Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Baptism Homily

Gospel: John 3:1-6

(Light and hold the Baptismal candle and then blow across it)

Faith is a fragile thing.

Just like this light that shines in the darkness is fragile. It can be snuffed out with little effort. A simple breath or a gust of wind can put us back into the darkness.

So it is with faith. It doesn’t take much for the beliefs we celebrate here today with Liam’s baptism to be extinguished. Faith is a fragile thing especially in this modern world we live in now.

But a flame also needs oxygen to stay lit and burning brightly. Let’s call this oxygen or this wind or this breath, the Holy Spirit.

What John’s Gospel is saying is we are born “from above,” or born “again,” if you look at the two meanings of the Greek word being used by John.

To be born “from above,” or born “again,” we receive the help of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus says, “unless one is born of water and spirit he (or she) cannot enter the Kingdom of God… what is born of spirit is spirit.”

To Christians, the Holy Spirit provides the light in our lives. And what is this light?

Light that banishes the darkness in our lives. Light that helps us to see the world around us. Light that puts everything into clear focus. Light that brightens our day. Light that helps living things to grow. Light that changes everything in our lives.

As parents, Godparents, family and friends, we are called to be the movement of the Holy Spirit in Liam’s life; to provide the needed oxygen for Liam’s light of faith to burn brightly for all eternity. We are called to be the light of Christ in Liam’s life.

Sounds like an awesome responsibility. Well, it is.

But it’s not one you are carrying out alone. Just as you were baptized in water and spirit, and born “again” or born “from above,” so you have the movement of the Holy Spirit actively working in your life and guiding you.

Share that movement of the Holy Spirit with Liam and his family. Help Liam to understand the importance of God in his life and he grows in the love of Jesus Christ.

“Amen, amen, I say to you…” keep the flame of faith burning brightly all throughout Liam’s life and for all eternity so Liam can clearly see the path God has put before him.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

"Table Of Plenty" - Reflection during Homily -Sixth Sunday of Easter

I still remember the first time I saw it.  A billboard with the picture of a little girl about four years old.

She was sitting at a table in front of a completely empty dinner plate. Her expression is what haunted me most.  It was not the overly sad face you would expect.  Her face revealed more the pain of being hungry.  It really stuck with me.  Like some ghost haunting my thoughts and dreams.

This was about 15-years ago.

Just like you, we were going to Church regularly and putting an envelope into the collection basket every time we went to Mass.  But God calls us all to do more.

Jesus Christ in his infinite wisdom nudges each and every one of us to look beyond the reality of our own lives to the reality of others.  And especially others in desperate need.  In this economy, there are lots of “others” in desperate need in our community.   Most of them are children.

As we heard Jesus Christ say in John’s Gospel today, “keep my commandments… love one another as I have loved you.”

Jesus used that image of a starving little girl to command me to open my heart more and hear the cries of His people.

Don’t we all have these moments in our lives where we feel God tugging at our heartstrings or pushing us outside our comfort-zones to give even more?

But listen closely to what Jesus is really saying in today’s Gospel:  We are commanded to love one another.   Not asked.  Not reminded.  Not cajoled.  Not prodded. Commanded.

This reading is from the Last Supper with his beloved twelve.  This is Jesus’ final time to explain to his disciples what is expected of them after He is gone.

In a moment, we will all honor this important life-altering conversation as the bread and wine are turned into the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As we set our Eucharistic table, our Church wants us to remember the hunger in our midst. Jesus commands us to “love one another.”

Now does that only mean all of us here in this room?  Or just our family and friends?   We don’t get off the hook that easily with Jesus.  No, He’s commanding us to love the entire human family.  And most especially the poor.

In fact, the most frequent thing Jesus reminds us of in His Gospels is to take care of the poor in our world.  If it is important to Jesus, it must be important to all of us.

So, what does that look like in our parish? If you ever have time on a Saturday morning or Monday or Wednesday mornings, I urge you to visit our parish’s two food banks to find out.   Or even stop by to help out.

What will impress you most is how loving and caring each of these individuals is in making sure the “least of our sisters and brothers” get something to eat and have someone listen to their needs.

We have an incredible group of people in our parish who pour out their love for the hungry in our community in meaningful ways.   They are truly living out the Gospel message.

The U-S Bishops wrote a beautiful letter to all Catholics a few years back called “A Place At The Table.”  It was a reminder that “every person (in the world) has a right to sit at the table of life, where … the basic hungers and needs of each person are met.”

Over 43-million people in the U.S. live in poverty.  Almost a million in our state alone.  Snohomish County ranks fourth in the state for the number of people living in poverty. The most devastating part:  most of them children.

In fact, you could fill up Safeco Field almost six times over with all of the children living in poverty in our state.

So, as we set our Eucharistic Table and break bread together, the Bishops remind us we are commanded by our Lord and Savior to “feed the hungry...”

As we take Jesus into our bodies and into our hearts, we are commanded to give Jesus to others by our actions. “Jesus can demand so much because he loves so much.  He asks no more than he’s already given or is about to give.” And that is to sacrifice.  To give.

For our community, we make that easy.   You’ve probably seen our Giving Baskets brought out at Mass during the collection each week.  We introduced these on Ash Wednesday. The Giving Baskets are our way of making it easy for each of us to live out Jesus’ command to “love one another.”

All we ask is that when you come to this Eucharistic Table, please bring a donation of food items for our two food banks.  If you have children, we encourage you to let them bring the gift forward so they will know what it is that Jesus is commanding us to do, too.

Our Catholic Catechism teaches us, “The Eucharist commits us to the poor.  To receive in trust the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest” (CCC 1397) in our community.

Pope Benedict XVI (The Sixteenth) calls the Eucharist the “‘sacrament of charity’ and urges us… to go out and serve the poor" as we live out our Eucharistic lives.

As we heard in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, the door was opened to all of us to experience Jesus Christ, but not without the help of the Holy Spirit.

Initially, Peter rejects the notion that non-Jews can experience Christ.  But Christ through the power of Holy Spirit helps him to amend his ways.

Perhaps we have a notion about the homeless or the hungry in our community that is critical or would deny them a place at our Eucharistic table.  Perhaps we are steeped in a belief that “these people” should be able to “help themselves.” Or we are only enabling “these people” by giving them handouts.  Or by giving to “these people” we are only aiding and abetting a welfare society.  I used to think that way.  But most of “these people” are kids.

Sometimes our biases lead us into error.  And, just like Peter, we can fail to see the world through Christ’s eyes.   These Giving Baskets will be brought out to help us to remember Christ’s loving command to do the will of God.

Just as Jesus has the His final word with his disciples in John’s Gospel…  and it’s not just a friendly, gentle reminder, but a command…  His final command to us is to make sure there are no empty plates at dinner tables in our community.

No little girls or little boys experiencing the pain of going hungry.  No haunting faces at this table of plenty.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

God Is With Us

All you need to do is watch this video to see that God is with us.  Every day.