Sunday, January 15, 2017

Testify: Jesus is Lord!

“Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God." (John 1:34)

This morning at Mass, we are honored to have with us the young people who will be representing the Archdiocese, representing us all, at the National March for Life in Washington, D.C. in just 10 days.  They are courageous young men and women who will brave cold temperatures (they marched in a blizzard last year), so that they could raise their voices for those who have no voice: the unborn.  They will testify, just as John the Baptist did in today’s gospel, to the Truth.  They will testify that Jesus is Lord and that as a nation we have forgotten that he is the Lord of us all.  Their courage and their conviction should inspire us this morning as we listen to God’s word.  Their testimony should prompt us to ask the question: how do I testify that Jesus is Lord of my life?

As John proclaimed in the desert, every word and action of ours should proclaim that Jesus is Lord.  Because we are Christians, because we are witnesses of the power of God’s love, everything we do should speak of His love.  John saw Jesus coming toward him and he said the words that the priest says right before we receive Holy Communion: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”  Jesus is in our midst.  Jesus is present here.  As we go forth from Mass, Jesus is present in you.  As we proclaimed during Christmas, Jesus came to touch us, to save us, to redeem us, to renew us, to re-create us, and to give us his Spirit.  This is the Spirit of courage that should embolden us to proclaim the Good News.  We need witnesses to the Truth.  We need witnesses who courageously raise their voices to say Jesus is Lord.  Even though these young people will march primarily in silence with maybe a rosary being said, their presence on the National Mall and on the steps of the Supreme Court speaks volumes.  Yet the world will mostly ignore them because the world does not recognize nor wants to pay attention to the Truth.

Let me give you a concrete example: two weeks ago I was blessed to see the movie “Silence.”  If you haven’t heard of this film, and I don’t blame you because it really hasn’t been promoted and you’ll understand why in a second, this is a film of two Jesuit missionary priests who travel to Japan in the 17th century to find a priest who had disappeared and to minister to the Christian faithful who practiced their religion in secret because Christianity was outlawed in Japan.  The movie speaks to the unwavering courage of these priests but more so of the peasant Japanese who testified that Jesus is their Lord to the point that it may cost them their life along with the lives and well being of their family.  It is a powerful film, an ode to the true witnesses of the faith.  Yet has been scarcely nominated for any major awards, and you would think this film would be heralded because it has acclaimed actors and is directed by probably the most heralded and most influential director of our generation: Martin Scorsese.  Yet it is a film about faith.  It is a film that is unabashedly about Jesus Christ and his followers.  It took Scorsese 20 years to get this film financed and made because the world does not want to hear about the courage of the witnesses of Jesus Christ.  Yet we hand the Oscar for Best Picture last year to a film that tore down Catholicism.

The world doesn’t want to hear from you.  The world wants you to practice your Christianity in secret preferably behind the walls of this church and no further.  Sure Hollywood can preach to us about what we should be doing and thinking but heaven forbid we should speak up for Jesus.  Whenever an actor speaks about his or her faith, the news is relegated to religious papers or websites.  Whenever an athlete or coach is interviewed after winning a game and he or she praises and gives thanks to Jesus Christ, whether it’s sincere or not, you should see the backlash that they get on social media.  Just this past Monday, the coach of the champions of college football repeatedly said after the game that none of this could have happened without God.  He said this three times.  Remember when Tim Tebow was ridiculed some years back for writing biblical verses on the eye black on his face during games, for kneeling in prayer?  Those verses sent people scurrying for their Bibles, but it would be soon ridiculed and outlawed.  One Sunday after a game against the New York Jets, I did what I always do and went to midfield to join the few prayers who knelt to pray after the game.  Tim Tebow was right next to me and we knelt and held hands in prayer with the other players as cameras went into a frenzy around us to catalog this curious occurrence: a famous athlete kneeling in prayer.  It’s a curiosity to some, an abomination to others, but heroic to those of us who follow the Lord.  When we finished the prayer, I shook Tim’s hand and thanked him for all he has done to witness to the world that Jesus is Lord.

Our world is in need of more witnesses to Jesus Christ.  Our world needs us to testify that Jesus is indeed Lord.  And we need to be unabashedly unapologetic when we do so.  We do not have the luxury or the time to apologize or be embarrassed for being Christians.  Remember that Jesus said that if we deny him before others then he would deny us before the Father (cf. Matthew 10:23). We need to speak with a loud voice like John the Baptist did to proclaim that the Lamb of God is present in our world.  So I conclude by asking you a very simple question: how do you testify to the world that Jesus is Lord?

Sunday, January 8, 2017


“Where is the newborn King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2)

Right before I sat down to write this homily, I got called to visit a dying parishioner.  My homily was about searching for the Divine, particularly about the search of the Magi, and here I was standing before a child of God who was about to encounter the Divine.  All of us are on a life long search for the transcendent, and this soul, so close to death, was about to come face to face with the same God that the Magi encountered in Bethlehem under that star. 

We spend our lives waiting to encounter God.  We spend our lives searching for joy, peace, fulfillment, and more often than not we go searching in all the wrong places.  The Magi no doubt searched until the day the star appeared and it is that search, and that openness to that search, that ultimately leads them to finding the Christ Child. 

The beginning of this New Year affords us the opportunity to take up that search anew.  Perhaps we have been stuck in neutral (or reverse) when it comes to our spiritual life.  Perhaps we have abandoned the search all together.  Today’s Solemnity of the Epiphany is a wake up call to seek out the living God who comes to make all things new.  Each of us has a longing for the transcendent, for something new, and all our answers lie here in this manger.  Unfortunately, sin squashes that search for something beyond us.  Epiphany by its very definition means a sudden revelation or insight.  Once we open our eyes to see this sudden revelation and behold that we don’t have to search for very long to find the living God, our lives are immediately transformed.

This past Thursday, in his Epiphany homily Pope Francis concluded: “The Magi experienced longing; they were tired of the usual fare. They were all too familiar with, and weary of, the Herods of their own day. But there, in Bethlehem, was a promise of newness, of gratuitousness. There something new was taking place. The Magi were able to worship, because they had the courage to set out. And as they fell to their knees before the small, poor and vulnerable Infant, the unexpected and unknown Child of Bethlehem, they discovered the glory of God.”

It is indeed a New Year.  We are indeed tired of the old and familiar and are longing for something new.  Our search ends here at the manger as it did for the Magi.  As the Holy Father said, may we have the courage to “set out.”   A friend of mine tweeted last night, “Do not ask God to guide your footsteps if you’re not willing to move your feet.”  We must ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of courage to be able to seek out the God who calls us to newness of life.  The star of Bethlehem has indeed risen.  May we follow that star like the Magi and be transformed into something new that reflects the very glory of God.