We use cute kittens for praising friends. Ask anyone who got confirmed at Holy Cross grade school in South Bend, IN in 2014 or ’15 what the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are, and right before they tell you wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, fear of the Lord, they’ll probably think to themselves: we use cute kittens for praising friends. It taught the confirmation class to our 7th and 8th graders, and made up that mnemonic (where the first letter of each word matches) to make sure they remember the seven gifts, because I knew that our bishop would base his confirmation homily around asking them what the seven gifts were and preaching about each one. Only on one quiz did I ever get told that the seven gives were wisdom, understanding, counsel, kittens, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord.
Saturday, December 3, 2016
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Advent I, Year A; Holy Infant parish.
Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
The resolve to run forth to meet your Christ
With righteous deeds at his coming,
So that, gathered at his right hand,
They may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever.
Advent is for waiting – if people know one thing about Advent, it’s probably that. We’re waiting for Christmas, which isn’t very long to wait and we’re waiting for Christ to come again, without knowing how long that will be. Regardless, we’re waiting. So why did our opening prayer, our collect, talk about running? “Grant us the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ.” That’s what we prayed at the start of Mass. Running: it’s a fascinating and compelling characterization of what Christian waiting looks like.
Sunday, October 30, 2016
Ordinary Time, Year C, 31st Sunday; Holy Infant.
When you look at Zacchaeus, what do you see? We know what the crowd saw. They saw a short man, collaborating with Roman occupiers, a man they disdained and feared in equal measure. They saw someone who they presumed was an extortioner, and I’m sure tale upon tale of how wicked this bogeyman was spread, picking up embellishments like ships collecting barnacles. We don’t know whether this was true. We don’t know whether his extravagant gift to the poor was a one-off, spontaneous gesture occasioned by meeting Jesus, or his habitual practice that he just now makes public. We don’t know if he extorted anything, or if his promise to pay back four times as much was a cheap one to make because he had only ever made the costly decision to never act dishonestly. All we know was that he wanted to see Jesus, and he would go to any lengths necessary to make that happen. This well-to-do well-feared man, would publically humiliate himself by shimmying up a tree: All to see Jesus.
Sunday, October 23, 2016
Year C, 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time; Holy Infant
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 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.