Sunday, November 11, 2018

Jesus shows us sacrifice – Mark 12:38-44, Heb 9:24-28

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B; Holy Infant parish.

I wonder what emotions we imagine in Jesus when he said those words. I wonder what tone of voice carried his words. When proclaiming the gospel, I tried not to impose one on the words, but that’s really impossible, and shows why the reading aloud of scripture is the part of the process of interpreting. But, it’s a really helpful spiritual exercise to listen out for what tone of voice you hear Jesus’ words in when you read those words. (And incidentally, that’s part of why it’s a really helpful part of preparing ourselves for Mass to read the readings before Mass – you can find them online if you google USCCB lectionary, or the references are printed in the bulletin – because the Spirit can work through your imagination to lend a particular tone, a particular interpretation to Jesus’ words, and that might be precisely the one you need to hear). But, to get back to Jesus’ words… when he saw that woman give all she had to the Temple, is there admiration in his words? Is there sorrow, lament, or anger, that that kind of poverty exists, in which someone only owns a few small coins?

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Jesus walks along our way – Mark 10:46-52

30th Sunday in OT, Year B; Holy Infant parish. A shorter than normal homily, as we had a presentation of the status of our building plans too.

The first time I visited Durham was just over three years ago. I was serving at Notre Dame then and me and another priest from my community had been assigned to make applications to doctoral programs during that year, so we’d be able eventually to serve as faculty members at one of our community’s universities. During ND’s Fall break, Fr. Mark and I did a kind of road trip, to check out various schools on the East coast that we might be interested in applying to. We went out to Yale, Boston College and then down to Duke, where I had a wonderful visit and became pretty convinced that this is where I really was called to do my doctorate. That, of course, led to all kinds of worry. Initially, would I get in? But just as importantly, was I sure I’d be able to thrive here as a priest, and as a vowed religious of the Congregation of Holy Cross, while I did these studies that I felt called to?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Jesus pierces suffering – Mark 10:35-45, Heb 4:14-16

Twenty-ninth Sunday in OT, Year B; Holy Infant parish.

Someone recently sent me a short video about a chef called Mark Brand. Mark is a person who was at one point in his life without housing. He talks in the video about how sometimes that meant rotating between friends’ couches; sometimes that meant sleeping rough. He talks very honestly about how sometimes his life did involve making bad decision concerning alcohol and other drugs, and other times when he was able to choose sobriety for sustained periods, but had to deal with people who assumed he wasn’t. Things changed for Mark. He now owns a couple of restaurants. He has a permanent roof over his head, he employs people.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

God fills us to overflowing – Mark 10:17-27, Heb 4:12-13

Twenty-eighth Sunday of OT, Year B; Holy Infant

You’ve all probably heard that familiar adage that a pessimist says a glass is half-empty and an optimist says that it’s half-full.  Well, as Christians, we’re not called to be pessimists or optimists. We’re called to be something much more exciting; we’re called to be people of hope. A person of hope doesn’t deal in these half measures: hope proclaims that the glass can be filled.  Christian hope is assured that God can fill us up, that through the blood of Christ out poured, we can be filled to overflowing with holiness and love.  God will fill us.  That’s what Jesus means when he says that “All things are possible with God.”

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Jesus brings us back to God’s creative love – Mark 10:2-12, Gen 2:18-24

Twenty-seventh Sunday of OT, Year B; Holy Infant parish.

“Go back to the beginning… how did this all start?”  When something that was meant to be wonderful starts to taste bitter, that can be just the question to ask.  What was it that so exited me and led me to take this job, to begin this course of study, to play on this team, … to marry this person?  How can I bring that initial fervor to life again, in the more mature way that’s needed to deal with our more seasoned problems or our creeping ennui?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Jesus welcomes all into Kingdom joy – Mark 9:38-48

Twenty-sixth Sunday in OT, Year B; Holy Infant parish.

There’s really no good transition from plucking eyes out to anything else, so I’m not even going to try. I’m just going to start talking about St. Lucy’s day, and that’ll get us back to eyes soon enough. I don’t know if any of you have ever been to a St. Lucy’s day celebration. It’s December 13th, and a traditional day in many parts of Europe to lessen the rigors of Advent and celebrate. It’s a Friday this year, so for people who want to have parties prior to the start of the Christmas season, I especially recommend it. Lucy’s name is derived from the Latin word for light, so in parts of France it’s a day to let off fireworks. I parts of Scandinavia, it’s an occasion for parades in which young women wear headdresses containing lit candles. As the winter darkness draws in (which it does much more severely further North than here), these things can be wonderful reminders of how the light Christ is scatters all that’s dark. But, there’s an aspect of St. Lucy I haven’t discussed. She was an early martyr, under Decian, and legend has it that as part of the torture they subjected her to prior to her execution, her eyes were gouged out. Iconography of her often features her holding those eyes on a platter. There’s something somewhat macabre about that, but it’s a thoroughly Christian kind of macabre: As much as Roman Imperial Power tried to degrade her, she lives in Christ; as much as they tried to snuff out the light of her eyes, she inspires festivals of light among so many people; her risen life as a saint with Christ, welcomed by him into the kingdom, is full of light and joy, so full that she doesn’t need her eyes back in her sockets to know heavenly joy.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Jesus embraces us – Mark 9:30-37, James 3:16-4:3

Twenty-fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B; Holy Infant church.

There’s a puzzle that British newspapers like to publish called ‘spot the ball.’  They’ll take a photo of a moment in a soccer match, use computer wizardry to render the ball invisible and invite readers to reconstruct where it must be.  It sometimes takes some thought, but it’s an eminently doable puzzle, because all the action really is revolving around the ball; everyone on the pitch treats it as the most important object in the world and focuses their attention on it.  It’s the same when someone really important, really valued, really great is walking somewhere.  They’re surrounded, in the center, all conversations and interactions are rooted around the great one in their midst.