Monday, October 22, 2012

Homily for the Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time October 21, 2012

Jesus Shatters His Disciples's Worldview 

The Gospel reading for the day is Mark 10:35-45

The disciples just don’t get it, do they?

Jesus has repeatedly taught the disciples – and us – that the Son of Man must suffer, be rejected and be killed, and rise after three days. But the disciples didn’t understand him.

Jesus shattered their worldview.
And for the past weeks we have also witnessed ambition and jealousy among the disciples while Christ keeps explaining how they must die to selfishness and take up their cross.

Peter rebukes Jesus for mentioning suffering as a pathway of discipleship; Peter wanted Jesus to be a military messiah that would rout the Romans. But Jesus says no. It’s about the Cross.

Jesus shattered Peter’s worldview.

Peter James, and John witness Jesus in his Transfigured glory. They likely felt as if they had a privileged place among Jesus’ followers.

The disciples are discouraged when they are unable to perform an exorcism. And then they become upset that other followers of Jesus who could drive out demons.

The twelve become jealous and begin to pout and tell Jesus to stop the other disciples from performing good works.
Imagine their envy. They admit that they are jealous because those disciples of Jesus are not following them; they try and cloak their envy by saying that these others do not follow them. But the truth is out.

The nameless disciples were following Jesus and that is what gave them the authority to drive out the demons! That had to blow a hole in the twelve disciples’ egos.

But the twelve argue among themselves which of them was the greatest. They want to be seen! The boys have it all wrong about leadership in the kingdom of God. And these men are the first bishops in our church. [Just sayin’.] The Twelve have issues. They were so focused on themselves, their own importance, their own AUTHORITY!

And Jesus shatters their worldview.

The disciples fell for the temptations of the devil. They wanted to preserve everything they had, they wanted positions of power and wanted to be popular. They wanted glory, but they did not want the Cross.

Just last week we heard about the rich young man was possessed by his possessions and wealth and couldn’t let go of them in order to follow Christ. Then Jesus’ twelve disciples become worried about what they’re going to get out of following Jesus.
This sounds way too familiar. What’s in this for me? What about me!! Me, me, me! Me, myself, and I – the unholy trinity of selfishness.

Well, today’s gospel is another example of just how dull-edged the disciples were.

Believe it or not, James and John approach Jesus with a request. "Teacher, grant that in your glory we may sit at your right and left."

You read Mark’s gospel and see the stupidity jump off the pages. Was their request coming from selfish motives or a sense of self-importance? Or both?

James and John did not understand the cross, so they wanted to ignore it and go for the glory instead.

When the other ten disciples heard this, they became angry at James and John. Ah, there’s nothing like pride, envy, greed, lust for power, and jealous anger

Jesus said: “You HAVE NO IDEA WHAT you are asking.”

Jesus shatters their worldview.

Some of you might say the same of marriage or a particular profession or vocation in life you have chosen. If I knew then what I know now….

Trust me, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I allowed myself to be ordained as a deacon. If I knew then what I know now…. Well, I had no idea what would be asked of me.Balancing my time as a husband, father, full-time teacher while serving as a deacon is a fine art. Yet it has been an incredible blessing in ways I never imagined.

James and John and the others may have been feeling that tension in their own lives. I can see Jesus shaking his head. He loved them, don’t get me wrong, but they weren’t the brightest pumpkins in the patch.

Some of them, like Peter, James and John may have been a little soft in the gourd, if you know what I mean. But the Lord still worked great miracles through them.

That’s great news. But he can only do that if we humble ourselves.

Those in authority sometimes lord it over others. But it cannot be that way with us. Rather, whoever wishes to be first will be the last.
Jesus shatters our worldview.

In the U.S., the idea of success is often based on the need to prove that “I am better than you.” Sometime relationships are based on competition and the need to win fights or arguments [or debates], and dominate others through arguing or violence.

The idea of being last in order to win is an absurd idea according to our world. 
But Jesus bore our pains and sorrows, endured our sufferings; was pierced through, nailed to the cross, yet by his wounds we are healed.

So Jesus’ vision for us as a community is one where the rich, powerful, and privileged reach down to help the poor, powerless, and unfortunate. Jesus calls us to be His Church, Members of His Body, where the weak support the strong, and the strong support the weak!

To be first and the greatest according to Christ is to serve the needs of others. Jesus’ challenge is a call for us to “servant leadership”.

Jesus reassembles our worldview.

Leadership in the kingdom is not about power, it’s not about possessions, it’s not about popularity. It’s about emptying ourselves so we can serve others in love.

As I look out, I see devoted, faithful parishioners who so often just show up to do the work necessary for our fish fries or the Kermes or the summer social; the ladies who quilt, the lectors, the cantors, the servers, the members of Lazarus Samaritan who provide meals for those mourning the loss of a loved one and visit the sick and homebound, the many volunteers who assist in the RCIA, the clothes closet, and the St Vincent de Paul, the CAJE committee, the parish pastoral Council members, Clabber Club, the choir, musicians, the men’s club, the ladies club; and many other volunteers, and the list goes on and on. But our ministry can sometimes seem invisible. And we don’t always want to be invisible, do we? We want to be seen and heard.

But isn’t that what Jesus meant when he called us to be salt for the earth and the light of the world? Salt disappears once we put it on our food and it serves to bring out the best flavors. So we are called to bring out the best in others as we disappear, so to speak.

Jesus also called us to be the light of the world. Yet light is also invisible; light itself is that which illuminates all things; light enables us to see things, but we don’t actually see light itself. So, again, we get to be invisible as we help others shine.

In many ways you are the invisible members of the church that make this parish work.

So when we quit focusing only on ourselves, and take up our cross, then we will view the world through the eyes of Jesus Christ. He will reassemble our worldview. And we will realize that Jesus has become our worldview. We will only see Jesus

And in taking up the cross and becoming a servant, then we will receive glory.

Then we won’t be arguing about who is the greatest, or who is number one or number two, or at the right or the left.… instead we will be so focused on Christ as we seek to embrace the stranger, and love our neighbor as ourselves, being the light of Christ, willing to disappear from view so that others may shine. 

And therein lies the mystery and the glory of the cross.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Vatican II: The Essential Texts

Vatican II: The Essential Texts
Introductions from Pope Benedict XVI and James Carroll
Preparatory Material by Edward P. Hahnenberg
Documents edited by Norman Tanner, S.J.
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Image (September 4, 2012)

I am puzzled by this book. I am not sure of the intended audience, or whether it will find a wide audience. 


The introduction by Pope Benedict is from an address he gave to the Roman Curia 22 December 2005 and is where he enunciated his now familiar dichotomy between reference to the "hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture" and the "hermeneutic of reform." Yet it may not be familiar to the average Catholic, but likely only to Church historians, Ecclesiastical journalists and theologians.


The title of Benedict's talk is: What Has Been the Result of the Council? and to be honest, I am not sure he answered the question, except for the fact that he points out that of the two movements stated above, there must be continued dialogue.


As for James Carroll's Introduction, it appears he represents "the hermeneutic of reform." 


The Preparatory Material by Edward P. Hahnenberg before each of the documents was worthwhile reading, yet pales in comparison to the more thorough, series entitled "Rediscovering Vatican II" published by Paulist Press in 2006.


As for the documents, they are new translations, as opposed to the familiar translations by Austin Flannery, O.P.


Yet there is a freshness in reading the documents with a different interpretation. 


By far the best part of the book was re-reading the documents. There is a spirit of enthusiasm that is kindled for Christ, the Liturgy, and the Sacraments, and the Church as one reads the documents again, as if for the very first time.


It would behoove every Catholic to actually read the documents for themselves, especially Sacrosanctum Concilium for those concerned about Liturgy and Dei Verbum for those advocating more bible-based homilies and faith formation. 


Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes should be mandatory reading for every conscious Catholic and anyone claiming to speak for the Church or claiming publicly to be a Catholic.


The last two document: Declaration on Religious Freedom and Declaration on the Church's relation to Non-Christian Religions are particularly poignant given the rise of Islamic extremism and the political rancor among conservatives and liberals and those who would wed the altar with certain political parties or platforms.


Though it has been fifty years since good Pope John convened the Second Vatican Council, and, yes, the world has changed, in many respects the world is in just as much turmoil or more in 2012 as it was in 1962.


Unfortunately history has seemingly taught us little to nothing regarding war and peace and the efforts to promote the human dignity of all human beings as persons created in the image of God.


May God have mercy on us all.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the above book for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Angels All Around Us: A Sightseeing Guide to the Invisible World


Angels All Around Us: 
A Sightseeing Guide to the Invisible World  -
Anthony DeStafano 
Paperback 224 pages 
Publisher Image Books (October 16, 2012)

When I first received Anthony DeStafano’s newest book, I must admit I was taken by the title and the cover. It was October 2nd, the feast of the Guardian Angels, so I thought this was certainly providential.

I began to read and found the author’s style very readable, almost conversational in tone, and found myself reading the whole book in three consecutive evenings.

As a theologian concerned with the metaphysical, I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the author had articulated the spiritual realm in readable, easily understood terms and descriptions. 

Particularly enlightening for the reader is his description of all the invisible activities of both good angels and the fallen angels and / or demons.

With the changes to the Roman Missal came a slight change to the Nicene Creed form “the seen and unseen” to the “Visible and Invisible”. While it seemed to be a rather pedantic change, and the terms are interchangeable, perhaps the change of wording will draw us out of a complacent attitude toward the invisible realities of God, Grace, the human soul, angels, demons, the power of prayer, and heaven, and hell.

Ultimately, the issue of the afterlife is one that every human culture has pondered for centuries. Through Divine Revelation, the prophets, and in particular, the fullness of Divine Revelation, Jesus Christ Himself, and the prayer and work of theologians and the Sacred Tradition of the Church and the Magisterium, we can know certain things about the unseen, ever-present invisible world around us.

DeStafano’s “Sightseeing Guide to the Invisible World” will make a wonderful gift to anyone and a fine addition to the spiritual enthusiast’s library.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the above book for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, October 1, 2012


The disciples approached Jesus and said, "Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?" He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. "See that you do not despise one of these little ones,
for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father."
(Matthew 18:1-5, 10)
The disciples just don’t get Jesus’ message, do they? Today they ask who is the greatest in the kingdom of God? Now why did they ask this? Because they wanted to be great–according to the world.

Peter wanted Jesus to exercise his power as a military messiah that would put the smackdown on the Romans. For Peter, Jesus could be the Ultimate Galilean Ninja warrior; Jesus could be Israel’s Idol. But Jesus says no. It’s about the cross. It’s about serving the least ones. It’s about being humble like a child.

The twelve then argue among themselves which is the greatest, and then they become jealous of others who follow Jesus but don’t follow them. They were too focused on themselves.

The boys have it all wrong about leadership in the kingdom.

In answer to the disciples question about greatness in the kingdom, Jesus calls a child over and says, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”

In the first century A.D., a child had no rights and in fact was persona non grata, and in the Roman world, a female child was often discarded at birth, boys being the preferred gender.

Yet leadership in the kingdom is not about power, it’s not about possessions, it’s not about pleasure or popularity. It’s about service.

Jesus shows us what true authority looks like – you don’t really see it.

Jesus exercised his authority with such a delicate humility that it was invisible.

And for us, as his followers, that might mean we will not be recognized for our service. But that isn’t so bad if it means we are participating in the ministry of Jesus.

As John the Baptist said, “He must increase and I must decrease.”

Which brings us to today’s feast day of the Guardian Angels.

The angels are invisible.  * Except for a few times when they have appeared to people in the bible, they are invisible servants of God.
What is an Angel? The word angel is actually the definition of what they do: they are messengers of God.

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, an angel as a supernatural being is actually an incorporeal spiritual being of pure intellect. *

In other words, unlike humans who have a body and spirit, they are pure spirits.

They exist to serve God and give glory to God and to serve humans in our journey of faith.

Angels are often portrayed in art with wings because they are not confined to space and time, hence our guardian angels can be with each of us now and also be in the presence of God in heaven simultaneously.

And as the angels are invisible, we too are called to be invisible messengers of God’s love, compassion, and peace.

Isn’t that what Jesus meant when he called us to be salt for the earth? Salt disappears once we put it on our food and it brings out the best flavors.

Jesus also called us to be the light of the world. And though light is also invisible, light itself is that which illuminates all things; light enables us to see things, but we don’t actually see light itself.

So let’s stop playing the game of thinking were the greatest in the kingdom and humble ourselves; recognizing the needs of others and asking our guardian angels to assist us in our prayers and in practicing our faith and generosity.

Therefore as we go about our daily lives, called to be angels of mercy, we too will be messengers of God, willing to disappear from view to help others shine, bringing out the best in others.