2nd S. Lent 2021: Remember.

Today’s homily is for the 2nd Sunday of Lent, February 28, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

I was watching Big Hero 6 yesterday with my boys, and of course, there’s a bad guy who wears a mask, and you think you know who it is only to find out it’s someone else entirely! That’s fun. A lot of movies do this. They’ve got you wondering all the while who this person might be and then, usually toward the end, the person’s true identity is revealed. Sometimes, like on Big Hero 6, it’s a total surprise, but other times you find yourself saying, “Haha! I knew it! I knew it was him all along!” Today, Jesus removes the mask. His true identity and full Glory, is revealed–Jesus is the eternal Word of God, the Son of God, who existed before time began. 

Jesus takes his chosen few up to the mountain top where they experience Moses and Elijah, Jesus’ glory, and God, the father. What an amazing and beautiful experience. Naturally, They don’t want that moment to end. I love that Peter wants to build a tent! He wants to stay there. He wants that feeling to last forever. Of course, it does not, and just like that, the revelation is over and it’s time to go back down the hill. But what a wonderful gift they were able to take with them. I think it was that gift, and others like it, that kept them on their journey with Jesus. It kept them strong in their faith. They just have to remember.

There have been times in my life when I have experienced Jesus in all his glory. Not many times, I can count them on one hand, but enough to keep me going. When life is difficult, when I need to reconnect with God, I remember those times when God spoke to me. I remember the joy of that moment, and it helps me get through the trial before me. 

You know, photographs can do the same thing–does anyone still have photographs? This year has been a dumpster fire of a year. We haven’t gone anywhere or done anything–the only thing I’ve done this year is Zoom calls! But I did also finally make my shutterfly albums. I organize my camera pictures by the year so I went back and pulled hundreds and hundreds of photos for each of the past seven years or so, and made Shutterfly photo albums. They just arrived. What a joy. 

That’s the nice thing about photos, they take you back to the moment. They help you remember. They bring renewed laughter, joy, and life. Peter, James, and John, didn’t have a camera, but I bet if they did, they would have carried that photo of Jesus in all his glory everywhere they went. They had it in their mind, and I’m convinced that it was what got them through their darkest days. They remembered and found joy.

As we journey through Lent, we need to remember. We need to take time with God, sit silently in prayer, and be renewed by our blessed Lord. Pull out the photos in your mind when you experienced Jesus without the mask. Maybe it was through another person, or in an event, maybe it was the voice you heard in your heart, but remember and grow close to God. We’ve been in a desert and we have lost many whom we love.

I would also invite you to go through your photo albums. Make Sunday the day where you sit with family and remember. I’m going to sit down with an album or two, to remember when my boys wanted only love, hugs, and kisses, and not all my money! Consider it a spiritual discipline–I’m admonishing you! Take the time to go through the memories. Photos help keep people and places alive in our heart, and that life brings us joy. 

So, remember…build your tent for a moment….the storm has been a long one. Remember God, remember family, and friends, and find joy again.

1st S. Lent 2021: Gimme A Sign!

Today’s homily is for the 1st Sunday of Lent, February 21, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

You may remember the pop group, Ace of Base. One of their more popular songs was called, “The Sign.” I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes / I saw the sign / Life is demanding without understanding / I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes / I saw the sign. Those words are very true and speak of our need for a sign.

Jesus begins his public ministry with the words, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” Jesus both announces and inaugurates the Kingdom of God. The first chapter of Mark’s Gospel announces this Good News and the whole rest of the Gospel delivers the signs that are evidence of this truth. 

A sign points to the truth of something that can sometimes be difficult to see, or hard to remember during difficulties and trial. As Ace of Base points out, “I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes,” which of course leads to a fuller understanding and peace in spite of present circumstances. A sign helps us to know, to remember, and to live in response to that truth. For Noah and his generation, the sign of God’s care and covenant was the rainbow. When we look to the sky and see the sign we remember God’s covenant and find peace.

Signs matter; the bow for Noah, and Jesus’ life, miracles, and healing that the Kingdom is in our midst. God uses signs to reveal his love and covenant relationships–because we need to be reminded regularly that God’s love endures: through plagues, pandemics, drought, and flooding, through earthquakes, sadness, sickness, and death…we need a reminder. Signs aren’t just for Noah and Jesus, we all need signs, and need to provide signs of our love to others!

I remember all the cards and flowers I bought for my wife as I earnestly pursued her, and when she finally said yes I put a ring on her finger as the sign of our eternal bond…and I am a bit embarrassed to say that the number of times that I have bought flowers and chocolate since then can be counted on one hand. I mean, she knows I love her, right? Does she really need all that stuff? Actually, today is Jill’s birthday; she knows I love her, do I really need to get her a gift? Of course all the ladies out there are saying, “Yes!” And the guys are turning a bit red from guilt. Signs matter. My wife and I have been in a covenant bond for almost seventeen years, but signs matter as much now as they ever did; flowers, a hug, a kiss, a letter or card, date nights, or a thinking-of-you Starbucks once in a while! She’ll say she doesn’t need it, but it always feels nice. I need to remember. She needs a sign. Rainbows matter.

Is it any different with our children? My kids don’t ever get tired of signs of our love–good morning hugs and kisses, gestures of kindness, and cuddles in the evening. Even as kids get older and parents become “cringy,” they still enjoy the signs of our love. And it is especially important for kids–dad’s listen up! Because we’re so busy with formation of hearts and minds, attitudes, and responsibility (the necessary and good work of parenting), discipline and tough love are sometimes the order of the day. But discipline feels like earthquakes and destruction, fire and floods! We know it is for their formation toward holiness and sainthood, but it can sometimes feel to them that they are not loved. So discipline is not enough. That’s not Godly. Godliness is discipline and signs of covenant love. Give ’em a sign. 

We too must be equally dedicated to signs of love and concern for others. During the season of Lent, we learn to be more like God. Signs of love are a good place to start. Start with those closest to you–your parents, children, your wife or husband. Almsgiving might start with those closest to you but it must extend to people we don’t know–generosity toward strangers; people we don’t know but need a sign. That’s Godly. And that’s what we’re supposed to be.

I want to encourage you this week to be like God the Father, be like Jesus, and give ’em a sign. No matter how small it might seem, it makes a great impact. I need to go buy a card and flowers! You probably should too.

Ash Wednesday 2021: Now Is a Good Time

Today’s homily is for Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. Sorry that this didn’t get out yesterday…but now is still a good time. 🙂

Remember: From dust you have come, and to dust you shall return. That is where we’re from and that is where we’re going. There’s no escape. Thomas Paine said, “There is nothing more certain that death, and nothing more uncertain than its hour.” The question is not a matter of whether or not we will die, but where we’re going when we do.

The formula for Catholics seems simple enough: come from the dust, get ashes, pray, fast, give alms, return to the dust. That is life on this earth. The from the dust and back to dust is a simple enough concept to grasp, but can be very difficult to appreciate from moment to moment, and so the ashes are a reminder. We receive these ashes and hear the words, “Remember, From dust you have come, and to dust you shall return.” I think on Ash Wednesday we should have a sign above the entrance to the Church that reads, “Y.O.L.O.” You know what that means, right? It means, You Only Live Once. My students used to say it as an excuse for not living right! I said, “Johnny, it looks like you didn’t study for your test at all! You got an F,” to which he replied, “YOLO,” to which I relied, “Yep, you got an F and failed the class…YOLO.”

Each of us, upon hearing the truth of our mortality and the brevity of life should think, “Man, time is running out, I need to get my act together! The Psalmist tells us that God is merciful! But we must repent. We must desire to change our ways. We must turn away from sin and toward God, our Savior.

But why prayer, fasting and alms? All sin is personal, but no sin is private. My brokenness–my anger, addictions, and perversions are my issues, but they don’t just affect me. They affect everyone around me! My dad’s alcoholism, drug addictions, and violence affected me and our family. His personal sin affected all of us. God calls us to love him above all else, and to love our neighbor as our self. Whenever we sin, we sin three times. We offend God whom we are called to love and follow. We offend our self and who we are becoming by these wrongful actions, and we sin against our neighbor, whom we are called to love.

When we pray we repair the damage between ourselves and God. When we fast, we discipline ourselves and deny our primal and worldly urges, and when we give alms, we are generous with the community that we have affected by our sin. So we pray, fast, and give alms to help remedy, or make right what we have made wrong through our sin. But Jesus warned people in his own day and we need the reminder in ours – don’t do it for show and to impress others or to gain their sympathy…do if for God! God sees and he repays. But if you’re looking for attention from others…well, you’ll probably get it, but you’ll get nothing from God.

So, Lent is a 40-day boot camp where we get right with God, Self, and neighbor. It starts with Ashes today, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, where we die to our unhealthy wants, unhealthy relationships, and those things that cause sin so that we can rise with Jesus at Easter. We rise with him so that we can live with him forever. Remember, from dust you have come, and to dust you shall return. Y.O.L.O.