As announced this weekend, my ministry will be split between two parishes.  Many decisions will be made over the coming weeks so please pray for the gift of wisdom for myself and for the parish leadership.  While completing my undergraduate degree in Agribusiness Economics I decided to minor in management; in the process of my studies, I learned about the Peter Principle.  The Peter Principle states, “in hierarchies every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence."  I look forward to the opportunities this assignment brings but I also recognize my limitations.  Hopefully, this additional assignment will not entail me rising beyond my level of competence.  There will be a learning curve for both myself and St. Boniface Parish.  Some might foresee problems associated with this transition but I see this as an opportunity for our parish.  There is a saying; “united we can do so much more” and I believe this is true.  On another note, I will be leaving for my annual retreat after masses next weekend (June 26).  This year I am attending a preached retreat at the National Shrine of St. Therese in Darien, IL and the theme is: “Memories: Remembering and Being Re-membered.”  Please know that you will be remembered while I am on retreat.

The Western Church has often focused on the person of Jesus Christ by emphasizing the justification and salvation won for us by his life, death, and resurrection.  While these are important truths that must continually be proclaimed, there is yet another truth which the Eastern Church stresses and we often neglect.  The Eastern Church reminds us that the Holy Spirit has been poured forth into our hearts and divinizes us.  We are no longer mere humans because the Spirit of God dwells in us.  This life-giving Spirit transforms us and allows us to be partakers in the divine nature (cf. 2 Peter 1:4). The Eastern fathers continually remind us that God became human so that humans might become God.  Let us remind ourselves of Christ’s gift of the Spirit as Pentecost approaches.  May the Spirit elevate us to the image of the Son and may this Spirit restore to creation the unity which Adam lost.

This past spring, I took a class reflecting on the religious turn in contemporary continental philosophy.  The class explored philosophers such as Jean-Luc Marion, John Caputo, and Richard Kearney and how their philosophical writings incorporate religious insights.  In his book The God Who May Be, Kearney reflects upon the resurrection accounts of Jesus.  He says that the resurrection accounts go something like this: “If you are hungry and need bread and fish, ask for it and you shall have your fill.  If you see a lost loved one standing on the shore and are filled with joy, throw decorum to the wind, jump into the waves, and swim to them.  If someone gives you food, do not ask for identity papers or credentials (“Who are you?”); just sit and receive.  If you are wanting in body or mind –crippled, despised, rejected, downcast, disabled, despondent – and your nets are still empty after many tries, do not despair; someone will come and tell you where to cast your net so that you may have life and have it more abundantly.  Indeed the most transfiguring thing about this God of little things is that he gives with a gratuity that defines the limits of space and time.  Now he’s gone, now he’s here, now he’s gone again.  Now he’s dead, now he’s alive.  Now he’s buried, now risen.  Now the net is empty, now it’s full.  And more surprising still, the fish is cooked for us even before we get ashore and unload our nets.  ‘Come have breakfast,’ Christ says as the boat touches land.”  (Kearney, 50-51)

Journeying with Jesus

Have you wanted to explore the tradition of our Catholic faith?  Do you want to build relationships in our parish?  If so, consider coming to our new parish group.  Beginning June 1, we will meet on Wednesday nights to share faith and fellowship with one another.  Each week we will gather to discuss an excerpt from a religious book.  These gatherings will be held at parishioner’s homes, along with other venues.  

The first book we will explore is Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers (Penguin Classics), which is available online or at the parish office for $12.  This book is a collection of ancient Christian writings dating before the year 200 A.D.  By reading these writings, we will glimpse what the early Christians thought and believed. Their writings use simple language and concepts, but they are rich in imagery, theology, and history.  If you are willing to host a week in your home please call the parish office as soon as possible.  Our first gathering will begin on June 1 at the rectory meeting room.  We will have wine, cheese, and other snacks available that evening as we explore the theme of the coming weeks.  Please join and explore the treasures of our faith.

Easter Sunday 04/27/2011
Easter Sunday:

On this day, Orthodox Churches throughout the world listen to the homily of St. John Chrysostom.  It is a short, but powerful homily which recounts Christ’s victory.  Here are a few excerpts from the homily.

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Is there anyone who is a grateful servant?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

Recently, Governor Quinn signed a bill abolishing the death penalty in Illinois.  Many citizens are angry and disappointed with his decision.  I know this topic is important to numerous people and there are countless factors that must be considered in moral decisions including justice, finances, and the justice system, among others. The Catholic Church has reminded us of the right to live and the need to respect all human life.  Capital punishment has been defended throughout the Christian tradition as a way of preventing even greater evil from happening.  John Paul II committed himself to this traditional view, yet he also recognized that civilized societies can restrain those who commit acts of violence without killing the perpetrator.  For a long time I supported the traditional view despite the pope’s statements; however, throughout the past two years my conscience, mind, and heart have been changing.  When I was at St. Louis University, I took a class on Critical Theory.  Critical Theory was a philosophical movement that developed in the midst of fascism, Nazism, and totalitarianism.  These thinkers saw how human reason could turn against itself; our minds are capable of creating medicines which can cure countless people or our minds can create weapons and even highly complex structures where millions of people are put to death.  The Holocaust shows us the amount of planning it required from building camps to developing a complex system of trains.  Thousands, millions of hours were used to create structures for others to die.   The goods that surround us can so easily be abused including our ability to reason.  John Paul II saw clearly in his own life many people put to death by governments.  Nazis killed the communists and Jews; the communists killed Christians, and the bloodshed continues through this very day.  It is a slippery slope from killing a criminal justly to killing someone because they are an “enemy of the state,” however you define that term.  Perhaps the death penalty is accepted here because we as a country have not faced evil governmental structures which condemn innocent people to death. May God protect us and our country from such a tragedy.  We must not forget what others suffered, for Jesus too was a criminal executed by the state. 
Lent is a time of spiritual growth and spiritual challenges.  Throughout this season we are called to pray, fast, and give alms.  While many people give up things throughout the season of Lent, other people assume additional spiritual practices like attending the Stations of the Cross or volunteering. One of my seminary classmates loved to smoke his cigarettes but each Lent he would give up smoking.  For the rest of us, it seemed like we carried his penance.  Sometimes I prayed that he would break his Lenten resolution because he was grouchy and unbearable. When Easter arrived, my classmate would stand outside smoking a carton of cigarettes.  Lent is a time for us to intentionally do what we should be doing all the time.  At the same time, it is an opportunity for us to evaluate who we are and where we hope to be.  It is a time for God’s grace to transform our weakness so that we can be temples of the Holy Spirit.  May these forty days help us make lasting changes we can be proud of.  May it also be a time for us to receive the mercy and forgiveness of God, especially present in the sacrament of reconciliation.

God save me from my god.  This seems like a strange prayer, but it is an important one.  Each of us has an idea of what God is like.  Our idea of God could be an old man sitting on a cloud or Aristotle’s unmoved mover who gazes only on himself, or something in between these extremes.  We all need images of God, but our own images are only partial glimpses of God’s true reality.  According to Aquinas, we know more about what God is not, than what God is.  God is not evil, God is not material, God is not unjust, God is not a table, and the list of what God is not can go on and on.   We cannot comprehend what God is because God is infinite.  Moreover, Scripture testifies that God is love; while we have some understanding of what human love is, we lack understanding of what perfect, infinite, and complete divine love is.  We have a glimpse of this love when Jesus gave his life for each of us on the cross.  We pray to God to remove our own finite understanding so that we can glimpse the fullness of his reality in heaven. 

It has been over seven months since I arrived at St. Boniface Parish; together we accomplished much from the successful 150th anniversary celebration to the repair of our facilities.  For the last two months, I thought and prayed for continued conversion and spiritual renewal in our parish.  After speaking with a few priests, I thought we should investigate the possibility of a parish mission.  Parish missions are an ideal opportunity to break open God’s Word and rediscover the riches of our Catholic heritage.  I spoke with the parish council and they strongly support the idea of hosting a mission.  Our St. Boniface Parish Mission will begin on the weekend masses of May 5-6, 1012 and conclude with the closing liturgy on May 12, 1012.  Our mission priest, Rev. Peter Schavitz, C.Ss.R., is well known by many in our diocese as a dynamic and engaging preacher.  In fact, Fr. Peter presented a mission at Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in Chester last year and is presenting a mission this year at St. Mary Parish in Carlyle.  Conversion is the spiritual theme of our mission.  While May of 2012 seems far off, much work is necessary to host a successful mission.  What can you do?  First, each day please pray for the success of our parish mission.  Secondly, we need many people to help organize the mission; volunteers are needed to organize refreshments, promote/advertise the mission, assist in liturgical preparation, and much more.  We need your help!  Please consider joining the mission planning committee; you will be part something exciting and uplifting!

Why did the evangelists write the Gospels?  We take the Gospels for granted, but the early Christians had no bible of their own.  They read (or most likely listened to) the same Old Testament as their mothers and fathers did, all while believing that Jesus is the Messiah.  In fact, throughout most of Church history, few Christians were able to read the bible due to illiteracy and the lack of bibles.  Early Christians preserved the memory of Jesus through oral stories.  The parables are memorable stories and are easily memorized in oral cultures.  As time went on, Christians realized that these stories had to be preserved.  There was also concern about some of the stories circulating about Jesus.  A scholarly consensus says that there were widespread resurrection stories circulating stories among early Christians.  The first of the evangelists, Mark, wrote his Gospel to emphasize discipleship.   

Mark’s Gospel contains little about the resurrected Christ because everyone knew those stories.  Mark wanted his readers to recognize that unless one becomes a disciple, those resurrection accounts mean nothing.  Each of the Gospels portrays Jesus differently based upon their culture and situations.  This should not surprise us Catholics since Mary has appeared differently to people based upon their contexts; for instance, Our Lady of Lourdes looks nothing like a Jewish woman from the first century, yet we recognize the continuity between the historical Mary and the apparition.  The Jesus of Mark’s Gospel emphasizes discipleship and this reflects the difficulties of Mark’s community.  Each of the Gospels has a slightly different understanding of Jesus.  So which Gospel is the real Jesus?  Simply, they all are.  Each of us can look at an object or person differently based upon our contexts.  My looking at a tennis ball from the bleachers is different from the tennis player’s perspective and this is different from someone looking at the tennis ball under a microscope.  As the Son of God, Jesus cannot be constrained by one view.  Jesus is both servant AND Lord; both someone who suffers death and someone freely giving his life up for others; someone who welcomes sinners and someone who demands repentance and discipleship.  No one view is enough to contain the great mystery God has established in Jesus the Christ.