Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thank God!

          A few years ago, Peggy asked to meet with me.  Life had taken a bad turn, and she needed to talk.  When we got together later that day, Peggy explained what was going on and told me how mad she was at God.  With anger in her voice, Peggy recalled how her family faithfully attends Mass every Sunday, sings in the choir, and volunteers in several church ministries.  “What more do we need to do?” she shouted.  “Where is God now when we really need him?  I feel like God just left us to deal with all of this alone.”  Pausing to dab a tear from her eye, Peggy sighed and said, “Well, thank God we have our friends.  They haven’t left us.  They’ve been so good to us during all of this, bringing us food, driving us to doctors and spending time with us.”  After a moment of awkward silence, Peggy turned to me for my response.  I said, “Thank God, indeed.  Who do you think sent them?”

I feel so blessed to live in a country that sets aside a day to give thanks.  There’s no shortage of things to lament about in our lives, so it’s especially important to take a moment to focus on what we’re grateful for.  Gratitude isn’t just saying thank you every once in a while.  Gratitude is having a positive attitude about a benefit we’ve received.  It’s an immediate, crystal clear sense of how fortunate we are.  As jazz great Lionel Hampton once said, “[g]ratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind.”

You know, there’s a reason why the word thanks, thanksgiving and related words appear in the Bible over 150 times[1] – gratitude is downright good for us!   Studies have shown that people who express gratitude experience deeper levels of happiness, fulfillment and well-being.  Gratitude reminds us of the positive things in our lives.  Every time we’re grateful, we relive the benefit we received over and over again.  Gratitude helps us discover the good that always seems to arise out of bad and reminds us of what’s important in life. 

The key to experiencing the benefits of gratitude is making the conscious choice to be grateful.  It’s all too easy to cling to the negative things in our lives because to some extent we find a little comfort in them.  A “woe-is-me” attitude often attracts the sympathy and attention we seek.  But after a while, that attitude gets old.  Like the Saturday Night Live skit, people ultimately run away from the Debbie Downers in our lives.  It’s a survival instinct.  Grateful people, by contrast, have the opposite effect.  We flock to them and can’t let them go.  Grateful people bring God’s blessing and grace into our lives, and when we’re grateful, we do the same for others.  When we’re grateful, people want, no, need to be around us.

Choosing to live a grateful life begins and ends with God.  All good things come from God – our lives, our family, our friends and everything we need to live a happy life – so we owe God our unending gratitude.  As the German theologian Meister Eckhart so aptly put it, “If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”  I’ve personally found that beginning my day with a small prayer of gratitude – usually as simple as, “Thank you!” – is just what I need to face life’s challenges armed with a glass that’s at least half full.  And I’m a happier person for it, because “[y]ou cannot be simultaneously grateful and unhappy.”[2]

That’s what happened to Peggy.  On hearing my words, Peggy froze and stared at me intently.  I didn’t know if she were going to slap me or hug me.  Slowly, a wry smile graced the corners of her mouth like a phoenix rising from the ashes.  She said, “I guess you’re right.  God hasn’t left us after all.  Thank God!”

Happy Thanksgiving!

[1] Robert Emmons, Thanks!:  How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Houghton Mifflin, 2007) at 95.
[2] William J. Byron, S.J., “Gratitude, the Most Essential Virtue,” The Catholic Spirit (April 10, 2014) at 20.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Persevere in Faith - A Homily for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the classic novel, The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis, the worldly-wise old demon named Screwtape writes letters of advice to his nephew, a novice demon named Wormwood.  Wormwood is charged with securing the damnation of a particular young man’s soul.  In one letter, Screwtape warns his nephew that the Satan’s cause is never more in danger than when a human, who no longer has the desire to do God’s will, still obeys God even when he finds no trace of God in the universe.[1]  This perseverance in faith that’s so frightening to Screwtape, is exactly what Jesus is calling us to do in today’s readings.

Today’s readings are tough.  Wars, earthquakes, famine, plagues – these signs mentioned by Jesus have been observed in every age since Jesus walked the earth.  We even see people carrying signs demanding our repentance because the end is near.  But Jesus was right:  all of these things have occurred, but the end hasn’t come yet.  It was tempting to come up here and give a fire and brimstone homily, but that would miss the point entirely. Jesus’ message isn’t about damnation and death; it’s about salvation and life. 

In our Gospel, we find Jesus in the Temple for the last time.  It’s the end of his teaching ministry.  He has spent the last three years preaching about the Father’s Kingdom, and teaching us, by word and example, how to live the Kingdom here and now.  And his last lesson, the words we hear today, is to persevere no matter what.  Jesus isn’t trying to frighten us – he’s warning us of events, some of them horrific, that might distract us from living the way he taught us to live.  He’s encouraging our unyielding faith by assuring us of two things:  first, that he will be with us throughout the trying times; and second, that salvation is the reward for our perseverance in faith.  All we have to do is live in faith to the end. 

A few months ago we were reminded of a wonderful example of this unyielding faith with the canonization Saint Teresa of Calcutta.  Mother Teresa was hailed in her lifetime as a “living saint” for her tireless charitable work for the poor and the dying.  But only after her death did we begin to learn exactly how difficult her life was.  She was very ill through much of her adult life.  She was harshly criticized for the conditions of the hospitals and orphanages she ran and for not using enough of the money she raised to improve their conditions.  She was even criticized for baptizing the dying.  And in recent years, we’ve learned that for some 30 to 40 years, she suffered the “dark night of the soul”– she experienced a spiritual emptiness, a feeling that God had abandoned her.  Not long after she heard the voice of God calling her to her ministry of charity, not long after she experienced the ecstatic joy of having found her true vocation, Mother Teresa sank into a world from which God had appeared to have vanished.  She even questioned the existence of God. 

This spiritual darkness, this profound sense of absence, continued for the rest of her life.  For forty years she felt like God had abandoned her.  So what did she do?  She pursued her new calling anyway.  She kept on ministering to the poor and to the dying.  She built hospitals, hospices and orphanages.  She lived the life that Jesus taught us to live.  In her time of emptiness, faced with squalid conditions, extreme poverty and harsh criticism, she persevered in faith when she had no sense that there was anything to have faith in.  By doing so, she became the greatest threat to Satan’s cause, and she made the world a little better. 

I admit that I struggle with today’s readings.  Life can be very difficult, and it’s easy to give up under the weight of life’s tragedies and the emptiness we all feel from time to time.  I also know that our brutal election cycle has left many people feeling bitter, frightened and anxious about the future of our country and the world.  But our response to these challenges shouldn’t be to retreat into our own sullenness, to gloat or to lash out at others and certainly not to incite violence against our neighbor.  What good does any of that do?  Our response should be to persevere in faith.  If we truly want a better world, if we want to experience the Kingdom of God here on earth, we have to push through the tough times and live as Jesus taught us:  we need to live each moment as if the Kingdom of God were at hand.  We should greet our neighbors with a smile and a helping hand, without regard to their immigration status or for whom they voted.  We should clothe the naked feed the poor, give shelter to the homeless, and visit the sick and imprisoned.  We should respect and honor the God-given dignity of every human being, even when their opinions differ from ours.  Sound familiar?  That’s Jesus’ message in a nutshell. 

Now I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I’m no Mother Teresa, but she didn’t think she was either, and look what she accomplished.   Just think of the good we all can achieve if we simply persevere in faith.  If we live our lives in faith to the end, we will make the world kinder, gentler and safer.  More importantly we’ll earn the gift of everlasting life.  If we persevere in faith, we’ll be Screwtape’s worst nightmare.

[1]C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2001) 40.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Power of Prayer

Here's a little homily I gave at a "Rosary Rally" last weekend sponsored by our wonderful Altar Rosary Society.

The Rugged Rosary®
Like many of you, I have several rosaries, each with its own history and special meaning.  Among others, I have the first rosary I ever bought when I visited Guadalupe some 25 years ago; I have the rosary I was given when I joined the Knights of Columbus; and I have a beautiful silver rosary that my family gave me when I was invested as a Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.  I’ve used all of them in various rosary-related liturgies here at Immaculate Conception, but, the rosary I brought today is unique and special in its own right – it’s called the Rugged Rosary®.  Made of 550 lb. military-grade, paracord and light-weight, low-reflection beads, the Rugged Rosary can withstand temperatures of up to 471 degrees Fahrenheit.  As you might guess, the Rugged Rosary®was originally designed for soldiers.  I brought it today because it symbolizes in such a unique way the power of prayer.

Our reading from Revelation speaks of the spiritual battle between good and evil, a battle we face every day in one way or another.  Now, I don’t like to overplay the battle imagery of Scripture because we can’t lose sight of the fact that the battle is already won – through his glorious passion, death and resurrection, Christ has already conquered sin and death.  The problem is that the forces of evil haven’t accepted their loss, so they continue to wander the world for the ruin of souls.  That’s why “the spiritual tradition of the Church has retained the symbol of prayer as the battle of faith and as the triumph of perseverance.” (CCC 2573)  Therein lies the power of the Rosary.

To paraphrase the makers of the Rugged Rosary®, the rosary is a strong weapon to help us survive whatever life throws at us.  The rosary is scriptural, intercessory prayer through which we contemplate the great mysteries of the life, passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord.  Through the rosary, we align ourselves with and draw upon these mysteries to strengthen us in our spiritual battle.  Through the rosary we find the consolation of the truth that the battle has been won, that in Christ Jesus, no evil will harm us.  (Psalm 91:10) 
          As we continue to pray the mysteries of the rosary this morning, I encourage you to bring your own intentions to prayer, along with the intentions we offer together.  Contemplate the joyful, sorrowful, luminous and glorious mysteries of your life, and align them with Christ’s.  When you do, you’ll find that prayer bears burdens far exceeding 550 lbs. and temperatures much greater than 470 degrees Fahrenheit.  When you do, you’ll find the power of prayer.

Readings: Revelation 12: 1-9

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Best of the Best

          The best job I’ve ever had was working at the Verona Community Pool during my high school and college summer breaks.  Just imagine being out in the sun all day at a beautiful, Olympic-size swimming pool, socializing with pretty much everyone in town, swimming whenever you want, and getting the leftover, salty French fries from the concession stand for free just before closing.  If that’s not convincing enough, the pay was good, and we could always make extra money giving private swimming lessons or working pool parties.  The VCP perks certainly were good, but what made it the best was the people.  At Verona Pool I was privileged to work with a lot of great people, many of whom I likely never would have known more than by name had it not been for that job.  My VCP friends were the best of the best.

          Though I had solid friendships that have stood the test of time, I never considered myself a popular kid in high school, or college for that matter.  I was bookish, preferring to read the encyclopedia over sports or hanging out with friends, and I was deathly afraid of getting in trouble, so I didn’t smoke or drink or do any of the fun and crazy things that kids do that sometimes get them in trouble. No one would ever have confused me for one of the “cool kids” in high school.  But there was something about working at Verona Pool that seemed to break down the social cliques that are so typical of that age.  We had cool kids and nerdy kids, loud kids and quiet kids, crazy kids and sensible kids.  We had kids who smoked and drank and did all of the fun and crazy things that kids do, and we had me.  You name it, we had them all – and we were friends.  With the mythical boundaries removed at VCP, I had the opportunity to share a lot of laughs and good times with some amazing people who otherwise might never have become my friends.

          I’ve been reminiscing a lot about my Verona Pool days of late because I recently learned that a member of the VCP family has died.  Roseann was a lifeguard at the pool during the last few years of my tenure there.  I haven’t seen or been in contact with her for more than 20 years, but I remember her like it was yesterday and still consider her a good friend.  A star athlete in high school (definitely not my crowd), Roseann was naturally a strong swimmer and a great lifeguard.  More importantly, Roseann was a wonderful person and a lot of fun to be around.  She had a mischievous smile that usually foreshadowed some practical joke that awaited her next victim (often me), and her laugh was infectious.  She had a wonderful, self-deprecating sense of humor, though she was known to punish perpetrators of practical jokes against her (often me) with a swift punch in the arm.  Roseann was one of our most popular swim instructors, so it was no surprise when I learned that she had become a kindergarten teacher, and a great one at that.  Roseann was one of those people you just wanted, no, needed to be around.     

           The many condolences and tributes that are being posted about Roseann remind me that people like Roseann are gifts from God.  They keep us smiling and laughing during our tough times and even during theirs.  They are beacons of God’s light in our lives long after we lose contact with them, and even after they have departed this world for the eternal glory they have undoubtedly earned.  Working at Verona Pool opened me to many opportunities over the years to meet great people, like Roseann, who have brought God’s light into my life in their own special ways.  I am especially blessed to call these wonderful people my friends.  May God bless you, and may God bless Roseann.  You are the best of the best.

Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord.  And let perpetual light shine upon her.  Amen

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Gritty Prayer - Homily for the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

          As a seventh grade math teacher in New York City, Angela Duckworth discovered that IQ wasn’t the only thing that separated her highest performers from her lowest performers.  Some of her best students didn’t have high IQ scores, and some of her smartest students weren’t among her top performers.  This discovery ultimately led Dr. Duckworth to the field of psychology, where she has dedicated much of her research to the science of achievement.  After years of studying West Point Cadets, National Spelling Bee contestants, professional football players and sales people, Dr. Duckworth found that “one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success.  And it wasn’t general intelligence; it wasn’t good looks [if that were the case, I’d be unstoppable; It wasn’t] physical health; and it wasn’t IQ.”[1]  Like Moses and the widow in today’s readings, successful people have grit.  It’s no surprise then, that our readings teach us that successful prayer is gritty prayer.

          So what is grit?  Grit is the combination of passion and perseverance.  Gritty people pursue their heart’s desire and work really hard to make it happen.  In music, sports, the arts, careers and yes, even in the spiritual life, “the highly accomplished [are] paragons of perseverance.”[2]  They have grit.  Let’s take Moses, for example.  When Amalek waged war against Israel, there was no reason to believe that the Israelites could defeat such a strong army.  But Moses had the conviction of faith that the Israelites would win, so he raised the staff of God over his soldiers in prayer.  Even as he grew weary, Moses didn’t give up.  His goal was victory through prayer.  With the help of Aaron and Hur, with passion and perseverance, Moses held the staff of God high until sunset, and Amalek’s army was defeated.  Moses brought grit to prayer, and the Israelites were successful. 
          How about the widow in today’s Gospel?  Her case lay before a judge who neither feared God nor respected any human being.  She had no reason to believe that she would ever receive a just judgment.  But she didn’t give up.  She wanted justice, so she persistently bothered the judge until he rendered a just decision.  The widow brought grit to her pleadings, and she was successful.    

          So how can gritty prayer help us?  Let’s start off by talking about how prayer helps us.  Prayer is the lifting of the mind and heart to God.  It’s an act of spiritual communion by which we unite ourselves, our concerns and needs with God and with each other.[3]  Through prayer we step into the transcendent, spiritual world to fill ourselves with God’s eternal love so we can share it with others.  While our prayers can’t change the mind of God, because God can’t change, we don’t need to change God’s mind.  God’s mind is perfect.  In it we find perfect truth, justice and love.  We certainly don’t need to change that; we need to unite ourselves with it so that we can have perfect truth, justice and love here on earth just as it is in heaven.  We do that through prayer, and it’s always effective because every act of prayer brings God’s truth, justice and love into the world.  Here’s where grit comes into the picture. 

          I hope we can all agree that truth, justice and love aren’t just worthy goals; they’re the ultimate goals human existence.  If that’s the case, we should bring every ounce of our passion and persistence to achieving them here and now.  And if the way to bring truth, justice and love into the world is by uniting with God through prayer, then we need passionate, persistent prayer to achieve that goal.  When Jesus tells us “to pray always without becoming weary” (Luke 18: 1), he’s calling us to gritty prayer.  “Always praying means the channel between God and the human person remains open.”[4]  Always praying, as Saint Paul reminds Timothy, means being “persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient.”  (2 Tim. 4: 2)  Through gritty prayer, we receive the very grace that conquers lies, injustice and hatred from its most infinite and perfect source – the God of truth, justice and love.

          Looking at our political situation and at the injustice and violence that plague our world, there’s no reason to believe that we can change things on our own.  But “salvation always involves the interplay of divine grace and human cooperation.”[5]  That interplay takes place in prayer – passionate, persistent, gritty prayer.  Through passionate, persistent, gritty prayer, we summon the courage to shine God’s truth on the lies that tempt contemporary thought.  Through passionate, persistent, gritty prayer, we find the strength to right every wrong until God’s justice shall reign on the earth.  Through passionate, persistent, gritty prayer, we’re filled with God’s love, the only love that can heal the wounds of division that separate us from God and our fellow man.

          You know, I really love when science finally catches up with Revelation.  Dr. Duckworth’s research shows that with a little grit, we can accomplish amazing things.  Well, that’s the Judeo-Christian method in a nutshell.  Throughout Scripture we’re taught that if we passionately and persistently pursue truth, justice and love, the Kingdom of God will reign on earth.  United with God our help, who made heaven and earth (Psalm 121), we can change the world for the better.  That change begins with gritty prayer.

Readings:  Exodus 17: 8-13; Psalm 121; 2 Timothy 3: 14 – 4: 2; Luke 18: 1-8

[1] Angela Lee Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, TED, (April 2013),
[2] Angela Duckworth, Grit:  The Power of Passion and Perseverance (New York, Scribner, 2016) at 8.
[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2559-2565.
[4] John Shea, Spiritual Wisdom of the Gospels for Christian Preachers and Teachers:  The Relentless Widow, Luke, Year C (Collegeville, Liturgical Press, 2006) at 292.
[5] John F. Craghan, “Exodus,” The Collegeville Bible Commentary, Old Testament, Dianne Bergant, ed. (Collegeville, Liturgical Press, 1992) at 98.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Feast of the Archangels

                Having an archangel as your patron saint is both really cool and a little dissatisfying.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Saint Michael, whose feast we celebrate today.  I pray the Prayer to Saint Michael every day, and I find tremendous strength and comfort under the protection of his patronage.  But having an archangel as your patron isn’t quite the same as having a human saint. 
You see, most saints are real people who walked the earth and did amazing things along the way.  We can relate to their humanness (especially now that we’re allowed to know that even saints had their flaws), and we can aspire to the great things they accomplished with their deep faith.  We find these human saints in history books and in some cases, we can even read their own words in the manuscripts they left behind.  Take Saint Augustine, for example.  Before Saint Augustine was baptized (well into his adulthood), he lived a rather “colorful” life.  Let’s just say, he got around . . . a lot . . . and he liked it!  So much so that in his journey toward Christian conversion, he prayed, “Lord, make me chaste and celibate, but not yet.”  Now that’s a saint we can relate to.  Sins notwithstanding, after Augustine found God, he was elected bishop, he became a great defender of the faith, and is celebrated today as a gifted theologian who helped shape Church teaching.  Saint Augustine’s life story gives hope to us all.  It’s a shame that more people don’t name their children Augustine these days.   

By contrast, all we know about Saint Michael is what has been revealed to us in scripture, which is only a handful of sentences in the whole Bible!  Sure, there are a few legends here and there, but they’re pretty dubious to the critical eye.  I remember my frustration as a child as I tried to learn more about my patron saint with little success.  In that respect, having an archangel as my patron saint was a little dissatisfying.  But what I did learn about Saint Michael was really cool.  Saint Michael the Archangel led the angelic army that cast the rebellious archangel Lucifer out of heaven.  That’s why Saint Michael is the patron saint of chivalry, police officers, paramedics, fire fighters and the military.  On a more tender note, Saint Michael is also understood as the protector of the Jews and as patron to the sick and the dying for his role in leading souls to heaven.  How cool is that?  Having Saint Michael as a patron saint is like having Superman as a patron saint, but better:  Kryptonite can’t touch Saint Michael!

I grew to appreciate Saint Michael and the archangels all the more during diaconate formation because the archangels represent the three munera (duties) of the Deacon:  liturgy, word and charity.  As Father Paul Henry so beautifully explained to my brother candidates and me during our five-day pre-ordination retreat, Saint Michael is the deacon’s role model for the munis of liturgy.  Michael, the guardian of order in the heavens, represents the deacon's role in maintaining the order of liturgy.  So the next time you see a deacon dressing the altar, standing at the side of the celebrant and guiding lay minsters during liturgies, remember Saint Michael.  Father Paul continued to explain that Saint Gabriel is the deacon's role model for the munis of the word.  Saint Gabriel, who announced to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would bear the Son of God, represents our role in proclaiming God’s Word.  So the next time you see a deacon proclaiming the Gospel, preaching or teaching, remember Saint Gabriel.  Last, but certainly not least, Fr. Paul portrayed Saint Raphael as the deacon’s role model for the munis of charity.  Saint Raphael, who cured Tobit’s blindness in the Book of Tobit, represents the deacon’s role in charitable works and the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.  So the next time you see a deacon visiting the sick or imprisoned, working in soup kitchens or raising money for the poor, remember Saint Raphael.

It’s easy to dismiss the archangels as mysterious or even fictitious beings, but we see the inspiration of their powerful patronage in the good works of so many people every day.  Come to think of it, having an archangel as my patron saint isn’t dissatisfying at all.  It’s just really cool.

Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Giving Love - A Wedding Homily

 God's blessings on the marriage of Megan and Jonathan!

         Sarah Smith comes down from heaven to welcome her husband Frank at its threshold.  Glorious in her resurrection, Sarah shares God’s love with all she meets, yet she greets Frank with an apology.  Sarah confesses that in their earthly marriage, she loved him “only in a poor sort of way.”  While there was a little real love in it, she mostly loved him for her own sake because she needed Frank.[1]  Living fully in Christ’s love, Sarah grew to understand that real love is a giving love, not one based on need.  That’s the message of our Gospel, and the secret to a happy marriage.

            In our very brief Gospel passage, Jesus invokes the word “love” seven times and invites us to “remain in his love” three times.  In our second reading, Saint Paul encourages the Colossians to “put on love,” which he calls the “bond of perfection.”  Jesus and Saint Paul aren’t talking about any old love, like loving pie or the Lakers.  They’re talking about a completely selfless, giving love.  They’re talking about God’s love.

          It’s humbling to consider that God created us and everything around us purely out of love.  What does that mean?  “God did not need to create the world because he needed someone to talk to, or to have friends or because he needed or wanted our submission . . . . The world is not created because of some lack in God.”[2]  The world is created purely out of love.  God’s love doesn’t need anything; it’s pure gift.  That’s why Thomas Aquinas defines love as “willing the good of another, and not willing my own good through another.”[3]

          Christ’s invitation to remain in his love is wonderful advice for marriage.  You see, when we remain in God’s love, we have everything we need.  As Sarah explained to Frank, when we’re in Love Himself, there’s nothing more we need.[4]  Then, when we have no need for each other, we can begin to really love each other.  God’s love transcends our needs, and moves us beyond our own self-interest to care and concern for the one we love.  Married love differs from other kinds of love because its essence is giving – giving one’s whole self to another, and therein lies the wonderful gift and the great challenge of marriage. 

Marriage isn’t easy.  We’re not always giving; we’re not always loving; and we’re not always lovable (Although I think Megan might always be lovable).  But Megan and Jon, if you follow Saint Paul’s advice, if you exercise the virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness and love, you will remain in God’s love, you’ll bring God’s love to each other, and God’s love will carry you through any hardships you may face.

          We’ve been preparing for this day together for a year now, and in that time I’ve become convinced that your relationship has a whole lot of real love in it.  Your love for each other is a giving love; it’s God’s love.  You’ve shared God’s love with me, and I know that you share it with each other.  How do I know?  Well, I asked Megan and Jon separately what they loved the most about each other.  Since I warned them that anything sweet or funny that they say during marriage prep is fair game for my homily, allow me to share a few of their responses with you:  When I asked Megan what she loved most about Jon, she said, “His heart; he’s patient; and the kind, loving person that he is.”  She also said that he’s not a Saint and that she used to laugh more at him than with him when they first started dating.  When I asked Jon what he loved most about Megan, he said, “The way she treats others; her positive outlook; she’s supportive and understanding; and she always sees the best in people.”  He also said that she leaves fingerprints all over his car seat.  

          The best things that Megan and Jon see in each other all reflect a giving love.  Jon didn’t say that he needed Megan to organize his playlists, and Megan didn’t say that she needed Jon to keep her on time.  Megan and Jon aren’t marrying each other because of some lack in themselves.  They’re marrying each other because they love each other.  So Megan and Jon, I’d like to ask you to stand where you are (don’t worry, this isn’t the vows yet), face each other and share for all to hear the words I taught you to say to each other every day:  “I don’t need you.” And now I’d like you to add, “I just love you.”  That’s a giving love.  That’s God’s love.  Remain in God’s love, and you’ll hold the secret to a happy marriage in your hearts forever.

Readings:  Sirach 26: 1-4, 13-16; Psalm 145; Colossians 3:12-17; John 15: 9-12

[1] C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (San Francisco, Harper Collins, 2001) at 125.
[2] James V. Schall, A Final Gladness, Final Lecture, Georgetown University (December 7, 2012).
[3] Robert Barron, The Strangest Way:  Walking the Christian Path (Maryknoll, Orbis, 2002) at 92.
[4] Lewis at 126.