Monday, December 30, 2013

HOMILY for the Holy Family: Society has an Auto-Immune Disease Which Attacks the Healthy Cells- the Family

Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience

Here is my homily for today:

If you have trouble listening, click here.

This account was taken from the Morning Sun, March 25, 2013:

On a normal day, Jennifer Digmann goes to class and Dan Digmann goes to work at his job at a University communications office. 
Though both have been diagnosed with different forms of multiple sclerosis, a disease that affects nerve cell communication, they don’t let their diagnoses control their lives. 
Jennifer, now 38, was diagnosed when she was 23 and Dan, now 40, was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS at the age of 27. 
Jennifer, diagnosed with secondary-progressive MS, relies on a wheelchair to get around. 
Because the disease affects each differently, Dan said he is often stricken with numbness in his hands and feet, and general fatigue. 
Jennifer said she lost the ability to walk five years after her diagnosis.

Through it all, Jennifer said she does not have a lot to complain about.
“I always say, other than MS, I’m quite healthy,” Jennifer smiled. 
Because MS is a degenerative disease, the two focus on a day at a time.

Jennifer said she’s cautiously optimistic about the future of the two. 
“When it started to get serious, thinking about it, you’re just like, ‘How would two people with MS function as a married couple?’” Dan said. 
Though each day is unpredictable, they consider themselves to be blessed. They still have each other.
Jennifer and Dan Digmann believed the words when they spoke them on their wedding day, “In sickness and in health.”
Multiple sclerosis is what is called, an auto-immune disease.  An auto-immune disease is a disease where the immune system turns against the body.  Normally the immune system attacks threats against the body, but in an auto-immune disease, like Multiple Sclerosis, the immune system becomes convinced that the good cells are threats and starts to attack them.
We could say that Multiple Sclerosis is a kind of parable for the way family life is now within society.
Pope Francis said in his Apostolic Exhortation, the Gospel of Joy, Evangelii Gaudium (66-67),
“The family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children. 
“The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. In the case of the family, the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious. 
“Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will. But the indispensible contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple. 
“The individualism of our postmodern and globalized era favours a lifestyle which weakens the development and stability of personal relationships and distorts family bonds.”
The family is the cell of the body of society.  Society of late seems to think that the traditional one-man, one-woman family that would stay together, to have and to hold, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part - is evil.
In a society that is fundamentally based on the fulfillment of one’s own personal happiness, any kind of threat to one’s own egotistical ends is seen as a threat, an evil, a disease.
Society today has an auto-immune disease.  Egotism has turned us in against ourselves.  We are our own worst enemy.  
The Church teaches not its own doctrine but merely re-echoes the very teaching of Christ. The Church is merely the instrument, the voice of Jesus, in today’s world.
What is Jesus teaching?
That the nature of man, like the human body, is not something we can redefine at whim.  We can no more decide the composition of the family the way we can not decide the composition of the human body.  We cannot redefine white or red blood cells, organs, nervous or gastric systems of the body, we can only accept the nature we have been given and take good care of it, keeping it in good health.
What does this mean?  It means that marriage and family life, like the human body can also be sick.
We are sick. Society is sick right now.  No matter how far and how deep this sickness is, even if it is an epidemic, we can never settle for the sickness, deny it’s existence, or just pretend it is not there and hope it will just go away.  We cannot stop being prescriptive of what a healthy family is.  We can’t stop teaching our children what healthy marriages and families look like, we cannot stop passing laws that protect healthy marriage and family life, we cannot change our nature.
The auto-immune disease that calls traditional family life as evil and says it is a good that you can redefine family life to whatever you want to be shows itself in a persecution of families, an attack on healthy cells of society.
Upholding family as a gift, a way of living, a way in which most disciples, most believers find themselves as their way of following Christ and growing in Christian faith, hope, and love, is seen as a disease on society, and so a persecution begins to try to destroy the traditional family as a one-woman, one-man, life-long, mutual, exclusive, unbreakable and irrevocable covenant.
Well there is the bad news.
What is the good news?
The holy family - Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  The good news is that although the human family is a broken family, God became a member of it.  God became a baby to a mother and a father.  God was a son who had to tidy his room, obey his mummy and listen to his father.  He had to be served and taught by a mum and a dad.
It is also the good news that this family faced every kind of struggle, attack, weakness, pain, sorrow, suffering that most families face.
Mary was tempted to not conceive Jesus, or at least was given the choice to contracept him by not conceiving him.  She would have had to face being an unwed mother.
Joseph was tempted to divorce Mary, being tempted to think of her, the Immaculate Virgin Mary, as being unfaithful - facing down the other possibilities of jealous retaliation, overcoming thought of her as adulterous.
Joseph had to face the decision to adopt Jesus and bring him up has his own boy.  When he found out that an evil king wanted to kill him, he never said to Mary, “Your kid is too much of a problem for us.”  He simply manned up and faced down the threat decided to protect Mary and the child, confirming his fatherhood and manhood as a protector and provider.
He had to make the difficult decision to move his family to a foreign land, where they would be refugees, not speak the language, would experience the hatred and racism of the Egyptians for the Hebrews, therefore also facing unemployment, poverty, hunger, worry, having to make difficult financial decisions.
Then Joseph and Jesus had to work very hard, every day.  They were laborers.  They sweat, they bleed, they got weary and tired.
When Jesus was young Joseph got old and died.  They had to face infirmity, death, and bereavement.

Jesus also had to obey elderly parents.  I love the first reading.  God seems to know how difficult elderly parents can be.  It seems like they become like little children in many ways.  It is almost as if he wants us to experience some measure of what they did for us.  In the first reading for today we read:
“My son, support your father in his old age,  do not grieve him during his life.Even if his mind should fail, show him sympathy,  do not despise him in your health and strength;for kindness to a father shall not be forgotten  but will serve as reparation for your sins.”
When people get very old, it is like they recede to being like children again.  This is the cycle of life.  
If our parents had to be with us when we were impetuous, irritable, irrational, why could we not do it for them?  They had to feed us, why would we think twice of feeding them in their old age?  They had to change our diapers, why if they become incontinent, would we think it above ourselves to do the same for them?  What? We can’t handle them being difficult?  Forget not how difficult you had been in your life and repay the favour. 
The other thing we learn from the holy family is trust.
Mary had to trust Joseph.  Imagine if your husband woke up and said, “Right we have to go face hardship in a foreign land because an angel appeared to me in a dream saying so.”  The angel didn’t appear to Mary at that time.  At certain times wisdom and grace was given to one and not given to the other.  God did this in the holy family and he does this in our families to teach us to trust and obey one another, to learn to rely not on ourselves but first on God and on one another.
This is the good news.  This is the Gospel for today. 
“Wives, give way to your husbands, as you should in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and treat them with gentleness. Children, be obedient to your parents always, because that is what will please the Lord. Parents, never drive your children to resentment or you will make them feel frustrated.”
It is basically the new commandment of Jesus, “LOVE ONE ANOTHER,” except in the dimension of family life you can substitute all the things that love means, Listen to one another. Obey one another. Trust one another. Serve one another.
In short the good news of family life is:
Prayer - family prayer, constant prayer, faithful and fervent prayer 
Obedience - to God’s plan and to each other 
Trust - of God and through God of each other, even negatively though sin 
Service - of God and each other. 
Observance of the Sabbath Rest
I would love to tell you that this is the easy answer.  It is not.  It is certainly simple, but just because it is simple, doesn’t mean it is easy.  It is very difficult.  

Lets go back to our couple with Multiple Sclerosis.  Not all couples were like Jennifer and David.  Here are a few others.

These are actual stories taken from MS and Marriage
I've had ms for so long I can't even remember. When I was first told I had it I was happy I wasn't dying. My husband thought otherwise. He left me. I had 3 small boy's. He just took off and left me with no money. I went back to school raised 3 wonderful boys that I am so proud of. Nobody can understand why he left. My boy's are drop dead handsome, and I actually won a beauty contest after I colored my hair blonde. So HA HA to him!!! 
Diagnosed with MS in 1996. Since the diagnosis the relationship with my husband is better than ever. He is my loving caretaker and because of that am able to work full-time. Our faith in Jesus Christ and love for each other has grown through the years and for that am very thankful. Recently broke my fibula from falling, but due to MS caused numbness have little pain in the ankle. Am very thankful for this. God works all things together for good. 
Husband has ms. He's now not working and on disability. He does what he can. I am 41. He's 43. He can still walk poorly with walker. Can help with kids homework. He doesn't help in household- could but doesn't. He's not depressed thAnk god- but I am. I feel resentful and then sorry for him. Grateful every day I don't have MS cuz I doubt he'd stick around. Live with blinders on and denial. Could always be worse.. Grateful he's still alive and doesn't have something worse! I get angry he can't even stop and get me milk - can't walk or no energy.. Then I think - what if it was me.. ? Life's hard but could always be worse.. I try to live in the minute - not future
The truth about family life is that it is not easy.  It isn’t so black and white.  The plan for the family given to us by God is rather simple.  Love, obey, trust, serve one another.  But that does not mean it is easy.

Sometimes it breaks down.  When this happens, we have to be very careful as a parish community, as a Church to walk not further, but closer to those families, “most in need of God’s mercy.”

We have to walk closer to divorcees, single mothers, the bereaved, the sick, the poor, the unemployed, those facing issues like infertility, infidelity and adultery.

On the other hand, this doesn’t mean we stop proclaiming God’s plan for the family in all its fullness, with all clarity and beauty of a one-man, one-woman, fruitful communion that is open to life, mutually exclusive, that is an irrevocable covenant.  For this is the cell of the body of society.

On a final note, perhaps the greatest indication of just how sick our society is, is the fact that the most vulnerable, the tiniest, the unborn, are threatened every day by laws that permit mothers to take the lives of their children by aborting them.  Unless we are working hard to stop this sin, we are at fault and contribute to the sickness.  Let's get healthy.  Now.

May the prayers and love of the Holy Family help all families to try to grow in faith, hope, and charity, of mutual prayer, trust, obedience, and service.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Stop Combing the Fleece of the 1 and Go Seek Out the Lost 99

"Console my people, console them says your God."

Listen to my homily for today:

If you have trouble listening, click here.

This is what Pope Francis said to pastoral workers and priests of the diocese of Rome about today's Gospel

I want to tell you something. There is a beautiful passage of the Gospel which tells us about the shepherd who, when he returned to the sheepfold realized that one sheep was missing. He left the 99 others and went in search of it, he went off to look for one. But brothers and sisters, we have one sheep. We have lost the other 99! We must go out, we must go out to them! In this culture — let us tell the truth — we only have one, we are a minority! And do we feel the fervour, the apostolic zeal to go out and find the other 99? This is an enormous responsibility and we must ask the Lord for the grace of generosity, and the courage and patience to go out, to go out and preach the Gospel. Ah, this is difficult. It is easier to stay at home, with that one sheep! It is easier with that sheep to comb its fleece, to stroke it... but we priests and you Christians too, everyone: the Lord wants us to be shepherds, he does not want us to fuss with combing fleeces! Shepherds! And when a community is withdrawn, always among the same people who speak, this community is not a life-giving community. It is barren, it is not fertile. The fecundity of the Gospel comes through the grace of Jesus Christ, but through us, our preaching, our courage, our patience.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

ADVENT 2ND SUNDAY HOMILY: Pope Francis' Vision for Authentic Advent Repentance for A Parish

A voice of one crying out in the desert,

Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.

Listen to my homily for the day:

If you have trouble listening click here.

During my homily, I read some excerpts from JOY OF THE GOSPEL, Pope Francis' new apostolic letter.  Read more...

I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day.

The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. 

The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community. While certainly not the only institution which evangelizes, if the parish proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues to be “the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters”. This presumes that it really is in contact with the homes and the lives of its people, and does not become a useless structure out of touch with people or a self-absorbed group made up of a chosen few. The parish is the presence of the Church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration. In all its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelizers. It is a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a centre of constant missionary outreach. We must admit, though, that the call to review and renew our parishes has not yet sufficed to bring them nearer to people, to make them environments of living communion and participation, and to make them completely mission-oriented.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Advent Amazement: Finding Real Faith Where You Least Expect

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him,

“Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. 
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,
and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”

If you have trouble listening, click here.