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Idaho Catholic Podcast

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Dying to Self

Dying to Self – Homily 25th Sunday Year B 
A homily adapted from Christ the King Catholic Church

How loud our world has become…In the car…at home…your desk at the office...even sitting here in Church…just about wherever we are at any given time we’re confronted by sound. And it’s not just sound that confronts us either…it’s everything that takes hold of our thoughts and senses…anything that demands the attention of our eyes…our appetites…our desires. Billboards on the interstate…Pop ups on our computers…and maybe most destructive of all…the thoughts that push us into the confusing mazes of our minds. Hopes…dreams…anxieties all mixed up in a never-ending deluge of thoughts. Our time is marked with the inability to break free of the noise and arrive at any kind of silence. In the end this particularly modern reality proves to be one of the greatest obstacles in our relationship with God. 

 Meister Eckhart…the great German Dominican from the 1300s said… “Nothing resembles the language of God so much as does silence.” If this is correct…and I think it is…then we are living in a time where the language of God is almost inaudible. This grappling with sound and silence is what I kept thinking about as I read and re-read this passage from Mark throughout week. Just listen to the passage…What were you arguing about on the way…he asked…they were silent…then he spoke…if anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all. So here’s the message…we need to stop talking so much…to stop trying so hard to tell God and everybody else what should be going on in our lives…we need to stop discussing among each other…or more commonly in the privacy of our own thoughts… we need to stop trying to figure out who’s the greatest among us… and work on silence… silence of voice…but even more importantly…the silence of our thoughts. 

This calls to mind a story I once heard from a wise man. It’s the story of one of my favorite spiritual writers Fr. Henry Nouwen. Fr. Nouwen was definitely an intellectual. He had three doctorates from major universities…Harvard, Yale and Notre Dame. He was a sought after Spiritual Director and Retreat Master. He could’ve held any post he wanted in really any university in the world. Instead he chose to go to work as the Spiritual Director at L’arche…a home for mentally handicapped people in Toronto. He recalls one evening at dinner with his new housemates…at L’arche they all ate dinner together…staff with residents…one evening at table Fr. Nouwen tried to pass the meatloaf to the person next to him to which a very confident young man from across the table interjected…no, no, no Father…don’t pass him the meat loaf…he doesn’t eat meat…he’s a Presbyterian. It was at this point that Fr. Henry realized he had truly arrived at a place where his PhD’s didn’t matter…the fact that people from all over the world called him to lead retreats didn’t matter…the fact that he could speak multiple languages didn’t matter to any of his new housemates. He had finally arrived at a place where there was no need to assert his own agenda…to talk about his own accomplishments…to market his resume…it wouldn’t matter to them anyway. He explains that this was when he finally became free. Fr. Nouwen had experienced the need to Die to self…remember Jesus said…whoever wishes to save his life will lose it and whoever is willing to lose his life will save it. 

 Dying to self is what we heard in last week’s Gospel and this week is the second course of the same meal. If anyone wishes to be first…he shall be the last and the servant of all. The fact remains that we have this innate…almost unquenchable…need to assert ourselves…to interject our thoughts…feelings…opinions.. onto the world so that we have some proof that we are in the game…that we are important…that we are essential to whatever is going on around us at a given time. We are afraid that somehow if we’re quiet…if we die to self…if we humble ourselves to be last rather than first we might not be happy…we’re secretly afraid that we might not get what we so desperately want in life. And so we are driven to make something of our lives. We grasp for any sort of way to leave our mark on the world so that we will be known and valued. Yet, we are missing Christ’s teaching and his way of life by doing so, especially when it comes to faith. Faith is the antidote to the dysfunction of needing to assert oneself upon the world…upon our community…and upon our closest family and friends. Faith invites us to believe that our real significance is not to have our name put up on billboards but rather to have our name written in heaven for eternity. And that’s the beginning of sainthood. 

 I think about two particular saints for whom this kind of faith was totally evident. St. Joseph and St. John the Baptist…both undeniably vital in salvation history. St. Joseph…had he not said yes…had he not taken in the Virgin Mary…had he not died to self…you and I might not be sitting here today. He said yes…he protected Mary and Jesus…he provided for them…it is because of him that Jesus was able to do his work. And yet…after the flight into Egypt and the brief mention of Joseph when Jesus was teaching in the temple we hear nothing more of him. He completely melts into the background. And John the Baptist…his whole purpose was to announce the arrival of Jesus onto the scene…he prepares the way then points him out…after the baptism of our Lord John exits stage left. He even says so… “I must decrease and He must increase.” There’s no doubt about it…John the Baptist was not some weakling without a healthy ego. It was in his strength that he was able to be last and a servant to all. 

 And finally, in closing, and possibly to sum this all up, I refer to Fr. Thomas Merton who says life is a battle between our real and false selves. Our false selves are the identities we cultivate in order to function in society with pride and self-possession; and our real selves are a deep religious mystery, known entirely only to God. The world cultivates the false self and ignores the real one and therein lies the great irony of our human condition: the more we try to make of our selves the less we actually exist. Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it and whoever is willing to lose his life will save it. And If anyone wishes to be first he shall be the last of all and servant of all.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Have I walked away from Christ?

Have I walked away? (21st Sunday Year B)

My name is Deacon Pat and I am visiting your parish from Idaho.

Some of you might know that we had a Men’s Retreat today where a large group of men spent the day learning and reflecting on their spirituality and their relationship with God.

In the retreat we discussed:

  • how to develop and maintain a masculine prayer life,
  • how to navigate our spiritual journeys, and
  • how to hear God’s voice and know how and when to act upon it.
Many in the group shared that they struggle with the distractions of the world, with temptations, and at times find themselves drawn away from God and spiritual things.

I believe that today’s gospel speaks to some of what the men shared at the retreat, and I believe it has a strong message for many of us here today.
But to understand the depth of the message we must first recall what Jesus said last week.

Jesus stated to a large group of his followers and disciples the following:

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world."

And then he said:

"Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you. 
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day. 
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink."

And in today’s gospel when Jesus finishes speaking about himself as the “living bread that came down from heaven,” many people reacted with disbelief and disapproval.

They said, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
While we might have expected those who were critical of Jesus to respond in that way, we would have never assumed that his followers, those who had just seen Jesus feed thousands with a few loaves and fish, wouldn’t have accepted his teaching.

Instead we are told that many of the disciples of Jesus reacted negatively as well.

Instead of applauding their teacher, they were murmuring about his message.

“Who can accept it?”

As a result of the words that Jesus spoke “many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.”

Jesus was abandoned by a good number of his disciples on that day.
That may have been a surprise to his apostles, yet apparently not to Jesus.

He knew that his message would be rejected by many.
As John tells us in his Gospel, “Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe.”

Is it any different for us today?

I don’t think so, even today many of his disciples, those that have called themselves Christian walk away from him.

They no longer gather with their fellow Christians to hear his word proclaimed and preached.

They consider his voice just one voice among many vying for attention.
They see the Eucharist as something far less than his very Body and Blood and not worth their attendance at Mass.

They allow their moral standards to be set by a changing society with fluid definitions of right and wrong.

They forget that the Cross of Jesus calls us to sacrifice for others and to put the will of God before our own.

Many Christians are walking away from Jesus since they find his teachings increasingly hard to accept and to live out in a society that keeps sinking deeper into sin, self-centeredness, consumerism, and immorality.

A society that Pope Francis describes as having a “throwaway culture” where all things are considered disposable even the unborn, the poor, the powerless, the elderly, and the sick.

The more our society becomes post-Christian, the more it becomes secular, materialistic, narcissistic, and addicted to sensual pleasure, and the more the teachings of Jesus and of his Church seem out of step and suited for another age.

As this happens, more and more people who claim to be Christians do the unexpected.

Like many of the disciples of Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel, they will walk away.

They no longer accompany Jesus.

They decide to embrace the values of the society around them and reject those of Jesus Christ.

You and I might say “Well, I am not one of them, I am in church aren’t I.”
Well, I can remember some time ago a wise man sharing some advice with me.

He said, “Sitting in my garage an hour a week doesn’t make me a car, and so is it with sitting in a church one hour a week, it doesn’t magically make me Christian.”

The serious questions we need to ask ourselves are:
Am I a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ?
  • Am I fervent in my prayer life? Do I even know who Christ is?
  • Do I serve those around me or do I only serve myself?
  • Am I here today cleansed of sin by the use of regular confession?
  • Can others see the love of Christ in my actions and behaviors?
  • Do I turn to the Church for guidance in my life, or do I let the world guide me?
  • Do I believe in all that the Church teaches, or just some of it?

For many of us the answers will be less than a resounding “Yes.”

Maybe some of us are at best Luke-warm in our faith and we are now just beginning to realize it.

So, what do we do about it?

The first thing is to realize that God is working in you right now with his grace.

Recognizing our faults, our limitations, our “Luke-warmness” is purely a gift from God.

It is with this gift that he is asking for us to respond.

Recognizing that our life is less than full provides an opportunity to turn toward the one, the only one, who can fill us and make us complete.

Maybe Jesus is asking us right now to make a choice just as he asked Peter when Christ asked if he would also leave.

And what did Peter share when asked such a question, “Master, to whom shall we go?

You have the words of eternal life.

We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

God has given us a free will and he will allow us to make our own decisions in life, just as he allowed all those disciples to say:

“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
“Who can accept this?”

He also allows us to question our faith and our Church as some do?

“But why can’t I have premarital sex?”
“What is so wrong with living an active homosexual life?”
“Why can’t women be ordained?”
“Why can’t I use birth control?
“Why can’t I pick and choose what I want to believe?”

The Church is very clear on her teachings, and anyone who desires an answer can pick up the catechism to see why the Church believes what she believes.

Yet, many will struggle and reject the teachings of Christ’s church, often without any effort to see why the church teaches what she does, and many will walk away, some physically, and some mentally.

They might be present in Church, but their hearts are not.

So what is the point that I am trying to share?

Being Christian is more that claiming to be a Christian.

It isn’t as much a title as it is a way of life, fully committed, and fully engaged.

It has a lot to do with self-reflection and being humble and honest enough to see yourself in the truth and light of God, to see yourself as God might see you.

Let us begin today to sincerely reflect upon our relationship with God, with Christ, and with the Holy Spirit.

Let us each reflect upon just how engaged we are with being a Christian and better yet, with living a Catholic way of life.

Let’s God’s voice speak to you in the quiet of your heart and be ready for what he will say.

Spend time in holy adoration in the presence of God.

Speak to him daily and throughout the day, and most importantly listen.

Listen to him in the quiet of your soul.
Listen to him in the people and events he places in your life.
Listen to him in your celebrations and also in your sufferings.
Listen to him as you receive him today in the holy Eucharist.
Listen to him as he asks “Have you left me too?”

I hope and pray your response will be:

“Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
You are the Holy One of God.”

Thursday, May 03, 2018

The iGeneration (iPhone/iPad) and how it has affected the youth in our Church and Culture.

Deacon Pat, Darrell, Mike, and Father Uhlenkott discuss the iGeneration.