Monday, November 12, 2018

Shot Through with God's Glory and Purposes

Ok, so last Sunday was a universal call out for having to failed to love God with all our hearts and that instead we idolize and worship lesser things. Pretty depressing; maybe even scary. But this Sunday's homily responds to that (just) condemnation, and shows us a path forward so that "we may use the good things that pass in such a way as to hold fast even now to those that ever endure."

[Also, here's a video of St. John Paul II in a batting cage.]

32nd Sunday, Year B

Last Sunday, I gave some pretty intense homilies at 9 & 10:30

If you were at a different Mass, I’ll summarize quickly here

But, worth looking up on the parish website; just go down to where it says "Father's Blog"

And even if you were at 10:30, might be worth it hearing the 9:00 version


It’s scary to read that the greatest commandment is to love the lord you got with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength 

Because if we’re honest, we know we are bad at it, like really bad, at loving God entirely.

We know that we love and cherish and worship all sorts of things on par with—or very likely—over God himself

Sports, hobbies, clubs, schools, kids, jobs, cars, investments, houses, lake houses... 

To say nothing of our own pride, vanity, self-importance; our desire to win, desire to be right, desire to be first 

All humans were made to worship God, but ever since the Garden of Eden, all humans have also have had a constant pull towards making lesser things into idols and worshipping at those altars instead of worshipping God. 

And then there’s that whole second commandment—the one that Jesus says is “like the first”—love your neighbor as yourself. 

So for all the care and concern and self love we have, we need to have that in equal measure with our neighbor

And this is to say nothing of the gospel passages like the rich young man who went away sad when Jesus told him he still lacked one thing—sell everything and then follow me—or today’s gospel of the widow’s mite, with her two small coins. Both about total surrender and total gift of self instead of clinging to our possessions 

And I was clear to make a nice list of my own failings at both of these two greatest commands of God, found in both the old and new testaments. Mine are especially heavy in the self-importance and self-righteous categories. 

So, having charged all of us with idolatry and failing at the two greatest commandments, where do we go now?

Is the only option to quit the world and go off into the wilderness and live as monks like the old Desert Fathers and hermits?

Is there any way to be in the world, but not of the world?

And especially as families?

It’s one thing for a person to choose a radically different life as a single person, but what about those with spouse and kids—which is the vast majority of the Christian faithful?

Are most people left to feel they can never keep the first commandment because they also love their families and friends, sports and hobbies, schools and teams and toys?

Must we quit all our club teams, cancel our satellite NFL season ticket and, sell our jet skis and motorboats, give up gardening and jogging, stop investing in the stock market, and quit attending our kids events? 

Is that the only option??

No. I don’t think so. 

At different times in Christian history there have been breakaway groups, schismatic groups, heretical groups, (more like cults) who said we have to be so radical and have to live against everything in the world.

But the church has always insisted that “No, you are actually heretics. We are suppose to be in the world, but not of it.”

So how?

How does that work, Father? You have now presented two very opposite claims.

Pie chart mindset

Pretty natural way to think because we have either paper daily planners or calendars in our phones.

Calendars on phone tell us they conflict

Hour here, half hour there

How do love the Lord with all our hearts when we’ve only got 24 hours and we needs to pack the kids’ lunches and go to meetings and try to sleep sometime?

7% Monday, Wednesday is really busy so 3%, but Friday is good—I can spend a half hour in prayer and then I’ll read a religious book and call my mom.

Fr. Kilcawley’s analogy: Pie chart divides up the day and they conflict

Instead, think of Russian nesting dolls: the doll inside the doll inside the doll

Like little eggs, all inside each other 

What are you doing? “Getting sunscreen > vacation tomorrow > family > vocation > love of God”

God > family > spouse > chore > therefore running to Walmart

Better approach because it gives a sense of hierarchy and priority, without division

Doesn’t divide or take away: “God vs. family vacation”

Instead it’s “family vacation within God”

How do you apply this mindset—the Russian nesting dolls mindset—with a specific good?

A thing we could turn into an idol.

How do we keep them in line with God?

Even the very great goods of our family or our kids or our job

Because that is what idolatry is: God is the Creator. He creates all of creation. And then we, a creature ourselves, choose something in creation and raise it up above the Creator…that’s idolatry. 

Worshipping animals or the local volcano God 3,000 years ago or these other things in 2018

How do we—with any one good thing in front of us—how do we not put that above God the Creator?

How do keep perspective?

We can take any good thing, and if we correct or sharpen these 3 “lenses” of how we see them, we will be in better shape and honor God rather than fall into idolatry.

  1. Base, foundation 
>> God as the source of all

  1. Goal, what do we see it as trying to get us to?
>> if we have goal right, whatever it is serves Him

  1. See them a shot through with God’s glory and purpose

That’s what the Psalms do.

150 songs: Glorying in what God has made, how beautiful and awesome, and the works he has done in humanity

Turn to p. 14, 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, opening prayer

O God, protector of those who hope in you, without whom nothing has firm foundation, nothing is holy, bestow in abundance your mercy upon us and grant that, with you as our ruler and guidewe may use the good things that pass in such a way as to hold fast even now to those that ever endure.

Firm foundation: the base

You as ruler and guide: final goal and gives of purpose

Yes, use the good things that pass away!

Those things aren’t bad; and this help us put them in perspective

We want to use these good things; to appreciate them.


Base, foundation 

Let’s look at: gardening, time on the lake, our family 

Gardening: Co-creator with God , like Adam, appreciate working alongside 
Glorify Him: praise him for beauty day, weather, lake, scenery, health in bodies to swim and waterski
Pro-creator, make things with me, human things, people things!

Family is a great good, but we know that any number of younger sibling have been offered as sacrifice on the altar of the older kids’ events and dreams 

Youngest kid: “Yeah basically I never had a summer vacation; just grew up on the soccer sidelines and baseball bleacher of all around the Midwest.”

Offered up to the God of summer league travel

Goal, final destination


Be successful, take care of family, provide 

Great, we need that.

Not saying quit you job and start home. Or not work to full potential.

How do we keep in perspective?

Goal: Is it just to get ahead? Can become an idol.

Bigger promotion, salary, 401k? Can become an idol.

Many families have been offered up on that altar of a career.

Or the praise we get for “Hey man that was a great presentation!” 

Is that bad? No, we need that. But praise can become an idol.

Does the goal come back to God?

Graduation speaker a couple years ago at Benedictine:

Most people graduating are focused on upcoming career and salary and fretting decisions about that

But most likely, you won’t even have that same job in 10 years

Focus on discerning: What is my vocation? What kind of person do I want to marry and start a family with? What kind of family do we want to have?

50 years down the road, those topics will have proven more consistent and probably an lot more instrumental then the job you got at 23.

Is the focus on the job as an end in itself, or as means to greater ends?

The goal of these good things: Is it culminating in God?

Shot through God’s presence and purpose

So many things that are great goods, but we can screen God out of them


Many people have called them the greatest idol in America

Fantasy Football

Kind of worship the Huskers

Big old cathedral off of I-180 where the whole state worships together

Huskers kind of stink this year, but back in 1995, we know who we were worshipping

And I think we say some reflections of that idolatry back in August with Mr. Frost too if we are honest.

Individual towns, schools, clubs, very easy thing to idolize

Yesterday, Wahoo girls won second straight state volleyball title

Couple weeks ago, the Neumann softball girls almost did the same thing

On Friday night both local football teams were playing in the state semi-finals

4 out of the last 5 boys basketball championship games have had either Wahoo or Bishop Neumann, and twice it was them against each other.

This is an amazing town


But then it all comes down to perspective

Do we let our activities be shot through with God’s grace and glory?

John Paul II loved sports

Jubilee for athletes (like Day for the Sick and Day for Religious)

(see also these talks)

Sports as a “School of virtue”

Goalie for his soccer team

Loved hiking and skiing and swimming

But always saw them as a means to a greater end

Grow in virtue: leadership, teamwork, discipline, focus

Virtue for when a call doesn’t go your way, so you say “I’m not going to fight, not going to yell or pout; I’m going to accept this.”

When we don’t get the position on the team we want, to have the humility to say “I’m either going to have to work harder or have the humility to say ‘That’s not me.’”

That’s a great chance to grow in virtue

Every win and every loss are chances to grow.

Beautiful way in which John Paul II saw sports, but that only happens if we see God’s purpose behind the things we love and can let those graces reach us.

If we see our hobbies and sports and activities as ways to grow in virtue and to glorify God and show His excellences, then they become amazing building blocks

But if we make them an idol, and love them only in themselves, then we are back to not loving God with all our heart, mind, and soul.

Putting those good things in the right perspective, so we can right enjoy them

Shot through

So that we can properly say that prayer and have nothing to worry about:

“that we may use the good things that pass 
in such a way as to hold fast even now to those that ever endure.”

Sunday, November 4, 2018

We Do NOT Love the Lord our God. And Our Neighbor We Would Crush.

If loving God with all our heart is the Christian standard, we are probably frickin' toast. If the greatest commandment (and "the second command, which is like it") have binding authority over us and determine if we are on Jesus' team....Oof. These things read like our damnation.

I don't know about you, but I know that I suck at both of those. And I look around, and I see a lot in that boat with me. We are constant, daily, idolaters, most of us. We worship that which is not the Creator, and we love our neighbor to the extent they help and please us. 

Pope Benedict XVI said of the Youth Catechism: "This catechism was not written to please you. It will not make life easy for you, because it demands of you a new life. It places before you the Gospel message as the 'pearl of great value'." The same could be said of the Gospel today. It is hard to realize that in not focusing on individual precepts of the Torah, Jesus was not making his Law "easier"— but he was trying to save us from ourselves.

(image credit: Elizabeth Scalia's book, Strange Gods)

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Two Homilies for the Price of One

Once again, I didn't get last weekend's homily up in a timely manner (but I did still get a blogpost out). So here I am posting both last week's homily "Ransom for Many" and this weekend's, "Believe Because Trustworthy" all together. 

Oct. 21, "Ransom for Many"

Oct. 28, "Believe Because Trustworthy"

Monday, October 22, 2018

Saved By Grace Through Faith

Today's first reading, Ephesians 2:1-10, prompted me to want to share a class topic from this summer's Totus Tuus program with all of over the age of 13. 

When reading St. Paul, especially in Romans and Galatians, but even in Ephesians, it can sound like Paul is maybe a little bit Protestant. <<read scarily>> I mean, he said today that "For by grace you have been saved through is the gift of God; it is not from works." But if that sounds non-Catholic, then we need to get to know Paul better and brush up on the Council of Trent's Decree on Justification.

So this summer, as the Totus Tuus teams taught the Creed, and specifically the class "The Forgiveness of Sins", we taught the kiddos St. Paul and The Council of Trent! We just didn't tell them we were teaching them that, since it's a thing that even a Catholic college student might assume is some of the deepest theology in the any Church document.

The key to understanding lies in this sequence:

1) We are forgiven...
2) by God...
3) in the Messiah...
4) by grace...
5) through faith...
6) by our conversion/metanoia...
7a) at first repentance (sacrament of baptism)...
7b) at second repentance (sacrament of penance)

(Imagine these in a long line stretching across a black board, and then the last two, 7a and 7b, branching off of 6 together.)

The genius of this list is that the entire sequence can be read as a single sentence, and it is true. But also you can drop out any and all of the following points and it's still true.

We are forgiven. (True)
We are forgiven by God through faith. (True)
We are forgiven by grace. (True)
We are forgiven in the Messiah at first repentance. (True)
We are forgiven at second repentance. (True)

This is the Catholic teaching on forgiveness/being saved/being justified/reckoned right/being redeemed. And is almost fractal in its ability to be completely true in its longest and shortest forms. 

Now, you might ask, what is this first repentance/second repentance mumbo jumbo? You've been a Catholic for forty years and you've never heard of this!

Well, that is also Trent. But it's spelled out in a different document, the Decree on Penance and Extreme Unction.

But don't worry if you didn't know about this until just today. I only learned about it in the last year, and I learned about it through a silly hobbit meme. Yup.

I saw this and I was totally lost and so I had to look up the term "second penance" and I learned it has a long history running from as early as the Shepherd of Hermas (~140 A.D.) through the Scholastics up to Trent. 

Baptism, where we reject Satan and accept the Messiah through faith, where we are forgiven by God by His utterly free gift (grace), is where we make our conversion and are justified—that is, declared a part of God's family in Jesus the Messiah. This is first repentance.

But well, sometimes we turn away from God. Sometimes we reject him, leave the family farm, and stomp off to waste Dad's money with prostitutes, and end up sleeping in a pig sty. But God is merciful, in his grace he lets us convert ourselves, and in the Messiah we can return to that living faith-working-through-love of Galatians 5:6. We cannot redo our Baptism, but this new conversion, this new repentance has a name: the Sacrament of Penance. This is second repentance. And thanks be to God for that.

So now you've learned about justification, about first and second repentance, and you've also learned that the Council of Trent isn't as scary as you once had thought. You are almost as smart as an 8th grader now. 

If you want to see me train the Totus Tuus teachers in this and see it all worked out on the board, you can watch this video.

Also, for Catechism references on all this, see CCC 976-983 (forgiveness of sins), 1427-1429 (second penance), and 595-618 (Jesus died for our sins).