Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I'm in the Detroit News!

Although not for all of the best reasons, I was interviewed by the Detroit News as an out of work person seeking help for career info in the churches of Metro Detroit. It is another good "plug" for the Shrine Career in Transition group that I've become a member of as well as a liason back to the bigger church family. I also open the meeting nights with prayers and a blessing.

One of the quotes is not quite correct, so now I know how people feel when they get "misquoted" in the press. Guess that's the breaks.

Here is the link:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I'm not good at posting

Seems that I'm slow at remembering to do this blog thing. Lots of people are really good at it. Perhaps I'm still more worried about finding a job than following the Lord, and that worries me a little these days.

Lent has been a season of "emptying" for me. A very helpful nun counseled me that perhaps this was a really good season to empty out all of my attachments during this Lent in order to make more room for what God may have in store for me. Only He can fill me up properly.

3rd Sunday of Lent homily

This was a longer one. Lots to cover.

When we read the Gospels, we will see that there are only a few times when Jesus acts out in what we could call righteous anger.
Each of those times, he does it to condemn hypocrisy.
It’s hypocrisy in this gospel reading that Jesus hates: appearing to be one thing on the outside, but actually being something else entirely on the inside. That's exactly what the Temple officials were doing.
By all outward appearances, the Temple officials were helping their fellow Jews with the proper rituals of worship. The truth is, however, they were actually interfering with that worship.
• God had given his people the Temple to be a house of prayer and worship, a place of encountering God's mercy. Just as we have our church buildings today.
• The buying, selling, and money changing that went on in the Temple area had been happening there for a long time, but it was for a real reason.
• In Old Testament law, pilgrims came to the Temple and made animal offerings to the priests, who would then sacrifice them.
• Strict rules were involved with these animals - not just any animal would do.
• So then, businesses grew that specialized in making the right birds and animals easily available.
• These pilgrims came from all over the world, and brought many different currencies.
• They had to be weighed and exchanged in order to be able to buy the animals.
• Sadly through the years, greed and corruption had crept into even these sacred services.
• By the time of Christ, the moneychangers were demanding excessive fees, and the animal vendors were way overcharging.
• So what was meant to be a sincere service to God had become a path to worldly success.
• The Temple officials appeared to be good religious examples, but actually they were greedy merchants.
That contradiction between appearances and reality is just plain hypocrisy - the thing Jesus hates most of all.
Hypocrisy involves lying, cheating, and deceiving, and all these are the Devil's tactics.
They are strategies that bring about and even spread division and resentment.
• They begin to stir up anger and the desire for revenge in their victims.
• And when the victims pursue revenge, they do more damage, and the cycle of violence or deception escalates.
• Hypocrites, in other words, sow the seeds of war.
• Even on a personal level we can recognize this.
• When we become the victims of a scam, when we are cheated, deceived, or lied to, it's so easy to become cynical and bitter and desirous of revenge, even though we know we should forgive.
Another thing that happens is that hypocrisy also destroys the hypocrite himself.
• He can no longer love God, because God is truth and light.
• And he can no longer love his neighbor as himself, because his neighbor has become part of a game of his own selfish desires.
• Hypocrisy starts by breaking the eighth commandment, which calls us to be honest and sincere by not bearing false witness, but then it leads to the disobedience of all the commandments, which in turn tears the soul apart.
• It’s sad and scary

So here are the reasons Jesus hates hypocrisy.
• 1) Jesus wants our salvation.
• 2) He wants to give us the wisdom and joy that comes from living in communion with God and in harmony with our neighbor.
• 3) The Ten Commandments, as we heard in today's First Reading, are designed to lead to that wisdom and joy, and oh by the way those commandments are not “old fashioned”, they are still valid for us today!
But the hypocrite rejects this free offer from God, and even worse, they make it harder for others to accept it as well.
Hypocrisy is a wolf in sheep's clothing; it is the exact opposite of what Christianity really is. That's why Jesus hates it so much.
We all can understand the evil of hypocrisy when we think about it like that, from a distance.
But it's not always easy to avoid it when we face temptations up close and personal.
• Truth is one of God's characteristics, but lies seem to come to us way too easily.
• I think it is pretty easy to show that no one is exempt from the temptation to lie and cheat, how many political figures and athletes have been “held up” for us as good examples and then we find their lives are filled with scandal.
• One of the common characteristics about the saints is their total commitment to the truth.
• Because they love God and never want to be separated from him, they also love the truth and sometimes go to extreme measures to stand up for the truth.
There is a rather funny story I was reading about St Thomas Aquinas that shows this love.
• One day a fellow Dominican friar played a joke on him.
• He was standing by the window and cried out to the future saint, "Thomas, look here! There's a flying cow outside the window!"
• St Thomas left the chair where he was sitting and walked over to the window to see.
• Of course, there was no flying cow.
• His friend started to laugh and make fun of him for being so gullible.
• St Thomas replied, "It is much easier to believe that a cow could fly than that a Christian could tell a lie."
• His friend stopped laughing.
If God is truth, and if we want to stay close to God and live in the peace and wisdom that God brings, we also have to live in the truth.
None of us wants to live a divided life, to tear apart our own soul and to lead others to ruin along the way.
• And yet, when we are honest with ourselves, it is rather scary to think how easily we fall into lies, deceptions, and hypocrisy.
• We seem to be able to easily find ways to make other people think that we are exemplary Catholics, that we have it all together, while on the inside we still seek the kingdom of "me" rather than the Kingdom of Christ.
• What can we do to grow in our love for and practice of the truth?
• What can we do to let Christ cleanse the Temple of our hearts from the lies and deceptions that block out his light and his grace?
God knows that it is hard for us to live in the truth, and so he has provided wonderful tools to help us.
Two of them are particularly appropriate for Lent.
First, is the sacrament of confession.
• There is no better way to live in the truth than by going to confession frequently.
• Confession always starts with a sincere examination of our own conscience, to identify our sinful and selfish actions, thoughts, and omissions.
• That's being honest; that's seeking the truth, not hiding it or hiding from it.
• And then, when we confess those sins to Christ through his representative, we permit his grace to cleanse us and give us a fresh start.
• And at the same time, that grace strengthens us to resist future temptations.
• I’m sure that you all know that Shrine has a number of penance services; I challenge you to bring not just yourself, but someone from your family or group of friends that may be away from the church. Letting God work his miracle to win back their hearts.
Second, is the Eucharist.
• The Eucharist is the real presence of Christ under the appearances of bread and wine.
• And Christ said that he is "the way, the truth, and the life"
• Spending time in his presence, praying, adoring, reading the Scriptures in front of the Eucharist, is a powerful way to allow his truth to penetrate, heal, and protect our minds and hearts.
• You all know that we have a 24 hour adoration chapel here at Shrine and on Fridays during Lent we have Stations of the Cross along with benediction. Honestly though, I would like to see a much larger attendance on these Fridays during Lent. As Monsignor wrote in last weeks Herald, what a great thing to do for ourselves during Lent, come to the Fish Bake at the grade school and then to the Stations and Benediction. Yes, that is another challenge I offer.
In the end, Jesus hates hypocrisy because hypocrisy separates us from his friendship, which is the real source of the meaning and fulfillment we seek.
Today, as Jesus comes to renew his commitment to us, let's ask his forgiveness for our hypocritical moments, and let's promise to do all that is in our power to live in his truth from now on.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Seems like it's often one of the most difficult times of the year for Catholics. We want to "have a good Lent" and try hard to either do something good and apostolic or we give something up to remind ourselves of the suffering of Christ.

Either way we struggle, we win some and we lose some. We're simple humans trying to grow in our faith life and follow in our Savior's footsteps. But he doesn't expect us to be perfect all the time, he knows we are weak, he knows we have to fight a battle, pick up our cross and try to carry it every day. That is the very reason he calls out for us to come closer to him in this season.

Prayer, silence and more prayer. Pope B16 has offered that a great way to move forward in our prayer this season is Lectio Divina. I highly recommend it, there are many good books on it, and there is always more to learn. Pick up the latest book by Tim Grey on the topic as a starter guide. I'm using it this Lent to go deeper.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I promised a reflection on baptizing my granddaughter

It was quite a day. Hard to explain, hard to really help anyone understand how it felt. In hindsight I wish that I would have been more personal, wish that I would have said and done things a little different, but in the end, it was just an awesome experience for me. Maybe I was too nervous because of all the family there, it seems that I'm always a bit nervous when so many family members are there, just not the same as preaching in front of the large group at mass.

Sunday Feb 22 Homily

7th Sunday in Ordinary time. This was my homily, plus or minus a few words of course.
“We have never seen anything like this”.
Many critics of our Catholic faith, and even some misguided, so-called Catholic theologians, and sometimes lately politicians that claim they are Catholic, make the claim that Jesus Christ was just one of those great philosophers or religious teachers like Confucius and Socrates.

But the Gospel passage we just listened to is one of the many New Testament scenes that prove those critics wrong.

These kinds of critics and Catholics “in name only” may have personal reasons for not wanting to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. But if so, they have no business pretending that their personal beliefs are the true Catholic faith.

We see that the scribes in this Gospel passage are shocked because Jesus forgives this man's sins.
They understood, much better than many of us do today, that every sin, small or large, is primarily an offense against God, so only God can forgive it.
Every sin, every evil deed, unjustly uses God's great gift to mankind, free will, as an instrument of rebellion against God.

And so, the only person who can truly forgive sin is the person whom sin primarily offends: God himself.

The scribes understood this, and therefore they understood that when Jesus said to the paralyzed man, "Child, your sins are forgiven," he was claiming to be God, to do something that only God can do.
As we’ve seen before, we see that Jesus detects this silent criticism.

Now, if he were just another rabbi, just another philosopher, this would have been the perfect time to say something like: "Hey guys, wait a minute. Don't think I'm trying to say I am God or something, I'm just using poetic language, OK?"
But Jesus did just the contrary.
By performing an astounding miracle, he actually emphasized both his claim to be able to forgive sins, and his ability to follow through on such a claim.
He leaves no room for doubt: Jesus Christ is, indeed, Emmanuel, God among us, or else he is nothing at all.

St Mark gives us another beautiful insight about Christ in this Gospel passage.
He not only shows us that Christ does indeed claim to be God, and proves his claim by healing the paralytic.
But he also shows us what kind of God Christ is.

The scribes are sitting there watching Jesus respond to the spectacle of this paralyzed man being lowered down through a hole in the ceiling.
(Let’s not go into whether or not the roof was easy to get off or not, the simple fact that they went through all of that work to get the man to Jesus speaks a lot in itself, regardless of the roof construction.)

As the drama unfolds, the scribes are offended, irked, even outraged at Jesus' apparently blasphemous claim to forgive sins.
Instead of voicing their objections, however, they grumble silently in their hearts.
But even though the scribes don't say anything, Jesus knows exactly what his critics are thinking.
He does the same with us, by the way; no matter how much we try to hide certain uncomfortable thoughts or feelings from God, he sees them all. Trying to impress God, or deceive him, therefore, is an exercise in frustration. The prayer of a Christian should be, above all, sincere.

But what does Jesus do with this privileged knowledge of the scribes hearts?
Does he arrogantly brandish it to humiliate his unjust critics?
No, he much prefers to use it for their own good.
Knowing how difficult it is for them to accept his claims, and how reluctant they are to engage in honest dialogue with him, he doesn't give up on them.
Instead, he gives them irrefutable evidence to help overcome all their difficulties: he performs an astounding miracle.
That's the kind of God he is: he wants to win over our hearts; he wants to rule by love and truth, not by force.

Because Jesus is true man, the Church has always encouraged us to approach him confidently, to speak with him from our hearts, to trust him without hesitation, to enjoy his presence as we enjoy the presence of an older brother.

But because Jesus is also true God, the Church has also always encouraged us to make reverence and religious respect an important part of our prayer and worship.
This explains so many of our beautiful traditions.

It explains why we try to dress with elegance when we come to Mass, as if coming to a wedding feast.
It explains why we should do our best to reserve our casual and friendly conversations for outside of the church while here inside we make use of silence and recollection to help remind us that we are in God's presence.
It explains why we surround the celebration of Mass with so many rich and beautiful symbols:
the vestments of the priest and deacon and the special clothes of the altar servers; incense symbolizing our prayers rising towards God's heavenly throne;
why the church encourages sacred music that helps lift our hearts to God;
candles, and beautiful sacred vessels made with precious metals and sometimes adorned with precious stones;
all of these symbolize our awareness that during Mass we are addressing ourselves to Jesus Christ, true man and true God, and that in the Holy Eucharist it is the eternal God himself who comes among us.
As we continue with today's Mass, let's stir up this awareness.
Let's not make the mistake the scribes made, closing ourselves off from the magnificent mystery of the Incarnation.
It is good for our souls, it brings wisdom, peace, and joy to our hearts, to look with awe and wonder upon the face of God made visible in Christ, because that's what we're made to do.

One thing that I challenge and encourage you all to do, especially if you have children or grandchildren, is to take some time out of your schedule either this coming Tuesday Feb 24 or the following Tuesday March 3. During those evenings the religious ed department is sponsoring a pilgrimage through the Shrine. There are 8 stops throughout the church and at each stop there is the opportunity to learn more about your faith and more about why we do some of the things we do here at church as well as more about some of the symbols of our faith. You will take home items to help you make a prayer table, especially appropriate for this season of Lent.

Make no mistake, the religious ed students and grade school students had the opportunity to take this tour. But SO many of the positive comments were made by the parents, and so many of them agreed that they had learned more about their faith that they had either forgotten, or maybe had never learned.

I promise you if you take that tour and over the coming weeks of Lent you grow in your faith life through deeper prayer, you too will be able to say, “We have never seen anything like this”.

Wow...long time no words

So what took me so long? The ups and downs of life and the heavy challenges of trying to find a job in today's economy have been rather frustrating at best. Thankfully my family is extremely supporting and caring. We know that God is in charge and it's his plan. I'm doing my best to follow whatever he sees is best in the long run. I guess some of this is simply due to the fact that I turned my life over to him and told him to lead me where he needed me. I sure can't undo that promise and despite what others may tell me, I'm staying on this path and trusting.