Thank God I’m not like that Pharisee! Oh… wait… oops. It’s hard not to find some of him in each of us. You see, that Pharisee was a good person, a generous person. He fasted twice a week, much more often than was required. He ignored all the various exemptions concerning what kinds of income you didn’t have to pay tithes on and tithed on his total income. He fasted, gave alms and here he was in the Temple to pray – a model believer! Well, almost. Because he goes through the motions of addressing a prayer to God – beginning it “O God, I thank you…” – but our narrator, Jesus, tells us what’s really going on: “he spoke this prayer to himself.” And while he says “thank you,” his prayer merely lists his good deeds (genuine good deeds!) and the misdeeds of other mortals: entirely lacking is any mention of God’s deeds. All the good that God has inspired him to do… all that should be a living icon reminding him of the goodness of God, of God’s gracious acts of creation, of deliverance from captivity and exile, of God’s care and providence, God’s mercy. But no, this Pharisee takes his own good deeds and instead of letting them serve as an icon of God’s goodness, he makes them into an idol. And the people around him, who should be objects of his love, in whom he should be able to see the original spark on the image of God, in whom he should be able to see God acting, from whom he should be willing to learn; he simply reduces them to flat images of what not to do.
Sunday, October 23, 2016
Sunday, October 16, 2016
29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C; Holy Infant; Mass with baptism.
Whenever I come to baptize, my heart goes back to the first parish I served as a deacon, then priest, where my first baptisms and so many more were. There, like here, the font was near the door, a beautiful reminder that it is by baptism that we enter the church, like a door, and it was under a beautiful stained glass window of Jesus inviting children to come to him, to be embraced and to be blessed. Most of our baptisms there were outside of Mass so I was able to use that gospel each time. I would point them to the window, that I hope you can paint in your minds, and proclaim that this moment too, this beautiful sacramental moment of baptism, performs exactly what happened in that window (and so much more besides): a child is brought to Jesus for embrace, for blessing.
Sunday, October 9, 2016
28th Sunday in OT, Year C; Holy Infant parish.
I think the worst thing we could ever teach someone is that they should keep their distance from Jesus. Yet, this is what these ten lepers were taught. Not specifically from Jesus, of course, they’d been taught to keep their distance from everyone who didn’t share their disease. When the first signs of leprosy were noticed on someone’s skin, there would be a funeral style liturgy in which the victim would be mourned as if dead when cast out of the community, shunned, told to remain perpetually separate, to cry out to warn people not to come near them. They were taught that their skin was so dreadful, literally, something that people dreaded so, that they must keep away, because they were dangerous, because they were feared. They were taught to hate their own skin, taught that the only useful thing they could do with their lives was to help others avoid them.
Sunday, September 25, 2016
God invites us to participate in resurrection, if we dare to notice crosses – Luke 16:19-31, Amos 6:1a, 4-7
26th Sunday of Ordinary Time; Holy Infant parish.
To preach on this text, I need to be honest about where I stand, honest that when I hear this parable, I don’t feel like Lazarus. In fact, I’m frightened that I act like the rich man, and I’m begging God to help me grow into Christ’s likeness, who crossed from heaven to earth to show God’s love to sinners like you and me who rejected him. So, I’m going to preach to scratch my own itch. But, I say all this recognizing that some people hearing this might feel like Lazarus. Pope Francis once said that every verse of scripture is gift before it is demand, and if you do feel like Lazarus in this story, then maybe you don’t need the demand, at least not yet. Maybe you just need to assurance of choirs of angels celebrating your entry into heaven and embrace not just of Abraham but of Jesus. Be assured, and now let me talk a little to those who are frightened by this parable.
Sunday, September 18, 2016
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C; Holy Infant parish
This is my first time preaching the Sunday morning Masses here at Holy Infant and, while I’ve celebrated with the daily Mass crowd and Vigil Mass crowd, I was still really hoping that for my first time preaching for this gathered assembly, I’d get a nice easy Gospel passage. I guess God and the lectionary had other ideas! But, while this is a very strange parable, I want to start with what’s clear about it.
Saturday, September 3, 2016
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C -- Holy Infant parish.
When it’s your first time preaching a Sunday Mass in a new parish, you kind of hope for an easy gospel passage to preach on. But, I guess God has a different plan in mind, furnishing this teaching about hating family and carrying instruments of torture around with us. God actually has a track record on waving this passage in my face on occasions when I’d most like to avoid it. As you might recall, the Sunday readings cycle round on a three-year rotation, and the Sunday corresponding to this one three years ago, September 8th actually, I remember the date well, because it was the occasion of my ordination to the diaconate. Just what I wanted! When I was welcoming my family to the seminary to celebrate with me, they’d be subjected to a gospel claiming I was meant to hate them!
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Ordinary Time, Year C, Week 20; WNDU TV Mass (South Bend)
There is a marked home field advantage in the Olympics. Host nations on average win 20 more medals than they did in the summer games previous to the ones on their soil, and 10 more gold. You might wonder where this advantage comes from. Some of it is probably not being wearied by travel, competing in the climate you train in, the kind of advantages that accrue from being at ‘home.’ But, I’m sure a big part of it too is the fans, the people cheering you on.