Saturday, June 7, 2014

Homily – Pentecost 2014 - The Spirit She Moves In Mysterious Ways

Acts 2:1-11

1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13

John 20:19-23


It's so funny how the Holy Spirit is at work in all our lives.
Usually in a moment of weakness, our Creator reveals Himself to us through the Holy Spirit and provides a beautiful life's lesson. 
Christ comes in amazing gift form to heal us from our broken human condition.  And it all happens through the power of the Holy Spirit that is breathed on us all at Baptism.
As my favorite rock group U2 writes,  “The Spirit… She moves in mysterious ways.”
Why “She?”  From the Old Testament, Wisdom is known as Sophia (Proverbs 8).  We refer to her now as the Holy Spirit.  And the Holy Spirit has guided the Mother Church throughout the centuries.
During our formation, the Archdiocese’s lead theologian Fr. Mike Raschko said the following:  “The Holy Spirit is a difficult topic to discuss because 'she' is very elusive. The Spirit is the one person of the Trinity that doesn't have 'form' around her.  When we think about the Father, we primarily think about the creator. We can relate to the Father as the maker of the universe. When we think about the Son, we think about the person of the Trinity that entered history to redeem us (Jesus). There is a human being with a human story to look at. When we think about the Holy Spirit, there is nothing to quickly grab onto.”
The Apostles are experiencing their first Holy Spirit moment in today’s Gospel and it transforms their lives forever. 
They’re in hiding, angry, worrying, freaked out, then Jesus walks through locked doors and says, “Peace be with you,” breaths the Holy Spirit upon them and everything changes. 
Fear and darkness are banished.   Courage and enthusiasm for the Gospel take their place.  In that moment, Christ’s Church is created.
“The Spirit… She moves in mysterious ways.”
I had a transformative Holy Spirit experience a few years back while on a trip to Europe with my family.
As you know, on Friday, we commemorated the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, the turning point to World War Two in Europe. 
On a cold, blustery and rainy day in December of 2011, our family traveled to Normandy Beach. 
We drove a rental car from the beautiful French village of Bayeux. Needless to say, driving in a foreign country where English is not the official language provides challenges for most Americans. When you are an impatient driver like me, the frustration gets magnified a hundredfold.
My son Connor was the navigator for the trip due to his brilliance at reading maps, and operating complicated GPS systems.
Unfortunately he took the brunt of my frustration as we tried in vain to find the Normandy American Cemetery. I was feeling lousy for letting my Irish temper get the best of me while driving through the French countryside.
Late on a dark dreary day, we finally found our destination. At first, I drove down to Omaha beach to see where the U.S. troops landed. We spent a quiet moment walking the beach as waves washed the shores where so many young men the ages of our two sons had died on June 6, 1944.
On the hillside above the beach were some German bunkers. While Sean and Connor were crawling around these dens of death and destruction, I walked up the hillside alone and noticed that the cemetery was just a little further up the path.
Saving Private Ryan is a favorite movie. Like most people, I cry every time James Francis Ryan walks through the cemetery as an old man filled with all those painful memories.
As I prepared for what I was about to experience, I prayed a decade of the rosary for all those young lives cut short on that fateful and important day in our history. I also prayed my family would forgive me for losing my cool while driving there.

I was by myself as the rows and rows of crosses appeared after rounding a corner.  Emotions swelled.  A tear ran down my cheek.
Just then, a guy walked up and asked, "Are you an American?" I said, "Yes," and he introduced himself as "Andy" and started showing me around the cemetery.
He told me not all of the graves were for servicemen. Three women are buried at the cemetery, mostly servicewomen nurses and Red Cross workers.
He asked what I did. I told him I was in formation to become a deacon in the Catholic Church. He then showed me the graves of four chaplains who died on the beach that day.  Andy said chaplains had one of the most dangerous jobs in the Normandy invasion due to their low numbers and high death rate.

I asked Andy what he did at the Cemetery. He said nonchalantly, "I'm the Director."
Just then my family showed up. I introduced everyone to Dwight "Andy" Anderson, Director of the Normandy American Cemetery.

Then he showed us the graves of the brothers who inspired the movie Saving Private Ryan:  Preston and Robert Niland. He told us the movie embellished some of the details, but basically got much of the story right.
Two brothers were killed during the invasion, one on Omaha beach, the other on Utah beach. A third brother Edward was a prisoner of war in a Japanese camp in the Pacific at the time of the Normandy invasion. The fourth brother Frederick "Fritz" Niland eventually was returned home. He's the one the movie was about.
After spending a long time showing us the outdoor stone chapel and other important grave markers, he asked our family if we would join a few other Americans on site that day to take down the American Flag for the night. We said, "We'd be honored."
My wife Mary offered to video the experience on my iPhone. Oldest son Sean took photographs. Connor and I joined the ranks as the lowering of colors service began.
As the flag touched our fingers and we began to fold it, the skies opened up in a torrential downpour. It was almost as if heaven was sending down tears on this solemn moment.
Just as the rain soaked us on that cold December day, the Holy Spirit is drenching the disciples at the feast of Pentecost, pouring over them and changing them forever.
“The Spirit… She moves in mysterious ways.”
The quiet whisper of God in our special moment plays loudly and clearly in my mind now:  When you're lost, when you’re frustrated, when you’re angry, when you’re freaked out, trust in God, and God alone, to get you through it. Allow the Holy Spirit to pour down on you and everything will be alright.
My exasperation with driving, getting lost, backtracking, double-backtracking, was all part of God's plan to make sure our family experienced something remarkable at Normandy.
Had we not gotten lost, we would have never received a beautiful gift from God.  We would have missed a divine moment when heaven and earth intersected, but for a brief moment. 
Jesus reminds his disciples this weekend his peace is with them always.  Trust Christ’s peace in your life.
As we experience Pentecost, I encourage you to let the Holy Spirit soak you with Christ’s goodness.  Let it permeate your very being.  Let is transform you in ways that will heal your troubled soul. 
Allow the Spirit to move in mysterious ways in your life. 
May the peace of Pentecost be with you always.

Homily - AMHS Baccalaureate

Acts 22:30;23:6-11

1 Timothy 6:17-19

John 17:20-26


Well, you made it.  But the journey doesn’t end here.
Actually, as Disciples of Christ, our journey never ends until we enter the Kingdom.  But our journey through this life requires several things: courage, commitment and perseverance.  Being disciples of Christ is never easy. 

In today’s first reading, the only apostle prophetically called by Jesus to discipleship, St. Paul, is thinking, maybe this is it.  Maybe my journey will end right here and now in Jerusalem before these angry, blood-thirsty men. 
Even his captors fear for his life as a fight ensues over Paul’s radical devotion to Jesus Christ. Because his whole experience with Christ flies in the faces of Sadducee beliefs, they were ready to tear him apart.
But Jesus gives Paul the comforting, or maybe not so comforting, words;
”Take courage.  For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.”
Rome is where his journey will end as he’s beheaded and made a martyr after many years of spreading the Gospel throughout the Mediterranean.  Paul was the model of courage, commitment and perseverance.
Mirroring St. Paul’s experiences is today’s saint.  It’s the Memorial Day for St. Boniface, Bishop and martyr. 

He could have stayed put in his comfy 8th Century monastery in England, but instead wanted to be a missionary and share the Gospel with the pagans in the wilds of Western Europe. 
Some experts say, St. Boniface willed himself to be a martyr.  He wanted to die for his faith.  Pretty intense, huh?  St. Boniface was a model of courage, commitment and perseverance.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is praying for all of His followers throughout the centuries, especially those who will face hardships.  That includes you.  Jesus is praying for you, too.
In some of his most important prayers to His Father before His crucifixion, Jesus is praying for all future believers.  Jesus is praying for unity among his believers.  Jesus is triumphantly drawing all of us to His embrace.
But are we open to that embrace?  Do we want to face hardship?  Or in our privileged lives as Americans, have we become numb to Christ’s love? 
As our own Archbishop J. Peter Sartain puts it, “You were made for God.  God loves you.  God forgives you.  God is extending a hand of friendship to you.  God has a plan for you.  God is patient with you.  God will never abandon you.  God wants you to be with him forever.”
Just know, wherever you are on your faith journey, Jesus is praying for you.  And Jesus is ready to welcome you into his loving embrace.  
May God bless each and every one of you.  We’ll be praying for you, too. 

Homily - ICOLPH School Baccalaureate

Acts of the Apostles 20:28-38
John 17:11b-19

Goodbyes are always tough. 
But go through them we must, sometimes, over and over again in our lives.  And each time we say goodbye it’s painful.
Just ask the people St. Paul is saying goodbye today in the Acts of the Apostles, as we hear “(the people) were weeping loudly.”
Today, our eighth graders say goodbye to ICOLPH school.  Yes, there’s weeping here too.  Hopefully for your sake none of it will be too “loudly.”   I know teenagers embarrass easily.
For our graduates, this has been home for many years.  In fact, for some, this is the only school you’ve ever known.  But now is the time to say goodbye.

Ahead are struggles and triumphs, new friends, and old friendships that will change.  Ahead is the uncharted territory of high school and then adulthood.
Are you a little nervous about that?  It’s OK.  Maybe your excited?  That’s OK, too.  Maybe you’re a little of both?  Totally normal.
The apostle Paul knew that with change comes a mix of emotions as you walk on to new horizons.
For those we leave behind, there’s sadness. 
Hey, Fr. Hersey and I are sad because we’re losing some of our best altar servers.  But great replacements will step forward and our seventh and six graders will do great, too.
And for our soon to be 9th graders, please remember to continue to serve your Church community as an usher or greeter or music minister, and eventually lector or Eucharistic minister.
St. Paul has left us with an important message as we move on in our lives:
“We must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, 'it is more blessed to give than to receive'"
These are words to live by.  Helping those who are on the margins in our world and self-sacrifice, these are two beautiful ways we live out the Kingdom here on earth.
These words should be your North Star as you navigate the waters of change that lie ahead. 
And Jesus has a message for you today, too.  It comes in the form of a powerful prayer for his followers.  He prays it to his Father just before his crucifixion as you heard in today’s Gospel:
“Consecrate them to the truth.  Your word is the truth.  As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.”
He’s talking about each and every one of you.  You’re being sent into the world.  Jesus has a mission for each of you as you are being sent into the world (just as he had a mission for St. Paul).  In the years ahead, each of you will figure out what that mission is.
When you get to college someday, you might find yourself in a Newman Center.  This is a place for Catholic young men and women to gather on campus for fellowship.
These centers are named after a famous Catholic named blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman.  He was an Anglican who converted to Catholicism at Oxford, the largest university England.  He went on to found the Catholic college in Dublin, Ireland, called University College.

Cardinal Newman has a message for you today, too.  As you hear his words, think about what plans God has for your life.
Cardinal Newman said, “God has created me to do him some definite service; he has committed some works to me which he did not committed to another.  I have my mission – I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.  I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.  He has not created me for nothing.  Therefore, I will trust him. “
Do you trust in God and His call and purpose for your life?
That’s what Jesus is praying for today.  He’s praying for you, his disciple.  His wish is for you to be sanctified, and consecrated to His Father’s truth and to holiness. 
The “word for consecration comes from the Hebrew word meaning holy or set apart for God.  This word also means to be equipped with qualities of mind and heart and character for such a task or service.”

The truth you are being consecrated to is what Cardinal Newman was talking about in his message to you.  It’s your mission as you say “goodbye” to ICOLPH School to start searching for the plan God has for your life. 
How do you do this? 
Now your deacon has an important message for you:  Learn to pray. 
Unplug from your iPhone, iPad, video games, computer, TV -- all these man-made devices.  And plug into the divine source of your very being and existence in this world, the one who gifted you with life. Plug into God.
Take at least five minutes a daily and do nothing, but pray.  If you don’t know what to say, just sit still before your creator and listen for His voice. 
In my humble opinion, the problem with today’s world is that we have so much chaos and busyness going on that we fail to find time to listen to the quiet voice of our Lord that exists in our heart. 
Instead, we get caught up with human emotions -- that are usually NOT divinely inspired -- and say and do stupid things. 
Sometimes we even have the arrogance to think, “I did that because I was inspired by the Holy Spirit,” when in fact, the inspiration came from your own head, and the voice inside of you that’s shaped by your human experiences.  It is not the voice of God.
To hear the voice of God, you need stillness and quiet.  You need to be open to the spirit moving within you. 
If the voice you hear is calling you to goodness, kindness, compassion and love, it is the voice of God.  Follow it.
If the voice is calling you to suspicion, judgment, hatred, and revenge, it is not the voice of God.  Do Not Follow It!
These are powerful messages you heard today. 
These grown-up thoughts should make you all a little nervous and a little excited.   It’s why some of us are shedding tears today because we know the journey ahead into adulthood won’t always be easy. 
Stay close to our buddy Jesus, his Father the creator of the universe, and the Holy Spirit.  This Holy trio will help guide you as you find your way and discover the plan God has for your life.
I want to congratulate each and every one of you.  I’m so proud of you.  Go forth and boldly live out the plan God has for you and your lives.  Go make a difference in this world.