31st S. 2021: It’s Visible

Today’s homily is for the 31st Sunday of Ordinary time, Oct. 31, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

A very Happy Halloween to all of you. As I’ve noted in the past, Halloween is a beautiful expression of our faith in God, in the Communion of Saints, the truth of life eternal, and an opportunity to reflect on the life and love of both Saints recognized by the Church, as well as those who lived and loved who are not canonized, yet have gone to their eternal reward nonetheless. 

For Catholics, Halloween is not a day of ghouls and goblins, witches and warlocks. It is not about buckets of candy and endless decorations. For Catholics Halloween is a day of reflection. It’s when we remember and celebrate. We remind ourselves that our God is the God of the living and not of the dead. We who are alive body and soul, though we may physically die, our soul is eternal and belongs to the Lord. Our soul is bound up with each other, with God, and with the saints of the Church. That is the body of Christ, of which we are a part.

And so we celebrate this evening. We celebrate holy men and women. We celebrate lives lived in loving service to others that have gone on to receive their reward. We celebrate forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. The word “Halloween” is a contraction. It’s two words brought together to make one. The two words are “Hallow” and “e’en,” which is short for evening. Hallow e’en, means “holy evening.” October 31st is a holy evening because it is the evening prior to All Saints Day, tomorrow, and All Souls day, on the 2nd. On this night we remember and we celebrate. 

On November 1st we celebrate those who have been made perfect, whose purification has come to an end, and who enjoy the fullness of the beatific vision for which we all strive. On November 2, All Souls day, we remember and pray for those we love who have physically died, and whose souls are now being made perfectly holy through the purification of purgatory. Not candy. Not lights. Not goblins, ghouls, and ghosts. Holiness, Godliness, generosity, and love. That’s what we celebrate today, to help ensure that where they are we might someday be. 

And how do we strive for that holiness without which no one can see God? Jesus makes it very clear in the Gospel. We love. Jesus said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength,” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love. Period. That’s it. There is no commandment greater than these. The Jews had 613 commandments that hinged upon ten. And the Jews also knew that those ten hung upon only two. Today Jesus says, there’s really only one. Love. 

This love that leads to holiness and salvation and eternal life with God and the saints of the Church is not an emotional, romantic, feels-so-nice kind of love, but rather a commitment, a promise, a sacrificial kind of love. Far more than sweetheart love, it is “I lay down my life for you” kind of love. That’s the cross. That’s love. Jesus teaches us that love is more than mere sentiment. The love that saves us starts in our heart, but manifests itself in the world as something real, tangible, and visible. 

Jesus loved God. He went to the synagogue, the temple, and he prayed often. We too should go to Church, to holy places, and pray often. Jesus loved his neighbor. He loved when he healed a blind man, fed people, and instructed the ignorant. Jesus loved when he called God his father, forgave others, and prayed before meals. He loved when he healed a crippled man, when he confronted bad leadership, and not only confronted but demanded that in God’s name Satan step aside. And he gave his life for others, even those crucifying him. That is what love is about. It’s visible. Halloween is about the eternal witness of holy souls and saints. It’s that holiness is real, it can be achieved, and it leads to life everlasting. And it starts right now with love that can be seen. That’s visible.

30th S. 2021: 5-Steps

Today’s homily is for the 30th Sunday of Ordinary time, Oct. 24, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here. And the podcast can be found by clicking here.

I think sometimes we make discipleship more complicated than it ought to be. All throughout the Gospels Jesus calls someone to himself–he extends the invitation to follow him–and either they do or they do not. To follow is discipleship. To not follow is not. Today’s Gospel introduces Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, who wants nothing more than to see. In the story of Bartimaeus, we will see Christian discipleship revealed in five steps.

Step 1. Bartimaeus is blind, has nothing, and sits in the dirt all day crying out for anything that anyone might give him. How pathetic. It’s disgusting and sad, and is quite beneath human dignity. Life’s circumstances have brought Bartimaeus low. He has no pride. No ego. No claim on anyone or anything. He is at rock bottom. You know, for many people it is not until they hit rock bottom that they cry out to the Lord. A coworker of mine at New Deal Market was a born again believer and spoke of Jesus to anyone who would listen He came to hear God’s call in a drunken stupor. He fell down into the gutter unable to get up. And when he looked up, he saw a bright light that changed his life forever. The rest of the world would have seen a streetlight, but Phil saw the light, heard the voice of God, and never had another drop again. Step 1 is recognizing that we are but beggars before God. If we have anything at all, it is only because in his mercy he gives it to us.

Step 2. We cry out to him in our want. Notice in the Gospel that everyone tells Bartimaeus to be quiet. They remind him that he’s nothing, he’s a nobody, and Jesus has no time for him. But Bartimaeus is courageous and cries out all the more! As we recognize our need and cry out to the Lord, there will always be others who mock us, tell us we’re weak, and who remind us that we’re nobody with nothing. There bullies in school, and bullies at work, and many in the world. They will tell us to be quiet, but they cannot bully our Lord. He hears our cry and bids us come to him.

Step 3. Jesus calls and Bartimaeus jumps to attention. The calling of Jesus that echoes in each person’s heart is what we call a vocation. The root word of vocation is the Latin word, vocare, which literally means, “to call.” Jesus calls us to himself and satisfies our every need through only four ways: the single life, the married life, the religious life, or the priesthood. St. Fancis de Sales said, “A good vocation is simply a firm and constant will in which the person who is called must serve God in the way and in the places to which Almighty God has called him.” We must respond.

Step 4. Bartimaeus wants to see, and so should we. So many of us are blind with greed. Blind with a desire for popularity or fame. Everyone wants to be a YouTube sensation. Money has become our God. Power calls us, wealth calls us, fame calls us…but God’s call is rooted only in love and our total happiness. Bartimaeus responds correctly. He wants to see. Do we? Do we want to see a world without borders? To see people without politics. To see not the color of skin, but the quality of one’s character. God sees beyond hair and piercings and tattoos. God sees the heart. He looks deeply into the soul of the person. How different our world would be if we could really see.

Step 5. Bartimaeus receives his sight and followed him on the way. We never hear more about Bartimaeus, but we know he followed Jesus from that point forward. And that is the way it might be with us too. Jesus hears our cry, lifts us up out of the dirt, opens our eyes, and bids us to follow him. We may never make the headlines or end up on t.v., or be a YouTube sensation, but we will never want for anything again. In Jesus we find passion, joy, purpose and fulfillment.

27th S. 2021: Become One

Today’s homily is for the 27th Sunday of Ordinary time, Oct. 3, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

Today’s Gospel ends with Jesus telling his disciples privately, “whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” It seems like a strange ending to Jesus teaching about divorce, don’t you think? Jesus speaks about the permanency of marriage as God intended from the beginning. He talks about a bill of divorce being offered as a concession because too many of us are fickle, unloving, selfish, and weak. He uses the term “hard-hearted.” 

To be hard-hearted is to remain closed off, unwilling to make oneself vulnerable. Sadly, too many–even in marriage, even with our spouse–remain closed off, insensitive, unconcerning, unsupportive and undiscerning. This is not marriage at all. A marriage as God intended, says Jesus, is one where far from being divided into mine and hers, me and “other,” my friends, her friends, my money, her money, my time, my goals, my dreams, my future, my, my, my, Jesus teaches instead that there is only we, ours, and us. Our future, our finances, our friends, and our goals. That is marriage as God intended. That is, actuality, marriage

In Jesus’ day, as it is now, people were looking for any reason at all to divorce and find another…you know, one that you’ll be happier with than the one you’re with now–fulfilled, satisfied in every way. One that will not bring you down to earth like that anchor you’re with now, but let’s you keep your head in the clouds; lets you be the astronaut God has called you to be. One that will launch you to the glory for which you were created, will sustain you while you’re up there in space, and manage all your affairs down here on earth. This is pure folly. It’s a fantasy. The stuff of movies and romance novels, maybe, but not of real life. 

Jesus says that when two people are married there is a fusion that occurs. Each of them joins together to create  something entirely new. When I marry couples I tell them that Christian marriage is more like pancakes than bacon and eggs. Bacon and eggs are simple. You cook them and put them on the plate. You don’t like eggs? Oatmeal instead. You don’t like bacon; sausage instead. Switch ‘em around, mix and match you know! But with pancakes, you start with eggs, butter, flour, baking soda, sugar, milk, mix ‘em all up, add a little heat from the kitchen (wink wink) and you have a pancake! Where did the eggs go? The butter? It’s in there, but indistinguishable. It becomes something entirely new. That’s why Jesus says the two become one flesh, never to be undone. You just can’t undo it. It’s impossible. That’s marriage.

So why so many struggles in marriage today? I think it’s because the ingredients are there, but they stay in the bag. Instead of marriage being the ingredients coming together, we’re calling marriage the bag. The hardness of heart closes people off to the mixing that must occur for a marriage to actually take place. That’s what an annulment is, actually. It’s not “a catholic divorce” as some say. It is instead a statement of fact that all the ingredients were there, but for one reason or another–always related to the hardness of heart–they never fused. Never became one. 

Marriage as God intended is the absolute goal, a helper and guide, and a companion for the whole of life. It’s beautiful and right and good. It’s a foretaste of heaven–the fullness of the Kingdom. Just ask my wife, she’s living in the kingdom right now! Haha. No, it’s work, humbly accepted, and embrace on faith. You see, before you can have it, you have to accept it as true. That’s why Jesus says if we’re not ready to accept the Kingdom (and clearly marriage) like a child we will not enter it. 

Whether the Kingdom or marriage, we must live in the truth, we must trust, we must forgive, and allow for mistakes and growth (and more mistakes), but remain always in faith, always in hope, always in love. And that is marriage as God intended, the two become one, and one with God. 

St. Margaret of Youville said, “All the wealth of the world cannot be compared with the happiness of living together happily united.”