Saturday, December 22, 2007

On Holiness

A dear friend of mine, Fr. Joe, delivered this homily recently, in the wake of the Von Maur shootings in Omaha. It's a beautiful reflection on what God calls us to, no matter what happens.
In the wake of evil, sin, and suffering, we are continually called to holiness.

Thanks so much to Jeff, a police officer (and one of the first responders at Von Maur that day) for reproducing the entire text of Fr. Joe's homily. Our prayers continue for Jeff and everyone involved in any way in what happened on that day.

Fr. Joe's homily:

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"It Happened to Us"
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"911 Tapes Spell Out 6 Deadly Minutes"
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"The 8 Lives Taken"
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"The Footsteps of a Killer"
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These are the headlines from the paper this past week following Wednesday’s shooting at the Westroads.
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And then this morning we hear these words from the prophet Isaiah: "There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea."
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So last week, "6 Deadly Minutes" and "8 Lives" — 9 including the killer — "Taken." But this morning, "There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain."
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Somehow, both are true.
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In the wake of last week’s tragedy I think we can find ourselves having a variety of responses. Some I believe are helpful, others not—and perhaps we find ourselves moving between them.
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Some that I believe are not helpful are:
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Minimizing the event—sort of pretending it didn’t happen—or since I didn’t know anyone personally, it doesn’t really affect me.
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The opposite, also not helpful—maximizing the event—beginning to live in fear—erroneously concluding that we are not ever safe.
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Another unhelpful response is to isolate the perpetrator or seek hatred or revenge on his family and friends—wishing evil upon them, instead of good.
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So what are some helpful responses?
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Reaching out beyond ourselves—connecting or re-connecting with family and friends.
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Showing compassion and generosity to the victims—offering our prayers and support.
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Returning to a sense of normalcy. For example, if shopping at Westroads is part of your Christmas routine, then return there, without fear.
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What is the best response? Well, this is the one that gets us from the headlines of the last week’s papers to the prophetic vision of Isaiah—from "6 Deadly Minutes" to a holy mountain where there is no harm or ruin. It is what will help us realize the Kingdom of God in its fullness and glory. And that is conversion of live and growth in holiness.
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The best response to an encounter with evil—to the ugliness of sin, such as we’ve rarely seen before—is holiness. There is no better remedy.
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That’s why the words of John the Baptist in our gospel this morning ring true throughout the centuries until our present day—"Repent" and "Prepare the way of the Lord."
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And so, my friends, if there are parts of our lives where we cling to selfishness, where we put other things ahead of our relationship to God, we are called to repent—to turn away from that sin and turn towards God—to discover anew His mercy and His peace, and the fullness of His plan for my life. The sacrament of reconciliation is a privileged place for this encounter, and one I certainly recommend during this Advent season.
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Last week reminded us that the world -- and if we’re honest, ourselves too -- have a long way to go to prepare for the coming of Christ. But the more we grow in holiness—and the more we share the gift of our faith and the peace and joy we have found in Christ—the closer our world will come to reflect that Kingdom.
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My brothers and sisters, let’s not forget the headlines of last week, but let’s not dwell on them obsessively either. A better place to focus our attention this Advent is on the words of the Prophet Isaiah: "There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea."

2 comments:

Melanie B said...

"The best response to an encounter with evil—to the ugliness of sin, such as we’ve rarely seen before—is holiness. There is no better remedy."

Exactly. It can be so hard to connect the imperfect state of our own hearts with the evil in the world, to see terrible evil out there as a personal call to conversion. And yet that is what we are called to do.

Thank you for sharing this
lovely homily.

Dan and Janet Brungardt said...

Much to my surprise, when I followed the link, I found that your friend Fr. Joe is one of my college friends! Little did I think that I would encounter one of his homilies online! I would only expect great homilies from Fr. Joe. He was already holy in college.

Janet