Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Fire (Pentecost homily)

As you’ve heard me say nearly every Sunday during Easter Season, 
Easter is all about heaven. That’s why Jesus died and rose, 
in order to create for us a future with him.

So now we come to Pentecost, 
which is, if you will, the final “ingredient.” 
If you are fixing a recipe, you have to put in the last ingredient; 
if you don’t, then it won’t work.
Likewise, without Jesus giving the Holy Spirit, 
his plan for us would fail.

We receive the Holy Spirit first in baptism;
If our parents made that decision for us, 
Then later it falls to us to ratify that choice.

Our language about this can be misleading. 
We talk about “receiving” the Holy Spirit; 
But that’s not nearly strong enough.
We also “receive” a text on our phone:
We glance at it and go on our way.

But surely that’s not what we’re talking about here, right? 
Better would be the language the Bible uses:

The Prophet Ezekiel talks about dry, dead bones coming to life.
Saint Paul talks about a new birth.
Elsewhere in the Gospel of John, Jesus told Nicodemus: 
“you must be born again.” 

Or else, take notice of the detail from the book of Acts:
“Fire appeared, and … came to rest on each one of them.”

The key thing about fire is this: unless you contain it,
and it will transform everything it touches.

That is the reason Jesus gives the Holy Spirit: 
so that we will be transformed;
so that we will be changed entirely, and become heavenly.

We use the expression, “playing with Fire” – 
but God the Holy Spirit is not a plaything;
God does not share Himself with you, 
in order to be put on the shelf, or in your pocket, 
or worn around your neck like a religious medal.

Quite graciously, the Holy Spirit offers us a partnership; 
but only with you or me as the junior partner.
If we seek to contain the fire of the Holy Spirit, 
we will quite simply extinguish it.
The Holy Spirit is not an accessory or a hobby or a part-time thing.

When Moses brought the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai,
he said that they had been written by the “finger of God.”
In the Gospels, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit in this way, 
which makes sense, because the Holy Spirit gives us the power 
to obey the law of God written in our hearts.

Now, let me illustrate the two ways we can go:
Either to silence God’s voice in our hearts; or to let God change us.

how this works, 
although I’m going to use a pretty rough image, I’m sorry.
As most of us know, there are some very dark places on the Internet, 
providing a flood of images that are both beguiling and poisonous.
And don’t let my delicate language deceive you.
If you think what I’m talking about is only a little bit naughty, 
and just here or there, I’m sorry, but that is not the case.

It is a massive flood and it is filthier than you can imagine.

People are consuming this sewage, and coming back daily for more.

Here’s the thing: no one who first sees these things is ever blasé. 

The reaction is always the same: 
we know in our gut that it is very wrong.
That is God’s Law written in our hearts: that is our conscience.

So: if everyone knows it’s wrong, why is it everywhere?

Why is smut such a major economic engine of the Internet?
The answer is because people fight the Holy Spirit;
Instead of nourishing and strengthening their conscience, 
they ignore it, turn down the volume, shout over it.
They put out the Fire.

Look at this terrible crime at the high school in Texas, 
unfortunately, not isolated, but another on a list of such crimes.
Everyone wants to know what the problem is; 
We all want to explain it.

The problem of evil isn’t so easy; I don’t want to oversimplify.
But I submit to you that at least one part of it we can identify.
We’d like to say these criminals are just delusional; 
but what do the people involved say? 
“He was entirely normal.” Not crazy.
So let me ask you: do you think these people, 
who do these horrible things, to their family, their classmates, 
were nourishing their conscience – or in the habit of smothering it? 

Most of us will never be that person; but the point is,
when we start down the road of ignoring God in our hearts, 
wherever you and I end up, we won’t be the person we were.
And it won’t be sudden: it will be series of small, easy steps.

Now let me make the point in a different way.
Let me tell you about Bernard Nathanson.
He played a key role in legalizing abortion,
Which has cost untold millions of lives.
He himself was responsible for 75,000 abortions.
And he was an atheist.

However tightly he shut out the voice of God,
over the years, he would see and hear people praying outside the abortion facility he ran.

Someone—many someones—prayed for his conversion.
Many someones talked to him about the Lord—
And many someones showed him the example
of living like a Christian.

After a long time, Bernard Nathanson
stopped committing abortions—
Some time later, he became a pro-life advocate.
Then, he started going to Mass.
And after many years, he was baptized and confirmed
And received the Body and Blood of the Lord.

So you see, it can go either way.

Now, there’s bad news and there is good news.
First the bad news: 
If you want to put out the Fire of the Holy Spirit, you can do it. 
There is darkness beyond the darkness; and we can decide to like it.

Or The good news is that* we can undo the damage. 
The Fire can be kindled anew. 
But it only works if you let God be in charge.
The habit of “no,” “not now,” “that’s too much!” and “later,” 
can be – and must be – 
replaced with “yes, Lord” and “whatever it takes!” 
and “now is the time.” 

The place to rekindle the Fire is first in the silence of our own hearts, 
and then in the sanctuary of the confessional.

I wish I could tell you that it takes only one good confession, 
and then the Fire runs wild, and all our battles are won.
But that rarely happens – because that would mean
we conquered one set of sins, only to be consumed by spiritual pride.

No, it is a painful mercy that conversion usually takes great patience.
What happens is that you and I are a kind of “reverse fire fighter.” 
The task of our local Russia volunteer fire department 
is gradually to contain and kill a fire. 
The bigger it is, the longer it takes.

But our job – with the Holy Spirit – 
is to help the Fire spread into every corner of our lives!
It takes time and daily choices: will I let the Fire of God go here? 
And here? And even here?
Will I unwrap my fingers gripping tightly this vice, 
this inordinate love, and let it be consumed and transformed?

It starts with a single “yes”; followed by about a million more!

* I made these changes after the 5 pm Mass.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Heaven: we already have it. Claim it (Ascension homily)

All during Easter season my homilies have talked about heaven, 
because that’s why Jesus came, suffered, died and rose – 
to open up a future for each of us to be with him forever.

So how appropriate that here we are, and what are we talking about? 
Jesus ascending to his throne in heaven.

That said, this feast of the Ascension 
is not simply about Jesus himself returning to heaven; 
if that’s all it were, then where is the hope?

Rather, Jesus goes, as he said, to prepare a place for us.
It’s about you and me going to heaven.

So let’s talk about this.

First, I want to make a small but important point. 
Notice that this happened 40 days after Jesus’ Resurrection.
So this really should have been observed last Thursday.
But some 30 years or so ago, most bishops in this country 
decided that it would be beneficial to observe this on Sunday, 
so more of the faithful could participate.
That’s why this is happening on Sunday.

Nevertheless, I think it’s important to explain something 
about our Christian Faith, and I want to do it in big, bold letters: 
we are not just telling stories.
Our Faith is built on facts: Jesus was born, he was crucified, 
he died and he rose from the dead, in a particular place and time;

People witnessed all these things, and they were prepared to die – 
very painful deaths – rather than deny what they saw.
Our Faith is built on facts; and if these things did not happen,
We are all wasting our time here.

But back to the main theme:
You and I see Jesus return to heaven, 
and it means you and I are going there.
More than that: it means, in a real sense, we are already there.

Howso? Because you and I are part of Jesus.
How many ways does Jesus have to make this clear?
He calls himself the Bridegroom, and the Church is his Bride.

Jesus calls himself the head, and we are his body.
He is the Vine, we are the branches.
As Saint Paul describes in the second reading, 
we share the same Holy Spirit, 
and all the explosive power and life 
that comes from having God’s Spirit within us.

The point I want to make is that there really is no separation.
The Body of Christ is not a dead body, scattered here and there, 
but a living Body – intact and full of life.

So the conclusion is inescapable: if Jesus is in heaven (and he is), 
then in some true sense, so are we!

Now, just to be clear: you and I have heaven, we have it now; 
but we can lose it. So it’s something you and I must grab and hold on to.
That insight is what set off Saint Paul.
In the second reading, you can hear how excited he was about this. 
Readers will often complain in the sacristy 
that Paul wrote these long sentences – and they are right. 

But if you think about it, that’s exactly what happens 
when someone is erupting with excitement. 
It’s an explosion of words.
Saint Paul realizes: he – and each of us – is already in heaven!
Or, maybe to put it another way, you and I already have heaven; 
we just don’t realize it. 

The difference between really grasping that, and not, 
is the difference between being an on-fire, all-in, filled-with-joy Saint of God,
And being a bored, sometime pew-sitter, 
who can’t wait to get out of church 
because he or she can’t see what it’s all about.

Some of you are here, right now. Maybe you’re half-listening right now!
That’s OK, I’m not offended; but for about 90 seconds, 
WAKE UP! WAKE UP! Listen just for 90 seconds, OK?

Jesus is real, Jesus is here, and what he offers is pure life.
There’s a smorgasbord of life laid before you; 
yet you can still starve if you can’t be bothered to reach out for it. 
That’s not your parents, that’s not your wife or husband;
It’s not my fault, or someone else’s, who failed you. THAT’S ON YOU.

It’s totally normal to be in a situation where you don’t get it.
It’s confusing, or boring, or whatever. Everybody goes through that.
Whatever you love, whatever gets you excited, still takes effort. 
You have to put some work in.
So this notion that when it comes to your Faith, 
someone has to do it all for you, cut up all your food in little pieces?
Feed it to you? Sorry, that’s bogus. That’s an excuse.

Do you like steak? I like steak. 
And if someone puts a hot, juicy steak in front of me,
I’m not going to say, “Oh, no one cut it up, so I can’t eat it! So unfair!”
Dude: I’m eating it if I have to use my bare hands!

My point being that when what I just told you sinks in:
You and I are already in heaven – just claim it!
Then you’re going to grab that steak and chow down.
It’s yours. Claim it! Don’t let anyone or anything keep you from it!

If you are in school, and you go to religious education, 
and something doesn’t make sense? 
Ask and keep asking! “No, tell me again.”

Here’s a “problem” no one has ever brought me:
“We have a student who keeps demanding more.”
Or, “Father! In front of church, 
we have parents and senior citizens picketing! 
They are demanding more opportunities to learn their Faith.”

Don’t get me wrong: our parishioners are great 
for seeking to grow in the Faith. 

The argument I’m making is that no one should be going hungry.
There’s plenty here, and if anyone isn’t getting enough; 
if there’s something I can do, our parish can do, that we’re not?
Please, just tell me. “Father! We need…we want…” Tell me.
We will find a way. You are already in heaven.
Heaven is already yours. Come and get it!

Jesus told his disciples – he told us – to ask for more, and keep asking.
“Ask and you shall receive,” he promised. Hold him to that promise!
He will absolutely keep it.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

What does it mean to be God's friend? (Sunday homily)

In the Gospel, three times we heard Jesus call us his friends. 
“Friends” – that’s very striking. So let’s drill into that.

First of all, how do we even do that?
God is so beyond, how do we have a friendship with God?
I can’t invite God over to play Euchre; I can’t help God repair his barn. 

This was the point of the Incarnation – of God becoming human.
Did the Apostles play cards with Jesus? I don’t know; 
but they did help him with his work, and he with theirs.
They ate and drank and traveled and joked together.

God became human so that we humans could be friends with God.

But what kind of friends?

The Greek philosopher Aristotle – 
who was great because of thought of so many things 
before anyone else did – 
figured out that there are three types of friends.

The first type are those who are merely “useful” – 
so we might think of people at the stores we visit, 
or who deliver things to us.
We might not really know them, yet we are friendly, 
precisely because we do business.

The second sort of friend are those just for pleasure: 
for example, others in a hobby or a club.

But true friendship requires more.
Aristotle said true friendship is oriented to what is good; 
Friends love the good in each other, and love the same good together.

In short, what makes a true friendship is virtue.
If I seek what is good, 
I am drawn to others who love those good things. 
If I don’t have virtue in me, I won’t be drawn to them;
And they won’t be drawn to me.
What would we have in common?

Notice, this is what Jesus is telling us. He says, 
“you are my friends if you do what I command you.”
In other words, love what I love.
See as good what I, your Lord, see as good.

If you have noticed, many of my homilies this Easter  
have been about heaven. 
Jesus’ death and resurrection are about bringing us to heaven.

And this Gospel is also about heaven.

A lot of people think gaining heaven is like passing a test.
I have to get the right answers. I have to know the right things.
I have to be good enough. 
If I’m in a state of mortal sin and I die, I go to hell. 
I better go to confession to get good enough again.

Now, it is absolutely true that if we are in mortal sin, 
and we don’t repent, and we die, yes we will go to hell for eternity.
That is true, and it is frightening, 
and that is an excellent reason to get to confession right away.

Nevertheless, it is still not about passing a test!
It’s about being friends with God.
That’s why we also call confession the sacrament of reconciliation.
And what did Aristotle say? Friends love the good together.

If you want to be a friend of God, love what God loves.
This is important, because if we are honest, we don’t always do that.

People will ask, why should someone go to hell 
for this or that reason. And this is why.
Every day you and I face the choice: do I love the things God loves, 
or do I love and do what I prefer, regardless of what God says?

Jesus is going his way, and he says, come with me, be my companion!
And what do we say?
How about, “Will it take more than an hour on Sunday?”
“Can we schedule it around these other priorities?”
Or, we might tell Jesus, “Maybe later; I’m busy right now.” 
Or, how about, “Can I just meet you there?”

I suspect that’s where a lot of people are.
They won’t spend time with Jesus along the way, 
they’ll just meet him “later” in heaven.
But what makes you think you will want to be with him then, 
if you don’t want to be with him now?

Of course, that raises the question, can someone be in heaven, 
even if they don’t know Jesus in this life?

There’s a longer answer, but here’s a manageable one.
When people seek the Good and live by it, they will discover, 
in the end, that it was Jesus all along.

That’s for other folks, not us. We know who Jesus is.
No excuse for us. Jesus invites us to be friends.
Not once-a-week acquaintances.
Not someone we “do business with” – meaning, here’s my tithe, Lord, 
now I expect a good harvest and no family problems this year.

As you know, I’ve been talking about our parish priorities – 
although I haven’t mentioned them in a bit. 
We’ve been focused on Lent and Easter.

Let me remind you of three of those priorities:
To provide a “better welcome” to those not part of our parish;
To foster “more disciples” – 
that is, to help each other to know and serve Jesus better; 
And to “seek out” those in our families and neighborhoods 
who aren’t believers, or aren’t practicing, and draw them to Christ.

Here’s the thing: there’s no way anyone can do this 
unless you are a friend of Jesus in that full sense.

My barber is a good guy – but I don’t tell everyone I meet 
that they should go to my barber!
However: if he changed my life? Then I would!
So if it’s, “I go to church, yeah…it’s what I do…”:
That’s not very compelling.

On the other hand, how about:
“My life is better, my life has been changed, because of my Friend”: 
that is a compelling story; 
I want to hear that story, and so do many others!

Some days, honestly, I don’t even want you to see me up here. 
What I mean is, it’s not about me. 
Not about my words or funny comments.
Maybe I said something good, or maybe I said something “off.”
It doesn’t matter.

It’s really only about what Jesus himself said. 
You hear him; his words:
“I want you to be my friend. Come with me. Join me.”

Sunday, April 29, 2018

God's Big Plan (first communion homily)

Imagine you’re an angel, 
And a long, long time ago, you have this conversation with God.
God calls you over for a talk.

He says, "I’m putting together a plan to save the human race.
My Son is going to earth, to become one of them."

"Wow, that’s pretty impressive!" you tell God.

"Wait, there’s more.
They’ll call him ‘Jesus’—and he will suffer and die—
and rise from the dead!
That’s going to show everyone the true evil of sin,
and also show them there’s a way out of sin, back to life!

"Wow, that’s awesome," the angel says to God.

"Yes, we think this will give the human race a totally new focus.
They’ll know they can be forgiven; and that they can change!
And, they won’t have to be afraid of suffering and death,
they’ll know they can share the very life of God!

"That will give them hope!"

"That’s a really great plan," you tell God. 

"Well, there’s more.
We think it won’t work, unless the human beings 
are part of it, not just spectators.

"See, a lot of folks will come long after
Jesus’ dies and rises again—and they need to be part of it, too!"

"Have you noticed," God says, "how the baby humans
want to touch everything?
And, everything goes into their mouths!
They love to eat!"

"So, I’m thinking: food!
Food could really help the human race get deeper 
into what Jesus is going to do for them."

"I’m thinking of using bread and wine."

But you ask, "God, how can bread and wine save them?"

"Well, it can’t! Bread and wine are nothing
if that’s all they are!"

"So, would it be, like, a symbol? Like a picture on the wall?"

"No, a symbol can’t save them, either!
It has to be really BE Jesus, or else it’s nothing!

"What they need is to eat and drink the life, and love,
the suffering and dying, and rising, of Jesus!
Eat and drink it.
That’s how it’ll be real to them;
That’s they’ll experience Him being part of them,
and they’ll become part of Jesus!
"So," God says, "I want them to eat Jesus’ Body and Blood."

"But, God, that sounds kind of yucky…"

"Well, it is yucky," God says.
But Jesus is going to suffer and die—
it is his Body and Blood that will save them!
They need to understand that.

But—so they won’t be afraid, we will use bread and wine!

"It will truly be Jesus—because only Jesus can save them;
but it will still look and taste like bread and wine—
so it will be approachable, not frightening.

"This is how they will literally be united with Jesus!"

"Wow, God! That’s quite a plan!"

"Well, I’ve been working on it for all eternity," God says with a smile.

But you have another question.
"Gee, isn’t that a lot for them to understand, all at once?"

"You’re right," God says.
"That’s why they won’t do it just once.
They’ll need to receive Jesus over, and over, and over!"

"Even every day?"

"Yes, if they want to.
Certainly every Sunday: that’s the ‘maintenance plan’:
Mass every Sunday is how they’ll come to understand
what Jesus did for them.

"Plus, Jesus will be present in their churches, in the Eucharist.
They’ll know how real he is!
They’ll be able to bring their friends,
and say, ‘See? Jesus is here! Jesus is real!
We receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Eucharist!

"What’s more, sharing the Eucharist this way
will show them a new way of living.

"When they come together at Mass, it’ll be everyone—
rich and poor, black and white;
people who speak different languages; 
grandparents, grownups, kids and babies; 
healthy people, sick people—everyone!

"And they’ll realize that only in Jesus can the world be one!
And when they realize how much God forgave them,
they’ll find the strength to forgive one another."

So, finally, you ask:
"Why are you telling me— I’m just an angel?"

"Because you’re going to be a guardian angel!
"Way in the future, in a place called Russia, Ohio,
someone will be born that you’ll be responsible for!
"You will help that child grow up, and grow into,
the life and love of Jesus Christ!
And the Eucharist will be absolutely central to that!

"Guardian angel, you will encourage that child:
to come to Jesus in the Eucharist;
not just one time, but week after week, even daily!

"I’m going to give that child a hunger for the Eucharist;
I want you to keep reminding that child:
‘Jesus is my Food; Jesus is my Life.’

"So, let’s practice that, guardian angel:
‘Jesus is my Food; Jesus is my Life.’

"Guardian angel,
you whisper that into that child’s ear
every day of his or her life. Every day!
‘Jesus is my Food; Jesus is my Life.’

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Shepherd's path and same-sex attraction (Sunday homily)

What makes a good shepherd is that he leads the flock 
safely to the right place. 
We may not know where he is leading us, or why, but this we know:
You and I are safe listening to his voice.

Every parish priest, Archbishop Schnurr, 
all our bishops, and the Holy Father in Rome: we are sinful men. 
The best we can do is follow Jesus, 
and point you in the same direction.

So in that spirit, I am going to talk about 
something controversial and delicate. 
Parents, I will do my best with my language.

I want to talk about the question of same-sex attraction.
I apologize that you don’t hear more from me on this, 
but it’s a hard topic to address the right way. 

There are so many questions I won’t be able to answer 
in the time I have.

As I said a moment ago, we sheep don’t always know 
why the path is the way it is. Sometimes it can be so hard;
Why does it need to be? 
It is so much easier, it seems, for to go our own way.
But you and I do not see where those easy paths take them.

What we do know is that Jesus longs for us 
to share his Resurrected life, in the New Creation. 
Remember: the choices you and I make now shape our future.
When Christ says, “don’t go that way!” 
He knows it will be an easy path, not to joy, but sorrow.

Let me make some quick points:

- As the Catechism says, we don’t really know why 
some people experience attraction to the same sex (2357).

- As far as we know, most people do not choose this, 
and for them, it is a trial.

- To feel these feelings is not a sin. 
It isn’t a sin to want something; the sin is in the choice you make. 

- But to want something that is morally wrong is a disorder. 
So the Catechism says this desire is “disordered.” 
You could also say “misdirected.” 

And I might add, the same thing is true of gluttony, of wrath, 
or sloth, or greed. Every one of us is “disordered”; 
but some of our disorders are more socially acceptable.

Now, I want to address three broader points. 
First, I want to talk about why this behavior is gravely sinful, 
and why we cannot and must not approve of it.

Then I want to talk about how we came to be 
where we are as a society. 

And then I want to talk about how we respond.

So, first, why are homosexual acts a mortal sin?
Again, let me quote the Catechism. 
“They are contrary to the natural law. 
They close the sexual act to the gift of life. 
They do not proceed from a genuine affective 
and sexual complementarity” (2357).

Notice what I just said: “they close the sexual act to the gift of life.” 
There are a lot of other things that fall under rubric, aren’t there?
So, if you’re wondering how we got where we are?
It’s because we’ve grown very accepting 
of many other sins against the Sixth Commandment – 
now this is just one more.

When we talk about Natural Law, what that means is this:
Even without looking at the Bible, or the words of Jesus, 
we can see what is right and wrong. 
Any high school biology text will tell you 
what the parts of our bodies are made for – 
and what they are NOT made for.

Natural Law points us in the right direction, 
but God’s Word gives us even greater light. 
Because this is not only about rejecting the gift of life
it is also, truthfully, about rejecting the true vocation of love.

When I say that, I know that sounds harsh.
I can hear people – even in my own family – saying angrily, 
“but gay people are just as capable of love as anyone else.”
And that is absolutely true.
But what I’m saying is this: that the advertising slogan is false. 
It is false to say, “love is love.” No, it really isn’t.

I love coffee. I love my country. I love my parents; I love my friends. 
If I were married, I would love my wife. And I would love my children. 
But do I love them all with the same love? Of course not.

The love of a man and a woman is unique; 
It can be mimicked, but only a man and a woman can enter into it.
Why? Because men and women are “complementary” – 
that is, they complete each other. Again, this is an obvious fact.

This union – and no other – produces children.
And when this union is chaste – meaning, 
rejecting all those other actions that are closed to the gift of life –
then, it calls forth from the spouses 
the self-emptying that leads to life. 

Remember what the Good Shepherd said: 
“He who would save his life must lose it.”

I know what people say: 
“But why not let people do what makes them happy?”
And the answer is,  the Good Shepherd knows where that path leads, 
and it isn’t to happiness.

When the Catechism says that same-sex acts 
lack “genuine affective…complementarity,” It means this:
The proper and healthy love between two men or two women 
is called friendship. 
It can even rise to the loyalty of brothers or sisters.
This is virtuous – this leads to life.

But when a man tries to find in another man, 
what can only be found in a woman, and vice-versa, they will not find it. 
And they will delude themselves to the truth in the process.

So for anyone who experiences these feelings, 
or maybe this is the challenge for someone you know:
I know what I’m saying is hard. 
But the truth is, most all* of us face hard paths at different points, 
in different ways. 

One of the hallmarks of our time is the notion 
that we’re entitled to avoid the hard path.
So we’re entitled to make an unwanted pregnancy “go away.”
So of course we want to “screen out” disabled people.
And if someone is in pain, or dying – just get rid of them.

But we are Christians: and Jesus said, 
“If you would be my disciple, take up your Cross, and follow Me.”
That is the path to Life. For everyone.

So, how did we get here?
This didn’t start with the “gay rights” movement.
It started long before, as our society progressively forgot 
what sex and marriage truly are. 

Fifty years ago, it was the pill.
Before that, it was normalizing divorce.
Long before that, it was the double-standard about promiscuity.
And before that, it was the notion that freedom 
is more important than the truth.

When we turned onto that path, the Shepherd warned us, 
but as a society, we didn’t listen. That’s how we got here.
And that’s why, this path is going to take us worse places still, 
until we finally turn back. 

So, how do we respond?

Several points quickly:

Don’t be surprised, and don’t be discouraged.
There is a larger battle underway. 
Ultimately, this is not our battle, but God’s.
This is finally about whether God is God, or we are our own gods.
You and I are called to be faithful.

Recognize the truth in what those we disagree with are saying.
There has been bullying and cruelty. 
It happens in schools and playgrounds. 

There is a legitimate need for tolerance, dignity and compassion.
The answer is not anger and ugliness, 
but to point out that there is no real compassion without the truth.

You and I must bear witness to the truth, wrapped in love.

Anyone who is wrestling with these things, you can come to me.
I am chaplain for a group called Courage, 
which a fellowship for men and women whose path in life 
includes these feelings.
I will treat you with respect and love. I will not lie to you; 
I will accompany you. I will listen to you and do all I can to help.

And everyone here, I plead with you: do exactly the same.
Your children, your neighbors, their friends, people around us 
need to know who they can trust, who they can talk to, 
who they are safe with.
They need the Good Shepherd; 
and it is everyone’s job 
to make him present in our deeply troubled world.

* I made this change after the first Mass.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

I love America!

Today, after Mass, I came back to the rectory as always. I start the coffee, and I remember, I am on my last bag of coffee beans. Then I remember, "Oh yes, I was going to look online to see if there's a company that can ship me coffee beans." I always buy beans, and always decaf, always the Spotlight brand from Krogers. It's the best price, and it's pretty good. But: they sometimes run out.

As I'm emptying the dishwasher, and then fixing my breakfast (bacon and eggs), I am thinking, "you have thought about this before, but you always forget. Don't forget this time!"

Properly chastened, as soon as I sat down at my desk with my coffee and breakfast -- after opening the office door, no one else is here; I'm hoping no one comes in till I've eaten my breakfast (And no one did, thank you, Lord!) -- I start browsing online for "bulk coffee beans."

Ah, it's like one of those bazaars in the Middle East (and I've been to them!); it's like Findlay Market in Over the Rhine, with all the wonderful choices! All the listings were calling out to me, "click on me! click on me!"

So I clicked on three or four.

So many choices! It all looked so delicious! Did you know you can get strudel flavored coffee? And many of these places will roast and blend your coffee just as you want. All for around $8-10 a pound.

Guess who won? Amazon -- because I have Prime membership, which costs $99 a year, but I think I save in shipping. On Monday I will have, delivered right to my door, five ten pounds of "European Fancy" decaf coffee, for the sum of $67.98. Ordering the extra bag got me a 15% discount. So that means $6.80 a pound, which might even be cheaper than what I pay at Krogers -- and I have to drive there!

This luxury that I just described didn't just happen. Most of humanity never experienced these wonders, and most today still don't. This is a product of freedom and hard work and rewarding industry and risk. What we have is precious, and it can be lost.

This is (one of many reasons) I love America!