Don’t Be Afraid to Build a Better Tomorrow

4th Sunday of Lent (B); March 11, 2018

2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23; Ps 137; Eph 2:4-10; Jn 3:14-21

Deacon Jim McFadden


“God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). These words should fill us with joy and hope as we await the fulfillment of God’s promises realized in the Resurrection. These words were first spoken to Nicodemus, who is a stand-in for us. He came to Jesus in the Dark, unwilling to be seen as a follower of the one they are calling the Messiah. Nicodemus is wrestling whether to stay in the Darkness or to embrace the Light of Christ in order to build a better tomorrow.

We all come to Christ from the Shadow: we have our doubts; we have our questions. We live in a society that every year seems to becoming more and more secularized. It ranges from the simple name changes–Easter vacation has become Spring Break; Christmas season is now the ubiquitous holiday season–to a society that focuses on the individual to the point of disregarding those in most need: the unborn, the young; the poor; the elderly. Businesses often exploit the poor and reduce human beings to “factors of production,” who can be discarded when cheaper labor may be found elsewhere. Some businesses in cooperation with governments tolerate the abuse of our environment, robbing future generations of the resources and quality of life they’ll need to live a decent and humane life.

But we can step out of the Shadow, because the word of God is a word of unbounded hope: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus is telling Nicodemus and us that there is a God who cares for us and who can make a radical difference in our lives and that of our communities if we accept His Son as our Savior. By believing in Jesus, we enter into a life shared with God and we have a life that is eternal, which is the foundation that gives us hope to build a better future.

Just as the Persian king Cyrus was called by God to allow the exiled Jews to return to Israel and to build God’s temple, we are called to embrace radical transformation of ourselves and our world. We know that such rebuilding can happen because, as St. Paul reminds us, that “we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor 6:16). We know that God actively dwells within the hearts of people who put their faith in Christ. We have been reborn in Baptism, we have been made into the temples of the Holy Spirit. We are united with our brothers and sisters throughout the world as the Body of Christ. And, we know that as believers of Jesus we are called to acknowledge the power of his presence within us and our Church and to share the gift of his love and forgiveness with the world. As believers of Jesus, we readily accept His Mission: to become messengers of that merciful love within our families, parishes, schools, and workplaces—in fact, in every sector of social and political life.

People of God, now is the tough part: like Nicodemus the Gospel is challenging us to take action. “And indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light, and avoids it, for fear his actions should be exposed; but the man who lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God (vs 20-21). It is not the time to think about or talk about what we believe but to live passionately its truth. Truth is something we do; it’s a lifestyle. We believe that Truth is a Person; when we live the Truth, we are living in Christ and that relational Power can transform us and our world. We are being called to embrace the gospel of doing—of walking in the Flesh of Christ.

When people see us, they should experience a community of unbounded hope because we know that God promises us the strength to realize the Gospel promises. As St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading, God created us in Christ Jesus “to live the good life”, a life of good deeds in accordance with his will (Eph 2:10).   Jesus

has given us his commandments to love God without reservations and to love ourselves and others not as a burden or barriers to overcome, but to liberate us—to be a source of freedom. As we abide in Christ Jesus, as we come out of the Shadows into His Light, we will become men and women of wisdom, we will be teachers and doers of justice and peace. We will believe in the goodness of others from conception to natural death.   We will be instruments to promote the Common Good. God has created us to do this and we should not be afraid to be builders of a better tomorrow!



Driving Out Junk Religion

Third Sunday of Lent (B); March 4, 2018

Ex 20:1-17; Ps 19; 1 Cor 1:22-25; Jn 2:13-25

Deacon Jim McFadden; (New) Folsom Prison


The core of our faith is the Paschal Mystery, which refers to Jesus’ death and resurrection and their saving significance for us. The adjective paschal derives from the Hebrew verb pasach, meaning to “pass over,” and alludes to ancient Israel’s rescue from slavery in Egypt in Moses’ time, when the Lord “passed over” the houses of the Israelites while striking down the Egyptian oppressors.

The Old Testament reading for today contains the Ten Commandments, given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, and is the core of God’s covenant with the Israelites.   This covenant is the basis of genuine religion, which Jesus came to restore. He does so symbolically when he “cleanses” the temple in Jerusalem.

The Old Testament text begins with “I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.” Our God is a Savior, who leads us out of oppression to liberation. That’s what God does in our lives, but he needs our cooperation. If this salvific work is going to happen within us, we must be obedient to the commandments, the greatest of which are to “…love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and to “ your neighbor as yourself.” If we do so without reservations, we will be a light to others. We will give witness that there is an alternative way to live that ushers into our communities peace with justice, revealing the resurrected presence of Christ.

This call to become truly free can be just too much for most of us. Just as the Israelites wanted to return Egypt and the comfort and security of their old life when the going got tough, we do the same, but in a more subtle way: we go through the motions of being religious—we have the jargon, we do the right rituals, we regularly go to church, etc.—without really embracing the Way of Jesus which is self-emptying, forgiving, promoting justice and goodness. What we often embrace is “junk religion,” where our ego is still in control, where we are the center, and our life, including religion, is really about us.

In today’s gospel, in the second chapter of John, Jesus is on a collision course with organized religion and institutionalized worship that has become self-serving. He stands in opposition to any group that is in collusion with idols and powers of the world, that hinder genuine worship of God and the practice of justice, especially towards the least and the poorest and the weakest in the world. So, Jesus begins to tear down unauthentic religion and frees people from all that enslaves them; he will destroy evil and injustice, beginning with the temple, his Father’s house.

He is calling us to go beyond external observance to a commitment that is deeper, a commitment that goes to the very heart of our covenant relationship with God and our brothers and sisters in faith. Today, Jesus grabs out attention by clearing our lives of the clutter and confusion of our addictions which keep us stuck. We hang onto our self-absorption, our control, our disconnected pleasures, our love of money, our need for approval–all of which keep us from living the Great Commandment.   Let us look at our lives honestly and stand before Jesus and acknowledge that we are not the center of our universe, God is. We are not in control, God is. Our life, including out religion, is not about us, but about our God, who loves us beyond measure. Let us say “yes” to God in the here and now, including the

most devastating experiences that come our way.

Brothers, genuine religion is about caring for one another, especially the most vulnerable in our community. Ritual and devotional practices serve to remind us that true adoration of God resides in giving thanks for life and expressing gratitude by sharing our lives with others. In doing so, we live the Great Commandment, which is at the heart of Jesus’ way of worshiping his Father. We are invited this Sunday of Lent to pray for the virtue and practice of zeal so that our worship may be acceptable to God, the Father almighty, and reverberate throughout our society.



Bring Jesus your “Leprosy”

6th Sunday in O.T.; February 11, 2018

Lv 13:1-2,44-46   Ps 32   1 Cor 10-31-11:1   Mk 1:40-45

Deacon Jim McFadden

          Last Sunday we saw that in his public life Jesus healed many sick people, revealing that God wants us to be well—indeed, that our joy may be full; that we live life to its fullness. Today, Jesus goes further by coming in touch with a form of disease that was so horrible that it caused external separation from others and internal loathing as one was

“unclean” both inside and out.

The man is desperate because the fate of the leper is as bad as it got. Listen to our first reading from Leviticus: “The person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp” (Lev 13:45-46).   These instructions made the leper the ultimate outsider. They are a symbol of those whom no one can help. Can you imagine that? You have a condition that places you beyond the pale—you have no hope. This is how you would live the rest of your miserable life as you face alone a deteriorating future. The mental anguish, the excruciating isolation must have been devastating. The deep pain of this horrible disease is the growing realization that no one cares: your dwelling is outside the camp, where you have no fellowship.

Brothers and sisters, have you ever experienced this kind of isolation from others and even God. Have you ever felt deformed, ugly, not good enough? When we encounter rejection, betrayal, or failure, we may go to that place where we feel that there is something about me that is repulsive and ugly.

It’s hard to love ourselves as God does. But, until we get out this “leperous” enslavement, we’ll never be free to be in genuine relationship with God and others. The leper in today’s gospel sensed that Jesus could liberate him from his external and internal affliction. He had heard about Jesus and how our Lord had healed people—how he gathered people who were excluded. So, he boldly comes forward, which in itself, broke social taboos and Mosaic law. He had faith that Jesus had the power to cure him. The question was would he? His hesitancy is whether Jesus would be disposed to do it. The leper’s self image was that he was beyond human concern and since he couldn’t worship in the temple or synagogue, God probably didn’t care either. But, the leper made a leap of faith that God does care about our condition no matter what our state may be. So, said, “If you wish, you can make me clean” (Mk 1:40).

Jesus, the Word of God incarnate; Jesus, Yahweh in the flesh, does care. His inner compassion for this pitiable, isolated being moves Jesus to reach out and touch him. As he makes him clean, he welcomes the man back into the circle of relationships with God and humanity. This cleansing is more about God’s outreach to outcasts, those on the margins, than it is about a physical healing. Indeed, it is a revelation of how God acts in salvation history.

How so? Through Jesus’ action and those words, “I do will it. Be made clean” (v. 41b), reveals to us God’s desire to purify us from illness that disfigures us and ruins our relationships. In that simple but radical touch between Jesus’ hand and the leper, every barrier between God and human impurity, disfigurement, between the sacred and its opposite, was pulled down. Through Jesus, nothing separates us from God and others. Jesus’ action does not deny the power of sin or evil, but it does demonstrate that God’s love for us is stronger than any illness, rejection, failure, or betrayal. Even in its most contagious and horrible form, God’s love can transform us into what we really are: a beloved child of God, who is made in God’s image, which is our essential identity. When Jesus touched the leper, he was identifying with the man’s oppressive condition. In so doing, he was taking on his and our infirmities. By touching the man, Jesus symbolically made himself “a leper” so that we may be made clean.

A wonderful comment on this Gospel is taken from the famous experience of St. Francis of Assisi, in which he says, “This is how the Lord gave me, Brother Francis, the power to do penance. When I was in sin, the sight of lepers was too bitter for me. And the Lord himself led me among them, and I pitied and helped them. And when I left them, I discovered that what had seemed bitter to me was changed into sweetness in my soul and body. And shortly afterward I rose and left the world” (FF, 110).

In those lepers whom Francis met when he was still “in sin,” Jesus was present; and when Francis approached one of them, overcoming his own disgust, he embraced him. In so doing Jesus healed him from his “leprosy,” namely his pride and self-absorption, and converted him to the love of God.

Sisters and brothers, this is the kind of healing that awaits us. Do you believe that Jesus can heal you of your “leprosy”? Do you believe that Jesus can transform your condition and convert you to the love of God? Do you believe that Jesus wants to do that for you? If you do, let Jesus touch you. Let him bring profound healing to your life so that you may fully share in his resurrected life!