Saturday, February 10, 2018

On Touching Lepers

Here's the homily I preached at Our lady of the Annunciation in Queensbury, NY this weekend.

There is perhaps no more stark a contrast between the Old Testament and the New, than the partial revelation of God’s will through Moses and Aaron and the fullness of revelation in Christ Jesus in the answer to the question: “How should you treat a leper?”

Leprosy was a frightening thing, for as soon as someone spotted a scab or a pustule or a blotch, the poor leper was dragged before the priest who was declare him unclean and instruct him to be cast out of the camp, commanding that when anyone approached the leper was to yell “unclean! unclean!” in order to drive them away.

The filthy, the sinful and the unclean were to be exiled, excommunicated and condemned to a hellish solitary existence, lest anyone get close enough to catch their sin.

But it’s different with Jesus, moved with pity, he breaks the old law, fulfills it…that we might understand God completely. They must have gasped, maybe some of then screamed when he stretched out his hands and touched the leper. Touched his oozing open sore and said three little words: “Be made clean.”
And then the Lord did another remarkable thing, Remember how in the old law when you found someone unclean you sent them to the priest who condemned and exiled them. Jesus turns to the healed leper (I think he may have had a smile on his face while he did it) and said: Go and show yourself to the priest.

The priest, who probably recognized him as that stinking leper, that unclean wretch, would have been amazed and was probably the first of those who were forced to believe in the face of this miracle.

That’s how Jesus treated lepers. He did not cast them out, did not run away or make them feel unworthy. He touched them.

And who are the lepers in our lives? The ones we look upon as unclean?

Maybe that lady down the street who was married three times and now is living with that guy half her age who no one speaks to when they see her at Price Chopper and whom everyone avoids at Aviation Mall. Do we cast her out like Aaron, or touch her like Jesus?

Or that kid your son went to school with who never graduated because he got into drugs and his folks threw him out and he’s never really held a job and I swear he must steal money to keep buying those pills. And when you see him outside Friendly’s in the cold and he walks up to you with his hand out, are you Aaron throwing him away, or Jesus stretching out his hand and touching him?

Or that Mother of yours who said those hateful things and is still half inebriated even through she’s old, and just as foul mouthed as she was before your father left her. And now she’s in that nursing home and no one wants to go see her. Do you cast her out, or seek her out, stretch out your hand and touch her.

All those sinners, all those folks who smell, who reek from dysfunction, whose skin is rotting from desolation and fear and isolation. Do we cast them out like Aaron, or do we seek them out and embrace them like Jesus?

Jesus who came to seek out and save the lost, Jesus who touched the leper and forgave the sinner and ate with the unclean.

Jesus who calls Matthew the tax collector to be his disciple, who lets the sinful woman anoint his feet with her hair, who one right after another tells the stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. Jesus who calls the notorious Zacchaeus to come down so he can take him to dinner, whom they call “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” and whom the Pharisees hate because he ate with the unclean Levi.

Jesus, who looks down from the Cross at us in our brokenness and in our stinking selfishness and sin, who reaches down and touches us deep within with his Body and Blood and says “as I have loved you, so you are to love them.”

They are waiting for you out there, sometimes far away and sometimes in the same house where you live. All the lepers. And all you need to do is touch them with his love. “Be made clean.”

Praying for our Beloved Pope Emeritus

Five years ago this Sunday, our beloved Pope emeritus, Benedict XVI announced his retirement as Supreme Pontiff. This past week, in response to an outpouring of letters from the readers of La Stampa newspaper, he wrote these words. May they remind each of us to pray for him in these final days of his pilgrimage to the house of our Heavenly Father.

I was moved that so many readers of your newspaper would like to know how I am spending this last period of my life. I can only say that with the slow decline of my physical forces, interiorly, I am on a pilgrimage towards Home. It is a great grace for me to be surrounded in this last, sometimes a little tiring, piece of road, by more love and goodness than I could have imagined. In this sense, I also consider the questions of your readers as an accompaniment along this stretch of road. This is why I cannot but be grateful, assuring all of you of my prayers.  

Best regards,  

Benedict XVI

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A bit of snow today...

     The cold earth slept below;
       Above the cold sky shone;

                        PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY

As we pray and study (and goes to endless meetings), this holy house is blanketed in snow.  They say it will turn to ice and rain, but for now it is just very beautiful, as we pray that all our friends stay safe and warm!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Deacon House

 The master chefs of Deacon House are working their way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking all while they master the art of Rectory living!  With these kind of experiences, their first pastors will be very blessed!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Saint Agatha

Here is my little homily from this morning's Mass for the memorial of Saint Agatha.

So revered is St. Agatha that she is one of only seven women to be commemorated in the Roman Canon. She alone is celebrated in frescoes, mosaics and Sacramentaries of such disparate locales as Rome, Ravenna and Paris. Yet we know little else about this third century Sicilian, except that she died a martyr.

Not that we lack the sources, mind you, but as in the case of most of our venerated forebears, her passio is unremarkably similar to most others in the genre and the earliest manuscript can be dated no earlier than the tenth century.

So why do we venerate a woman whose image is so heavily veiled in the ancient past? Precisely because we know the single fact that has made her memory worthy of preservation.

She was a martyr. She gave her life for Christ. In imitation of the Divine Victim, she offered not just what she possessed or loved or hoped for. She offered her life, her very breath and beating heart. And in the offering, she invites us to do the same.

The ancient Collect we just prayed says as much: that Agatha found favor with God “by the courage of her martyrdom.”

As does The Council’s degree on the Ministry of Priests, recalling that in imitation of our Great High Priest, who emptied himself and took the form of a slave for our salvation, gave himself in sacrifice for our sins, and gives his own Body and Blood as our food, we are called to ‘offer ourselves entirely to God.’ Entirely.

It’s so simple, Agatha. Look down on us and pray, that God may give us the same grace.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Encountering Christ

This morning at Deacon House we celebrated the Presentation of the Lord, a feast celebrated in the East as The Encounter. The reference is to Simeon and Anna encountering the Child Jesus in the Temple.
It’s been forty days since we encountered the Newborn Lord and it will be forty more until Lent begins. After another forty days of penance and prayer we will celebrate Easter and witness the
Risen Lord, and shorly thereafter the incorporation of our Deacon brothers into the ministry of Christ, our great High Priest (as this countdown sign on the refrigerator at Deacon house reminds us).

Last night our Deacons shared with me a twenty-nine year old picture of when I was a Deacon.
(courtesy of Father John MacInnis…he’s the one in the brown shirt behind the stuffed bear…and yes, I’m the one with all that hair and a blue shirt...Fr. Busch is in a brown sweater and our Rector, Msgr. Murphy of Maine, is in the middle)
The Picture reminded me how we encounter the same Christ in each of the ages of our lives. Monsignor McRae celebrated the fifty-seventh anniversary of his Ordination to the Priesthood this morning.

Simeon was promised that he would not die until he had seen the Lord, while we are blessed to see him every day and to be touched by his Body and Blood in the Most Holy Eucharist. We forget that sometimes. Which is why it is good to keep a lookout for him today, on this Feast of the Encounter.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

On Vigor, Fifty Five Years Later

Here is a video of tonight's Rector's Conference, on the fifty-fifth anniversary of the Conciliar Constitution Sacrosanctum concilium.