Homilies & Reflections
A collection of homilies and reflections from Rev. James J. Greenfield, OSFS ’84, Ed.D., president of DeSales University.
Inauguration Mass Homily
Someone was once asked at Confirmation by the bishop, aged nine, what was the sixth commandment, and replied: “Thou shalt not commit adulthood!”
At Christmas, we become like children; at Easter we become adults.
Instagram … I discovered a hashtag #adulting. As in “just paid this month’s bills on time #adulting” or “decided I couldn’t watch Netflix for eight hours straight and went to the grocery store instead #adulting.” (cf. Ben Sasse, The Vanishing American Adult).
In 2016, the American Dialectic Society nominated “adulting” the “most creative” word construction in the entire English language alongside FOMO and YOLO.
The opposite of faith is not doubt – it’s certitude. What is the word we hear about the disciples on the road to Emmaus? They did not UNDERSTAND. Easter is not first about understanding!
If there were a CSI Jerusalem on the scene that first Easter morning, there would be no proof—you either believe it or you don’t! There is no bag of proof – a life of faith is lived with astonishment rather than certitude.
Life is not a mystery to be solved – but a mystery to be reverenced and amazed by!
So, at DeSales, our educational enterprise is at the nexus of faith AND reason! And, like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, we need to invite Jesus into our lives to get the full picture.
MLK: The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.
Too many of us today find it hard to be amazed. Life becomes routine. Marriage and relationships get into a groove. Can our intimates say anything to surprise us? Students – can our professors wow us day in and day out?
Resurrection is amazing!
by Mary Oliver
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.
A word, then, on the three primary actions of this beautiful poem … looking, astonishing, and bowing
looking: The Easter Gospels have one thing in common: they do not start out very happily. The women going to the tomb to anoint the dead body of Jesus, the Apostles cowering behind locked doors in fear, Mary Magdalene weeping at the tomb, Thomas clinging to his doubts, and the two depressed disciples we heard about this morning … walking down a road away from Jerusalem.
… but the rest of the Gospels are about looking for God right in front of you … like the two on the Emmaus road who did not recognize him.
Thich Nhat Hahn writes that “our true home is the present moment, the miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment.” The ancient Desert Fathers and Mothers, when they were disconsolate and without hope, would repeat one word, over and over, as a kind of soothing mantra. And the word was not Jesus, or God, or Love. The word was “today.” It kept them where they needed to be.
Many people today steeped in science, reason and logic find Easter to be just wishful thinking. Easter in their minds is just something for gullible people.
Thomas Aquinas – 13th century: wonder sets our feet on the ladder to the beatific vision.
Steven Hawkings, an avowed atheist was buried last week in a church – the Great St. Mary’s Church in Cambridge. He spoke of black holes – but he also said that someone needed to breathe fire into those equations!
Astonishment leads us to the gift of wonder: In the final Harry Potter book, in a desperate hour, Harry’s teacher and friend, Professor Dumbledore, who died a few years before, appears by surprise and talks with him for a long time. They are in a train station, though how they got there Harry doesn’t know. At the end of their conversation Harry asks, Is this real? Or is it just happening in my mind? And Dumbledore answers: Why would what is happening in your mind not be real? And he disappears. Harry gets on the train.
Imagination is not delusion. Just ask Bill Gates, J.K. Rowling, Steve Jobs (Cf. Nancy Rockwell, Patheos).
bowing: Easter joy is an indescribable thing but it’s always bad news before it is good news. The kid in us may love the Easter bunny, but the adult in us needs to deal with the empty tomb – is there more?
Terminal illness is a horror, but it is also a metaphor. Each of us is conceived with a seed of mortality that cannot be surgically removed. It grows until it kills us, hopefully after a long life that honors the temporary privilege of living. We are, as W. B. Yeats harshly put it, “fastened to a dying animal” (Michael Gerson in Wash Post op-ed).
On a stormy night in front of a Mason Temple – 50 years ago … MLK said:
We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter to me now because I've been to the mountain top, and I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life - longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And he's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And so, I'm happy tonight; I'm not worried about anything; I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
The next day, Dr. King stood on the balcony of his hotel room and was shot to death.
Easter is an adult thing!
Perhaps we can add a new word to the lexicon for Instagram or Twitter … #easteradulting:
… it will keep us tethered to the present moment, looking for what is most important which is often right in front of us;
… it will provide the right blend of wonder and astonishment as we traverse the Emmaus roads of our lives;
… and ultimately, on our last day, it will help us bow our heads and say our final Amen trusting in the hope and promise of Jesus’ resurrection.