Easter 2019

EASTER SERMON 2019 by Father James DiLuzio C.S.P. delivered at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Las Vegas, NV.

NOTE: My Easter homily became a Sermon in light of the tragedy of terrorism in Sri Lanka this morning. As a result I incorporated insights from my Good Friday homily into it. However if you scroll down on this page, you can read the original version I wrote, Or, if you’re pressed for time, scroll down further and read the shorter version I delivered at the Easter Vigil. To my surprise, the congregation applauded at this longer version!

2nd Note: On April 22, 2019 the Sri Lanka Government identified the suicide bombings coordinated by a local Islamic Terrorist Group: National Thowheeth Jama’ath calculating targeting Christians.

We arrived!  Arrived at the culmination of all things: Death and Resurrection.  It’s the heart of life; the promise of tomorrow and a sobering witness to the reality of good and evil in the world. 

This morning we are confronted with the news of another terrorist attack.  This time in three Catholic Churches in Sri Lanka and three hotels there.  People instinctively ask, “Why does God allow these things to happen?” It’s a natural question and the answer lies in what we have been exploring throughout Holy Week from Passion Sunday through Good Friday.  That question is posed somewhat differently but it is, essentially, the same question: “Why did God demand Jesus to suffer on the Cross?”  The Holy Spirit continues to inspire the Church and great spiritual writers and scripture scholars no longer accept the age-old explanation that God demanded Jesus’ sacrifice to atone for all the world’s sins. We are evolving a more honest response from an even older, less time-and-culture-conditioned theology:  Jesus is the full revelation of the invisible God.  Thus, we understand as Jesus surrendered to the Cross, exposing the sins of the world (all that led Jesus to Calvary—hatred, fear, envy, jealousy, greed, scapegoating and more) in order to offer the only antidote: Love-Forgiveness, we see God in this way, too.  Indeed, a studied view of biblical history reveals that from the beginning, God endured and surrendered to humanity’s sins because of the gift of Free-Will, one of the essential dimensions of the “Divine Spark,” the eternal soul in humanity that mirrors the image of God.   So, just as Jesus revealed on the Cross, God patiently endures the harm we do to ourselves and others, all the while inviting us to conversion, to repentance, to a better vision of ourselves and what our world can be. God’s constant call: Die to Sin, Live Anew in Me, transform yourselves and others. That’s the eternal Easter message

We look at the tragedy in Sri-Lanka and ask what does the world need? Practicality may advise more police, more military.  Yet don’t we know that contemporary police and military are now schooled in psychology and diplomacy—they’re learning how to disarm angry, violent frustrated individuals, tools that acknowledge their suffering, however, misguided, however insane, and invite them to alternative actions.  Christians everywhere must approach violence in just the same way, picking up the Cross to discern the causes of hatred, fear and violence and strive to eradicate the sins at their source.  It is believed the attacks are, once again, from Muslim fundamentalists. There’s a tendency to blame Islam.  But we know that millions of Muslims throughout the world are also victimized by the radical, fundamentalists in their midst. Christianity, too, has its fundamentalists who see all tragedies as a direct act of God, punishing humanity for its sins.  True, most fundamentalist Christians do not resort to physical violence, but their view is, at times, violent and causes great disruption, confusion and pain among Christians and others.  We need more dialogue with them to share how our biblical interpretations have grown.  And we need more conversation with our well-intentioned Muslim neighbors, locally, internationally, politically and religiously to help them and us address the roots of radical fundamentalism and its violence. God knows, even some of our nation’s policies with other countries, not intentionally, but inadvertently adds to some of the suffering of peoples in those countries and makes them vulnerable to fundamental radicals. The Cross of Jesus insists we join Christ in suffering with others in order to uncover evil’s sources and address them, heal them, transforming ourselves and the world in the process.  This too participates in the eternal pattern of dying and rising.  It’s more difficult work than blaming and addressing violence with more violence. It requires more patience, more faith, more hope, more love.

Let’s move now from the news, to another level of the Easter message: The Cross and Resurrection is the pattern of ultimate reality of all:  everything and everyone who ever was and ever will be.  From the astounding Big Bang, when Jesus voiced God’s creation into being- “Let there be LIGHT” and light, energy and all the elements of the material world came to be.  Participating in dying and rising that is the entire evolutionary process, we recognize the COSMIC CHRIST in whom we move and live and have our being.

Science tells us that asteroids formed around the stars, propelled into space by cosmic energy formed the planets –offering carbon and oxygen, silicon—essential material for life.  Their individual components remained but together, at the same time, they formed something new: planets orbiting around the sun.  In a sense, they died, yet retained their essence while transformed into a greater whole.  That’s the story of our planet, the story of all species, including ours. Why the carbon of asteroids and exploding stars is in us all—we have the Divine Spark, the immortal soul in us AND we are made of stardust, too! The instances of our continuity with the best, but in new forms, new dynamics are amazing.  Why we only recently discovered Neanderthal DNA in peoples of European descent. The Neanderthals are still with us, gone yet transformed!  Believe it!  This is the story of Jesus of Nazareth fully human and fully God, indivisible, whose human essence was retained but transformed into something new, more alive, in His Resurrection from the dead; a deeper reality to enjoy greater communion with us beyond the confines of time, of history and the limitations of earth.  ALIVE in every age, inviting every generation in be communion with Him. 

Too many people look at the science of evolution and think of it as cruel, meaningless and random. For that reason, and the scandal of too much biblical literalism, some people of faith reject it entirely. But Popes from Saint John Paul II to Benedict and Francis see in it NOT CRUELTY BUT CHRIST Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.  For Evolution bears the stamp of Jesus birth, life, death and resurrection.  Jesus tells “Do not be afraid” of this eternal pattern, be at peace with it, participate in this living and dying and get caught up in its ultimate resolution: eternity in a communion of Saints. 

Surrendering to dying and rising offers heavenly rewards but it also provides us with the only one, true valuable “immediate gratification:” literal experiences of heaven right here, right now. Today and every day the Resurrected Jesus cries out to us, “Peace be with You. Don’t be afraid to DIE to sin. Don’t be afraid to enter into your suffering and the suffering of others, for I am with you. WITH ME you can do anything, including transforming the causes of sin and suffering so this old world can become something new. 

Meanwhile, we must be mindful that much of our World rejects this Paschal Mystery.  It distains the Cross and its life-giving properties. It denies death—creating an Eternal Youth Culture that ignores the wisdom that comes from the process of aging.  And yet, all the world’s philosophies recognize the importance of the eternal pattern:  we humans die repeatedly—from infancy to childhood, to youth, to middle age, to senior years–each in their own time, each with their own lessons of pain and recovery, failures and successes, dying and growing in wisdom.   Part of EASTER GLORY is knowing that the sins of our past, now that we are in Communion with Christ, become a treasure chest of wisdom—not of guilt or regret but of determination to change because of the Love-Forgiveness Jesus offered from the Cross. Still, great challenges confront us:  so many peoples of our world, Christians and non-Christians alike remain unwilling to learn from biblical history and world history and continue to perpetuate the same cruel realities, cultivating death by advancing at the expense of others rather than the mutual uplifting of all peoples.   

But for us in the light of Easter we stand with the Resurrected Jesus.  Like our Savior, we vow today never to cause death but to surrender to it in its natural progressions, ready to learn from it, unafraid to be humbled by it and transformed into new ways of living, of loving, of hoping—the GREAT REVERSAL, THE STAMP OF THE SCRIPTURES, THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL. And, how wonderful for your local church this Easter, last night 17 people of various ages, joined us in Christ, baptized and in Catholic communion along with thousands of others throughout the world in Easter Vigils.

The World may thrive self-aggrandizement, power and manipulation.  Jesus offers us the opposite:  humility, surrender, transformative faith, freely chosen, freely engaged in—the freedom of being Children of God who doesn’t manipulate us, but continually invites us to be and to live as we were meant to live from the beginning, CAN BE NOW, and with God’s Amazing Grace, ever shall be.  Happy, Joyous, Ecstatic Easter, everyone!

SERMON # 2: Here’s the HOMILY I wrote PRIOR to hearing about the bombings in Sri Lanka:

We’ve arrived!  Arrived at the culmination of all things: Death and Resurrection.  We began Holy Week affirming that God is Love-Forgiveness incarnated in Christ Jesus. 

We explored on Holy Thursday the confirmation of the GREAT REVERSAL –humanity choosing a “GOD”-centered life instead of a “ME”-centered life.  For this ongoing conversion, we must forever keep in our hearts and minds the Holy Thursday image of our mighty God’s tenderness: Jesus washing the feet of sinful, base yet precious and holy humanity –all these aspects represented by the Apostles. Allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed with such an affectionate display of God’s Love-Forgiveness, we ask our God to make for us every Eucharist a dying to sin, rejuvenating us to rise to serve God through patience, kindness and compassion to all our siblings, i.e. all children of God.

Yesterday we contemplated the Cross and how Jesus suffered to assure us he is with us in our suffering. He also invites us to enter into suffering of others.  This is how He will transform us and our world. The Easter Mystery invites us to absorb  this reality, to be filled and transformed into new wineskins—honoring the old ways, but not clinging to them that we deny ourselves the gifts of living with JESUS in the present moment, willing to invite Him to helps us grow, mature and offer fresh wine to others.   

And, speaking of “NEW WINE,” it is important we continue to wrestle with, discuss and share how the Church has come to understand Jesus’ death on the cross. It’s evolving!  We are moving beyond the old ways that interpreted the crucifixion as God’s demand for sacrifice by revisiting deeper insights of an older, more consistent tradition: “Jesus if the full revelation of the invisible God.” Thus as Jesus surrendered to the Cross not because God demanded it—God’s will was that the KINGDOM, new way of living and loving be accepted—but to remind the world how God endured, surrendered to human folly, sin and sickness with infinite patience from the beginning even unto now.  Bring this conversation into your Easter dinner:  Jesus died on the Cross to expose the sins of the world—hate, fear, envy, jealousy, greed, scapegoating—to provide the only antidote to sin:  LOVE-FORGIVENESS, the very heart of God. This is the insight of our generations. New generations will add their own revelations as the Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church through dying and rising.

Life, Death and Rebirth manifested in Christ continues to be manifested through the Church but far beyond it as well.  The Cross and Resurrection is the pattern of ultimate reality of all:  everything and everyone who ever was and ever will be.  From the astounding Big Bang, when Jesus voiced God’s creation into being- “Let there be LIGHT” and light, energy and all the elements of the material world came to be.  Participating in dying and rising that is the entire evolutionary process, we recognize the COSMIC CHRIST in whom we move and live and have our being.

Science tells us that asteroids formed around the stars, propelled into space by cosmic energy formed the planets –offering carbon and oxygen, silicon—essential material for life.  Their individual components remained but together, at the same time, they formed something new: planets orbiting around the sun.  In a sense, they died, yet retained their essence while transformed into a greater whole.  That’s the story of our planet, the story of all species, including ours. Why the carbon of asteroids and exploding stars is in us all—we have the Divine Spark, the immortal soul in us AND we are made of stardust, too! The instances of our continuity with the best, but in new forms, new dynamics are amazing.  Why we only recently discovered Neanderthal DNA in peoples of European descent. The Neanderthals are still with us, gone yet transformed!  Believe it!  This is the story of Jesus of Nazareth fully human and fully God, indivisible, whose human essence was retained but transformed into something new, more alive, in His Resurrection from the dead; a deeper reality to enjoy greater communion with us beyond the confines of time, of history and the limitations of earth.  ALIVE in every age, inviting every generation in be communion with Him. 

Too many people look at the science of evolution and think of it as cruel, meaningless and random. For that reason, and the scandal of too much biblical literalism, some people of faith reject it entirely. But Popes from Saint John Paul II to Benedict and Francis see in it NOT CRUELTY BUT CHRIST Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.  For Evolution bears the stamp of Jesus birth, life, death and resurrection.  Jesus tells “Do not be afraid” of this eternal pattern, be at peace with it, participate in this living and dying and get caught up in its ultimate resolution: eternity in a communion of Saints. 

Surrendering to dying and rising offers heavenly rewards but it also provides us with the only one, true valuable “immediate gratification:” literal experiences of heaven right here, right now. Today and every day the Resurrected Jesus cries out to us, “Peace be with You. Don’t be afraid to DIE to sin. Don’t be afraid to enter into your suffering and the suffering of others, for I am with you. WITH ME you can do anything, including transforming the causes of sin and suffering so this old world can become something new. 

Meanwhile, we must be mindful that much of our World rejects this Paschal Mystery.  It distains the Cross and its life-giving properties. It denies death—creating an Eternal Youth Culture that ignores the wisdom that comes from the process of aging.  And yet, all the world’s philosophies recognize the importance of the eternal pattern:  we humans die repeatedly—from infancy to childhood, to youth, to middle age, to senior years–each in their own time, each with their own lessons of pain and recovery, failures and successes, dying and growing in wisdom.   Part of EASTER GLORY is knowing that the sins of our past, now that we are in Communion with Christ, become a treasure chest of wisdom—not of guilt or regret but of determination to be change because of the Love-Forgiveness Jesus offered from the Cross. Still, great challenges confront us:  so many peoples of our world, Christians and non-Christians alike remain unwilling to learn from biblical history and world history and continue to perpetuate the same cruel realities, cultivating death by advancing at the expense of others rather than the mutual uplifting of all peoples.   

But for us in the light of Easter we stand with the Resurrected Jesus.  Like our Savior, we vow today never to be the cause death but to surrender to it in its natural progressions, ready to learn from it, unafraid to be humbled by it and transformed into new ways of living, of loving, of hoping—the GREAT REVERSAL, THE STAMP OF THE SCRIPTURES, THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL. And, how wonderful for your local church this Easter, last night 17 people of various ages, joined us in Christ, baptized and in Catholic communion along with thousands of others throughout the world in Easter Vigils. The World may thrive self-aggrandizement, power and manipulation.  Jesus offers us the opposite:  humility, surrender, transformative faith, freely chosen, freely engaged in—the freedom of being Children of God who doesn’t manipulate us, but continually invites us to be and to live as we were meant to live from the beginning, CAN BE NOW, and with God’s Amazing Grace, ever shall be.  Happy, Joyous, Ecstatic Easter,

SERMON # 3: Here’s the SHORTER VERSION delivered at the EASTER VIGIL

We’ve arrived!  Arrived at the culmination of all things: Death and Resurrection. 

We began Holy Week affirming that God is Love-Forgiveness incarnated in Christ Jesus whose death exposed all the sins of the world in order to forgive them in an unconditional love. 

We explored on Holy Thursday the confirmation of the GREAT REVERSAL – God’s plan for humanity since the Original Sin when humans chose a “ME”-centered life instead of a GOD-centered life.  Through the Covenant with Israel and the Promises of Christ, God continues to invite us to reverse that pattern.

We were invited to hold that image of the Eucharist—that experience of “God with us,” the communion we participate in every day or every Sunday, week after week, year after year—holding that experience in our hearts, living it daily, with the Holy Thursday image of our mighty God’s tenderness: Jesus washing the feet of sinful, base humanity represented by the Apostles, making every Eucharist a dying to sin and a renewal to rise to serve God through kindness and compassion to others.

Yesterday we contemplated the Cross and how Jesus suffered to assure us he is with us in our suffering and to invite us to enter into suffering of others with Him so he may transform us and those who suffer with faith, hope and love.

Now the suffering is over for we have contemplated in new, fresh ways some of the heights of depths of the Great Mystery of God of Peace, as Jesus offered PEACE, not recrimination to the disciples and evermore offers Peace to us, regardless of our denials, betrayals or failures.  The Easter Mystery invites us to absorb  this reality, to be filled and transformed into new wineskins—honoring the old, but not so clinging to them that we deny ourselves the gifts of living in the present moment with Jesus willing to grow, to mature and ready to offer fresh wine to others.   

Life, Death and Rebirth are manifested in Christ and all who experience Jesus.  Yes.  But His pattern is the ultimate reality of all, of everything and everyone who ever was and ever will be.  From the astounding Big Bang, when Jesus voiced God’s creation into being-“Let there be LIGHT” and light, energy and all the elements of the material world came to be to the dying and rising of the entire evolutionary process, we recognize the COSMIC CHRIST in whom we move and live and have our being.

Just as asteroids formed around the stars, propelled by cosmic energy beyond them to form planets –offering carbon and oxygen, silicon—essential material for life.  Their individual components remained but together, at the same time, they formed something.  In a sense, they died but retained their essence while still becoming something new.  That the story of our planet, the story of all species, including ours and the story of Jesus of Nazareth fully human and revealed as fully God indivisible in His Resurrection, his human essence retained but transformed into something new, more alive, in a sense, with greater communion with God and us than ever before; ALIVE in every age, every generation in communion with Him.  And, mystery beyond glory, love beyond all telling, Jesus offers us the same NOW and onto Eternity. 

Too many people look at the science of evolution and think of it as cruel, meaningless and random and so some people of faith reject it entirely. But Popes from Saint John Paul II to Benedict and Francis see in it not cruelty but Christ Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.  For Evolution bears the stamp of Jesus birth, life, death and resurrection.  Jesus tells “Do not be afraid” of this eternal pattern, be at peace with it, participate in this life to be caught up into its resolution for all eternity’.  Yes, surrendering to it offers heavenly rewards but also the only true valuable “immediate gratification,” literal experiences of resurrection, of heaven right here, right now. Today and every day the Resurrected Jesus cries out to us, “Peace be with You. Don’t be afraid to die to sin. Don’t be afraid to enter into your suffering and the suffering of others, for I am with you; with me you can do anything, including transforming the causes of sin and suffering and become something new.  Not perpetuating the ways of the world but participating in God’s ways, creating a kingdom here on earth that mirrors all the realities and promises of heaven. And in our heart of hearts we know this is true.

The World rejects the Paschal Mystery.  It distains the Cross and its life-giving properties. It denies death when it can—creating as it has an Eternal Youth Culture that ignores the wisdom that comes from the process of aging.  And yet, all the world’s philosophies recognizes the human realities that we die repeatedly– to childhood, to adolescence, to youth, to middle age, to  senior years–each in their own time, each with their own lessons of pain and recovery, failures and successes, dying and growing in wisdom.   On the other hand, the world also participates in death, causing death while ignoring its repercussions, the consequences of evil it cultivates in its wake. Not willing to learn from its history but perpetuating the same cruel realities.

But for us in the light of Easter we stand with the Resurrected Jesus.  Like our Savior, we vow we will not cause death but we surrender to it in order to learn from it, unafraid to be humbled by it and to transform into new ways of living, of loving, of hoping—the GREAT REVERSAL, THE STAMP OF THE SCRIPTURES, THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL.

The World thrives on self-aggrandizement, power and manipulation.  Jesus offers us the opposite:  humility, surrender, transformative faith, freely chosen, freely engaged in—the freedom of being Children of God, the same NOW and onto Eternity.  Happy, Joyous, Ecstatic Easter, everyone!

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An Idea for Church Accountability– Any thoughts? (Revised 3/5/2019)

I have an idea for accountability for living, often retired priests, bishops and lay administrators who did not act responsibly when allegations of abuse came from children and/or their families– specifically I am referring to those superiors / priests/ bishops/ lay administrators who did not believe the victims when they first came forward
and/or did not support them through the criminal investigations, if any.  I think those “deniers” need to be directed by QUALIFIED LAY PROFESSIONALS first to work through their guilt and /or any resistance they may have (or have had) accepting the truth and then to learn tools for making emotional and spiritual amends to victims. This would be a true Reconciliation ministry far above and beyond what happens in and through the courts. From this could come a second phase of reconciliation ministry that begins with overtures to the victims to take advantage of lay professionals (through or outside of the Church as they choose) with options that include a professionally facilitated process with the goal of reconciling victims with the family members and friends who denied them immediate care and/or who forestalled or denied them justice. Processes such as these would offer victims greater hope for integrity in all their relationships in the present and future. A third phase would offer victims the choice to confront their abusers(or surrogate if the abuser is deceased or in a mental institution) in a safe environment facilitated by lay professionals if the victim and his or her health professionals deem such a confrontation beneficial. A fourth phase would offer victims the choice of entering a process that could help them forgive their abuser/ perpetrators “IN THEIR HEARTS” so the victims can be free of recurring memories of their abuse and all the associated fears and traumas. The biblical story of Susanna and Daniel in the Biblical Book of Daniel could be the spiritual foundation for this ministry.

I believe the Church owes victims and their families many extended opportunities such as these IN ADDITION to the monetary compensation offered through the legal system because these kind of reconciliation ministries are central to the Gospel. Hopefully some or most of these steps are already being taken by lay professionals paid for by the Church directly or through court settlements. However, the love of Christ through the believing Church would be particularly manifest if all victims received the follow up and follow-through in all four phases and any others that healing from molestation warrants. Indeed, it is common knowledge that many families have longstanding histories of denial of abuse and corresponding addictions of all kinds. Should the Church formally sponsor programs and procedures that empower psychologists and other behavioral science professionals to address these conditions would mark a positive advancement in the Church’s recovery and return to integrity. Any thoughts?

The Times Are A’Changing

The only thing good about the scandals in the Roman Catholic Church is the way they have brought to light the abuse of power, the realities of sexual deviance, encouragement of healing for victims and accountability for perpetrators in all sectors of society. Signs of hope are in the Church this week at the Special Vatican convocation, the Me Too Movement, procedural changes in Church, Education, Sports, Medical, Scouts institutions. Acknowledgment of cover-ups of sexual abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention is another sad but necessary development in the quest for healing and ongoing prevention. See this Washington Post article:

Stop the Scapegoating; Stop AntiSemitism; Stop Anti-Humanity

Anti-Semitism is Anti-Humanity. Who are we scapegoating these days–family members, friends or foes, peoples or nations? Who are we blaming for all our problems, conflicts or woes? Blaming in many ways is irrational because we all contribute in varying degrees to the problems we face. Moreover, blaming paralyzes us, exhausts our energies that could be better used to addressing our problems by collaborating with others on solutions to the problems we face.

This is exactly what Jesus meant when he insisted that his followers “Stop Judging” and “Stop Condemning” for these are dead ends that prevent us from correcting problems with honesty, humility and a deeper humanity. This does not mean we should not speak out against wrongdoing , but without the condemnation because no hurtful action occurs in isolation of a troubled relationship for which all parties bear responsibilities. We must ask ourselves when we are tempted to blame a person, a group, a nation for something, “What have I done (or our leaders done?) to contribute to this problem, this conflict, these negative feelings?”

Even more importantly, ask “What approach will better address this conflict, these feelings to blame, to scapegoat : Name-calling, demeaning, belittling another? OR -asking “How can we work together to alleviate our conflicts and the prejudices we have embraced?” “What’s honest about our issues and complaints with another? What’s irrational?” “What are the true sources of our problems?” We need to ask God for greater maturity and wisdom in addressing feelings of conflict and blame and take care to act in ways that let grace take hold of us.

Heed this WARNING:

https://mailchi.mp/rabbisacks/ive-been-doing-thought-for-the-day-for-thirty-years-but-i-never-thought-that-in-2018-i-would-still-have-to-speak-about-antisemitism

 

 

“Right” vs “Rights”

Here’s something for the Guns and Mental Health debates:

What’s really at issue: In essence, the ideal of right (what is true, good, and mutually beneficial for all and not a few, I.e. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS) has ceded to the ideal of rights (there’s a law that says I can do this, so I can and I will. The impact on others is of no concern for me. ). Big Difference.

Consider reading this article for more in-depth exploration of this distinction:

Homily for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Sunday 4th of February 2018

 Reading 1JB 7:1-4, 6-7

Job spoke, saying:
Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?

Responsorial PsalmPS 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

  1. (cf. 3a) Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.

Reading 21 COR 9:16-19, 22-23

Brothers and sisters:
If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast,
for an obligation has been imposed on me,
and woe to me if I do not preach it!

GospelMK 1:29-39

On leaving the synagogue
Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.
Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.
They immediately told him about her.
He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.
Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

When it was evening, after sunset,
they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.
The whole town was gathered at the door.
He cured many who were sick with various diseases,
and he drove out many demons,
not permitting them to speak because they knew him.

Rising very early before dawn, he left
and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
Simon and those who were with him pursued him
and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come.”
So he went into their synagogues,
preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

It’s easy to fall into the existential angst of Job – “what does anything matter?” We let the words of Ecclesiastes echo repeatedly in our heads: “All is vanity. Life is meaningless.” When we’re in that state of mind, it is profitable to remember that faith insists that humanity needs a Savior.  God initiated a Covenant with mankind for this very purpose: deliverance from mere existence into fullness of life.

For us, the story of Jesus is a healing story.  It’s restorative, transformative.  Jesus’s destiny was and remains a healing ministry just as he healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law and myriad of others long ago.  But note Jesus’ exemplifies an essential aspect of his restorative technique right here in today’s Gospel for all of us to appreciate:  solitude: “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.”  We must remember that prayer does not / must not always include words.  Sometimes in our despair, words are even too much for us to bear.  Solidarity with God requires silence, too.  Here’s a perfect example from a story by religious sister and spiritual writer José Hobday:

“One summer Saturday when I was 12, I was waiting for my friend who wanted to come over. We had planned the morning together. She was quite late. I was fretting and complaining and generally making a nuisance of myself. In fact, I was becoming rather obnoxious to everyone else in the house.

“Finally, my father said to me ‘Get a book a blanket and an apple and get into the car!’ I wanted to know why, but he repeated the order. So, I obeyed. My father drove me about eight miles from home to a canyon area and said, ‘Now get out.  We cannot stand you any longer at home. You aren’t fit to live with.  Stay out here by yourself today until you understand better how to act. I’ll come back for you this evening.’

I got out, angry, frustrated and defiant. The nerve of him! I thought immediately of walking home.  Eight miles was no distance at all for me. Then the thought of meeting my father when I got there took hold and I changed my mind.

“I cried and threw the book, apple and blanket over the canyon ledge. I had been dumped and I was furious. But it is hard to keep up a good, rebellious cry with no audience, so finally, there was nothing to do but face up to the day alone.

“I sat on the rim, kicking the dirt and trying to get control of myself. After a couple of hours, as noon approached, I began to get hungry. I located the apple and climbed down to retrieve it– as well as the book and the blanket.  I climbed back up and as I came over the top, I noticed the piñon tree. It was lovely and full.
I spread the blanket in the shade, put the book under my head and began to eat the apple.  I was aware of a change of attitude. As I looked through the branches into the sky, a great sense of peace and beauty came to me.  The clouds sat in still puffs, the blue was endless; I began to take in their spaciousness. I thought about the way I had acted and why daddy had treated me so harshly.  Understanding began to come and I became more objective about my behavior. I found myself getting in touch with my feelings, with the world around me.

“Nature was my mother, holding me for comfort and healing. I became aware of being part of it all, and I found myself thinking of God. . .. I felt in communion with much that I could not know, but to which I was drawn.   .  .  Of touching the holy.

“By the time my father came to get me, I was restored.  Daddy did not press me about the day.  He asked no questions and I gave him no answers.  But I was different and we both knew it. . . Before I got out of the car, I thanked him.”

May we begin with a little more silence now then we usually do—that is, before we return to the words of The Creed.  And so, may the balance of this Mass increase our comfortability with solitude and the mystical presence of Jesus.

Back to Basics: Repent and Forgive! (Again!)

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time 

January 21, 2018

 Reading 1 Jon 3:1-5, 10

Responsorial Psalm Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

Reading 11 1 Cor 7:29-31

Gospel Mk 1:14-20

God called Jonah to go to the despised country of Nineveh. Reluctantly, Jonah goes and gives them all the opportunity to repent and receive God’s forgiveness. They respond. They say, “YES.”

 Repentance and Forgiveness ground our Biblical Faith from our foundations in Judaism to the heavenly heights of Christianity. The Church repeats the message relentlessly and so today, it insists we equate God’s call to Jonah with Jesus’ Call to the Disciples.

Yes, Repentance and Forgiveness ARE the Cornerstones of Christianity because it is Jesus, the Cornerstone, who insists on repentance and forgiveness from everyone, to everyone.

 Sorry, friends, gut it’s time for another refresher.  We cannot refute the centrality of Reconciliation:

a.    John the Baptist heralded these as the only daily workouts that prepare us to recognize and receive Jesus

b.    Jesus endorsed them as he healed individuals, reconciling them from the world of sin into the kingdom of forgiveness

c.     Our Baptisms order us away from a sinful, judgmental, condemning world into world of forgiveness

d.    Jesus on the Cross insists forgiveness is the crux of His Mission and very heart of God.

 God knows it’s difficult! 

e.    Jonah wholeheartedly resents God for giving the Ninevites a second chance

f.      The brother of the Prodigal Son is irate his brother is welcomed back into the family

g.     Peter questions, HOW OFTEN? Jesus responds, “As often as it takes, Peter, as often as it takes.” As if to say, “Frankly, Peter, I’ve called you, your brothers and your sisters to love people to death.”

 Oh, but it is a terrible sacrifice to repent and to forgive. Christian History has not often exemplified these virtues, but THE CALL REMAINS, just as it always has, and always will. Today, the Church insists THE CALL IS NOW:

 Remember the Grand Gesture of Pope John Paul II at Millennium: On behalf of the entire Roman Catholic Church he repented for the Crusades and all other acts of violence the Church committed against the Jewish people, Orthodox Christians, Muslims and everyone else through the ages. He Revealed to the world publicly, equivocally that the Church must always have REPENTANT HEART.  Of course, not all individuals or groups received the Pope’s request well or offered to participate in reconciliation with us, but, still, seeds were planted. Humility’s power to inspire may not take immediate root, but it does linger long.

 Today’s Call to Discipleship asks us to Renew and Reclaim this Central Christian Objective. We must go to our brothers and sisters, friends, neighbors, business associates—anyone we have offended, hurt, betrayed and offer not only words of sorrow but determined efforts to heal the hurt, repair the loss as much as humanly possible.  Courage, friends!  We will be empowered by this Eucharist and by our renewal of Faith in the Holy Spirit this very day.

 Don’t despair!  Yes, we know that of course, there is no guarantee that those we have offended will welcome us or our message. But whether they do or not, the Holy Spirit will increase grace in us and leaves us with gratitude for who we are and who we are becoming–deepening our friendship with Jesus, our brother.  And isn’t that why we are here today?  To allow humility to take hold of us, grace will grow, and we may be thankful that we’ve done our part knowing that God forgives us whether others ever will.   

 Now, we must address the other, perhaps more difficult aspects of reconciliation.  What do we do when family or friends hurt or betray us, show no remorse, make no attempts to repent or seek reconciliation.  What then? (I’ve shared this with you all before but evidently the CHURCH in these readings insist that we review them today!)

a.    Before we share our hurt and anger with another, first and foremost bring our anger and hurt to God. We need to turn to quick, spontaneous inner prayer asking God to turn our anger to pity and ultimately to compassion for human weakness, so we can forgive those who’ve hurt us in our hearts before we even address the situation.  Should we find ourselves in the midst of an accelerating argument simply say, “I’m too angry with too many intense feelings to be able to address this right now.”  Take as much “Time Out,” as we need before compassion consumes us enough to address the wrongdoing. We need to pray in the same way whenever relatives/friends/neighbors do not hurt us directly but hurt others that we love or act in way we were taught that refute the 10 Commandments? E.g. Bigotry.

b.    Try our best show concern for the other without judgment, i.e., by saying things like, “What are you feeling right now that moves you to speak this way?” That shows LOVE and CONCERN for the person and prevents us from falling into judgment or a feeling of false superiority.  Then say how we feel, e.g., “I feel disappointment that you’ve chosen to say or act this way.” This exemplifies the task of working through our feelings first before we try to discuss the subject or the sin.” Once feelings are expressed and understood, we might then be ready to ask, “Are not the Ten Commandments important to both of us? How may we apply them to this situation?”

c.     Ask: “Do you at all feel pressured to act in this way –pressured by society, another person; do you think this is your only choice?” (Remember we often sin out of weakness rather than full consent of our wills.)

d.    Ask: “Would you like to explore with me other choices that may be of greater benefit to you and others?”

e.    Ask, “Can you accept the possibility that your words and actions are hurtful to you and others?”

f.      Explore what kind of restitution is appropriate.  We may ask, “How might I support you in taking responsibility for your words and actions?” In more complex situations, never be ashamed to bring this family, neighbor or work situation to a facilitator, counselor, doctor or priest.

 If the person is unwilling to continue the conversation, or take responsibility, make amends for his or her actions, YOU, as disciple, have witnessed the WAY. You have planted a seed.  Ultimately, then, we must decide:

a.    We may need to reorient the relationship to something less personal, less frequent, albeit without rancor, hurt or ongoing disappointment.

 We must always remember that Forgiveness, like LOVE, is an act of the WILL!  No one FEELS like forgiving, but the task of those who have been called is to conform our Will to God’s will. Remember God gave us FREE WILL and the consequences of our actions will all play themselves out in time.  Trust in God. God’s timing, too. It’s not our job to teach all people all lessons. But we can teach ourselves to have peace within our hearts even in the midst of a sinful world.

 My dear friends, being a Christian is HARD WORK.  As we come to the Eucharist today, I invite you to pray these two short prayers with me so that the Gifts of the Holy Spirit will be strengthened in us this day:

 “Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on us, sinners.”

  “Oh, God, who instructs the hearts of the faithful by the Light of the Holy Spirit, grant us that, by the same Spirit, we may judge wisely the things of earth and rejoice in the Spirit’s Consolation!”

 

Here’s a reprint of my Tools for Love-Forgiveness (Now as ONE-WORD)

 Love-Forgiveness

We participate in Love-Forgiveness (I preach this now as ONE WORD) or we do not.  Both are inextricably linked –we can’t have one without the other.  We must cultivate Love-Forgiveness in our hearts and invite loved ones to do the same.

What’s needed for love-forgiveness to reign? Here’s the short list of what to do when we are hurt, angry, betrayed:

  1. Vent, Rage and Cry to the Only Fully Objective Loved One — GOD; Jesus Himself prayed psalms of lament and disappointment.

 

  1. Secure that God loves you in your anger, your hurt, your betrayal –that God’s love for you is the foundation of your life—pray that you are moved to PITY the one who hurt you. See in him or her a fellow human being who has fallen from grace, given into temptation of selfishness, greed, violence, fear or weakness.

 

  1. Take TIME OUT, allow yourself time to let grace take hold of you and move you from hurt, and/ or rage to pity and, finally, to tenderness

 

  1. Pray Pity be transformed to TENDERNESS as you would offer tenderness to a disobedient child; everyone has a right to live, to learn, to improve, to encounter God through Love-Forgiveness – In this world of ours, it is one of the primary ways to encounter God.

 

  1. With patience, discern forms of accountability you may eventually offer your assailant or adversary—just as a priest offers penance to sinners in the confessional. As penance offers actions and prayers to help the penitent to both show remorse AND accept accountability for his or actions in praise of God, so, too, must we be “priests to one another,” offer opportunities for change – as you would with a child.

 

  1. Allow for Time to Pass, i.e., GOD’s Time, not “our time,”, for a person to come to a place of reviewing the situation and his or her actions calmly and honestly. Here we must trust in Jesus’ and the Psalms’ constant reminder that God allows the sun to shine on the just and unjust, good and the wicked precisely to allow people to choose to evaluate the harm they’ve done to themselves and others.

 

  1. Even if your health and safety require the relationship to be severed, distant, or irreconcilable– Forgive in your heart, so you are FREE from reliving the hurt, the pain; free to move onward toward a wiser, humbler, more hopeful future.

 

  1. If the offender amends the situation and gets treatment for his or her behavior, if warranted, don’t try to reconcile the relationship right away. If asked, let the other person know that you continue to work on reconciliation but are not ready to remove restrictions on your relationship. Meanwhile, assure them you will pray for their working through their problem and taking responsibility for their actions.

Paulist Press Resources:

Healing Life’s Hurts by Dennis Linn and Matthew Linn

Don’t Forgive Too Soon by Dennis and Sheila Linn and Matthew Linn

Good Goats – Healing Our Image of God by Dennis and Sheila Linn and Matthew Linn

These and other titles are available at http://www.paulistpress.com/