Sunday, March 18, 2012


Do we live in Babylon? 
Or, are we living in the land of promise? 
Is our world one of darkness,
or do we live our lives in the light of God’s love? 
If our lives seem dark, if our lives seem troubled,
sad,  or desperate, then we are,
like the Hebrew people
who lived seven hundred years before Jesus,
living in exile. 
People who live in exile struggle to believe
because they are so far away from home;
because they live in darkness. 

Nicodemus came to Jesus during the night,
and the night was something more than the time of day. 
The night was a dark cloak of secrecy;
the night was the darkness of doubt and disbelief. 

Nicodemus was a Pharisee, he was a member of the Sanhedrin,
which made him a member of the ruling class
of the Jewish people in Jesus’ day. 
He saw Jesus as a great man, one who was filled with God. 
However, this vision of Jesus was a skeptical one. 
He saw Jesus as a wonder worker, more like a magician. 
He wanted to believe, but was very much afraid to
because believing in Jesus
would have been very dangerous for him. 
It would have threatened his position on the Sanhedrin,
and it would have completely changed his system of belief. 
That kind of change is very difficult for anyone who is a person of faith.

Five times we heard Jesus tell Nicodemus
about the importance of believing. 
Believing that Jesus was lifted up in exaltation on the cross
leads to eternal life.   
Believing that God loves the world so much       
that he sent his only Son, leads to eternal life. 
Believing in Jesus Christ leads to living in his light,
which gives us a sense of direction in our lives of faith. 
We almost hear Jesus begging Nicodemus to believe in him. 
Nicodemus, do not live in the darkness. 
Nicodemus, do not live in doubt. 
Nicodemus, do not live in this kind of exile,
it is a place of evil, it is a place of darkness. 

People who live in darkness fear the light
because within the dark cloak of secrecy
they huddle in fear assuming that God does not see them,
know them, or love them. 

Believing in Jesus Christ, though, begins with grace;
it begins with the gift of faith. 
While faith does not answer the mysteries of God
and life in his kingdom,
it does inform our intellect so that from the depths of our wills
we can choose to believe. 
Believing, then, provides the light
that leads us out of the darkness of exile
into the eternal light of God’s kingdom. 

This is a moment for us to ponder deeply,
are we in Babylon, the place of being uprooted,
the land of shame,
the darkness of hate and violence? 
If we are, then Christ begs us to believe in him. 
Christ begs us to believe that the cross is our hope for salvation. 
Christ begs us to believe that God’s love for us is so great
that he would give us his Son to forgive us,
to take away all of our shame,
all of our doubt, all of our fear,
and to bless our lives with light;
the light of eternal life. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012


The Lord Be with you. And with your spirit. Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right and just.

That is why we are here. We gather to celebrate the Eucharist because it is right and just. We come to give praise and glory to God because it is right and just. We assemble as a community of faith to participate in the ritual of the Mass because it is right and just. We don’t gather here to be entertained. We are not here simply to fulfill an obligation. We are not here just to receive special graces from the Sacrament of the Eucharist. We are here because it is right and just.

It is right for us to gather here because this place is God’s house. It is a house of prayer. And we come to this sacred and beautiful place, so that we can participate fully in the mystery of our salvation. We gather as a faith community that loves God and each other in such a way that our prayer makes a difference in our lives. It is right for us to come here for private visitations. It is right for us to be able to venerate the Body of Christ in Eucharistic Adoration. It is right for us to be here to celebrate all the other Sacraments. it is right for us to be here to learn about our faith and to grow in our loving relationship with God.

Jesus was upset with all the money changers and vendors of sacrificial animals that were in the temple in Jerusalem. He was not angry because they were there; they were supposed to be there. Many of the Jews who purchased animals for sacrifice used Roman currency which was not allowed in the temple treasury. The animals were purchased so that they could be sacrificed, which was an essential part of the Jewish worship. Of course, the money changers and animal vendors did make a small profit, but that’s not what made Jesus so angry.

Jesus was angry because the Jewish people stopped seeing the Temple as a sacred place of prayer. They no longer saw it as God’s dwelling place. God’s house had become a market place that had more economic and social importance. It’s value as a place of worship and praise was gone. People were paying lip service to the value of their faith. The “Yes” to faith they showed each other was a big, fat “No” to God. From the King on down to the religious leaders the faith had become a symbol of something more important than worshiping God. God’s will no longer mattered. The covenant no longer mattered. The letter of the law had become more important than the truth of the law, the spirit of the law, and people were being misjudged and mistreated. People were abandoning the faith because, it no longer met their spiritual needs. And history has a way of repeating itself.

The Lord Be with you. And with your spirit. Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right and just.

That is why we are here. Our worship of God is a matter of justice. We are called to obey God’s command to keep holy the Sabbath. We are obliged to be here because we are God’s people, called to worship him as our only true God. Our being here might not seem to be as fun as taking a well deserved day of rest. Our being here might not be as productive as working on a Sunday and getting time-and-a-half pay for it. Our rituals do not always make sense to people. The Mass becomes so routine that it seems almost pointless to be here. But our presence truly is a matter of justice. We are gathered here to please the God who judges us and to love the God who loves us so much that he calls us to share in his divinity.

The rituals of the Mass may not seem to connect very well with our lives, but they are beautiful. The Mass is not very entertaining, but, it demands that we participate in a way that is heartfelt and meaningful. The Mass is more than a matter of fulfilling an obligation, it’s about obedience, commitment, and deep concern for the sanctification of our souls. The Mass is not just about what we receive for ourselves, it’s about worshiping God from the deepest parts of our souls because we are God’s children, because we love God.

The Lord Be with you. And with your spirit. Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right and just.

It is truly right and just. What greater reason do we have for being here?

Saturday, March 3, 2012


God has blessed each of our lives with the gift of free will. God wants us to understand, though, that our lives belong to him, our lives are in his hands and there is an ultimate destiny for us that we cannot reach by own will power alone.

“Jesus took Peter, James and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.” When we hear the word “Took” in English, we might get the idea that Jesus decided to go up the mountain and that Peter, James and John went with him. Maybe he decided to take them because he wanted them to come along. Maybe he took them because they wanted to go with him. Either way, he led them up the mountain. In the Greek language of his day, St. Mark chose a surprising word for the verb to “take,” ANAPHEREI, which meant to carry something in an uward direction. When I was a boy I used to have to carry the old Hoover Vacuum cleaner up the stairs. ANAPHEREI. It sounds like Jesus carried Peter, James and John up the mountain. I can think of two reasons why we carry people: (1) they are not capable of walking, or moving themselves; and (2) they do not want to go to the place they are being taken. In other words, Jesus made Peter, James and John go up that mountain with him because they didn’t want to go up there.

Why? Because just before this Transfiguration scene, Jesus told his apostles that the Son of Man would go to Jerusalem where he would suffer at the hands of Jewish authorities, he would be put to death on a cross and three days later he would rise again. The three apostles didn’t want Jesus to go through with this plan of suffering, dying and rising. They believed Jesus was the Messiah, but to their way of thinking, the Messiah was supposed to do something very different. He was supposed to free Jerusalem from the grip of the Roman Empire and restore God’s holy people to favored status once again. The Messiah was supposed to be a great military and political figure, along with being a holy man. The Messiah was never supposed to suffer or die. They didn’t want to go up that mountain because they felt like they had been duped. Here they just proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah, and now he told them that he was going to do something different than what they wanted him to do. So Jesus literally had to force Peter, James and John to go up that mountain with him.

And it’s a good thing they went, too. Because when they saw Jesus transfigured, and talking to Moses and Elijah, they saw the glorified Christ, the Messiah. They heard God say “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” In this moment they knew that Jesus was a far more powerful Messiah than they could have ever dreamed of because they saw him in his divine and human nature.

During Lent the Church asks us to carry out works of prayer, fasting and charity, but we have free will and can choose to ignore these penitential acts. The disciplines of Lent challenge us to work through the stubbornness of our expectations of what the Messiah is supposed to be. Like Peter, James and John we are often content with what we think is a satisfactory image of who Jesus is, and what the sacrament of the Eucharist is all about.

So often people see the Eucharist as this nice, comforting source of grace that blesses us with a warm, almost magically good feeling. But that’s not the only gift the Eucharist provides. The Eucharist nourishes and strengthens our souls so that we can take up the cross of discipleship. Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Anyone who claims the name of Catholic and Christian is called to accept the cross of discipleship. If we are going to take any real satisfaction in the fact that we receive the risen and glorified Body of Christ in this sacred meal, that means we have to understand that the Eucharist is not as much about what we receive for ourselves, as it is the fact that we are to reveal the living presence of Jesus Christ to others.

Therefore, we freely choose to take up our crosses which demand penitence. But that is not all. We are to love others as Christ has loved us. If we are to authentically share in this sacred meal, we allow his life to transform us. That means we will have a keen eye on how we can serve the needs of the poor here in our area and throughout the world. To allow his living presence to transform our lives we embrace the discipline of prayer so that his spirit of grace will enable us to reveal God’s presence to others who need to be blessed as well. Our world needs forgiveness. Our world needs peace. Our world longs to know and see that Jesus Christ is present and very much at work in us.

The cross without Calvary is self-will running amok in a chaotic world. If we are to authentically embrace the fact that we are disciples, we will allow the living Christ to carry us to the mountain of revelation so that we can see the glory of his presence in our lives, and hear the voice of God tell us, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”