04 May 2013

Frighten the world!

NB.  Still w/o a 'puter, so here's a repost of 2012's homily for today. . .

5th Week of Easter (S)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Jesus drops a rather somber warning on his disciples, “I have chosen you out of the world. . .and the world hates you. . .[but] realize that it hated me first. . .If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” We know that the world persecuted Jesus, and we know that the disciples were persecuted as well. Despite the best efforts of the world to bludgeon, burn, crucify, and exile the Good News from its realm, the news got out, and we've been here for more than 2,000 years. Like a body infected with a deadly virus, the world reacts to the presence of the Church—attacking, repelling, isolating. But we're still here. Despite the best efforts of some in the Church to surrender to the world, to bring the world into the sanctuary, and give her away like a rare virgin bride, we're still here. We're still here not b/c we are deserving of preservation, b/c we're earned the privilege of God's protection. We're still here b/c Christ promised to be with his Church always. Because the world needs an ordinary means of receiving his Father's abounding grace. So long as the Church remains, the body of the world remains infected with the saving virus of the Good News. This is why the world hates us: they do not see any need for rescue. 

If you feel no danger, you very likely see no need for rescue. Sitting comfy and cozy on your couch, reading a good book, you would probably dismiss a neighbor who barges in yelling, “I'm here to rescue you from your comfy, cozy couch!” If you were kneeling in prayer in church, confident that all was right with your spiritual life, the rantings of a crazy friar from the pulpit about sin and God's love would be distracting but hardly alarming. However, if your world were collapsing, if your family, your nation, your civilization, all that you have come to rely on were spinning out of control, and someone offered you a way to leave that world behind, the first thing you would need to do is admit that your world was coming apart. You would need to see the destruction, hear the system tearing at its seams, feel the angst and anger rising. In other words, you would have to confess that the world you helped to build and operate was losing its soul, spiraling into a dysfunctional waste. If you make this confession, then rescue is possible. If you refuse, if you deny the truth, rescue is impossible, and you will grow to hate those who offer you a way out. 

 Christ's offer to rescue the world is an accusation. To say, “You need rescuing” is to say “You are in danger,” and I am in a position to help. The hardest part of being rescued is admitting that help is required. Why does the world hate Christ and his disciples? Because the Church sees the world in danger and knows that the only way to be rescued is to embrace Christ and leave that dangerous world behind. Leave behind contesting for social standing; compromising the truth to gain political influence; rutting with violence for the applause of mob; to leave behind self-righteous do-gooding, the easy hatred of imaginary enemies, and the lust for things and people. Christ's offer of rescue is an accusation, but it is also—if accepted—a vindication, a victory over the world, a win for those who would confess that they can only lose without God. No slave is greater than his master. If we are slaves of Christ, then we can expect nothing more from the world than he himself received. The rulers of this world fear another King, and they fear his followers. When the world stops hating the Church, we know that we have stopped preaching his Good News. Therefore, go out and frighten the world! 

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03 May 2013

First World Problems

TOSHIBA keeps changing the estimated shipping date on my laptop. . .

They moved it from May 9th to the 6th and now back to the 9th.

Shoulda just gone to Best Buy like Fr. Mike suggested.  


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29 April 2013

New Laptop: May 9th

Replacement parts + labor + lost productivity = Just Get a New Laptop!

So, I did.  Got a great deal on a Toshiba Satellite.  Almost half-price direct from the warehouse.

Should be here by May 9th. . .until then, it's ad-lib homilies.  


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28 April 2013

RIP. . .laptop

I think the video card on my laptop died this afternoon. 

The screen just went black. It's been "jumpy" lately, frequently turning red.

Anyway, blogging and email will be slow until I can get a replacement card, or a new laptop.

Fr. Philip

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Love never compromises

5th Sunday of Easter 2013 
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP 
St. Dominic Church, NOLA 

The traitor leaves the table and goes to complete his betrayal. Jesus watches him go; without a word, Jesus bears witness to his friend's treason. When the door closes behind Judas, our Lord turns to the remaining disciples and declares the beginning of the end, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” Now. Immediately. At this moment. With Judas gone and the door closed, our Lord is given glory for his Passion: the Father's strength and the Spirit's fire—the divine majesty. With the Son of Man glorified, God is glorified in him. Amplified. Magnified. Made more brilliant. So elevated, he says to his disciples, “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.” Can they see/feel the glory suffusing their teacher? Do his friends know that the traitor's departure started the countdown to Golgotha? Rather than accuse Judas, or flee to the desert, or shout a call to fight, our Lord issues a new command. Watching Judas leave the table, watching him go to sell his teacher and friend to their enemies, Jesus shares his glory with those who remain, who remain loyal: “Love one another,” he commands, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” If we love one another, all will know that we follow Christ. 

Two disciples who love one another in Christ, Paul and Barnabas, travel through the churches of Asia Minor, strengthening the spirits of the other disciples and exhorting them to persevere in the faith. How do these two instruct the other disciples to persevere? They spread this bit of good news: “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” How is this any sort of good news? How is this truth supposed to strengthen the disciples, or urge them on to persevere in the faith? Wouldn't it have been better for Paul and Barnabas to encourage the others with smiling personal affirmations, or rousing songs about the wonders of achieving social justice? How about a few calming homilies on how wonderful we all are? Or how good it is that we can come together to be church? Paul and Barnabas reveal to the others a difficult truth: entering the kingdom of God is an obstacle course, a regime of hard choices, harder consequences, and frequent failures. These barriers to joining the kingdom are not God's doing. These barriers belong to the world. To enter the kingdom, we must overcome the world. And to overcome the world, we must love one another. That's the hardest truth of all. 

“Love one another” can heard as a glib slogan, a mushy motto meant to soothe a jagged conscience. It trips easily off the tongue, a nice catch-phrase that catches all the sentiments we tend to think will ease conflicts, dissolving differences into a numbing peace. When our Lord orders his disciples at the Last Supper to love one another, he does so after Judas leaves to betray him. He waits until the traitor exits the room to issue his last command. With Judas gone and the door closed, our Lord is glorified, raised up, given the honor due his impending sacrifice; and the fullness of God's revelation is made manifest in him; that is, at the beginning of his Passion and death, Jesus shines with whole glory of God, the full strength of the Father and the fire of the Holy Spirit. The treasonous disciple cannot witness this. Even had he stayed with the others, we could not see it. He does not love the Lord; he does not love his brother disciples. He loves worldly glory and riches, and so he is blind to the heavenly glory that Christ shows to those who choose to love him. Had he stayed, Judas would not have heard Jesus say, “Love one another.” The ears of a traitor are closed to loyalty and love, to faithfulness and perseverance. And b/c loving one another is its own hardship, betrayal come easily to those to who refuse to love. 

“It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Paul and Barnabas spread a bit of good news throughout the churches of Asia Minor. This good news sounds a whole lot like bad news. And it would be bad news if these hardships were sent from heaven. But they are not. Look at the hardships that Paul and Barnabas themselves have endured: arrest, imprisonment, floggings, threats from civil authorities, denunciations from religious officials. Both apostles are martyred. Paul was beheaded at the order of the Emperor Nero. Barnabas was stoned to death by Jewish authorities in Cyprus.* Every hardship, every obstacle to their apostolic ministry comes from the powers of this world, or from those allied with them. So, Paul and Barnabas understand—with the bodies and souls—that the hardships of loving one another come by way of the world. They also understand that we overcome the world while standing in the glory of God, loving one another despite the world's obstacles, sharing in the divine majesty given to the Son at the beginning of his Passion and death. And by sharing in his Passion and death, we give God glory in our own hardships. 

All this talk of hardships, glory, death, and love seems a bit abstract, a bit airy, unsubstantial. Let's put some meat on these bones. We lay claim to an inheritance through Christ, a portion of the kingdom that he announced 2,000 yrs ago. As heirs to this kingdom, we are also its stewards, responsible for seeing to the growth and maintenance of all that God has given us. Traditionally, Catholics talk in terms of “time, treasure, and talent” when we speak of stewardship. And there's nothing wrong with that. However, there is a more fundamental sense in which all of us steward God's gifts. Look at Judas. What did he squander for 30 pieces of silver? Fellowship among the disciples; his relationship with Christ; his historical reputation as a faithful disciple. But more than these, he sold his soul; that is, he allowed the powers of this world to buy his integrity, his strength as a Good Man, a man of God. He used his friendship with Jesus to sell our Lord to his enemies. The powers of this world set a hardship for Judas. And he chose the easy work-around, the profitable dodge. In other words, he compromised the very thing that made him a man of God, worthy of trust. Judas accommodated himself to the spirit of the age and ended his own life with a noose. 

The spirit of our own age is busy setting hardships for us. Oddly enough, these hardships are not all that different from the ones Paul, Barnabas, Judas, and all God's children in the early Church tackled. They were tempted to dilute the Gospel with false religions. Compromise with secular power for material gain. Accommodate moral principles for the sake of social standing. Surrender their freedoms in the name of state security. And more than many lost their struggles with these temptations. More than many exhausted their strength, extinguishing the fire of the Holy Spirit in their resistance. Here's what we need to know now: when we love another as Christ loves us, we have no need for a gospel other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ; when we love one another as Christ loves us, we don't need material gain, social standing, or security from the state. Everything we need is given by God so that we might live wholly in His love. Judas did not believe this. Paul and Barnabas did. Judas died a traitor's death. Paul and Barnabas died as witnesses, preaching the Good News to the end. Love tells the truth; it never compromises or accommodates, nor do those who love one another. Jesus orders us, “As I [love] you, so you also should love one another.” His Passion and death began when the traitor left the table. Ours begins when we approach the table and dare to share in his last meal.

*Unfortunately, this is probably a legend, but it's the only info we have on his death.
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