Archive for the ‘Salt and Light’ Category

Cut It Out — Thursday, 7th Week of Ordinary Time—Year II

February 28, 2014

Gospel: Mark 9:41-50

Jesus said to his disciples: “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.”

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

In establishing his first covenant with Abraham, the Lord said, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.” (Genesis 12:3) Likewise, Jesus declares that whoever does the least kindness to those in his covenant will be rewarded, while whoever leads one his own into sin faces dire consequences. Sin is a serious thing.

“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.”

“And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.”

“And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.”

Of course, Jesus does not want us to mutilate ourselves because our bodily organs are not the real cause of our sins. But let us consider: what actions or material possessions do I take in hand, to what places do I go by foot, what sights do I perceive with my eyes, that are near occasions of sin for me? Let us firmly resolve with the help of God’s grace to cut these things out of our lives, so that we may be a blessing to all and a scandal to none, the salt of the earth and never cast out.

Of Earth & The Universe — 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

February 9, 2014

Literally, from the Greek:

You are the salt of the [ground] … You are the light of the [cosmos.]“

A Christian’s ordinary life on earth reveals the divine light responsible for the universe.

Sodium Chloride Reaction — 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

February 8, 2011

Let me tell you two stories about chemicals that produced quite a reaction in me. In summers when I was a kid, I liked to go to the Osseo city pool. They had there a brown door with red letters warning something to the effect of: “Danger, Deadly Chlorine Gas, Staff Only!” I needed no further persuading. Years later, my high school science teacher put a bucket in the snow, and in the bucket he put some water, and in the water he put in a chunk of pure sodium, using tongs. The water steamed and bubbled and exploded a couple of time. It was awesome, but also rather threatening.

What do you get if you put these two dangerous elements together? You get sodium chloride. I warn you that this compound in now found in our environment and our homes. The oceans are full of it, it’s on our city streets, and it’s even in the food we eat and feed to our children. Sodium chloride sounds rather threatening, but you know this benign compound by another name: Salt.

Like salt, Christianity is pervasive, it’s everywhere. Like salt, people can fear and oppose Christianity, thinking it’s harmful for people and bad for our world. But in truth, Christianity, like salt, is necessary for life. Christians, to the extent that they are truly Christians, are the salt of the earth.

The world’s irrational fear and opposition to our faith is nothing new. Listen to this anonymous letter written to a man named Diognetus that dates from the second century. Listen for how Christians resemble the salt of the world, ubiquitous, helpful and good, and feared and opposed:

“Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. … With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign. And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.  They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh.

They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.

Why does the world oppose devout Christianity, now as then? One reason is that the Christian dedicates himself exclusively to Jesus Christ, in a way that worldly people think is disproportionate and dangerous. They imagine the believing Christian behaves like sodium in water, hot with intolerance and hatred, violent in their reactions. In fact, a Christian’s total commitment to Jesus Christ is what leads Him to have mercy for all and extend love toward all. Who is more responsible for ‘sharing bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless, and clothing the naked’ in history of the world than Christians in general and the Catholic Church in particular?  

Another reason why the world hates Christianity is that worldly people think it lethal to the joys of life. Like inhaling chlorine gas, they fear that Christianity stands to afixiate their happiness. This too is nothing new. In Roman times Christians were charged with “hatred of humanity” for it was thought, “whoever loves man will love what man loves.” As the writer to Diognetus observed in the second century, “The world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because [Chritians] are opposed to its enjoyments.” It is still so today. It is as Jesus said: He calls us the light of the world, and elsewhere notes, “Everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.” We tell the world that some things that it loves are false roads to happiness, and it hates us for it.

So what are we to do? First, realize that the modern world’s hostility to Christianity is nothing new. Don’t wait for the world’s hostility to pass, it won’t. And don’t think your faith is a shameful thing, it’s not. Instead, do as Jesus teaches, “your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” If you are a Christian, people who know you should see something different in you and ask, “What’s your secret.” And when they do you should say, “It’s because of my relationship to Jesus Christ and His Church.” Pray for this grace. Pray that you may be a witness to Christ in both your words and deeds. Then, as the psalmist said, you will be “a light in darkness” and you will help to save many souls in the world.

5 Things / 5 Cosas — 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

February 5, 2011

The Blessed Virgin Mary, our Lady of Guadalupe, comes to Saint Juan Diego dressed in the sun. She is clothed in light. Her light comes from God. In 1531, she does simple things. She says few words. She asks for one thing. She gives one gift. And as a few, small grains of salt can flavor a meal for many, Mary’s few, simple actions transformed a people, a culture, and a land forever.

You are called to be the light of the world, but remember that the light never begins you—the light only comes from Christ and shines through you. How can you be clothed in the sun of His grace? You need to pray every day, you need to receive the sacraments frequently, you need to fight against sin, you need holy community, and one of these friends must be Jesus.

By the light of Christ, you may be led to ‘share your bread with the hungry, open your house to the homeless, and clothe the naked’ in new ways. However, Jesus does not want you to do one thousand more things, He wants you to do the one thousand simple things that comprise your life differently, with peace and power. ‘The just man shines like a light in the darkness, and firm and without fear in his heart.’

With Jesus, you can become the best possible you. The best possible you is who you desire to be. This best possible you may still do few and small things, but the effect of these deeds will be powerful around you, as the salt of the earth transforms a bland meal.

Prayer, sacraments, conversion, community, intimacy with Christ. The light of Jesus comes through these. In which of these do you most need to grow? What are you going to do about it? Jesus and Mary await your reply.

La Virgen María, nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, llega a San Juan Diego, vestido con el sol. Ella está revestida en luz. Su luz viene de Dios. En 1531, ella hace cosas sencillas. Ella dice algunas palabras. Ella pide por una cosa. Ella da un regalo. Y como pocos, pequeños granos de sal pueden sabor a una comida para muchos, las acciones pocos y simples de María transformen un pueblo, una cultura y una tierra para siempre.

Usted está llamado a ser la luz del mundo, Pero, recuerde que la luz nunca empieza desde usted: la luz sólo viene de Cristo y brilla a través de usted. ¿Cómo puede usted ser revestido en el sol de la gracia de Christo? Es necesario orar cada día, es necesario recibir los sacramentos con frecuencia, es necesario luchar contra el pecado, es necesario formar parte de una comunidad santa, y uno de sus grandes amigos debe ser Jesús.

Por la luz de Cristo, es posible compartir su pan con el hambriento, abrir su casa al pobre sin techo, y vistir al desnudo de otra manera. Sin embargo, Jesús no quiere que haga mil cosas más, él quiere que haga las mil cosas simples que hace todos los dias pero de una manera diferente, con paz y poder. ‘La persona justo brilla como una luz en las tinieblas, y firme está y sin temor en su corazón.’

Con Jesús, usted puede convertirse en alguien mejor. Usted quiere ser major persona y eso es lo que Jesús tambien desea. Siendo una major persona usted puede todavía hacer pequeñas cosas, pero el efecto de estos hechos serán poderosos alrededor suyo, como la sal de la tierra transforma una comida ordinaria.

Oración, sacramentos, conversión, comunidad, y intimidad con Cristo. La luz de Jesús viene a través de estos. ¿En cuál de estos necesita mejorar al máximo? ¿Qué hará usted acerca de él? Jesús y María esperan su respuesta.

Two Becoming One — The Ann and Larry Feltes Wedding

January 12, 2011


Has the institution of marriage now passed its time? More and more people are not getting married at all. Has the time for marriage passed? Is marriage good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled under foot? No. Marriage is not old-fashioned, it is from the beginning. Marriage is not customary, it is foundational. Marriage, the sacrament of marriage, is needed today more than ever. The world looks around and wonders… “Can promises really be kept for life? Is self-less love really sustainable?” Yes. By the power of this sacrament, which Larry and Ann will henceforth be able to call upon whenever they have need.

What is the source of this sacrament’s power? Jesus, on the night before He gave His life for us, took bread and wine and said, ‘This is my body and blood, this is my very self. I give myself to you, lay myself down for you, and offer you a covenant. I love you, I want to bless you, and I want us to be one.’ Finally, He said, “Do this in memory of me.” This is what husbands and wives do in the sacrament of marriage.

Sacraments make present the realities they signify. The sacrament of marriage is not merely like the love shared between Christ and His Church, the sacrament really makes this mystery present. In your marriage, you can draw upon the love of Christ for His bride and upon the love of the saints for the Bridegroom. Stay close to the Eucharist, continue to pray together every day (as you do now,) and you will embody this mystery clearly for all to see.

On this day, it is natural for us to think of Jim and Mary; and it is right that we do so, for no one puts bushel baskets over shinning lamps. Mary and Jim are irreplaceable, and we would not try to replace them. Today, Ann and Larry enter this sacrament so that they may continue to enjoy and be blessed by the great goods contained in marriage. There may be challenges in melding two families together, but God’s grace will level any bumps on the path, and help the two become one. Every year, Ann writes a Christmas letter to her grandchildren. This Christmas she told them that this year would be special because they would be getting “a bonus grandpa.” Today I feel that I am receiving a “bonus aunt.”

When I asked Ann what she liked about Larry she said, “He’s a good man.” Later, when I asked Larry what he liked about Ann he said (and I paraphrase,) “In summary, in preponderance of all the evidence, and in conclusion… she’s a good woman.” Larry and Ann, because your marriage will be built on this powerful sacrament, with a shared mission (focused on God, family and the work of love,) I trust that people will see your good marriage, and glorify our heavenly Father, for many happy years to come.

For an Extraordinary Marriage — Wedding of Andrew and Laura Foreki

March 3, 2010

I would like to begin this homily today by sharing with you the extraordinary story of how this boy, Andrew, met this girl, Laura. Picture Andrew, walking one morning across the University of Wisconsin campus in the deep cold of winter. He is on his way to Chadborn Hall where a prayer group is meeting for their twice-weekly 7:30 rosary. 

He walks into the room where the group is meeting and casts his eyes, for the very first time, upon a drowsy-eyed coed named Laura. And can you guess what Andrew said to himself when his eyes saw Laura for the very first time? That’s right. He said to himself, “Oh, I don’t know who that is.” This reaction, of course, is to be expected, since Andrew and Laura didn’t know each other prior to being introduced a few moments later.

Now Andrew’s first impression is not what makes this an extraordinary story. Did you notice what was the extra-ordinary part? Here it is: Here we have two college students, getting up, out of warm beds, on a cold day, to pray a rosary, at 7:30 in the morning! Now, you have to understand, in College Student Time, this is like getting up at 4:30 AM. Your typical college student doesn’t get up any earlier than he has to, but these two got up… to pray. For this and a thousand other reasons, I think you will all agree with me, that we have here two extra-ordinary people, from whom we good reason to expect an extraordinary marriage.

Do you two want to ensure you share an extraordinary marriage together? Then there are three things that I, as an ordained servant of Jesus Christ, believe that you should do.

First, like Tobit and his wife Sarah in our first reading, you should pray together. Of course you must pray individually. And of course you must pray with your children once they come. But you also need to pray together. It doesn’t need to be anything complicated.  Just hold each others’ hands a few moments before you part for work, or stand, or kneel, at your bedside, like Tobit and Sarah did, and speak aloud from your hearts to God. Ask blessings for each other, and give thanks for all the blessing you have received, and close you prayer by saying, “Amen, amen.”

Some couples find this kind of prayer too intimidating, or too personal, to be attempted; for our prayers express our most intimate selves, our fears, our hopes, our pains, our joys, our deepest longings. If you pray honestly in this way, nothing will be hidden between you. Today you will vow to give yourselves completely to each other. Do you want to be truly and totally one? Then pray together. Through marriage you will share of one flesh, if but pray together and you will also share of one spirit. Pray together and you will share an extraordinary marriage as one flesh with one soul. So please, pray together.

The second thing you should do for an extraordinary marriage is to come to Mass. Come to Mass every Sunday and every holy day of obligation. Come, and be moved by the beauty of architecture and songs. Come, and be strengthened by the experience of Christian fellowship. Come, and be inspired by the eloquence of Gospel preaching.

No doubt some people hear this and think to themselves, “That sounds great… But our church is ugly and the songs are dumb and hard to sing. And our community is little more than a gathering of strangers. And our priest always gives the same boring homilies.” Which all boils down to saying, I just don’t get anything out of going to Mass. Then hear this, even if everything else is lacking at Mass, Jesus Christ is always here for us, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. At Mass, the one sacrifice of Calvary and the Last Supper are made truly present to us for us to receive their power.

At Mass Jesus Christ shows us the perfect spousal love that He calls each of us to imitate. Jesus never called himself “the bachelor.” No, He joyfully called himself “the bridegroom” and eagerly seeks to unite himself to His bride. On the cross, naked without shame, He consummates this union with her, giving himself freely, fully, fruitfully, and forever… freely, fully, fruitfully, and forever. Do you want your union with each other to be free, fully, fruitful, and forever? Then come to Mass to learn the pattern of how Christ loves us and draw from the power He offers us through communion with Him. His is the pattern and the power for an extraordinary marriage. So please, come to Mass.

The third and final thing you should do for an extraordinary marriage is to be salt and light in the world. What does this mean? Being salt and light means that your Christianity should show. As Jesus says, “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

Your good deeds should stand out in the world. As St. Paul says in the second reading, “Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” If the world never judges you to be radical in any aspect of your Christian life, then you’re not doing it right. Then you’re not yet living as salt and light–you’re not yet living like the saints. For example, everyone loves their friends, but who loves their enemies and prayers for them? Most people pray, but who spends a long time to be with God every day. Many people can give when times are prosperous, but who gives generously when times are tight? Such things as this are what it means to be the light and the salt of the world. Light is different than the darkness, and salt makes the ordinary flavorful.

Clearly, you two are salt and light already, for who goes on weekend retreats to know God better? Or who drives to Washington D.C. to march for life? Or who goes down to Louisiana to volunteer for Hurricane relief? Or who get up at 7:30 in the morning to pray the Rosary? So, please keep on being salt and light, and your marriage will be extraordinary.

Years from now, I don’t expect that you will remember much from this homily, but I hope you remember these three things: Pray together, come to Mass, and be salt and light and you will have an extraordinary marriage.

[Preached as a deacon for my sister's wedding,  November 22, 2008]

Christian and Unashamed — Ash Wednesday at the Parish

February 17, 2010

In today’s Gospel, Jesus warns us against giving so that others see us giving, against praying so that others see us praying, and against fasting so that others see us fasting. Yet, I don’t think that showy religiosity is where the danger lies for us.

In Jesus’ day, the popular culture proudly believed in God and respected religious piety. Hence, those people were tempted to publically flaunt their acts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving and thereby gain the respect and praise of others. But today, in our secularized culture, the temptation is to do the opposite, and to do something far worse. We are tempted to deny our faith in Jesus and teachings before others because we’re afraid of what they might think of us.

The hypocrites Jesus spoke of, who pray to be seen by others, merely limit their prayers’ reward, but if we deny Christ before others we lose our rewards entirely. For Jesus tells us:

“Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

This is why the early Christians went to the lions rather than to deny Christ, and it was their courageous witness to Him that conquered the pagan culture which surrounded them.

This Lent, let us begin to practice putting the Lord before men. For instance, are you someone who will be so embarrassed by having an smudge of ash on your forehead that you’ll want to wash it off the first chance you get? If so, then you should leave it there until it wipes away on its own.

Are you are someone who sees good deeds that just call out to be done but pass them by because of your peers would see you doing them? Then you need to bite the bullet and start doing those hard-good-deeds anyways.

Are you someone who is self-conscious about other people seeing you pray, here at Church, at work, or when your family goes out to a restaurant? Then you need to make it a point to pray, and when you do, do not ask that God would make you invisible; ask Him that other people would become invisible to you and then pray to Him as from your heart.

Now, these are not examples of performing righteous deeds so that others may see you. This is about doing the right thing even if others might happen to see you do it. This Lent, let us begin to love and serve our eternal Lord amidst a world which is destined to become dust.

You are called to be the light of the world. People do not light a candle and then put a bucket over it; it is set it high up, where it can give light for everyone. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. This Lent, let’s begin to shine.

Unashamably Christian — Ash Wednesday at the School

February 17, 2010

In today’s Gospel, Jesus warns us against giving so that others see us giving, against praying so that others see us praying, and against fasting so that others see us fasting. Yet, I don’t think that showy religiosity is where the danger lies for us.

In Jesus’ day, the popular culture proudly believed in God and respected religious piety. Hence, those people were tempted to publically flaunt their acts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving and thereby gain the respect and praise of others. But today, in our secularized culture, the temptation is to do the opposite, and to do something far worse. We are tempted to deny our faith in Jesus Christ and His teachings before others because we’re afraid of what they might think of us.

The hypocrites who pray to be seen by others limit their rewards, but if we deny Christ lose our rewards entirely. I’ve touched on this topic twice before from this ambo, as recently as three weeks ago, but I feel that it is important for me to emphasize it, and that it’s important for you to hear it. For Jesus tells us:

“Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

This Lent, let us begin to put God first; in our prayers, in our penances, and in our personal relationships.

Are you someone who will be so embarrassed by having an smudge of ash on your forehead that you’ll want to wash it off the first chance you get? Well then, you’re someone who needs to leave it there until it wipes away on its own.

Are you are someone who sees good deeds that call out to be done but pass them by because of the people who would see you doing it?  Then you need to bite the bullet and start doing those hard-good-deeds anyways.

Are you someone who will have more to say in gratitude to God after Mass this morning than is allowed by the eight seconds before your pew starts clearing-out? Well, then you need to stay in your pew to say what your heart wants to say as long as you need to say it (without, of course, being late to class.)

Now, these are not examples of performing righteous deeds so that others may see you.  This is doing the right thing even if others might happen to see you doing it.

If you’re self-conscious about other people seeing your devotion to the Lord (for instance at Mass) do not pray that you would be invisible to them; ask that they would invisible to you and continue as you would.

You are called to be the light of the world. People do not light a candle and then put a bucket over it; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light for everyone. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

This Lent let us begin to love and serve the Lord in the world. This Lent, let’s begin to shine.


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