Friday, August 19, 2011

Lindsay Peters & Mark Rutkus Wedding Homily

Introduce self
Did not have the chance to prepare them for marriage, credit Father with getting them here
But, had great joy in working with both of them as Lindsay prepared to join the Catholic Church
As I have got to know them, two things stand out for me on their wedding day.
Both work in the public spot – Mark (campaigns and city government) & Lindsay (providing the public meeting space of companies/individuals). So, they both appreciate the importance, the power, the significance of doing something publically
So, it is not lost on me, and I am certain that it is not lost on Mark and Lindsay of the importance and significance of the very public action that they are making today. They are stating in a very public way before all of us gathered here that:
1. That they have come here FREELY and WITHOUT RESERVATION
2. To give themselves FULLY AND COMPLETELY to each other
3. That they will love each other FOREVER
4. That they will be OPEN LIFE and to raise any children in the Catholic faith
5. To do this in GOOD TIMES and BAD, SICKNESS and HEALTH, for the REST of their LIFE
This certainly takes a love that we just heard of in today’s readings – it is an unconditional love, even a sacrificial love, in which one puts aside one’s own wants and needs for another. Such a love allows one to make such a public statement as Lindsay and Mark will make before us in just a couple of minutes.
Such a public statement also requires a HOPE and TRUST – not only in each – but also in something bigger – a hope and trust in an eternal life, which leads to my second observation of Mark & Lindsay.
Mark has obviously had some political campaign experience (maybe he has roped Lindsay into doing some phone calls or lit drops for candidates).
TODAY, we kick-off the greatest campaign for both Mark and Lindsay, which has as their single goal: to get each other to Heaven, that perfect unity with our loving God, who – as we read in our First Reading - made out of love man and woman to be one in love. It is in Heaven that we will experience the eternal joy, peace, and happiness God desires for us from the very beginning.
Like any campaign, with marriage there will be ebbs and flows – (mis)communication, money problems, drama, lots of emotion, and also lots of hard work, compromise, sacrifice, humility (and I also pray that there will be lots of joy for you two). Just as St. Paul urges the Corinthians to our Second Reading, I urge you to not let jealousy, ego, rudeness, selfishness, tempers, and arrogance keep you from loving each other as you are called to love, as you must love, in order for this marriage to be successful!
Unfortunately, we will not know if your greatest campaign – your marriage – was successful, until we too enter Heaven. But you two will know daily just how successful this marriage is going, as you reflect every night on the “daily polling results” as to: whether you have loved your spouse as you should today; whether you have placed the needs of your marriage and your spouse ahead of your own needs and wants; whether you have thanked and praised your spouse today; whether you have sought forgiveness from your spouse or granted forgiveness to your spouse today, whether you have comforted your spouse in his/her need. YOU WILL KNOW!
I personally thank you for making this public statement of your love for each other, as well as you hope and trust in our Catholic faith, and I pray that your marriage is filled with great joy and eternal success.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Homily - 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

It is with great sadness as I read the stories and see pictures of the crisis in East Africa. The East African drought of 2011that is hitting Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia so hard is proving to be one of the worst in 50 years. Extreme hunger is rapidly becoming a harsh daily reality for more than 11 million people in East Africa. This severe lack of rainfall has resulted in failed crops, livestock dying, and critical shortages in food and water for people, which in turn has resulted drastic increases in food prices and an influx of refugees who have fled to seek food. Just in the past 90 days in the southern portion of Somalia, the drought and famine have killed more than 29,000 children under the age of 5. Further compounding this natural disaster is the political unrest in this area of the African continent and growing violence. In fact, I just read in yesterday’s paper of the chaos, violence and murder in a refugee camp, which is supposedly a safe-haven for those seeking relief.
I can only image how weak and fragile those individuals and families must be. How sacred and alone they must feel. And how their hunger and thirst must consume every second of their day. And how dramatic and extreme this poverty is when compared with the growing poverty in our country. And I imagine the great depression they must feel.

And I think of what the prophet Elijah in today’s first reading must have been feeling as he hid the cave at mount Horeb. Chapter 19 of the First Book of Kings presents us with the aftermath of Elijah's brilliant victory in the contest with Jezebel and the priests of Baal atop Mount Carmel, which ironically brought much needed rain after a three year drought fortold by the prophet Elijah.

Just when Elijah should have been triumphant, he receives a message telling him of Jezebel's murderous intentions, and he is "afraid" (3). The spectacularly exemplary servant of God is now in a rut -- believing that all of his efforts were in vain! In Chapter 18, Elijah was at the height of success; in Chapter 19 he is in the depths of despair. In Chapter 18 he is on the mountain peak of victory; in Chapter 19 he is in the valley of defeat. In Chapter 18 he is elated; in Chapter 19 he is completely deflated.

Father Thomas Rosica identifies several reasons for Elijah’s feelings of depression. There was fear – the great, fiery prophet of Israel is scared to death of wicked Queen Jezebel's threats and thus flees for his life. There was also a sense of failure - Elijah had a very low self-esteem having seemingly failed to change Israel's lack of faith. There was also fatigue. Elijah was physically exhausted and emotionally empty. This is the great danger of peak experiences. Finally, there was a feeling of futility. Elijah feels alone, hopeless and has little hope for the future. He suffers from paranoia, thinking that everyone is out to get him. So, he hides in a cave.

Father Rosica goes on to note that what happened to Elijah happens to us, especially when we pay much more attention to negative events than to all the good that is happening around us. It happens when we are very hard on ourselves, and take ourselves far too seriously, and God not seriously enough! This is exactly what happened to Peter in today’s Gospel when he doubted!

Father Rosica suggests that perhaps the best way to break through such doubt and depression is to refocus away from our own needs and wants and to focus on the needs of others – to feel compassion for others. And Saint Paul certainly gives us such an example of this in today’s second reading – he is willing to trade is own eternal life so that his fellow Israelite might accept Jesus Christ and their own eternal salvation – he does this selfLESSly completely out of love and concern for his own people. What a wonderful example for each of us.

We can each do this when – like Elijah, Paul and even Peter – know God’s presence in our life. This is a source of great joy. It is God’s loving presence – sometimes in great and power ways (like calming a storm), but more often the silence and whispers of daily life – that we find hope and encouragement in this world of chaos and sin.

In the midst of our own stormy seas, let us this week direct our minds and hearts to those suffering in East Africa. And there is certainly things we CAN do – even though we are thousands of miles away. Most importantly, we can pray. We can pray for those suffering in East Africa – we can pray for those who don’t know how to pray or don’t have the energy or faith to pray. We can pray that they might be filled with God’s Holy Spirit, that they might have the strength to fight another day and to help care for their loved ones. Prayer is a great unifier – just as we gathered here united in prayer through this Eucharist; let’s us also be united in prayer with and for those suffering in Africa.
We can also give generously of our money to the many efforts by groups like Catholic Relief Services. You can call or visit the Diocese’s website to learn more about these organizations and the great impact they are having, even amidst this crisis.
Finally, you can learn more about the crisis in East Africa and share this with others.
These are all things that we are called to do as Christians. My friends, Take courage, do not be afraid!