Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Carver/Plympton, MA

Homilies

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 14, 2018

Rev. Anthony Medairos, pastor

1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19

Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-10

1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20

John 1:35-42

            As I settled in to a one-year tour of duty in Korea, some friends and I took a taxi to a restaurant in Tongduchon, a crowded little city just outside Camp Casey.  The hostess was very friendly; in fact she was the owner of the restaurant.  I asked her to write down its name and address so I could return some day.  She wrote in the beautiful Hangul alphabet words that she had to translate:  “Come and See.”  “Come and See?  That’s an unusual name for a restaurant.”  She explained that, as a Christian, she hoped to share the message of Jesus Christ through hospitality, so she chose her restaurant’s name from today’s gospel.  That scriptural verse of Jesus’ words to Andrew and friend is translated:  “Come and you will see.”

            Rabbis would gather disciples and teach them at the same location each day – often at the rabbi’s home.  So, since these inquirers called Jesus “rabbi,” and asked him, “Where are you staying?” they were not merely inquiring about his address.  They were asking, “Where do you teach?  What knowledge do you have to impart?”  Jesus answered, “‘Come and you will see.’  So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day.”  And lest anyone miss the significance of that encounter, John the Evangelist identifies the exact moment it happened, as Andrew and his companion must have recounted it so many times: “It was about four in the afternoon.”  That moment changed these men’s lives.  They would never forget his words; they would never forget the place; they would never forget the time: “It was four in the afternoon.”

            Samuel’s first personal encounter with God resonates also in a vivid memory.  The lad, apprenticed to the holy man Eli, “was not familiar with the Lord.”  God’s call was misunderstood by Samuel and even by his mentor.  But when the elder discerned that it was the Lord who was calling the boy, he advised Samuel:  “If you are called, reply, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”  This is what Samuel did, and so began his journey as God’s prophet.

            We see in Andrew and his friend, and we see in Samuel eagerness, curiosity, and willingness to be touched by God.  These men were called to special ministries.  But you and I have also been called.  It may not be as dramatic as becoming a prophet or one of the Apostles, but you and I are called to discipleship.  And that call is essential to God’s revelation.  The question is:  do we have the same eagerness, the same curiosity, the same willingness?  Many Christians do.  But some of us who embrace the name Christian are just marking time. 

“Marking time” is a military term, meaning that a formation of soldiers on the march is keeping in step with the music, but without moving forward.    

It is good that you and I stand within this worshipping community, for our eagerness, curiosity and willingness to be disciples finds support here.  And if we are marking time, God’s grace flows here – just being around those who are eager, curious and willing, and in the real presence of Our Lord in the sacraments.  But we are not moving forward in discipleship.  The Gospel message is not being advanced by you and me, if we’re in formation within a community, but we’re just marking time.

            A Christian’s marking time is problematic not only for ourselves but for other people as well.  You see, there are many people who may be curious about God or about Jesus, but they don’t know where to turn to slake that curiosity.  While such folks could possibly develop into eager and willing disciples of Christ Jesus, they haven’t yet encountered him.  They may not even know how to ask, “Where are you staying?” 

That’s our mission as believing Catholics, following Jesus’ example and saying to them:  “Come, and you will see.”  You and I can facilitate a divine encounter, as did Eli when he told Samuel to answer the Lord, “Your servant is listening;” as did John the Baptist, when he told two men as Jesus passed by, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” as Andrew continued that impulse when he brought his brother Simon Peter to Jesus.  And Andrew would do the same for many others.

            This is called evangelization.  How are you and I supposed to evangelize?  We find a model of evangelization in today’s scripture selections.  First, recognize in these stories that God approaches us first.  God spoke in Samuel’s dreams.  Jesus came to the River Jordan where Andrew and his companion were to encounter him.  God is delivering invitations all the time, if you and I will only see and listen.  Perhaps the clearest place where God speaks personally to us is in our prayer life.  This is why every Christian must be a person of quiet, reflective prayer. 

            But God’s approach is not enough.  People whom God summons need to respond.  There were many dreamers, but it was Samuel who said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”  There were many on Jordan’s riverbank where John was baptizing, but it was only Andrew and his friend who asked Jesus where he was staying and then followed him.

            God calls you and me.  God even calls people who do not come and worship with us.  There are invitations and calls from God all the time.  Some people are just not curious.  Some, while curious, are not eager to change their lives.  Some are unwilling to be disciples.  But there are some who are willing.

These are the ones who ask the Lord to speak.  These are the people who make time for scripture and prayer.  These are the ones who ask, “Lord, where do you stay?” meaning, “What is it that you teach, Lord?”  Where the Lord stays is within the teaching ministry of the Church as formed by the scriptures and the Spirit-guided Tradition of Catholicism. 

This is what we disciples are called to do:  to develop robust prayer lives so that we may learn to recognize the Lord’s word.  We are to seek out and embrace the gift of the Church’s teaching authority and to immerse ourselves in the Word of God as found in scripture.  Having done these things in our own lives, we are then to share our encounters with others:  praying with them and for them; sharing with them the words of scripture; explaining Christian teachings; inviting them into the community of faith, the Catholic Church, in other words evangelizing.

We disciples must ask the Lord where he is staying – and then go there.  And then we are to guide others to hear the Lord calling them, inviting them to “come and see” where the Lord is staying.

 

Solemnity of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

December 31, 2017

Rev. Anthony Medairos, pastor

Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14

Psalm 128:1-5

Colossians 3:12-21

Luke 2:22-40

            Speaking on the family is a delicate task.  Families these days take so many different shapes.  And people are very sensitive.  There are extended, nuclear, blended, fractured, new-age, and even same-sex families.  Preaching about such a diverse reality is like a clumsy person stumbling through a mine field: it’s not likely to end up pretty.

            Hopefully avoiding some of those IEDs, today we celebrate the Holy Family as a guidepost for family life.  This is especially helpful, as today’s family is endangered from opposite directions. 

One assault comes from individualism.  Today “it's the individual, not the family, that’s regarded as the basic unit of society.  We care less and less for family rights as we become more and more entrapped in the rights of the independent, self-centered individual.” [1]  Many of today’s behaviors feed off of an individual’s feelings, rather than being built on an objective moré. 

For example, it makes some same-sex couples feel better to be called “married;” and it makes their friends feel good to acknowledge their affection as a “marriage,” despite 5,000 years of human wisdom and natural bodily facts to the contrary.  The same can be said when a young girl can obtain an abortion without a parent’s knowledge, much less permission.  What is important is not right or wrong, but what feels good to me.  As Americans we’re conflicted, because our national ethos applauds the individual and our hero is the ultimate individualist: the cowboy.  

Our Catholic tradition, however, emphasizes the corporate nature of human life.  While each individual has unique value simply as God’s creature, we relate to God through a community of faith: the Church.  Each of us has been baptized into Christ Jesus.  Saint Paul pictured the Church not as a fraternal group, but as a body with Christ as its head in which each member has assumed an essential role, or as a building with Christ as the capstone in which every brick is necessary for that structure’s integrity.

In individualistic America – so influenced by the Protestant emphasis on an individual’s direct relationship with God, rather than as part of a body or of a building – even Catholicism as practiced by some has become a faith of isolated individuals.  So, it’s not surprising that many Catholics hold the same opinions as the non-Catholic citizens about such moral issues as abortion or same-sex marriage or even whether it’s essential to go to church.  What is right devolves into what feels good to me, any objective standard or scriptural teaching notwithstanding.

The other assault on the family is from state-ism.  Whether from leftist socialism to right-wing fascism, neither the family nor the individual is considered the basic unit of society; society is built instead on the state.  The state always looks first to controlling the children.    It is a paradox, but American individualism seems to have grown comfortable with allowing others – specifically the government – to manage many aspects of our lives.  Nowhere is this more insidious than in a family with young children.  [I have included in the on-line version of this homily a list of books on how the Nazi state molded a nation by co-opting the children. [2]

Parents entrust their children to government schools, with little understanding, oversight or input as to what is being taught.  Sometimes parents can carefully select schools for their children – religious or private – that are congruent with that family’s beliefs.  But most families cannot afford that luxury.  In both situations, parents seem to completely depend on that school’s “taking care of everything.”  What the child needs to know – from mathematics to sex education, from history to physical education – is provided by school.  Done.  Parents don’t have to deal with those subjects again.  Conversely, teachers complain they don’t get support from families.  Parents’ busy lives contribute to this surrender of the formation of children to others, who are not neighbors but strangers.  And the disconnect of parent from child is nearly complete. 

And so it is with handing on our religious faith.  Drop the kids off at CCD; check that block.  Meanwhile, many high-schoolers don’t even know the Our Father.  (Check this out with your own children or grandchildren.)  This is why our parish’s religious education program is shaped as a family project.  This has alienated some and annoyed others, but it is important that parents teach their own children the faith.  The Church community can help.  And that’s important, because we are not individualist Christians with a private connection to God, but members of the Body of Christ.  It is essential for parents to lead their children in faith. 

Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States, said “If you wish your children to be Christians, you must really take the trouble to be Christian yourselves.  Those are the only terms upon which the home will work the gracious miracle.”  So parents must be knowledgeable about their own faith, which is why all our parents are expected to attend monthly adult faith formation while their children learn along with their own peers.

The Holy Family was a family.  In the plan of God, Jesus could not have been fully human without his being raised in a family.  Luke’s gospel mentions at least five times that Mary and Joseph were pious, an observant religious couple.  To that couple was given the Son of God to be molded in his humanity.  They were a family who were part of a wider religious community.  They performed the Jewish ceremonial customs, like the circumcision of their boy-child on the eighth day and the redemption of their first-born through offering a pair of turtle doves in the Temple, because the first of everything always belongs to God.

Our Catholic tradition throughout the centuries and numerous political structures has always insisted that the foundation of society is firmly built on the family.  Though families take many forms, it is always within a family that wholesome individuals are nurtured.  The family needs careful tending these days.  As the anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “No matter how many communes anybody invents, the family always creeps back.” [3]  For the family – neither the individual nor the state – is the basic unit of society.

Our celebration today reminds that our Heavenly Father provides a model for our family’s life in the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

[1]  Stan Parmisano, Testament (Notre Dame, IN:  Ave Maria Press, 1991), p. 149.

[2]  Here is some suggested reading:

    William L. Shirer, The Nightmare Years: 1930-1940 (Boston: Little, Brown).

   Nicholas Stargardt, Witness of War: Children’s Lives under the Nazis (New York: Alfred A.

Knopf, 2006).

   Michael H. Kater, Hitler Youth (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004).

   Siegfried Knappe, Soldat: Reflections of a German Soldier, 1936-1949 (Orion Books, 1992).

   James J. Sheehan, Where Have All the Soldiers Gone? The Transformation of Modern Europe

            (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008).

[3]  Margaret Mead, as quoted in Reader’s Digest, August 1996. 

 

The Nativity of the Lord

Christmas

December 25, 2017

Rev. Anthony Medairos, pastor 

Christmas is a time for stories.  So I have a story for you.  It’s about a good man who just did not believe in Christmas. [1]  He wasn’t a Scrooge or anything like that.  He just didn’t believe in God’s becoming man.  We call this the Incarnation.  He said to his wife, “God becoming a human being just doesn’t make sense to me.  Why would God do that?”

            On Christmas Eve, when his wife and children went to Mass, he said he wouldn’t be going with them.  “I’d feel like a hypocrite,” he said.  Soon after his family left for church, it began to snow.  At first it was flurries, then it snowed harder and harder, and the temperature dropped fast.  “If we have to have Christmas,” he thought, “it’s good to have a white one.” 
            He sat down near the fireplace and picked up a book to read as he awaited his family’s return.  Suddenly, he was startled by some sounds of thudding.  He thought some of the neighborhood kids were throwing snowballs at the house, so he ran to the front door to chase them away.  But when he opened the door, he found a flock of birds huddled under the living room picture window, seeking shelter from the storm. 

            He thought to himself, “I can’t let these poor creatures lie here and freeze to death.  But how can I help them?”  Then he thought of his barn.  “If I can get the birds in there, they’ll survive the storm.  But how can I get them to go into the barn?”

            He turned on the light in the barn and opened wide the doors.  But the birds didn’t go in.  He hurried back to the house and got some bread crumbs, and sprinkled them on the snow from the window to the barn.  But the birds ignored the bread crumbs. 

            He then tried shooing them into the barn, running around, waving his arms.  The birds scattered in every direction -- but not into the barn.  “They’re scared of me,” he thought.  “If I could only be a bird myself for a few moments, maybe I could lead them to safety….”  Just then, the church bells began to ring.  He stood still for a while, listening to the bells pealing out the glad tidings of Christmas.  Then he understood.  And he prayed, “God, now I see why You had to become human.”

            God our Father sent the Word of God to become one of us – the Incarnation.  His mother Mary and her husband Joseph named him Jesus.  Jesus came to show us how to be fully human – the way God intended us to be human.  Jesus came as a man like us, so we wouldn’t be afraid of God who is in heaven.  Through Jesus, God would lead us to safety.  It is not the safety of a barn on a wintery night.  It is the safety we call “salvation.”  This is why Christmas is such a happy time.

            But that first Christmas is only the beginning of the story.  We know that this baby born in Bethlehem was actually the Second Person of the Trinity, the Word made flesh, the Son of God.  By his life, Jesus taught us what it means to be fully human – the way God intended us to be human.  And by his death and rising from the grave, Jesus gave us salvation.  He showed us the way to live as the Father wants us to live.  Jesus showed how to defeat death:  by believing in the Son of God, we will be raised from the dead.  Christmas was the beginning of our salvation from death.  This is why Christmas is such a happy time.  And this is why Christians always say, (and we can say it once again!)  “Merry Christmas!”

            But there is more to the story.  The vessel through whom the Word of God entered into human life was Mary, the mother of Jesus.  When once she was asked why Catholics place such great importance on Mary, St. Teresa of Calcutta (we used to call her Mother Teresa) replied, “It’s very simple:  No Mary, no Jesus.”  That was a succinct theological statement of Mary’s role in the humanity of Jesus, son of Mary, Son of God.

            Not to upstage St. Teresa’s simple theology, but I would like to propose this:  without you and me, no Jesus.  I don’t mean that Jesus would not exist without us.  But I certainly believe that people will not know about Jesus without you and me.  Just look around. 

            Like the dad in our story, God became aware of our plight, like birds freezing in the snow.  God showered us with light, from the prophets God sent and all God’s awesome deeds for the Chosen People.  But many would not move toward the light of the barn.  Jesus even left us bread crumbs, if I can use that image for the Eucharist.  But still, many would not enter the safety of the barn.  God even today flaps around us, which is my image of the Holy Spirit, often represented as a dove.  But many refuse to be shooed into the safety of the barn through the working of the Holy Spirit. 

            Yet you and I are here.  The light has attracted us.  The Eucharist is set before us.  The Holy Spirit is moving within us.  Through you and me God may finally get others into the safety of the barn.  The story of the first Christmas is so inviting and hopeful.  But, the shepherds went back to their flocks, and the magi returned to their homelands.  And with the passage of years the Child Jesus matured and preached and died and rose from the dead, ascending into heaven.  Then the Father and Son sent the Holy Spirit on Pentecost so you and I might continue his work here. 

It is up to you and me now to continue Christ’s mission:  to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to console the prisoner, in other words to bring Christ to all. [2]  In a sense, that is when Christmas really begins.  Through disciples of Jesus like you and me – even though we are sometimes reluctant – but through us others will find their way into the safety of the barn.  

            A seventeenth century poet said this more simply than I:

Should Christ be born a thousand times anew,

Despair, O man, unless he’s born in you!  [3] 

Christ was born for us.  Christ is dwells within us.  Christ calls us to a mission for others.   This is why Christians always say, “Merry Christmas!”

[1]  Adapted from Louis Cassels, “A Christmas Parable,” (United Press International).

[2] Howard Thurman, “The Work of Christmas”.

[3]  Angelus Silesius, pseudonym for Johann Scheffler, German physician and

mystical poet, (1624-1677).

 

 

Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 24, 2017

Rev. Anthony Medairos, pastor

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16

Psalm 89:2-5, 22, 29

Romans 16:25-27

Luke 1:26-38

            As the Great Depression took hold of the United States in the 1930’s, President Franklin Roosevelt warned, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Nowadays, we seem to be in a time of fear.  Once our only fear was that our luggage might be lost by the airline.  Now we must fear an embarrassing hole in our socks as we pass barefoot through airport security.  We fear having our youngsters sent overseas to fight.  We fear the “C’s”:  cholesterol, and carbohydrates, and calories.  We fear that “Big Brother” is intercepting our phone calls and e-mail.  And we fear that intelligence agencies are not intercepting the phone calls and e-mail of jihadists. 

Into this time of fear we hear the message of the angel Gabriel, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”  I beg to differ with the angel Gabriel.  Mary was wise to fear.  And you and I are wise to be concerned about health issues and government intrusion into our privacy and the terrorist threat.  Concern may even rise to “fear,” a fear that may makes us attentive to our surroundings and keeps us safe and healthy. 

            In fact, if there is not a certain amount of fear, then we don’t understand the agenda of the jihadists, or the delicate balance of our civil liberties, or the responsibilities we have concerning our own health.

            And, if you and I are not fearful at the very concept that the Word of God has become human like you and me, then we don’t understand our relationship with God.  Mary did, and her reaction was fear.    

            Everyone who has ever “found favor with God” has been faced with a daunting mission.  A task from God can mean suffering as a consequence of saying “Yes” to God.  Mary intuited this.  You and I should know that being a follower of Jesus has tremendous implications for everything we think, for everything we say, for everything we do.   

            Fear of making such a profound and life-changing commitment to God causes some people to sidestep God’s call.  Some will try to avoid God.  Or, others will embrace the outward signs of belief and discipleship, while at the same time avoiding a personal encounter with the living God.              Because this is a life-changing encounter, fear seeks guarantees before saying “Yes.”  Mary was “greatly troubled” and had her own questions.  “How can this be…?”  But ultimately, with no guarantees, Mary acquiesced to the angel’s message and said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”

Mary, while not fully aware of what she had agreed to, did not hug tight her fear.  Instead, she trusted the angel’s assurance not to fear.  Neither should you and I fear a commitment to God.  Yes, being a follower of Jesus has tremendous implications for everything we think, for everything we say, for everything we do.  And we may not always succeed in our discipleship.  But all God expects of us is for us to do our best and leave everything else to God.  We must not fear the fear.  We can trust in God’s love and power in our lives even without fully understanding where discipleship will lead us.  We can leave that to God.

King David certainly rediscovered this when he planned to build a temple for God once David had taken firm hold of the reins of power in Jerusalem.  Over his lifetime David had learned to trust God’s plan in his life.  Through God’s grace the boy David slew the giant Goliath.  As a young man, pursued by murderous King Saul, who viewed David as a rival for the throne, God saved David’s life.  As a fledgling king, David gradually consolidated Israel and Judah into a unified kingdom.  But David forgot that God – not David – had done all these things.  And when King David decided to confine God in a government temple, God refused the project, reminding David that the king’s political agenda was not God’s agenda. 

David learned again to say “Yes” to God.  All God expected of him was for David to do his best and leave everything else to God.  Like Mary, David learned to trust in God’s love and power in his life even without fully understanding where discipleship would lead him. 

Neither should you and I avoid a commitment to God.  Yes, being a follower of Jesus has tremendous implications for everything we think, for everything we say, for everything we do.  And we may not always succeed in our discipleship.  But all God expects of us is for us to do our best and leave everything else to God.  We must not live in the fear.  We can trust in God’s love and power in our lives even without our fully understanding where discipleship will lead us.  We can leave that to God.