Homilies by Fr. Greg Kimm, PastorExaltation of the Cross and SJC Feast Day, 14 September 2008
There is a story about Joseph of Cupertino that probably explains why so many images of our patron saint--including our statue in the meditation garden--show him flying near or with a cross. One day, when the Franciscans were constructing a replica of Calvary, the place where Jesus was crucified, Joseph noticed 10 of them struggling to lift the massive center cross, which was 36 feet high. Joseph flew into the air, took the cross from his brothers, and, carrying it "as if it were straw," planted it into the ground.
Think for a moment about the incredibly difficult life St. Joseph had. Born in poverty, as a child he was constantly sick, impossible to teach, and unwanted by his own mother. Attempting to join a religious order, he was rejected by one monastery after another. After finally gaining acceptance by the Franciscans, his tendency to levitate in religious ecstasy and the miracles he performed only caused his brothers to hide him away from everybody else, making him live like a prisoner for the last 10 years of his life.
Surely, there must have been many times in St. Joseph's difficult life when he flew to the cross not literally but figuratively, seeing it as a place of refuge. The cross was the ultimate sign of God's love: no matter what failures he had, no matter what hardships he endured, no matter what pain he suffered, the cross stood tall and over all, reminding him that God's love for him would not go away, would not diminish, could not be overcome.
As a community that shares Joseph's name, let us, too, fly to the cross and seek refuge there. No matter what our failures, our hardships, or our pain may be, the cross continues to stand tall and over all, the triumphant sign that God's love for us will not go away, will not diminish, cannot be overcome.
see John 3:13-17 [Top]
I had a friend in college who absolutely hated it when people told him they were praying for him. He said it made him feel that they thought there was something wrong with him. But with apologies to my old friend, I'd have to say that praying for others--and letting them know that you're praying for them--can be a very good thing.
So often when we pray for others we focus only on the result--on whether our prayers seem to be answered. If the people for whom we're praying don't get well, find a job, stay married, or succeed at some venture, we can come to the conclusion that our prayers are useless. But we often forget that the act of praying for others is in itself an expression of our care and support. It is very much like what Aaron and Hur do for Moses in our first reading, when they provide a place for him to rest his weary body and hold up his tired hands as he attempts to lead the people in battle.
Regardless of how things turn out in the end, just the knowledge that we think enough of them to remember them in our prayers, just that awareness that they are prayerfully surrounded by our love, can strengthen and console those for those for whom we pray. And if this is true, isn't it possible that God is working through us? Isn't it possible that our prayers for others and the positive effect they can have on them are all part of God's efforts to answer their prayers?
see Exodus 17:8-13 [Top]
Where's the best place to be at a basketball game? Courtside. At a theater, which seats are considered the best in the house? Orchestra. What part of a Catholic church is the most popular? The back.
This is a generalization, of course. Church "regulars" often have their regular spots in church, and they could be anywhere in the building. But to test my theory, just imagine the area to which you would gravitate if you were walking into a strange church, perhaps on vacation. Come at Christmas or Easter and notice how many of our visitors are holding up the back wall--even though there may be plenty of spaces available in front. Even priests fill up the back seats at meetings.
The tax collector in our gospel couldn't sit in the back of the Temple; for one thing, there were no seats! But Jesus tells us that the tax collector did "stand off at a distance." His chosen position surely reflected his inner attitude: his sins made him feel unworthy to come any closer to God.
There may be times in our lives when we feel unworthy to come any closer to God. Perhaps there was an act of betrayal, perhaps there were hurtful words we wish we could take back, perhaps there was a failure to help when we could have done some good. Perhaps we just feel our whole sinful lives are unworthy of any closeness to God. The truth is that no one of us is worthy of any closeness to God--but any distance we feel is a creation of our own imaginations; it is totally in our own minds.
No matter what our sins might be, there is no distance between us and God. That's because God does not allow any distance between us and him. When we move away from him, he moves towards us; when we try to escape, he pursues us; when he sees us at a distance, he runs up to us and embraces us, just as the loving father in Luke's famous story ran up to his prodigal son and threw his arms around him. God is always willing to be close to us--he wants to be close to us--and with him is the opportunity to be forgiven and the grace to change our lives.
see Luke 18:9-14 [Top]
A few years ago, when I was in my hometown of Bakersfield for a vacation, a certain Hollywood star and former professional bodybuilder running for governor made a campaign stop there and my parents and I went to see him. For me, however, seeing the guest of honor was a bit difficult, as he was far away and there were a lot of tall people blocking my view. Luckily, I noticed that just in front of me was a man filming the event with a digital video camera. If I looked into the camera's screen, I got a great view of what was going on.
No matter what our physical stature may be, we can all have Zacchaeus's problem: the crowd can make it difficult for us to see Jesus. We are surrounded by people who do not share our beliefs and values, people who think that human life is disposable, people who think that the goal of life is to make money, people who think that personal pleasure is more important than service, people who think that violence is the way to solve conflict, people who think that their color or birthplace makes them better than others, people who think that there is no one and nothing beyond this life. The words, the actions, the constant presence of this "crowd" can have a large effect on us. We can end up feeling pushed or pressured into conforming to this warped view of reality, this twisted view of the world.
Zacchaeus didn't give up trying to see Jesus and neither should we. We have to be strong in our faith and courageous about living it out, even when those around us may frown or laugh or turn away. We can't let others lead us. We already have a leader, and we must strive to keep him in our sight.
see Luke 19:1-10 [Top]