Eucharist, in all of us who have been called and commissioned to follow him. But have you seen him?

You might say that the purpose of the Church is to help people see Jesus in their lives, and once they find him, to learn how to follow him. As a Church, we do this in three main ways – by proclaiming the word of God, by celebrating the sacraments, and by exercising the ministry of charity. First, we proclaim the word of God through the way we interact with one another, the way we speak to one another, they way we respect human dignity. We proclaim the word of God by being people of love and hope, truth and honor. But as a Church we also have more formal ways of proclaiming God’s word – especially in our faith formation programs, our Catholic schools, and our efforts at evangelization. That’s the first way we can help people find Jesus. But it doesn’t stop there. Second, we celebrate the sacraments. None of us can follow Jesus on our own – we need the support of a community, we need the strength of the Eucharist, the forgiveness of Reconciliation, the wisdom of Confirmation. In the sacraments, we encounter Jesus Christ himself, and we receive the gifts – the grace – we need to be a people of faith. That’s the second way we help people find Jesus, through the sacraments. And finally, we help people find Jesus by exercising the ministry of charity, by serving the basic human needs of our brothers and sisters, whether by serving in a soup kitchen, comforting the grieving, or upholding the dignity and value of human life, from conception to natural death. To proclaim the word – to celebrate the sacraments – to exercise the ministry of charity – that is what it means to be Church, to help people find Jesus Christ and follow him.

The thing is, we can’t do it alone – as a priest and pastor, I can’t do it alone. As a parish staff, we can’t do it alone. As our shepherd and leader, Archbishop Daniel can’t do it alone. We need your help. We need the gift of your time to pray for people who are looking for Jesus, to visit those who are sick or dying, and to mentor our young people. We need the gift of your talents to teach in our faith formation programs, to cook for our funeral lunches, and to proclaim the Scriptures at Mass. And we need your treasure to make our Catholic schools affordable, to educate seminarians and deacon candidates, and to provide material resources for single mothers and families in poverty. Some of these things we do here at our parish – like our bereavement programs and our St. Vincent de Paul Society. Other things can only be accomplished at the Archdiocesan or deanery level – like seminary education or the work of St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities. But all of this ministry, we do together – because no one person can do it alone.

This week, you should receive in the mail detailed information about our parish and archdiocesan ministries and how we are inviting you to be involved. It’s called Christ Our Hope: Compassion in Community. Please, take some time to pray with this information and ask God how he is calling you to share your time, talent, and treasure in the coming year with both your parish and Archdiocesan community. Next weekend, we invite you to bring your completed intention card to Mass and place it before the altar. And remember, it’s all about helping people see Jesus – giving them a tree to climb, if they need it – and supporting them along the way as we proclaim God’s word, celebrate the sacraments, and exercise the ministry of charity. Archbishop Daniel and I can’t do it alone. We need your help.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Humility of a Sinner

Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Sirach 35.12-14, 16-18 Psalm 34 2 Timothy 4.6-8, 16-18 Luke 18.9-14

Click here to listen to or download an audio (mp3) file of this homily.

Think back to the last time you judged someone. Unfortunately, it’s something we all do with some frequency. It might have been last night, when you were out to eat or going shopping and you made a mental judgment about a stranger you walked by – perhaps about the person’s appearance or behavior. It might have been this morning as you were listening to the daily news, judging the latest instant celebrity or politician running for office. Or it might have been just seconds ago, when you passed judgment on someone else sitting right here in this church, maybe even in the very pew you are sitting in, judging their attitude or their reverence or something you heard someone else say they heard from a friend about this person. When was the last time you judged someone, and why did you do it? Keep that in the back of your mind.

Now take the Pharisee in today’s parable. He certainly passed judgment on the tax collector he saw at the Temple – he even tried to judge the whole of humanity, calling the entire human race greedy, dishonest, and adulterous. Now, the Pharisee probably was a good person – he probably did fast and tithe, he did his best to avoid greed and dishonesty. But look at the way he judges – he judges others in comparison to the good person he is, to all the great things he has done right. This particular Pharisee boasts of what he has accomplished – personally, by his own efforts – and he judges everyone else by how they have failed to be as good as he is. It’s not just a judgment, it’s a comparison. The tax collector, on the other hand, is a sinner, and he knows it. And even more, he knows that he needs God’s mercy. And he’s not comparing his sins to anyone else.

So think back to the last time you judged someone. Why did you do it? How did you do it? My guess is that it probably involved comparing them to what you would do or the way you act – since, in our minds, we are such a better person than they are. But if we think some more, we’ll realize that we are just as much in need of God’s mercy and guidance as anyone else. Thank goodness, God is here for each one of us.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pilgrimage Pictures - The Favorites

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from this fall's Pilgrimage to Germany and Switzerland.

Gardens at Nymphenburg Palace, Munich, Germany

Medieval home, Rothenburg, Germany

Hohenschwangau Castle, Bavaria, Germany

Abbey and Village of Einsiedeln, Switzerland

Water Tower, Mannheim, Germany

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pray Always

Homily for the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Exodus 17.8-13 Psalm 121 2 Timothy 3.14-4.2 Luke 18.1-8

Click here to listen to or download an audio (mp3) version of this homily.

This week, the entire world watched as a real-life example of perseverance, persistence, and hope was played out in the mountains of Chile. As the 33 miners who had been trapped underground for 69 days were brought to the surface, one by one, there were cries of joy and the tears of answered prayers. Not only the president of the country but also the local bishop was there to welcome the miners to the surface, and an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was proudly displayed in the rescue camp. In recent weeks, so many people all over the world had responded to the call of Jesus in today’s gospel, to “pray always without becoming weary” (Luke 18.1). Persistence in prayer – this is what it is all about.

Of course, we know from our own experience that constant prayers do not always result in the happy ending that we are looking for. Sometimes we feel like we’ve never prayed harder in our lives, but in the end, it seems like the prayer hasn’t made a difference. But I think we often have a false understanding of what prayer does. Prayer does not make everything right; prayer does not make our lives perfect. Prayer does connect us with God, and the more we pray, the more persistent and constant our prayer becomes, the more we are united with God’s will and God’s presence. Persistence in prayer keeps our faith alive. Persistence in prayer holds us up with the strength of God. Persistence in prayer gives us hope and peace, no matter what the outcome of the situation we’re praying for. Persistence in prayer helps us see the miracles God is working in front of our eyes. And believe me, prayer does make a difference, because when we pray always, we begin to see things the way God sees them. And that can be a true blessing.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Gift of 40 Hours

Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
2 Kings 5.14-17 Psalm 98 2 Timothy 2.8-13 Luke 17.11-19

Click here to listen to or download an audio (mp3) version of this homily.

Do you ever feel like Jesus in this gospel story? You’ve worked hard, put in a lot of time and effort on a project or family get-together, done a great job at whatever you do, maybe even worked little miracles; but it seems like no one recognizes what you’ve done, no one appreciates who you are, or at least the vast majority, even 90% of the people around you, barely know you exist. Or maybe you feel like the lepers – cast out, ostracized from society or from the in-crowd, ignored because somebody considers you to be different. Or maybe sometimes you feel like the one Samaritan leper – God is the center of your life, you remember each day to thank God for his blessings, you come to church each week – but when you look around, you realize that you’re in the minority. Where’s everyone else? So many people don’t go to church, don’t pray to God. Or you might be like the nine cleansed lepers who did not return to thank Jesus – there are so many things you want to do, your life is so busy; or that busy-ness wears you out so much that prayer and thanksgiving is the last thing on your mind. Most of us can find someone to relate to in this story. It’s all focused on our relationships – with God, with other people, and with ourselves. And it all starts with an encounter with Jesus Christ.

In the 1500s in Italy, a new form of prayer began to develop that quickly spread all over the world. It’s a form of prayer that is also centered on an encounter with Jesus Christ, not physically, but in the Eucharist. It was called the 40 Hours Devotion. The basic concept of this devotion is a continuous period of prayer and Eucharistic Adoration over 40 consecutive hours. These 40 hours symbolize the time Jesus spent in the tomb, after his death on Good Friday until his resurrection on Easter Sunday morning. The Eucharist would be exposed in a gold vessel, called a monstrance, and people would come to the church any time they could, day or night, to spend time in prayer. There would be some formal times of prayer – like the rosary or the stations of the cross or the liturgy of the hours – but most of the time, the church would simply be open for personal prayer in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord.

It has been many years since we have had a 40 Hours Devotion here in our parish, but in just a couple weeks, we are renewing this annual time of intense prayer and adoration. It starts a week from Wednesday. From 5 pm on Wednesday, October 20 through 9 am on Friday, October 22, there will be prayer and Eucharistic Adoration here in the church. A full schedule can be found in today’s bulletin. I personally invite every parishioner, every person here, to spend at least one hour in church in prayer during that time – you can come on your own schedule, day or night. To make sure we have at least two people here all the time, there are sign-up sheets in the church vestibule this weekend and next weekend. We also encourage you to join us at 7 pm each of the nights of the 40 Hours Devotion for Evening Prayer and preaching in a style similar to a parish mission. But, most importantly, you are invited to take advantage of this time of prayer to deepen your faith, to pray for those in need, and to strengthen our community.

And that brings us back to today’s gospel. If you feel like Jesus in this gospel – worn out and tired from the hard work you put in each day – come, rest in the presence of Christ. If you feel like the lepers, on the outskirts of society – come, spend time with the one person who loves and guides you always. If you’re like the Samaritan, already a person of prayer – then come, pray for those whose relationship with Christ is floundering or hidden. If you feel like the other lepers, so busy that an hour of quiet prayer seems impossible – then come in the middle of the night, or early in the morning, when there are no other demands on your time. No matter where you find yourself in your relationship with God, these 40 Hours of prayer can be a gift – a gift of time, a gift of prayer, a gift communion with our Eucharistic Lord.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Gathering of the Faithful in Oberammergau

Yesterday evening, I returned from a 10-day pilgrimage to Germany and Switzerland, traveling with the Saint Meinrad Alumni Association. It was a wonderful time, with many highlights and memories - and more stories and pictures will be forthcoming. But, to start, a reflection on one aspect of the highlight of the trip - the Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany. In 1633, the people of this small village in Bavaria, not far from the Austrian border, vowed that if they were spared the effects of the plague that was devastating central Europe, they would put on a Passion Play every ten years to honor the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The town was spared, and this year saw the 41st presentation of the Oberammergau Passion Play.

Over the years, people have come from all over the world to be a part of this production. And it was this universal reach that especially touched me during our days in the village. It was almost as if the focus of the entire Christian world was on this small village in southern Germany. On the day we attended the Passion Play - the 99th of 100 performances this year - we saw innumerable people we knew: our own Archbishop Daniel Buechlein, OSB, of Indianapolis, and several other people from Indianapolis traveling with him, including my kindergarten principal and a priest friend from Indy; a group traveling from Batesville, Indiana, with several people I knew; a group traveling from Evansville, Indiana, with many people from St. John Parish in Newburgh, where my traveling companion, Fr. Jason Gries, had served as associate pastor a few years ago; a priest from Wisconsin who also studied at Saint Meinrad, two years behind us, along with Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, the former bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming, whom I had met last December while in Cheyenne for the ordination and installation of their current bishop, who was my predecessor as pastor at OLPH; the tour escort who had been with my pilgrimage In the Footsteps of St. Paul last summer; and many more. And we also met many new people, from Italy and Japan and all parts of the United States and Europe. And of course, there were our local hosts, Dieter and Rose Marie Dashuber, in whose home Fr. Jason and I stayed - Dieter is a native of Oberammergau and was one of the high priests in the Passion Play.

The focus of all these people was on the same thing - a remembrance of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Fittingly, we marked the day of the Passion Play by also having Mass at the local parish Church of Ss. Peter and Paul, at which Bishop Ricken presided and several of us priests in attendance concelebrated. The whole experience was a massive gathering of the faithful in a small German village to remember a vow made over 350 years ago and the Lord whom we all worship and whose saving death and resurrection has given us life. And, really, the Christian world was focused not on this particular village, but on the man on the cross, who rose from the dead. He is the one who brings us all together each time we gather to pray and celebrate the Eucharist - whether in Oberammergau or in our own parish church. Sometimes it's good to have a reminder of the universality of our faith!