Feast of the Exaltation
of the Holy Cross
September 14, 2014
Rev. Anthony Medairos,
Psalm 78:1b-2, 34-38
In the Middle
East some intolerant people who claim the faith of Islam torment people of other faiths,
particularly Christians. This
intolerance has extended even to Indiana,
where vandals recently marked three Christian churches with Koranic verses
painted on their walls.  In places like Iraq, the homes of Christians may
be marked with the Arabic letter “N,” indicating that a Nazarene lives here;
that is, a Christian.
Muslims label Christians as “cross worshippers.” Followers of the Koran hesitate saying “Jesus
followers,” since the Koran teaches that Jesus is a prophet, born of the virgin
Mary. Jesus, in Koranic verse, is the
only person besides Adam whose soul was created directly by God.  So, Muslim haters fixate on the cross rather
than on the one who hung upon it.
have reverted to crucifixion as a particularly graphic message of terror. 
Even governments in Yemen
and Saudi Arabia
have recently used this horrific method of torture and execution on political
enemies and even on common thieves.
We in the West have taken another
tack when it comes to the cross. Though
some wear a cross or crucifix as an act of faith, many others display it as a
bobble, a bit of “bling” to enhance their outfit – whether that be high fashion
or street-gang styled street clothes.
The cross is everywhere in our own town – so ubiquitous that many don’t
even see it. Every six-panel door in
American homes displays a cross. Did you
notice the cross on our own church? Does
our processional cross that leads us into worship capture from us even a
glance? The crucifix that stands at
every Catholic altar – doesn’t it disappear into the background?
Crucifixion is a gruesome
thing. The crucifix was not the
Christians’ first choice as our symbol.
The earliest Christians preferred the outline of a fish as
their symbol for Jesus. By better
artists Jesus was portrayed as a shepherd.
Sometimes Jesus was drawn as a lamb, the Lamb of God. Only much later was the cross universally
adopted as our sign. And still later the
image of Christ’s body was placed upon the bare cross.
see, the early Christians knew crucifixion.
It was not jewelry to them; it was horrifying. It was a means of execution the Romans used
to debase Rome’s
enemies, naked and publicly tortured toward a slow, agonizing death. Yet this symbol of that hated empire and of
death itself became our symbol of sacrificial love. For through Jesus’ obedience to the Heavenly
Father and love for you and me, he allowed himself to die ignominiously on a
cross. The very thing that killed people
– would save them. By his resurrection,
Jesus defeated sin and death. We are
Church has selected for this feast day a reading from the Book of Numbers. It recounts how God’s complaining people were
inflicted with saraph serpents, whose bite was like fire. Many died.
When the people repented, God commanded Moses to make a bronze serpent,
mount it on a pole, and lift it up before the people. If the people looked upon this symbol, they
would live. The thing that killed people
would now save them.
so it is with Christ’s ultimate act of love on the cross. Jesus was “lifted up” like the bronze saraph
“so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
me, the cross and crucifix do not blend into the woodwork. At home there is a crucifix prominently displayed
in my living room, one in each bedroom.
The processional cross is my focus as we begin and complete this
communal worship. The cross is a
comfort, signifying Christ’s love for me personally and for our community of
faith. It is prominent in my home
because it is a sign of my trust in God’s love.
Jesus “emptied himself” of the glory of the Trinity, “coming in human weakness”
and became “obedient to death, even death on a cross” God “greatly exalted
him.” Good Friday was defeated by Easter. For this reason, despite any difficulties in
life – even the persecution of our faith – you and I have confidence in God’s
love and power to save. We acknowledge
and with courage confess “Jesus Christ is Lord.”
time we make the sign of the cross on our body, every time we look upon the
cross or venerate the crucifix, you and I profess our readiness to take Jesus
seriously. We are his disciples. Jesus is Lord. We embrace the whole gospel fully. We are ready to die for our beliefs. We are prepared to live by the values that
Jesus taught. We are committed to the
Heavenly Father, to Jesus and to one another in the power of the Holy
 Huston Smith, Islam: A Concise Introduction
(HarperSanFrancisco, 2001) p. 34.
 Joshua Hammer,
Days of Reckoning,” National Geographic (September
Twenty-second Sunday in
September 31, 2014
Rev. Anthony Medairos,
Psalm 63:2-6, 8-9
President Obama announced in a press
conference Thursday that our nation does not have a strategy for dealing with
ISIL in Syria
yet, the most virulent jihadist movement, reintroducing savagery into the
world. While we dither, ISIL persecutes
Christians and Yazidis, defiles women, and murders civilians in Iraq and
prisoners of war there and in Syria. Every
citizen who desires peace hopes that the President and sane governments
worldwide will quickly develop effective strategies to defeat this evil.
nation, every community craves leadership.
Perhaps that need was implied in Jesus’ question heard in last Sunday’s
gospel: “Who do people say that the Son
of Man is?” Speculation had been
rampant. People were curious about Jesus
as a leader like John the Baptist or one of the other prophets of God.
as you will remember, required a personally committed answer: “But who do you
say that I am?” Simon son of Jonah
recognized Jesus to be “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Only divine revelation could have afforded
Simon this insight, so Jesus proclaimed Simon to be “Peter,” the rock of faith,
the petras on which the Church was to
be founded. Peter had uncovered in Jesus
a leader beyond anything the disciples could have imagined: they were walking
with the Son of God!
was pretty heady stuff! As it had been
in ancient days in the desert when the Hebrew people were led by God himself,
when God spoke to them through Moses, when God fed them with bread from the
heavens, so now this small band of disciples was being guided by the Son of
we turn to today’s gospel, which continues where we left off last weekend. Where was Jesus leading his band? Not to the glory they might have
expected. Instead of victory over the
Romans, or the dawn of a new theocracy where God alone would be Israel’s king,
Jesus announced that he will be killed.
And “on the third day [he will] be raised,” but this was too theoretical
for the disciples. All they heard was
Peter rebuked Jesus. The one who,
moments before, was the foundational “rock,” Jesus now reprimands as “an
obstacle,” a cause of stumbling [i]
rather than the bedrock of faith.
Instead of a glorious victory over Rome
and Jewish religious controversies, Jesus called his disciples to deny their
self-centered impulses and instead to take up a cross in order to follow their
leader, Jesus the Christ.
disciples can be excused for their confusion.
The awful events of Good Friday lay ahead. And the wondrous miracle of Easter had not
yet been realized. All they heard was
“killed” and “take up [a] cross” and losing one’s life in order to save
it. But they followed Jesus still.
you and me Jesus asks the same question, “Who do you say that I am?” Unlike those first disciples, we share the
vantage point of the crucifixion and – thanks be to God – the resurrection of
Jesus. We take courage, therefore, that
Jesus’ words are true: that each one
must take up the cross, that everyone must be willing to lose his life in order
to save it.
in this church today are generations that need to understand that Jesus’
challenge is more than biblical exaggeration or ancient history. The grandparents, the parents, even the
children of today comprise the people who will endure persecutions and
difficulties like those of the first centuries of the faith.
to the early disciples to find our model.
While Jesus would not defeat the Romans on the battlefields of Judea, his Church was gradually transforming Rome itself through
faith. It was not an instantaneous
conversion. It took much struggle, both
within peoples’ consciences and even with the blood of martyrdom. But the first stage in the struggle was for
believers to stand over-against the prevailing culture. Saint
Paul exhorted the Roman disciples, “Do not conform
yourselves to the present age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and
letter could have been written to believers today. Look around.
Can we say that our own culture conforms to the will of God? Can we describe our culture as “good and
pleasing and perfect?” Of course,
nothing on this side of the Second Coming will be totally perfect. But is our culture even aiming at perfection? Or is it, instead, too much a culture of
immodesty, crassness, selfishness and license?
if we do not conform to the present age, we open ourselves to ridicule and
danger, as did those earliest of Christians.
Look at one who spoke truth, the prophet Jeremiah: “All the day I am an object of laughter;
everyone mocks me.” As Kermit the Frog
opined, “It’s not easy being green.” It
is difficult to stand in contrast to the culture, our neighbors, around
us. And so we face criticism – some of
it justified – and ridicule. Our
Catholic faith is the butt of jokes. And
in our goodness we allow these to pass unaddressed. But if our culture is ever to become godly,
people of faith must, first of all, acknowledge that this is not how God wants
us to live. And then we attempt not to
“conform [ourselves] to this age.”
Through patient firmness and virtuous example we raise awareness that
the derisive attitude of society toward Christianity and Catholicism is
offensive and, worse, it leads to other things.
of these other things is ominous: persecution.
There is the subtle, almost “sensible,” persecution from our neighbors
and our government to keep our faith to ourselves. Don’t bring your pro-life values to the
public arena and the ballot box. Your
old-fashioned religious morality should not impinge upon bio-medical
this subtle persecution inevitably morphs into physical and legal
persecution. Ask the Coptics in Egypt,
other Christians in Iraq and in parts of Africa. They and other people of religious conviction
throughout the Middle East face destruction,
dismemberment, and death for their religious faith.
and I are of the same generation with those good people in the Middle East and
Africa who face that existential reality: “Whoever loses his life for my sake
will find it.” That challenge is for us, too.
The only difference between today’s African or Iraqi martyr and
ourselves is time and geography.
most prior generations, we face a radical decision. “Who do you and I say Jesus is?” And we must discern where our answer is
leading: do we seek to gain the world (which is passing away) or rather do we
seek real life. “For the Son of Man will
come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all
according to his conduct.”
[i] Skandalon (Greek): a snare.
Twenty-first Sunday in
August 24, 2014
Rev. Anthony Medairos,
Psalm 138:1-3, 6, 8
A student of geology developed some
whimsical truisms he called “laws” of geology.
The first of these may serve as a reflection in our understanding of
today’s gospel. This first “law” is: “I
would never have seen it, if I hadn’t believed it.” 
Some geology students, while
traveling with their professor, took a road that was cut through a mountain pass,
exposing the layers of that mountainside.
And the professor pointed out “an elaborate history of mountain
formation from the patterns of the rock…
And since he had taught [his students] the theory of how that was all
supposed to work, [the students] could see it there too.” Hence the first whimsical “law” of geology:
“I would never have seen it, if I hadn’t believed it.”
Simon son of Jonah had not expected
to encounter “the Son of the living God.”
Perhaps he saw in Jesus a mentor, possibly a populist leader who might
of its Roman occupiers, or maybe just an adventure to get away from the
back-breaking drudgery of fishing for a while.
So when the disciples were asked who people said Jesus was, they
repeated some of the gossip and speculation about Jesus: John the Baptist come back to life, or one of
the prophets like Jeremiah or Elijah.
But when Jesus demanded a personal
response, Simon declared Jesus to be “the Christ, the Son of the living
God.” This was not what Simon had been looking for. Nonetheless, this is what he said.
And Jesus understood the
situation. That “law” of geological
studies – “I would never have seen it, if I hadn’t believed it.” – did not
apply, because Simon couldn’t have conceived the possibility of the Son of
God. It wasn’t what Simon had been
expecting, so he did not see it.
Therefore, Jesus acknowledged, “… flesh and blood has not revealed this
to you, but my heavenly Father.” Simon’s
insight came not from human wisdom or speculation or belief, but rather as a
grace from the heavenly Father.
Then Jesus turned Simon’s graced
profession of faith into an unspoken question – to which the answer was
immediately self-evident. “Who should I
say that you are, Simon?” “… I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this
rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail
against it.” In the Greek texts, this is
a play on words, petras being the
word for rock. Peter is the Rock. However, Jesus did not speak Greek. But this play on words is the same in his
Aramaic language, where an eyewitness 
testified that Jesus called Simon “Kephas,” the Aramaic word kefa meaning “rock.” 
Of course, you and I have the
advantage over Simon Peter. We share the
vantage point of Jesus’ death and resurrection and ascension into heaven. Simon Peter would have known nothing of these
events at that time. So, while that
first “law” of geology did not apply to Simon, it does apply to us, “I would
never have seen it, if I hadn’t believed it.”
As that young geologist saw the history of a mountain in layers of rock
only after he had been taught how mountains develop, so you and I accept Christ
Jesus as the sacrament of God’s love for us, because having heard and been
taught and having come to some level of conviction that Jesus is “the Christ,
the Son of the living God,” we “see” Christ acting in our life now.
do you and I say that Jesus is? When
Simon made his profession of faith, everything changed – even his name. The Church was built upon the faith of Peter,
the Rock. And even the powers of hell
could never defeat that Church. Peter
was summoned to stand for something.
There were to be standards – rights and wrongs. And Peter was to declare them: there are some things to which we are bound
because they are true and unchangeable.
And there are some things that can be healed – or loosed – because God
is merciful to his creatures.
And when you and I make our
profession of faith – first made for
us by our parents at baptism, then carefully learned over years of religious
education, and even today declared in our reciting the Nicene Creed (“I believe
in one God….”), when we make this profession of faith, we are changed. Jesus names us “disciples.” We are the Church firmly planted on the rock
which is Peter even unto his successor today, Pope Francis.
And we are challenged to stand for
something. There are rights and
wrongs. There are some authentic truths
that are unchangeable – even if difficult – and we are bound to them. But there is also great mercy in our God that
looses us from things in need of healing.
You and I are grounded in the community of faith that has the mission to
announce and build up the kingdom
of God here. Within this community we are strong, the
Church founded on the rock of Peter’s faith.
It is more important now than at any
other time in the lifetime of anyone here that you and I stay firm in this
community of faith. We face a world that
is unfriendly to faith in Jesus Christ.
Antipathy to the Christian faith spans the spectrum from beheading to
belittling, and every point in between.
Were we living in Iraq,
staying in the Church may mean our martyrdom at the hands of jihadists. As we are living in this country, staying in
this faith community means that we live by standards that contradict what some
of our neighbors and cultural trends believe and live by. Our staying strong in the faith depends on
our staying close to the Church that was built on Peter’s faith.
Today Jesus addresses the same
question to you and me as he spoke to those disciples at the beginning, “Who do
you say that I am?” Standing on the
faith of our ancestors and the teachings of the Church that Jesus established
on the rock of Peter, we say that Jesus is the Son of God. And we see Christ at work in our life and in
the world. Named as disciples of Christ,
we find strength within the community of faith, the Church founded on the rock
of Peter’s profession. And we, like the
first disciples, commit ourselves to undertake the mission to announce and
build up the kingdom
of God here.
 Dan Britt is
quoted in Guy Consolmagno, SJ, Brother
Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist (New York: McGraw Hill, 2000), p. 50.
1:41-42: “[Andrew] first found his own
brother Simon and told him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated
Anointed). Then he brought him to
Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said,
‘You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Kephas’ (which is translated
Eighteenth Sunday in
August 3, 2014
Rev. Anthony Medairos,
Psalm 145:8-9, 15-18
Romans 8:35, 37-39
Saint Paul asks “What will separate us from the
love of Christ?” He looks outside for
those forces potentially separating us from Christ, like persecution, famine,
peril, the sword. Obviously, some of
these external forces still thrive.
Muslim extremists, while seeking the death of all Jews, are just as
determined to exterminate Christianity, first of all in the Middle
East and extending into Africa. It is difficult for Christians there to avoid
forced conversions to Islam or exile from their homes in the face of this
violent extremism. Ironically,
persecutions that caused early believers to flee Jerusalem may have been God’s instrument of
bringing the Christian gospel to far-flung parts of the world. 
Even today most Christians under the threat of violent persecution do choose
exile and the loss of all their material goods or even martyrdom rather than to
to that degree, but the Christian faith – and other religious communities – are
under a subtle form of persecution by secular humanists in Western
society. First comes the marginalizing
of religious faith – the “keep it in the church or synagogue” phase. It is not “fair” to others for one group to
display a manger scene in the public park during the Christmas season. So please remove it; let’s be open minded. Chaplains of many religions are provided for
our military members and their families.
Isn’t it “fair” to also have atheist
chaplains for those who don’t believe in God?
(That’s an actual proposal.)
then pressure is applied on the moral values that underpin various civic
activities. History is our best teacher
here. It was important for the Nazis to
dismantle the Bund Neudeutschland,
the “New Germany Group” (the Catholic youth organization), first by ridicule,
then by restricting some of its activities and finally by outlawing it
outright, leaving only the Hitler Youth to attract the young. Pope John Paul II as a young priest secretly
nurtured an alternative Catholic youth movement under the Communist regime in Poland that
would eventually bear fruit in the destruction of communism there. Inculcating values in the young is so very
powerful. So in our own times, secular
humanism must attack such things as the Boy Scouts, for Scouting’s value system
is seen as an enemy to be eliminated, first by trying to change Scouting’s own standards
and eventually by providing a secularist alternative to it.
the question is: Do Christians, do
Catholics, do people who hold Judeo-Christian moral and religious values accept
exile in our own land? Think of the
times when you have had to “hold your tongue” when faced with criticism of our
faith, rather than to speak out boldly as an apologist for our beliefs? The fear of being “different,” being seen as
“out of step,” of calling our dissent “hate speech” is the beginning of
persecution. This is a kind of internal
exile. And history teaches it will only
get worse over time.
asks, “What will separate us from the love of Christ?” He suggests persecution, famine, peril, the
sword and so forth. But then he answers,
“No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved
us.” So the question is whether you and
I believe that Christ’s love for us will enable us to conquer all these
for the answer to that question, may I suggest that we must also look within for forces that will separate us
from the love of Christ? Might we become
people who feel we don’t need God’s grace, or cannot trust God’s love, and so
try to save ourselves, by ourselves?
What will separate us from the love of Christ? Might it be golf or beach instead of Sunday
worship? Might it be career or paycheck
ahead of charity? Might it be
self-esteem or the approval of others rather than abiding in the things that
Christ approves is not self-service, but service to others. He manifested this numberless times
especially on the cross, but today in the feeding of the multitude, where he
placed his trust in the Heavenly Father to feed so many with so little, and
where he had more left over so the apostles could feed even more people.
ironically, for those who do have a
place for God, our seeking God’s approval can also separate us from the love of Christ. This happens when religiosity and formalism
take the place of a relationship with Christ, when our keeping the rules of
religion is confused with openness to God.
Isaiah made it clear, as Jesus did himself, 
that rule-keeping doesn’t make God owe us salvation. Instead, “Come, without paying and without
cost ... that you may have life.” God’s
love is free!
one person needs not God, so turns to his own devices to find some sort of
salvation, the other person needs religion more than Christ. Both are internal ways that will separate us
from the love of Christ.
love can conquer, has conquered, all those forces outside us that can keep us
from his love, even today’s violent persecution of believers abroad and subtle
persecution of the faithful in our own land.
And Christ’s love can conquer all the things-within that people
put in the place of God, whether these be self-reliance without God or
religiosity without a genuine relationship with Christ. Our readiness to trust God in those exterior
threats and our readiness to change attitudes within ourselves will conquer
anything that tries to separate us from the love of Christ. For, as Saint Paul wrote, “… in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us.”
 Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42.
Seventeenth Sunday in
August 27, 2014
Rev. Anthony Medairos,
1 Kings 3:5, 7-12
Psalm 119:57, 72, 76-77,
If you had a wish, what would it be? The story goes: a man discovered an ancient oil lamp thrown
onto some rubble and, for kicks, he rubbed it.
And a genie emerged, offering him one wish. He said, “I’d like a million bucks.” But because the genie was hard of hearing, there
appeared (poof) a million ducks! King Midas wished that everything he might
touch be turned to gold. The “Midas
touch” was wonderful – until he touched his beloved daughter, and she turned into
to a golden statue.
God offered the new king of Israel just such
an opportunity. “Ask something of me and
I will give it to you.” Solomon asked
neither for a long life, nor for money, nor for the death of his enemies, but
for an understanding heart. And because
God granted him an understanding heart and wisdom, people even today speak of
“the wisdom of Solomon.”
You and I are unlikely to encounter
a genie. Nor will God consecrate us the
king of Israel. So, for the things we wish or seek, achieving
them is up to our own effort. And the
issue really is: what are we willing to
do to reach that goal for which we seek?
Jesus framed two parables about this.
the first, a man working in another’s field discovered a treasure. Perhaps it had been buried there to hide it from
a marauding army and the one who buried it had died suddenly. Clearly the land’s current owner did not know
it was there, or he would not have put the land up for sale. The hero of the parable re-buried that
treasure, sold everything he had, and bought that field. Of course there may be real ethical or moral
questions about what that man did. But Jesus
was not teaching ethics or morals here.
He was pointing to that man’s willingness to do anything to get hold of something he truly valued: that treasure.
man in the second parable is just as focused.
This merchant found the pearl he wanted and sold everything that he owned to buy it.
All of Jesus’ parables compare
everyday activities to the kingdom
of God. So, the question Jesus sets before you and me
today is: The kingdom of God: Are you willing to do anything to be part of it?
Are you willing to give up everything
to be part of this kingdom? Those are
questions for lifelong consideration by Christians.
At some level the kingdom of God
is important to you and me, else we would not be in church today. But for lifelong reflection is this question: Just how focused on the kingdom am I? How ruthless am I willing to be to
participate in God’s kingdom? What will
I give up to be part of this kingdom?
Am I ready to change a habit, if that
habit is out of step with God’s kingdom? Of course some of the most difficult habits
that come to mind are addictions to alcohol, gambling, or pornography. There are other habits: exercising power, gaining fame, seeking
fortunes. Anything that one relies on
for one’s happiness can distract a person from God’s kingdom. Will we allow it to distract us?
not that some of our distractions are evil, just as wishing for a million bucks
is not evil. Driving the kids to sports
activities is certainly not evil, but should a parent do this on Sunday morning
while avoiding worship, for example?
Jesus suggests that focusing on the thing that one values – however
virtuous it may seem – before seeking the kingdom of God in one’s life is a
detour and a distraction from God’s will for you and me.
Consider interpersonal relationships:
do relationships draw me away from God’s
kingdom? Am I unfaithful to my spouse, distant
from my siblings, neglectful of my parents’ dignity, failing as a model of
discipleship for my children, enjoying the company of unrighteous people,
disrespectful of coworkers, employer or employees? Is the way I relate to others, or the way my
companions treat others in accord with God’s kingdom?
Might my financial planning better
coincide with God’s kingdom? Do I lavish
myself or family with unnecessary material possessions while neglecting to
tithe to church and charity? Do I place my
trust for my future well-being entirely in Social Security or IRA’s and 401k’s,
but not so much in prayer and a life of Christian service to my neighbor?
That treasure hunter, that merchant
in the parables were bold and decisive. That’s
the boldness and decisiveness required for discipleship. That’s what Jesus raises for our
consideration in today’s parables. That
his hearers might ask themselves, “What actions do you or I take to uncover the
roots of our faith in prayer, in scripture study, and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church? How bold are we in proclaiming the new life
we’ve received in Christ Jesus by speaking the Lord’s name to others? How decisive are we in supporting the mission
of the Catholic Church and Our Lady’s Parish?”
When I hear these parables, these are
the questions that come to mind. “Whoever
has ears ought to hear.” Jesus was not
talking about a crafty land deal or an ambitious pearl merchant. He was talking to you and me today. Jesus wanted you and me to consider whether
we treasure unimportant things. Jesus
understood that these stories – given a proper hearing – would alert you and me
(perhaps to our surprise) that our behavior reveals what we actually treasure. We might come to realize that, instead of
these earthly and temporary treasures, you and I have the opportunity to seek
first the kingdom
of God and to find a treasure
there that will survive beyond the grave.