Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What Should I Include in This Blog?

Well, I have given some thought that I should update this blog on a more regular basis. Any thoughts on what I should use this blog for would be greatly appreciated. I do enjoy writing and often receive many positive accolades for the homilies I publish on Facebook. I have often thought it might be worthwhile to write about the daily joys and tribulations of a Director of Campus Ministry. I can certainly include these the homilies as well as the reflections as Director of Campus Ministry ... any other thoughts from folks on what else I could use this blog for? Would be interested in any thoughts!

Memorial Mass for Haitians - Homily

The last 48 hours we have seen the pictures,
read the words, offered prayers and intentions,
and perhaps even questioned ourselves
in the face of the largest natural disaster
in each of our lifetimes.

What can we say
in the face of such a terrible tragedy
in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere?

Or another question raises itself:
How can God – who stands with the poor –
allow for such a tragedy to happen?
Where was God?

I find these questions difficult to answer …
impossible really …
and these questions are not really any different
than what the Israelites in our first reading experience,
when in the face of the terrible tragedy
of the battle with the Philistines, they ask,

“Why has the LORD permitted us
to be defeated today by the Philistines?”

All of these questions and really no answers.
What are we to do
in the face of such huge questions,
it seems only natural
to gather together like we do tonight …
in faith …
in faith in a God
who is the God of Hope.

My friends,
I do not think God is responsible
for any evil in the world.

God does not cause evil.
God does not cause earthquakes or tsunamis or famines
to get back at people for something they may have done.

Evil does not discriminate …
evil just happens
whether by the hands of others
or by the terrible natural disasters
we have all witnessed to over the last many years …

So, where is God then in all of this?

I am reminded of an image
that started my day
when reading this morning’s New York Times.

A collapsed cathedral in Port a Prince …
the remains of a once beautiful cathedral
reduced now to only rubble
with only some of its outer walls still standing.

Yet in that starkness – from the air -
the form of a cross is all that is left to the eye.

Imagine for a moment
in the midst of the chaos and distress of Port au Prince
that a cross stands in the middle of this city.

Where is Christ in all of this?
The crucified Christ –
naked on the cross and his blood pouring out –
laments with the Haitian people.

The crucified One
weeps with his arms
wrapped around women in search of their children,
husbands looking for their wives,
lost and stunned children looking for their parents.

Yet, the cross is not just a sign of death,
is not just a sign of endings.

The cross also signifies hope,
hope for a future,
even though in the pictures, videos,
and words of the days
it just seems so utterly impossible
to think or believe that hope is even possible.

Yet that is our faith.

I am consoled by what Saint Ignatius writes
in his Meditation on the Incarnation
when he describes the Godhead
looking down on all of creation
in its distress, corruption, brokenness,
confusion, dire straits, and tragedies.

There God,
in only what God can do because God is love
gives his very self to the world through his son, Jesus!

Jesus the Christ in his deep love and compassion for creation,
for his all peoples, for the Haitian people,
has chosen to make his home in Haiti …
in Port au Prince.
He has chosen to stand in solidarity with them,
weeping with them,
and offering his hands
and heart for a better tomorrow.

That is what we witness in today’s Gospel reading.
The leper begs Jesus to make him clean.
Jesus in his great compassion reaches out to the leper
and heals and makes him whole again.

And we have witnessed
Christ, the healer, the compassionate One,
who has made himself known
through the hearts and hands
of so many around our global neighborhood.

Even within this SU neighborhood,
all of us have gathered together
in deep care and compassion,
in a variety places across our campus today,
and have asked, What can we do?
How can we be with our Haitian sisters and brothers?

And we do this because of our shared humanity …
and because we have Christ within us
who only knows how to love with compassion.

Mike Bayard, SJ
Ecumenical Chapel
January 14, 2010

The Baptism of the Lord - Homily

Why do we want to love the poor, to help the lonely,
to console the sad, to heal the sick,
and to bring freedom to the oppressed?
Simply because that is what God does. Nothing else.
It is the very essence of Christ.
Christ taught us how he acts, how he lives,
how God loves – and we try to learn."
- Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, S.J.

Friday morning
sitting in the Arrupe Community library,
I overheard three Jesuits remark,
“Christmas is over”

I commented to one of my other Jesuit brothers
that Christmas isn’t over
and that Bill McNamara’s music selection
for Sunday mass
has us singing Joy to the World.

Immediately this Jesuit responded,
“C’mon Mike, Christmas is over.
You need to get a life!”

Well, excuse me, I do have a life …
three times over …
having kept 3 of my New Year’s resolutions,
a full 10 days into the new year.

I just wonder if this other Jesuit could say the same …

What of any of you?
Have you made a New Year’s Resolution?
Have you at all kept your New Year’s resolutions?
(Not surprising.)

Recently Northwest Cable News
reported that 2/3 of the US population
typically fall away from their resolutions
within 4 days of January 1st!

And the reasons for not keeping a resolution:

#3 – Failure to set up a support system …
#2 – Failure to be patient …
#1 – Failure to have an optimistic attitude!

Let’s face it …
starting something new
always proves to be a challenge.

Or as Fr. Pat Howell, my rector, often quips,
“You know all beginnings are hard!”

New Year’s resolutions are not any different …

And it is,
in all beginnings –
that we – as human beings –
strive to start over,
to make things aright,
to try things differently,
to improve on our way of living,
to recommit to who it is God calls us to be.

And often these beginnings can be very hard!

What we celebrate today – the Baptism of the Lord –
is all about beginnings!

At the juncture between Christmas and Ordinary Time,
we have an opportunity
to embrace a new way of living.
Let me suggest that what we celebrate today
encourages us to make a New Life Resolution.

The baptism at the Jordan signifies
a beginning …
the start of the mission of Jesus …
a fresh way of living …
a resolute way of living.

The plunging into the waters of the Jordan
awakens and turns his life in a new direction,
publicly confirmed by a voice
that probably reverberated
just as loud inside his very self
as it did among the throngs of people
gathered at the Jordan,

“You are my Beloved, with you I am well pleased!”

With that public affirmation … confirmation,
anticipated centuries earlier by the prophet Isaiah,

“I formed you,
and set you as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon,
those who live in darkness.”

Jesus resolutely starts his journey toward Jerusalem,
with heartfelt passion …
Jesus lives into his call
of welcome, teaching,
healing, reconciliation, freeing oppression …
essentially his own “New Life Resolution”!

My friends,
this new resolution is not some age-old promise.

No, it is a promise that keeps on renewing itself
each time another person comes forward
entering the waters of baptism.

This promise will renew itself this coming Easter Vigil,
when twelve young men and women will assent –
one after another:

“Is it your will to be baptized in the faith of the Church,
which we have all professed with you?”

And with that one question
will come a resolute Yes!

And entering into the waters of the reflecting pool,
their lives will turn toward a new direction …
with the community gathered around the pool,
affirming their faith,
each one of them
will share with Jesus this new life!

Beginning to live this new life is not always comfortable!

Living the way of Jesus
will put each one of us in situations – almost daily –
Asked to step aside of our needs
to provide for someone else;

To challenge some injustice that is close to our heart;

Generously offering one year of service in place of a six-figure first time job;

To step up, speak a truth to a fellow friend
helping them break out of a destructive pattern of life;

To courageously stand within the culture confronting discrimination;

To be humble enough to step aside from
“my way is the only way”
and instead say “I am sorry!”

Indeed beginnings are hard
especially when living into this New Life Resolution.

How are we to live into this new life
we have each chosen through our baptism?

FIRST, we live this life together
as members of one body … the People of God …
encouraging one another along the way!

That is why we gather here week after week …
to hear our story;
support one another;
pray for the needs of those whom we encounter;
And we gather around this table
to be strengthened together in this meal we share.

SECOND, be patient!
Living into the New Life Resolution
does not happen overnight …
more often than not
we will make mistakes …
we will turn away from our resolution

I am often reminded of Pierre Chardin’s prayer,
Patient Trust, when he prays,

We are impatient of being on the way
to do something unknown, something new.
yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing
through some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

Only God could say
what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you …

THIRD, let us commit ourselves to optimism,
beginning each day in gratitude
for the life God has given us;
and then to imagine each day our encounters
and how whatever we say or do on any given day,
helps to build up the Kingdom of God!

Then we could say, we indeed do have a life!

Mike Bayard, SJ
Chapel of Saint Ignatius
January 10, 2010