Sunday, June 26, 2011

Homily for Corpus Christi: The Two Wolves

One evening, an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, "My son, the battle is between two 'wolves' inside us all. One is Evil - It is anger, envy, jealousy, greed, and arrogance. The other is Good - It is peace, love, hope, humility, compassion, and faith."

The grandson thought about this for a while and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf wins?"

To which the old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

If we want the good wolf to win we must feed it and starve the bad wolf. Most of us are very familiar with feeding, but starving is something unfamiliar to us. We are pretty content. But in order to feed our virtues we must starve our vices.

Moses said to the people:
"Remember how for forty years now the LORD, your God,
has directed all your journeying in the desert,
so as to test you by affliction
and find out whether or not it was your intention
to keep his commandments.
He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger,
and then fed you with manna,
a food unknown to you and your fathers,
in order to show you that not by bread alone does one live,
but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD

The Lord, God let them be afflicted with hunger before he fed them with manna. So it is with us, we often need to experience some hunger before we can really appreciate the goodness of being fed.

Sometimes people come to mass and say "I'm not being fed." I wonder if they are really hungry. On this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) we remember that Jesus is really here in the Eucharist. We are fed, not with mere bread and wine, but with His very Body and Blood. How can anyone receive Him and say "I'm not being fed." Maybe because they are not really hungry.

Let me explain. The church tradition has always had a time of fasting before mass. It used to be a long period of time over night and now it is simply one hour. How seriously do we take this period of fasting? I wonder if we shouldn’t just fast from food, but also from all of the other stimulants that we use… TV, Internet, Cell Phones, Facebook. Maybe we should fast from all this before mass as well so that our minds can become quiet. At the very least, fast from food. Do we allow ourselves to really feel some physical hunger that we may experience some spiritual hunger?

We can also not feel hungry when we are feeding the "Bad Wolf". The church has also taught that receiving the Eucharist is such a sacred act that it can only be received by those in the state of grace. In the olden days it was known as a sacrilege to receive the Eucharist unworthily. Are we coming forward to eat the Body and Blood of Jesus when we have a serious sin in our lives? If so, we will not be fed. We must starve ourselves of whatever we are receiving in that sin, experience the grace of Confession, and allow that "Bad Wolf" to starve and die before we can feed the "Good Wolf".

In order for us to really be "fed" here at the altar we must come hungry. Are you hungry for Jesus? Do you fast before mass? Are you in the state of grace to receive communion? Are you allowing yourself to feel the hunger pains of starving the "Bad Wolf?" Are you feeding the "Good Wolf?"

In the Eucharist we are indeed “Fed.” Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:
"I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world."
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
"How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
Jesus said to them,
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.

First, starve the Bad Wolf, as Moses reminded the people that the Lord allowed them to be afflicted with hunger, and come forward to feed the Good Wolf, allow yourself to be fed with the manna as you receive the Sacred Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus. There is a battle going on within us between good and evil. Which wolf will win?

Whichever one you feed.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Trinity Sunday Homily

I’ve been introduced to a new word: Trysting: An agreement as between lovers, to meet at a certain time and a certain place.

Remember the movie Forrest Gump. There is this tree that Jenny and Forrest get together at every summer year after year from the time that they were children. In the end of the movie when Jenny dies that is where he buries her body. This has been their trysting place. It was often unspoken, but they knew if they ever wanted to find each other, that is where they would.

The word trysting can also describe reunions or get togethers between people that want to keep a bond. So here is a good example for Father’s Day. And it shows the love between father and son. David and his father would get together every Thursday just to have dinner as father and son. His father wanted to be able to connect with him so he started the tradition. This fall I’m marrying David and his bride to be and can you guess who he chose for his best man? His father. There getting together at an agreed upon time and place formed a close bond.

Remember the book “Tuesday’s with Morrie.” Every Tuesday night Mitch Album would get together with his dying teacher and friend Morrie. It’s a beautiful account of the closeness and intimacy that comes when we Tryst.

Every Sunday my family gets together around 3pm for a family dinner at my parents house. We’ve done it for years. I just know that if I head to my parents house on Sunday I will be surrounded by my family.

God invites us to be with Him at a certain time and in a certain place. God desires that there be a trysting with us.

This is how Moses experienced this trysting with God.

“Early in the morning Moses went up Mount Sinai as the lord had commanded him, taking along the two stone tablets.” Exodus 34:4b-6

Moses had this real and personal relationship with God. God invited Moses to come and meet him at a specific time and place: Early in the morning (time) and on Mount Sinai (place). When Moses went early in the morning up Mount Zion he met God there and “Having come down in a cloud, the Lord stood with Moses” and spoke to him.

What if we could have an experience like this with God? What if we could have this same intimacy with God? Do you realize that God invites you too to come and be with Him for a while? Think about it, probably a number of times every day God invites you to go away for a while and pray with Him. These invitations can sometimes be subtle, but we know them, and we know when we let the moment pass us by. Why would we miss the opportunity to be together with God?

Just as lovers, intimate friends, and family have a trysting, God also desires to tryst with us, to make an agreement with us to meet at a certain time and a certain place.

Every day of our lives there should be a time and place when we get together with God.

What’s your time and place?

When is a good time?

For Moses, and for some of us, it is early in the morning, in the quiet and peacefulness before the rush of day. For some it is a mid-day moment of rest from the stress and strain of work. For others it will be after the work is finished in the early evening and for some like me it is late at night when the duties of the day have come to an end.

The time doesn’t matter so much, just so you make some kind of agreement to pick a time with God and get together.

What’s your place? Where do you go to meet God?

Moses went up Mount Sinai. It’s a long way for us to find mountains, let alone Mount Sinai, but there are places where God desires to meet you. Maybe it’s going out into nature, no mountains in Cleveland, but we are pretty close to one of the Great Lakes. Nature is a place where many come to experience God, so maybe it’s meeting God in the Metro-Parks, or under a tree in your yard, or my new favorite place out here: “Lakeview Beach.”

We don’t have to go out into nature though, Jesus said “when you want to pray, go to your inner room and close the door.” And we also have a place dedicated to pray; right here in the church, we are in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. What better place to pray than here in the church or even at Nativity where they have exposition every week day until 10pm.

I was just privileged to do a funeral for a lady who, for many years, trysted with the Lord. Every Monday night she could be found at the same time and the same place before our Lord in Adoration.

I think the church is ultimately the best place that we have to pray, but knowing that we can’t always make it up here everyone should have a place to pray right in their own house. Do you have a place that you go to pray? Think about it… Where do you go to tryst with God?

Everyone should have a place to pray: a prayer room, or a prayer corner, or a prayer chair. If you don’t have a place to go to pray and meet God, then arrange for it. God would like nothing more than to have a trysting with you.

A trysting is an agreement, as between lovers, to meet at a certain time and place.

Ok now here’s the biggest one. It happens every week. We have an agreed upon meeting time and place with our Lover of Lovers. Yes, the Eucharist! The next time you question: “Why do we have to go to mass every Sunday?” Remember, this is our trysting. God agrees upon a time and place with us every Sunday at every Catholic Church.

Lovers because they desire so much to be together will plan a time and a place to be together as something to look forward to and enjoy. If God is our first love, then we ought to want to Tryst with God. We should desire and look forward to a time and place of meeting with God.

If you don’t have a Trysting time or place, make a place and set a time every day to get together with the One who loves you more than anyone else possibly could. Create a place in your house where you can go to meet God and commit yourself to a time every day that you will be there. We are all here together to worship in one place and at one time, but God loves you so much that He also wants to spend time with just you alone.

This Trinity Sunday we celebrate that God is relational. Just as the love between a Father and Son can be felt and the love between a happily married couple makes a home so warm and welcoming, God desires to be in relation with us so that others may also be drawn into that love.

This week make a time and place to pray and you too will experience what Moses did that morning, and what the mystics have experienced through the centuries, and what Husband and Wife experience after 50 years of marriage, and the love that a Father has for a Son. When we have a trysting with God we too can experience the love of the Trinity.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Storms Will Bring Us Together

Amherst has been making the news lately with the storms, and the rain and the hail. Last night Fr. Larry and I couldn’t even get through the news without the weather warning breaking through. It seems like it’s been storming every day since I got here. For those of you that don’t know I'm coming from St. Barnabas in Northfield. Just a week ago we had a tornado warning that began in the Strongsville area and travelled west across 82 right through Northfield. I was at a parishioner’s house for dinner and we were interrupted by the news warning every one of the strong winds and funnel clouds forming.

My first inclination, of course, was to go outside and check it out. And yes, you could see the dark ominous clouds enveloping the blue sky. It began to wrap around in a large circular pattern. The wind was bending the trees and then you could see sheets of rain begin to fall from the sky. There is nothing like a storm that helps me feel the power and the presence of God.

The youngest daughter was afraid of storms wanted everyone to come together and hide in the basement. As the storm grew worse one by one each of the kids went down followed by the mother and then the father. They were all safe and huddled together in the basement.

Storms, especially when they are threatening, have a power to bring us together. Notice the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. "When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were."

On Pentecost we are reminded that Our God is not silent. God is a God of power and might. Just as we are awe struck by a raging storm, we are even more moved by the power of God. Remember the biggest storm that you’ve ever been in and the feelings that came along with it. Storms have a power that is way beyond our control.

We probably all either know people in our lives that for one reason or another have separated themselves from our faith. Maybe it is your son or daughter or even your spouse. I know that the pain is great and you so much desire your loved ones to return to the Eucharist and come together on Sunday. If you desire this, how much more does God desire it! Even more so God desires that we are all brought together in the safety and protection of His Son, Jesus.

When we come here together at this altar to celebrate the Eucharist, it's like we are in the basement as a family, gathered together, safe from the storm. And God knows that storms have a tendency to bring us together.

Sometimes we forget that God is real and that God is powerful. Sometimes we feel like maybe He is not present and not active and we can have a tendency to stray. One of the ways that we can be gathered together is during a storm.

Here's the thing, God doesn't sit by inactively and idly allowing us to stray and to wander off and to separate ourselves from Him. He loves us too much. Perhaps there is someone in your life right now a good friend or a family member who has separated themselves from the faith, maybe they don't come to mass anymore or say they don't believe in God. Even more than you desire for their faith, God desires that they may believe.

God is not weak and powerless to our unfaithfulness. No rather, God loves us all enough that He will rage a storm, furiously, powerfully, strongly, passionately to bring us back. That same strong driving wind that was active in the Acts of the Apostles is active today.

God is more powerful than any storm this world has ever experienced. And if it takes storms to bring us back to Him, then God will send the power of His Spirit to help us to realize that we are weak, we are powerless, and we do need his safety and protection.

If you know someone who is away from the love of God, someone whose faith is weak, someone who is indifferent to the Lord, trust that He loves them too much just to let them stray. God will work through some storm in their life to bring them back to the safety of His Church. And just as the family gathered together in the basement during the tornado and the disciples were all in one place together at the, God will continue to work through the storms of this life to gather all of us together.

This Pentecost, remember that God is not weak or indifferent. Stand in awe at the power of our God who comes to us in the storms of our lives, loving us… burning with love for us, and bringing us together in one place.