May 3, 2015
Rev. Anthony Medairos,
Psalm 22:26-28, 30-32
1 John 3:18-24
The forsythia at my home finally
bloomed. For a brief week or so these
shrubs will explode in all directions their fiery, yellow blossoms that will
soon implode into ordinary green leaves.
Forsythia love to climb things, but my home’s previous owners
established a row of eight free-standing forsythia to preserve privacy from the
next-door neighbor’s long driveway at the side of the house. I like the privacy. But it’s hard to keep forsythia in check and
in a few weeks I’ll get out a tall step ladder to again re-shape the shrubs
into spherical hedges that block the neighborhood’s view of my favorite, shady
reading place. The andromeda along the
street also will need my attention soon.
don’t talk to plants. I don’t think they
have feelings, as some gardeners do. But
if they did have feelings, I wonder
what they would be thinking as they see me approach with loppers and pruning
sheers. Perhaps it would be like
watching the dentist approach me with a syringe full of Novocain®. Yikes!
And I wonder if the plants would
appreciate the difference between
lopping off the dead branches and pruning back some healthy ones. The need to get rid of dead branches is
obvious even to people who don’t garden or landscape. Pruning is a bit harder to understand; it
takes skill and experience. A branch may
grow long and display several buds along its length. It takes a lot of energy for a plant to
sustain a branch with many buds, so if one cuts away some of the healthy buds
at the end of the branch, the remaining buds will receive more of the plant’s
energy and may blossom more fully, potentially producing beautiful flowers or
Jesus borrowed the image of vines
and branches from the Old Testament  to
portray our relationship with him. It is
obvious that “a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the
vine.” But even a branch connected to
the vine needs care. This is what
pruning is about. Jesus is the vine and
Heavenly Father is the vine grower; we are the branches. Barren branches are taken away. What remains is pruned “so that it bears more
fruit.” Then Jesus said, “You are
already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.”
I am not talking to those who may be
withered branches. They follow their own
ideas and have their own pursuits. They
neither feel nor want a connection to the vine.
And they are not here. I pray
that some day they may perceive the fruitlessness of their lives apart from
But the rest of us understand we’re
connected. And we face pruning. That is not fun. It’s understandable that we might become
anxious as we see God approaching us with loppers and pruning sheers. Sometimes the pruning process seems excessive
and our faith is challenged. We may not
be able to distinguish that God’s hand is pruning away the excess of our life
so that we may bear greater fruit –
as opposed to the impression that God is discarding us as dead weight. The struggles in our life may sometimes feel
as if we have been abandoned by Heavenly Father.
So here Jesus reassures you and
me. He encourages us to stay with
him. “Remain in me,” Jesus says. “You cannot bear fruit ‘unless you remain in
me.’” “Remain in me, as I remain in
you.” That is the key.
some occasions the “pruning” may be the closing of a door that we had preferred
to enter, a hope or plan of ours that seemed so important at the time. But that way might have led us away from a
relationship with Christ. At other times
the “pruning” may be more dramatic, even painful. It may be an illness, an estrangement from or
loss of a loved one, or a financial setback.
being pruned may feel as if God has disappointed us, or even abandoned you or
me to our troubles and worries, Christ Jesus always remains with us. If we do not surrender to doubt, even the
most troubling circumstances will
bear fruit. It is part of God’s
plan. “If you remain in me and my words
remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear
much fruit and become my disciples.”
Saint John wrote in his first epistle, “We have
confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his
commandments and do what pleases him.”
Here John speaks as Jesus did: “Those who keep [God’s] commandments
remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is
from the Spirit he gave us.”
So the alternatives are set before
us. Somerset Maugham, the great Catholic
novelist, had one of his characters express the first alternative. He wrote, “It is not true that suffering
ennobles the character; happiness does that sometimes, but suffering, for the
most part, makes men petty and vindictive.”  That is our first alternative: As the people around us take note of our
struggles, they can be negatively affected by what they witness, because they
observe that we ourselves have become disheartened. So, doubt and despair grow. This adds nothing to the glory of God.
if you or I remain with Christ, confident that the struggle is not a sign of
God’s wrath but is part of a painful pruning leading to new fruit, other people
may be edified – not that we are such long-suffering saints, but that in us
they may come to accept that Christ is present even amidst trouble and
turbulence. In this way, we do become
disciples. In this way is God glorified.
 Hosea 10:1;
Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 2:21; Ezekiel 15; Psalm 80:9-16.
 Somerset Maugham, Moon and Sixpence (1919), Ch. 41.
April 19, 2015
Rev. Anthony Medairos,
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
Psalm 4:2-4, 7-9
1 John 2:1-5a
We’ve all heard the saying, “What
happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” I’ve
never been there. You? Gambling and the night life of Las Vegas hold no
attraction for me. For those who’ve
been, it may be prudent to keep to them selves how much money was lost, how
many scotches were imbibed, and so forth.
But, I suspect, just the aura of having been to Vegas leads people to wonder
about a person who’s been there, adding to the glamour (or the shadiness) of
that tourist’s reputation. Some people
like the idea of keeping other people wondering about them.
Let me suggest another saying: “What happens in church, stays in church.” And that, by the way, is not a good
thing. Too many Christians live this
way. They say they believe in God and they live as if they do not.
Faith is reduced to worship (which, by the way, is how secular humanists
think religion ought to be). We participate
in Mass on Sunday, but there is no difference in the way life is lived on
Tuesday. Faith is minimized to mean
going to Mass. “What happens in church,
stays in church.”
St. Peter had just healed a crippled
beggar outside the Temple.
The passers-by were amazed. Now that
Peter had their attention, he taught the crowd.
He reminded them of what their leaders – and they – had done to Jesus,
choosing freedom for Barabbas instead of for the Son of the Father. Peter testified of Jesus that “God had raised
him from the dead.” And what ought the
response to this great news be:
Forgiveness would not be granted just because they felt bad about their
poor decisions. Forgiveness would be
granted if they changed their life, if they were converted.
St. John’s first letter confirms this. John wrote boldly, “Those who say, ‘I know
him,’ but do not keep his commandments are liars, and the truth is not in
Jesus himself, in those spectacular
Easter appearances, calmed his terrified and confused disciples. Cleopas and his companion had encountered
Jesus on the road to Emmaus and only recognized him when Jesus broke bread with
Then they ran back to Jerusalem
to report what had happened. (This is
where today’s gospel selection begins.)
And Jesus appeared again. The
disciples thought him a ghost. But he
reassured them, ate with them, and explained yet one more time the prophecies
concerning the Christ, crucified and raised from the dead on the third day so
“that repentance, for the forgiveness of sin, would be preached in his name to
all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
And then Jesus added a phrase that
we might dismiss as pertaining only to those
disciples. But it applies to you and me
as well. “You are witnesses of these
things.” To “witness” is not only to
observe some event. To “witness” means
to give testimony. You and I say we believe
in Jesus Christ. Now is the time to give
testimony to our faith, to witness. Do
not keep our faith inside the walls of this building.
is a story of a young girl visiting her grandmother in a small country town in
the South. She attended a very emotional
religious service, where people expressed their feelings by jumping around and
shouting. It was a completely new
experience for her. She asked her
grandmother if all the activity really meant that people were being touched by
the Spirit or whether it was merely a huge piece of self-indulgence and
emotional release. Her grandmother
wisely answered, “Honey, it does not matter how high they jump up, it is what
they do when they come down that will tell you if it is the real thing!”  We don’t do much jumping up at a Mass. But the same can be said of you and me: It does not matter much how profoundly we genuflect,
how intently we listen to the gospel, how enthusiastically we sing hymns of
praise. It’s what we do when we leave
all this behind and go into that world out there that will tell if this worship
is the real thing.
real thing begins with conversion, a change nurtured by grace in the way you
and I are determined to live. The
greatest witness you and I can give is to be our better self. Authenticity will convince. This authenticity must inevitably spill over
into acts of Christian charity.
front of Christ the King Parish in San
Diego there is a statue of Jesus. This Christ figure has no hands. But the statue had not been vandalized. Instead, it was the intent of the sculptor to
illustrate that Jesus needs the hands of his followers now. Those who believe in and love Jesus are
changed by the quality of that relationship; they act differently than they
would if they did not believe in and love Jesus. 
give no one the impression that our motto is “What happens in church, stays in
church.” We believe that Jesus is the
Christ, crucified and risen from the dead.
This faith impels us to our own repentance. And we accept that the message of repentance
is to be preached in the name of Jesus to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem and continuing
from this place. And we hear Jesus’
commission to each one of us: “You are
witnesses of these things.”
 As quoted from Good News (homily
service), 1992, p. 663.
 William A. Barry, God’s Passionate Desire
and Our Response (Notre Dame, IN:
Ave Maria Press, 1993), p. 103.
Fear. it would seem, Jesus considered the
opposite of faith. 
The opposite of faith is not failing
to understand or to accept every doctrine.
Jesus did not teach doctrine. He
did, however, summon from his disciples a bold, personal and communal response
to himself; this calls for courage.
Take, for example, John’s memory in today’s gospel. On Easter some of the disciples actually saw
Jesus, saw “his hands and his side” that bore the wounds of crucifixion. They told absent Thomas, “We have seen the
Lord.” But even though they had seen the
Risen Lord, a week later they were still in that room where “the doors were
locked.” Afraid. It wasn’t until the Holy Spirit descended
upon them on Pentecost that they combined belief with courage. Then faith exploded throughout the world.
When someone is new to the faith,
unfamiliar with prayer and the scriptures, I will encourage them to read
carefully Luke’s gospel. Most people
already have at least a vague awareness of the Jesus-story. Then I encourage that person to quickly move
to Luke’s second volume, the Acts of the Apostles. Acts is the story of the Church’s birthing
struggles: the preaching and miracles of
the Apostles, the conversion of Paul, the confrontation of faith and Empire,
the worship of the early Christians and their moral clarity. It seems the Sunday evening mini-series AD will address these very things,
unlike most bible movies that stop with Christ’s Resurrection. Here we may discover the struggle of the
earliest Christians to find the courage to stand in opposition to the values of
And we may discover in Acts and potentially
in the TV show AD that the earliest
Christians still were afraid. But, “With
great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord
Jesus….” These Christians gained the
insight that every soldier must discover:
that “Courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to carry on
with dignity in spite of it.” 
Christians are being slaughtered or
imprisoned by Muslims in many parts of the world. Afraid, yet with remarkable courage, vast
numbers refuse to deny Christ and they go to a martyr’s death. We must pray for them and for all who face
this fearsome decision of life and death.
And we must exert pressure on our Federal government to do more to protect
our brothers’ and sisters’ human right to life and to freedom of conscience. As far as I can tell, nothing is being done
for them by either state or Church.
In our own “free” culture, Christian
faith is also under assault. This
assault is often subtle, found in a condescending or dismissive attitude toward
religious people. Senator Obama referred
to everyday people as “clinging to their God and guns.” Sometimes the assault is governmental, as
when laws or regulations require people of conscience to act in a contrary way,
for example Catholic institutions or religious communities being required to
provide abortions. The danger here is
not so much in the regulation as it is in some citizens’ attitude: what
difference does it make?
So it takes some courage for us to
speak words of faith. I do. But when I do, there is the perception that I
have to talk about the Lord and about
faith. “We’ll have to excuse father; it
is a priest’s job to talk about that sort of thing.”
But what a powerful word it is when you speak of the Lord and about
faith. Of course, the presumption is
that you have armed yourself with the basics of our religion and
scriptures. I remember the photo of a
young Marine whose remote outpost in Afghanistan was attacked as he
slept, showing him standing at his fighting position in boxer shorts and
flip-flops. But at least he had the
presence of mind to put on his Kevlar helmet and grab his rifle. Sometimes you and I are called to stand up
for Christ in our boxer shorts and flip-flops, but we feel (or prove)
inadequate to the task because we haven’t trained ourselves with helmet and
One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that each
confirmed Catholic has received is Knowledge.
I’m sure many of us have a number of religious facts rumbling around in
the gray matter. We certainly have an
outline of our faith in our weekly recitation of the Nicene Creed. But another gift of the Spirit is
Understanding, namely how that knowledge applies to the situation in which I
find myself, in which I find my world, my culture. The Spirit will guide us to Understanding,
just as that Marine’s training guided him to the firing line prepared to defend
his position, even in his boxers.
Another gift of the Holy Spirit is
Courage. The elders here know that gift
as Fortitude. That is our graced
acceptance that “the victory that conquers the world is our faith. Who indeed is the victor over the world but
the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” That’s the rhetorical question John poses in
his first letter. Our faith in Jesus does conquer.
Besides each of us arming ourselves with a
prayerful relationship with Jesus Christ and with the faith handed down to us
by the Apostles in the Catholic Church, we need to support one another. I do this by preaching in, I hope, a clear,
convincing way. Our parish does this by
supporting the religious education of your children, and by providing adult
faith formation for those who take time from their busy lives to learn.
When it comes to the individual Catholic, we
each are responsible to encourage one another.
We do this, first, by giving our own example of how faith is an active
part of our life. This is done in little
things like having a religious symbol in our home, like a crucifix or a
likeness of the Madonna. These little
things include prayer within the family, even in public. I remember seeing families in Kuwait pull
onto the shoulder of the highway at particular times, taking prayer rugs from
the car trunk, and everyone bowing in prayer toward Mecca.
Do we even say grace publicly when we’re eating out?
A slightly bolder thing is to worship weekly
and to invite others to join our worship.
And those others include the sleepy teenager or grumpy spouse, not just
the neighbor down the street. We boldly
praise God here and sing to our Creator.
Bolder still is speaking the name of Jesus when confronted about our faith or, especially, when one of our friends
is hurting or dealing with a difficult decision.
The great evangelical preacher Billy Graham
said this, also something every soldier eventually comes to understand: “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of
others are stiffened.” 
The consistent message of Pope Saint John Paul II to the youth of the world and
to each one of us was simply, “Do not be afraid.” Your courage will stiffen another person’s
courage. And our faith in Christ Jesus
will once again explode throughout the world.
 William A.
Barry, God’s Passionate Desire and Our Response (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1993), p. 60.
 Scott Turow, The Burden of Proof (Farrar, Straus
 Rev. Billy
Graham, quoted in Reader`s Digest, November, 1992.
April 5, 2015
Rev. Anthony Medairos,
There is a folk expression which
goes something like this: “A dog is just
dog except when he is facing you. Then
he is Mister Dog.” When Mister Dog is
not an actual canine, we mean by this image that there are issues that face
us. And sometimes these issues are
significant enough that we are forced to deal with them with particular
attention and care. On this Easter let’s
address a metaphorical Mister Dog: namely, how the resurrection of Jesus affects
you and me.
don’t suggest that we doubt the fact of Jesus’ rising from the dead. There is convincing, historical evidence of
fear-filled men and women being transformed into heroic witnesses to the fact
of Christ’s resurrection. Only the most
callous critic could deny that something dramatic happened to change these
people – in fact, to change the Roman Empire.
Jesus really was raised from the tomb.
Easter is not a time for proving
this. If a person will not believe the
eyewitnesses or the testimony of their lives, spent and even martyred for the
Risen Lord, then nothing we can say today will convince. But Mister Dog still faces us: a nagging doubt not so much of the fact of Jesus’ resurrection from the
dead, but of whether his resurrection means
anything today. Is that “something” that
happened to the first Christians still happening? Is it happening in us?
All those religious movies portray
Jesus’ resurrection as the great miracle.
But, for many, these stories are just entertainment, uplifting of
course, but they may be without any implications for people today, without an
effect in people’s way of living, and way of dying. One small example: we have journeyed through this season of
Lenten denial, perhaps giving up candy or beer and such. But now Easter has arrived and we feel
released to resume our pre-Lenten vices.
So, for us Easter is not so much a time of new life, as it is a return
to our old ways. Where is the newness;
where is the change?
George Orwell said, cynically but
with some truth, “On the whole, human beings want to be good, but not too good,
and not quite all the time.” We have
become so jaundiced by the apparent success of powerful and evil people and
institutions, we begin to doubt whether it is worth the effort to be good
this, our experience of the human condition distracts us from the good news of
Jesus. Some watch their beloved parent
or spouse drift away in a nursing home.
An innocent child is attacked by cancer, while street thugs and thieves
thrive with impunity. Venal politicians
and corrupt officials cavalierly pervert the trust of the people they’ve sworn
to serve. This world’s talented and
beautiful people waste themselves on drugs and alcohol, and become even more famous, still richer. Again, we begin to doubt whether it is worth
the effort to be good ourselves.
But as we celebrate the mystery of
Jesus’ death and resurrection, Easter
overwhelms the world’s expectations. In
Christ we understand that appearance is not substance. Riches are not wealth. Power is fleeting. The world offers these values: appearance,
riches, power. But you and I follow a
Lord who praised the meek, forgave sin, loved enemies, a Lord who gave us new
life by his crucifixion.
Old Testament prophecies expected a savior who was a lion, a king to save Israel, but
instead there came the Lamb of God.
Among the lions and eagles that are national symbols of power, the lamb
seems out of place. But this is the
choice which the cross and resurrection place before us: Will you and I follow some eagle or
other? Or do we conform our way of life
to following the Lamb – fully aware lambs are often led to slaughter?
The cross and resurrection proclaim
that significance does not depend on being successful, as the world counts
success; victory doesn`t go to those who “have made it.” The meaning of life does not reside in the
conqueror, but in him who died out of love – and, thank God, rose to life!
We can see the truth of this for
ourselves, all around. See our own
parents and their freely accepted sacrifices.
They had the courage, for example, to bring a child into the world, feed
him, clothe him, care for him and worry about him, discipline him and educate
him, preparing him to the best of their ability for the life he would lead and
then, letting him live it. [i]
What love parents manifest as they empty themselves – and life is the
result! This kind of courageous love is
what Easter is about: one willing to die
to self that others might have life.
A wise person said, “Life shrinks or
expands in proportion to one’s courage.” [ii] Life has been shrinking lately. Many young couples, for example, are
unwilling to take up the imagined “cross” of child-rearing. Abortion infects our culture. Old people, poor people, are treated as
insignificant, not shown the human dignity owed to each of God’s children. The young are starved for time generously
expended on them so they may learn from their elders how to live. One must wonder whether this is why so many
of the young tempt death, sometimes using drugs out of pain or perhaps they
perceive themselves adrift in life alone.
is where Mister Dog turns to face us.
This is the confrontation: does
Easter mean anything, if you and I do not live differently, more generously, in
a self-emptying way, because Jesus has been raised from the dead?
Good Friday and Easter, together,
face the reality of suffering, injustice and death, while at the same moment
offering hope and new life. We who live
in the power of the cross and resurrection are invited by the Risen Lord to
transform this blighted world, beginning in the way we ourselves live. You and I can face Mister Dog and end the
status quo. There is too much injustice,
racism, hatred and war, for things to go along as usual. We must never dilute our faith so that it
would become unrecognizable to the Apostles while it is totally acceptable to
our contemporary, pagan world.
What we celebrate today is not some
2,000 year-old miracle of new life for Jesus.
That would be wonderful enough.
But this Easter we celebrate the rebirth of courageous faith in
ourselves. And our faith is this: that
because Jesus has conquered death and offers us new life, we are empowered by
the Risen Christ to make our fragile lives into something lastingly
loving. And our love can change the
[i] D.L. Stewart,
McNaught Syndicate from Reader’s Digest.
[ii] Anais Nin, The Diary of Anais Nin,
edited by Gunther Stuhlmann (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich).