This time of the year can be wonderful for many families — reunions, graduations, first communions, weddings, the 4th of July holiday. But at the same time family gatherings can also be disheartening when disagreements turn to resentment and even separation.
On a broader scale, the same thing happens in religion and politics. For example, in our church and our nation we have discord over cultural and humanitarian issues. How do we keep our households together?
In the time of Jesus the Middle Eastern household was large and extended. Everyone — parents, siblings, cousins — all lived together in the same compound. To leave the family or marry outside it was unthinkable. Belonging to the family group provided protection, housing, food and value systems by which to live.
The first century followers of Jesus, therefore, could not believe what they heard Jesus say as quoted in today’s gospel — that to be his disciple one must not love mother, father, siblings, children more than him.
Today, in our society households are defined in a variety of ways. Few families live together in the same neighborhood much less the same house like they did during times of assimilation or the Depression.
Of course, this is not true for everyone. While they learn to speak a new language and find work, refugees and immigrants in our Capital District huddle together with family members and friends in worn out apartments not far from this very church building. Like our ancestors who migrated here these people sustain one another until they can get established on their own.
What does it mean to extend hospitality to strangers? The involvement of this parish in the Family Promise program brings to life the story in the first reading. A woman of influence tells her husband they should furnish a room for the prophet Elisha who was holy not because he preached orthodox doctrine but because he did the work of God. Grateful for what we have, we extend hospitality, new life and hope, to strangers because it is the responsible thing to do.
During this Independence Day weekend these readings help us think about the ideological American household and what is keeping us together. We examine the relationships between faith in God and faith in our nation. According toMassimo Faggioli Church teaching actually favors acceptance of the nation-state as the ideal means to develop a political dimension of human life that promotes the common good.
This assertion creates a conundrum for Catholics in the United States. Not all of us agree on every cultural issue. How do we look out for one another at the same time we respect our differences? When do we oppose the passage of laws that deny human beings the right to live decent lives without fear? How do we voice our abhorrence when elected officials use morally reprehensible rhetoric?
The Second Vatican Council taught us that God works through culture. When dominant trends in a society contradict faith in God and Christian values, faith communities tackle the causes of those trends. Confronting such inclinations by employing Christian perspectives on community life becomes a task especially for the local parish family. 
Perhaps this is what Jesus was talking about in today’s gospel. Adhering to and acting upon the values he taught will require serious consideration on our part. He was not really commanding his followers to leave their families as much as he asked them to extend the hospitality, the values, the security they experienced in their Mediterranean households.
On local level it may mean being involved in our parish social justice programs — the food pantry, the sister parish in Darien, prison ministry and Family Promise to name a few. On another level it may mean listening to others intently, understanding different viewpoints on issues, seeking ways to keep the family together.
Curran, Larry. Overview of the Notre Dame Study of Catholic Parish Life, Report #10, 1989. An old study but still valuable.
Categories: Homilies | Tags: family, religion, Jesus, refugee, God, immigrant, households, nation, independence, Vatican Council, culture, values, morally, elected | Permalink.
June 24, 2017
Homily – 25 June 2017 – Fear Nothing
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time A – 25 June 2017 – Fear Nothing
Click Here for Today’s Biblical Texts
When he was elected president in the midst of the Great Depression Franklin D. Roosevelt encouraged the American people to regain faith in themselves. The depression took a toll on this country – taxes were rising, industries were unproductive, foreign trade was almost non-existent, farmers had no markets and the savings of many families were erased.
In his inaugural address, FDR outlined in broad terms a perspective he would bring to his leadership. He reminded Americans that the nation’s common difficulties concerned only material things and, that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Not all people in this country today have the same fears that some of our forebears had in the 1930s. But different kinds of anxieties can create a collective panic attack. Journalist Edward Luce lists these symptoms — a growing opioid epidemic, the decline in life expectancy, increasing intolerance for other people’s points of view, and a fading enthusiasm to join social groups. 
If you are in prison today you fear the inmates and guards. If you are homeless you are scared of other people on the street. If you are without food you worry about your health. If you are a gay or lesbian or transgendered person you fear prejudice. Whatever your color you are afraid of the consequences. If you are traveling you worry about terrorism.
How does God figure into these concerns? In the first reading Jeremiah delivers bad news to the Israelites. The city of Jerusalem would be captured; Jews would be arrested and detained in a humiliating encampment. Although he described God as one who would protect people from oppression Jeremiah himself was persecuted and jailed for “denouncing” the ruthless king Nebuchadnezzar. (DeBona 193-94)
In the gospel Jesus sent his followers on a mission and, as he often did before, he predicted that they would face difficulties, that their message would be rejected. Many early Christians were persecuted, jailed, murdered for sticking to the moral principles and lifestyles Jesus modeled for them. Nevertheless, Jesus told them to “fear nothing.”
Pope Francis added his thoughts in a recent TED talk. He warned the world’s powerful leaders to be more humble or face ruin. He called on all of us to join him in a “revolution of tenderness” to “react against evil” by putting ourselves “at the level of the other,” to listen and to care.
We do not face the same problems that existed in this nation after the Depression. But whenever we are afraid to speak up for justice or to practice a Christian way of living we contribute to the problems. Sometimes we let the opinions of others, true or not, prevent us from doing what we know to be right. Sometimes, by ignoring the problems or pretending they do not exist, we perpetuate them.
President Roosevelt died in 1945 while in the fourth term of his presidency. In 1960, his wife Eleanor Roosevelt published a book called You Learn by Living. In the chapter titled “Fear – the Great Enemy” she wrote, ”The danger lies in refusing to face the fear, in not daring to come to grips with it … You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” 
Our belief in God’s unconditional and tender love for us gives us strength and confidence to advance the kingdom of God against all odds. However, beliefwill not by itself accomplish peace and justice in our communities unless we take action. In that 1933 inaugural address FDR also said “this nation asks for action and action now.”
Many of us agree but do not know exactly what to do. Today as we eat bread and drink from the cup, as we claim again that we are the body of Christ, let’s imagine our lives not marked by fear, but rather by bold determination and solidarity.
Luce, Edward. The Retreat of Western Liberalism. (NY: Atlantic Monthly Press) 2017, 38
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his 1841 essay Heroism, “Always do what you are afraid to do.”
Categories: Homilies | Permalink.
June 10, 2017
Homily – Trinity Sunday – 11 June 2017 – Reimagining a Mystery
Trinity Sunday A – June 11, 2017 – Reimagining a Mystery
Click here for today’s biblical texts
Apple just released a new device called HomePod. It is designed to compete with other companies in the field of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality. Farhad Manjoo wrote, “Apple seems to be transforming itself into a new kind of company, one that prioritizes the nerdy technical stuff that will become the foundation of tomorrow’s intelligent machines.”
Many mainstream religions also are experiencing transformations while others avoid making any significant changes. Our church, just like Apple, eager to serve its customers in order to stay in business, also needs to reinvent itself from time to time. Theologian Fr. Joseph Martos wrote, otherwise Catholicism is destined to become a church of beautiful ceremonies that have little to do with the real lives of people. 
In this light, how do we grasp one of the doctrinal anchors of Christianity, the Trinity? It cannot be ignored or dissolved but it does need to be reinvented or re-imagined in order to make sense in this age. The doctrine is not explicit in scripture and took close to 350 years to develop in theological circles. So too, to grasp what it means to say we believe in a triune Godhead today requires continued investigation.
Jesuit Roger Haight writes that although God is a mystery the doctrine of the Trinity, should not be beyond our comprehension. Haight continued, it is the story of human salvation as the Christian community has encountered it.  For us then it is a very real story of the creative action of God; the failure of humans to care for one another and creation; the liberating mission of Jesus of Nazareth, God’s chosen one; and, the spirit of that mission entrusted to us as a powerful force in our lives.
Today’s gospel helps us focus on one part of the story. The passage this morning follows Jesus’ conversation with a Pharisee, Nicodemus, about what it means to be born again of water and the spirit. The reading calls our attention to the action of God in our lives, revealed in three persons: “God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” How this Godly action is manifested today depends on our response to it.
We strive to love the beauty of creation without trying to control it. We yearn to repair the world and to rejoice in the wonders of God’s continual creativity. We strive to make the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth tangible by our deeds and to pass those teachings on to others. We look for ways to give thanks for our liberty and to embrace our responsibility to redeem others. Our calling is to create a kingdom of God on earth, a beautiful, peaceful world filled with dignity, truth and justice. 
These three actions — creation, redemption and revelation — comprise the narrative shared by all of us. They recognize that the work of God continues in our lives today. They remind us of the healing power of reconciliation. They give us hope for tomorrow.
There is really nothing mysterious about the doctrine of the Trinity unless we choose to keep it a secret. Karl Rahner was keen on saying the Trinity resides in us. Built on centuries of human narratives, the teachings about the triune God continue to pave a path for us. Although our journeys are not the same, they are guided by the same holy spirit.
Apple did not invent the computer, the smart phone or any other popular device. It is a successful company because of its willingness to reinvent technologies in order to be relevant in the marketplace. Religions like ours need to do the same.
Our belief in a triune God is not to be underestimated or disregarded. However, our convictions need to be lived out in ways that are constantlybeing reimagined in order to be effective in a modern world.