Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Russell Wilson vs Aaron Rodgers: Does God Have Favorites In Athletic Events

I really like Russell Wilson as a football player. I like him because I tend to like underdogs.  Russell Wilson is the classic underdog.  He is not very big, listed at 5'11' and just a shade over 200 pounds.  A nice size for an accountant, engineer, priest, or even a deacon. Not so big for an American football player.

He was a  third-round draft choice out of the University Wisconsin. Seventy-five young men were drafted before him  in 2012. Because he is stuck in a third round rookie contract, he is currently the third highest paid quarterback on the Seattle Seahawks roster.  In addition to preparing to start in his second Super Bowl of his young career, Wilson has many accolades including:

Wilson is a professed Christian. After leading his team to an almost miraculous comeback last week against the Green Bay Packers, he is quoted as saying
"That's God setting it up, to make it so dramatic, so rewarding, so special, I've been through a lot in life, and had some ups and downs. It's what's led me to this day."

His opponent in that game was Aaron Rodgers, also a professed and devout Christian.  I tend to like Rodgers a little less because he is the opposite of an underdog.  Rodgers is  listed at 6'2" and 225 pounds. He was drafted out of the University of California - Berkley in the first round of the 2005 draft.  Rodgers is also one of the highest paid players in the National Football League, having signed a 5 year, $110 million contact with the Green Bay Packers in 2013.

After losing in last week's NFC Championship game, and partially in response to the above mentioned Wilson quote, Rodgers stated
 "I don't think God cares a whole lot about the outcome. He cares about the people involved, but I don't think he's a big football fan."
So, while I like Wilson better than Rodgers as an underdog and a football player,  Rodgers has much better theology.  What do you think?

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Mark of Baptism

This is an approximation of the homily I delivered January 11, 2015 on the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord at St Luke the Evangelist Church in Slidell, LA, USA.  The scripture readings for this day can be found by clicking here. I used the first options for readings 1 and 2.

Last basketball season, someone was kind enough to give me 2 tickets to the Pelicans NBA game so that I could take my son, Daniel.  And these weren’t just any tickets. They were center court in the Club section.  The seats in the club section are wider and have more legroom. You have your own waiters. It’s really nice.  For admittance to the club section, in addition to the $175 ticket, we needed a special mark on our hands.  When we first presented our ticket, security personnel stamped our hands with invisible ink. 

Every time we left our seats to use the restroom or check out one of the  club section restaurants, we had to show our hands to the security guard to get back in. The guards had a special light that they would shine each time we entered the seating area that showed them the mark and lets them know that we belonged there.  So even though the mark was invisible it was nonetheless real. 

  Reflecting back on that experience, it reminds me in a way of Baptism.  Because, as Christians although it is not visible to the naked eye, we all receive a mark on our souls at Baptism.

Let’s take a moment and look at what the four Gospels tell us about the life of Jesus. Matthew tells us about the birth, the visit of the Magi, the flight to Egypt, then skips the next 28 years until the baptism.  Luke starts with the birth of Jesus and then skips briefly 12 years ahead, writes 1 paragraph on the finding in the temple and then skips 18 years to his Baptism.  Mark and John skip the first 30 years of his life entirely and start with the preaching of John the Baptist and Jesus’ baptism. In fact, if you laid all the Gospels side by side, you would find there are only seven events that are common to all four Gospels, and the Baptism of Jesus is one of the seven.  (As an aside, can you name the other 6?)

So why is Jesus’ Baptism so important? It is the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Nothing significant really happens in his life until this event.   In Jesus’ baptism, the blessed trinity is made manifest for the first time – Jesus is acknowledged as the Son by God the Father and the Holy Spirit descends on him like a dove. It is with the aid the Holy Spirit at Baptism that Jesus is strengthened to carry out his mission.

Now that we have heard why Jesus’ Baptism was important, it naturally leads to this question: Why is your Baptism important?  In Christian baptism, all of our sins - original and personal – are forgiven. We are incorporated as members of the Church, the body of Christ.  We are called to serve one another. We receive the same Holy Spirit the descended on Jesus at his Baptism.  And we receive that permanent mark on our souls.

If you read the catechism, writings of the popes, bishops, saints and other Church documents on the responsibilities of Baptism, you will see two common themes:  1)The  universal call to holiness, 2) the fact that we become part of the priesthood of believers  and share in the apostolic and missionary role of the Church.  Whoa!  That’s sounds nice.  Each one of us a priest? What does all that mean? It means that by virtue of our Baptisms each of us is called to be holy and has the duty to spread the faith to bring other people into God's family.

Somehow, most Catholics have been lulled into thinking that spreading the faith and the pursuit of holiness is just for the clergy and religious. That is just plain ridiculous. Everyone in this Church is Christ's ambassador; each one of us is an apostle and should be an evangelist. As his followers, we are, like him, as Isaiah describes it in today's First Reading, called to be "the light of the world."

I am not suggesting that you leave your home and your families and start traveling around the country and the world to spread the Gospel – although if that is what God is calling to you, that is great.  But there are plenty of opportunities for evangelization close to home.  I have some questions – by a show of hands - how many of you have someone close – a child, niece, nephew or other relative, friend, classmate or co-worker who rarely if ever comes to Mass?  Someone who was once Catholic and has left the Church for one of the “non-denominational” denominations? Someone who is virtually without Church or religion?  Look around, folks.  Fr. Pat says that there are approximately 1900 people per weekend that attend Mass at St Luke's.  That sounds great, except when you realize that is 1900 out of approximately 7500 registered parishioners.

With that in mind, I would like you to consider this series of propositions:

 Which is it?
Either This Is True
This Is True
The Gospels are true
We have all been duped
Either the apostles, martyrs and evangelists testified to the truth and died horrible deaths because Jesus is the Son of God
They were all insane
Either Jesus really founded a Church and gave it authority
We are all fools
Jesus really instituted the sacraments as outward and visible signs of inward and invisible graces
Our  sacraments are meaningless mumbo jumbo
Either you received a permanent mark on your soul that calls you to holiness and calls you to spread the faith
Your baptism was just an excuse for a family gathering and a party

What is you homework Assignment?

This week’s assignment is probably the most challenging one ever.  You saw all the hands up a few minutes ago - it was virtually everyone in the Church, including Father Pat and myself.  The harvest is indeed plenty.  By virtue of your Baptism, you are both qualified and called to evangelize. If you aren’t the one to share your faith, to invite them to Church, who is going to do it?  I challenge you to pray for the Holy Spirit’s inspiration - the same Holy Spirit that you received at your Baptism and the same Holy Spirit that descended like a dove and Jesus' baptism. Pray that He show you how and give you the right words to use.  Select one or more people that came to mind when you raised your hand and - bring them to or back to Church.  This year. It may not be easy, but it is what we are all called to do by the mark of our Baptism.

No one really knows what that mark that looks like. I imagine that our angels can see them and I also imagine that as they move through a crowd they can see who is baptized and who is not by that mark. The security personnel at the Arena have that light they use so that they can see who are the special people marked to enter the club seats. There is no special light that people can shine on us to see if we are baptized.  They can only tell by how we live, what we do with our lives.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The $360 Trillion Dollar Mistake

Here are some business truisms on which almost everyone will agree:

1) The name of the game in business is to make a profit and maximize owner value over the long run - in general, people do not go into a business to lose money and become paupers

2) Businesses are usually seeking to retain and grow their customer bases

3) More customers mean more sales which usually means more profits, hence pointing back to item one on the list

4) Fewer customers mean less sales, less profits, and a slower growing if not shrinking business.

5) More economic activity means more tax revenue for the government

The US Population is now hovering around 320 million and not growing.  In the United States, there have been  approximately 55 million legal abortions since 1973. Some conservative estimates state that based on the birthrate which peaked at 3.5 children per woman in the 1960's and is now at 1.8 children per women, that there have been approximately another 150 million American's not born because of contraception.  With the average lifespan in the United States being 78.74 years, it is safe to assume that a large portion of those 205 million Americans could still be alive today.    Without widespread abortion and contraception, we would have 70% more citizens.  205 million American consumers buying whatever American consumers buy.  However, my calculation is slightly understated.

This  report from Canada Free Press takes the calculation a little further.  It assumes that  5% of the 55 million aborted Americans would not have survived for natural causes. Given 52.5 million live births, how many would have lived to child-bearing years?  If half of the 50 million persons aborted were women, that leaves 25 million women who would have had 62.5 million descendants. Further, these 60 million would themselves have had more children starting approximately 1985. That would have added, let’s say, another 30 million females. At even 1.5 children a piece, that would add another 45 million by 2012.

That leaves a gap of 50 million + 60 million + 45 million potential but canceled Americans, meaning that 155 million more Americans would have been produced. Add the  150 million estimated Americans not born due to contraception and you have a staggering number.

In 1968, Paul R. Ehrlich published The Population Bomb, his sensational forecast of a world doomed by a population explosion. In it he flatly predicted: “In the 1970's and '80's hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash program embarked upon now.”  Not a single prediction in the work of fiction came true.

Instead, the developed world is facing a different sort of population bomb. The well-respected British publication, The Economist states that the US population growth is insufficient to sustain much less grow the economy.

We are now unarguably in a "baby bust" which is very bad economic news for the US.   Even US News and World Report acknowledges that this baby bust is bad for the economy.  In this article from 2008 on retirement, they state that :

"The exceptional size of the baby boomer generation—which is made up of 79 million people born between 1945 and 1964—raised output and growth rates. The baby boomer cohort is 50 percent larger than the preceding silent generation, and at birth, they represented a larger share of the population than generation X and the millennials did at their birth."

The US is facing astronomical deficits and debt. If you want to really have your mind expanded as to the severity of the financial hole we are in there is a handy website that shows every aspect of US debt, deficit and spending that you can imagine and some that you might not be able to imagine.

How would all of this look without widespread abortion and contraception in the US? No one can say exactly, but lets make some reasonable assumptions and see how the calculations work out.

Number of Americans Not Born - 300 million
Average Annual Income - $30,000
Average working life (assume from 22 to 62) - 40 years
Potential lost earnings - 300,000,000 x $30,000 x 40 =  $360,000,000,000,000
Average Tax Rates  (all taxes) - 30%
Total Revenue lost to the government - $120 trillion
Social Security Revenue lost to the government (at 4% tax)  -  $4.8 trillion

That is $360 trillion of total lost US economy.  $120 trillion in tax revenue.  The debt is $18 trillion.  You do the math.

And while you are doing the tax math, go figure why companies that donate to Planned Parenthood look like the Who's Who of American business. The organization maintains a database of these companies here which include American Express, AT&T, Avon, Black & Decker, Coca Cola, Chevron Texaco, Ford, The Gap, IBM, Motorola, Nike, Pepsico, Pfizer, Phillip Morris, Starbucks, Tenet Healthcare, Verizon, and Xerox to name just a few.

All of these companies are acting against the best interest of their stockholders by donating to an organization that is contributing to business truism #4 above - Fewer customers mean less sales, less profits, and a slower growing if not shrinking business.

Click on the link from and see if any companies that you own stock in or do business with contribute to Planned Parenthood.  If so, why not ask them why they are acting against the best interest of their owners?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pray Without Ceasing

This is an approximation of the homily I delivered at St. Luke the Evangelist Church in Slidell, LA on  the third Sunday of Advent, December 14,2014. The scripture readings on which this homily is based can be found by clicking this link.

A research study that I once saw asserted that the times people pray the most are 3) In Church 2) At meal time and 1) When they are in trouble.  That was pretty much me until about 19 years ago. 

One day out of the blue my wife Pam came to me one day and said something along the line of “I know you have always wanted a truck. We can afford it.  Our van is dying and with our youngest almost 10, we don’t really need a van any more. Why don’t you go pick out something. We can sell the old minivan and I will drive your car.” 

I felt like a kid in a candy store.  I spent days on end figuring out what equipment I wanted, but was having trouble deciding between Ford and Chevy. Out of the blue, I thought …pray about it…it couldn’t hurt.  And in this process, the strangest thing happened.  I got an answer.  It didn’t see handwriting on the wall, I didn’t have a vision of Jesus speaking to me in my garage.  It was just an overwhelming feeling that I knew the answer. The answer that I heard in prayer was… wait!.    Wait – not the answer I wanted.  To make sure that God did not make a mistake or I did not misunderstand, I prayed for a few more days and got back the same answer. 

So, in my prayer the following days I said– OK Lord, if waiting is what you really want me to do, you will need to do your part and keep Pam’s van running. And He did.  And several months later, over 9 years after the birth of your youngest child, we found out that Pam was expecting our third child.  And being in the days before large extended and quad cabs, had I gone through with the truck purchase, I would have been trading it in for another van to have enough room for our growing family.

And in this single event in my life I started to realize, what we all should know, that as a people of Faith, we should pray in all things, without ceasing.

We are now starting third week of Advent.  Today is Gaudette Sunday which means Rejoice. Today we heard a reading form Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.  Just as a bit of background on Paul’s letters that we hear almost every week in the second reading. These letters were  written to Churches that he established in his travels.  He would establish a Church, leave, and then send letters back. Some letters were written for encouragement, some were for correcting errors.  Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians was written  as encouragement to the fledgling Church in the Northern Greek City of Thessalonica. He set up the Church there, and  within a couple of weeks, the local civil authorities ran him out of town, branding him a "troublemaker."

  In the reading today, he gives church in Thessalonica two primary commands – rejoice always and pray without ceasing.  These two commands are interconnected, which I hope to show you in a few minutes.  In the psalm today, we hear a lot about rejoicing, as Mary rejoices in doing the will of God in saying yes to becoming the Mother of Our Lord.

 How do you become a person who rejoices always?  Why is there so much rejoicing in heaven?  Let’s see what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1024) says about this "This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity—this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed—is called ‘heaven.’ Heaven is the ultimate end … the state of supreme, definitive happiness."  Heaven is total communion with God. The way we commune with God on earth is through prayer. So if we want to rejoice always, we need to pray without ceasing.

But, what does that mean?  Does that mean I am carrying around my rosary all day? Spending my day with my eyes closed and my hands folded? No it obviously does not mean that. God has given us human bodies and human families and human responsibilities to which we must attend.  So how do we pray without ceasing and continue to fulfill our duties as employers, employees, parents, children, teachers and students?

"Pray without ceasing" refers to a life filled with never ending, persistent recurring prayer, not nonstop talking.  Prayer must become a way of life. It is living in continual consciousness that God is in control, that he loves us, and desires only the best for us, and wants to have real relationship with us. To pray without ceasing means that everything you hear, feel, see and experience becomes a prayer of sort. It should be natural and intimate communication like we might have with our spouse or very best friend.

To "pray without ceasing" means when we are tempted to sin, we present that temptation before God and ask for His help. When we experience something wonderful, we immediately thank Him for it.  When we are afraid or in trouble, we turn to God as our protection.

In this manner, life becomes a continual prayer: all life's thoughts, deeds, and circumstances become an opportunity to commune with your Heavenly Father.  When we begin to discuss in prayer the mundane as well as the important decisions of life with God, we know we are beginning to arrive at “prayer without ceasing.”  This includes things such as our choice of friends, how we direct our charity, our housing decisions, healthcare, vocations, careers, and the size of our families and yes – even Ford versus Chevy.

Thankfully by the time I had to rely on prayer to decide on purchasing a truck, I had been attending annual silent retreats at Manresa for a few years and started to learn how to be still and quiet and listen for God speaking and working in my life. But that is not so easy for most who lives are perpetually bombarded with noise and distractions – televisions, cell phones, internet, radio, streaming music and podcasts. It is very hard in fact.

What is out homework?
For those that say that God does not answer your prayers, it could be because you are surrounded with so much noise that you cannot hear.   I challenge you to find ten or 15 minutes each day – more if you can - turn off the TV, the radio, take out the earphones.  Become totally unplugged.  Pray, meditate, and listen.  Read some scripture.  Observe how God is speaking to you.  Learning the listening part of prayer is much more difficult than the active part for most Americans.  Keep trying. Don’t give up. And when you find yourself praying without ceasing, you will also find yourself being able to rejoice in all things, even when things don’t go your way.

Start asking God for his input on the big and small decisions in life and trust in the answers.  Sometimes the answer might not be something that we want to hear.  Sometimes the answer might be wait… sometimes it might be… no. 

And as Paul Harvey used to say… now for the rest of the story.  Four years after this event in my life, I received a huge bonus on my job, large enough to buy a truck.  Pam said again, go buy one, and being an obedient husband, I did.  And being a man of prayer, I prayed.   That baby we were expecting four years earlier that delayed my truck purchase was our son Daniel, and at four years old, he sat in the front seat with me as I happily drove the truck home from the dealer in New Orleans. That truck that I bought 14 years ago is in the St Luke parking lot today. For me, God likes Chevy!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Major Development in Young Asian Church: Mongolia To Ordain First Indigenous Deacon

The Apostolic Prefecture of Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia is set to receive its first indigenous deacon during an ordination this week in South Korea. Bishop Wenceslao Padilla of the prefecture said the ordination of Enkh Baatar, 23, is something he has long looked forward to and coincides with the recent celebration of the Catholic Church’s 20 years of existence in Mongolia. 

Padilla said he was glad to see a Mongolian native take up the torch lit two decades before by the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The more than 80 priests and religious in Mongolia are foreign-born missionaries that have presided over the small but growing Church, Padilla said.

Read more about this here

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It Is A Sin Problem, Not A Skin Problem

I am a fair to middling  writer. Some of the things I write are really good, some of them are real stinkers.  Most of what I write is a little better than average.  That is why I state that I am a "fair to middling" writer.  Every once in a while I get a sense of satisfaction when on occasion I write something really good, something that is worth having others read it.

I was planning on writing something really brilliant about the situation in Ferguson, Missouri.  The problem is other than the violence in the streets that we see on the news, like most of the rest of the world, I really know absolutely nothing.  I did not see the evidence and did not hear the testimony.  So what could I write?

I was going to write about how incongruous it is for Planned Parenthood to issue the following Tweet when they are the number one killer of young black men in the world:

, ’s death, and violence toward young people of color are an issue for all of us.
Or how hypocritical it is for Al Sharpton to be on  camera with Michael Brown's parents and legal team when he is a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood.  Because the facts are Planned Parenthood kills more minorities in the United States then all other causes combined. According to the  New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in 2012 there were more black babies killed by abortion (31,328) in New York City than were born there (24,758).

This morning, I just by chance I read a long Facebook post, from what might seem like an unlikely source.  Once of the friends of my oldest son had commented on a post made by New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson. What could a professional athlete have to say that would have any meaning on this subject?  Read it for yourself and decide.  Any commentary that I could make on this would be puny and insignificant. From today forward, Mr. Watson is my favorite NFL player.  And after you read his post, you will know to Whom he is pointing in the picture below.

"At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:

I'M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.

I'M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.

I'M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I'm a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a "threat" to those who don't know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.

I'M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.

I'M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.

I'M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn't there so I don't know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.

I'M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I've seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.

I'M CONFUSED, because I don't know why it's so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don't know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.

I'M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take "our" side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it's us against them. Sometimes I'm just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that's not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That's not right.

I'M HOPELESS, because I've lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I'm not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.

I'M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it's a beautiful thing.

I'M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I'M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that's capable of looking past the outward and seeing what's truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It's the Gospel. So, finally, I'M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope."

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Regaining Reverence of Sacred Places

This is an approximation of the homily I delivered on Sunday November 9, 2014 at St Luke the Evangelist Church at the 6:00 PM Mass.  This is the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St John Lateran in Rome.  The scripture readings can be found by clicking this link.

Aren’t there certain things in life that we just do, but we really don’t know why we do them? Take the handshake.  Do you know how it came to be?  In the ancient times, people traveled mostly by foot. They carried swords for protection, usually hanging under their cloaks on the left side.  When strangers where passing on the road, they would extend their right hands to show their swords, and then clasp hands to show that they were friendly and were not going to stab each other. It evolved into what we know as the handshake.

What about the military hand salute?  In the middle ages Knights in armor raised visors with the right hand when meeting an opponent. This practice gradually became a way of showing respect, evolved to tipping that hat, modified to touching the hat, and since then it has become the hand salute used today.
 So why am I talking about the salute and the handshake? Today we celebrate the feast day of a building. The Cathedral of St John Lateran not St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican is actually the Cathedral of the Pope. It was originally a palace and was dedicated as a Church this day in the year 313. Although there are only small pieces of the original building remain, it is the oldest Church in Christianity. Why do we have the dedication of this building as a feast day? Is it a tradition like saluting or shaking hands that no longer has its original meaning?  To the contrary, the Church puts this feast on the calendar to remind us of the importance of church buildings as sacred space set apart for a special encounter with God and as people of faith we ought to treat them as such. 

 While God is in fact everywhere, today’s Gospel confirms that certain places are sacred, set apart and should be treated with special reverence.  If that were not the case, Jesus would not have flown into a rage, flipped over the tables, and driven the money changers out of the temple with a whip. He did this because that by their actions, the moneychangers were defiling the most sacred place on earth at that time. 

Prayer is simply lifting our hearts and minds to God.    And that is also the purpose of the Church building. The music, art, and architecture are to help us lift our hearts and minds to heaven.   In centuries past, the church was seen as an image of heaven. Its design and d├ęcor were based on the descriptions of heaven found in the Scriptures. Its high ceilings and arches drew your mind and heart up, up to God. Stained glass was intended to image the jeweled walls of heaven as described in the book of Revelation.

In the Catholic Church, a ceremony known as the Rite of Dedication of a Church and an Altar dedicates the building as sacred space, set apart for God and His people. Among the things that are done during this rite:

The altar is anointed with Sacred Chrism, the same oil that is used in Baptism and Confirmation. The altar becomes a symbol of Christ, which means “the anointed one”.

The walls are anointed to signify perpetual dedication to Christian worship. Incense is burned on the altar to signify the sacrifice of Jesus. The incense also signifies the prayers of the people reaching the throne of God. 

In the very early Church, Mass was celebrated in underground cemeteries and in homes.  As the Church flourished, lavishly ornate buildings were constructed with the intention of …lifting our hearts and minds to God. The problem was that over the centuries people began to believe that God dwelt exclusively in these ornate churches. People went to church, participated, received communion and went home without knowing who was sitting next to them. Worshippers forgot that we are come to church to worship God as family.

Lets go back, for a moment, to the Dedication of a Church. Thee first things that is blessed, before the altar or the walls are blessed, are the People, because the Church is a living temple and each member is a spiritual altar. This what Paul is referring to in the 2nd reading when he says YOU are God’s building and Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

To remind us of this, and of the community aspect of worship, Vatican Council II introduced some liturgical changes such as exchanging the sign of peace. But we may have swung from the extreme of attendance at Church being for God and me alone to the other extreme where Mass is a communal thing and God is not the center.  Many have lost the sense of the church as a sacred place, to the point that the conduct of some in our churches today borders on irreverence. In some Churches that I have been in, I can almost imagine Jesus making a whip and driving us out like he did with the moneychangers.

Practices that were meant to remind us that we are in God’s presence when we enter the church have been almost abandoned. These include such things as dressing appropriately, signing oneself with holy water, properly genuflecting, avoiding unnecessary chatter, and whispering when one has urgent cause to talk in church.

The next time you are in Church, look to your left and look to your right. I am sure you will see plenty of empty spaces.  There are over 5000 Catholics in our parish.  If only half of them came to Church every Sunday, the Church would be standing room only every week.  But look at the empty spaces.  The loss of the sense of the sacred might be one reason why people are no longer interested in attending Mass. If we come to church thinking that it is going to be entertaining like a concert or just another social gathering, we will find it boring.  But when we realize that the church is a holy place, a place of encounter with God, the Mass become an uplifting rather than boring experience.
Because the Mass is the ultimate prayer, everything that we do and say in this Church should not only lift our own hearts and minds to God, but also help those in the community to do the same. I think you would all agree that there is some attire that is appropriate for the beach or the gym that may be distracting to your fellow worshippers and therefore is not appropriate for Mass.  Likewise, attire meant for a formal ball may be equally distracting to others.  

When I was young, there were no “Shhh” signs posted at the door, yet it was just generally known that there was no talking in the sanctuary. You were quiet out of respect for the Eucharist and to allow others in the Church to communicate with God without distractions.   If there was something urgent to say, it was said in hushed tones and virtually no one could hear it.  Now days, movie theatres and golf courses can sometimes be more quiet and reverent places than our churches.

So what is your homework?
I am going to leave you with two questions to ponder on this week. First, What can I do to help bring a sense of reverence back to this Church and to every Church that I attend? And second, What am I going to do about it?

Today’s celebration of the dedication of St John Lateran, is not just some ancient practice that has lost its meaning. It invites us to renew our faith in the church as a house of prayer, of awe and reverence, and to cultivate habits and practices that make it easy for God to encounter us and us to encounter God whenever we enter Church, especially as we prepare to receive Jesus sacramentally in the Hoy Eucharist.