Borderline of Salvation

Dear Parishioners,

John the Baptist, the cousin of our Lord, baptized on the Jordan River, as we all know. What's the significance of, as St. Hippolytus called it, “the Grand Jordan”?

Hebrew for "the descender," the Jordan River flows south from the Sea of Galilee into the Dead Sea. The Sea of Galilee, the largest freshwater lake in the region, teems with life. It is, of course, where Jesus spent most his time during his public ministry. The river Jordan connects this vivacious sea with its antithesis, the Dead Sea. The lowest point on earth, this body of water is one of the saltiest on earth, allowing nothing to grow, hence its name. The Jordan River is the connection between life and death.

Get Shocked!

Dear Parishioners,

I taught recently the 4th graders in school during their religion class about the liturgical season. We spent, of course, a decent amount of time on Advent. Why purple for Advent (and Lent as well)? (My brother-in-law, who is from Minnesota and is a Vikings fan will love this post.)

Purple, a fusion of red and blue, is an interesting color. Blue symbolizes calm, steadfastness, and stability. Think of a deep blue sky or sea. Red, on the other hand, symbolizes passion, energy, and movement. Think of fire. Purple combines the steadiness of blue and the fervor of red. In Advent we are called to be focused, recollected, and somewhat solemn as we prepare for our Lord's coming into our lives at Christmas. But we are also called to be alert and excited—and for the same reasons.

The segment from Isaiah (Is 40:1-5, 9-11) in our first reading has this mix of emotions. “Comfort, give comfort to my people,” we hear in the opening line. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,” continues the prophet. This is quite blue.

But it turns red quickly. “A voice cries out...cry out at the top of your voice.”

Happy Advent!

Dear Parishioners,

Happy Advent! The Israelites before Christ waited for a savior to come into the world, and, in a way, we wait too. Look at this line from the Prophet Isaiah in the first reading: “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?” (Is 63:16). Could we not today ask that same question?

God came into this world when he took on flesh 2,000 years ago. But he needs to come again into the world, and he needs to come more fully. By ‘more fully,’ I mean he needs to come more completely into our lives. We do not know Christ as well as we ought. We do not love him as much as we could. Advent is a time to deepen our love and knowledge of Jesus—to allow him to come into the world.

Jesus intends to come again, which means he intends for us to have a better relationship with him. This is why he tells us to watch in the Gospel. Be on the lookout this Advent season!

Christ the King

From a Homily on the Feast of Christ the King

Father Aloysius Schmitt was just finishing the 7am Mass aboard the USS Oklahoma docked at Pearl Harbor when eight torpedoes slammed into the ship's side. Within minutes the ship rolled over and began to sink. The 32-year old Catholic priest immediately began to direct frenzied men through a small porthole to escape the capsizing ship. Bob Burns, who had served at Mass that morning, was one of those sailors who escaped. Burns recalls: “[Father Schmitt] recognized my voice and said, ‘Over here!’ There were two gentleman topside pulling, and he was pushing people through — he pushed me out. He was one of the finest men I had ever known. It was an honor knowing him.”

Pentecost

From a Homily on Pentecost

Chicago reinvented itself in the latter half of the 20th century. The city went from an agro-industrial to a "knowledge" economy. Whereas cities like Detroit and Pittsburgh, based on the automobile or steal industry, were unable to recreate themselves when those industries declined, Chicago was able to do so. Gone were the meat-packing plants and warehouses, replaced by skyscrapers offering financial and legal services. Chicago has continued to renew itself, becoming a global economy, and hopefully will continue to do so.

Memorial Day

From a Homily on Memorial Day

At last the woman who had been sobbing outside of the president's office was granted entrance. She explained that her husband, fighting in the war, had gone missing and with it the money he had been sending home. She begged the president to discharge one of her two enlisted sons, as she had no means of support. Abraham Lincoln, staring at the fire, hands behind his back and head bowed low, simply said, as if speaking to himself, “I have two you, you have none.” The president walked over to the desk and wrote a note of discharge.

Good Friday in Nuremberg

From a Homily on Good Friday

Befehl ist Befehl. Translated: ‘I was only following orders.’ That is the plea known as the "Nuremberg Defense," used by the Nazi officers convicted of crimes during the Nuremberg Trials of 1945-1946. Hermann Goering and others claimed they were only following orders; they did not know of the atrocities that were occurring within the Reich. The Final Solution was all the work of Hitler, Himmler, and Goebbels, they argued. The judgment of the International Tribunal upon the ex-Nazis? Guilty.

Irish Mass

From a Homily on the Saint Juliana Irish Mass

William Francis Meagher (pronounced "Mar") was born in Waterford, Ireland in the 1820s. Identified by the British as a threat early into his adulthood, he was arrested and exiled to the penal colony in Tasmania. Meagher would escape, sail to New York City, and rise through the political ranks, eventually ending his career as the governor of Montana. His political success was owed to his leadership of the Irish Brigade in the Civil War, of which Robert E. Lee said “I have never seen men so brave.” The unit of Irishman performed admirably in many battles–Bull Run, The Peninsula Campaign, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville—so much so that President Lincoln elevated Meagher to Brigadier General. From this position of authority, Meagher had the War Department create green Irish flags with a harp symbol. The men carried this flag into battle, and in the event that the men were separated from the flag, or the flag was destroyed, the Irish soldiers could be identified by a green sprig in their cap, for which Meagher also gained permission. Two other allowances Meagher provided that endeared him to his men: the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day and the presence of a Catholic priest for every regiment.

Kings and Queens

Dear Parishioners,

Today is the Feast of Christ the King. I'd like to incorporate in my little scriptural reflection an homage to Claudette Link. Claudette will be retiring from the parish staff on November 30th. Claudette raised her family at St. Juliana and has worked at the parish for nearly 25 years.

The parish secretary is on the front line, answering phone calls, meeting visitors, etc. A person's impression of the parish can be affected by the personality of the secretary. Well, I would bet people's impression of Saint Juliana was that of a caring, joyful, and vivacious place. Because that is the type of person Claudette is! Claudette genuinely cares about every person she meets, and usually instantly becomes friends with that person.

Buried Treasures

Dear Parishioners,

We all have different gifts. Some are blessed with athletic or musical talents, some are blessed with financial acuity, some are blessed with affability, and some are blessed with the ability to grow facial hair, particularly mustaches (myself). Whatever your gifts are, they are given to you by God and need to be put into action. That is one lesson from the parable this Sunday about the talents (cf. Matt 25:14-30).

The man given only one talent who fails to invest it but instead buries it in the ground until the master comes for the accounting, is scolded. He not only has the talent taken away (and it is given to the servant who was originally given five talents and then made five more), but he is thrown out into the darkness. This isn't about the master being harsh. It is about the servant wasting the opportunity.