Sunday, June 16, 2019

God’s love overflows for us –Prov 8:22-31, Rom 5:1-15 (Trinity)

Trinity Sunday, Year C; St. Adalbert's and St. Casimir's parishes.

Before I entered seminary, I was a math teacher, which some people might think would give me an advantage in preaching on Trinity Sunday.  But, no amount of mathematical trickery can magically make ‘sense’ of the 3-in-1, because the Trinity is not a puzzle to be solved, but someone to adore.  We’re not here to ‘make sense’ of the Trinity, because sense is fundamentally the wrong thing to try to make out of Love.  Love is the thing to make out of Love: wonder, love, awe, praise and adoration.  Love is the heart of our belief in God as a Trinitarian God. Because if there wasn’t more than one person in the Godhead, God wouldn’t have been able to love before He created us. That would mean that God would have created us out of a neediness, a need to have someone to love. And it would mean that love is kind of an add-on to God, an optional extra He chose to take on at the dawn of time.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

God pulls us up by the flame of the Spirit – Acts 2:1-11, Gen 11:1-9

Pentecost; St Adalbert's and Casimir's parishes.

[Acts 2 is read on Sunday and Gen 11 is an option for the Vigil. As I had a Vigil and Sunday morning Mass, I varied the below homily by giving reminders of the reading they hadn't heard proclaimed.]

Fire fascinates us.  I was just out at a retreat center this week with some of my brothers in Holy Cross, and for some of our small group sessions, my group happened to in a room with a gas fire-place. It wasn’t particularly cold, but I noticed that almost instinctively one of the members of my group turned the fire on whenever we went into the room. I guess it’s similar to how we light candles even though the electric lights here work perfectly well. Fire captures our gaze and delights us.  This is as true with how a fire place makes a space feel more humane, more conducive to reflection, to when we gaze up at those firey dots in the night’s sky, or think about some campfire conversations maybe you’ve had.  Fire not just warms us, it lights up our world, it cooks our food, it fascinates us and attracts our gaze.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

God shows us what yet another facet of love looks like – Acts 1:1-11, Luke 24:46-52

Ascension, Year C; St. Adalbert's and St. Stanislaus parish.

Some people say that Ascension is the hardest feast of the Church year to preach on.  Not Trinity Sunday, not Good Friday, not a funeral: the Ascension.  And I’m not making excuses here, but it’s the only feast on which the primary action of God, in Christ, that we celebrate seems to be him moving away from us.  We’re on earth, and he ascends: to heaven.  And that’s not the primary movement given to us to proclaim at any other time: the Christian story is consistently one of God reaching out to us, God coming to visit and redeem his people, of us turning away, but of God’s grace eventually conquering our stubbornness and repentance moving us to accept the glorious eternal embrace offered.  Except today: when the movement is of Christ ascending.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Jesus and the Father unite in care for us – John 10:27-30, Rev 7:9-17, Acts 13:43-51

4th Sunday of Easter, Year C; Holy Infant parish

“The Father and I are one,” Jesus tells the crowd. And that statement has led to all kinds of theologizing to try and make sense of what it can mean for Jesus, who certainly looked pretty human, to be able to say that. And the crystallization of a few hundred years of puzzling over that is what we say in our creed, what we mean when we confess Jesus is fully divine and fully human. It’s an amazing confession, when you think about it, that there’s nothing that authentic to being human that’s incompatible with divinity. That’s an amazingly daring statement about our created dignity, to which God longs to restore us, and to which God has acted in Christ to begin to restore us. It’s also an amazingly daring statement about God, the limitless God, who can hold creation in his fingertips, but consented to know limit, to know impairment, to know hunger and thirst and death all for love of us. That God, in His totally radically free will, wills to love us so much even when we turn away that He consents to know a thirst for us that He doesn’t have to.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

God always gives us a second chance – John 21:1-14, Rev 5:11-14

Third Sunday of Easter, Year C; Holy Infant parish.

Our God is a God of second chances. And not just second: third, fourth… there isn’t an ordinal so high that it could limit God’s love, stop God from continue to reach out to us, from bidding us cast our nets, and inviting us to breakfast; just as Jesus does with Peter, even after Peter denied him. The image of the net, full to bursting with fish, but not bursting, is an image of how plentiful and limitless God’s ongoing will to reach out to us is. A lot of commentators over the centuries have spilled a lot of ink (or, I guess, now, worn out a lot of keys on a lot of keyboards) trying to figure out quite why there were 153 fish. Some of these explanations are kind of fun. St. Jerome claimed that there were 153 species of fish, so 153 fish was a symbol for the church containing the full diversity of humanity. Unfortunately, there aren’t just 153 species of fish, and no one at that time seemed to think that either, except people that wanted to get this meaning out of John.  Other people have tried gematria, which is an ancient technique whereby you assign a number to each letter of the Hebrew alphabet and add up all the letters in a word or phrase. If you do that to the phrase “church of love,” you get 153, which is really cute. The problem is that neither John no anywhere else in the New Testament is the phrase “church of love” used, and there are all kinds of different phrases that would give you that number. My personal favorite explanation is that 153 is the sum of all the whole numbers from 1 to 17, and 17 is the sum of 10 and 7, two important numbers that represented fullness (think 10 commandments, 7 days of the week).

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Jesus takes away our grave clothes, too – Luke 24:1-12

Easter Sunday, Year C [Mass during the day, but I used the Vigil Gospel]; Holy Infant parish.

Our gospel ends with Peter amazed. Actually, in Greek, it says that he went away “marveling to himself.” I love that. Just imagining him walking and marveling. Like, his legs are keeping moving, but in his mind, and in his heart, all that he can think, all that he can feel, is “Wow.” Our gospel ends with Peter amazed, but I’d like to encourage us to read the whole thing amazed.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Jesus labors to bring the Church to birth – John 18:1-19:42

Good Friday; Holy Infant.

When the fire broke out at Notre Dame earlier this week, I was actually rather surprised by how many people seemed to be touched, moved, grieved by it. My facebook feed was full of people who felt a need to share something about it; Catholics, but also non-Catholic Christians, people of other faiths, and people with no religious commitments at all. I think there’s just something basically human about grieving the loss or potential loss of beauty like that. I’m reminded of the rallying cry of the early 20th Century American Labor movement: “give us bread, but give us roses too.” Stomachs can hunger, but so can hearts. Beautiful places of worship can often be among the few places of beauty where people in poverty are actually welcomed.