26th S. 2021: Speak Up!

Today’s homily is for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary time, Sept. 28, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here.

In our first reading from the Book of Numbers an enthusiastic young man runs up to Moses and says, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp,” and Joshua tells Moses to stop them! What was the fuss all about anyway? It was because Eldad and Medad were not among the seventy upon whom the Lord’s Spirit came to rest. There should have been seventy-two present; they were on the invite list, but for whatever reason, those two didn’t make it in time. Clearly, Joshua’s attitude, and maybe some others too were like, “Hey, you snooze you lose!” Or like the soup nazi from Seinfeld, “No soup for you!” They wanted to say that because you weren’t there, you shouldn’t be prophesying! You don’t rate!

Maybe we should take just a moment to talk about the Old Testament understanding of what a prophet is, and then what they are expected to do. The word “prophet,” literally means a messenger or spokesperson on behalf of God, who delivers a divinely inspired message. We often mistake the role of the prophet as one who sees into the future, and to some degree they did, but there’s more. The prophet, on behalf of God, does have an eye to the future to say, “Man, God doesn’t like how this is going! If things continue this way, we’re going to be in a huge mess!” But they weren’t only looking at the future, mostly, they looked and pointed others to the past. To remember.

The old testament prophets always remind people of where they have come from, God’s laws they had agreed to obey, the life of holiness they were called to live, and how far they had fallen–how greatly they had missed the mark. The prophets pointed back to the Covenant; back to Moses and the law. But they also pointed to the future again, but this time with hope and optimism, and a reminder of God’s forgiveness and faithfulness. They said, if you repent, if you change your ways, if you return to God, it’s not too late, the God of mercy will forgive you and receive you back into his arms. Isaiah told the people on behalf of God, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18

What an important message and an important role the prophets had. Always to remind God’s children that there was right and there was wrong, and it’s never too late to come home to the father’s love and the father’s house. We can’t keep going this way. We can’t keep living this way. We need to get back on track as a holy people and a holy nation. We need to repent again, be reconciled again, to pray again, and to hope again. Moses wisely told Joshua, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish all the people of the LORD were prophets! I would love it if the LORD’s spirit would descend upon them all!”

And my brothers and sisters, Moses’ prayer was answered. The Spirit of God descended not just upon two or seventy two, but on the apostles at Pentecost and on every believer since–on you and on me. We have been made prophets by the Spirit and are called to be his voice with the same message today that the prophets had so long ago–remember the Covenant and the commandments, the direction we’re going isn’t good, we cannot stand strong with so much division, we must return to Christian living, repentance, reconciliation, lives of holiness, and sacrifice, and prayer. We must again be people of hope, bringing light and life to places of darkness and death. 

Moses’ prayer was answered. The Spirit of God has descended. But where are God’s prophets? Who will be this generation’s Eldad and Medad, Isaiah, Elijah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, or St. James from the second reading? And Jesus reminds his disciples, “Whoever is not against us is for us.” Right is right and true is true regardless of where it comes from. Our church is always working alongside other men and women of goodwill, religious leaders and faith traditions, who though different than our own, are casting out demons right along with us. Be a prophet. Speak boldly. Gather alongside others who are also making the world a better place. And bring people hope, life and good news.

25th S. 2021: Self – LESS

Today’s homily is for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary time, Sept. 19, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here.

You might now know that my major in college was Speech Comm. I just couldn’t believe they gave degrees for talking! I thought, I’ve been in trouble growing up because I wouldn’t shut up, and they give people degrees for this? I don’t think Portuguese people should even have to go to college, just give ‘em a speech degree! One of my classes was in adolescent communication, so I had to watch children playing. I thought it was going to be a waste of time, but it turned out to be such a blessing that I’ve never forgotten and refer to often. Have you ever just sat and observed small children playing? It’s magical. 

There must have been a hundred three to four year-olds. They were like ants all over the play yard! Walking along logs, going down the slide, playing on swings and play structures. Nothing but joy, smiles, and turn-taking. For almost an hour I watched them play. There was so much levity and joy–they hadn’t a care in the world. They were just living their best life, playing with their friends, and having fun. That was not the life I was living. 

I was stressed out with school, going a hundred miles an hour, drinking too much, spending too much, working too much, and had made the whole world all about me, my achievement, my growth, my greatness, my needs. We live in a world that is quite contrary to Christian values. I call it Me-ism. Where the whole world revolves around me. My likes, my wants, my needs, me, me, me. This is what frustrated Jesus in the Gospel today. He’s making his way to the cross, and confessing to his inner circle–his closest friends–that he will be handed over to suffer and die, and what are they doing; arguing about which of them is the greatest. Can you imagine standing in the presence of God and arguing about your greatness? 

How does this happen? James tells us in the second reading. He says, “where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.” Jealousy – envious of what others have, and selfish ambition – a desire to achieve for one’s own sake. It’s me-ism. It’s thinking only about your self, your needs, your wants, your time, your treasure. There was a wonderful book I once read called, “Fr. Joe.” Fr. Joe said that at the root of all sin is selfishness. Doing what I want without regard for others.

St. James says that’s where wars and conflicts come from! It’s why we are divided inside ourselves and cause violence toward others. We covet and kill and are envious, and fight. We will not possess, we will not ask, we will not receive, because we ask wrongly. In our selfishness and self-centeredness we ask only for ourselves and we forget what those small children had figured out so well–life is way more fun when you take turns, laugh, play, and share what you have with others. That’s God’s way. 

It’s no wonder Jesus points toward children as the example of the Christian life, and we must recognize that there is much about our culture’s attitude and values that are inconsistent with Christian living. All I ever hear nowadays is about what I deserve, what I need–the vacation, the car, the job, the night life that I need, that promises my happiness, but what about others? What about family? What about community? What about everyone else on the planet that isn’t me?! Thank God for grandparents who continue to sacrifice for others–especially their grandchildren while parents are getting “what they deserve.”

Again, James gives us the antidote to the sickness of selfishness and greed. He tells us that “wisdom from above is pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy, and good fruits.” He says we should be “without inconstancy or insincerity.”  Which is to say we should be stable, strong, and sincere. This is the Christian life and Christian attitude. Not climbers but givers. Not polluted and angry, but pure and peaceable. Not harsh and obstinate, but gentle, compliant, and merciful. Not selfish, but selfless.

24th S. 2021: Never Forget

Today’s homily is for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary time, Sept. 12, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here.

Twenty years ago, our nation was attacked in a cowardly act of violence against men, women, and children, that made no distinction between civilians and combatants. In the planes hijacked and buildings destroyed, 2,997 people were killed. At that time we vowed to never forget, and this weekend we honor those who lost their lives on that horrible day, but also those who have lost their lives in the twenty years since–even most recently in the airport attack at Kabul, where thirteen soldiers and upwards of ninety Afghan civilians were killed–tragically, and disgustingly, in the name of God. Can you imagine that God, the author of all life, might find any joy in his children’s suffering and pain? God mourned that day, and mourns still today when people act in violent ways, lying, hurting, and killing one another. 

We believe in one God, the Father almighty, creator of Heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible…ALL things visible and invisible. God is the creator of ALL things, the author and sustainer of ALL life. We believe that in God ALL things are sustained, move, and have their being. To remember this is to think as God does. When we forget this, we begin to think as human beings do. That was Peter’s problem in today’s Gospel. 

In one moment, Jesus says that God himself had revealed to Peter that Jesus is the Christ–the Son of God. To recognize Jesus as Lord is not of human origin, but of God. But in the very next moment, Peter is reprimanded by the Lord, and even referred to as Satan, for trying to be an impediment to Jesus’ mission to lay down his life, to reconcile sinners, and to save the world–and that mission continues on still today. 

Each of us is called not only to recognize Jesus as Lord, but also to both announce and advance his kingdom on earth. If we call him Lord (which is good), but become an obstacle to life and love, forgiveness and healing, then we are not His at all, but are Satan. Satan knows Jesus, but doesn’t follow him or his teachings. Satan knows Jesus, but is an obstacle to God’s reign. And so are we when we engage in speaking ill of others, post hurtful and hateful things about others on social media, inflict violence and pain on others, are selfish or irresponsible with the resources God has given us for the good of ourselves and others, or are destructive and reckless with God’s creation; our water, air, earth and its creatures. And can you imagine doing any of these ugly things in the name of God? 

I think that was the most shocking thing to me about 911. Like you, I remember just where I was when the planes crashed and the twin towers fell. But I was even more shocked to see people celebrating death and praising God as it occurred, as though God was pleased with violence and hate. And that’s why we must never forget. We must never forget that the one who endures in love to the end will be saved. We must never forget if we want to follow Jesus we must take up our cross and follow him. We must never forget that if we want to save our life we must lose it, and that whoever loses their life for his sake and the Gospel will save it.

We do not hate in response to hate, we love. We cannot advance a kingdom of love and truth while acting in a way that opposes the Gospel of Jesus. My brothers and sisters, we cannot claim Jesus, but act like Satan in our words and dealings with others, at work, at school, or on social media. Either we follow him 24-7 or we do not follow at all–a point my wife reminds me of often. We must say with Isaiah, “The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I shall not be put to shame.”

911 isn’t just not-forgetting those who died, it is also about never forgetting that in God’s name we love. In God’s name we forgive. In God’s name we promote life and truth, and in that way we act not like human beings do, but instead we think and act like God does. May we never forget. // Please allow a moment of silence for those that died.