Tuesday, August 22, 2017

homily notes 20th Sunday of the Year, "A", 2017

When our current lectionary was assembled, the Sunday Gospel reading was the first component to be selected. During the liturgical year that began the First Sunday of Advent 2016, we are hearing primarily from the Gospel according to St. Matthew, and so it is that we come to the story of the Canaanite woman – a foreigner – seeking help from Jesus. When the editors of the lectionary looked for an Old Testament reading to go with the Gospel, we can easily understand why they selected the prophecy of Isaiah about God accepting the sacrifices offered by foreigners.
If we simply left the matter there, it would be interesting, but irrelevant. In fact the story of the Canaanite woman asking Jesus to help her possessed daughter, and then being rebuffed by both Jesus and his disciples, has something to say about a big problem our own country faces right now: the problem of race. It’s a dilemma that has always plagued our country, and recent events show that it has not yet been solved.
It is appalling and beyond belief, but it is true, that in our own country, which promises liberty and justice for all, there are people who call themselves the alt-right, white supremacists, white separatists, or even neo-Nazis. Some of these same people would call themselves Christian. They are sadly misled.
How are we to respond to this reality?
Political solutions alone, as we have seen, are insufficient. Politics is about power and influence and getting people to vote for you, not about healing and changing minds. Others say that the solution depends on more talk about diversity and inclusion. But what is our response as Christians, as Catholics? I believe that our Catholic Christian tradition has a lot to offer and a lot to teach us. In twenty centuries we have accumulated much wisdom that could be very helpful to our country today.
In 1937, Pope Pius XI wrote a letter to the Catholics of Germany, in which he said the following: “Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State,...above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God; he is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds.”
Perhaps many people don’t know that the Nazi ideology was both non-Christian and anti-Christian. The Nazis attacked the Old Testament as Jewish literature. Hitler said that Christianity was a “Jewish superstition.” Pope Benedict XVI correctly described Nazism as “an insane racist ideology, born of neo-paganism.”
The number of people who remember the fight against the Nazis is getting smaller; the number of those who actually fought in that conflict is smaller yet. Maybe that’s one reason for the resurgence of Nazi ideas. But it’s no excuse. If you know what Christianity really is, then you already know why it is wrong to say that one race is superior to another: it is a blasphemy against God the Creator of the human race, and an insult to God the Son, the redeemer of the human race. As the Roman Missal says, “For just as through your beloved Son you created the human race, so also through him with great goodness you formed it anew.” (Common Preface III)
Recently I was reading about Lewis Cooperberg. He was a Jewish kid from Brooklyn who served in the US Military as a medic in World War II, treating wounded soldiers. By 1944, he was treating more and more wounded German soldiers. He wrote home to his family about it: “I speak German pretty well, I speak to them. ...They have robbed and murdered and raped, and they lie on my slab, innocent-like and in pain, and I give them the same care, the same treatment I give our own boys. Yet all the while, I know these same men have killed my cousins and aunts and uncles in Poland, have tortured and killed without compunction, and despise me because I am a Jew. But I treat them...An SS trooper arrogantly refused a blood transfusion because it was American blood, we forced it into him, we should have let him die.”
That Jewish kid just told us what Christianity is. Jesus Christ gave the same treatment those who killed Him as He did to those who abandoned Him: Father, forgive them; they know not what they do. God sent us His son – a Jew – to heal us, and we despised Him. He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Like the SS trooper who refused a blood transfusion, we would sometimes rather die than let the precious blood of Jesus wash us clean of our sins. God should have let us die. But He did not.
Christians have always known this. Long before it became fashionable to talk about diversity and inclusion, Christians knew that one man died for all. They knew from the beginning that Christ was the new Adam, the new head of the whole human race. They knew that there is only one race: the human race.
St. Paul understood this. He was a Jew, outstanding in both instruction and observance, whose life completely changed when he met the risen Jesus. From that point on, he became the Apostle to the Gentiles but, as we heard in the second reading, his heart burned with the desire to save both Gentile and Jew. He understood that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, neither black nor white, neither Asian nor Hispanic. The only distinction that worried him was the difference between those who had faith and those who did not.
In this he showed that he had absorbed the mind of the Lord Jesus, who said to the Canaanite woman, “Oh woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” What an interesting phrase. Jesus praised the Canaanite woman in words nearly identical to the words spoken by his own mother to the angel: Let it be done to me according to your word.” When Mary spoke those words, she showed that she was the first disciple. When Jesus praised the Canaanite woman in those words, he showed that she was a true disciple, just as much a disciple as Peter, James, and John.
In the wake of Charlottesville, we need to be even more attentive to God’s word and what it is saying to us right now. In particular, the words of the first reading:
Observe what is right, do what is just...
my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Most Important Meal of the Day

The Hospitality and Inclusion Committee (HIC) of Saint Pathetica Catholic Community (SPCC) recently unveiled new cheerios dispensers in the gathering space of its worship space. "We noticed that many parents were bringing little plastic bags of cheerios for their little ones to munch on during the liturgy," explained chairperson Sheila Smith-Jones. "We noticed all the crumbs that were left behind and it made us think of John 6:12-13," added Permanent Deacon Dave (PDD). Concerned that parents were being forced to provide their own cheerios, thus introducing a division between those who brought cheerios and those who brought none (see 1 Corinthians 11:18-20), the HIC recognized its responsibility to provide restlessness care to all God's children. Hence the cheerios dispenser (see Leviticus 2:1-16).

The dispenser was dedicated last Sunday during the 11:00 liturgy, just before the moment when those children old enough to walk were dismissed for the Children's Liturgy of the Word (CLW) and the RCIA group left to do Breaking Open the Word (BOW). Parish music director Gary Dreamweaver led the Contemporary Choir in his newly-composed song, "The Most Important Meal of All" as Father Bob distributed smoking cereal bowls of incense to several middle-aged ladies, who honored the assembly with the sweet fragrance.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Moller Artiste repairs

First photo: old and new rackboard supports. Second photo: replacement support installed.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

If the Fathers of the Church Were Alive Today, 2: Augustine

Judy and Dr. Augustine with their children, Adeodatus and Tiffany
Hard to believe that I have been blogging at Confessions.blogspot.com for thirteen years now. If you put together all those blogposts, they add up to the equivalent of thirteen books! That’s one whole book per year! Every one of them a best-seller, just as I said a few years back, “This is what I wish to do through confession in my heart before thee, and in my writings before many witnesses.” 
Just the other day, my wife Judy pointed out that I even before our ministry was so unfairly attacked by Pastor Pelagius, I had already said in my blog, again and again, “Give what thou commandest and command what thou wilt.” One of my brother pastors told me that he was sitting next to Pelagius at a church growth conference in Houston when that post went up, and poor old Pelagius got so upset he threw his Ipad to the floor and jumped up and down on it!
Now what, indeed, does God command, first and foremost, except that we believe in him? This faith, therefore, he himself gives; so that it is well said to him, “Give what thou commandest.” Moreover, in those same blog posts, concerning my account of my conversion when God turned me to that faith I was laying waste through drinking alcoholically, the narration shows that I was given as a gift to the faithful and daily tears of Judy, who had been promised that I should not perish.
I certainly declared there that God by his grace turns men’s wills to the true faith when they are not only averse to it, but actually adverse. As for the other ways in which I sought God’s aid in my growth in perseverance, you either know or can review them as you wish by going to confessions.blogspot.com #prevenient grace

Sunday, March 30, 2014

If the Fathers of the Church Were Alive Today, 1: Origen of Alexandria

As a thought experiment I have attempted to imagine what it would like if the Church Fathers and other Ancient Christian Writers were acting and writing in the context of 21st century North American Christianity. I will add installments in the series from time to time as inspiration strikes. 

1. Origen of Alexandria

                                       Pastor Origen and Judy

They were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless. -Revelations 14:4b-5, NIV

Now I know that you folks want to know what the Bible is telling us about these first fruits. Fruits are the results of our activity. Now our whole activity is devoted to God, and so is our whole life, since we are bent on progress in divine things.
But we don’t want just some of those first fruits  spoken of above which are made up of the many first fruits, we want ALL of those fruits, don’t we? So, if we’re right, in what must our first fruits consist, after the bodily separation we have undergone from each other, but in the study of the Gospel? For we may venture to say that the Gospel is the first fruits of all the Scriptures. So what are those first fruits? That’s right: a Bible Study. Where, then, could be the first fruits of our activity, since the time when Judy and I we came to Alexandria, but in the first fruits of the Scriptures?
It must not he forgotten, however, that the first fruits are not the same as the first growth. That’s why Judy and I started the First Growth Seminars as soon as we came to Alexandria. For the first fruits are offered after all the fruits are ripe, but before you have first fruits, you gotta have first growth. (For more information, visit firstgrowth.com)
Now of the Scriptures which are current and are believed to be divine in all the churches, one would not be wrong in saying that the first growth is the law of Moses, but the first fruits are the Gospel. Am I wrong? Now Judy says that I am wrong about a lot of things, so I have to ask!

For it was after all the fruits of the prophets who prophesied till the Lord Jesus, that the perfect word began to grow and send forth its shoots. Praise Him.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Achievable New Year's Resolutions for Catholics

Feel free to add your own. Just keep them achievable.

1. I will make sure that my cell phone is turned off before Mass starts.
2. I will go to confession at least once in the New Year.
3. I will make sure that my cell phone is turned off before I enter a church.
4. I will say the (5-decade) Rosary once during the month of May.
5. I will read one chapter of one of the Gospels during the New Year.
6. I will find out for myself what the Pope really said about (fill in topic of your choice).
7. I will read the section of the owner’s manual of my cell phone that explains how to turn it off. 
8. I will give alms at least once during Lent.
9. If any babies appear in my household or on my doorstep I will have them baptized before they reach the age of reason.
10. If my cell phone rings during Mass I will do something about it instead of just letting it ring.
11.    When receiving Holy Communion I will clearly telegraph my intentions regarding whether I will receive on the tongue or in the hand.