June 30, 2013

Homily for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

In today’s readings we encounter two very human realities.

First there is indignation. James and John are angry that the Samaritans won’t let Jesus and his followers pass through. They are experiencing the New Testament equivalent of road rage!

The recent Supreme Court decision affecting marriage has met with indignation as well. One might be tempted to call down fire from heaven, but then we would just be engaging in the “Biting and devouring” that St. Paul condemns in the second reading.

Then there’s procrastination, which we find in two of Jesus’ potential disciples. They want to follow him, but not just yet. They’ll get to it.

St. Paul tells us to “Live by the Spirit.” We resolve that we will, honest. Some day. When everything else is in place. It’s like thinking of all the things we will do when we retire. (Imagine a disciple saying, “I will follow you, Lord, once I’m retired.”) Or like what happens when so many of my winter projects eventually become my summer projects.

Personally I have no doubt that in the gospel text Jesus literally meant for the followers to drop everything, and not procrastinate. All three must have been stunned.

The first must have felt that Jesus was trying to put him off.

The second and third made normal, reasonable requests, Jesus says, “Forget about that!” He wasn’t even saying, “When your father dies you can bury him then,” or “You can say goodbye to your family later.”

This was no ordinary situation, however, no mere question of what to do in what order. It was a life choice. No turning back.

If you are married, there came a time in your life when you decided to pursue a relationship. You knew the time had come, it was now or never, sink or swim, moment of truth, the turning point. Yikes! No wonder it was such an emotional moment. And so it is with all the most important choices in life.

For Jesus and Paul the situation was the same: life choices, no turning back.

In the early centuries of the Church, the life of Christians was so different from the life of those around them, that sometimes people preferred to wait—even till they were on their deathbed— to ask for baptism. The logic was this: baptism wipes away all sin, so why not wait till I’ve committed my sins and then put all that behind me. In other words, it’s all about me! What do I get out of it?

Jesus says in effect: “No... You’re the disciple, I’m the Master.”

We might not like the demands of discipleship. Jesus doesn’t seem to care about that. He says: “It’s not about you. It’s about me. Do you want to follow me or not?”

June 24, 2013

Salvation History: A Primer

Salvation history is the active participation of God through human history in the salvation of mankind.  The culmination of salvation history is the person of Jesus Christ - His preaching, teaching, passion, death, and resurrection.  In every age, God works in concert with human beings to make the gospel message known throughout the world.  Human beings are incapable of saving ourselves.  Salvation, like eternal life, is a gift only God can give.   

Let's go back to the very beginning.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve lived together in perfect harmony and happiness.  God and man, man and woman shared an intimacy we can only imagine.  We call this intimacy original intimacy.  Existing in perfect happiness, man's free will is preserved. If God had made us robots, loving only Him and serving only Him, we could not properly speaking be said to love.  Love by definition is a free choice.

Enter the snake.  The evil one said God really didn't love Adam and Eve.  The evil one said if they ate of the forbidden fruit their eyes would be opened and they would be like God. Seduced by the snake's words, Adam and Eve partake of the fruit - disobeying God and destroying the harmony and happiness of Eden.  Original intimacy was lost.  God allows the natural consequences of Adam and Eve's choice to befall them.  But He does not abandon them.

Salvation history begins in Genesis 3:15. There God says to the serpent: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel. This passage, also known as the Protoevangelium or first gospel, is the first announcement of the salvation to come. The woman is seen by church fathers and Sacred Tradition as the Blessed Virgin Mary.  "Her offspring," refers to the person of Jesus Christ who will ultimately defeat the forces of death at Calvary.

Two things are apparent.  One is that Adam and Eve in choosing to disobey God commit the first sin.  In eating of the forbidden fruit there is a need for atonement.  The first sin creates a rift between God and man.  Something must be done to heal that rift. 

Secondly, God does not leave mankind to its own devises.  Contrary to the new atheist critique that the universe is an unfeeling sequence of random events with no rhyme or reason, Catholicism argues that God is a loving Father who is constantly calling us to beatitude with our Creator.  God did not create us to suffer.  Sin and death are human inventions born when we reject God and His commandments.  The moment sin and death entered the world, salvation history began.

In the coming weeks and months, we  will continue to look at how God acted in human history to save mankind.  Stay tuned.

June 22, 2013

Homily for Easter Sunday, 2013

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

In 1927, a 33-year-old Belgian scientist published an article with this title: “A homogenous Universe with constant mass and increasing radius explaining the radial velocity of extragalactic nebulae.” In 1946 he published a book, Hypothesis of the Primeval Atom.

The scientist’s name was George Henry Joseph Edward Lemaitre. He was world famous and had many titles. He also had the title, “Father.” He was a Catholic priest.

His theory became, and still is, the predominant scientific explanation today of the universe as we know it. In1949, an English astronomer, Fred Hoyle, who disagreed with Fr. Lemaitre’s theory, was explaining the theory in order to show why he didn’t accept it. In so doing, he gave the theory the name by which it has been know ever since: “THE BIG BANG!”

We celebrate today another Big Bang, a totally different kind of Big Bang.

Like the other, it explains everything, not in the physical universe but in the Christian universe.

Without the physical big bang, there is no physical universe. It began with a “singularity,” immeasurably small. Imagine it—from virtually “nothing,” to everything! BANG!

Without the resurrection of Jesus, there is no Christianity.

St. Paul wrote to the Christians of Corinth: [H]ow can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. Then we are also false witnesses to God, because we testified that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised,  and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.  (1 Cor 15:12-19)

The “singularity” in this case is—the empty tomb! Emptiness is the sign, in a sense the source of the fullness of life. From this nothingness, everything!

Without the resurrection, there is no Christian faith, no Christian hope, no Christian love—no Christian life now, no eternal life hereafter, for us no life worth living. 

But Christ is Risen! That’s why we are gathered here. We have Christian faith, hope, love, life now and hereafter. Christ is Risen, and our life is worth living!


June 10, 2013

Homily: 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C, 2013

Fr. René Butler

Thirty-five years ago, I worked at a college seminary. There was a seminarian whose parents divorced when he was young, because his father was an alcoholic, and now he was, just getting to know his father. Unfortunately I had to tell him a few months later that his father had died, beaten with a baseball bat.

A number of priests from the seminary went to the funeral. But the Pastor said to us: “I can’t allow you to concelebrate. This guy was the town drunk. We don’t have more than one priest even for our good people. We can’t have so many for this guy!”

This is similar to the Gospel story of the woman who wept at the feet of Jesus. The Pharisees were right about her. She was a sinner. In some notorious way she violated the Torah, the law of God. Everybody knew “who and what sort of woman” she was. The Pharisees even turned this against Jesus. He couldn’t be a real prophet after all, if he didn’t know who she was.

Jesus didn’t care, because that was the only one there who knew who he was.

The Pharisees were right about the woman. But they were wrong about Jesus. The woman was right about herself, and right about Jesus. That is why he told her, “Your faith has saved you.”

When we are inclined to judge others, we should remember that the Church is something like Alcoholics Anonymous; it could be called “Sinners Anonymous.” After all, at every Mass we begin by acknowledging that we are sinners.

In AA the only requirement is a genuine desire to seek a life of recovery. Not overnight. Not alone. In “SA” the only requirement is a genuine desire to seek a life of grace. Not overnight. Not alone.

Let us hope and pray that no one shall ever be turned away who comes to the Church seeking the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus, that no one shall ever be turned away who comes seeking Jesus in our midst.

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S., is Director of the La Salette Shrine in Enfield, NH.