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Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category

“I do believe, help my unbelief”

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

Homily preached at the Church of the Good Shepherd, January 30, 2011, Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

From ancient times, Christians have been visiting an area of rolling hills overlooking the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. There a church was built as early as the Fourth Century to mark the traditional site of the Sermon on the Mount. According to tradition, it was here that Jesus taught the Beatitudes, which we just heard in today’s Gospel reading.

The modern church that sits on this site was built in 1938. It’s a small, octagonal church with a central dome. The surroundings are expansive and vast. From a plaza beneath the church you can sit and look out over the Sea of Galilee. It is so easy to imagine listening to Jesus teach in the open air.

I’ve been to that spot three times, leading pilgrimages. Generally I would take the group into the Church, and we would listen to the same Gospel reading we’ve just heard, sitting in a circle around the altar. After a short period of reflection, we would go outside and discuss what the Beatitudes meant to us. (more…)

Meeting Joseph at the Home Depot

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Homily preached at the Church of the Good Shepherd on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 19, 2010

Who is Joseph? When we look at the Holy Family, we see Jesus, about whom we know so much. We see Mary, who holds a place of honor in our hearts. But what about Joseph?

We know so little about him. But maybe we know more than we think.

We learn a little about Joseph in today’s gospel reading. Here we see a truly heroic figure whose courage is somewhat forgotten. (more…)

The Two Doors

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Homily preached at the Church of the Good Shepherd, October 24, 2010

I don’t know how many of you have been to the Museum of Tolerance just down on Pico Boulevard. It is dedicated not only to remembering the Holocaust, but also many other forms of prejudice throughout history, and it’s definitely worth a visit. If you have time this afternoon, why put it off? It’s open today until 5 p.m.

The experience of self-examination begins right at the entrance to the exhibits. There are two doors. One is labeled “Prejudiced” and the other is labeled “Not Prejudiced,” and visitors are invited to enter through the door they think describes themselves.

Unfortunately, the door marked “Not Prejudiced” cannot be opened. Every visitor must humble himself or herself and enter through the door marked for the prejudiced.

In today’s gospel reading (Luke 18:9-14), we are also presented with two doors. One is labeled “Judgmental” and other is labeled “Non-judgmental.” But just like at the museum, we all must enter through the door marked “Judgmental.” (more…)

Today you will be with me in paradise

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

On the second of the Seven Last Words of Jesus (Luke 23:43)

The word paradise comes from a Persian word that had been incorporated into Greek. This passage is the only time it is used in the New Testament, and it is used in the ancient Greek version (Septuagint) of the Hebrew Testament also only once: to refer to the Garden of Eden. We didn’t start using it in English until around the year 1200.

The Persian word pairidaeza means a walled garden, especially a beautifully maintained royal garden where the king would walk in the cool of the evening. The pairidaeza was held in such high regard that even the King of Persia would plant trees there himself and tend to the flowers.

So why did Luke use this unusual word when recounting the promise of Jesus to the Good Thief? We can’t know for sure, but it does offer some tantalizing insights. (more…)

“Forsake foolishness that you may live”

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Homily for August 16, 2009 | 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Proverbs 9:1-6
Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

Today we are invited to consider the difference between foolishness and wisdom. But to really understand the difference, we have to set aside our preconceived notions of what these words mean.

A little boy was waiting for his mother to come out of the grocery store.

A stranger approached and asked, “Son, can you tell me where the post office is?”

“Sure!” said the boy, “Just go straight down this street a coupla blocks and turn to your right.”

“Thank you,” said the man. “I’m the new pastor in town. Why don’t you come to church on Sunday. I’ll show you how to get to Heaven.”

“Oh really…” said the boy. “You don’t even know the way to the post office.”

This story tells us something of how the world perceives wisdom. Wisdom is not just practicality, or business-as-usual. We see the conflict between the wisdom of God and Human wisdom in the Gospel reading today, when Jesus says he is the Bread of Life, and skeptics debate this among themselves. No doubt their debate was knowledgeable and scholarly, but it was not wise.

St. Paul tells us in the First Letter to the Corinthians:

“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”

The key to understanding true wisdom as proclaimed by the Gospel is to discard what the world considers wisdom and to instead become fools in the eyes of the world.

The world tells us that compassion and forgiveness are foolish, because someone might take advantage of us.

The world tells us that greed is wise, because it will make us happy.

The world tells us that gentleness is foolish, because strength is what really matters.

These are just a few examples of how the wisdom of God is viewed by the world as foolish. And we could find a lot more. That’s because our Faith is countercultural. To us, the values of the world are upside-down, but to the world the teachings of Jesus are foolish and naive.

St. Paul also said,

“God’s foolishness is wiser than
human wisdom,
and God’s weakness is stronger than
human strength.”

And that’s what today’s readings are all about. In the first reading today we hear Wisdom described as a welcoming woman. She has set a magnificent table and invited everyone to partake.

This is a classic representation of Wisdom as the Holy Spirit. She is the source of all creativity, all knowledge, all understanding. Anything that is true comes from her: science, art, mathematics, philosophy and all fields of human knowledge.

But wisdom is not just for scholars. We are all called to be wise in the ways of God.

One time a traveller visited a village where a great rabbi had recently died. This rabbi was renown throughout the area as a wise man. The traveller asked on of the rabbi’s disciples: “You rabbi was known to be so wise. What did he give his greatest attention to in life?” The disciple thought for a moment and said, “To whatever he was doing at the moment.”

And that’s where we can be wise in our own lives. Each of us probably knows someone who is wise. And I’ll bet that has nothing to do with education. Maybe it’s a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, whose wisdom shines forth. They are in tune with the things that really matter in life, and that sensitivity has formed them in a special way.

Each of us needs to do the same as we strive toward Wisdom. Wisdom is not navel-gazing or pontificating on obscure points of philosophy. Wisdom is leading our lives in a way that is attuned to the plan God has for each of us, and evaluating our choices in the light of that plan.

Of course we also need to realize that being a fool in the eyes of the world should not involve plain old stupidity! We have plenty of examples in the world today of people who claim to be following the path of God who are just plain stupid.

If we live our lives in true wisdom, will the world recognize us as wise? Probably not. We can assume they’ll think we’re fools. And if we get to that point, we know we’ve made some progress toward true wisdom.

Dorothy Day, the great Catholic prophet who set up homeless ministries in many American Cities in the 20th Century, used to say:

“We acknowledge that we are fools;
and wish that we were more so.”

God’s wisdom is foolishness to the world. We need to be  a little more foolish each day to become wise.

Let’s start today. Let’s each ask ourself: What can I do today that’s just plain foolish?