Trinity Sunday: Mass Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of My Ordination to the Priesthood at Saint Paul the Apostle Church, New York, NY

WHAT I’VE LEARNED THUS FAR –3 Points for Trinity Sunday

By Father James DiLuzio C.S.P.

 From Sunday’s Scripture Readings:

Excerpt from Deuteronomy 4: “This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other. You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today, that you and your children after you may prosper, and that you may have long life on the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you forever.””

Excerpt from Matthew 28:  And Jesus words confirm all this: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

 What follows is a more detailed expression of my thoughts.  For the Sunday Mass, I spoke on what follows more extemporaneously.  (I did not include the RED text on Sunday)

 It actually happened!  25 years!  I’m humbled and grateful for these years of faith and service and I am thankful to the Paulist Fathers without whom I never would be living a life in continual dialogue with the Scriptures and the People of God in extraordinary, intimate ways.  Today’s readings also remind me how in debt I am to the 10 Commandments and Jesus’ teachings.  They bring true freedom.  Observing them as closely as we are able, we may place our heads on our pillows each night and sleep soundly embraced by amazing grace.  We may wake up each morning as a child awakes filled with hope and enthusiasm,  conscious of God’s love and energized for the day for the good, the true and the beautiful.

 

In celebration of TRINITY SUNDAY on which we contemplate the Christian understanding of ONE GOD in Three Persons—we affirm that GOD IS RELATIONSHIP ITSELF—that’s the true meaning behind “Father, Son and Spirit.”  Indeed, as God is the SOURCE OF LIFE, THE FORCE MAINTAINING THE COSMOS, an UNDYING ENERGY FROM WITHIN AND WITHOUT –God extends God’s very essence expanding loving relationship to and through humanity and all creation.  Relationship is the heart of life—all people, the entire cosmos is inter-related in ways we need to keep exploring, understanding and celebrating.  And the best way is to keep cultivating the awe and wonder and freedom of childhood.  On this Anniversary Celebration I would like to share 3 (3 ½) insights I’ve gained from my 25 years as a Paulist priest.  Here we go:

  1. Point 1: “Whoever does not accept the Kingdom like a child shall not enter it.” Luke 18: 16-17
  • An energized adulthood demands that we cultivate and grow in our childhood JOYS. Are childhood joys comprise the essence of who we ARE, and Who God CALLS US TO BE.  Share who we are!  That’s the mission. . .. Don’t gauge your joys and talents in terms of money you make from them.  That’s not the point. We must keep developing our childhood happiness whatever our ultimate livelihood.  Get out those guitars, gardening tools, baseball gloves, science kit, puzzles or whatever it may be that keeps you fully alive. Let your lights shine!
    1. THE SHADOW SIDE OF CHILDHOOD: Childhood inevitably imparts wounds, too.  True growth engages us in “un-learning” negative patterns bestowed on us by exploring healthy patterns of thinking and living. Faith offers us the “bigger picture” we need to trust in a Loving God, accept the truth that people who mistreat, manipulate or domineer are transmitting pain they received in their childhoods.  We never deserved their cruelty, and, ultimately, safe distance may be required, yet in our hearts we need to develop compassion for ourselves and our family’s and institutions’ failures so that we don’t let our hurts prevent us from living and loving.
    2. In Exodus the Scriptures reveal God as saying God will be about “inflicting punishment for their ancestors’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation.” All that means is that God allows the consequences of wrong actions -be they selfish, greedy, violent—to play themselves out and they do, indeed, impact many subsequent generations. Meanwhile, both Hebrew and Christian Scriptures affirm God never abandons us as we work through the harmful residues of the past.
    3. Later the prophet Ezekiel assures the people saying, “The son shall not be charged with the guilt of his father, nor shall the father be charged with the guilt of his son. Justice belongs to the just, and wickedness to the wicked.”  This implies, in part, what I’ve come to understand:  God invites each new generation to correct, amend and extinguish the sins of the past –be they that of our parents, grandparents or ancestors, or our nation’s or our religious body’s—so we keep ever-growing in the ways God set out in the beginning:  the 2 GREAT COMMANDMENTS: Love of God, self and neighbor as self.  Strong faith gives us the COURAGE to do just that.  It’s what Jesus meant when he said, “Pick up your cross and follow me” and “I am with you always, even unto the end of time.”
    4. Strong feelings from childhood are often evoked in contemporary situations that nonetheless must be distinguished from the situations and contexts of the past. We must learn to deal with these and the distinct people involved in them in healthier, more creative ways, detaching from our past.  e., the person who treats us ill today is not our parent, our wicked 4th grade teacher, the abusive boss from our last job.  He/She and we are in a different situation now.  We must calm our bruised inner child and live in the present. We must assert ourselves because we don’t need other’s good behavior to claim our self-esteem as children of God.  Claiming our foundational dignity in God’s love, no one can take it away. We can then see the person and his/her inappropriate or hurtful behavior as someone in pain; someone who tries to claim their dignity at the expense of another because they are deeply insecure.   Assured of who we are as Loved by God, we can move from anger, to pity, to compassion for the wounded, insecure fellow (without ever telling him or her that they are wounded or insecure—that won’t get us anywhere!).  Centered in this way, we are far more able and likely to “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6) and advance to the Biblical Vision: “With firm purpose you maintain peace (O, Lord!); in peace, because of our trust in you.” Trust in the Lord forever!  (Isaiah 26)

2. Point 2: I’m continuing to discover and develop the virtue of Abandoning Aesthetics regarding human persons.

  1. We are all nurtured in aesthetics based on our family backgrounds and communities. We learn what our group deems appropriate for dress, personal hygiene, decorum, and proper pleasures.  This is natural.   As we grow and assert our individuality, we adopt, adapt or reject aspects of what we’ve learned and apply them to ourselves.  In addition, Education invites us to develop critical thinking regarding works of art, music and literature; Church and Society cultivate ethics regarding social norms and proper politics. The gift of critical thinking is essential to life and advancing public mores.
  2. Yet, we fail to engage in the Gospel, when we view another human being according to the criteria we deem best for ourselves or evaluate them as if they are a theatre piece or literary work. We can project our expectations upon them and fail to see who he or she really is. Jesus emphatically insists: “Stop Judging, and you will not be judged.  Stop condemning and you will not be condemned; Forgive and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6).  It’s letting go of aesthetics and critical evaluation of a person–even his or her actions –that help us see a fellow human being as God sees him or her.
  3. Judgment and Condemnation create chasms between people and prevent us from working together to solve problems, to undo the damage that is done. Instead of saying “How can you wear that? Say that?” or worse, “How dare you!”  “How could you!” I’m learning to keep silent and inwardly pray about my evaluations of another.  Only when someone’s actions warrant it, I find it’s better to ask, “What’s going on within you that brings you to speak or act in this way?” or “Please, help me understand your choices in this matter.  Might there be a more productive way to deal with this?  How may I help?”   (In truth, even compassionate statements such as these can rile another person, so this approach it’s not a guarantee for successful dialogue. In the realm of human relations, there is no perfect panacea.  Furthermore, our own emotions can get in the way of our best intentions, making what we think is a “kind response” received by another as anything but.  (God help us!)

3. Point 3: “Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life-span? 26 If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest? “(Luke 12). To follow Jesus is to “Come Down to Earth.”

Our Christian faith is centered in God who enters human history through the Incarnate Word, in Jesus of Nazareth.  To follow Jesus, we must “come down to earth,” too.  Living in a “down to earth” way, we may more readily “live in the present moment” with much less anxiety. Here are life’s bare bone essentials to always keep in mind when in relationship with others but especially in times of conflict:

  1. Everyone needs air and water. (Deprive any one of these and the issues before us have no weight, no matter.)
  2. Everyone needs food, clothing and shelter. God created us as beings that must cooperate, collaborate to provide us with these bare necessities. No one can obtain all these essentials on his or her own. This basic concept assures us that we are all in this world together.
  3. Everyone needs LOVEFORGIVENESS –I understand this now as ONE WORD. Each dynamic is inseparable from the other. Mere Existence becomes LIFE in its fullness when this irrefutable, indivisible dynamic is nurtured and maintained.  Besides, no one can live without it. Now, LOVEFORGIVENESS doesn’t mean we can’t hold people accountable for their actions but it does mean that the accountability offers hope and opportunity to change while taking responsibility for his or her actions. We must assist ourselves and others always to claim and re-claim our true dignity as children of God.  (Another dimension of “Pick up your cross.”
  4. Everyone needs STORY to endow meaning to all the other fundamentals I’ve stated. Our FAITH provides the greatest and foundational stories, and in our diverse and heterogeneous world, we need to dialogue and discern the commonalities in all people’s stories –religious, national and personal—to create the solidarity in addressing the problems we face.  So many Religious Traditions affirm Unity, Harmony and Peace as God’s goal for the world. We all need to know our stories and keep learning from them.
  5. Everyone dies. Humble recognition of this truth may help us advance LIFE and LIFE-GIVING CHOICES for as long as we are on this earth because our earthly life is inextricably linked to our life and relationship with God and others for all eternity.  Detaching from our emotions or taking “time out” from an argument or discussion when emotions are strong can keep us alive and well until our time is up.

Keeping life “simple” is the best way to live, for, in truth God is the simplest, most uncomplicated essence of Being, of Personhood and Relationship there is—all generative, all creative, all overflowing love.

I would like to close with the song I sing at the opening of every parish mission I offer:  Leonard Bernstein’s SIMPLE SONG with lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.

You can hear me sing via this YouTube link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3h9s0OY2Ues

(This was recorded several years ago.  I think I sang it better on Sunday!)

God bless you all for reading and sharing in my reflections.

 

 

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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.

God’s Authority is Compassion

Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

28 January 2018

Reading 1 Dt 18:15-20    I will raise up for them a prophet like you (Moses) from among their kin, and will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9:   If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the LORD who made us. For he is our God, and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.

Reading 2 1 Cor 7:32-35   An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided.

Gospel Mk 1:21-28  Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority.

Several years ago, a group of computer salesman from Milwaukee went to a regional sales meeting in Chicago. They assured their wives they would be home in plenty of time for dinner, but with one thing or another, the meeting ran overtime so the men had to race to the station, tickets in hand. As they barraged through the terminal, one inadvertently kicked over a table supporting a basket of apples. Without stopping, they all reached the train and boarded it with a sigh of relief.  All but one.

This one paused, got in touch with his feelings and experienced a twinge of compassion for the boy whose apple stand had been overturned.  He waved goodbye to his companions and returned to the terminal.  He was glad he did. The 10-year-old boy was blind.  The salesman gathered up the apples and noticed that several of them were bruised. He reached into his wallet and said to the boy, “Here, please take this $10 for the damage we did. I hope it won’t spoil your day.”  As he started to walk away, the bewildered boy called after him, “Are you Jesus?” The man stopped in his tracks. And he wondered.

Well, so much for being married and being distracted from the ways of the Lord!  We know the ways of the Lord most when we allow the Holy Spirit to move us into action.  It only takes a moment.  Or, perhaps, an extra moment –to feel something, to ponder—to move away from the compulsion to keep asking, “Where am I going?” “What’s next?” and ask, instead:  “Where am I?” and “What about NOW” Even more than these, there are the essential questions of faith: “Who guides me? Who is with me now and every moment of my life?  Who is my true authority?  My touchstone?  My cornerstone?”

The people in the synagogue were amazed that Jesus cured the man from his demons, but even more marveled at His “authority.” Jesus had complete freedom to express His powers (i.e. no inhibitions / insecurities / fears). Only a pure Union with God could endow a person with that kind of authority.  Because of this, the people realized  Jesus had more authority than their scribes. Indeed, Jesus’ power was akin to the Sun’s power over the day (Ps 136.8) and its ability to overcome the night.

Jesus has confidence in God and in Himself as God’s Anointed One: confirmed by his Baptism and His experiences of His Power over the Devil’s Temptations in the desert –important events that precede today’s Gospel.  Jesus believes God’s WORD: “You are my beloved Son” and refused to be tempted by Satan not to trust that affirmation.  We, like Christ, will often be tempted by Satan not to believe the words pronounced at our Baptisms: “you have been clothed in Christ,” “you have received the Oil of Salvation,” “you are destined to be among the Saints” when the power of evil seems to be invincible. When we forget these sacred realities we allow  our insecurities and fears to possess us.  Then, unlike Jesus, we are tempted to adopt the world’s forms of power and authority rather than one of service, mutual benefit and solidarity with others.  We can try desperately to advance our own reign rather than God’s reign. Sadly, many people with power these days seem to fall head over heels into that temptation.  But we don’t have to. Jesus’ authority comes from His conviction that He and God are one and that God always chooses the benevolent act, the supportive action, the healing word—contrary to many world philosophies.

Note this important detail in today’s Gospel.  Mark asserts that Jesus began His public life channeling his authority in an act of compassion—freeing a person from evil’s grasp.  Jesus once again shares that power and authority with us through this Eucharist.  His plan is to increase our faith, strengthen our confidence in Him and His authority—the only true authority there is. Shall we cooperate with the Plan of God today?  The choice is ours!  Are we not his Beloved?  Will not this Eucharist unite Us with Him?   Not to believe, not to trust in that truth makes us more susceptible to doubts, insecurities and the powers of evil.  But fear not! In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ authority makes it clear: Compassion trumps fear His compassion will move us out of ourselves, our inner conflicts, our dramas and into the only true way to live:  trusting in the power of God and of His Christ.

 

 

Calling Forth Constancy to the First Commandment

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time       Reading 1 IS 45:1, 4-6 Gospel: MT 22:15-21

 The old sensibility called the Divine Right of Kings–that rulers can be instruments of God’s grace IF they choose to cooperate with it, is older than the Bible.  Cyrus of Persia did cooperate with God (knowingly or unknowingly).  Having conquered the Babylonians, he took over the Middle East Empire and allowed the Jewish people to return to their homeland, which new Emperors rarely, if ever, did. Rulers usually did not allow people to stay or return to their homelands in fear that once gathered together, they were more likely to revolt.

With Cyrus of Persia one of the rare exceptions, what was believed to be “The Divine Right of Kings” was used and abused through the centuries until finally someone shouted, “The Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes!” meaning that all too often, rulers and people in authority misuse their power.  Read the headlines in any century, any decade and there’s plenty proof. Taking Presidents and statesmen, explorers and rulers off their pedestals has been the work of historians for centuries, but when people attempt to do this in a literal way, controversy ensues.  And, although there are legitimate concerns on all sides of the issue, as always, the Gospels insist on a bigger picture: God is GOD; we are not.  People of faith are expected to put God above all others, to carefully consider God’s Will as we make our own decisions.  When people do well, praise them!  But, in our hearts, praise God, too–for nothing good is accomplished except from God.  We must believe that.  Therefore, respect positive human achievements while humbly acknowledging all human beings are flawed.  Perhaps all our monuments and tributes need to reflect that.  Meanwhile, Jesus tells us: be responsible with the things of this world for in doing so we get good practice in being responsible to heaven.

We should all know by now that the primary meaning of “repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” is NOT about the separation of Church and State.  For too long, Jesus’ statement has been misused to excuse a divorce between moral behavior at home and moral behavior in government and elsewhere.  If God is truly the center of our lives, then “repaying to Caesar” must mean taking on secular responsibilities to give God Glory, because, as the Bible and History teach us, all “Caesars” –be they princes or politicians, business executives or priests of bishops—fall short of leading fully God-centered lives and making consistent God-centered decisions.

To approach misunderstood passages of Scripture such as this one, it is always best to put them in conversations with other passages of Scripture that support and elucidate their meaning. Let’s look at these.

Luke 12: 29-32

As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore. 30 All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides. 32 Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.

 

In other words, disciples of Jesus must view our material needs and their political implications as SECONDARY to Love 0f God, the dignity of each human person as Child of God, and love of neighbor.  God comes first! Discipleship in Jesus comes FIRST! Attentiveness to the Holy Spirit comes first! Then we have a taste of the Kingdom and everything else falls into place—a world with less hostility, less anxiety because all decisions are made for mutual benefit of all rather than advancement for some at the expense of others.  

Here’s another passage: Luke 16: 8 to 10

“For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.[e] I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth,[f] so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. 10 [g]The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.

 

Jesus speaks here of money in its most negative aspect:  it’s all “dishonest,” in the sense of the illusions it perpetuates:  delusions of grandeur, of inflated self-importance, celebrity, fame—all these are fleeting, transitory and distractions from the TRUTH of why we are here. The purpose and meaning of life: each person, each family, each community is responsible to GOD. Of course, it is important to be RESPONSIBLE for our worldly doings. We must apply our ethics to our material consumption, and our politics.  Indeed, wealth can be and may be used for good purposes that extend the kingdom of God, and when it does, we find signs of HEAVEN in the here and now.  But clearly in these times, more signs are needed to empower us to receive the blessings of eternity.  When few signs exist on earth, Heaven becomes disconnected, divorced from the real world in our daily consciousness; we become lax in our attentiveness to the Communion of Saints; Intercessory Prayer feels like a waste of our time—and that’s never a good thing.  We must remind ourselves that Jesus’ insisted that “the Kingdom of God is at Hand” on earth because it is intimately connected to the Kingdom of Heaven. 

The last Scripture passage that I will address, (there are many more, but, well, I leave you to look them up) is the segment when Jesus focuses on the limitations of our pride in material and political accomplishments over spiritual ones:

Luke 21: 5 [b]While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, he said, “All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”

 

I.e. all human accomplishments are transitory. What remains for us are remnants of the past that must be studied and scrutinized if our histories are to add to Wisdom for the present and future. We must let our Faith determine what was truly GOOD, what was GOD-CENTERED and what was not.  We don’t often appropriate our histories in that way, but the Gospel insists that we do, addressing everything about our societies that create suffering, pain and disillusionment—and insisting on ways and means that accentuate improvements, redemption and HOPE instead.

If Jesus’ wisdom isn’t enough for us today (and alas, it often isn’t for so many), we can tell them they will find parallels in the Hebrew Prophets, in the writings of St. Paul and the Saints and those of many secular scholars, writers and poets from one century to the next.  

Reflecting on these scriptures, I recalled a poem most of us were assigned to study in high school: Percy Shelley’s “Ozymandias:

I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert… near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:

And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.[4]

 

We can spend a lot of time and emotional energy arguing about statues, but the truth is they are all going to fall and decay like the ruins of Rome, Ephesus and Pompeii.  That we’re made for eternity is the crux of the matter. We were made for God.  And that’s the only proper tribute to anyone—the degree he or she manifest their Love of God and Neighbor. Jesus was always aware of GOD, always attentive to the Spirit and asks nothing more of his disciples that you and I do the same.  GOD is everlasting who graciously offers to share eternity with the Saints. So, attend to Caesar, engage in political thought and debate, participate in community events, in commerce, economics and industry for such are the blessings of work and proper use of our God-given talents and creativities, but engage in these always with an eye on the Love of God and neighbor.  Stay in communion with Christ Jesus – for He Alone is more eternal than Spring itself.

Forgiveness & Accountability CAN go HAND-in-Hand

Some THEOLOGY FOR TODAY: Regarding how FORGIVENESS & ACCOUNTABILITY can go hand-in-hand:
It is always good that we WRESTLE with the dynamics of both, just as Jacob wrestled with God (Genesis 32) the night before he took the chance to return to his homeland and be greeted by his brother Esau (the one from whom he took the birthright and blessing of the firstborn). Already we see that Jacob had to take the consequences of his actions (flee his homeland, live under the authoritarian rule of Uncle Laban for over 14 years, etc.) There is a strong Biblical sense that God allows the consequences of our actions to play themselves out–assuring us that God is with us in these undertakings and strengthens us, helping us to mature and grow while still forgiving us. The magnanimity of Esau when he greets and hugs Jacob is quite astonishing but not at all unrelated to Esau being fully aware of Jacob’s years of exile. Similarly, Jesus forgave Peter for denying him, yet Jesus did not respond immediately to Peter’s tears but allowed Peter to experience the grief and self-scrutiny he needed before the Resurrection proclamation of PEACE BE WITH YOU. Of course, there is a time to completely “wipe the slate clean,” as the saying goes, but this requires prayerful discernment in relation to the offense and the harm to self and others, and the personalities and age of the persons involved. The Prodigal Son, for example, is forgiven and embraced, but the Father’s property is not going to be divided once again for the prodigal’s benefit. His brother’s portion remains intact and the prodigal will be indebted to the Father’s and ultimately his brother’s mercy until which time he is able to go out on his own with a sense of responsibility and dignity–if ever.
In the Sermon on the Plain, when Jesus says, “‘From the one who takes what is yours, do not demand it back,” I think Jesus is referring to our usual rage and insecurities that someone has taken advantage of us. He invites us to move from the bitter anger we feel and instead, find our dignity and worth with confidence in God’s love so that when we address the “robber,” there is a sense of God’s justice, not ours–i.e., some accountability but not as if our life and dignity depended upon it (in which case the punishments often do not fit the crime). Rather, “The Kingdom of God” invites us to always be about growing in wisdom, forbearance and Hope–for the offender just as much as for ourselves.
This issue is a large one with many levels and applications — including, for example, our prison systems that are far more punitive than redemptive. It doesn’t mean killers go free to kill again but it does mean that they are treated with dignity throughout their life in prison to the extent that their souls and spirits through “tough love,” if you will, are given opportunities toward remorse, empowering them to accept the consequences of their actions, take responsibility for them, and prepare for heaven– mental and emotional illnesses notwithstanding. Not everyone, not every Christian agrees with this but I believe we are compelled to wrestle with these concepts.

Homily for 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 20: 7-9; Psalm 63; Romans 12: 1-2; Matthew 16:21-27

Fr. James DiLuzio C.S.P.

 “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped!”  I’ve always loved those lines from Jeremiah, finding comfort in them whenever I feel let down, overwhelmed, or just plain sad about my life or what’s going on in the world.  What good has all my preaching accomplished–who remembers homilies, anyway?  To what effect all these Eucharists?  People still hate one another, misinterpret Scripture to bully people, justify their prejudices, and, particularly this week, ask why God does not intervene in Nature’s devastations in Texas and elsewhere.

As we pray Psalm 63 this morning, aren’t we thirsting for God to show up?  Wouldn’t it have been inspiring had God whisked Hurricane Harvey out to sea in the same way Jesus calmed the storms 2,000 years ago?  Of course, the Holy Spirit will inspire people to respond to Hurricane Relief.  In solidarity with those who lost homes and livelihood, Catholic Charities and other noble organizations will solicit contributions from us all.  Indeed, with eyes of faith, we expect the milk of human kindness to be in strong evidence once again.  God is and will always be part of these grace-filled endeavors.   Still, we may be haunted by the age-old mystery as to why God allows tragedies to play themselves out as readily as God enhances goodness to breed goodness, grace to build upon grace.

What hope do we have other than to trust in this mystery?  Jeremiah, despite his desire to run from God and live without faith, without prayer and rituals, acknowledged that, ultimately, God’s Spirit became “like fire burning” in his heart, his faith in God somehow “imprisoned” in his bones.  Jeremiah’s faith in God conquered his disillusionment and fear.  How?

Jesus tells us by “picking up our cross,” he strengthens us to live within faith’s paradox, to embrace mystery, to trust in eternal truths.  Because our past informs our present, we know that we have, we can and we will overcome hatred, prejudice and even natural disasters because of faith’s common denominator: we are all children of God on a journey unto eternity.  Of course, like Saint Peter on that day, we would have preferred an invincible Messiah who would establish a suffering-free universe. Yet, from the beginning death was part of God’s plan—our human bodies as we experience them were destined to be but a prologue to a transcendent way of life with body and soul beyond the grave (yes) but not without some dying and rising from day to day to day. Along with hundreds of events from the past, Houston invites us, once again, to review our attachments to material things and to scrutinize the degree to which we honor our relationships with God and others and live each day as if it were our last.

What are our expectations of life?  Why are our capacities for mystery so limited?  In part, because we’ve kept our faith rooted in what we learned as children—neglecting to nurture it into adulthood.  We continue to change with the times regarding science, medicine and technology, even morality and ethics, but not in fundamental aspects of faith. Meanwhile, change has occurred in the ways the Church interprets the Bible and appropriates the Sacraments.

Considering the floods in Houston and environs –and with more on the horizon—who among us has not thought of Genesis and Noah and the Flood?  Does God still punish us with natural disasters?  What other insights from childhood continue to echo in our adult brains?  But here’s an example of how biblical scholarship has changed:  We now understand that the ancient biblical writers used a tragic event – a flood – into a lesson on morality and faith, revealing, at the same time, a very narrow, limited understanding of God.  Believing as the ancients did that to be all-powerful was to be responsible for all activity on earth, they understood everything that happens as either a reward or punishment from God. Thus, the story of a flood-to-end-all-floods was presented as God’s weariness with the sins of humanity. Perhaps fed-up themselves with the evil within human nature, the biblical writers projected their disgust as coming from God as they tried to make sense of a catastrophic phenomenon. As centuries passed, however, their own experiences of God, coupled with burgeoning revelations from JOB and the prophets and ongoing prayer empowered the faithful to conclude that God’s all-powerful dimension comprises a greater mystery: God lets Nature evolve and interact with itself (ant that includes humanity) within its own limitations, just as God permits humanity’s free will to make of ourselves and our world what we will—guiding and supporting always, but interfering only rarely. Therefore, today, we acknowledge our childhood understanding of Noah and the Ark is found wanting. And yet, the story remains part of the inerrant dynamic of the Bible–not for what it says about God, but for what it reveals about the power of faith (Noah and his family) and a deeper truth that God supports the faithful through the tragedies of life, promising hope and redemption symbolized by a rainbow. Today, considering Hurricane Harvey, that rainbow symbolizes a whole lot more.  The value of our homes and personal luxuries pale in the presence of a helping hand—no matter the color of the skin, the ethnicity it represents, its age or size, its nation of origin. The Good News is that God works primarily (although NOT exclusively) through US.  We are not alone unless we choose to be.  We never need be afraid.

Today we acknowledge that the Scriptures are both past, present and FUTURE ORIENTED. They inform us about the past as they illuminate HERE and NOW and beckon us onto the FUTURE.  So, too, our current events. It’s clear that the earth has entered a warming phase with erratic temperatures and winds, caused, in part, through ice melts from the poles.  No one refutes that any longer.  What still is debated, however, is the extent the human footprint accelerates this phenomenon. But who could argue this: From the beginning, the Holy Spirit has nurtured Wisdom in human hearts and that centuries ago, the Spirit moved humanity to acknowledge a universal, common sense adage “An Ounce of Prevention is worth a Pound of Cure.” As Catholics and others throughout the nation this weekend (and in the months to come) contribute and volunteer to Catholic Charities’ appeals to rebuild homes and refortify Texas Gulf cities and surroundings, we must prayerfully consider the bigger picture, engage in more preventative endeavors, more precautions, more safety measures, more environmentally sound uses of power and fuel, however costly—locally and nationally–these may be. The future of Texas as well as our children’s future and the entire earth’s future depend upon it. Whatever our political sensibilities we must defer to the Cross of Jesus Christ that insists we, too, sacrifice for a greater good. And then, because of God’s design, goodness will increase.

Today’s Eucharist is a preventative measure, too. Assuring Christ’s presence within us, around us, our Eucharist cultivates true faith–adult faith, inviting us to attend to our relationships with God and others with patience, awe and reverence and, yes, even patience with God until, ultimately, all shall be on earth as it is in heaven.

Reading 1 Jer 20:7-9

You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped;
you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.
All the day I am an object of laughter;
everyone mocks me.

Whenever I speak, I must cry out,
violence and outrage is my message;
the word of the LORD has brought me
derision and reproach all the day.

I say to myself, I will not mention him,
I will speak in his name no more.
But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones;
I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

  1. (2b) My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
    O God, you are my God whom I seek;
    for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
    like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
    R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
    Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
    to see your power and your glory,
    for your kindness is a greater good than life;
    my lips shall glorify you.
    R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
    Thus will I bless you while I live;
    lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
    As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
    and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
    R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
    You are my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
    My soul clings fast to you;
    your right hand upholds me.
    R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Reading 2 Rom 12:1-2

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God,
to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.
Do not conform yourselves to this age
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and pleasing and perfect.

Alleluia cf. Eph 1:17-18

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.
    May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
    enlighten the eyes of our hearts,
    that we may know what is the hope
    that belongs to our call.
    R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 16:21-27

Jesus began to show his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly
from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.
Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him,
“God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”
He turned and said to Peter,
“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”

 

I Have A Dream – A Homily

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Isaiah 56: 1, 6-7 “The foreigners . . . I will bring to my holy mountain” Psalm 67: “O God, all the nations shall praise you.” Romans 11: 13-15; 29-32:  “For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.” Matthew 15: 21-28:  And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!”

I have a dream that from infancy through toddlerhood, preschool and beyond, in homes throughout the world, every child will be welcomed into a loving home.  I dream that each child will not only have bodily nourishment, love and care but grow up conscious of a great Being, the source of all life and all goodness.  I dream that each child will come to know the Creator God and be assured of God’s deep love for humanity and all creation.  I would want them to know, that no matter their family’s religion or philosophical point of view, that there is great joy in store for all who seek to know and understand God–the source of love and goodness, forgiveness and truth. And that even those who may not believe in God, they, too, come to know that there is such a thing as love, forgiveness, goodness and truth.

I hope that as they grow and learn and experience human failures, and learn of the tragic histories of war and violence, recognizing that even people of faith have used their religion or philosophies to tear the world apart, to harm people that were not like themselves, that they can appreciate and discern that TRUE RELIGION will always bring people together. Because TRUE religion insists that all are children of God.

My dream for Christian children, be they Catholic or Orthodox or Protestant, is that they realize that their Baptisms initiated them into Christ, and that faith in Jesus gives us a unique role to play in participating in God’s Spirit, highlighting the good, the true and the beautiful in others not like ourselves. Christianity offers great wisdom that acknowledges the fears that lead to sin, fears that prevent us from seeing the good in ourselves and others. Our faith in Jesus insists that we follow Jesus as the One who “did not come to condemn the world,” but to set it free from its compulsions, its greed and prejudices.

Today’s Gospel shows Jesus’ interactions with a Canaanite Woman, a woman not of His Own Faith, but, still a person whom Jesus insisted –after evidencing his own unique sense of humor, wit and playfulness by dismissing her to confront his own disciples’ prejudices–that everyone deserves healing, because that is what God does: Heals, be it physical, emotional or spiritual healing.  And by offering the healing that each in his or her own way need, God offers HOPE, instilling Hope in every Human heart.  And so, Jesus attends to the pagan Canaanite woman’s hope for her daughter, recognizing everyone is called to hope for their sons and daughters. Blessed are the ones who know that!  Blessed are those who accept Hope in their hearts and refuse to default to anger, fear or selfishness. Blessed are those who see that the purpose of TRUE religion or true humanism is meant to cultivate Hope in all peoples, in all situations.

My dream is not my dream, really.  It is the Biblical Dream.  The recorded dreams and inspirations of Moses, Isaiah, Micah, and Jesus Himself that all may come to know God and with God and through God, to embrace THE GOLDEN RULE–DO UNTO OTHERS AS WE WOULD LIKE OTHERS TO DO TO US. For God made the world filled with diversity, and invites us to trust in that diversity, to find hope in that diversity, too.

Throughout His life, Christ engaged in discourse with people who thought differently than He thought, who lived differently than He lived.  He grew up in a world of Roman occupation without hating the Romans (although he could be critical of them).  He grew up in the world of Judaism and although he acknowledged the people’s sins, He loved them all.

May our prayers and Eucharist today empower us to strive to uncover the Hope beyond human failures, beyond humanity’s penchant for blame, beyond everybody’s susceptibility to hate, to prejudice and the illusions of comfort they offer at others’ expense. Christ Jesus came to serve and save, not condemn nor destroy.  His dream must become our dream—for only when our dreams are aligned with His can this Eucharist produce the effects for which it was intended from the beginning.  As the Word and Eucharist offer Hope to us, healing to us, may it empower us to offer hope to our world.