Sunday, January 18, 2015

What Are You Looking For?

“Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” (John 1:38-39)

You woke up.  Got dressed.  Got your children dressed.  Piled into the car.  Drove to church.  Walked into church…and boom!  “What are you looking for?”  The Man that lives here, dwells here, feeds you here, confronts you with this question: “What are you looking for?”  What do you want to happen?  What is it that you want from this experience, this relationship, this visit to church?

We may come to church for different reasons, but the main reason should be to have a genuine encounter with Jesus Christ.  But are we actively looking for him like John’s disciples in the gospel or just going through the motions and hearing other voices as Samuel initially did in the first reading?  Ah, the voices!  Last week when we celebrated the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, I talked about our call to holiness.  God calls each of us to be holy.  He calls us by name.  But, like Samuel, do we recognize the Lord’s voice?  So many voices calling out to us, luring us in different directions especially towards the immorality that St. Paul refers to in the second reading, but we have to clear our head of those voices.  We have to recognize the voice of the Lord through the roar of crowds and all the different messages that music, movies, television, and social media throw at us.  We have to be still and not be afraid of silence for that is where the Lord’s voice will be heard.

The voices of the world grow loud and the tempt us to go against our Lord and our Church, and when we don’t, those voices spew hatred at us as Jesus himself predicted: “If the world hates you realize that it hated me first (John15:18).”  That is why the young people that I will accompany to Washington, D.C. this week for the March for Life will be screamed at, insulted, mocked, and laughed at.  But they are called to drown out all those voices and to listen to the voice of the One who is Truth who asks us this day: “What are you looking for?”  We go to our nation’s capital because we have been witnesses to the Truth and because we have to stand up and be the voices of those who have no voice.  These young people have accepted Christ’s invitation to “Come and see,” and now they go out to join an army of young people that define themselves as the Pro-Life Generation to stand up for what they believe in.  They have heard the Lord calling them to be courageous and they have responded as Samuel did, “Here I am Lord!”

The question that Christ asks us today is supposed to bring purpose to our Christian life.  It is supposed to bring clarity to our vocation to be good Christians and to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.  What are we looking for?  The same thing the wise men were looking for two week ago.  The same thing the women were looking for on Easter morning.  We are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  We are looking for our Lord who brings clarity to our lives, whose voice sooths us, brings us comfort and peace, and gives us the courage to go out and raise our voices to the glory of his name.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

God's Favorite

“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)

Friday night I spent almost an hour speaking with a young man that I have known since he was in preschool.  He’s in his early 30s now and going through a rough time in his life.  He was raised in the Church by two extraordinary parents who love him unconditionally.  He knows the Way.  He knows that he needs to go to Mass, love Jesus more, do the right things more, but he kept telling me that he just keeps getting in his own way.  (Full disclosure: I’m mentioning this in my homily today because he told me to and because of the following few lines.)  Towards the end of the conversation he was saying how messed up he is, using different words, and that he motivates himself by putting on his mirror the saying “YOU are the problem.”  I immediately stopped him and said no no no no no, you got it all wrong, you want motivation, take that saying down and put up “Jesus is the solution!” because just like the gospel tells us this Sunday “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”  I couldn’t see this young man on the other end of the line, but it is as if I could almost see the light bulb going off over his head.  “You are God’s son,” I kept repeating to him over and over again.  No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, you are his son! 

I was speaking to a good kid who was trying to find his way through all the distracting lights of the world that I mentioned last week.  It’s very difficult for us to grasp this concept that through baptism we are made God’s children.  But it’s not just that.  We are made God’s favorite children.  I always say that God loves each and every one of us as if we were the only human being on earth.  That is the depth of his love.  That is why he sent his Son, why we have celebrated his birth for the last three weeks because Jesus comes to show us his Father’s eternal love.  And if becoming human weren’t enough, today Jesus humbles himself yet again by being baptized.  Did he need to baptized? Of course not, but I love this explanation by Dr. Scott Hahn:  “Jesus doesn’t submit to John’s baptism as a sinner in need of purification.  He humbles Himself to pass through Jordan’s waters in order to lead a new “exodus”—opening up the promised land of heaven…”  In the Old Testament, the Israelites crossed the Jordan to enter into the promised land, and now Jesus is doing it again but the land we will inherit is flowing with much more than milk and honey and it is not of this world.

We are so very blessed.  As the Christmas season draws to a close today, let us renew our baptismal promises and let us commit ourselves to go out there and remind every one we meet that they are God’s children no matter who they are or what they’ve done.  And if we are the ones who are going through a rough time or are having doubts just close your eyes, picture the day of your own baptism, and listen to the voice of the Father telling you the same thing he told to Jesus: “You are my beloved son (daughter); with you I am well pleased.”

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Living Epiphany

“Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1)

There are so many lights out in the world that distract us.  So many things that try to draw our attention.  I think of the last time that I was in Times Square in New York which used to be a collection of billboards but has become a collection of frenetic video boards that cause an all out assault on the senses.  What are they announcing?  Broadway shows, movies, television shows, ads for clothing, destinations, etc.  All these lights point to something that will apparently make us happy.  Yet only one light does. 2000 years ago one particular light, one particular star caught the attention of three Magi from the East and they followed it.  That star ended up leading them to the child Jesus.  That star called them to journey to a strange land, encounter strange (and evil) characters in order to rightfully pay homage to the newborn king.  Today we celebrate the manifestation of the light and salvation of Christ to all nations.  No longer was it reserved to just Israel.  We are all now the beneficiaries of this love, and his star shines on us all.

Yet going back to the Times Square analogy, so many lights distract us.  To use another comparison, light can obscure light.  For example, we cannot behold the total beauty of a star-filled night sky because the city lights obscure all but a few stars.  In our spiritual life, so many things come disguised as light but lead us further into darkness.  If sin did not come disguised as light, and let us not forget that Satan used to be the angel of light, then we would not commit sin.  But we do, and thus we stop following the Christmas star that leads us to Jesus.  We do not allow the light of Christ that we received in baptism to shine in our hearts and thus shine before others.  If Epiphany means manifestation then the challenge of this day is for us to become living epiphanies, living manifestations of Christ’s light and love for others.  Let me explain.

I came across this brilliant quote in our bulletin the other day among some of the “filler” that we often use that is sent to us by our bulletin company.  It said:  “Many people have no inkling of the beauty and urgency of God’s call.  Only through our lives and convictions will this call be revealed.”  The star called the Magi from the East to leave what was familiar to them and to search out the newborn king.  The star calls us to abandon our familiar ways and recognize the beauty and urgency of God’s call.  The world that wanders in darkness urgently needs to see this light shining in us.  “The Eucharist enables us to be God’s epiphany.  The Eucharist sends us forth to proclaim the news and bring others in this unity.”  Here at this altar we become Christ-like because we receive Christ.  We become God’s epiphany because we are called to go and manifest his light and his love to the world.  Today we must recognize the urgency of this call and the need to focus on the light of Christ and not on the other lights that are trying to capture our attention.  Christ’s marvelous light shines in you.  You can’t hide it.  We must have the conviction to share that light with others.  This is our urgent call.  If not you, whom?  If not now, when?