Sunday, November 25, 2018

What Is The King's Glory?

A lot of people are snowed in today so I'm posting this quickly this morning for those looking for a homily. Those who are St. Wenceslaus parishioners also got a update on the sanctuary renovation and need to click here to vote this week (some bad news and some major good news has changed some things.)

Monday, November 19, 2018

Jesus, the High Priest, and Worship

Catholics have largely ceased to talk about worship. Some have relegated it to just a style of music and prayer ("praise and worship"), or assumed it is just a feeling we might sometimes feel in private prayer (like thankfulness), or have just abandoned it altogether as an unmodern idea. But at every Mass we worship the Father because we are in the Son, and so his high-priestly worship—on the cross and in the heavenly sanctuary—are our worship. We are "sons in the Son", therefore we are "priests in the High Priest".

33rd Sunday of the Year, Cycle B

Jesus, the High Priest, and Worship

The last few weeks I have been, unintentionally, ignoring the 2nd reading

There is this long run from the Letter to the Hebrews at end of this cycle 

Great stuff there 

And an angle we don’t get a lot: We get tons of Paul... and some John and Peter 

So to start we are going to look at 4 little vignettes from recent weeks

Start way back on p. 74 (29th Sunday)

Brothers and sisters: 
Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, 
Jesus, the Son of God
let us hold fast to our confession. 
For we do not have a high priestwho is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, 
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,yet without sin. 
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

The author of Hebrews doesn’t just focus on Jesus as king, but heavily on him as priest. He also see the Ascension as not just Jesus leaving us, promising the Spirit, and then waiting to come back at the end of time. He sees the Ascension as the moment the real High Priest enters the Real Sanctuary. And this is why he can intercede for us at the throne. That’s a priestly role, not a kingly one.

Then, 30th Sunday, quotes Psalm 110 twice. A psalm of the Messiah as king but also the priest:

it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him: 
You are my son: this day I have begotten you; 
just as he says in another place: 
You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

We hear about Melchizedek in Eucharistic Prayer I. Jesus is a priest, but not in the line of the Aaron and the other Levites; remember he is from the line of David (tribe of Judah), but the author says he’s a priest in the way Melchizedek was, who was also a priest and a king.

Now, jump ahead to 32nd Sunday:

Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, 
that he might now appear before God on our behalf.  
Not that he might offer himself repeatedly, 
as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; 
if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the world.  

Hebrews says that the sanctuary Moses made with the desert tabernacle and that Solomon made in Jerusalem were just rough copies: Moses saw the real heavenly sanctuary and is told to imitate it. But at the Ascension Jesus goes into the real and better sanctuary and offers himself and his worship.

And “Not repeatedly”. The high priest would go through the veil (remember this phrase) into the Holy of Holies once a year on Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement, to sprinkle blood and say the sacred name. But that doesn’t actually take away sins, so he repeats it yearly. Jesus only offers himself once. Protestants sometimes accuse Catholics of thinking we are re-sacrificing Jesus every time we are at Mass. No. There is one sacrifice, but we come back to it again and again.

Finally, this Sunday’s reading:

Every priest stands daily at his ministry, offering frequently those same sacrifices that can never take away sins.  
But this one offered one sacrifice for sins, 
and took his seat forever at the right hand of God; 
now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool.  
For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.

Here we hear again about the once-for-all sacrifice and Jesus’ intercessory role. And then the line about the footstool brings us back to Psalm 110 again.

So now, let’s take all that and see how it is all brought together in a hymn, “Alleluia, Sign to Jesus” (half the Mass had this one this weekend). #732

Alleluia! King Eternal,  
Thee the Lord of lords we own;  
Alleluia! born of Mary,  
Earth Thy footstool, Heaven Thy throne. 
Thou within the veil hast entered,  
Robed in flesh, our great High Priest
Thou on earth both Priest and Victim  
In the Eucharistic Feast.

Hymn is saying, this Eucharistic feast is also a sacrifice

And he is both the priest and the sacrifice itself—the victim

Veil is in temple, separating the main sanctuary inner Holy of Holies

One sacrifice, offered once for all, by a perfect priest who is also the messianic king

Jesus’ sacrifice has done all these things, which the previous priesthood and temple worship could never do

King and priest forever interceding for us at the right hand of the Father

<<Close books>>

Why did we just do that scripture search?

What Jesus did on the cross wasn’t just this great act of love.

Wasn’t even just an act of self sacrifice for sins.

Or even an just example of how we have to empty ourselves in humility.

All those, but also an act of worship

Notice the difference: old temple in Jerusalem built on the Temple Mount was filled with these Levitical priests, offering burnt sacrifices of lambs and goats, bull and turtles doves

Jesus makes a different act of worship, with a different kind of victim, on a different hill. 

A hill outside the city

And a different kind of sacrifice:

Not just animals that are offered again and again as a reminder that we are sinful, but himself who is able to actually remove sin

So Jesus on the cross is not just a reconciling, make-up-for-sins sacrifice with God, but also worship

I think actually all Christians agree that Jesus on the cross is offering perfect worship to the Father

But I also think we as modern Catholic are especially bad at forgetting that that was a worshipful act 

That the perfect lamb was being offered in worship of the Father

And that that is what we are doing when we come to Mass

I think “worship” has largely disappeared from the Catholic vocabulary. Or at least had its meaning narrowed to match non-catholic ideas about worship

I had an elective in school called the inter-seminary seminar: four students from Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Moravian seminaries

Myself and another seminarian were in the group that had a paper presented by a Presbyterian on worship, focusing on the kind of music chosen in services. 

All we two did was just follow their lead: songs, prayers, postures, instruments….

At the end the Lutheran professor present asked: “How did you have an hour long convesration with two Catholics in the room and we never once heard mention of the Eucharist?”

Oops, we messed that up!

We had given up on the term “worship”

And maybe even the concept of worship

Even we as seminarians

We would’ve probably said if asked what we do at Mass: Well, you go to pray. 

Or we would’ve said, and essentially did say, that worship was this individual thing that a person may do at the Mass.

Or worse, we might have just relegated it to being a feeling, like praise or thanks sometimes are treated.

But that is not what the Christian tradition tells we are to do: to only give thanks when we are feeling thankful, or to praise individually when are hearts are full of praise.

When we come together we DO praise and thank and worship together—objectively—and hopefully as a result of doing it we begin to feel the feelings of praise and thankfulness. 

Some years back Miss Manners was asked by a parent if they should make their kids write thank you letters for gifts if the kids didn’t real feel thankful for them. MM insisted yes. We don’t write them because we feel particularly thankful. She said something like: I have written thousands of thank yous, and I hope that eventually writing them will make me be as thankful as what I wrote. We write them so we can start to grow into the feeling.

CS Lewis says something similar about our Christian virtues. We don’t need to feel courage to love or faith. We do the actions in the hope that the feeling will come along later.

Same with worship. We do it (and praise and thanks) so that the feeling of those will eventually catch up to what we are doing.

That is one of the reasons I have enjoyed this past year of us praying together with the priest ad orientem.

Not just because it helps us focus better (though it probably does)

Not just because it might help us pray better (though it probably does)

Because, again, those are individual things.

But it helps us get a sense that we are worshiping 

Objectively, collectively worshipping

Regardless of how we feel today

And we can do this because are In Jesus 

That’s the whole thing we are trying to clarify, we are worshiping the Father in Jesus.

His worship is our worship.

<<diagram in the air>>

Here’s the Trinity <triangle of fingers> Father, Son, and Spirit.

Sin divides us from God. There is a chasm there. And we are on the other side.

So while we are still sinners, the Spirit swoops down, and scoops us up, and puts us—through baptism—into Jesus.

We are in Christ. Whatever relation he has to the Father and Spirit, we have.

That is why we are “Christians”


Not Fatherians and Spritians

Because we are in Christ

In Jesus, worshiping the Father with Jesus 

This last week I was asked a question about this on the internet. Someone had read my homily on ad orientem and asked: “But why do that? Surely Jesus didn’t have his back to the apostles at the Last Super.”


In fact, that was Martin Luther’s point

Jesus was of course facing them at the Last Supper

But we as Catholics insist that what we do at Mass is not just the Last Supper

It i the LS meal, but it is also Christ on the Cross and Hebrews description of Him entering heavenly sanctuary and offering his sacrifice and worship

Luther’s point was “The eucharist is just a meal”

“There is definitely not sacrifice happening at Mass”

“What happened on Calvary, and what Hebrews is all about, is not what is happening at Mass.”

“Catholic Church is crazy for thinking Mass is a sacrifice.”

We of course disagree with him. 

Your Czech ancestors resisted German Lutherans trying to tell them for 400 years “It was just a meal. Face each other; it’s just a meal.”

My Irish ancestors resisted English trying to tell them for 400 years “It was just a meal. Face each other; it’s just a meal.”

But this is a secondary topic. The main point:

Jesus shows us that what he is doing is worshipping the Father 

Church says that if we are in Jesus through baptism then our vocation is to worship the Father as well

When we come together at Mass, yes, we do pray individually, and we do have or individual moments of praise and thanksgiving...

And there is a moment when we do receive the meal from the altar…

But it’s main thing is that we are worshipping

We are standing with and in Jesus, worshipping his Father

And I think we have largely lost that in recent decades, including myself and that other seminarian

Yes, there are times that are communal… and there  are times that are worshipful

There are times that we are horizontally connected, and times that that we are vertically focused

We do both.

So, the Letter to the Hebrews is a thing we need to revisit from time to time to remind us why we are here. 

Not just to be chummy, not just for fellowship, not here just to be a family

But to be a family that worships, adores, praises, love, and honor 

And we do that with Jesus and in Jesus the way he did that on the cross and the way he does when he enters that perfect sanctuary in heaven.

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.”