All posts for the month January, 2012

January 25, 2012 at Saint Mark Catholic Church in Norman, OK

1 Samuel 3:3-10,19 + Psalm 40 + 1 Corinthians 6:13-15,17-20

I am certain that everyone of you parents and even extended family members like me can remember waiting for that first spoken word to come from the lips of your child. I  imagine that many of you can remember what it was. I remember clearly the excitement in my family when my neices spoke their first words and the thrill that came when they began to put those words together into sentences.

Today the church is having that same experience. We have just spent three weeks celebrating the birth of Christ Jesus, and now in John’s Gospel we hear the very first words spoken by Jesus: “What are you looking for?” This is the central question in the Gospel of John, and in all the encounters Jesus has with a variety of people in this Gospel, the question of recognition is always there. It is there at a Wedding Feast in Cana, at a Well in Samaria, at a tomb in Jerico, at the Courtyard of the High Priest, before Pilate’s throne, on Calvary, and finally on the morning of the first day of the week — in other words, at the beginning of the new beginning is the question, what you looking for? Why look in an empty tomb?

I have found it very prayerful to look at this Gospel from two perspectives: one is from the perspective of the spoken words: “What are you looking for?” “Where do you live.” and “Come and see.” It seems to me that John captures the whole of the human existence in that brief conversation, and when we stop listening in a shallow way to this Gospel and dig deeply into it personally, the question is the ultimate question of our lives?  What are we looking for? I wonder that sometimes when I stand here with you face to face. What are you looking for here?  A good show? A good talk? Entertainment? It leaves me stunned sometimes to see people come and go, here one week and them missing for two. They must not be finding what they are looking for. Or perhaps they are here looking for something we simply don’t offer. Just a glance into the life of most of us might give some clues. One look at how most people around here spend there time gives some clues to what they are looking for, and everyone of us might think more seriously about that. It looks to me like most people are looking for a good time, entertainment, fun, pleasure, and some way to keep what they have and get more. This church is less than half full but that Stadium across town is never less than half full, nor does the Thunder play to half a house. There are some who will pay any price at all for concert tickets or season tickets to games and reluctantly offer loose change to God. At the same time there are those who  seem to be looking for what money can buy, and so they work night and day while the loved in their lives are left looking for someone to love them. We struggle with every human gift we can gather to embrace and lead our young people into a life-style that is worthy of their calling, but baseball and soccer always come first before Mass or Class. Jesus asks: “What are you looking for?”

They say to him, “Where do you live?” and he says “Come and see.” They are not asking for his address, and he never takes those who are interested to a house. They want to know where he dwells, where his roots are, where he gets or finds what he seem to have. He wants to lead anyone who is looking to his dwelling place; to the place where the indwelling of the Holy Spirit can be found. What the Gospel will eventually reveal is that this happens in an upper room where believers are found together waiting and watching in hope of Christ’s coming: and that’s where it happens. Nowhere else.

Then think for a minute about the other perspective of this Gospel story, the unspoken part that happens more in action than in word. The three whose lives and whose actions speak to us are: John the Baptist, Andrew, and Peter. Andrew is the central figure. What does astounds me even now after years of hearing and studying this Gospel. He gives up  John the Baptist and switches his loyalty to Jesus. What a gift Andrew has! He can see that his old way, his old relationship with John as a disciple is not taking him anywhere, and so he changes his loyalty and for that matter, he must have given up some of his relationships. John had a big following. He was known. He was popular. It was probably a very “in thing” to be his disciple. Andrew sees a better way, and he goes after Peter. Quitely and gracefully that other figure, John says to him in effect: “Go.” John gives up and gives way. His fame and his followers, his importance and his whole identity suddenly fade away so that Christ can become more and more. John knows who he is. John is intouch with his vocation and his identity. He knows that life is not all about him, and John knows where he is going probably because ne never forgot where he came from. It is a lesson for us that has no words in this Gospel, but when it is attached to the words that are spoken, there is no doubt and no escaping what is revealed.

Deep in this Gospel which is not really about John, Andrew, and Peter:

the “What” becomes a “Who” and then the “Who becomes a “Where.”

What are you looking for becomes “Who are you looking for?”

Then “Who are you looking for becomes “Where are you?”

That is the heart of this Gospel today.

My people, take that with you this week, and with an open heart, an open soul, an open mind, an open life. Examine everything you do, where you do it, and why.

It is God who asks each of us every single day: “What are you looking for?”

Pray this week for the wisdom and the courage of Andrew.

Ask for the strength of conversion, the abililty to leave behind what is not worthy of us and what does not lead us to that place where the Spirit dwells.

Live this week with the expectation, the joy, and the hope that having been purchased at great price, we may as Paul says “glorify God in our bodies.”

And grow this week. Grow in the Lord as Samuel did not permitting any word of God’s be without effect in our lives.

January 1, 2012 at Saint Mark Catholic Church in Norman, OK

Number 6: 22-27 + Psalm 67 + Galatians 4: 4-7 + Luke 2: 16-21

In a few minutes we are going to stand and recite the Creed of Nicea. The words of that Creed were chosen through long discussions, study, argument, political maneuvering, and every other means we humans have for coming to some common expression of things we hold dear. “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, consubstantial with Father……” all in a feeble attempt to express in words the divine mystery and the truth of the Incarnation.

It is tragically true, I believe, that human nature when confronted with something beyond itself attempts to thologize, philosophize, or analyze. The first thing we seem to do when we come upon something new that we do not understand is drop in a test tube and begin to try and break it down into parts that we can then analyze, understand, and somehow control or reproduce if it would be in our interest and profit to do so.

This feast of the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, (You have to say the whole thing: “Mary Mother of God” in order to get to the point of this feast) draws us to important truths of our faith without trying to explain them. But for a minute or two, let’s think about it. Calling Mary the “Mother of God” expresses our belief that Jesus was not just adopted by God and raised up to some kind of divine status. This feast insists that Mary’s son had a fully divine nature from the beginning, and that even with two natures, Jesus Christ is One, a singular being, with Mary as his mother. Now if that is not complicated, I don’t know what is: and if it’s complicated for us to imagine or figure out, imagine what it meant and what is was like for the Blessed Mother! It’s hard enough to figure out when you’re just a disciple. Image what it was like to be involved in the whole thing to begin with!

Think of it: neighboring shepherds show up to see the new-born child reporting what had been revealed to them about this child. Imagine a choir of angels singing God’s praises! I suspect it was a rather large choir that could have been heard if someone reported it! What in the world was she to think? Well, Luke tells what happened and how she handled it. “She kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Instead of insisting that she understand it, find words to express it, and then accept and approve it all, Luke says that she entered the mystery comtemplatively; and it might make better sense for us to do the same.

From that contemplative place, we might be in a better position to reflect and wonder about this cosmic event that made heavenly hosts praise God over something that occured through a couple of poor pilgrims and a stable of a small town. Wondering about that might make us more sensitive to all kinds of little ways that grace abounds and how strangely God works in the most ordinary of things. It might open us to a deeper discovery of how God is revealed in the homeless, the poor, the helpless, and in something as common and ordinary as the birth of a child; which is probably for those who have experienced it, the closest they have ever come to God.

I have come to believe in my long and years of the priesthood that the wisdom of this feast and it’s date on the calendar is not so much an affirmation of our faith in the divine and human nature of Jesus Christ as it is an invitation to wonder, to imagine, and most of all to rememember what it is we have just celebrated a week ago today lest in taking down all the decorations to store away for another eleven months, we forget that something has happened to us, something has been born or awakened in us, something is a little different about us. Understanding it, expressing it clearly, or explaining it is not the issue at all; but kowing it in our hearts, and refleting upon it from time to time may very well change the way we look at oneanother, and perhaps sooner rather than later, “Peace on Earth” may be more than a few words in an angelic hymn or a verse printed on another Christmas Card. Brothers and Sister, Peace Be With You!