Saturday, March 23, 2019

3rd Sunday of Lent @ St. Apollinaris Parish

MARCH 22-23, 2019

Metaphysics, according to Aristotle, deals with ontology and first principles. Ontology is the philosophy of “being,” while the firmest of Aristotle’s first principles is non-contradiction. Non-contradiction states that “opposite assertions cannot [both] be true at the same time” – meaning that something either “is” something, or “isn’t” something … but that it cannot somehow “be” and “not be” at the same time.

The term Metaphysics can either mean a philosophy that goes beyond the physical world … or else, more simply, the philosophy that Aristotle wrote after his works on the physical world.

As a “first principle” the Principle of Non-contradiction cannot be derived from other principles, and stands on its own.

Today is the 3rd Sunday of Lent.

In the First Reading from the third chapter of the Book of Exodus, we hear of Moses and the burning bush. When Moses asks God for His name, he is told:
I am Who am.
Which at first glance sounds like a conundrum or a riddle or a puzzle. But on further reflection expresses that God’s existence is being – or in other wods, His ontology is to be.

God exists without cause. That is, nobody made God. And He has existed for all eternity – before time, and will continue to exist after time.

God is infinite and eternal, while everything else we know is finite – limited in space and time; and mortal – that is subject to death or eventual destruction.

And so, for God to tell Moses that His name is “I am Who am,” is actually a pretty deep proposition.

St. Paul in chapter 10 of his First Letter to the Corinthians, takes us eleven chapters further along in the Book of Exodus. Paul is talking about the crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites. He compares that miraculous event to baptism, and speaks as well about the manna – the miraculous bread … and the water that miraculously came from the rock.

Yet despite miracle after miracle that the Israelites experienced in the desert – Paul reminds us – some rebelled; but in the end, they all died.

We are, however, left hanging. Paul is giving a warning to the people of Corinth – and in reading this we, too should be warned. But we are missing the final line of this section.

That last verse is omitted in todays reading. It goes on to tell us:
God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength;but with the trial he will also provide a way out,so that you may be able to bear it.
And this is the difference between the interactions between God and humanity in the Old and New Testament.

The baptism of crossing the Red Sea provided an escape from slavery in Egypt; while our Baptism not only frees us from Original Sin, but also brings us into a real and actual spiritual relationship with the Most Holy Trinity. We are incorporated into Christ, and as such, become members of Christ; making us children of God; and temples of the Holy Spirit.

While the Israelites saw and experience God’s marvels – as an outward manifestation – they did not share in His grace. They did not share the Divine life of God as Christians do – through sanctifying grace and the power of the Holy Spirit within them.

Our Lord, in St. Luke’s Gospel, provides an additional warning. First Jesus admonishes us not to delay in turning toward God … in accepting the grace of new life in Him; and then, through a parable teaches that we should always seek to be fruitful members in the Kingdom.

Almost three weeks ago, on Ash Wednesday, we heard:
Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.

And so, as we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ – let us immerse ourselves in the Life of God which we have received in Baptism … now! Let us turn toward God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength … now! Let us allow His sanctifying and saving grace to penetrate to the depths of our being … ! Let us utilize the supernatural gifts of our own Baptism – Faith, Hope, and Love – so that knowing that God is God and we are not, we might go forth to manifest His glory in our lives.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

2nd Sunday of Lent @ St. Apollinaris

MARCH 17, 2019

215 days ago, in the village of Westport, County Mayo, Ireland … our bold group of American pilgrims (and one guy from Singapore) were planning the next day’s climb up Croagh Phadrig – the mountain of St. Patrick … where it is claimed that in the year 441 AD, St. Patrick himself fasted and prayed for 40 days.

Typically climbed on the last Sunday of July, known as Reek Sunday – devout pilgrims proceed barefoot up the boulder-strewn path. We were two weeks late, but that evening, over pints of Guinness and Smithwicks … our boldness increased … and we plotted our penitential hardships for the next day.

That next morning, following Mass at the ruins of Murrisk Abbey, all but one brave young lady opted to keep their shoes on. Nonetheless, we scrambled up, and for myself, driven by zeal … or perhaps the fear of running out of steam … I pushed for the summit.

There were plenty of falls, rain, and mud. And in the photos at the top, I have a joyful yet pained expression on my face.

For the record, down was much more difficult than up … but after a couple of hours, I was back at sea level … humbled, wet, dirty … yet victorious, joyful, and exhausted.

Today is the Second Sunday of Lent.

In today’s readings we begin with God’s covenant with Abram … who will soon be renamed Abraham. Catching up to today’s reading … what we have is a 75 year old man who has travelled roughly 1,000 miles on foot – from Ur to Haran; and then Haran to Beersheba – with all of his livestock and possessions; as well as an entourage of servants and slaves.

God asks for a sacrifice, and as Abram waits and prays through the day and into the night … God’s presence is revealed as a “smoking fire … [and] a flaming torch” moving within the sacrificial offerings.

Abram’s personal sacrifice was an enormous pilgrimage of inestimable hardship. He left everything he ever knew to follow the promises of God. And he is rewarded by the vague future promise of what would be left to his descendants … the descendants of one old man who at that moment … at the age of 75 had no children … and no earthly reason to hope that this would come to pass.

In the Gospel, Our Lord reveals His Glory to Peter, James, and John in the Transfiguration. They are overcome and frightened at the sight of Christ in His glory – revealed in the dazzling brilliance of the Holy Spirit, the voice of the Father, and the presence of the Son.

St. Paul points out that “[o]ur citizenship is in heaven” where we await the coming of Jesus Christ to transform us into conformity with His glory.

We live our life in pilgrimage – perhaps not necessarily 1,000 miles on foot – but as we walk through our days with Christ as our guide … we bear the hardships of this life with our eyes focused on eternity … and with a hope of sharing in the glory to come.

God calls us out of our comfort zone – asking us to do what is difficult – in order to fill us with His transforming grace – so that we might go beyond mere human efforts in living the Christian life.

The eastern Church sees each liturgy as an expression of the Transfiguration. The Old and New Laws are revealed to us … and Christ is made present – Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity – through the power of the Holy Spirit … and we call out to God in boldness as we recite the Lord’s Prayer … daring to call Him “Father.”

We are on Tabor … and Christ has come to us in Word … and He will come to us in Sacrament. Let us marvel in awe at His glory … revealed to us … right here … right now.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ … let us pray to be awestruck … so that we might be overcome by the marvelous and privileged place we have been given through the Sacramental covenants of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist. May the glory of God fill us … so that as we encounter His presence here this morning, we might be transformed into the image of Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, as God’s holy ones.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Ash Wednesday @ St. Apollinaris Parish / Justin-Siena

MARCH 6, 2019

Organizing consultant Marie Kondo has her own particular organizational method she calls the “KonMari” method.

She refers to what she does as “tidying up,” as opposed to “cleaning up.

Cleaning up,” she says, is something that you do to your surroundings. “Tidying up” is not so much about getting rid of things, but about making a choice … or deciding how to live … and what you want to keep in your life.

Marie Kondo stresses that we should only hold onto the things that “spark joy.

The first step, she says, is to make an enormous pile of all the things you have, and then when you see all of this in one place, you can choose the things that truly “spark joy” … and let go of the rest as not essential to your life.

We find ourselves this morning at the cusp of Holy Lent.

Today is Ash Wednesday.

Marie Kondo’s “Tidying Up” can give us a way to apply Lent to our daily lives.

Just as “tidying up” differed from “cleaning up” – where one was externally focused and the other internally focused … Lent should be less a period of “self-improvement” and more of a time of “self-reflection” and “self-discovery.

Over these next 40 days, we can take an assessment of our heart, mind, and soul – looking at all that we are and all that we do. And instead of looking at Lent as a time of “giving things up,” we can approach Lent from the perspective of what do we want to hold on to … and what do we want to get rid of … keeping only the things that “spark joy” and letting go of what doesn’t.

When the 40 days are over, we will hopefully find ourselves in a better place … as better people … living a better life. But even more so: in a holier place ... as holier people ... living a holier life.

We have 6 weeks to examine the enormous pile of experiences, memories, attitudes, and ideas that make up our life. And we can choose, not only those things that “spark joy,” but the things that also “spark” love, peace, perseverance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

These are the 12 gifts of the Holy Spirit, and these are all given to us as a foretaste of heaven on earth.

Let us take this season of Lent to “tidy up” our hearts, minds, and souls … in order to draw closer to God … taking it as a time of “self-reflection” and “self-discovery” … to learn who we are, and to gain a clearer vision of who God is. Let us choose to live the life of heaven here on earth, holding onto only those things which “spark” love, joy, peace, perseverance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control … and living that way each day … in everything we say … and everything we do.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

8th Sunday OT @ St. Apollinaris Parish

MARCH 3, 2019

Fr. Ubald Rugirangoga (Roo-ji-ron-go-gah), Cyangugu (Cyan-goo-goo), Rwanda. He was ordained 35 years ago, just prior to the devastating genocide in his home country. At that time, the Hutus savagely slaughtered their Tutsi neighbors during the Rwandan Civil War. For Fr. Ubald, this was even more disturbing as his parish consisted of both Hutus and Tutsis, and he himself was an ethnic Tutsi.

In only 100 days, 800,000 people were senselessly killed.

Fleeing for his life in the dark of night, he found himself in Europe. He was to discover that 80 members of his family had died in the conflict.

While at the famous healing Shrine in Lourdes, he heard Jesus tell him:
Ubald, carry your cross.
Fr. Ubald understood that “forgiveness” was the cross he was to carry, and indeed this is the secret to receiving the fullness of God’s grace, mercy, and love. In that moment he was transformed in his heart, and became an Apostle of Forgiveness.

Too often, people hold grudges against others for long periods of time – and this is like drinking poison, hoping to it will kill somebody else. But instead it kills the divine life within a Christian who does not forgive.

Fr. Ubald’s life and message is documented in the movie titled “Forgiveness: The Secret of Peace,” and a book, to be released next week, titled “Forgiveness Makes You Free.

In his book, he outlines five spiritual choices to draw us to Christ:
1. Gratitude and Faith,2. Choosing to Forgive,3. Rejecting Evil,4. Choosing to Live for Jesus, and5. Claiming God’s Blessing.
But we need to realize that in making a choices, we are not passive observers. Rather we must engage our entire being – heart, mind, and soul – in order to truly receive freedom in Christ Jesus.

Today is the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Our readings focus on seeking balance between what we are inside versus what appearance we put on in public. We hear in the first reading “The fruit of the tree shows the care it has had,” and Our Lord reminds us in the Gospel: “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, / but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil.

Elsewhere in St. Paul’s writings we hear: “all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.

And indeed, as we approach Lent in three days, it is important to seriously examine ourselves in the light of God’s glory.

In the Greek Church – that is the Byzantines in our Church and the Orthodox – today is “Forgiveness Sunday.” At the end of the evening service of prayer, the priest says to the people:
Forgive me, a sinner.
And the people reply:
God forgives, and so do I.
Then the people say to the priest:
Forgive me, a sinner.
And he replies:
God forgives, and so do I.

And then the people turn to the person on their left or right and do the same one-on-one.
Forgive me, a sinner.
God forgives, and so do I.
As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ ... let us, in receiving the divine gift of grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness ... resolve to “pay it forward.” The forgiveness we receive in the Sacraments must not stop with us. Nor can the other gifts of love, grace, and mercy be hoarded.
Forgive me, a sinner.
God forgives, and so do I.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

7th Sunday OT @ St. Apollinaris Parish

FEBRUARY 22-23, 2019

He was canonized four months and one week ago. Elected to the See of Peter midstream during the Second Vatican Council, and died 15 years later.

Roughly halfway through his pontificate, Pope Saint Paul VI (the sixth) commented:
We would say that, through some mysterious crack—no, it’s not mysterious; through some crack, the smoke of Satan has entered the Church of God.

Many commentators have attempted to interpret what this means. Yet Paul VI (the sixth) himself goes on to tell us:
There is doubt, uncertainty, problems, unrest, dissatisfaction, confrontation.
And then says:
The Church is no longer trusted.
He said that nearly 47 years ago.

Funny, it sounds pretty “contemporary,” don’t you think? In fact, it sounds like things that have been written in the past week from many secular media outlets, and quite a few Church sources as well.

There’s a word for that … prophetic. That is, when something uttered nearly half a century ago sounds like it was meant for today … it is more than just “here we go again,” … it can with some certainty be taken as prophetic.

Today is the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Our readings deal with conflict and division … and how to act in the midst of conflict and division.
In the first reading, from First Kings chapter 26, David is fleeing from King Saul. But while running away from Saul, David finds himself in the middle of Saul’s camp. 

Yet two chapters before, David is in a similar situation. In this first episode, David is hiding in a cave that Saul uses as a latrine. Indisposed, and perhaps in a hurry, Saul fails to notice that David is hiding in the same cave he’s using for … doing his business.

They are in such close quarters that David cuts off part of Saul’s cloak. 

In today’s reading, David takes Saul’s spear and water jar from his tent. 

What’s going on?

Twice, David’s adversary King Saul is delivered into his power. The first time, Saul is indisposed. The second, he is sleeping. 

The answer, spoken by David at the end of today’s pericope is:
Today, though the LORD delivered you into my grasp,I would not harm the LORD’s anointed.
I would say that this is sort of a human flip-side of Deuteronomy 32:35
Vengeance is mine [says the Lord.]
David is being tested. How much does he trust God?

In St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians he is speaking about the Resurrection. In this discussion, Paul compares the natural with the supernatural – or as we hear in today’s reading natural or earthly … and spiritual or heavenly

Indeed, then as now, Christians were struggling with living “in the world, but not of the world.” In Paul’s time, the struggle was to be a Christian in a pagan world; while in our own time, the struggle is to be a Christian in a secular world.

We, too, are being tested. How much do we trust God?

In Luke’s Gospel, we hear the continuation of the Sermon on the Mount. This teaching moment of Christ to, not only His disciples, but also to a great multitude, is often reduced to “Don’t judge.” Yet the entirety of Our Lord’s sermon is that we are called to exceed what is considered “normative” in polite company. In living out our Christian call, Christ demands of us that we go above and beyond what is “nice” … and in exceeding the “normative” … we are to become “trans-formative.

This requires a greater measure of virtue than the overly simplistic admonition to “don’t judge.” 

This requires that we become the change we wish to see in the world.

And so, in the midst of “doubt, uncertainty, problems, unrest, dissatisfaction, confrontation”, we must persevere in Faith, Hope, and Love. Going beyond problems, we must become the solution. In the midst of unrest, dissatisfaction and confrontation, we must become peace makers. 

Not of our own making. But rather in union with Christ Jesus – the Way, the Truth, and the Light.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ … let us pray for a deeper outpouring of God’s grace that we may aspire to greater things – so that transformed through, with, and in Christ – we can clear the air and dispel the smoke that seeks to steal the inheritance which is ours in Christ. The Church is the people of God. Let us place our hope in God, and our trust in the promises of Christ Jesus, Our Lord.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

4th Sunday OT @ St. Apollinaris Parish

FEBRUARY 2-3, 2019

Edgar Guest was born in 1881 in Birmingham, England. At the age of 10, his family relocated to the United States, settling in Detroit, Michigan … where he began working as a copy boy and eventually a reporter for the Detroit Free Press. He published his first poem at the age of 17. He became a naturalized citizen when he was 21. For 40 years his column was read throughout the United States and Canada. He also had weekly radio and television shows for about a decade each.

He wrote over 11,000 poems, and is the sole poet to be named “poet laureate” of the State of Michigan. He died in 1959, and is buried in Detroit’s Woodlawn Cemetery.

One of Guest’s better known poems, published in 1927, is entitled Good Enough. And it bears a valuable lesson.
My son, beware of “good enough,”

It isn't made of sterling stuff; 

It's something any man can do, 

It marks the many from the few, 

It has no merit to the eye,

It's something any man can buy, 

It's name is but a sham and bluff, 

For it is never “good enough.” 
It goes on for four more stanzas, ending with the line:
Only the best is “good enough.”
Today is the 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

In Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, we hear what is often considered A Hymn to Love.

Yet in examining the context, we can realize that Paul was writing to a community experiencing many difficulties. Rather than a Hymn to Love, the purpose of what Paul is writing is an exhortation to go beyond the minimum effort.

In speaking of “love,” Paul is writing in the Greek language which has not one, but three words for love. The first kind of love would be called fraternal love or friendship. The second kind of love would be romantic love … sort of a “Valentine’s Day” kind of love. The third kind of love – that is, what St. Paul is speaking about here – is a sacrificial love or a love born out of a heroic virtue … in other words, a God-like or Divine Love … what we see in the person of Jesus Christ.

The church in Corinth was struggling because individuals were not going beyond the mere appearances of Christianity. And while that may “look good,” Paul points out that it is most certainly not good enough. And so, he exhorts his readers, and us as well, to
[s]trive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.
And to embrace
a still more excellent way.
He indicates that with human efforts we can only partially know … and indistinctly perceive the things of God, and whatever we do under our own efforts
will be brought to nothing.
In order to completely understand and clearly see the things of God, we must separate ourselves from those things which hold us back … some of which he names: jealousy, arrogance, self-interest, anger, revenge, provocation, and wickedness. 

Indeed, this theme is repeated throughout today’s readings. The prophet Jeremiah is told that while many “will fight against [him,] they will not prevail over [him].”

And as was foreshadowed in last week’s Gospel, at the beginning of the story, “all spoke highly of [Jesus],” but by the end of the reading
they were all filled with fury.
… rose up, drove [Jesus] out of the town,
… to hurl him down [a cliff] headlong.
So much for critical acclaim.

The world has no place for the love of God. Rather, the world presents a false kind of love … a cheap imitation … a syrupy, feel-good, counterfeit love … which is more like a drug … and most certainly not a remedy for any spiritual need.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, let us “strive for the greatest spiritual gifts,” and embrace God’s “still more excellent way.” Let us realize that our own way … or the way of the world … is never good enough and instead allow God’s grace and God’s mercy to penetrate our hardened hearts so that we may see more distinctly and understand more completely … the Way, the Truth, and the Life … embodied in the Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Wednesday 3rd Week OT @ CCFW-West & Legatus

JANUARY 30, 2019

It’s always a bit of a challenge to preach on a Gospel passage where following a lengthy parable – a wisdom story, of sorts – Our Lord, Himself, provides an explanation to His disciples. The preacher gets left holding the bag trying to explain the explanation of the Son of God – the Word made flesh – as if Jesus didn’t do it well enough Himself.

Indeed, Jesus Christ is always a hard act to follow.

But there is a bit of an ‘exit strategy’ in todays readings; since they quote from a variety of sources.

In His explanation of the Parable of the Sower, Jesus quotes the Prophet Isaiah – specifically Isaiah chapter 6 verses 9 and 10. In answering the question: What’s up with all the parables? Jesus says:
The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you.But to those outside everything comes in parables, so thatthey may look and see but not perceive,and hear and listen but not understand,in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.
This certainly sounds “exclusive.” Which begs the question, has Jesus gone “rogue” and is now looking to build a wall to keep people out? Next thing you know, he’s going to do something crazy like:
… drive out those selling and buying [in the Temple, and] overturn … the tables of the money changers …
But seriously. Let’s dig a little deeper.

The quote from Isaiah immediately follows the prophet’s call. Isaiah describes a vision of the throne room of Almighty God, surrounded by six-winged seraphim, who are crying out “Holy, holy, holy!” The door frame shakes, and the place fills with smoke … and Isaiah freaks out. He figures he’s going to die because he’s seen God … and that’s what’s supposed to happen to you when you see God. You die.

But God meets him halfway. He sends a seraphim with an ember from the altar … touches Isaiah’s lips, and “[his] wickedness is removed, [and his] sin is purged.

And then God gives Isaiah a prophetic message for the people:
Listen carefully, but do not understand!Look intently, but do not perceive!… Lest [your] heart understandand [you] turn and be healed.
In other words, this is hardly exclusive – it’s a warning to repent.

Isaiah is confronting a corrupt and self-assured people. They have no time for prophets. And they have no interest in messages from God.

The mystery of the Kingdom of God” which Jesus wraps in parables and stories is certainly not difficult to understand. John 3:16 tells us:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.
Ten chapters later in John’s Gospel, Jesus quotes this same section of Isaiah … right before He washes the disciples feet at the Last Supper.

And Peter, quick to jump to conclusions, refuses.

It’s Peter who pushes Jesus away. It’s Peter who puts up the wall. And it’s Peter who doesn’t want to come inside.

And is it any different for any one of us?

The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you.

Look and perceive. Hear and understand.

The Kingdom of God is at hand.

Repent. And believe in the Gospel.