Tuesday, September 19, 2017

End of Campaign and Beginning of Forgiveness

Two separate audio links are posted here. 

The first contains two important announcements. 1) Should we consider going to a 6:30 weekday morning Mass? and 2) explaining how we are ending the parish building campaign and allowing people to reallocate up to 60% of their donations to other parish projects. 

Then the homily, respectably short due to the length of the announcements (<5 min), reminds us that forgiveness is not when we can finally tell an offender it is no big deal. No, forgiveness is when we are honest about what happened and how bad it hurt and still choose as Jesus did.

Announcements (campaign announcement starts at 2:40)

Homily (text below)

Mark Twain famously said: "It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it's the parts that I do understand."

When I was younger I first heard this in a slightly different format: "Some people read the Bible and worry about the parts they don't understand. I worry about the parts of the Bible that I do understand."

And when I first heard that line, what I first thought of was today's Gospel: You will be forgiven as much as you forgive.

That bothered me because—I don't know about you—but that scares the snot out of me. 

That's the hardest thing to say in the Our Father: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Jesus tells us again and again that how much we measure out forgiveness to others is how much we'll be forgiven by God. 

And that scares me. 

Because I don't like it. 

Because  I'm bad at it. 

Because a lot of the time I just don't want to forgive. 

Because it hurts.  

And we've been hurt.

And one of the ways we deal with hurt is that we sit there in anger at the other people. 

Let's be honest: that's a very human thing to do. 

A couple of years ago, I found out that a person I loved deeply hurt a member of my family. 

I found out much later.

So angry. So betrayed. Felt impossible to forgive.

I think we all have had some version of that experience

Different things happen to different people but we all have an experience of "I don't think I can forgive you."

Or: I don't want to forgive you. 

All been in some version.

And that's why the words of Jesus are there.

Because it's not easy.

When I was here seven years ago as an assistant, I had a conversation with someone about the harm that had been done to her.

"I can't forgive."

"I think it's wrong to say we have to forgive." 

"I think that's the one thing Jesus got wrong."

<Ok. good luck with that!>

She really felt Jesus was wrong because it felt like if she forgave she was saying that they didn't do wrong, or that it wasn't a big deal, or don't worry about it. 

I think that's what we fear. That "I forgive you" means "eh, no big deal."

Kind of the exact opposite of forgiveness

If I'm saying, "I've forgotten or enough time has passed; I'm over it," then I don't even really need that choice to forgive. 

I don't need the virtue/strength of forgiveness. 

Then it's not forgiveness anymore. It's something else. 

Real forgiveness is when I say:

I know what happened.

I know it fully and how bad it was.

It still hurts.

And I'm making a choice.

That's what forgiveness really is.

It's not just shoving it away.

Real forgiveness is acknowledging it.

Think about it:

Jesus over here on 11th Station:

Father, forgive them...

Martyrs: skin flayed off; burned alive

Pray for your persecutors 

They haven't forgotten 

They're literally killing then at that moment

They're ripping out their entrails 

Still saying "I forgive"

Clearly a choice

Not an "I'm over it."

Or "not that bad"

They are saying, "In spite of all you're doing, and exactly because of what you're doing, I'm choosing to do the harder thing."

Jesus doesn't say it in Gospel, but based on other things Jesus says, we can imagine him saying something like: 

"Forgive those who hurt you. For if you only forgive for those things which "you've gotten over", what credit is that? Don't the pagans and tax collectors do the same?

Anybody can eventually "get over something"

It takes a Christian, it takes grace, it takes power from God to forgive those who we still feel keenly have hurt us. 

So we need to hear those words today and be challenged.

We have to hear these words—as hard as anything else in the Bible—

—as hard as any of the beatitudes

As hard as anything asked of us—Turn the other cheek, go the extra mile—

It's so hard: To forgive willingly...

It's as hard as you can get.

But Jesus doesn't ask us to do it all alone.

He will give the grace to heal.

But that means we don't just wait till "the feeling is right" to forgive. 

We make the hard choice now to forgive, and he will, over time, give us the graces of moving on. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Shebna, Eliakim, Peter & the Church

Jesus names Peter. Jesus names Peter as the Rock which will hold firm against all assaults. Jesus follows Isaiah and names Peter as his master-of-the-palace for when he is gone. Can we go any deeper into the story of Jesus, Peter, and the Church on earth? Yes, but it isn't always pretty.

(I had hoped all week to get the time to get my notes-text expanded to full-text, but I never got to it. Here is the audio and what notes I had. You can follow along better than most weeks, at least. Also, yeah, there is a lot of baby noise in the background, but hey, "If your church ain't crying, it's dying.")

21st A: Peter, Shebna, and Eliakim

2 weeks ago: Broke, Woke, Bespoke

Not the only way to look at things

Good, better, best

"Go a little further"


Jesus is really happy that Peter figured out who he is. 

You are Peter, either giving him a new name or reinforcing what he named him earlier in John

•Further: fired up homily

This is the beginning of the church

First use of it

And Peter is named the bedrock of the church...

...at that Church's bedrock, foundational moment

Matthew goes whole hog

Mark, important thing was what Peter said: you are the Messiah


1 from God; "flesh & blood" 

2 confirms name, = rock 

3 upon rock

4 gates of hell >> infallibility

5 keys >> ability to govern

6 bind >> make decisions

Jesus will tell all apostles the can forgive sins Easter Sunday night 

Only Peter has keys and can bind 

Proof that J founded church on Peter. 

He's promised that the church will never fail. 

Always teach the truth

Right to govern: set rules and make hard choices  

And it follows that from there, if the gates will never prevail, the next generation must have same guarantees

So these promises follow Peter and successors

Heard before

Very common, Catholic exposition on Matthew 16:18

"Great to have a Pope; great to be Catholic!"

•Further: OT

Really on-it preacher looks at 1st reading too. 


Master of the palace, lord of the house, major domo, 


Taken away


Signs of office, title

(Like a father)

Key = authority

Then actually describes the authority

Opens shut, shuts open

Unmistakeable parallel: 

Keys and double binding

Jesus clearly copying image

Makes Peter the master of his palace

Watcher while he is away


Fr. Rowan isn't really the assistant pastor; 

Properly speaking: parochial vicar

"Over the house of Judah"

"Like a father"

Parallel: Peter not just given verbal authority.

if a reflection of Isaiah and Master of palace, he's saying you are king when the king isn't around

Jesus is head of the church

Pope is "visible head of the church on earth"

(Scott Hahn)

 Peg ~ rock

"Hoo Ahh! Now it's really great to be a Catholic. 

Not just proof, but wisdom and assuring!"

•Further (I won't say furthest, b/c there's always more to find, but is the deepest I will go today

"Man, I like these OT parallels!

Is the more?"

Yeah, but you might not like all of it. 

"I will fix him as a peg in a firm place,a seat of honor for his ancestral house;

On him shall hang all the glory of his ancestral house: its offspring and offshoots—all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars.

On that day, says the LORD of hosts, the peg fixed in a firm place shall give way, break off and fall, and the weight that hung on it shall be no more. The LORD has spoken.

End of chapter. 

<hands drop>

Oh man. 

I told you might not want to hear it. 

Just heard the most triumphal line of God bestowing his favor and trust on his right hand man in the Old Testament. 

And seem that Jesus was clearly making parallel with that for his right hand man in New. 

But wow. 

"the peg fixed in a firm place shall give way, break off and fall, and the weight that hung on it shall be no more."

So much for Peter the rock!


But is it? 

Did J pick Peter because courageous?

Because sinless?

Because prudent and wise?


He picked him, because he picked him. 

There is always a mystery in what we call "divine election"

When God chooses someone for a task

And that's often not whom we would think to choose. 

But the final verses are even deeper

No man can bear that weight

No person can be the peg with absolutely everything hanging on him. 

All humans will fail, especially under that load

Peter will fail him

Heck, Peter will fail him next week, 

Before Matthew Ch 16 is finished. 

You could've had a smarter, tougher Jewish man like Paul and he couldn't have held that weight. 

So the final lines of Isaiah 22 tell us lots

God knows no man is fit to be the vicar of Christ

No human can be the rock on their own merits

This position, this charism of being the visible head of the church on earth only works because of God

The rock is no rock without the one who gave the name and said, "I will build my church"

It's Jesus' church

Only a fool would think it's Peter's church. 

God chooses weak men and puts them over an institution that is in the realist sense "too big to fail"

Because millions of souls depend on her always teaching the truth 

So God gives graces to the whole...

And special grace to the unfit, flawed man who has to bear that title Vicar of Christ and Successor of St. Peter

Not for his sake but for ours

So we can be safe

Last lines of Isaiah 22 are perfect. 

We'll never then be confused

Never think that the pope is the savior

We know he alone can't hold the weight

But God can

God can give those graces to always protect the church

God does give those graces

And he actually does it through a fragile, flawed, imperfect human being:

His vicar

The vicar of Christ on earth