The title of my homily is, “The Hour Has Come” [John 17:1]
As you heard - or if you read along today’s two readings from a book - did any words grab you?
I read the readings the night before and see what words
trigger wonderings. Then - I usually select a few that I want to know more
about - or that I hear a challenge from. Then I put together a two page homily
- for weekdays - and five pages for Sundays - 14 Pica.
Then when I hear the readings once more here at Mass, I can
hear some people - including myself saying, “What does that mean?” or “Please
explain that!” and I think, “Uh oh. Sorry! Not today!” That happened yesterday with the text from
Acts. I had put together 2 pages on the first sentence, but as I heard the
readings, I found myself saying, “What about speaking in tongues?” Or on Sunday
it happened with the gospel text about handling snakes and drinking poison?
Can’t do it all. Sorry. Next year or some other time.
So today a few words on, “The Hour Has Come” [John 17:1].
WE KNOW THE FEELING
I was thinking, “We know the sound and the feeling of those
words, ‘The hour has come.’” When have
we said or felt them?
Many Saturdays I see this happening at weddings here at St.
Mary’s. It’s 3 minutes to 3. The moms are about to come down the aisle - and
then the bridesmaids - then the flower girls and then the bride. It’s 3 PM. The hour has come. I go out into
the sanctuary with the best man and the bridegroom. I’m thinking to myself that
I saw this couple a year ago or so and here it is now - here it is vow time. It’s
time for them to make the marriage covenant!
When else do we have that same reality of time’s up? The
hour is here? Test results have just come in. We’re being prepared for the
operations. We’re walking up the aisle for the graduation. We walk in the door
for a job interviews. We see the car pull into the driveway. We’re about to
meet a son or a daughter’s significant other for the first time.
We like to watch a ballgame on TV at night. It’s a significant
moment when a kid comes up to bat or takes the mound for the first time in the
major leagues. What a kid has waited for - perhaps for many years - is finally
here. It’s show time. His or her parents are in the stands - which can add to
the stress and the moment.
NUANCES AND VARIATIONS ON THE THEME
As I thought about all this I began trying to come up with variations
on this theme.
There are moments we dread and there are moments we really look forward to.
A spouse or a parent is in hospice. The last few months or
years have been tough. The hour has come. A loved one is about to die.
Someone in the military in Afghanistan is looking at their
watch - 4 days and 22 hours I’m going to be on a plane out of here. This has
been my 3rd and last deployment. They start picturing the arrival
and the airport - and family standing on the Tarmac. They too have been looking
at their watch and clocks for months and weeks and now days.
Our high school seniors are about to graduate this Friday -
so too the NavalAcademy - and so too our grammar school
- and so too the schools in the area. What is going to happen next. Time is
ticking. The hour is coming. We see someone handed a diploma.
We can do what Jesus did. We can make it a prayer - by
simply adding the word “Father” as Jesus did - making all these moments a
prayer, “Father, the hour has come.”
Time is funny. Time is relative - as Einstein said - and
people who have obnoxious relatives who visit them - know the clock moves
slower with some people than with others.
Time is relative. I know I pray better after the homily at
Mass than before it. Got that out of the way. Now I can move deeper into God.
Time is relative. I can’t wait for November 7th -
when we’ll have an end to obnoxious accusative TV ads and e-mails.
Time is relative. The hour is come. How long did this sermon
seem to take?
"So I don't spend much time with the radio, television, and the daily paper. A car without a radio is a place for contemplation. When friends object that I don't know what is going on and am not concerned with the life our our society, I answer that they are deluded. History does not happen by the day. Once I read every copy of a leading newspaper from January to September 1870, with the intention of discovering the nature of the historical forces of that period. What I did discover was a host of superficialities, fleeting illusions, and enormous blind spots as to what was really going on ...."
The title of my homily for this 7th Monday in the Easter Season is, “The Pause That Refreshes!”
As I read this morning’s first reading from The Acts of the Apostles, I noticed in the first sentence mention of Corinth and Ephesus.
That triggered a slight pause. Something hit me that never hit me before. I’ve heard and read those words “Corinth” and “Ephesus” before. I’ve read the letters of Paul to the Corinthians and Ephesians before. What hit me that was new - was that since the last time I heard this reading I’ve been to Corinth and Ephesus. Last October 5th 2011, I was in Ephesus. Last October 6th I was in Corinth. It’s the same thing that happened to me as a result of being in Israel - Palestine - in January of 2000. When I hear about the Lake of Galilee or hear about Jericho or Nazareth or Jerusalem - or the Jordan River - I pause and picture those places - based on my experience of these places.
THAT’S A DUH
That’s a duh - an obvious - duh! - but sometimes it’s good to hear the obvious. Duh!
Today is May 21st. For most people it’s just another day - just another Monday. But for some it might be a birthday or an anniversary - or a death day. For Catholics in Mexico it’s the feast of a new saint, Saint Christopher Magallanes and 21 diocesan priests and 3 lay persons who were shot or hung between 1915-1937 for being members of a group that opposed the anti-Catholic government in Mexico during those years.
The title of my homily is, “The Pause That Refreshes.”
Knowing that places and dates might be more than we realize, it might be worth while pausing when we're with others. It might call for more listening. It might call for more awareness of the sacred.
This church - specific benches - specific parts of the Mass - all might be very specific to specific persons.
Hearing about these things - might cause us to pause. And those pauses might help us to be more aware of each other - and the specific realities all around us.
I was talking to a lady this morning and she told me about her rain coat. I had simply said, “Interesting raincoat!” She then told me where she bought it - when she bought it [10 years ago] - who she was with when she bought it - and how much it cost. It was on Sale!
What hit me after that was interesting - and surprising. I paused for a moment and thought: all those clothes in Goodwill Thrift Shops have a history. Every item. Wouldn’t that make a great imaginary movie? The store is closed and the different items begin telling each other how they got there - where they were bought - by whom - where they went in it: weddings, wakes and funerals, first communions, confirmations, cruises, what have you.
The title of my homily is, “The Pause That Refreshes.”
If what I’m saying - that every place and every thing has a history, so much more - us.
The first sentence in today’s first reading goes like this: “While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior of the country and down to Ephesus where he found some disciples.”
What hit me for this sermon is that I need to pause more and listen more and travel into the interior of the country of another. It’s not enough to know our birthday and anniversaries and our birthplace and our job. There’s more - much more - the deep interior of another.
And I assume the more we get out of ourselves and into the interior country - not just of stuff - but especially of each other - the more we will journey into the inner country of God.
The title of homily is, “Ascension: Good, Better, Best.”
This Sunday in this diocese we celebrate the feast of the
Ascension - the leaving of Jesus - the heading of Jesus into eternity - post
resurrection - as pictured in the mural painting up on the left of our front
wall here at St. Mary's.
The EarlyChurch had begun - with
Christ in a new and different dimension - as well as his disciples - beginning
to see themselves in a new way - now in newer leadership roles - adjusting -
figuring what’s next.
When I read today’s readings, the theme that hits me, is
adulthood. We’re now on our own. Jesus says, “Goodbye!”
It’s like graduation - now get moving.
He sends his disciples forth. He’s tooled them. He’s taught
them. He’s educated them. He trained them. Now go into the whole world and
bring my Good News to all peoples! [Cf. Ephesians 4: 1-13]
TWO OF MY FAVORITE EXAMPLES
I have two favorite examples that get into what’s going on
here. I have used both of them many times not only with high school kids, but
also with little kids as well - and I think all get the message.
The first is the story of the mama bear and the two baby
bears. I saw this on TV somewhere along the line. It might have been on
Discovery Channel or Animal Kingdom.
The opening scene shows Mama Bear leading her two little
ones out of a cave or den. It’s time. She pushes them forward for a good
distance. They come to a tree - which she makes them climb up. As they are
clawing their way up the tree, she starts to walk away. They immediately start
downwards. She comes running back at them and growls. They start climbing the
tree again. This time they get a bit higher. Not seeing mama they come down
again. Mama Bear who was hiding behind a bog rock comes running back towards
them again and growls. Once more they climb the tree - this time higher. Not
spotting mama they start down again. Watching all this from a distance mama growls
again - while shaking her paws at them, “Get back up that tree!”
And back climb that tree. The screen gets dark. Mama Bear
disappears for good.
Obviously, I couldn’t tell this story on Mother’s Day.
Next, the TV screen, which was dark, becomes light.
It’s morning. It’s sunrise. Down from the tree come the 2 little cubs and head
for where they came from - but mama’s gone. End of the movie.
The second story - which is the same story. Once more I love
to tell this story to kids and young people. It’s a story that happened to me
on the N subway train - in New York.
My trip was to go from 59th Street
Station in Brooklyn to 42 Street Station in Manhattan. That’s 6 or 7 stops. Sometimes the
N train stops at DeKalb Avenue.
It’s around 11 AM. I walk to the subway and get on the N
Train when it comes into the station. It’s not crowded. I take a seat.
At 36th Street,
the next stop after 59th Street,
in comes a father and a son - a little boy. At first the kid is sitting
on his father’s lap - but he wants down. I’m watching this - just sitting
across from the two of them. The little boy wants to stand. His father
puts him down on his own two feet. He’s knee high to his father. The train is
moving and shaking. He frees himself from his father’s grip. He’s laughing,
smiling, shaking with the roaring train - standing on his own two feet -
his hands like Rocky on the top of the Philadelphia Art Museum
steps in Rocky #1.
Then the train starts to brake and slow down - because the
next stop is almost here: Pacific
Street. To prevent himself from falling - he runs
back to the safety of his father’s knee. The train stops. He relaxes. By now
different people are observing these two - a father and the son. It’s a story
as old as humankind.
The train starts moving again. He shakes himself free of his
father and goes out into the freedom of standing on his own two feet in the
center of the train. Once more, as the train brakes and shakes - as we are
coming into Canal Street Station, he runs back to his father. He does this all
the way to the 42 Street Station where I got off.
As I walked away, I wondered if this was a parable of
Is this the human hope for independence - but
sometimes I’m scared?
Others add interdependence - a combination of both.
Is this the story of marriage, family, relationships, work,
Life: birth, dependence, independence, interdependence,
dependence - no wonder they call them "Depends" …. till death do
TODAY’S FIRST READING
Today’s first reading is from the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles. It’s
addressed to Theophilus - which most say is to us - that is, if want to
be a lover (PHILOS) - of God (THEOS).
It begins with the comment that Jesus gave instructions
through the Holy Spirit - gave proofs that he was alive after his sufferings
and death. Then he leaves them - pictured as going up to the heavens.
Then today’s first reading ends: “Why are you standing there looking at the
Translation: get moving - like the two bears, you’re now on
your own. Like the little kid on the train, don’t we all have the desire for
freedom - as we move along on the train of life - station to station?
Ascension: Good, Better, Best
The title of my homily is: "Ascension: Good, Better,
Isn't that the journey of life: to become good, to become
better, to reach our best?
Wouldn’t that be a good morning prayer? “Lord, today,
help me to do good. Lord, help me to be better. Better, Lord, today, help me to
do my best.”
Wouldn’t that be a good evening prayer? “Lord, looking
back on today I thank You for the good I did - for the better I did - for the
best I did, today.”
In fact, isn’t it a good night prayer, to pick out the best
thing we did that day - and go to sleep saying, “Thank You Lord, help me to do
some good again tomorrow - to have a better tomorrow - to do the best I can do
tomorrow - at least in one thing.”
Good, better, best. That’s very simple. It’s not too complicated.
But we also know we can do: bad, worse, worst.
Christianity is realistic. Sometimes we do our worst. The
Prodigal Son or Daughter in us - sometimes messes up. We want independence and
we blow it - and the message of that story is: “We can come crawling back to
the Father’s embrace.”
Christianity is also unrealistic. The best we can do is to
lay down our lives for our family and for friends. “Greater love than this no
one has, but to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Jesus did just that! He gave his life for us. It’s the Mass. It’s this
sacrifice. It’s this call to give of self everyday. Isn’t that’s when we are at
our very best.
CONCLUSION: WHAT ARE OUR ROCK SOLD FOUNDATIONS?
The little kid on the subway train had his dad to run back to. The 2 little
bears had what they were trained by their mama to go by. What are our rock
solid foundations to help us move into our future - with security and strength?
One last example.
As you might know, Broadway now has another revision
of Arthur Miller’s Play, Death of a Salesman. Years ago I saw it with Dustin
Hoffman in the lead. I also saw it in college and I saw it in a movie. Each
time it moved me big time.
As you know the main character in the play, Willy Loman, a
salesman, finds himself without any security. His whole world has caved in on
him. Maybe he felt like those two little bears - without a mama. Maybe he felt
like that little kid on the train - but there was no daddy to run to and lean
What made me think of this was an article I noticed about
the play in yesterday’s New York Times. The question was asked whether Arthur
Miller was picturing Willy Loman as Jewish. Then like so many people, he had
distanced himself - as second generation - from his religious roots and
cultural background - into becoming simply an American. Then when he was
getting older - then when his family had changed - then when he had lost his
job - he had nothing to run back to.
The paper quotes Mike Nichols - who is directing the new
revival - in an interview this month, “Willy has no forebears. He’s not from
any country. He has no holidays of any religion. So you have to assume Miller’s
making a point. We who are struggling to sell enough have to drop everything —
religion, nationality, family. There is nothing except, as Willy puts it, being
known and being well-liked.”
That last sentence grabbed me: is that the goal of life - to
be known and to be well-liked?
For some, maybe yes. How about us? Where do we want to
ascend to? What’s good, better, best for us?
Aren’t we here, because we know there’s more?
There is the good, the better, and the best. We can keep on ascending to
higher and higher values. Don’t we come here to Church to hear just what the
disciples and apostles heard - before they were sent into the world with Good
News and to make our world good, better and best? Don’t we then leave
church not just to go in peace, but to keep growing - keep going forth to avoid
doing bad, worse or worst, but to do good, to do better, to do our best - each