Today I am on the road in Longview, Texas giving a parish mission at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church. Msgr. Xavier Pappu and all the parishioners have been so welcoming. Last night I had dinner at an authentic Texas Roadhouse! (It seemed very similar to the Texas Roadhouses in Kansas, but this time I was in Texas). I officially kicked off the mission this weekend by preaching at all the masses. I’ll be here for the next two days and will be posting talks from the mission. If you are in the Longview area, tell people to come to the mission or send them to the website. Thanks for all those praying back home.
Today’s homily also provides my theme for the mission, “Time to Bear Fruit.” Maybe this Lent we need to spend some time cultivating the soul and spreading some fertilizer on our spiritual life. This is what the gardener in the gospel suggests. Yet, the gospel also comes with a warning…we don’t have infinite time. Moses also serves as our great example this weekend. We’ve got to pay attention and focus on God. Don’t wait for later. Now is the time to bear fruit.
15 inches of snow last week, now another 15 on the way. Many people in Kansas are asking, “What happened all the sudden?” I have a confession…It’s all my fault.
I recently spoke with my thesis director from seminary regarding a tiny paper I’ve been putting off writing for the last five years. He told me that if I could get him a draft by the middle of March and be complete by April 1st I could graduate at the convocation in May. I already have a Master of Divinity and a Sacred Theology Baccalaureate. This is for my Sacred Theology Licentiate (STL), sort of a Church master’s degree.
At any rate, I kind of made it my Lenten penance to finish this thing up. I also kind of asked God to help me…and now you understand why we’re having all these snow days and how it is in fact all my fault. God has left me snowed in to the rectory with only my laptop, hundreds of articles to read…and a style guide. The good news is that I only had about 20 pages when Lent started and I’m now at 37. I also managed to figure out how to get Microsoft Word to correctly place page numbers according to the convoluted mess contained in the above mentioned style guide.
So, please pray for me…you might get another snow day!
Paul reminds us in today’s second reading that “Our citizenship is in heaven.” To be a citizen means that you are at home, you are protected by the defenses of your city, you have certain rights. Especially in biblical times, citizenship meant the peace and security of a walled city. If “peace and security” aren’t the best descriptors for your life right now, then we start to understand what St. Paul meant. This is not our home. Here we will never have the kind of permanent security that we would like. That’s because what we really want is heaven. Jesus gives the apostles a glimpse of this in today’s Gospel. Although we can’t have heaven permanently in this life, we are all called from time to time to go up the mountain, to pray, the talk with God, and there experience a little bit of what our true citizenship has to offer.
After fasting for 40 days, Jesus was hungry. So says the inerrant Word of God in today’s Gospel. We tend to think that this fact is obvious because we tend to think of physical hunger. Maybe Jesus was hungry for something else. Aren’t we all hungry? We are constantly seeking to satisfy a multitude of desires. A lot of them are good, but we need to keep them in the right balance. Today’s homily explores how Jesus gives us the model for success in balancing our desires with what we really hunger for, namely, God.
Remember death. That phrase is very similar to the one we hear today as we receive ashes, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Why so much focus on death as we prepare for the great celebration of life at Easter? Today’s homily explores how sometimes having a deadline might just be the life-giving trick that we need.
It has been said that all that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing. When we see injustice and evil we naturally want to do something about it. Certainly that is the case this week as we mark the 40th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade supreme court decision. All this week there will be prayer and fasting, marching in Topeka and Washington. Generations from now when abortion is relegated to the shameful past along with the holocaust of WWII, we want to be able to say that we did something. Today’s homily explores something that we might do, starting at the real root of the problem.
I’ve been attending the March for Life in Washington for years. Often, the President has chosen to send a message of encouragement to the half million people gathered outside his door. Sadly, President Obama has never given us any message…until now. He didn’t exactly intend them for the March for Life, but they could be one of the best pro-life speeches ever given by a President. He has presented all Americans with a direct and challenging question,
“Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”
I’m not…so I’ll be in Topeka on Tuesday and Washington on Friday. Maybe the President will come.
In today’s Gospel we read of the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem. However, what always puzzles me is the arrival of the Magi before Herod who, along with “all Jerusalem,” seem oblivious to the birth of the Messiah. How is it that these non-Jews from far away can show up at ground zero for Jewish Messiah watching and catch everyone off guard? What about the star? What about the Scripture? Today’s homily looks at how the Magi got it right while Herod missed it. The example of the Magi is a great gift to make sure that we don’t end up missing Jesus too.
Isn’t it amazing to think that when God came into this world he couldn’t even take care of himself? He chose to come in need of a family to raise him. As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family today, it’s important not to simply make this about honoring Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. As important as that it, there is a tendency to think, “Well aren’t they great, but my family could never be like that.” The good news is that you are not called to be “the” holy family; but you are called to be “a” holy family. Today’s homily explores some ways in which our families make us holy and how to grow together in holiness.
One of the greatest TV moments in history occurs in the great classic, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” when Charlie Brown famously asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus confidently steps forward with his trusty blanket and proceeds to give one of the most memorable readings ever from tonight’s Gospel of St. Luke. The story of the birth of Jesus. That’s what Christmas is all about.
Yet, the prophet Isaiah in our first reading also has an idea of what Christmas is all about. Living in a time of great darkness for the Jewish people, Isaiah prophesies the coming of the Messiah as a great light for his people. He gives him four famous titles: Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. Tonight’s homily looks at how each of these titles speak of not just a past Messiah, but our real need for a savior here and now. Our world needs the Messiah today more than ever…and he’s right here, Emmanuel, God with us. Good news indeed. In fact, that’s what Christmas is all about.