Friday, April 13, 2018

The Easter effect

In 1975, the president of Intel, Gordon Moore, estimated that the number of transistors in Integrated Circuit would double every two years.  This came to be known as Moore’s law which was proven to be correct for 37 years.  So, between 1975 and 2012, the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubled eighteen times to about 250,000 times what was possible in 1975.  So, our electronic devices became smaller and smaller and had more and more capability.  This eventually led to cell phones and laptop computers which weren’t even conceived in 1975.  It has amazed even those very familiar with the industry.  It has impacted our day to day lives in many ways.  Today, many cannot even conceive what life would be like without a cell phone.

After Jesus rose from the dead, the news of the Resurrection drove the growth of the church for almost three hundred years.  During this time, Christianity grew from a thousand or so in 33 AD to about ten million by the year 312 when Constantine made it the official church of the Roman empire.  Much like Moore’s law regarding semiconductors, this phenomenal growth meant that the number of Christians doubled about every twenty years for almost 300 years, going from 1000 to 10 million.  And this growth occurred during times when its leaders were being martyred and Christians couldn’t even meet in public.
On Holy Saturday, the Wall Street Journal ran a two-page article titled: “The Easter Effect.”   It said: “The first Christians were baffled by what they called “the Resurrection”.  Their struggle to understand it brought about a revolution in their way of life and astonishing success for their faith.”  That article asks: “How did this happen?  How did a ragtag band of nobodies from the far edges of the Mediterranean world become such a dominant force?”  The article attributes it to their belief in the Resurrection and to their witnesses.
In today’s Gospel, when Jesus appeared to his disciples, we see a fragmented group of believers with no plan, no promise, no program, no youth ministry, no social justice committee, and no buildings.  Frightened and disturbed, they were locked up in the upper room.
This terrified little band huddled in the corner of a room had only one thing going for it: the risen Christ.  In the final analysis, this is a story about how the risen Christ pushed open the bolted door of a church with nothing.  The risen Christ enters the fearful chambers and fills the place with his own life and simply asks his disciples:  Got anything to eat?
The gospel is convincing and reassuring. It is convincing because it shows ordinary people behaving just the way we do. We too know of the promises God has made down through the centuries. We know how those promises were kept. But owing to our human frailty and lack of faith, we still do not put our full trust in God’s promises. Like the disciples, we still approach the promise of eternal life with questions and troubled hearts, perhaps even terrified at times. 
What would we have done if we had been there in the first century and heard this news directly from one of his disciples?  Would we have believed?  Would we have been one of the Jews and Gentiles who became Christian?   Is Jesus resurrection old news to us?  Are we no longer shocked and baffled by it?   
As a Christian community of believers that have experienced the risen Lord, we are not to sit around locked in our churches feeling warm and cozy.  In today’s readings and at Eucharist, we can experience our own personal “Easter effect” when we meet the risen Lord. Like the disciples, we have him here with us through the scriptures and in the breaking of the bread. 
Like the early Christians, we can convincingly tell everyone that we believe in the resurrection of Jesus.  It should be easier for us to spread the faith today than it was for them.  Our world is hungry for the truth, just as it was in the time of Jesus. 
Many of us are very blessed to have had our faith passed down to us through many generations.  But, though this process, we might have lost the wonder and the amazement of our faith.  Today, as you receive the risen Jesus in the Eucharist, I would encourage you to meditate on what you are receiving.  Be amazed when you receive the risen Christ.  Ask him to help you on your journey towards eternal life.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

I didn't say it was going to be easy

John chapter 3 verse 16: " For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not parish but might have eternal life."   We see John 3:16 on signs at sporting events.  This is probably the most quoted verse in the bible.  It is the gospel summarized in one verse.

Our God is a loving God.  He loves each of us so much that he gave his only son to suffer and die for us.  As Christians, we rejoice in the knowledge that our God yearns for us to be with him in heaven eternally.  

As we look around our church, we see examples of how much our God loves us.  We see fourteen stations which show Christ's journey to the cross for us.  We see in the stained glass windows different events, mostly from Christ's life, which show his love for us.  We see in the statues examples of holy men and women who were filled with Christ's love.  And, first and foremost, we see the tabernacle containing  Jesus body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist. 
He loves us.  No matter what we have done to hurt him or others, he still loves us.  It is the very foundation of our faith.  John 3:16.  Shout that verse from the rooftop or take a sign to a sporting event to proclaim your faith to others. 

The history of salvation, from the fall of Adam and Eve until the final judgment, revolves around the coming of Jesus Christ, the Savior, the Son of God.  He came because he loved the world so much.  He simply couldn't bear to see us perish in our sins; he longed to share with us his everlasting life. 
God cares.  And Jesus Christ is the definitive proof that he cares.  He cares so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.  No hidden agenda, no selfish undertones- pure love.  This is the heart of God.

Many in our world today don't view God as a loving God.  Some aren't even sure that there is a God.  Others think that God isn't involved and just watches the messes that we get ourselves into for his amusement.  Still others believe that God is not loving but purely a judge. 

What is your view of God and how does that affect your life?   Do you fear God?  Do you believe that Jesus suffered and died out of love for us?  Do you wonder why a loving God permits suffering? 
Jesus didn't have to suffer and die on the cross for us.  He chose the cross out of love for us.  We also have choices in our lives regarding our crosses.  We can embrace them or abandon them.  We can carry our crosses on our journey towards eternal life or can try to take the easy way out.

Our crosses come in different shapes and sizes.  We may have a difficult relationship that we are struggling with.  We can work on that relationship and choose to love that person or abandon him or her.   We may be considering having another child.  We can choose the sacrifice that this child will  involve or can decide to buy the new car that we have always wanted.  We can offer up the day-to-day suffering that we have because of some illness or can constantly complain about it. 

Many years ago at a Cursillo retreat, the Holy Spirit gave me the words: "I didn't say it was going to be easy."  These weren't the words that I wanted to hear.  I would have preferred to hear: "Your life will be a bed of roses."  But, these were the words that I needed to hear then and that all of us need to hear occasionally.  The crosses that we carry are a gift from God to help us on our journey to heaven.  Embrace them.  Rejoice in them.  For they are our key to eternal happiness.
Our crosses, our suffering, reflects the love that Christ has for us.  That concept is difficult for many to understand today.  Our society wants to eliminate all suffering.  And the more that it tries to eliminate suffering, the more suffering is inflicted upon us.  When we run away from our problems rather than face them, we often create more problems for ourselves and for others around us.

Today is Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent.  It is a day of celebration, a day of rejoicing as we take a break from the penitential season.  Today, let us rejoice, let us celebrate even in our crosses.  For our God is a loving God who loves each one of us more than we can even imagine.  

Monday, February 26, 2018

Have you met the risen Christ

In the Gospel today, we hear the story of Jesus' transfiguration as he appears in his heavenly glory before Peter, James, and John.  As they see Jesus transfigured with Moses and Elijah, they can have no doubt that Jesus is truly God.  Still, they were afraid and didn't know what to say.  This was a one-of-a-kind event, transforming  their lives.  And yet, when Jesus was led to the cross, Peter and James were nowhere to be found and Peter even denied him three times.  How could they so quickly abandon Jesus in his time of need? 
Probably, many of us have had experiences in our lives when we have felt the presence of Jesus.  It may have been a time of trial when we felt uplifted.  Or, maybe we heard a reading or a homily at Mass which touched us.  Maybe we were praying and heard an answer to a difficult problem. 
These are spiritual highs when Jesus seems to be close to us.  But, often, as we deal with the day to day issues of life, we can forget about these close moments and even wonder where Jesus is.  We might think: "Has he abandoned me?"  In fact, some of us may be wondering right now where Jesus is in our life.  We may be experiencing a desert time in our spiritual journey.  We may feel that he has turned away from us.  Or we might even have turned away from him as Peter and James did during Jesus' passion and death. 
Eighteen years ago, our pastor, Father Lou, Deacon Hershel, and several men and women from the parish were led by the Holy Spirit to bring Christ Renews His Parish or CRHP here.  They hoped to renew the faith of the parishioners through a weekend retreat during which men or women witnessed to their faith.  Over the past eighteen years, over 600 have attended these weekends including many who are here today.  Many lives have been changed as a result of these weekends.  Many non-Catholics have joined the Catholic church after attending a weekend.  Many Catholics have gone to confession for the first time in years during a weekend. 
One person whose life was changed by attending CRHP  I'll call  Joe.  Joe's wife and children are Catholic but Joe wasn't and he never felt a real need for God in his life.  So, when they went off to Sunday mass, he found other things to do around the house.  Six years' ago, someone from the parish invited him to attend a CRHP weekend.  Joe agreed to attend because he wasn't happy.  He thought there should be more to life than the stress from his work.  He was also lonely, because outside of his relationship with his family and some people at work, he had few friends.  He hoped the weekend would give him some downtime to think about what he could do to improve his life.   During the weekend, for the first time in his life, Joe felt the presence of God, especially in the love of Christ through the men on the weekend.  By the end of the weekend, Joe had decided to  become Catholic.  At the Easter vigil the next year, Joe was baptized and came into the church.  His life had changed because he found what had been missing - Jesus.  He now had purpose.  And he found friends he never knew he could have.  He was more joyful, even at work, and began to attend daily mass and bible studies.  Today, Joe continues to grow in his faith journey and help others in theirs.  His relationship with Jesus improves through daily mass, an adoration hour, and meditation.  And it all began when he attended a CRHP weekend.  Are you being called to a closer relationship with Jesus? 
I have been the lead spiritual director for CRHP for almost eight years.  I have witnessed participants whose lives have changed, who have experienced the joy of renewal and transformation,  and who are closer to Christ.  Many have established a bond with others on the weekend who are now their lifetime friends.  As I attend these weekends, I am continually blown away by the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those on the weekend.  For many of them, it is as if they are witnessing the transfiguration of Jesus, just as Peter, James, and John did.  For some, their lives will never be the same. 
Also, these CRHP weekends have had a ripple effect.  Many ministries in our parish have blossomed as a result of those who have attended these weekends.  In addition, teams from our parish have helped two other parishes start their CRHP programs:  St Patrick's in Morristown, Tennessee and St Henry in Miamisburg. 
Truly, CRHP has been a blessing for the past eighteen years.  But, like any long term program, after a time, it needs to be recharged, renewed, and reinvigorated.  About a year ago, Mathew Kelly's Dynamic Catholic organization assumed responsibility for CRHP.  They have changed the name of CRHP to Welcome in an attempt to change the focus from the parish to the individual.  In addition, they have created new manuals for the program which are especially helpful during the formation process as the team prepares for the next weekend. 
Our first Welcome weekends are approaching.  The men's weekend is just two weeks' away - March 10/11 and the women's weekend is April 14/15.  There are sign up tables in the foyer with men and women from the teams for the upcoming weekends ready to answer your questions.  Please stop by and check it out.  It can change your life.  After  the 11 o'clock mass, there will be an hour of adoration to pray for the success of Welcome in our parish.  Please come and pray with us. 
If you attended CRHP a number of years ago or in another parish, feel free to attend again.  Over the years' CRHP has changed and now Welcome has also changed it some.  Also, you have changed and you may be ready for a new encounter with Christ. 
On this second Sunday of Lent, as we prepare for Jesus death and resurrection, please take this opportunity to grow in your faith, to experience the great love of Jesus, and to see the Holy Spirit working in your life.    

God bless 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

What are you looking for?

Jesus asked Andrew and John: "What are you looking for?"  This is a question that all of us ask ourselves or others many times during our lives.  We may be looking for something or someone.   In fact, we might not even know what we are looking for.
Another way of asking this question would be: "What do you worship?"  We find our identity in what we worship.  We may worship sports figures, politicians, movie stars, or just money or fame.  If we are worshipping anyone or anything else other than Jesus, we are confused and are off track.
In our culture today, I suspect that the most popular answer would be a relationship, then maybe money, then fame.  I suspect that few people would respond that they are looking for Jesus, instead of someone else or something.  But, if we really understood our basic needs, that would be the answer many of us would give. 
St Augustine said:  "our hearts are restless until they rest in you, Lord."   All of us are searching, all of us are looking,  all of us are restless.  And the only thing that satisfies us is the Lord. 
We might be looking for happiness in the wrong places. We might expect our spouse to give us complete happiness.  And sometimes we can be very happy in our marriage relationship.  But, this isn't the ultimate happiness that all of us seek. 
We also might look to things for happiness.  We get a new car and it satisfies us for a short time.  Then, we get tired of it and begin to look for something else.  We cannot find happiness in any thing.  The more things we have the more we need and the less they satisfy us. 
We might also look to new experiences for happiness.  We might look forward to an exciting vacation or an adventure.  But, when these are over, we are still searching for happiness.
Many years ago, a friend told me about the trips he took by himself to the highest mountain in both North America and in South America.  These were exciting, dangerous, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences for him.  But, ultimately, they didn't satisfy him.  Then, he looked for an even more exciting adventure.  I've lost touch with him.  But, I wondered what he did next.
Andrew and John responded to Jesus question by asking him: "Where are you staying?"  Initially, I thought that this was an odd response.  But, John the Baptist had told them that Jesus was the Lamb of God, the Messiah.  So, Andrew and John just wanted to spend some time with Jesus, to hang out with him, to get to know him. 
This would be a good response for all of us in answer to our restlessness.  We need to spend some quiet time with Jesus.  We can spend time with him at mass after we receive him in the Eucharist.  And, we might spend time in Adoration, some one on one time with Jesus.  During these times, we develop a relationship with Jesus.  We get to know who he is and can begin to satisfy the longing in our hearts. 
Jesus told Andrew and John:  "Come and you will see."  This is his answer to our questioning.  Come, follow me.  Come, spend some time with me.  See the love that I have for you.  Peace be with you. 
He wants to make it easy for us.   We can just hang out with him and we will be happy.  It sounds so easy, doesn't it.  Why do we make it so hard?  Why do we have to follow our will instead of his will?   Why do we often ignore his commandments?  Why aren't we at mass more often?  Why don't we appreciate receiving him in Holy Communion?  Why do we question His Church?  Why is it so difficult for us to pray?
He wants to open our eyes so that we can see Him - the way, the truth, and the light.  He wants to take us out of darkness into the light of his love.  He sends us the Holy Spirit, the advocate, to help us on the our journey, to bring us closer to Him.

Hopefully, most of us will find the ultimate happiness Jesus offers us.  Then, we will be rewarded by hearing Jesus words to us at the end of our journey: "Well done my good and faithful servant, now enter into the kingdom of heaven."  Then, our search will be over, we can stop looking, we will have found the answer, the destination, the goal.  And we can just rest in the arms of the Father.