Friday, March 30, 2018

GOOD FRIDAY 2018 HOMILY – QUENCH THE THIRST!   Reading: John 19:28-30

Jesus said, “I thirst.”  The thirst of Jesus on the cross can be heard and responded to in two different, depending upon the relationship we desire to have with Him.  It can he heard as a tortured man's cry for water after having been deprived of it for hours while undergoing abuse and torture. This would be the way of hearing that is common to the Casual Christian who feels sorrow for the Lord's suffering. And then there is the hearing of these words by the Committed Christian. This Christian hears Jesus thirsting and simply cannot stand by idle...they want to do something to quench his thirst. This interpretation is not my own, but comes from someone who spent her entire life seeking to quench the thirst of Jesus: St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

If you go into the chapel of any convent of the Missionaries of Charity Sisters which were started by Mother Teresa, you will notice that their chapels are very sparse and bare. But there always will be a large crucifix on a wall next to the tabernacle. And under the arms of the cross you will see the words, “I Thirst”.  Mother Teresa said that those two words express the totality of her spirituality and are the very reason for the existence of the Missionaries of Charity: to hear and respond to the thirst of Jesus, which she interprets to mean a thirst for love.

Mother Teresa would often tell her Sisters to add their first names to those two words and experience what Jesus really meant by them. “Teresa. I thirst.”  Put your own name there and realize that He thirsts for your love. Not the love of the impersonal large anonymous crowd of humanity for whom he died, but the love of each and every individual human being within that crowd. And so, I would think that this should make us stop and ask: How can I, living in 2018, quench the thirst of Jesus on the cross? Well...Mother Teresa is only too happy to tell us!

She would say that Jesus is really and truly present to us today in two very personal ways, but ways that require faith to see Him because he is hidden. Two different forms of Presence but only the One Same Jesus.
·       He is present in the Eucharist, the reality of the Blessed Sacrament, hidden under the appearances of bread and wine.
·       And He is present in the persons of the Needy and Poor, hidden under the distressful disguise of a suffering human being.

Mother Teresa taught that we can quench the thirst of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament by receiving Holy Communion mindfully and worthily, with faith and devotion instead of by habit and routine. Then once he is within us we can tell him of our love and entrust ourselves to his care. We can commune heart to heart, person to person, in a divine romance of the soul. And she spoke always of how we can quench the love of Jesus in the Needy Poor by ministering to them in whatever ways we can.  She taught us to expand our understanding of what it means to be “poor” and to remember that loneliness, sadness and rejection are expressions of poverty that everyone can encounter no matter where they live.

She told us that all we need to do is hold up a hand and look at our five fingers to remember Whose thirst we are quenching when we seek to relieve suffering, because Jesus gave us 5 important words: “You did it to ME”.

·       Do I really believe that Jesus thirsts for my love? That he loves me so much he embraced the cross so that I can be with Him for all eternity?
·       Do I hear the cry of Jesus, “I thirst”? How do I respond?
·       Am I Casual Christian or a Committed Christian? Which one do I most truly want to be? 

The hope of Good Friday and the Promise of Easter Sunday is that there’s always the possibility of growth and change.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A New Life, A New Heart

From the Catholic Liturgy for the 5th Sunday of Lent, March 18, 2018. OT:  Jeremiah 31:31-34; Responsorial Psalm 51; Gospel John 12:20-33. Theme: New Life, New Heart.

I’m sure most of you are at least somewhat familiar with 12-step recovery groups. The fundamental principle of these groups is that those become truly powerless over certain substances or behaviors can find freedom with a new life and a new heart  by living the 12-steps, which are a spiritual program rooted in God.

But I think what most of us don’t realize is that we are all addicts who are in need of healing and recovery. We are all powerless over the effects of original sin in our lives.  Not a one of us can break free of sin and selfishness on our own. Not a one of us can live an unselfish life consistently without the power of God breaking into our lives and changing us from the inside out.

The new life and new heart that we can receive by facing up to our powerlessness to sin and turning to God for healing and transformation is what we hear promised us in today’s first reading from Jeremiah. And the dying to self that this involves in order to arrive at a new life,  is a powerful example of  Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel: that we must die like a grain of wheat planted in the soil, so that we can become something new and transformed.

Today's responsorial psalm, Psalm 51, was written by King David of Jerusalem, who is an inspring example of recovery from destructive behavior. This is the same David whom God chose to defeat Goliath, and whom God chose to be anointed as king. And yet, he allowed his destructive selfhsiness to turn him into a liar, an adulterer and a murderer.  

One day he caught sight of Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah,  his most trusted soldiers, bathing and his compulsive lust for her took over, demanding its fulfilment. He had his way with her and when he found out she was pregnant, David had a talk with Uriah. He tried to convince him to spend the night with her before leaving for war, but Uriah was a soldier's soldier and refused to break the rule about intimacy on the night before a battle.  Then David did something much more horrible than his adultery: he ordered Uriah to the front line with instructions that no one was to cover his back in war. Uriah was killed and so David thought he had found a way to cover up his behavior and save his reputation. Eevryone would just assume that the baby was Uriah's.

Now, this is where we enter the story with this morning’s psalm. God informs the prophet Nathan of David’s sins and sends him to the king with a message of repentance and hope, a promise of healing and transformation. Fortunately, David responds positively to this intervention and begs God for a new heart, a new life which we see expressed in the words of the psalm that we have prayed this mornig. He repents. He does not deny his awful choice, but confesses his sin to the Lord and acknopwledges that only God can change him, can transform him from the inside out.

David  begs God to keep walking with him in life and to guide him by the Holy Spirit. Like those who find freedom from addiction in their recovery and then reach out to  other addicts,  David proclaims that he will teach transgressors God’s ways and will  help them to return to Him.  And indeed he did so for the rest fo his life. He was so transformed and loved by the people that he became a model and example of everything the promised Messiah should be.

If there is one thing the Scriptures tell us over and over again is that God does not condemn those who honestly turn to Him. And that he ius rich in mercy.  He washes us of our guilt and cleanses us no matter what our pasts may have been. He offers everyone of us a new heart, a new relationship with Him no matter how often we sin and turn back to Him. We always have the hope and promise that our dying to sin and selfishness will result in a new and transformed life.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

From the Catholic Liturgy for the 3rd Sunday of Lent, March 4, 2018.  OT: Exodus 20:1-17; Gospel: John 2:13-25. Theme: Religion – Rules or Relationships?

Back when I was in my theological studies, my moral theology professor began the very first class by asking us to consider a scenario that I would now like each one of you to think about and come up with your answer: You are driving through the cornfields of Nebraska when you come upon an intersection with a stop sign. You can see for miles around you in every direction because the terrain is flat as a pancake. There are no other vehicles to be seen. Do you stop at the intersection as indicated for safety, or do you keep on driving right through the stop sign?

If your answer was that you would obey the traffic law and stop at the intersection, then I venture to guess that your approach to religion is pretty heavy on the rules and regulations, and your image of God might be somewhat like an All-Powerful Divine Probation Officer. If your answer was that you would keep driving right through the intersection because you can clearly see that there is no danger of an accident, then congratulations! You are well on the road to having an approach to God and religion that is the one taught by Jesus Christ.

You see, by the time that Jesus came to earth, about 2,000 years after the beginning of Judaism, the Jewish religion had become all about laws and the people became its slaves. This corruption of the commandments happened because over time, wealth and prosperity in the Promised Land made them forget that they were once an enslaved people and that God had brought them out of slavery in Egypt. He had given them the commandments as a way to live a truly free life, from the inside out. The commandments were not meant to be a burden but a blessing; they were meant to be a way by which the people would be an extension of God’s mercy on earth; by their attitudes and behavior they would be able to shows the pagan nations what the real God was like.

But as often happens with human beings as life gets better…we tend to forget who we are and where we came from. And this is why the commandments are as important to us today as they were to God’s people 2,000 years ago.  Especially important for us is the Third Commandment to keep the Lord’s Day holy by attending Mass and worshipping together as God’s people. By coming together every Sunday to worship and hear God’s Word proclaimed, to offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice and receive the Risen Lord Jesus in Holy Communion as spiritual nourishment for our souls, we are constantly reminded of WHO we are. WHERE we came from, and WHERE we are headed for all eternity.  We are empowered by our worship to embrace the commandments as expressions of our relationship with God from the heart and not as mandatory rules that we must obey to avoid punishment. There’s a world of difference between these two approaches to God and religion.

So, I think it is very good for each of us to ask ourselves: Do I come before God as person of the rules or as a person in a relationship?  This is a vital question because observing religion by the rules has no power to save anyone and only leads to view of God that is pretty meaningless and even useless to our lives.


Religion as relationship opens wide the door of our hearts to God and allows us to receive the healing graces of mind, body and soul that He wants to pour out on us.

Religion as relationship opens wide the doors of God’s heart to us, and we begin to trust Him as a loving Father who surrounds us with his compassion and mercy.

Religion as relationship becomes a pathway of peace with our neighbor and enables us to embrace the commandments as an expression of our human freedom, of our choice to love.

Religion as relationship understands the real meaning of today’s Responsorial Psalm where it says:
The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.

They are more precious than gold…and sweeter than honey from the comb.