Friday, January 28, 2011

Homily: Spill your tears before the Father, and he will always dry them up.

One day he was asleep, and she tiptoed in right beside him, bent over and laid her cheek on his. He was now awake but feigned sleep and heard her whisper: “Ah! The lovely smell of my daddy.” Nagai (na-guy) goes on: “You might suppose that a man with leukemia is cold-blooded, but my blood coursed hot through my veins when I heard that pathetic cry. I knew my death couldn’t be far off, and I saw little Kayano in my fantasy coming home from my funeral, now fatherless and motherless… and burying her face in my mattress for one last ‘smell of my daddy.” Nagai was getting busier during the day as visitors increased and his illness progressed. The two to three years that he had been given to live was almost up. How would his children be affected by his death? He decided to write down all the things he wanted to tell them in the hope that it would help them when they could understand. These jottings were to become two best-selling books… A Song for Nagasaki is the story of a Japanese man who survived the atomic bomb, but lost his wife, and experienced a slow death from the radiation. As a convert to the faith he would discover what it really meant to live the beatitudes and find happiness in the midst of tremendous loss, suffering, and mourning.

These are the words he wrote to his children before he died: “You are small children and have already lost your mother. That is an irreplaceable loss. A father’s death is not anywhere near the loss of a mother. My death will leave you orphans, vulnerable and alone in the world. You will weep. Yes, you might even weep your hearts out, and that will be good – provided you weep before your Father in heaven. We have it on the authority of his Son, and I have experienced the truth of it personally: ‘Happy are those who weep, for they shall be comforted.’ Spill your tears before him, and he will always dry them. That is the Sermon on the Mount, the place where you can find all the answers. Climbing this mountain can be hard-going, and at times through mists, rain and snow. But when the mists and clouds lift, what a vista of beauty, peace, and love! Yes, a vista of the values that last and give meaning to our lives and worth to our struggles. Right now, all I have to leave you in the way of possessions is this hut. Ah! But Jesus tells us to love our eternal selves rather than our material possessions. Yes, each of us is a child of the heavenly Father! That gives us tremendous worth. Do you realize that you are of more worth in your Father’s eyes than that beautiful bright star that keeps our earth alive, the sun? You are his very own son and daughter, and so are all the people around you. Love everyone and trust his Providence, and you will find peace. I have tried it and can assure it is so.

“I must be honest with you, my children. You will drink a bitter chalice as orphans. You will have to struggle against the temptation of resentment toward your school friends who have mother and father and against the subtle temptations of coldly resigning yourselves, with a mistaken sense of independence to that dark and dismal unbeliever called fatalism. Don’t live negatively by blind fate but live meaningfully and lovingly and experience the Father’s personal Providence. He has asked the three of us to accept a bitter drink. This is our ‘way’ to peace and to participation in his great plan, the one Jesus saw when he spoke of the lilies of the field and of the sparrows that are precious in the eyes of the Father. As a doctor, I sometimes had to give bitter medicine. I didn’t say: Poor child, suffering so! Let’s give him some sweet juice! You understand that, don’t you? We believe in a greater God who doesn’t’ dole out chap syrup but gives us the cleansing, healing, nourishing waters of life. Sometimes they seem bitter because our taste is sick. But persevere! He is fitting us for eternal companionship with him and our loved ones in heaven.

Nagai teaches us that it is ok to weep; it is good to weep, so long as we weep in the arms of our Father in heaven. “Spill your tears before him, and he will always dry them.” He teaches us that in this life we will experience great suffering, but through it all, if we remain faithful, we will come to know the Lord. The beatitudes promise us with each suffering, with each experience of poverty, with each instance of hungering and thirsting for things to be right, with each moment of showing mercy and making peace, and enduring persecution for the sake of righteousness, we inherit the kingdom of God.

Have you experienced any great loss in your life? Is there a bitter chalice that you have been asked to drink? Allow yourself the privilege of weeping before the Father. Go before him in your room, or in the church, or in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, or in the arms of your husband or wife or your priest or someone that is an image of God’s love for you. Let him comfort you and console you. Let yourself be vulnerable enough to weep uncontrollably.

When you’ve wept in the arms of the Father, you can then become comfort for others.

Nagai had become well known and famous people from around the world came to see him. After meeting Helen Keller, who through an illness in her childhood left her blind and deaf, he wrote: “Unless you have suffered and wept, you really don’t understand what compassion is, nor can you give comfort to someone who is suffering. If you haven’t cried, you can’t dry another’s eyes. Unless you’ve walked in darkness, you can’t help wanderers find the way. Unless you’ve looked into the eyes of menacing death and felt its hot breath, you can’t help another rise from the dead and taste anew the joy of being alive.”

Nagai had tasted death and was able to share with his children, and all of us, the joy of being alive. In his weeping and sorrow, he experienced the comfort only our Lord can give. He lived the beatitudes and he became that comfort and person of great happiness for others.

Let yourself weep, though it may be terrifying to let it go, weep before the Lord and let yourself be comforted by the Father. Having wept and mourned and experienced the comfort that only God can bring. This will allow you to become a comfort to many others who deep down yearn for the opportunity to weep. And in the midst of this weeping and comforting the kingdom of God appears in our midst. Death is conquered and the joy of being alive is discovered.

“The Song for Nagasaki” is a truly beautiful and moving book and is available locally here at Grismer’s as well as

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Homily for the Feast of the Epiphany: Don't Stop at the Star

On this Feast of the Epiphany, as we hear the story of the Wise Men following the star and seeing Jesus with his mother Mary, we celebrate that through the Incarnation, God can manifest himself to us in a thousand ways at every moment of every day.

I’d like to begin with an example from one of my favorite author’s: the late Henri Nouwen. In his book “Here and Now” Henri describes an epiphany that he had on a busy intersection in Downtown Toronto.

Recently I was standing on the corner of Bloor and Yonge streets in Downtown Toronto. I saw a young man crossing the street while the stoplight turned red; he just missed being hit by a car. Meanwhile, hundreds of people were moving in all directions. Most faces looked quite tense and serious and no one greeted anyone. They were all absorbed in their own thoughts trying to reach some unknown goal. Long rows of cars and trucks were crossing the intersection, were making right and left hand turns in the midst of a large pedestrian crowd.

Notice this is a pretty typical event, could be anyone of us in our daily lives. And Henri does something that we all probably do… he begins to wonder.

I wondered what is going on in the minds of all of these people, what are they trying to do, what are they hoping for, what is pushing them? As I stood at that busy intersection I wished I were able to overhear the inner ruminations of all these people. But I soon realized that I didn’t have to be so curious. My own restlessness was probably not very different from that of all those around me.

Now here’s the fascinating part, he doesn’t stop there. His thoughts deepen from business and distraction, to wonder, to self-reflection… and then… finally to God.

Why is it so difficult to be still and quiet and let God speak to me about the meaning of my life? Is it because I don’t trust God? Is it because I don’t know God? Is it because I wonder if God is really there for me? Is it because I’m afraid of God? Is it because deep down I do not believe that God cares what happens at the corner of Yonge and Bloor?

In this awareness of God and in this wondering he discovers Jesus right in the midst of this busy intersection:

Still there is a voice right there in downtown Toronto: “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.” Can I trust that voice and follow it? It is not a very loud voice and often it is drowned out by the clamor of the inner city. Still when I listen attentively I will hear that voice again and again and come to recognize it as the voice speaking to the deepest places of my heart.

An epiphany like this could happen to anyone of us at any moment of the day in a thousand ways.

Let’s see how the first Epiphany occurred:

And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.

Notice that the Magi didn’t stop at seeing the star. Yes they were overjoyed at seeing the star, but they didn’t stop there and just stare at the star. They entered the house and saw Jesus.

There can be many things in life that catch our attention and cause us for a brief moment to reflect. Don’t stop at the star, go deeper, and look for Christ in that moment.

Can you imagine how much different our lives would be if our eyes were open to this. If we realized that at every intersection, at every traffic jam, in every line, at work, at home, in school, on the computer, out in nature, family get-togethers, Christ is manifesting himself to us.

We too can experience the Epiphany if we don’t stop at the star, that event that catches our attention in our ordinary lives, but follow it through until we see Jesus in it. Henri Nouwen was startled when he saw a young man crossing the street almost being hit by a car, the wise men saw the star and were overjoyed, but thankfully neither stopped at the star. They kept going until they could see Jesus. We too can do this in every instance of our lives. There are so many things that can catch our attention and help us become aware and reflective in the present moment. Jesus is there waiting to reveal himself to you at every moment of the day in a thousand ways. Don’t stop at the star, when you have a moment where something catches your attention and you begin to wonder. Look for Jesus in that moment, listen for his voice, seek him with all of your heart and you too may have an Epiphany of your own this Christmas.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Homily for the Feast of Mary the Mother of God: "Momma B."

Is there anyone in your life that you know that always brings you a sense of joy?

mary mother of godJohn, is a friend who I met at high school (Valley Forge). As I was in my last year of the seminary John died from kidney failure. From that time his mother has kind of taken me on as her son. I call her “Momma B.” Every time I’m with her she has me laughing and grateful for knowing her son. And when I leave their house I feel like I’ve just been with John again. She has his same humor, wit, and mannerisms. Every time I see her or hear her voice on the phone I think of her son John, my friend. And just as John always brought a sense of Joy into my life, so does she.

Is there anyone in your life like this? Someone that brings you a sense of Joy or Peace when you are in their presence?

It seems to me this could be a good image for Mary. She seemed to always bring such great joy to the people around her. Think about the Visitation “When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit … For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.”

Today’s reading from Luke so beautifully describes the Shepherds finding Mary, Joseph, and the infant lying in a manger. And they left “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.”

And at the foot of the cross when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. I imagine there was great joy for the disciple just being in her presence as he mourned the death of Jesus. Being with the Mother of God probably gave him a sense of the presence of Jesus even after his death.

So whenever there are special times of the year I call “Mom B.” Just to hear her voice and laugh for a moment as well as to try and bring her some Joy. I’m always reminded of her son. And I always leave feeling a sense of Joy and Peace.

So it is with Mary. Because she is the Mother of God, whenever we call upon her we too will experience the Joy of her Son Jesus. She so closely resembles him and she too so much desires to be your mother and to bring to birth in you the Spirit of her Son, Jesus. Spend some time with her, just be in her presence, talk to her, share your life with her, ask her for help, pray with her and you to will discover the Peace and the Joy of her Son Jesus this Christmas Season.

Happy New Year!