Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Faith of Abraham Homily - 8/8/2010

**To listen to this homily, click on the title**

First Reading: Wisdom 18:6-9

Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 33:1, 12, 18-19, 20-22

Second Reading: Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19 or 11:1-2, 8-12

Gospel: Luke 12:32-48 or 12:35-40

Good morning. All the wonderful parishioners of St. Thomas would like to welcome all of you who are guests, who are joining us here from other churches, other parishes, other cities. We’d like to welcome you. We’re glad you’re here with us this morning to celebrate with us the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ. To celebrate the resurrection of the Lord.

I don’t know where this came from but I read something earlier. It sounds a little bit, if you’ve read Screwtape Letters – C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters – it sounds a little bit like one of the scenes from Screwtape Letters but it’s not. It has a different ending. Let me tell it to you. It’s two of the little worker bee demon who are having a meeting. These two demons were trying to come up with a good way to get more converts to their side. And one of them said “Why don’t we convince those Christians that God just doesn’t exist”. Well the other demon said, “No that really won’t work. All they’ve got to do is look at a sunrise. All they’ve got to do is look at a mountain. All they’ve got to do is look at something of beauty in this world and know that there must be a source of that goodness”. So they thought for a while and then the other little worker demon says, “Why don’t we try to convince them that the devil doesn’t exist”. The other said, “No that won’t work either. All they have to do is look at the evil in the world and know there must be a source of that evil”. So finally they talked for a while and they bounced a few ideas around and they came up with their solution. They decided that what would be the best thing would be to convince the Christians that we have plenty of time.

That is the message for today my dear friends. When you hear the Lord calling, it’s time to respond – now. Jesus in the Gospel was talking to the apostles. And he was talking to them about having an understanding, having knowledge of what the master wanted and the repercussions that would occur if that servant, if that person, did not do what the master wanted. If they thought, “Well, the master’s a little delayed in coming, we can just have a party” – you see, it is in faith that you and I hear those words. It is in faith that we hear those words encouraging us that when we hear the Lord, we need to respond now. Because my dear friends, we don’t know how much time we have. Our time is now. That is a statement of our faith - when we respond to his message. St. Paul in the second reading today gives us three incredible examples of faith and they’re all about Abraham. Let’s think about those examples for just a minute.

The first one occurred when Abraham was in his 70’s. It’s a time when most people are retired. But God came to Abraham and said, “I want you to get Sarah and the extended family and we’re gonna move you”. “Where Lord”? “Not for you to know Abraham. I just want you to move. I’m gonna take you where I want to take you”. Now my dear friends, Abraham did not say, “You know Lord, I’m kinda happy right now with my life. I’ve got my tent just the way I like it, got my flock out there and my herd and all this stuff. Everything seems to be just fine Lord. Don’t wanna move. Don’t know what kind of neighborhood you’re taking me too”. He didn’t say that. Abraham, Sarah, the extended family picked up and they went to a place unknown. That was an act of faith. Abraham did not know where that journey was taking him. My dear friends, what is God calling you to in your journey in life? Where is the Lord asking you to go? Is He challenging you with something new? Is He inviting you to follow Him in an unknown destination? I can take this in a lot of different ways. There are two young men sitting on our altar right now. Martin on one side and Miguel on the other side. They’re two of our four seminarians. Zach and Tim and these two guys and they have responded. God has invited them to a journey. They don’t know ultimately where it’s taking them but they have responded and they have said yes and they have said, “Yes Lord, take me wherever it is that you are leading me”. An act of faith. Let’s keep praying for them. They’re all getting ready to go back to school in different places. Please continue your prayer for them. But in the same time, continue to pray for your own self, asking the Lord where it is that He wants to take you - be willing to say yes to that invitation – now. Not later.

Now, there’s another story that St. Paul reminds us of about Abraham – it took place a few years later. Abraham was almost 100. God came to Abraham and said, “You know Abraham, this same time next year I’m going to come by and visit you again and you’re going to have a son”. Now Abraham’s wife Sarah, who was a spring chicken in her 90’s, she was listening in secret and she did what maybe you and probably I would do and that’s laugh. And yet, both Abraham and Sarah in an act of incredible faith said, “Lord, we don’t know how this is gonna happen” but then they cooperated in their humanness to God’s will and guess what? A year later God came back by and there was a son. It seemed impossible to the human mind that that could happen. My question to you today is what in your life seems to be impossible? What is happening in your life that you look and you say there’s nothing that can happen, that can change this, that can make it right? There’s nothing that can heal my marriage. There’s nothing that can find me a new job. There’s nothing that can get us out of this trouble that we’re in. What is it in your own life that seems humanly impossible? When you ponder that, I want you to think about Abraham and Sarah. And their incredible act of faith. They said, “Lord, don’t know how you’re gonna do this, but ok”. God in your life wants to help you get through the impossible. Whatever it is. He wants to be there with you. What He asks of us is that we say yes now, and work with Him in our humanness to allow Him to work in His divinity. Key to it however, is being willing to say yes – now.

The third story I find very, very tough. As a parent, I find the third story very, very difficult to even ponder. You see after that child was born, God promised that through that child and that through Abraham his descendents would be as numerous as the starts in Heaven and yet God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham, unbelievably, was willing to do what God asked. We know the end of the story, we know that ultimately God did not complete that request. Isaac was spared. The important point of that story is that Abraham was willing to do what God asked. Abraham in faith was willing to sacrifice his son. Now I think our question today is what is God asking me in my life, what is He asking me to sacrifice. Certainly he’s not going to ask us the same thing he asked of Abraham, but what is He asking of us? Is He asking us to give up our former life? Our former way of life? We know as parents we sacrifice everyday for our children. But what is He asking us to do? What is asking us to sacrifice? And are we willing in faith to say, “Ok Lord. This will be tough. But you asked and I’m gonna say yes, I’m going to sacrifice whatever it is that you’re asking me to do. And I’m gonna do it now”.

My dear friends, we don’t know how long we have. We don’t know in our own individual lives how much more time we’ve got. We don’t know. What we know is that the Lord is saying to us, “Don’t wait. Don’t wait for the master to return and find us doing the wrong thing”. Is He calling us someplace new in our journey in life? Say Yes! Say Ok – now. Do we have something in our life that we find impossible? Allow the Lord to work in our lives. He wants to work us through it. Is He asking us to sacrifice something? To give up something? To change – to do something else? Be willing to say Yes. And do it now. Recognize, know, believe in our hearts how much God loves us. He will only ask us to do something that is for our own good. He asks us to do it – now.

Holy Trinity Homily

**To listen to this homily, click on the title**

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

First Reading: Proverbs 8:22-31
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 8:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Second Reading: Romans 5:1-5
Gospel: John 16:12-15

On this Memorial Day weekend I would like to start by thanking all of you who are veterans. You who are veterans are the ones who have protected for us the right to be here today to celebrate our faith in freedom – so thank all of you for serving.

We gather this morning to celebrate the beautiful solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. I thought what I would do this morning is attempt a deep, 20-30 minute theological dissertation and explain to you finally the Holy Trinity. Is that OK? Should I try that? Actually in 2000 years the great minds of the church haven’t been able to fully do that so I’m not going to do go that direction at all. In fact what I’m going to attempt to do is take another direction.

As I began to pray about the homily today, as I picked up the readings and began to pray, I asked the Lord to give me some kind of sort of mental picture, some kind of image for us in our spiritual journey to, maybe not understand how the Holy Trinity is the Holy Trinity, how one God can be 3 persons and yet still one God, but to have an image that can help carry us in our spiritual journey a little bit better, have a little bit better close intimate relationship with God and the Holy Trinity. God who is Creator God, God who is Redeemer God, God who is Sanctifying God. How do we get closer to that God?

Now some of you know, a few of you know, that I’ve just returned from another trip to the Holy Land so you’ll be either shocked or glad to know that I’ve got 4 more years of new material. In fact I even have a new stole that the priest guide gave me at our closing dinner as we were preparing to leave. So I thought that I would attempt in prayer to see if there was a way to tie in something from that trip, some of the beautiful profound experiences that 40 of us pilgrims had. Actually there were more than 40; there were 40 of us that left from here plus our Franciscan priest guide plus our Arab Muslim bus driver, Ahmed, who became part of our group. There were 42 of us really that were this beautiful community that traveled through the holy land.

So I picked up the first reading and I read that beautiful reading from Proverbs and there is that personification of God in wisdom and this beautiful poetic language. Wisdom is talking bout how she was there before even the beginning of the earth, even the creation of anything and wisdom was there. And so I realized that the first reading takes us back all the way even prior to the creation of the world. And wisdom talks about the delight that she took in the creation of people and how wisdom played before the Lord on the Lord’s earth. There was that intimate beautiful relationship already existing at the beginning of time. So I looked and went well okay, we’re talking about before time so I looked and remembered how we went to Jericho and Jericho is the oldest, existing, living city on the face of the earth right now. We went to Jericho and we looked out at the desert and there we looked at the Mount of Temptation. But I didn’t really grasp anything from that. Then I thought about how we went to another sort of an Old Testament place. We went to the cave of Elijah where Elijah stood and he looked for God, he was looking for an experience with God and he discovered that God wasn’t in the fire or the wind of the earthquake, but God was in the still, small voice of his heart. It was the Spirit speaking to Elijah there and there is a beautiful intimacy between the Father and the Spirit there. But still, no special image for us this morning. We went on then into more of the “Jesus” area of the Holy Land and we went to the place where the Word became flesh – we went to the Church of the Annunciation. We went to the place of the birth – Bethlehem. We went to the place where Jesus stayed much of his ministry – Capernaum. We rode in a boat on the sea of Galilee and went to the Jordan where Jesus was baptized. We went to the place of his death and resurrection. We went to the place of His ascension. And all of those were God’s revelation of Himself. All of the life of Jesus was the revelation of God’s love to the world. But still no special little something for today. And then I read the Gospel and in the Gospel Jesus talks about the coming of the Holy Spirit and how the Holy Spirit will come and reveal truth. There is that again, the relationship of the Father and the Son and the Spirit that is there revealed in Scriptures, revealed in the places. We went to, again, the Jordan. That was a very special time when God the Father spoke, Jesus was baptized and the Spirit appeared as a dove. We went to the upper room where Pentecost took place and the Spirit came. Still no special image. So I was about to give up and go a different direction saying, “Well Lord maybe that’s not where you wanted me to go”. Tuesday morning I was sitting in mass, before mass and praying. And all of the sudden I realized very clearly and very profoundly the image that I want to share with all of you and the Lord shared with me that morning and crystallized what I was feeling what I was sensing.

Now you got to understand that one of the things that I’ve heard in my life, something that I heard and I don’t remember where or whether I read it or whether I heard it but I remember hearing that God the Trinity is a community of love. Father, creator God. Son, Redeemer God. Spirit, Sanctifying God. Now all together, always a community of love. And I realized that in the image that I wanted to have for all of us that I saw a glimpse of the reality of God the Trinity in the community of pilgrims that went on that journey. Now what do I mean by that?

In that community as I look back, I see very clearly a community of love. There were very many differing ones of us. There some older, and there were some younger. And as an example, there were some that had a little bit of a struggle walking some of the trips and some of the journeys that we had to make. But every time I would look back and I would see that those that were struggling along that journey had some other pilgrim arm in arm helping them along. There was an action of love among those who were helping take care of the others. It was a community of love. Different people had different roles. But all of us together were there to go on that journey. And there was even a time, well actually there were many times, but there was one very particular time when that community of love erupted into a community of joy. Now I realize that this is one of those circumstances where you really kind of had to be there, but I’m going to tell you anyway. We were out of the boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. The people who owned it, who ran the boat, gathered us all together and got us into two circles, an inner circle and an outer circle and they played Hava Nagila. Now I don’t know if you know that song or not, but it’s a pretty moving song. And they had those 40 pilgrims doing something equivalent to Texas line dancing on a boat in the Sea of Galilee. Great joy and great laughter and great fun and in any other circumstances, I doubt you would have gotten 40 people doing that same thing, but there was a community of love, a community of joy. And then they shut the music off, they turned off the boat and they shut off the motor and we floated on the Sea of Galilee and we prayed. And we experienced the presence of God, the Trinity. God the Father, the Son and the Spirit - loving us to a closer relationship with Him.

Now my point for us today, my dear friends, is that God wants us to recognize that He is a community of love. God wants us to realize that he continuously, every single day, continues to reveal Himself to us. Sometimes He reveals Himself to us through other people. And sometimes He reveals Himself to us in many different ways. And whether we encounter God the Father, or we encounter God the Son, or we encounter God the Spirit - however we encounter Him that particular moment, we encounter the fullness of God’s love. We can never fully understand how that can be. But God’s revelation to us is that He is One God. And He is a loving God. And He invites us to be part of that community. Every single moment - He invites us to be in love and to be loved by Him.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


How many times during mass do you wish you could raise your hand and ask the deacon or priest to repeat themselves? Maybe it's because your kids were distracting you or you were thinking about the previous point? I know it wouldn't be because your mind was drifting or anything! Or maybe later when you get home something they said is playing your head but you can't completely remember every word - or you can only think of a part of it and want to know what the homilist's complete thought was -in context.

I have a horrible memory. There are so many times I get home from mass and want to listen to bits and pieces of the homily I heard that morning.

Well, I am particularly lucky to be related to one of my favorite preachers! He's my dad! He is an ordained permanent deacon in the Roman Catholic church. I love listening to him preach as he truly has a gift.

So, this morning after a particularly moving homily, I asked him to tape it so that I could type it out and post it along with the audio version. That way I can go back to it as many times as I want! And so can others.

Now, just to be confusing, the first homily I'm posting is not from this morning. A few weeks ago he used an example about my husband, Doug, and Doug's dad in his homily. He taped it so I could send it on to my father-in-law so that he could hear it. I am working on getting the one from today done but it definitely won't be tonight!

Please know that I am not a typist, English teacher, or anything like that. I'll do the best I can to type exactly what he says...and to get the punctuation as perfect as possible...but I may have to take some "artistic" license when translating what he speaks to written word. Sometimes it might not be "exact" word for word but I certainly won't change what he is saying...if that makes any sense. On the flip side, sometimes when I type what he is saying, it might not be perfect grammar. So just bear with me on that!

Our Father Homily - 7/25/2010

**To listen to this homily, click on the title**

Gospel - Luke 11:1-13

This morning we heard the apostles say to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray. Teach us to pray just like John taught his disciples”. I suspect very strongly that his apostles had been watching Him, observing Him. Observing Him in prayer, observing Him in most likely pretty intense prayer with His Father in heaven and they probably thought “I’d love to be able to get that close to God and I’d love to be able to pray that way. Please Lord, teach us to pray”. This, of course, resulted in the prayer we know as the Our Father. This very day, this very moment there are people all over the world praying that beautiful prayer. In every language, all the different Christian denominations, the Greek Orthodox, the non-Catholics, the Catholics all over the world praying the Our Father at all times of the day. There’s a church at the top of the Mount of Olives just outside of Jerusalem called the Church of the Pater Noster. All over the walls are all these mosaics of the Our Father in I think 62 different languages representing a lot of the different languages in the world. What a beautiful prayer.

So as I prepared, to be honest with you, sometimes it’s a struggle in preparation for a homily. And I can’t speak for others but usually when I struggle, it’s not to know what to say, it’s to know what not to say. There’s so much in today’s readings that we could do a lot of things. We could go right all the way into the 12:45 mass – is that OK? That probably wouldn’t be a good idea. So I prayed and thought, “All right what are we gonna do Lord. What are we gonna do”? So I’ll tell you what I’m going to do first, I’m going to send you home with some homework. What I’d really like to recommend and suggest and encourage you to do is sometime today or this week, is take the Our Father from the Gospel of Luke, the gospel today, it’s a lot shorter than the one from Matthew, but take this prayer from the scripture and reflect on each one of the segments of it. Reflect upon what it means to say, “Hallowed be your name”. What does it mean to begin our prayer with praise to God? Then to pray, “Your Kingdom come”, what does it mean in my life for God’s Kingdom to come into my life. How about praying the segment, “Give us this day our daily bread”? Praying for just our needs, not the wants, but the needs. Asking for forgiveness – being able to forgive others and seeking and asking God to protect us from harm. I want to encourage you to do that because we could spend some time on each one of those things. That’s not where the Lord led me today.

We could spend some time talking about the importance of persistence in prayer and that is important. There’s an essential part of that message today about being persistent just like Abraham. But it’s not so much about being persistent to talk God into giving us what we want, it really is a certain sense of being persistent about praying and understanding God’s will. So there’s an importance in that.
But what I felt was the important thing for us to spend some time on this morning, was to pray and to come to a better understanding about to whom it is that we pray to each time we go into prayer. About who it is that we go to when we pray this prayer. In this particular gospel, Jesus begins the prayer with one word - Father. Not our father, Father. The sense of it is very, very personal – Abba – Daddy – Papa. This is a very personal address of Jesus and that is what He’s teaching His apostles and that’s what He’s teaching us. It’s to go to the Father who is a personal God. Abba-Daddy-Father. So that when we go into prayer, we sit at His feet and we climb up into His lap and know that it is our loving God, our loving Father, our loving Creator who is a just, merciful, loving God. And Jesus, the way He did so many times, in so many of His teachings, He liked to begin with sort of the human level. And He talked to us about earthly fathers. And He says “What father among you would give your child something bad or hurtful or harmful when they ask for something good”? And so He takes us first to that earthly level to have us look at the earthly father, the loving earthly father.

I want to share with you an experience that just unfolded in our family over the past couple of weeks. Something that touched me very profoundly. Many of you know my son in law Doug. Doug has a hobby. Doug has a hobby of flying inline model airplanes. Not radio controlled but the kind with the wires and you’ve got to hold them and turn around and spin around. And I’m always impressed with his talent, his gift for flying those and doing all of the patterns and all the things but I’m frankly more impressed with the fact that he doesn’t get dizzy and fall over spinning around like that. But anyway he’s very successful, he’s very good. He’s been going to the national competition for the past several years. Last year he won third place. He went this year with the intention of coming back victorious with first place. But he was there one day and we got a text message from him with a picture attached and it was his airplane - it was in about a thousand pieces. It was like 8 years old and during a practice flight it just folded up. The wings just folded and crashed and burned and that was it. The week’s investment was done. Except for the fact that his earthly father, who lives in Granbury, said I’m going to bring you your back up airplane. He drove from Granbury to Dallas then he drove 14 hours to Muncie, Indiana of all places to take him a back up airplane. Doug dusted it off, did some tweaking, practiced a few times with it and he almost got there – he was 2nd place this year with his backup airplane. Next year, first place. But you know what? What a beautiful example of an earthly father who was willing to go out of his way to give to his son the best that he could to help him out the best that he could. What a beautiful example he was to Doug who said to me “I hope someday I get the chance to do the same thing for my son”. Beautiful example of a loving earthly father.

Now, the reality becomes however, that we need to move beyond the earthly and we need to move to the heavenly. Not everybody has an example of an earthly father who loves like that and who gives like that. Jesus even said, “look, if you who are wicked can do those good things think how much more your heavenly Father will love you and do for you”. That’s where we need to move. We need to move to an understanding of our Father being a heavenly father who will never turn away from us, who will never hurt us, who will never die but will be with us and love us for all of eternity. A God who wants us to be with Him forever.

And we look at that wonderful first reading and we could spend a whole lot of time on that one too. This whole discussion of Abraham and God. They were in conversation, they were in dialog. We call that prayer don’t we? Abraham was trying to uncover who God really truly was. He knew that He was a just God. He knew that He was a merciful God. And so he began to talk to God and say, “Now look Lord, if we found 50 innocent people, wouldn’t you spare the innocent just for 50 people”? God said” yes, sure”. And Abraham negotiated him all the way down to 10. The revelation of God’s loving, merciful, just self - that just gives us a little glimpse of the Lord God who created us. He doesn’t want to destroy us. He doesn’t want harm to come to us. He wants instead for us to live with Him forever.

And He proved that by sending His son who, when nailed to that cross He became the one innocent person. The one who bore the sins for all of us. The one who died for us. God loved us so much, that he was willing to do that. So hopefully we can move from the earthly father and we can look at the loving heavenly father, creator God. Father God. The one who loves us. So that when we sit down each day to pray, when we sit down each day to take our time with Him, to come before Him, to sit at His feet, to climb up into His lap, we know beyond any shadow of a doubt that it is our Father, Daddy, God to whom we pray. He loves us, he created us. And so then when we can recognize that, it is then that we can sit down and in that prayer we can proclaim him, Holy is Your Name. We can pray that his kingdom come in our lives in whatever that means in our own lives, we can accept it, be willing to accept it. It is then that when we recognize him as Holy Father God that we can pray for our daily needs. Not our daily wants so much, that’s okay, but we cannot expect him to give us everything but only what is good for us. And it is then that we can come before him and ask his forgiveness for our sins and the strength to forgive others. It is then that we know and we ask that He protect us from harm and evil.

And when we recognize Him as daddy God, we will know from the bottom of our hearts, the very core of our lives, how very, very much he loves us.