8th S. 2022: A Listening Church

Today’s homily is for the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 27, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of this homily can be viewed by clicking here soon, and can be heard by clicking here soon.

One of the complaints I often hear from teachers in our school district is that the superintendent and the assistant superintendents, and sometimes even site admin are out of touch with the day-to-day experience of the teachers in the classroom. Policies and programs, some say, come rolling downhill with the intent to support those in the trenches, but in the end, do little more than crush those upon whose shoulders they fall. This reality, of course, does not only exist in school systems, but in every large institution. So often the leaders are just…well…out of touch, and this may be the case at your work too.

The complaints I often hear from parishioners about the Church are similar. The pope, bishops, and even priests can be so far removed from the daily lives of those they serve, they can become blind to the struggles and sorrows of the very people they are called to lead. This distant style of leadership is harshly condemned by Jesus in today’s Gospel. 

Jesus does not pull any punches when he addresses the hypocrisy of his day. “Can a blind person guide a blind person?” Jesus asks, “Will not both fall into a pit?” It is not only hard, but foolish, to put your trust in a leader who can’t see where he is going! I think Stevie Wonder is a great musician, but I wouldn’t ask him to help me hit a pinata! Especially if I was blindfolded too! We wouldn’t get any candy at all!

In ‘Evangelli Gaudium’ Pope Francis says, “An evangelizing community gets involved in people’s daily lives; it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others. Evangelizers,” the Pope says, “thus take on the ‘smell of the sheep’ and the sheep are willing to hear their voice.” (EG 24) That’s good leadership. A good shepherd lives among the sheep. The pope is calling his leadership to take off the blindfold, remove the plank from their eye, and sit with the people they are called to serve. He wants the clergy to hear our voice, roll up their sleeves, and journey with us. That’s the theme for his year’s Synod, “Walking Together As One.” That’s good leadership.

Our superintendent does not want to be a blind guide, nor does she want her administrators blind. She holds what she calls “Student Senate,” where she gathers eight to ten students to talk with her and the site principal about what’s really going on at school. She does the same sort of listening for staff. It’s quite amazing. From bathrooms to lunchrooms to classrooms we learn so much about what is going on in our school and in the lives of our students by just asking some questions and listening to what staff and students have to say. Good leaders listen. 

We have a great leader in Pope Francis and in our Bishop too. Our Pope’s answer to healing blindness; to removing the wooden beam from our eye, is called a “synod.” Our bishop, in solidarity with the pope, is asking us to speak up! He wants to hear our voice–not eight or ten, but everyone.

I hope you will be a part of this Synod this year. We are in the information gathering phase. We are listening. Please take the time to go to the Diocese’s website and take the survey. I took it this morning. Another way to participate is by attending a “Listening Session.” Keep an eye on the bulletin and listen for the announcements to find out when. Our bishop is asking us to help him remove the blindfold from his eyes. He’s asking us to help remove the splinter from the eyes of Diocesan and parish leadership. This is an amazing opportunity for our Church.Everyone can participate—Catholics, non-Catholics, fallen-away Catholics. If you’ve got family or friends who have left the church, or are unhappy with it, have them take the survey! Let’s get better. That’s why I ask for parishioner feedback on my homilies—we don’t get better by only hearing what’s good. Our church is amazing, but it can be better. I’m appreciative and proud of a Church that listens. Listening is the first step to seeing more clearly.

6th S. 2020: Cenotes & Ceiba Trees

Today’s homily is for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 13, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of this homily can be viewed by clicking here, and can be heard by clicking here.

Our family’s favorite vacation destination is the Riviera Maya, in Mexico. They’ve got these amazing cenotes. A cenote is like a cave, but the cave opening is at the top, revealing an underground river. The water is crystal clear, and many of them have ropes set up so that one can rappel into them and swim around. They’re beautiful and were sacred to the Mayan people. Probably the coolest part is that the Ceiba tree’s roots go through the earth, and span the gap between the earth ceiling and the water below– sometimes over a hundred feet! You would never know from the top that the trees roots were so long, but from inside the cenote, you can see it quite clearly. I think this image is quite helpful for understanding what Jeremiah is talking about in our first reading. 

Jeremiah is telling God’s people, if you are putting your trust in human beings–if you think that mankind can save you, if your heart turns away from the Lord, you’re like a bush in the desert. It’s just dry sticks all year round…just a sad little thing. But the one who trusts in the Lord, well, that’s quite different. Someone who trusts in the Lord has roots that run deep, always connected to water, and always bears fruit–year round. Of course the fruit of the Christian life is found in Galatians 5:22-26: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. This fruit is produced regardless of the conditions of life–because the person’s roots run deep and have the Lord as their constant source. 

It is always a temptation for humans to look to an earthly, human savior, and many political leaders would like you to believe that they are in fact that savior–if you would but put you trust in them. In Jeremiah’s time around 600BC, between the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, to the Assyrians, and the fall of the South to the Babylonians, Jeremiah condemns the people who put their trust in Israel’s kings instead of their God.

More recently we place trust in political parties and their leaders who make vague and outlandish promises to make everyone’s life here on earth a dream: work to the unemployed; prosperity to failed business people; profits to industry; security by expansion of the military; social harmony and an end of class distinctions to idealistic young students; and restoration of glory to those in despair. They promise to bring order amid chaos; stamp out corruption, unity to all, the chance to belong, and to be strong again. What you just heard were Hitler’s campaign promises. He promised to unite the two great church’s–protestant and Catholic, restore discipline to children running wild in the street, and restore social order. Hitler offered something to everyone–and the German people bought it hook, line, and sinker. 

Are we so different? I remember when Obama would save us from George W. Bush, who promised to save us from Clinton before him, and then Trump would save us from Obama, and then Biden would save us from Trump, and round and round we go–divided, hoping in humans, and forgetting our God. World leaders have their role, but cursed is the one who trusts in them–who seeks strength in the flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD. “This one finds himself,” listen to this, “in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth.” 

Jeremiah bids us to look at the quarter in our pocket. Return to the Lord and put our trust in him. You can always tell who is in the world, but not of the world. They look like everyone else, but like the ceiba tree, their roots run deep. In the world, but not moved by it. He or she fears not when heat comes, their leaves stay green, they show no distress, and always bear fruit at the proper time.

I think that’s the beauty of Catholic schools. They’re in the world– teaching math and language and history, but everyday is filled with prayer, God, Scripture, Catechism, and a commitment to lives of holiness. They are the examples of what we should be–in the world, yes, but connected to a deep river system, invisible to the eye, but one that constantly refreshes the soul. They are the cenotes that remind us of the more that we cannot always see–but that we cannot live without.

5th S. 2022: Deeper Water

Today’s homily is for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 6, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of this homily can be viewed by clicking here, and can be heard by clicking here.

William Faulkner wrote, “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” Today’s Gospel challenges us to be obedient to our Lord, to be irresponsibly optimistic, and to not be afraid to put out into deeper water. Two thousand years ago our Lord called Peter, James, and John to put their trust in him and to be obedient to his command. Today he calls you and I, and in a particular way these candidates and catechumens, who seek to join our community of faith and the body of Christ. 

Today we conduct the Rite of Welcoming and the Rite of Acceptance, whereby we acknowledge the call that they have heard the call to put out into the deep–and they have. Over the course of these past five months they have faithfully attended classes on Wednesday evenings, as well as attended Mass on Sundays. They have shown their desire to join the Catholic Church and today we welcome them and accept them, as they respond to the call. 

So often at the end of a long day, we find ourselves exhausted. All I want to do is put on my slippers and relax, but there is ARMEE on Monday nights, Confirmation on Tuesday nights, RCIA on Wednesday nights, Knights of Columbus meetings on Thursday nights…and sometimes I just long for the shore. Your lives are not different, I’m sure. 

Today the Lord tells us, I know you’re tired. I know you’ve worked hard all day and your nets are empty–but come out to the Church and let me fill your nets! I work ten to twelve hours most days–but it’s in ministry that I am filled. Too many of us are going home empty every night, but our Lord calls us to be fishers of men! He calls us to put out into deep water. He wants to fill our nets…so much so that we tell others about it and bring them along too. 

Each Wednesday after Mass I invite parents whose children attend catechism to join us in the small church, but only a handful take me up on it. They’re nets are empty after a long day, and they seek for rest…it’s understandable, of course, but we don’t get fish that way. 

I’m very proud of our RCIA group and their courage to put out into the deep this year. I’m encouraged by all of you here who cast your nets each Sunday. I want to challenge you and your family to seek opportunities to serve in obedience to Jesus’ call. Many of us simply stay close to the shore. We attend Mass, but do little more than that. I would like to encourage you this year to go deeper. Start a Bible or catechism study, attend RCIA on Wednesday nights, support our Catechism program by teaching, being a group leader, or bringing snacks and helping, participating in activities like Stations of the Cross, A night in Bethlehem, supporting one of the many fundraisers that the knights put on, or supporting the festa. There are so many opportunities to respond to the lord–it’s time to get off the shore. 

Make this the year when you go deeper into your faith, and go deeper into His service. Make this the year you start a course through the diocese, or respond to the Lord’s call to be a deacon, or even the priesthood. 

Too many of us have become too comfortable with going home empty handed. Obey the Lord, trust him, and put out into the deep. You will be astonished at the catch you receive. You will be overjoyed at what the Lord has in store for you. Trust him. Lower your nets. Do not be afraid to lose sight of the shore.