4th S. Lent 2021 Scrutinies: Whaaat!?

Today’s homily is for the 4th Sunday of Lent, the Scrutinies, March 14 , 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here.

Every year all the 3rd grade students in the Turlock Unified School District take the G.A.T.E. test. The test has no words to read. It is only a pattern-matching test. No words, no directions, no writing. Of a thousand 3rd graders in the district, only a handful of students qualify. Students who just see the world a little differently. It’s not about wealth, education, language fluency, black, white, rich, poor. It’s just about seeing the pattern. None of the usual test criteria apply (reading, math, writing, etc.), so many of the usual high achieving students, to the surprise of many parents, do not qualify. Even I’m sometimes like, “Whaaat!?”

Similar to the GATE test for 3rd graders, so also it is with God’s call to people in each generation to follow him, and among those people who follow him, to be called to servant-leadership as deacons, priests, and bishops, or as religious, catechists, and lay evangelists. 

When God called Samuel to anoint young David to be King of Israel, the people, David’s brothers–and even his own dad were like, “Whaaat!?” They left David in the field! Why bother to bring him?! Young, skinny, unskilled in combat, and no leadership experience. But the Lord reminds Samuel, “Man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.” 

The most unlikely of people, people the world and sometimes even the Church had rejected, were called by God and became great Saints. Not all of them smart. Not all of them wealthy. Not all of them powerful. Not all them courageous. Not all of them short, bald, funny, and shockingly handsome. But all of them called, and all of them faithful to that call. God sees what man is not able to see. God looks into the heart and calls men and women to himself. 

That’s the irony of the Gospel today. The blind man, born totally in sin, is able to see, and the Pharisees who should be able to see the power of God in their midst, were blind. It was the blind sinner who was able to see, and religious people who had become blind. We should be mindful of our biases too, our prejudices, our tendencies to judge by appearance. For lots of good reasons we evaluate and make judgements, but when we stop reflecting, when we fail to do the hard work of getting into the heart, when we don’t seek God’s guidance, then we run the risk of blindly discounting others, rejecting others, even condemning others–not because of what they’ve done, but because of our own blindedness. 

Today we call upon the RCIA candidates to reflect on their blindedness. We ask them to search their motivations, biases, prejudices, generalizations, and judgements. We don’t have a 48 question picture test, and we don’t ask them to be perfect, but we do ask them to answer one question with their whole heart, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” To which they respond in the affirmative, “I do believe.” And then they worship. 

And so it is with us each Sunday. We begin the Mass with a search for our motivations, biases, prejudice and sin. We confess that we have sinned and we seek forgiveness. We learn about the Lord in Scripture where our eyes are opened, and we respond in the affirmative to the Lord when we profess the Creed. Isn’t that beautiful? We repent, seek forgiveness, hear God’s Word, gain sight and as family say, “I believe.” 

I want to hear you say, “I believe” with the fullness of faith today, that we might worship His presence in the Eucharist and be filled with God’s life. Amen? I’ll be listening. As we said in the Marines, “Sound off!”

3rd S. of Lent: The Law

Today’s homily is for the 3rd Sunday of Lent, March 7 , 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

There is a saying these days that is quite popular: Laws are made to be broken. With respect, that’s lame. Laws are not made to be broken, they’re made to be followed, upheld, respected. The C.C.C. teaches: “There are different expressions of the moral law…: eternal law, revealed law, and civil and ecclesiastical laws or church law.” (1952)

So eternal law is the truth that God has created order and laws to govern it. You know, gravity, earthquakes, weather patterns, night and day; goodness, truth, and love. In today’s Gospel God gives Moses the Commandments, and that’s the first stage of revealed law, which of course finds its fullest expression in Jesus and the New Law. 

From natural law to traffic laws we move from quite general to very specific. Right from wrong is written on the human heart, but because of sin, we often think wrongly about what to do in particular situations because our conscience is all out of whack because of the crazies in the world and morally bankrupt leadership. The revealed law is God’s gift that helps us form our conscience and calibrate our moral compass. And people with a good, working conscience assume offices that demand they either create laws or uphold laws–these are our politicians, governors, mayors, school officials, and parents who govern their homes. This is what we call civil law. The laws that govern our society. 

So, why does all this matter? Because God came to earth and started flipping tables over in the temple! Human greed transformed God’s holy temple into a marketplace of thieves! The Jews had the Natural Law and they had the Law of Moses–so how did they still end up on the receiving end of Jesus’ wrath? The answer is quite simple, really, human sin. Sin seeps into our laws and pollutes our society. It spoils us, it turns us, and we begin to justify immoral conduct. 

People desire freedom from God instead of freedom for God. They desire freedom without responsibility; power without discipline. We want stuff, more than we want God. We are selfish instead of self-less. Greed and selfishness stands opposed to love of God and neighbor. And so, in every generation, human law must be purified. We must do the hard work of looking at the rules that govern our own conduct in the light of Jesus Christ and the Gospel. Do I lie for good reason? Do I cheat if no one is watching? Do I steal because it’s for a good cause? What example am I giving with regard to rules and conduct for my children or grandchildren? Do I say one thing but do another?

And then more broadly, we are called to take our well-formed conscience and moral lifestyle into the public sphere–outside the home. Our schools need people of good will–moral people–in classrooms, leading schools, and running for the school board. Our community needs moral people dedicated not to power and wealth, but to the common good. 

It is the primary function of the laity to bring truth, life, and goodness to our town. We are the light that shines in the darkness because our Lord’s light shines through us and illuminates every area of society that we touch. 

Our world today needs Christians more than ever. Christians who post positive messages on social media, have positive bumper stickers, and who pass good laws–made to be followed, not broken. We need not be afraid to turn over some tables, to drive out those who are despoiling our Father’s house, and to set the ship right again. We need to be courageous. We need to be conscientious. We need to be Christian.

3rd S. Lent 2021 Scrutinies: To Teach

Today’s homily is for the 3rd Sunday of Lent, the Scrutinies, March 7 , 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

As we journey through Lent we usually focus on our personal disciplines, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Recently, I encouraged us to consider inviting our spouse or family in a Lenten activity. Now I’m asking you to broaden your Lenten prayer to include those who are seeking to enter into full communion with the Catholic community here at OLA: Trevor, Brian, Janie, her son Julian. 

Today’s readings for Mass aren’t the normal Sunday readings for the 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B. Instead they are taken from what are called, “The Scrutiny Readings.” These are alternative readings offered by the Church for our reflection on what they mean for our catechumens, in particular, but also for all of us. 

First, let’s talk about their title. What does it mean to be a catechumen? The root word for catechumen is catecare, which just means “to teach” or “to instruct.” That’s where we get our word, Catechism, or “the teaching.” A catechist (a teacher) uses the catechism (the teachings), to catechize (to teach), the catechumens (those being taught), and that process is called catechesis. That’s a lot of cats, but it all stems from same word, which just means to be taught about the Lord Jesus. That’s it! We’re just spreading the good news! – on Wednesday nights after Mass, from 6:45-8:30pm in the classroom, and Sundays from 9:30-10:30 in the hall. Look, we make it so, as Harry Potter might say, “complicated.” But it’s just telling people about Jesus and the Church he founded to which God has called them.

It’s what happened with the woman at the well in today’s readings. Moment by moment she grew to know Jesus more fully. First she says he’s just a Jew and probably shouldn’t even be talking to her, a Samaritan. Then he reveals himself as a prophet of Israel…okay, now we’re getting somewhere. And finally, she recognizes him and the Messiah, Lord and King. Slowly, over time she comes to believe–and that’s great. 

But what she does next is what I’m calling your attention to today. It isn’t about her and Jesus. If that were the case she might have simply sat down and stayed right there with him. Instead, she grabbed her water jar, went back to the town and told everyone she could about what she had discovered at the well. She had encountered God and been changed. She taught them about what she had come to know as true and how he made her feel. She was a catechist! Herself on the journey, but still sharing with others. And then, “Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified.”

Of course it wasn’t only because of what she said, they did a little ongoing faith formation themselves! The townspeople invited him to stay with them and they began to believe in him as the savior of the world because of two things: her testimony and their own invitation for Jesus to enter their home.

And so it is with Christian families, CCD, faith formation, or RCIA. First others teach you the love they have found in Jesus. They share with you the joy and life they have found in the Messiah. But the second part is up to you, it’s up to Trevor, Brian, Janie, and Julian. We must invite him in. We will not believe based solely on the word of others. We must ask the Lord to enter our home and enter our heart. Jesus wants a relationship. He wants to be our savior, the savior of Israel, and the savior of the world. 

What an honor to share the joy we’ve found in Jesus. I love sharing, and being part of the RCIA team with David and Vince, James, and others. Please keep these learners in prayer. Keep the OLA RCIA team in prayer, keep our faith formation teams in prayer, and like the woman at the well, don’t be afraid to sign up to teach youth or adults yourself. As Isaiah says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the one bringing good news, announcing peace and salvation.” Please keep these catechumen in prayer as they journey toward Calvary on Easter Sunday…and say hello if you happen to see them. They want to join us and follow Jesus with us.