8th Sunday of Ordinary Time

This is my homily for the 8th week of Ordinary Time.  We seldom have an 8th week because Lent has usually started by the first of March, but this year we do.  So enjoy some readings that you may not have heard in a while.  

We live in a world of sound bites.  CBS claims to have “real news”. Those two four letter words mean a lot more than their ordinary meaning.  Fox News is “fair and balanced”. I don’t think anybody, even their biggest fans, believe that they don’t lean to the conservative side.  Coca Cola is the “real thing” .  Here in Saint Louis hockey fans bleed blue and we shop at Carroll House because we like nice things. KMOX is “the voice of Saint Louis,” Commercials tell us not to smell like Walter.

 

We have a President who communicates in 140 character tweets.  And most of us carry a telephone around in our pockets or purses even though we may never actually talk to anyone.  If I want to meet my wife for lunch I’ll send her a text message: Lunch? And she’ll reply: ok. Where & when? I’ll text her back Chick-Fil-A @ 1:00.  And she’ll answer back: ok. Seven words and two characters, assuming “ok” is a word. We have the most advanced communication system in history and nobody talks to anybody anymore.  We have to go to the history books to find the great presidential speeches. Imagine if Lincoln had had Twitter at Gettysburg.

 

Do you remember when you were in grade school?  Every year you’d get a new wooden ruler. It had the Golden Rule on it and was sponsored by Coke.  I went to a public school, so I don’t know if they do that anymore or not, but fifty years later I still remember those rulers.  On the front it said “A good rule…Do unto others as you wouldhave them do unto you.” Then on the back it said compliments of the Coca Cola Bottling Company.”  That was back when public schools and public corporations didn’t mind being associated with the Bible.ruler

For around ten bucks, plus shipping, you can buy one of those rulers on ebay.

But, this isn’t a new thing.  Oh, the technology may be new but sound bites date back to the time before Christ.  In the first reading today Sirach, who wrote from 200-175 BC, or about two centuries before Christ,  gives us four sound bites, three of them about speech.:

“When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear; so do one’s faults when one speaks.”  We may not be familiar with a sieve, but it’s the way they used to separate the grain from the husks.  You’d put the grain in the sieve and shake it. The holes were a certain size and the grain would be separated from the husks.  Sirach is telling us that when we speak our faults fall out of our mouths just like the husks fall out of the sieve.

 

Then he tells us that:  “The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had, so too does ones speech disclose the bent of one’s mind.”  This is a similar message to the first one and finally he says:”Praise no one before he speaks, for it is then that people are tested.”

 

It was either Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain who said “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”  Same thought, just expressed in a different way.

 

Saint Steven was the first deacon and also the first martyr.  He was stoned to death for preaching the Gospel. They told us in formation that Steven was doing just fine until he opened his mouth.

 

In the middle of the reading, Sirach goes off on a different track and says: “As the test of what the potter molds is in the furnace, so in tribulation is the test of the just.”  If you’ve ever gone to Silver Dollar City, chances you’ve watched the potters at work.  After they complete a piece it goes in the oven to be cured. If the clay isn’t right, the oven will crack it and destroy the piece.  So, tribulation will destroy us if our souls aren’t just.

 

If we turn to Luke’s Gospel, we find Jesus speaking in the same type of sound bite.  “Can a blind person lead a blind person?  Will not both fall into a pit.”  Two thousand years later this saying is part of our language.  How often have you heard someone say “that’s like the blind leading the blind.”  Of course Jesus’ meaning is a little deeper here. He’s not talking about two blind guys falling into a hole.  He’s talking about us following false prophets. How can someone lead you to heaven if they don’t know how to get there themselves.  We see these people on television on Sunday morning, but they’ve been around a lot longer than TV.

 

“No disciple is superior to the teacher but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.”  That one’s pretty obvious.

 

But then He asks the disciples a question.  “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?”  Think about your basement at home.  Or, if you don’t have a basement, think about the attic.  Think about the wooden beams that hold the whole thing together.  Then imagine one of them sticking out of your eye. Go ahead. I’ll wait.  Got it? OK, now imagine trying to get a splinter out of someone else’s eye with that big beam sticking out of your eye.  You couldn’t even get close enough to see the splinter.

 

YOU HYPOCRITE!  Get your own house in order before you try to help somebody else.  Don’t be like the blind leading the blind.

 

Finally Luke takes us back to Sirach and talks about the quality of the tree producing good fruit.  “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil, for out ot the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

 

Have a great Lent!

 

Southern Baptist leader vows changes

after report alleges widespread abuse.

Let’s be clear about two things right at the outset.  First, I, in no way, mean to diss anyone’s faith tradition.  I was raised in the Southern Baptist Church and have no issue with the 70 million Americans who belong to the church.

Second, any abuse of any child, at any time, any place, by anyone is wrong, wrong, wrong.  There’s no justification for it and there’s certainly no justification for anyone covering it up.

Having said that, I bring this article to your attention for a couple of reasons.  First, it appeared on page 11 A of my local newspaper.  That’s the second-last page of the news section, after the obituaries.  Now maybe I’m getting paranoid, but I can’t help thinking that if the headline had read “Roman Catholic leader vows change”,  this AP article would have appeared on the front page.  Historically any time there’s an article about abuse involving the Catholic Church it always appears on page 1 A.  And any time there’s an article about abuse that doesn’t involve the Church, it gets buried.

The point of the article is that a report by the San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle found about 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and workers who were accused of sexual misconduct since 1998.  Note that year:  1998.  This is recent stuff, folks.  In fact, quoting the article, “In 2008, a victim implored SBC leaders to track sexual predators, act against congregations that harbored or concealed abusers and establish prevention policies such as those adopted by other faiths, including the Roman Catholic Church.  (emphasis mine)  That request was rejected.

The point of this rant is that child sexual abuse is not a Catholic problem.  It’s societal problem that must be addressed by our society.  Have Catholic priests abused children?  There’s no doubt that they have.  But children have also been abused by ministers of other faiths, by teachers, and coaches, and scout leaders.  God help us, they’ve even been molested by their own parents.

The Catholic Church may be the organization best equipped to address this problem, but not as long as we’re thought to be the enemy.  The changes put in place are working.

Friday after Ash Wednesday

As I’m sitting here in my office pondering the mysteries of the universe and being just a little irreverent (who me?) I can’t help think about what the Church calls this day.  I wonder, is there an office at the Vatican where a Cardinal or two gives things names.  I’m reminded of the Monte Python skit about the Ministry of Silly Walks.

The Cardinal(s) in charge of naming things must have thought long and hard to come up with this one!  Friday after Ash Wednesday.  Oh well,  That’s what it is so Happy Friday after Ash Wednesday, everybody.  (Isn’t next Friday also Friday after Ash Wednesday.  Maybe today should be the First Friday after Ash Wednesday).  I guess that’s one reason why I’ll never be a Cardinal

Since this is the first Friday after Ash Wednesday, it’s time to scope out the local fish fries.  I write this assuming every city has Catholic fish fries during Lent.  Maybe not.  Maybe it’s a Saint Louis thing like toasted ravioli or gooey butter cake.  If you’re reading this somewhere else, let me know.  If you don’t have fish fries, you’re missing out.

If you’re in Saint Louis, why not let me know in the comments who you think has the best fish fry in town.  Maybe I’ll find one I haven’t tried.  Right now I’m leaning toward Saint Cecelia’s which has a Mexican fish fry.  There’s Mexican music and dancing and rice and beans among the side dishes.  The only problem is it’s always so crowded.  So, if you’re here in the Gateway City, try this one next Friday.  I’ll mention some of my other favorites as Lent progresses.

Another thing about Lent.  I LOVE tuna fish sandwiches and my wife only fixes them during Lent.  I don’t know why.  That’s just the way it is.

Finally, a family story about Lent.  My Aunt Fern wasn’t Catholic.  Frankly, I’m not sure what she was.  I never saw her go to church.  But if it was Lent and it was Friday, she would have rather have had a sharp stick driven into her eye than to ever eat meat.  No meat on Friday during Lent!  Period.  End of story.  Salmon patties and creamed peas was the special of the day at my aunt’s house for six Fridays in a row.  As they say in the South, bless her heart.  Even though she never went to church,  I imagine Aunt Fern is waiting to see me in heaven.  I hope I make it.

Goodbye 2017

sit-computer-healthy

I know you’re sitting in front of your computer (tablet, smart phone) breathlessly waiting for your favorite blogger to give you some words of wisdom to take you into the new year.  That’s a lot of responsibility you’re putting on me and, frankly, I’m not sure I’m up to it.

There are a lot of places you can go to get inspired but you’ve chosen to come here so I guess I owe it to you to give it my best shot.  After all, I’ve been watching the Hallmark Channel almost nonstop since Thanksgiving.  I should be very inspired.  Let me say something in passing about the folks at Hallmark TV.  Like the Catholic Church, they don’t consider December 25 to be the end of the Christmas season.  They continue to run Christmas movies.  And even though they’re all the same movie, with the same plot, they’re Christmas movies all the same.

So, let me start my end-of-the-year diatribe with a few words about the Christmas season.  Holy Mother Church divides the year into seasons.  The Church year begins with the first Sunday of Advent.  This year that was December 3.  So right away we’re out of sync with the rest of the world.

Advent is always four weeks long so this year the last Sunday of Advent was December 24, which was also Christmas Eve, the BEGINNING of the Christmas season.  Today, Sunday, December 31 is the Feast of the Holy Family.  It’s also secular New Years Eve.

The following Sunday, January 7 is the Feast of the Epiphany and the next day, Monday the 8th wdead christmas treee celebrate the  Baptism of the Lord.  That’s the end of the Christmas season.  You can finally take down that tree that’s been up since the first of November.

But don’t get too comfortable with Ordinary√ Time this year.  We’ll just barely get the green vestments out and it will be time for the purple of Lent.  Ash Wednesday, 2018, is on February 14, Valentines Day.  Six weeks of Lent (and fish fries) and it will be Easter again.

So that’s your lesson on the Church calendar but it’s hardly the words of wisdom you’ve been waiting for so I’m going to borrow something from Father Z’s blog.  (If you don’t follow Father  Z, you should).  Today Father Z reminds us that a plenary indulgence is available to us both today and tomorrow.

You may ask “what is an indulgence?”  And indulgence is the release from temporal punishment for your sins.  Just because you’ve been forgiven in the sacrament of reconciliation you still have to be cleansed from your sins before you can get into heaven.  That’s what we call purgatory and an indulgence (partial) can reduce your time in purgatory while a plenary indulgence wipes your slate clean.  Here’s how you can obtain a plenary indulgence today.

  1.  Go to confession and received communion within a reasonable time (20 days)
  2. Recite or sing the Te Deum..
  3. Pray for the Pope’s intentions.  (One Our Father and one Hail Mary)
  4. Detest and detach yourself from even venial sins.

We can also receive a plenary indulgence tomorrow (January 1) by the singing or recitation of the Veni Creator Spiritus plus the other three things above.

So I guess giving you a way to cut some time off your stay in purgatory, even if it’s not wise, it’s certainly helpful.

Have a safe and blessed January 1.  Be careful out there and stay warm.

Pope Francis: Think ‘being good’ is enough? It’s not. Go to Mass

I’m pretty sure that the followers of this blof don’t NEED this post, but it couldn’t hurt.  Possibly you have adult family and friends who spout the old argument, “I’m good.  I don’t need to go to mass.”  Maybe you can subtly share this with them.

Well, last week our Holy Father attacked that argument head-on and gave all of us something to say to those people in reply.  No, being good isn’t enough.  Yes God is everywhere, but there’s a reason why we all go to a specific building to worship him.

I can’t add anything to the Pope’s words, but I am going to tell you a short story because it’s real and because it just happened a few hours ago.

I conduct a communion service on Thursday and Friday mornings.  Today I woke up with laryngitis.  I couldn’t talk at all.  I prayed to Saint John Chrystosom, patron saint of preachers, when I got to church,  asking him to pray that I could deliver some kind of  short homily.

When it came time for the homily, I started with a very weak voice, but as I continued to speak, my voice got stronger and stronger, and the brief comments I had planned turned into a full-blown homily.  God had restored my voice!  There’s power in all prayer, but the power of prayer said in church is special.

Here are the Holy Father’s remarks, not in English, but with subtitles.  Enjoy!

Bishop Barron on the iGens

On this Tuesday of the first week of Advent, I want to share a video with you by

Bishop Robert Barron on the iGens..  iGens are the generation born since 1995.  The Bishop points out that this is the first generation who has no experience with life without iPhones, and iPads and all the other “i” electronics.

They are in no hurry to grow up, often waiting until their late teens to get their first driver’s license and being perfectly happy to live at home with Mom and Dad.  Where I live, in Church world, our biggest concern with these folks is that they don’t go to church, and often don’t believe in God.

We all know it, but frankly, we don’t know what to do about it.  If you have kids or grandkids. or if you’re concerned about the future of the Church, watching this will be ten minutes and twenty-three seconds well spent.  Enjoy

The Feast of All Saints

Are you a minimalist Christian?

You’ve heard the expression “It’s the least I can do.”  I wonder how many of us approach our faith with this expression as our “mission statement”.  What’s the least I can do to get into heaven?

The best example I can think of of this attitude is the question priests and deacons hear all the time regarding Saturday wedding masses.  “Does this count?”  Count??  Count for what?  Of course, we know what they’re asking.  “If I go to this wedding, do I have to go to mass on Sunday?  The bride and groom are going to have a great party and I’d really rather not get up on Sunday morning.”  They’re asking if the Saturday wedding fulfills their “Sunday obligation.

First, let me say I hate the term “Sunday obligation.”  Paying your taxes is an obligation.  Going to work every day is an obligation.  Contributing to the support of the Church is an obligation.  Worshipping the Lord IS NOT AN OBLIGATION.  It’s something we do out of love for our Creator.  Were you listening to the Gospel this Sunday.  “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your soul, with all your heart, and with all your mind.”

Loving with all your heart is not a minimalist concept.  We have to give Him everything, including our time.  The short answer to the above question is almost always NO.  God works outside of time.  Your so-called Sunday obligation is judged by the week’s readings, not by the time you showed up.  If you didn’t hear the readings for the Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, you didn’t attend last week’s mass.

Make no mistake, if you love the Lord God, “with all your soul, with all your heart, and with all your mind,” then the concept of a “Sunday obligation” should have no meaning to you.  You should attend mass every Sunday (or Saturday evening) because you want to be there.  What part of the word “all” do you not understand?

Today is All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation.  There’s that word again.  Do you go to mass today out of some sense of obligation, or do you go because you venerate the saints and want to pay tribute to them?  The Church has watered down the concept of Holy Days by moving some of them to Sunday but they are still holy days.  (small h and d)

Advent is coming and Christmas isn’t far behind.  This might be a good time to review your attitude toward the Lord.  The commercials for Christmas stuff have already started.  Let’s not let the commercialism of our Lord’s birthday get in the way of our love for Him.  I’ll say it one more time,

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your soul, with all your heart, and with all your mind.”  Now, if you haven’t gone to mass today, turn off your computer and get going.