Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Competition to Be Loved - Homily for the 25th Sunday in OT

So I’ve noticed that the world is pretty competitive these days. Have you noticed that? It’s a competitive culture out there. And I’m not simply talking about sports. There’s lifestyle competition and job competition and husband competition. We compare vacations with other families… we compare cars… additions to the house… And yes, there’s sports too. We’re always trying to be the greatest, always trying to have the best or be the best. But to what purpose?
Today’s readings have this tinge of competition. St. James asks:
Where do the wars
and where do the conflicts among you come from?
Why all this competiveness?  St. Mark tells about how the apostles were discussing among themselves who was the greatest. They too are competing.
And that’s really ironic. Here they are competing about who’s the greatest, and because of that they are missing out on the fact that “The Greatest” is right in front of them. Their “jealous and selfish ambition”—blind ambition—blinds them to Jesus who is right there. Here we find a reality about competition: it can blind us to the deeper realities and deeper dimensions in our midst. It can flatten our world.
I’m very competitive. I grew up with two older brothers and I didn’t like getting beat. So I grew up to make it a point to win. It wasn’t enough to “play for fun”—I had to bring home hardware. This competition carried over to other dimensions of my life, sometimes in good ways (like school), but in ways which I didn’t foreseen: like going out bowling with friends on a Friday night. You see, because I was so competitive, I HAD to get the highest score bowling with friends. And if I didn’t, I’d feel bad about myself or there would be a damper to my evening. As a result, I missed the deeper reality and the deeper dimension of life: namely, joy with friends on a Friday night. Why was I trying up my value—and my friendships—in a bowling score?
But we are a competitive culture. Go to a little league game and you’ll sometimes see parents yelling at kids—not instructing them, but yelling at their children. How many parents compete through their kids?—it is as though the parent has wrapped himself and his value up in his child such that if his child doesn’t do well on the field, the parent is embarrassed. That tells me something….
Have you noticed that even the way people talk today is competitive? Brian Regan, a very funny (and clean!) comedian noticed how when we’re talking and someone’s telling a story about what job they do or what vacation they’ve been on, the people listening are waiting for that moment to jump in and talk about… themselves! “Oh, you’ve been to the Grand Canyon? That’s nothing! I went on an Alaskan Cruise!” It’s competitive story-telling. We all do it—we wait for their lips to stop moving…  “uh-huh, uh-huh…  you..  you..  uh-huh….   ME!”
That tells me something too…
When I hear the competitive story-teller or the competitive parent or the competitive wives out in the breezeway at pick-up talking about what lifestyles they have or what their husbands do or not do at home, I hear something. I hear their heart saying: “I want to be valued. I need attention. I need someone to listen. I don’t feel valued. And this”—whatever this is—“is what I got that I believe is of worth. It’s my best.” This is why the competitive story-teller tries to “one-up” everyone, why they think their story is most important; it isn’t necessarily because they are prideful or narcissistic (it could be), but oftentimes it’s because they want to be heard. They want someone to say, “Hey, you are important.” “Yeah, you are the greatest.”
I think this gets at the heart of our competitive nature. At the root of it all, our desire to be the best, our desire to be heard, is at root the desire to be loved. We all have days where we don’t feel loved. Or we’ve grown to believe that we have to earn love. We want to be heard, we want to be acknowledged. We want someone to know the depths of who we are and to say, “you know what, I value you. You’re important to me.” We want to have that affirmation because deep down we have a fear that we aren’t good enough—and maybe we’ve been told that by someone close to us—and really, deep down, we want to be loved. What we need to learn then—and needed to learn as children—is that God has never asked us to compete for His love. We’ve always had it.

This is why Jesus interrupts the apostles’ competition about who’s the greatest by circling them up, bringing a child into their midst, and then—then he does something quite amazing, something quite tender: He wraps His arms around that child. Jesus is trying to tell the apostles something. He’s trying to tell them that they don’t have to compete against one another—they already have His love. And we’re that child—YOU—you are that child in His arms. He loves you; you are so important to Him! You don’t have to have the championship trophy… because when you’re 31, childhood trophies collect dust and get packed away in boxes and are forgotten. You have my love. Why do you compete with your lifestyles? Why do you compete with your children? Why do you compete with one another? Is not my love enough for you? Let me be the one who competes for you.
I mean, if that was enough for us—I mean, if we truly believed that Jesus thinks we’re the greatest and that He loves us—wouldn’t this inspire us to give a second thought to why we’re doing what we’re doing? Wouldn’t it give us pause to evaluate our priorities? our lifestyles? our children’s schedules?

The competition that comes from refusing to be embraced by God translates into a flat world, a shallow existence. It is shallow to reduce soccer to simply a game about winning trophies or not. It is good to compete—and we should compete (go for gold!)—but there must be a moment where we can step back and look at the beauty of the game—reflectively, almost philosophically, soaking it in. Have you ever just sat back and pondered the miracles that happen in soccer?—I mean, the human capacity to run and jump and kick, and to strategize and exhibit logic, while working within the laws of gravity on a tiny spread of grass hurdling through the cosmos…. Is there not some deeper glory that we will miss out on if we reduce soccer to whether or not you were the greatest in CYC or SLYSA?
            If we allow Jesus to wrap His arms around us and if we listen to Him when He tells us, “Hey, you’re important to me, I value you, I love you,” we can put down that navel-gazing shallow competitiveness that oftentimes blinds us to the deeper dimensions of soccer and of life. And it’s the deeper dimensions that really cultivate in us the love of the game—and a love of life.
            Thus it can be said that when we story-match, we flatten our world because we’re missing out on the deeper dimensions of others. The story-matchers are so concerned with themselves and their own story that they never think to ask questions, those deeper questions that go hand-in-hand with getting to know another person. Receiving the love of Jesus, then, brings the story-matcher outside of herself: since she don’t have to story-match, she can listen more attentively and then ask questions—and find out the deeper stuff of the person next to her, and the relationship deepens.
            There is another reason why Jesus embraces the child in front of the apostles. Not only does Jesus want them to believe that He loves them, but also that they must now in turn love those who aren’t loved.
The child in Jesus’ day would have been one of the weakest members of society. They had no rights. They were pushed aside. By taking the child and showing His love for it, He is telling the apostles: Now you do the same. This is why Jesus says, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One [the Father] who sent me.”
Who is the weak one in your midst? Which child are you being called to love? Maybe for some of the grandparents out there, you struggle being patient with your grandchildren. Parents, maybe one of your children believes that they have to earn your love or that their value is tied up with how they do in school or in soccer. Maybe there is a “child” in your family or in your workplace who is crying out to be loved, to be seen as important and value—who competes, who wears masks, who comes off as prideful…

            If the apostles do not realize that they themselves are loved by Jesus, then how will they be able to serve those whom He is calling them to serve? If they continue to compete with one another and do not receive His love, they will not be able to give—because they won’t have.
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble writes James (4:6). The grace given here is His love—a love which helps us to love others and which also helps us to love ourselves. This, in turn, deepens our view of life and its beautiful dimensions.
And it reminds me: children are children. They are not adults. Don’t expect them to love as adults quite yet. They are kids—we are to teach them how to love like God. One way we teach is through the way in which we discipline. Do we discipline with wrath and anger, vengeance? Or do we bring mercy, quick instruction, opportunity for redemption, affection? Do we give affection only when a good job is done? And if we do, doesn’t that teach the kids something about where we believe their value is?
Perhaps like God we could give affection, wrap our arms around our children, “just because”….

Children are important to God. And our first task as parents is to teach the children that. Their value is found in Him, that they are important to him. They don’t need to find their value in the trophy or the status of lifestyle or in tabloids. But if they are going to find that God loves them, we must know that we are loved, and then wrap our arms around them. And it also means we need to give the kids the quiet time they need in order to hear Him tell them that. Or else they were turn to those other things.
As we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, ask Jesus to help you re-discover your value in Him and not in your stuff or your status or your schedule. Ask Him for the grace to help you to prune your stuff and your status and your schedule. Your children will notice. And they need that witness. We must re-evaluate our priorities and look at why we do what we do.
As we receive Jesus in the Eucharist today, let yourself be received by Jesus into His arms. You don’t have to compete with others anymore. To Him, you are enough. You are His everything.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

An Argument in Support of One Species Decisions

Here is a little essay for those who like to "talk shop" on matters disciplinary in the Church. It comes on the heels of a decision to remove chalices from ferial celebrations at a local parish. Enjoy!

Nearly every discussion of whether or not to have communion under both kinds (species) at every Holy Mass is bound to bring up a mention of the “spirit” of the Second Vatican Council. So, let us begin there. What did the Second Vatican Council say about the matter of whether or not a parish must have holy communion offered under both the host and the chalice?

The dogmatic principles which were laid down by the Council of Trent remaining intact, Communion under both kinds may be granted when the bishops think fit, not only to clerics and religious, but also to the laity, in cases to be determined by the Apostolic See, as, for instance, to the newly ordained in the Mass of their sacred ordination, to the newly professed in the Mass of their religious profession, and to the newly baptized in the Mass which follows their baptism (SC, 55).

What we here notice is that the spirit reinforces the Council of Trent. This might come as a shock, given that many picture the Second Vatican Council as going contrary to Trent, believing that the Second Vatican Council opened up unrestricted distribution of the Holy Eucharist under both species all the time. We see here, however, that holy communion under both kinds is contingent upon permission which “may be granted when the bishops think fit.” The Council then gives certain examples where such permission might be given. What we notice as we read the examples given here is that each of these examples are extraordinary circumstances: newly ordained in the Mass of their sacred ordination; newly professed…; newly baptized…. These are not the same as your every day 6:30am Holy Mass. What we also notice is the quick history lesson: before the Second Vatican Council, rarely did a Catholic receive from a chalice. (Therefore, if a pastor is accused of being “pre-Vatican Two” when he decides to remove the chalices from the daily Mass, and if he keeps the chalices on Sundays, he is certainly not “pre-Vatican Two.” Pre-Vatican Two would not have a chalice for the people—rarely if at all).
The reference to Trent is not just an aberration, however. Even in 2004, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament issued an Instruction, Redemptionis Sacramentum (On Certain Matters to be Observed or to be Avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist) which invoked Trent as well. (Side note: This title inspired me to develop an essay entitled, “On Certain Matters to be Observed or to be Avoided regarding That Moment When You’ve Realized You’ve Dropped Your Car Keys into Hot Magma”). With regards to holy communion under both kinds, the Instruction says,

So that the fullness of the sign may be made more clearly evident to the faithful in the course of the Eucharistic banquet, lay members of Christ’s faithful, too, are admitted to Communion under both kinds, in the cases set forth in the liturgical books, preceded and continually accompanied by proper catechesis regarding the dogmatic principles on this matter laid down by the Ecumenical Council of Trent (RS, 100—emphasis mine).

So, it appears as though understanding Trent is essential to understanding what the Second Vatican Council and what Redemptions Sacramentum directed should and should not be done. *<see note below>

So what does Trent say? What are the dogmatic principles that are here being referred? Redemptionis Sacramentum cites session XXI of Trent. There we find this:

laymen, and clerics when not consecrating, are not obliged, by any divine precept, to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist under both species; and that neither can it by any means be doubted, without injury to faith, that communion under either species is sufficient for them unto salvation (Trent, XXI)

This sounds odd. This seems to imply that there were those in or outside of the Catholic Church who were proposing that one must receive the host and the chalice, or else that person would not be fully receiving Jesus. I say this may sound odd to us because we are hearing this argument once again—just re-packaged: “You can’t take away the chalices,” says the parishioner, “it takes away from the full symbolism!” Why is the full symbolism so important? Does one’s salvation depend upon it? If the parishioner says yes, then they have reached the same error which Trent tried to remedy—just by a different route.

Back in the 1500s, it was the case that many who, arguing from scripture alone, voiced that because Jesus gave his Apostles the host and the chalice and commanded “… eat… drink…” that the host was only the Sacred Body and the chalice was only the Sacred Blood. But this is not how the Catholic Church understood the scripture, as is evident not only here and in the following canons, but also in the previous centuries’ development of doctrine on the matter.

            Let us continue our historical journey from Vatican II to the present-day. Most recently, in 2011, the Holy See approved the English translation of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Third Edition. And once again, the spirit calls upon Trent while also highlighting the Second Vatican Council:

… the Second Vatican Council was able to give renewed consideration to what was established by Trent on Communion under both kinds. And indeed, since nowadays the doctrinal principles on the complete efficacy of Eucharistic Communion received under the species of bread alone are not in any way called into question, the Council gave permission for the reception on occasion of Communion under both kinds, because this clearer form of the sacramental sign offers a particular opportunity for understanding more deeply the mystery in which the faithful participate (IGRM, 14).

What is being said here is that, in the modern day, everyone believes that the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ is received fully under either species of bread or of wine (this is “not in any way called into question”), and because of that, the spirit led the Council to give permission for the reception of communion under both kinds “on occasion.”
Two things can be said here. First, while reception under both kinds offers a “clearer form of the sacramental sign” and “offers a particular opportunity for understanding more deeply the mystery in which the faithful participate,” such reception is predicated upon the assumption that the faithful already know that each species itself is fully the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus. While this might have been the case in 1962, it is surely not the case in 2012.
Second, while reception under both kinds offers benefits as mentioned above (clearer form, opportunity to go deeper into the Mystery), reception under both kinds has not been raised by the Holy See to be the expected and ordinary way of “doing things.” The Holy See reiterated that this was a “permission” given and given so that one might receive “on occasion.” Again, “on occasion” is not the same as “every day.”
Already then, we see the Church giving a pastor of a parish clear reasons as to why he might prudentially refrain from offering communion under both kinds every day—a reason which is more than just “his personal taste” or a desire to “go back to the good ol’ days.” Should the pastor decided to offer the chalice only on feasts and solemnities (which include every Sunday), the pastor is not only being faithful, but it can be said, and in the minds of some, such liberality could be seen as quite generous.

            But that all said, I believe there is another reason as to why some pastors refrain from offering the chalice at every Holy Mass. This reason, again, is not born of their own tastes (although, some pastors might intuit this reason, but are unable to communicate it, and so it comes off as being merely from their own preference). The reason is this: since the close of the Second Vatican Council, there has been a growing confusion and a blurring of the distinction between the ministerial priesthood and the lay faithful—a blurring which has done great harm and which needs to be corrected, for the sake of not only the priest, but the people too.
When the Holy See promulgated the General Instruction, it gave the Diocesan Bishops—the Shepherds—the
faculty to permit Communion under both kinds whenever it may seem appropriate to the Priest to whom a community has been entrusted as its own shepherd, provided that the faithful have been well instructed and that there is no danger of profanation of the Sacrament or of the rite’s becoming difficult because of the large number of participants or for some other cause (IGRM, 283).

So, it is up to the Bishop and the pastor’s prudential decision, being sure that nothing is being profaned and that the rite doesn’t become too difficult.

            The Holy See also reiterated the “Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion under Both Kinds in the Diocese of the United States of America” as drawn up by the USCCB. In those Norms, we see not only see once again the Council of Trent referenced and the wording of “permission”/“on occasion”/“when appropriate” (Norm 21), but we also see a discussion, just three paragraphs later, about the distinction between the ministerial priesthood and the lay faithful. Norm 24 says,

In practice, the need to avoid obscuring the role of the Priest and the Deacon as the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion by an excessive use of extraordinary ministers might in some circumstances constitute a reason… for limiting the distribution of Holy Communion under both species…

The Holy See is saying here, then, that an excessive use of extraordinary ministers to distribute the Eucharist can lead—and in fact often does lead—to the blurring of the distinct identities of the ministerial priesthood and the lay faithful. This, the Holy See says, is a reason for limiting the distribution of the Eucharist under both kinds. (The Norm does offer an alternative: that the priest could “intinct”—that is, dip the host in the chalice—for the people to then receive under both kinds. But I must question aloud: would intinction quell the parishioner’s desire to “receive the Blood from the chalice”? My educated guess would say “no.” At which point, it is completely rational to ask: is the issue about receiving both species or about something else?—because any hullabaloo about a pastor taking away chalices is couched in terms of “full symbol” and “receiving Jesus’ blood.” What would the parishioner say then? Would they be honest and bold enough to admit that a deep issue is simply “I want to hold/give the chalice”?

Let us summarize what the Holy See says is required for the reception of communion under both kinds. Required is

1) the lay faithful’s understanding of the Real Presence as found in either host or chalice;
2) permission (which is already given by just about every Bishop);
3) the safety of the Eucharist from profanation;
4) that such reception does not burden having Mass or its celebration; and
5) that in the reception of both kinds, extraordinary ministers do not become ordinary or common to the distribution/reception.
I believe this fifth reason is the crucial reason offered for our time. So, for example, when a parish has twenty extraordinary ministers—most of whom are not deputized by the bishop or pastor—who are expected to distribute the Holy Eucharist at every Holy Mass, not only has the extraordinary minister become common and “ordinary,” but the practice—whether the minister intends it or not—evidences two deficiencies:

1) a failure to support the dignity of the ministerial priesthood; and
2) a failure to uphold the dignity of the lay faithful.

How is this so? When the participation of the lay faithful at Holy Mass is reduced to “what it does in the sanctuary,” slowly replaced is not only the proper “active participation” which the Second Vatican Council asked of the peoples in the pews (that is, to firstly pray the Holy Mass and to offer themselves in union with the sacrifice), but also the vocation particular to itself: namely, the lay faithful’s call to be leaven in the world. This is not a stretch or hyperbole, especially considering that what is done at Holy Mass affects what happens when the “Mass is ended.”

In such terms, then, when a pastor decides to refrain from using the chalices at every Holy Mass, his decision is not only making us look at the doctrine of the Real Presence, but it is also making us look at the doctrine of the distinction between the ministerial priesthood and the universal priesthood. And that it is an important distinction to discover and understand, for its beauty can be uplifting for all the varying members of Christ’s Mystical Body.

This might ruffle some sensitivities of the extraordinary ministers. They might say, “Father is clerical. He is insensitive to us. He has taken the chalices away. I miss giving out the chalice.” These complaints should be heard and sensitively addressed, of course, not only because they are human expressions of pain, but also because they express something deeper: the lay faithful suffers from clericalism—not the kind of clericalism that we have learned about in the past, where the priest prefers his own way and has his own “club,” but a clericalism where the lay faithful become their own priest by preferring their own way. The action itself, when demanded to become ordinary, bespeaks a desire to make of the lay faithful into clerics. In so doing, the lay faithful are also (whether intended or not) laicizing the priest—and that is insensitive not only to the pastor himself, but also to Jesus Christ who instituted the ministerial priesthood in the first place.

When a pastor decides to remove the chalices, there will be many side-effects. There will be some grumbling. There will probably be a change in how many extraordinary ministers are used at Holy Mass and how often. And there will be more grumbling there too. But another side-effect will be not only the opportunity to now teach on the Real Presence of the Eucharist, but also there will now be the opportunity to teach on the vocation proper to the lay faithful and, also, the importance of the ministerial priesthood. And this opportunity will be all the more important because, now that the people are primarily in the pews they will ask what they are to be doing while they are there. And what’s more: now that there are fewer ministers in the sanctuary, we will see what we have been told for so long now—and maybe not believed—that we need priests.

* On the 450th anniversary of the close of the Council of Trent (Dec 4, 2013), Pope Francis explicitly spoke about the continuity of Trent and the Second Vatican Council. His words:
 in fact, the “hermeneutic of renewal” which Our Predecessor Benedict XVI explained in 2005 before the Roman Curia, refers in no way less to the Council of Trent than to the Vatican Council. To be sure, this mode of interpretation places under a brighter light a beautiful characteristic of the Church which is taught by the Lord Himself: “She is a ‘subject’ which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God” (Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Roman Curia offering them his Christmas greetings – 22 December 2005).
You can find the Latin text of Pope Francis' Letter here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Anger - Homily for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Have you ever been corrected when you didn’t ask to be corrected? Called out by your boss or a co-worker… Your spouse… When it happens, more often than not, we feel embarrassed… and a little angry.  
I couldn’t help but think that Peter was a little embarrassed and maybe a little angry after having been rebuked today. Peter had these lofty ideas for the Messiah: the Messiah would be a military leader; He would dominate the world and unite Israel through the wrath of God…. But Jesus says, “Peter, you’re wrong. That’s not how I’m going to rule. I’m going to suffer and die…”

I think this made Peter a little mad. Eventually, Peter's anger will be healed. But Judas… Judas will hold on to his anger. He’s thinking the same way Peter is about the Messiah. And so Judas is being called out as well. The news that Jesus the Messiah must suffer makes Judas angry. And Judas, from this point on, is going to let his anger get the best of him. He is going to plot and get revenge. He is going to betray Jesus.

We’ve all been angry. Maybe someone disrespected you at work. Maybe someone disobeyed you at home. Sometimes, we start to ruminate over the anger and how we’ve been offended. And we start to think how we can get even or how we can save face. We might take the anger up a notch and bring up past hurts. We might entertain wrath or violence.

If you watch the news, it doesn’t take long to conclude that the world suffers from an anger problem. Anger in the Middle East, anger at home. Anger on the road. Maybe we need to do something about all this anger.

The first thing we must admit is that anger can act like a trance sometimes. Perhaps an illustration....           

Have you ever gone driving and, during the course of your driving, you forget that you’re driving and you space out, and then you reach your destination—only to wonder: “How did I get here?” It’s a little scary if it should happen to you. You think: “Did I pass any cars on my way here? What turns did I make?”

I had a similar experience. My aunt recently moved from Festus to the Queen of All Saints area. (I know, we’re not perfect… Just kidding QAS… we’re family, Catholics, big hug after Mass, ok?) And I was going to see my aunt’s home. So, I’m really scattered on this day and I get in my car and I drive to 55 and I have two options: go south to Festus or north to QAS. Well, I put the car on auto-pilot and I drive to Festus. All the way to Festus. I made it all the way to Hwy A. And I get there and I wake up from my spiritual coma and I’m like: “how did I get here? I gotta turn this car around! I don’t want to be here!”

Same goes with anger—or, really, with anything that can en-trance us: maybe it’s physical suffering, maybe we’re grieving something, maybe we’re anxious. We can get in such a trance that we stop thinking about everything else and all we focus on is that one thing... We start to believe that we have a monopoly on suffering—that no one else suffers. We feel sorry for ourselves or we become bitter. “Everyone is against me.” And we start hatching plots. Or maybe we start taking our anger and our frustrations out on random people—like the kids or people driving by. (It is a rather recent development in these past decades, “Road Rage.”)

Perhaps another illustration.....

Consider the trance like the little child that is throwing a tantrum. The mom tries to console the little child by saying, “Tommy, you don’t need that candy bar.”… “Tommy, your tantrum is hurting your mom.” “Tommy, do you remember that God is with you right now…?”  And what does little Tommy cry out: “I don’t care! I want the train!” Or, if he is a teenager, Tommy pouts: “Leave me alone!”

When we are en-tranced in anger, we throw everything that we’ve learned and everything we’ve become out the window. We say to God: “I don’t care! Leave me alone!” This is why the angry person can’t go to heaven. He is so hell-bent on holding on to his anger, such that he weighs himself down. He doesn’t believe and doesn’t allow God to enter in and bring him joy. And so the angry person tells everyone to “Go to h***.” And that’s ironic: because that’s where he’s going if he doesn’t let God in.

You see, the one who is angry must turn the car around. He's going the wrong way. He's going to miss his exit. He's gonna get in a wreck. He's gonna end up going to the wrong place.

The Lord wants to break into our being en-tranced by sin and our anger and our pain and our worry. Isaiah tells us today:
The Lord God opens my ear that I may hear.
Hear what? Maybe for those who struggle with anger or anxiety, we need to hear Jesus say to us once again:
                        Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.
                        Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.
That’s the first thing we must do. Let Jesus break through the trance, through the anger.

I don’t know about you, but this is tough. It is so much easier to be angry! But, if there was a time when someone could have been angry, couldn’t it have been Jesus on the Cross? Wouldn’t that have been a good time for Him to be angry? I mean, He really could have laid into those that abandoned Him, all those that had seen His miracles and yet shamefully condemned Him to a Cross.

But what does Jesus do in that moment, He remembers God. He doesn’t enter into the trance. And so he turns to the good thief and says, “Today, you will be with me in paradise!”

He blesses the guy! He doesn’t curse. He blesses! I mean, if we’re in the car and someone cuts us off, do we say: “God bless you! …”?   Of course not. *grumble grumble grumble…* It is really difficult to love when we’re angry.
So, the first thing we need to do is interrupt the anger, break free of the trance. There are some tangible steps that we must take here:
1. If you’re angry, find someone that you can trust and that you can talk to—vent. Don’t be like the volcano that erupts. Go ahead and vent to a friend behind closed doors. Just make sure that this friend is not a gossip. (And yes, we will need to be that kind of friend to others when they need to vent too).
            2. When you’re angry, go to your room, close the door, take your pillow, and yell into it. Yes, this seems childish and stupid, but then again, so is punching holes in the walls. Hit your mattress so that you don’t hit anything else. (My mom got me a punching bag… I would take a baseball bat to it… Good stuff)
            3. Go for a walk. Exercise. Blow off some steam there.
            4. Ask the question: What is at the root of my anger? Am I grieving something?
            5. Interrupt the trance of anger: Remember that you are in the presence of God! St. Ignatius Loyola recommended that every day we do an Examination of Consciousness. This is different than an examination of conscience (that deals with sins…). The Examination of Consciousness is taking a moment out of your day and reminding yourself: “I am in the presence of God”—Am I aware of His presence? Have I been working with Him today? Have I been focusing on anything to the detriment of my consciousness of Him? Are my heart, eyes, and ears open.

It is the work of God to help us move from anger to love. We need His grace all the more! This is why the confessional is so important. This is why reception of the Eucharist is essential. This is why, too, when we are angry, we must immediately begin to pray and ask the Holy Spirit, who is Love Itself, to bring us peace and healing. It is the Holy Spirit that will help us to be temperate when we have righteous anger-- the good kind of anger that we should have and which motivates us to stand up and protect those who are being abused or when a country kills its weakest, like the baby in the womb...
We are reminded of the words of St. James today about faith and works. It is really, really easy to say, “Yeah, I believe in God, the Father, the almighty…” or to say, “Yeah, I believe that Jesus is my personal Lord and Savior.” Sure, it’s easy to proclaim our faith with our lips, but St. James says that it cannot stay there. What we do here in this parish church must be translated into good works. Into love. We cannot say that we are men and women of faith if we depart from here and immediately start tearing down family members in anger.

Paul in his Letter to the Corinthians says:
if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing (1 Cor 13:2).
Love, Paul continues
is patient and kind; … it is not irritable or resentful;… Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  
Jesus takes it a step further when he says:
                        Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.

Our salvation is dependent upon this. In life, we are going to face the same offenses that Jesus faced, the same ill-treatment foretold in Isaiah, the angry shouts of Crucify Him, Crucify Him. But, with His help, we will not only endure the Cross, but from it we will, like Him, become a means for blessings and mercy. And we will have discovered the way to eternal life.