28 Aug

The one who humbles himself will be exalted.

Dear Parishioners,

The first reading and the Gospel this week, in my humble opinion, focus on the virtue of humility. Sirach recommends the following: "My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God" (Sir 3:17-18). Then our Lord provides this maxim: "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted" (Lk 14:7-14).

Humility is, among other things, an awareness that your abilities come from God. We give him the glory and praise for our talents, not ourselves. Whether you have a beautiful voice, the ability to dunk a basketball, or a brain wired for math, God has blessed you. A humble person, aware of these God-given abilities, points the attention not to himself, but to the Lord.

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21 Aug

Strive to enter through the narrow gate.

Dear Parishioners,

Edward Leen, a spiritual writer from the middle of the 20th Century, wrote this: "Many a superficial Christian looks upon salvation in terms of a change of place rather than a change of heart. They look upon the sanctifying rites instituted by Christ as things that give them a kind of passport for heaven, rather than a means to make them fit to be in heaven" (Why the Cross?, 69).

I think if we maintain Leen's words when we listen to Christ's words on salvation, we'll be much more at peace. Because our Lord's comments from this Gospel--in fact, his comments on salvation/damnation in several other Gospels--are difficult. "Will only a few people be saved?" asks someone in the crowd to Jesus. His response: "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough" (Lk 13:22). Yikes.

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14 Aug

There's a white-hot fire at St. Juliana!

Dear Parishioners,

I wonder, with all the firefighters in our parish, if our Lord's words this Sunday will be appreciated: "I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!" (Lk 12:49).

Fire jumps, as we all know. It will spread rapidly from an outlet to a wall, from a wall to a ceiling, and then to another floor. Before you know it, the whole house is ablaze, though our terrific firefighters usually prevent that from happening.

It's an image we can invoke when we speak of the spread of Catholicism. It all started for our Church literally with fire at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in the upper room in tongues of fire. Catholicism jumped around Jerusalem and Palestine within weeks; into Asia Minor and Greece within months and years, thanks in large part to St. Paul; into Rome and all of Europe within decades; and finally throughout the whole world. Two thousand years ago we had 12 Catholics. Today we have over one billion. The fire of Catholicism has consumed the earth.

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07 Aug

Jesus is our biggest fan.

Dear Parishioners,

Jesus tells us in each of the Gospels to be ready and to watch. St. John Henry Newman mused on this: "We are not simply to believe, but to watch; not simply to love, but to watch; not simply to obey, but to watch!"

Think about when you are watching. A lifeguard watching people swimming and playing in a pool; a parent watching for her child to come home for that first Thanksgiving back from college; me watching a Bears game. The viewer is entirely engrossed in that moment. It is almost as if you, the viewer, are detached. You don't think about yourself. You think about the object of your watching. Watching is self-dispossession.

I suppose Jesus wants us to watch so that we will be less preoccupied with ourselves and more focused on Another. Pope Francis said this in his homily last Sunday at Kraków during World Youth Day: "[Jesus] is always 'cheering us on'; he is our biggest fan. He is there for us, waiting with patience and hope, even when we turn in on ourselves and brood over our troubles and past injuries."

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