Pastor’s Pen – May 1, 2011

Published on 01. May, 2011 by in Pastor's Pen

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I came across a few lines in “The Word” – a weekly column that unpacks the upcoming Sunday’s scripture in America Magazine – that caught my attention.  Barbara Reid, O.P., writes: “Easter is not only what happened to Jesus but, to a great degree, it is about what happens to us as we live lives that are transformed by his rising.  …We await not only final transformation but, every time we stand with the crucified peoples of our day, as did Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, the Risen One is alive in us as we break the hold of the death-dealing powers even now.”

The older I get, the more I appreciate that the call and challenge of Easter is never confined to just a personal, interior change of heart and a feel good kind of getting my act together.  Rather I am called to be a part of the transformation of our culture and our world.  I am invited to run breathlessly, heart racing, as did the women and the disciples from the tomb, back into the world, there to make a difference.

I find the daily newspapers a ‘good’ place to start, in that it brings to my attention so readily, all the places that still need to know the power of Christ’s love.

  • So how can I not pray for and stand with the people of Libya in the midst of their oppression?
  • How can I keep my voice silent as the Congress debates and tries to come to an agreement on its yearly “moral document” – called a budget?  And make no mistake about it, budgets are value based, moral documents.  They reveal to us what we value as a people and a nation.  Though people of good will can differ about approaches and what needs to be kept and what needs to go, I continue to find it disturbing the “given’s” in our budget process.  One example: How can I stand silent while MY tax dollars are used to fund the largest provider of abortion services in the country?
  • How can I build up an inner sense of worth in high school and college students I meet and work with so that they will not feel a need to turn to the drugs that continue to fuel the violence in Mexico.  In Juarez alone, it is estimated that 20,000 have been killed because of drug related violence.

So, read the papers this week.  And then ‘sit’ in prayer with the headlines.  Which one calls to you, which one seems to invite a response, however small, to bring the Risen One’s strength to bring about resurrected life?  And then get busy being the bearer of good news…

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What makes your heart race?

Published on 24. Apr, 2011 by in Sunday Homilies

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What makes your heart race?

Not long ago, I thought I saw – my dad!  Maybe it was the flannel shirt like he always wore, and that salt and pepper hair… Dad boxed in high school and his nose was crooked –just like the side profile of the man in front of me – it looked so much like him.  Dad died almost twenty years ago.  But for a fraction of a second, or a fraction of a fraction of a second, my heart raced.  Even after all those years, I thought it was him.   Until he turned completely toward me, and I realized that, sadly, no, it wasn’t him.  And I knew again the sadness of missing my dad, the pain of all of those who have loved and lost.  That must have been a tiny taste of the heartache those first disciples felt, gathered in their grief at the death of Jesus.  Could you imagine what that must have been like for them?

Let’s do that.  Imagine that you and I were part of the group who had been following him for three years now.  And that – in him – we felt something we never felt before.  When he spoke how he captured our hearts; when he stopped on the road for people nobody else ever would, when he laughed with abandon, or cried, cried right in front of us for the suffering of the world, when he held us, when we watched him pray…..  And now, oh, how we miss him…  How scared we are to try to do life without him, him, the one who made it worthwhile to get up in the morning….

And how alone it is now… Yes, we have each other, others who found this in him too.  But HE’S gone.  We watched him die.  He’s gone with a finality that only those who have tasted death ever know.

And so we meet here, you and I.  But the air is heavy with sadness.  When all of a sudden, a commotion in the back of church.  The big doors bang open and the sunlight comes exploding into this place right down the center aisle here.  It’s one of our group, a woman who loved him so deeply.    Every time we saw her since he died, she was crying.  But not today.  No, she comes rushing down this center aisle absolutely breathless, her eyes shining.  And her racing heart is contagious.  And she blurts it out:  “I saw him!  He’s alive!  He’s really alive!  Alive!”

Could you even imagine?

It would be everything – and more – that I felt recently when for that moment I thought it was my dad!  But THIS time, it is no mistaken identity.  This time it is not a fraction of a second -but for all eternity…. This time it IS real…   (brief pause)

My friends, you and I have grown up with Easter.  It has been in our blood.  Every year about this time we celebrate it.  For too many of us it has become old: the same old readings, same old music, same old homily.  Our hearts don’t race anymore at the announcement, at the first singing of the ALLELUIA.  The surprise is just old news now.  Is there a way I – or any of us – could say it?  Is there a turn of a phrase that could catch our attention this morning/tonight, and make us breathless?

Of course, I should be breathless, myself, preaching this morning, shouldn’t I?  Like I just ran in here to you as if I had just been to the tomb, and it was empty!   His body was gone!  And I couldn’t wait to tell you!   And in a moment of grace, I realized I should be breathless, not AS IF I had just run in from seeing resurrection, but because I HAVE!  Yes, with my hearts’ eyes I’ve seen love trump death – mini resurrections and big ones – in you and in me… and that makes my heart race…

  • Like the woman in our parish who mother was just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – and is opening her home for mom to come and stay – knowing that everything will change for her and her family.
  • I saw it in twelve of our Newman Students who journeyed to the poorest part of Appalachia – giving up their spring break – to serve and to learn from the people they served all about love in action.
  • I’ve even known it in myself when I walked into your houses after a loved one has died, or is about to die.  Though I’m always scared on some level, I’ve also found a deeper part of me which trusts that love trumps this death… and that I can be the bearer of that good news.
  • Hopefully you’ve felt Easter: when you found what you needed to be able to love in the midst of whatever life threw at you.

That’s Easter, and it’s why we’re here!  It is absolutely amazing!  It is enough to make << point to self >> an old guy’s heart race again, and yours, too, if you let yourself think about it.

We should be breathless… our hearts racing at the surprise of it all… at just how good the news is… Racing as we make our way out into the world from here this morning/night … racing with joy because we’ve experienced first-hand and have seen that — lovetrumps—-death —- always and everywhere.

We have seen it … and we will again.    Happy Easter, my friends.

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A classmate of mine (Fr. Kevin Schmittgens) did a rather fascinating project with his high school students, a project I encourage you to do as well. Simply put: they were asked to write a memoir of their lives. The trick was, they could only use six words. He actually stole the idea from a book he read which is based on this very simple, yet very intriguing premise.

Some of the memoirs were goofy, yet revealed some truth nonetheless. One procrastinator just scribbled very quickly: This is not good. I’m sorry. Another bold young man, stealing from Julius Caesar wrote: I came, I saw, I conquered. Some were very upbeat, while others are rather poignant. One girl, a dancer and an incredibly intelligent student wrote: Dancing through life, stumbling over myself. Another wrote: Only my music knows the truth.

Fr. Kevin writes: “One of the memoirs really stuck with me. It stuck because I believe that it is one that a lot of people experience, if not all of humanity. She simply wrote: I’m used to the word “no.” I’m used to the word “no.” Isn’t that the story of humanity in general? We sin. We say no to life. We suffer. Life says “no” to us. And we die – the ultimate “no” perpetrated on humanity. No. No. No. No. No. No. They are all before us, beside us, around us and inside us. And we begin to believe them. You can’t change the world. You can’t make a difference. You’re not good enough or smart enough or… whatever. And pretty soon, we believe that message. To paraphrase a vulgar bumper sticker: Life’s a “no” then you die.”

The disciples in the gospel had already succumbed to that “NO” mentality. When the women came back and reported what they had seen – what is their response? NONSENSE! Couldn’t be! He is dead! He is finished! (We are finished) Could Jesus be alive? The answer is no! I wonder how often I jump to that same conclusion. Could God be doing something NEW in my life? “Nonsense”.

But on Easter, we remember, we celebrate, we rejoice in a God who firmly and unequivocally responds to all of life with a “yes.” By raising Jesus from the dead, God says “yes” to creation, “yes” to life, “yes” to us. “God, are you there?” Yes. “God, do you care?” Yes. “Do you forgive us?” Yes. “Is the long reign of sin and sadness ended?” Yes. “Do you give us the chance and grace to start over?” Yes!

What Peter went to check out – if just to get the women to shut up – is the most impossible, implausible YES in all of the world. And there, Luke’s gospel leaves us this Easter evening – along with Simon Peter, peering into the empty tomb of our “NO”s, looking at all the ways we’ve shortchanged ourselves and God and life – wondering if there might be a different outcome, a different possibility.

So we too, stand before the empty tomb, and we remember this central, vital, essential tenet of our faith. We stand against the night, against the darkness, against the hate, against the futility, against the gloom, against the senselessness and dedicate ourselves to living the fullness of life in Christ. Our lives must now be a “yes” and we need to share that with a world that is far too used to the word “no.”

Because of Easter, our memoir can now and always be written in six words.

Christ is risen! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

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Easter wisdom…

Published on 11. Apr, 2010 by in Sunday Homilies

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A few years ago, when our 8th grade presented the ‘living’ stations of the cross before our students and faculty, one of our faculty members was visibly moved by the spectacle of ‘Mary’ holding the dead body of her son ‘Jesus’. As she wiped a tear or two from her eye, one of her students, a first grader, looked up, saw the tears, and gently rested her head on the teacher’s arm. Then after a moment, she looked up and quietly asked: “Can I say something that is helpful?” (a code phrase in the classroom) “Sure,” she said. “He didn’t stay dead.”

Out of the mouths of babes, comes the deepest truth about our Lord and savior. “He didn’t stay dead.” And that, to quote the car commercial, changes everything. You see, if Jesus did not remain in the grips of death, if the tomb could not and would not hold the risen one, then it will not hold us either. And though we tend to think of that, usually in an ‘end of my life/days’ type of scenario –‘not staying dead’ is so much more immediate!

You see, ‘not staying dead’ means that there is a power within us that we can draw upon in any situation. And that power is full of LIFE, full of growth, full of change. We’re not stuck in our past mistakes or failures. And, we have an ability to walk into the places of death and bring life, bring change, bring growth. That power calls us to make a difference each day.

‘Not staying dead’ means that there is an URGENCY to our life – a preciousness to each moment, each opportunity to proclaim good news. That is what we hear in the gospel accounts of the resurrection – a kind of breathless excitement. “Go quickly and tell the disciples”, the angel says. The women “went away quickly from the tomb, fearful, yet overjoyed, and ran to tell the apostles”. It records the disciples running to the tomb. Not staying dead means that we run to all the places of the world that need good news spread to them.

As we take these next 50 days of the Easter season to unpack the wonder and mystery of the resurrection, we are meant to do that, not only in our Liturgical celebrations, but by our concrete acts of witness. We are to live and act in a way that cannot be explained except by the presence of the risen Jesus in us. He didn’t stay dead. Neither should we. Neither should we…

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Pastor’s Pen – April 4, 2010

Published on 04. Apr, 2010 by in Pastor's Pen

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Wrong season?

I woke up with my brain ‘singing’ a song from the musical “Mame” this morning.  I have no idea how it got there, but there it was.

Haul out the holly; Put up the tree before my spirit falls again.  Fill up the stocking, I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now. 
For we need a little Christmas, Right this very minute, Candles in the window, Carols at the spinet…
(what’s a spinet, you might ask…) Yes, we need a little Christmas now!

Why this song, of all songs, to go off in my head this morning, I have no clue.  But it has stayed with me all day – with ONE little twist.  Replace the word Christmas with EASTER – and that is the song in my heart.  We need a little EASTER now…

For I’ve grown a little leaner, 
Grown a little colder, 
Grown a little sadder, 
Grown a little older,

It is easy to buy into the depressing news brought to us each day.  It is easy to forget that the final chapter of the book of life has been written – and in that book, God’s answer is YES.  God’s answer to the pain and sorrow and suffering is to redeem it from within.  That is why Jesus suffered and died for us – to redeem ALL of our human experiences – including death.

Well, once I taught you all to live each living day.

That is the improbable, astounding and amazing news of the empty tomb – God has taught us how to live each resurrected day – trusting in his promise, joyfilled in his love, courageous in his victory over death for us all.  And the power that raised Jesus from the dead is the power that is ours to live into all of our living days.  We too are called to live God’s triumph over sin and death in our lives and experiences.  For every moment of our lives is touched by grace.

You know, once you get used to it, it is not a bad ‘hymn’ to guide us through this Easter season.

For we need a little music, Need a little laughter, Need a little singing, Ringing through the rafter.  And we need a little snappy “Happy ever after,”

We need a little Easter now.

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Pastor’s Pen – March 29, 2010

Published on 29. Mar, 2010 by in Pastor's Pen

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A mini-retreat…

As we approach the great feast of Easter, I find myself grateful for the “high holy days’ of the Church – the Easter Triduum. Though we celebrate these days each year, there is something them which make them ‘ever ancient, ever new’. This entire Holy Week is meant to be lived at a different pace, a retreat kind of pace.

We take the days in measure, spending even more time in prayer, more time in reflection, and perhaps, even more time in service of our brothers and sisters.

So among the concrete practices that can help us to enter these days, let me suggest perhaps a strange one. WALK SLOWER. Yep! You heard me. Walk Slower. Let the pace of these days gradually decrease until you are still enough to enter the mystery of the dying and rising of Jesus.

And then, carve out time to celebrate the story in prayer and ritual. Here is the schedule of our Liturgical prayer for the Triduum.

Holy Thursday

  • 8:00 a.m. Morning Prayer
  • 10:00 a.m. Chrism Mass (at the Cathedral)
  • 7:00 p.m. Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Adoration begins after Mass and continues until:

  • 11:30 p.m. Night Prayer

Good Friday

  • 8:00 am: Morning Prayer
  • 3:00 pm: Stations of the Cross
  • 7:00 pm: Celebration of the Lord’s Passion

Holy Saturday

  • 8:00 am: Morning Prayer
  • 8:00 pm: Easter Vigil

Easter Sunday

  • 8:00 a.m. Mass
  • 11:00 a.m. Mass

Please join the church as it goes on our yearly mini-retreat in preparation for Easter.

In unrelated news, Pat Boul left this past Friday with the CRUDEM Foundation to Haiti. He’ll be bringing his maintenance expertise to the makeshift hospitals being used to service Haiti’s needy. And Jenna Kloepfer left for Marine boot camp on March 21. Keep them both in your prayers

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