Saturday, January 31, 2009

Homily – January 31, 2009 – St. John Bosco

St. John Bosco lived from 1815-1888. He founded the Society of St. Francis de Sales, known as the Salesian order. Coming from a very poor family, after being ordained a priest, he wanted to devote his ministry to the care of poor young boys – such as he had been – educating them in all areas of life, including the arts; and of course sound Christian doctrine to prepare them for life. He became a pioneer in vocational training, opening workshops to educate tradesmen of all kinds. He was very well liked in life and mourned by a great many at his death. He was canonized on Easter Sunday 1934 by Pope Pius XI who knew him as a young priest.

The readings today are especially suited for this feast. The first reading reminds us all to be faithful to the education, especially Christian education and formation that we have received: which recommends that we hold on to whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious. Keep thinking about these things in a regular and a happily disciplined sort of way and you will experience the peace of God in all your undertakings and in dealing with what life sends you!

The gospel passage reminds us that those who remain ever childlike, ever teachable, ever open to new ideas, ever open to even greater gifts from God shall be the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven – and they will be the ones to lead the way to there from here!

And a child shall lead them!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Homily – January 30, 2009 – Third Week in Ordinary Time - Friday

Our readings today urge us to be confident and unwavering in the exercise of our faith: received by the enlightenment of our minds and hearts by the Holy Spirit of God given to us not only at Baptism and Confirmation – but every day of our lives in prayer, adoration and worship and praise given to God!

The first reading from the letter to the Hebrews reflects a period in early Church history when standing up for one's faith included "a great contest of suffering," public exposition to abuse and affliction; and a suffering like that those in prison!"

The subtle and cunning ways of the Evil One would have us "draw back and perish" – but God on the other hand would have us be "among those who have faith and will possess life – spiritually healthy lives here on earth, and everlasting life in heaven!

Each generation needs to hear this message in a way that makes them sit up and take notice: each generation needs both parables and direct explanations: parables for those best taught with stories and images, direct explanations for those of a more intellectual bent: but both delivering the same message. And so in the gospel passage today we have parables taken from agriculture and botany, as well as Jesus giving direct explanations to his disciples.

The message for this very day in history – here, now – in this Church, in this state, in the country would seem to be: don't throw away what you have been given (the great gift of faith and the tools needed to deal with life's difficult issues), pray for endurance to do the will of God (since he knows the larger picture and how everything is meant to work together for good) and receive what he has promised (periods of peace in this life, and everlasting peace and joy in heaven).

Our very faith-filter tells us – as we turn on our televisions, pick up our newspapers, surf the internet, converse with neighbors, relatives and friends, and sit in the silence of our own inner chapels and prayer spaces – that there is a great deal of objective "wrongness" going on in the world.

What parable can we tell, what direct explanation can we give that would encourage all involved to work for a common solution? Perhaps an image taken directly from the news in recent days can be a beginning: the Church is like a very large ferry boat which has come to the aid of a jetliner that has made an emergency landing in a river. All passengers made it safely to the wings and were ready for rescue, and they were rescued because they were willing to be rescued. Even the plane itself was rescued and will be as good as new one day, possibly even better. So too, the Church can help rescue a great many of people in the world who need rescuing, even though the Church itself is made up of saints and sinners– but one day it will all be completely renewed and be better than it ever has been – we all can board that plane and make that great and final flight to heaven to remain in glory forever!

Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Homily – January 29, 2009 – Third Week in Ordinary Time - Thursday

The author to the letter of the Hebrews in the first reading today talks of "the day that is drawing near." He is encouraging the Jewish people to see their confidence and hope in the Blood of Jesus and the action of Jesus, the great high priest, as the foundation for hope to see them through to that day when it comes.

No one, not even Jesus knows when that day will be. In fact, Jesus, himself, thought that it might come during his public ministry or shortly thereafter. Most of his preaching and teaching was geared for that quick arrival. This can be seen, especially, in the intensity of his message.

Only God the Father knows the exact moment. But whenever the moment: it shall no doubt be another example of "the fullness of time" – perhaps, this time, it will be in the fullness of the absolute global disregard for all that God holds sacred that will bring it on – the total secular and religious disregard for the dignity of human personhood in all ages and stages of its growth and development. Perhaps in all of the ages of mankind things were not just bad enough as there is potential for them to be right now.

But HOPE is the message of both readings today! Having confidence in Christ's Blood that has already defeated evil, having trust in Jesus who can mercifully deal with the situation, and being the Light and Leaven
of the World as we are meant to be by our baptism into the Light and Life of Christ – can make an enormous difference in the actual experience of the arrival of the Great Day!

If Jesus thought the arrival of the Day could be any day of his life – we ought to be thinking the same way – and we ought to be living our lives and encouraging others to live theirs in the light of this reality that is surely coming!

Lord Jesus, by the Eucharist Food you give us at this and every Mass, strengthen us to meet all the challenges of telling others about the coming of the Day of Judgment (so that they can be ready for is); and of serving these people lovingly as true brothers and sisters. Let us be Light and Leaven wherever we may be, wherever we may go. Jesus, we trust in you!


 

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Homily – January 28, 2009 – St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Thomas Aquinas, who lived in the 13th century, is considered the greatest theologian in Church history. He simply seemed to have a direct pipeline to the essence of the "mysteries" of God – and the gift of being able to translate what he perceived into clear and practical language! Indeed, he has been hailed as the "Angelic Doctor" from early on.

Thomas was born near Aquino in 1225. He was sent to Monte Casino – the headquarters of the Benedictine Monks to be educated. But he later decided to join the Order of Preachers (The Dominicans). He studied under Albert the great who predicted that "the lowing of this dumb ox (he was called that because of his physical size and seeming aimless dexterity) would be heard around the world." This prediction came to pass.

Thomas was on a mission to organize thought concerning God and the Church. It all seemed so easy and clear to him – because of the tremendous amount of inspiration he received from the Holy Spirit. He wrote twenty hefty volumes about God – including his unfinished "Summa Theologica" (Synthesis of Theology). He died, however, before finishing it.

Thomas was one who had an intense prayer life and great devotion to the Cross of Christ and to the Blessed Sacrament. These were the sources for his spiritual life and writings. The first reading from the Book of Wisdom today can certainly be applied to Thomas: "I prayed and prudence was given me; I pleaded and the spirit of Wisdom came to me…Now God grant I speak (and write) suitably and value these endowments at their worth!"

Thomas never took credit for any of his work! He knew that (from the gospel passage) there was only one Master and Teacher and that it was God! He sincerely humbled himself always; and God exalted him from the very beginning.

What strikes me about Thomas is that even though he had literally written proof of some of the greatest of all the mysteries of God and the Church – he said that his knowledge of these things "were like straw" compared to the actual experience of a personal encounter and relationship with Jesus – as Lord, as God, as Savior!

Yes, the words of Scripture and the homilies and the studies are very important: but unless they lead to and ignite a true and lasting personal relationship with Jesus as not only Lord, God and Savior – but I would add also: Brother and Friend – then they are useless.

St. Thomas Aquinas is patron saint of all universities and all students! We pray today for all institutes of learning that true and real values derived from the Divine Law: ethical and moral, may always be included in their curriculums.

Lord, teach me your statutes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Homily – January 27, 2009 – St. Angela Merici

St. Angela was born in 1470 in Lombardy. She took the habit of the order of St. Francis and called together girls whom she instructed in charitable works. Angela had a particular devotion to St. Ursula (a 4th century virgin, who with her band of companions were martyred for the faith). And so she founded a Company of St. Ursula which took no vows and wore lay clothes, but its Rule prescribed virginity, poverty and obedience. The foundation of the Congregation of the Ursulines is given as November 25, 1535 when Angela and her companions took up residence in Brescia.

Angela's Testament advises those who succeed her in the leadership of the congregation to "be of one heart and mind" because there is "only one sign that is pleasing to the Lord, that of love, and being united to one another." One of her last words of advice was to "do in life what you would have wanted to do in death." The congregation continues to flourish today in various parts of the world (including until just very recently right here in the Diocese of Portland – Ursuline Sisters taught at St. John's School, in Brunswick and they had a motherhouse in Waterville.)

The first reading today from the first Letter of St. Peter pretty well summarizes the spirit of the life of St. Angela and her band: they were serious, sober-minded but so very loving; they were hospitable, and always ready to preach and teach the words and ways of God who strengthened them in this task – so that God would get the glory for all they did for others.

The Ursulines, for 400 years have done work with children and received them in the name of Jesus – and have truly experienced that they were at the same time receiving Jesus himself (as he promised would happen). They were guardians of the truth that those who wish to be great in the kingdom – must be like little children! Children, rightly raised, know who they are, and who they are not; they know who their parents are, and who they are not; they know where their strength comes from, and where it does not!

May we imitate children this way today, and pray for all children everywhere that – especially through our Catholic School System (commemorating Catholic Schools Week this week) – and the work of teaching sisters such as the Ursulines – we all may know who we are (beloved of God), who our parents are (God the Father; Mary, our Mother; and our Mother the Church), and where our strength comes from (God our Rock, our Refuge, and our Salvation).

Young men and women, praise the name of the Lord!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Homily – January 26, 2009 – Sts Timothy and Titus

We have a double celebration today with the feasts of Sts. Timothy and Titus – both co-workers and helpers of St. Paul in the infancy years of the Church. In order for St. Paul to effectively and efficiently do his work: in establishing local Christian communities, and then administering to their spiritual needs for a while after their founding, he needed help. Spiritually devout, holy, energetic men and women were chosen for the task: two such, were Timothy and Titus.

Paul's subsequent letters to both of them became part of the canon of scripture itself. Our first reading today was from his letter to Timothy in which he 1) reiterates the very close spiritual bond of grace, mercy and peace that he has with him which is from the Lord Jesus himself; 2) acknowledges the value of religious education as a family event: outlining how he knew personally that Timothy's faith came directly from that of his mother Eunice, and grandmother Lois; 3) reminds Timothy to keep the gift of faith and the desire to serve God's people alive – come what may – by stirring it daily into flame again each morning by prayer and then hard word.

Timothy responded and worked tirelessly with and for Paul – especially by becoming the first bishop of Ephesus. Titus did the same – becoming the first bishop of Crete.

The relationship of Timothy and Titus to Paul then demonstrates for us how the early Church began to spread to the Gentiles; and also how the "apostolic line of succession" began to be formulated and passed on. While nothing of what we know of as an "ordination rite" for bishops took place until around the year 150 – the task of preaching and teaching and guarding the Truth: the deposit of faith – given by Jesus to the original 12 Apostles with Peter as Coordinator of them – was most assuredly passed on by the apostles to co-workers and presbyters (priests). It was they who "held the line" (so to speak) until the development of "ordaining local bishops for a limited geographic area: diocese" came into being. This line then did stay intact in that familiar format until the present day!

What is important here is that the Truth, and the practice of the sacramental reality of the Church has been preserved from the very beginning: the days of the Apostles being with Jesus, and the days of their missionary journeys and works after that.

The gospel passage today tells us that the work that the shepherds do may not always make them popular or be easy: but if they use as their primary weapon the "PEACE" of Christ – which is amazingly simple and disarming – which was his first gift to the Apostles on the night of Easter – after they had disowned him and ran away from him in his greatest hour of need – some pretty disarming and powerful things can happen even today.

It is up to the bishops and helper priests and the entire lay faithful to make that "peace of Christ" known and available in all venues of society: beginning with ourselves, our families, with our acquaintances: then to as many others as possible. It is possible to make a difference in the world – especially now, when it needs it most!

Proclaim God's marvelous deeds to all the nations!


 

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Homily – January 25, 2009 – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

You would think that this is the First Sunday of Lent, rather than the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, with the heavy emphasis in our readings today about "repenting, and believing in the Gospel" because "this is the time of fulfillment, the Kingdom of God is at hand!"

But it is not Lent, and we have begun the "counting" or "ordinary" Sundays that will eventually culminate in November with the Solemnity of Jesus Christ as King of the Universe.

Maybe there is another reason why the Church gives us these readings now: maybe we need to hear them now: we need to hear the message that "it is always the time to turn away from what is not of God and his Kingdom; it is always time to turn to the Good News that he has proclaimed most eloquently by sending us Jesus: our Lord, our God, our Brother and our Friend; it is always the time to be a disciple and follower of Jesus; it is always the time to be taught by Jesus (in imitation of Simon Peter who became (III) Jesus' first serious student/disciple/apostle."

Most human beings are a stubborn bunch! Once they get something in their minds, it is very difficult to get it back out again! One of the things that a lot of people get into their minds, that they can't seem to get out again, is the fact that "evil is glamorous ("this thing or activity just doesn't 'look or seem evil' at all" – actually, it "looks and seems pretty good")," "the ways of the world 'are not so bad' after all," "everyone else is saying and doing things (that even I realize are a bit) outlandish, but, hey, if they can do it, why can't I?"

The obvious Catholic Christian response is: the words and ways of the world
are not the words and ways of God!
They will not bring peace. They will not bring joy! They will not end in everlasting life in the bliss of heaven! But, he is very deceptive, the "prince of the world": he makes his ware /his evil so appealing and attractive that it is very hard to resist – because he makes everything "feel so seductively good and right!" "Feeling good is one thing," but experiencing the richness and depth of True Reality as it is meant to be experienced by the design of God who created it and which can produce immense joy - is quite something else! This is what God offers – the Real Joyful Deal! But with the Real Deal comes a decision – because free-will is involved. God wants us to freely choose him and the Deal!

Such was the case with the Ninevites many centuries ago. They were "God's people," but they were "steeped in the words and ways of the world!" They used their free-will in inappropriate ways. But he wanted to save them from themselves, from their own spiritual blindsightedness: he wanted to give them deep and lasting joy and so he sent young Jonah to them to warn them to change their evil ways. And thanks to the very courageous preaching of Jonah the Ninevites did choose to turn from their evil thoughts, words and deeds and God did spare them and repented of the punishment that he had threatened – out of divine justice – to do to them: he did not carry it out!

Jonah, then, as a very brave young person "stood in the breach" (a "go-between") for the people of Nineveh, as a sign of Jesus who would "stand in the breach" for all of mankind (including you and me) so that God would hold back his just retribution / punishment on us!

For those who, on the other hand try their best to follow the words and ways of Jesus as they are proclaimed to them
– proclaimed here in Church, in the readings and the homily – in our Catholic Schools – by listening in our prayer at home, as he speaks to us through one another – divine retribution – divine punishment does not even enter into the picture! This is the GOOD NEWS that Jesus brought, in the person of Himself: if you keep your eyes fixed on me, if you listen to what I have to say, if you believe it, if you put it into practice the best you can, if you find that it leads you to help other people then you will be filled with real joy and have nothing to fear on any day of your life, but most especially the last one!

Now, staying close to Jesus, following him and imitating him will also, at times, call on you to stand up for the Truth, just as he did, just as Jonah did before him! It may make you unpopular at times – but your work – with the help of the Holy Spirit will be as effective as Jonah's and Jesus' – you will "stand in the breach" for others – in ways small or even great: and you will be used by God to gather to him a Family of Friends that is purified and ready for an eternal wedding banquet unlike anything any one of us could ever imagine! Yes, this is our goal: Jesus, the Lamb of God – who "stood in the breach" for us – who took away our sins – will one day "marry his Bride" – the Church – "marry us" – in heaven – and we will "live happily ever after!"

But first there is work to be done here on earth!

May our belief in the GOOD NEWS and our cooperation with the Holy Spirit in living out our baptismal calling to be prophets for the Lord, young or old, be efficacious and fruitful for all eternity! God bless you!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Homily – January 24, 2009 – St. Francis de Sales

Our saint for today: Francis de Sales was born at Savoy in 1567. After being ordained a priest he labored diligently for the restoration of Catholicism in his country. Chosen bishop of Geneva, he showed himself as a true pastor toward his clerics and the faithful, strengthening their faith by his writings, works and example. He died at Lyons on December 28, 1622, and was buried at Annecy on this day.

Francis de Sales encouraged all of the faithful – of whatever state or vocation in life that they found themselves in to strive for perfection! In his "Introduction to the Devout Life" he writes: "When God the Creator made all things, he commanded the plants to bring forth fruit each according to its own kind; he has likewise commanded Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruit of devotion: [perfection], each one in accord with his character, his station and his calling."

The first reading today tells us that the ways of perfection were to be preached to the Gentiles: Francis was but carrying out this command of the Lord. And in the gospel passage we see Jesus telling us all of the essence of the message to be preached: the perfection to be sought after: i.e. love, as God loves, as was demonstrated by Jesus' offering of life his for us – and our salvation!

Jesus says that the proof of love is to lay down one's life for one's friends. But even when we were still enemies of God, he laid down his life for us – just precisely so that we could become friends of God again! And so we are friends again of God – by our baptism! And so we each are commissioned, again by our baptism, to share that friendship – Christ's redemptive friendship – with all we meet each day!

This is the only sure remedy for turning the tides of ungodliness that still is found in the world today! Remaining in the love (friendship) of God – has enormous power in and through those committed to it!

May we resolve to be committed instruments of God's love and friendship today: as was St. Francis de Sales.

The mouth of the just murmurs wisdom: and all can discern its truth with the help of the Holy Spirit!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Homily – January 23,, 2009 – Second Week in Ordinary Time - Friday

Jesus has just selected – according to St. Mark's accounting of it – his twelve Apostles whom he would send forth to preach and to have authority over demons. We recognize and celebrate the fact that the bishops of our day are in an apostolic line of succession with the Twelve and it is their duty still to preach and to drive out demons. It is their task to upbuild the flock of Christ entrusted to their care; and to defend it from all attack from the wolves that are ever prowling around seeking to destroy it! And to protect it from those who still are under the influence of the evil one – in varying degrees - some, whether they know it or not!

From the Letter to the Hebrews today we see the "what," the "content," of the preaching that is to be done: a new covenant, with a law written upon hearts, which would involve the forgiveness of evil doing, and the forgetting of sin on the part of God: this would all be brought about fully by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus: Son of God and Son of Man. This seems to have been done throughout the centuries. But what seems to have been relegated to the back shelf these days is the fact that "evil can be driven out" – just as matter-of-factly, and efficiently as it was done by Jesus, the Apostles and early bishops of the Church. It is still a priority of bishops today especially and their helper priests to preach and to "drive out demons" as they may be found. But do they carry out this part of them mandate given them?

The power and influence of the prince of this world is still quite strong: and every false and ill-thought-out decision that is made and promulgated only adds to the perversion and chaos of the world: especially in the area of morality! We are living in very dangerous moral times. The very dignity of human life in all its ages and stages, and the sanctity of family life are being challenged like never before: and the bishops and priests of the world, and especially our country can do something about it (if they choose to): they can first of all pray and lead prayer powerfully that the evil intent in the minds and hearts of those proposing the clearly wrong decisions may be purified; and that it be replaced with what is good and right and pure and holy and truly helpful to all human persons in all the ages and stages of their life! And they can encourage their parishioners to make their voices heard in the public governmental arena: for, as Catholics, our words are the words of life, they are the words of truth, they are the words of Christ himself: and they do have power – BUT THEY MUST BE SPOKEN!

Yesterday we remembered the anniversary of the legalization of abortion; in the coming weeks and months we will hear about the deliberate undoing of any progress that has been made since the law was passed 36 years ago by means of the proposed presidential signing of the Freedom of Choice Act. Both are evils that can and must be blocked. By preaching, prayer for the driving out of demons by the working of the Holy Spirit, and responsible citizenship in making our voices heard regarding laws that are simply "not right, not just, not helpful to anyone at all" – we will all carry out Jesus command to: love one another, as he loved us, as true and loyal friends who would even give their lives for one another!

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation, renewal and reconstruction!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Homily – January 22, 2009 – Second Week in Ordinary Time - Thursday

Our gospel today tells of the power that Jesus had over all kinds of diseases of the body and the mind. Those with unclean spirits, that is, spirits of the evil one in varying degrees – many kinds of mental illnesses – cried out: You are the Son of God! for they knew him – and not even they could refrain from proclaiming the Truth of who he was!

In our world today there are a great many with diseases of the body, and a great many with diseases of the mind because the evil one still has powerful influence over the children of Adam, even the ones redeemed in Christ because his final defeat has not yet occurred.

But even those still possessed by the powers of the world can still recognize Truth (Jesus) when they see it (him) – and they can allow themselves to be healed of their maladies.

All it takes now, as it took back in the time of Jesus – is FAITH! Faith in Jesus as Lord of Heaven and Earth; healer of Mind and Body and Spirit.

We are faced in our country with an enormous amount of evil – and it looks as if it will only increase exponentially before it gets better once and for all. What is so tragic is that so many people will turn to the wrong source for consolation, help and assistance: they will turn to the prince of the world, rather than the Prince of Peace: the Son of God who has all power and who can do all things for our welfare!

We pray that we make the right choice – and choose Jesus; and we pray that others – all others – but especially our fellow citizens of this country make the right choices – even should those in authority over us make the wrong choice! Today we remember the enactment of Roe v Wade which paved the way for millions of wrong decisions resulting the deaths of millions of helpless, innocent babies – fellow-citizens of our great country! The signing of FOCA by our newly installed President will deliberately and maliciously reverse any progress that has been made these past 35 years in trying to reverse the horrible results of Roe v Wade: all in the name of "freedom." This, of course, is not freedom at all. Freedom exists only insofar as God's will is involved; God would never will the massacre of unborn babies – and he is relying on us to do something about it! We must pray for the President, for Congress, for Pro-Abortion Activists and participants: that the very Holy Spirit of God will move their hearts deeply to RECEIVE REDEMPTION AND FREEDOM AS IT HAS BEEN WON FOR THEM ON THE CROSS: BY CHRIST JESUS: KING AND RULER OF THE UNIVERSE!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Homily – January 21, 2009 – St. Agnes

Today we have an amazing celebration of the double-martyrdom of St. Agnes. She died for her virginity (her purity), and she died for her faith in Jesus – at the age of twelve!

We know that martyrdom was held in great esteem by the early Church beginning with the martyrdom of St. Stephen! Dying for Christ, as he died for us was immediately rewarded by him in heaven by a great crown of victory! Many people wanted to be martyrs – to share in the Lord's suffering, death and resurrection with immediate results! When the persecutions ended, though, and people did not have the opportunity to die for Christ as a martyr, they went to the newly formed monasteries instead and lived a life of virginity: giving one's life entirely to Christ as a consecrated person was so pleasing to God and favored by the Church that it EQUALLED MARTYRDOM!

Agnes who lived at the turn of the 4th century in Rome became a consecrated virgin at a very young age and offered her life – when that virginity and faith were challenged - for the same values and faith that you and I have been baptized into, and profess that we believe in each Sunday!

Pope Damasus adorned her tomb with sacred poetry, and many Fathers of the Church hailed her double victory including (our own namesake): St. Ambrose. From the Office of Readings for today we read what he wrote:

Today is the birthday of a virgin; let us imitate her purity. It is the birthday of a martyr: let us offer ourselves in sacrifice. It is the birthday of Saint Agnes, who is said to have suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve. The cruelty that did not spare her youth shows all the more clearly the power of faith in finding one so young to bear it witness.

What menaces there were from the executioner, to frighten her; what promises made, to win her over; what influential people desired her in marriage! She answered: "To hope that any other will please me does wrong to my Spouse (Christ Jesus). I will be his who first chose me for himself. Executioner, why do you delay? If eyes that I do not want can desire this body, then let it perish."

You could see fear in the eyes of the executioners, as if he were the one condemned; his right hand trembled, his face grew pale as he saw the girl's peril, while she had no fear for herself. One victim, but a twin martyrdom, to modesty, and to religion; Agnes preserved her virginity, and gained a martyr's crown!"

Let us keep the feast of St. Agnes by recalling all that she suffered. While still so young, she overcame death and found true life! And may we respond to our calling to live
pure, chaste, holy and productive: true lives, giving glory to God the Father always, especially when things get challenging in small and large ways!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Homily – January 20, 2009 – Second Week in Ordinary Time - Tuesday

We have very timely readings today – on this Inauguration Day in our country! The theme of the readings is HOPE! The theme of "life in Christ" is always HOPE! The theme of any incoming new president of our country is most often: HOPE – hope for a better tomorrow, hope for changes that are necessary, hope for adjustments that are ethical, moral and truly helpful for all constituents: the HOPE that this new president is already bringing, even before the installation, seems to a great degree to be real, authentic and genuine.

The HOPE of the Old Testament, referred to in the first reading today was that God is always faithful to his promises. God – made an oath (is this not
"the highlighted word" of this day?) – swearing by himself because he is God – to be faithful to all of the descendants of Abraham who had faith in him – and in the story that would unfold in front of them.

In the gospel passage today, Jesus makes it clear that – in being the one to fulfill everything that came before him – including all of the written prescriptions and customs of ritual significance – NEW HOPE was to be centered in HIM (as a person). He, as Son of Man (who is also Son of God) is "lord even of the Sabbath," indeed, he is lord over every aspect of life: everyone is subject to him and his kingship over them – even new presidents and rulers of countries. All authority comes from God; and all in authority will have to give an accounting directly to God for the use of the temporary power over others that have been loaned to them.

On this Inauguration Day then, we pray that Mr. Obama will be open to receiving all of the graces that are rightfully his as duly appointed leader over us. And may he always keep in mind that he represents each and every one of us, in every decision that he makes: from the unborn, to the poor, to the educated, to the workers, to the imprisoned, to the terminally ill and dying. May he listen to what all of us have to say before doing anything contrary to what a great many of us might hold dear in our hearts!

May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of his heart that he may know what is the One True HOPE that belongs to his call and ours: and what is involved in bringing that HOPE to all others – without fail!


 

Eternal, Unchangeable God,

Father of us all, our Origin, our Guide and Our Goal.

Out of nothing you created the Universe and all that is in it.

You have ordered all things according to your great Wisdom and Plan.

You are Lord, and Master of us all!

Since creation is an objective visible manifestation of your love: objective reality exists. Right, Truth, Goodness, Beauty, Justice can and have existed totally apart from and independent of any of us.

But You have given us human beings intelligence and free-will, loving Creator, so that we might cooperate with You rationally and freely and choose that which is Reasonable; Right and True and Good and Beautiful and Just for own welfare and the welfare of others you have given us to be responsible for, to help along the pilgrim way back to You – any other use, is misuse.

And so, God, Father all powerful, we ask you with your Son, Jesus – who died a brutal death on the Cross to Redeem us – and forgive all our sins – to send the Holy Spirit upon President Obama from the first moment of his administration – so that your very Wisdom and Understanding and Courage will deeply move him to always seek only what is truly best for all the citizens of this country to do what is objectively Right, True, Good, Beautiful and Just for himself, his family and for all of us – his new "family of constituents" who are bound to observe the just laws that he legislates.

Amen.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Homily – January 19, 2009 – Second Week of Ordinary Time - Monday

Today we have a very beautiful first reading. Jesus is appointed high priest by his Father – so that he might make intercession for us – this, of course, after experiencing exactly what it is like to be one of us (except for sin): when we pray for anything, he knows what we are talking about!

The disobedience of Adam cost him God's friendship! God's-Friendship-Become-Man: Jesus – by an act of great obedience, learned through great suffering - developed the perfection of his own human life, as well as became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him!

This is now, then, the ordinary chain of command: Jesus: always obedient to the will of the Father – come what may – even an ignominious death on a Cross; us: obedient to Jesus in all things, especially in carrying our own cross and thus being eligible to share in the everlasting life now prepared for us!

And we know that we don't have to do this (carry our cross) "on our own!" So long as we are open-minded and willing to be taught – Jesus can show us how to do it with as little discomfort and pain as possible: but he most likely won't take it all away! We must earn our place in heaven: like he earned his!

Therefore, shrunken cloth is used to patch an old cloak, and new wine is poured into new wineskins – so that everything will come out as it should! Meaning for us: new things that Jesus sends to us everyday about our faith ought to be welcomed with open arms and minds and hearts – because each morning we are a brand new person!

Today our country celebrates the faith and vision of one of its most heroic and beloved figures: Martin Luther King, Jr. He welcomed the challenge of each new day – he was born again each morning – and he saw that things could be different – and now they are different: different in a very big way: as we will see tomorrow when the first African-American man is inaugurated President of the United States.

We thank Martin Luther King, Jr. for his example and steadfastness and pray that all goes well on Inauguration Day in Washington, D.C.

The bridegroom is with us; the Lord is here – it is not the time for fasting, but rather the time for rejoicing!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Homily – January 18, 2009 – 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

On the one hand there is "the way and the words of the world!" They have their own agenda, perspective and point of view!
They have their own meter, rhyme, rhythm and alluring tone! The way and words of the world are truly the way and words of the Evil One himself: how could they be otherwise. The agenda, perspective and point of view that they tout are completely selfish, self-centered, self-seeking and self-contained. The meter, rhyme, rhythm and alluring tone of their word is that of intellectual double-talk and emotional mesmerizing. The "lie" is the basis of their promotion; "deception" is idolized as a desirable trait!

On the other hand there is "the Way and Words of Jesus!" He too has his own agenda, perspective and point of view; he too has his own meter, rhyme, rhythm and persuasive tone! But the Way and Words are of Grace and Truth! The difference is unmistakable! The agenda, perspective and point of view is completely other-centered; self-less; self-giving; self-sacrificing; open to others, all others who are in need of release from spiritual and intellectual blindness, and emotional paralysis! TRUTH is the basis of his promotion; TRUTH-LIVING is touted as a most desirable trait – putting words and ideas of goodness, rightness, justice and peace into practice – everyday!

The world in which we live, I am sure you notice, contains people who are committed to both camps! The "world camp"; and the "Jesus camp" – or as it is more commonly known as: "the Church."

We who are baptized into Jesus (his Church) are now dead to the world and to ourselves and alive in Jesus; we are truly the Body of Christ, the People of God, the Temple of the Holy Spirit. WE ARE NOT OF THE WORLD! Sometimes though the allurement of the world is so strong that it tries to persuade us to take up its faulty vision and practices again – and sometimes we do – this is called sinning! But, if we are true to our consciences, we know something is not right, and we have the desire to become fully engaged members of the Church again by reconciliation!

The second reading today puts it very bluntly: Avoid immorality! Those who are fully members of the Body of Christ are moral persons! Those who are in the world may be moral to the extent that they live according to the dictates of a rightly formed conscience - the same as those in the Body of Christ!

My dear friends, we are living in a very dangerous moral climate in the world today, including our own country. Immorality needs to be avoided at all costs at the national and international level - as well as personally! If we are with Christ the Light of the World, if we are Leaven that is meant to influence all aspects of daily life including the policy making arena of civil government – then we need to do what we have been called to do, as Jesus himself did!

As a prophecy of the coming of Jesus, Samuel (I) was called by God to say and do many things for him, most of which did not make him popular at all (like Jesus)! But as the reading tells us "the Lord was with him" and his words (and ways) were always effective for God. Because we are baptized, confirmed and are communicants of Jesus "the Lord is with us too" and his words and ways can be effective for God as well. We can be Light and Leaven for God – our voices and our actions can proclaim his Truth and Grace and Peace in the world.

Tuesday history will be made when an African-American will be inaugurated as President of the United States. May it be our prayer that God will give the new president all that he needs to carry out his office with courage, dignity and wisdom: the very Holy Wisdom of God itself, so that he can make decisions that are intrinsically Good, Right, Truthful, Moral and Just for all the citizens of our country – in all ages and stages, from the unborn to terminally ill and dying.

And may Americans of every religious persuasion (but most especially us as Catholics) make our voices heard when it comes to blocking legislation that would comprise the dignity and life of any human being, whatsoever, in any way at all; and may we be instrumental in proposing ethically and morally sound solutions to some of the most vexing problems that have ever faced our country or any other country in modern times.

Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus because they knew that he was the long awaited Messiah! They stayed with him and their lives were never the same. Our lives in Jesus are meant never to be the same as well: but we must "stay with him through thick and thin", and then with the power of the Holy Spirit (Jesus' Gift to us) working in us we can say and do what we never thought we could: things that are truly right and good and beautiful and just!

May we live this day that way! And every day, so that we can make a big difference in the world which needs the Light and Leaven of Christ's Way and Words so desperately! Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Homily – January 17, 2009 – St. Anthony of Egypt

Today we have the feast of St. Anthony of Egypt (St. Anthony of the Desert) b 250. The readings for Mass are especially geared towards this celebration. Anthony knew exactly the two great powers that inhabit the earth: the power of Good, the power of God; and the power of Evil, the power of the Devil himself. And Anthony knew that the absolute best armor against the wiles and the powers of the Evil One was "prayer in the spirit": not just "prayers", but allowing the Holy Spirit of God himself – by being quiet enough and still enough – the room in us to pray to God the Father even more directly and successfully for our safety and for our true needs than we could ever do on our own!

Anthony also took to heart the injunction of Jesus – regarding being as open as possible to the action of God in our lives – to be as literally poor as one could be, so that God could provide all that is truly needed in one's life, and in the lives of others. So combining this desire to "pray in the Spirit" for the welfare of himself and humanity as a whole, and the action of "becoming truly poor": distributing his own personal wealth and living entirely for God: Anthony went out into the desert and lived a monastic life: he is in fact the Father of Monks, the Father of Monasticism as we know it.

Others came to join him, and he built the first monastery – a collection of single living quarters or cells surrounding a chapel. In addition to doing this he gave support to believing Christians during the persecution of Diocletian and he assisted St. Athanasius against the Arians. He died in 356.

You are our inheritance, O Lord. You will show us the path to life, fullness of joys in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Homily – January 16, 2009 – First Week in Ordinary Time - Friday

The readings today are interesting: they are about working and resting: working for God, and then resting from that work in God. This is the pattern that God the Father / Creator himself established "in the beginning." It took him five days to create the universe as we know it, all as an amazing backdrop and spectacular environment to house his greatest of all creation: humankind that he created on the sixth day! Male and female he created them; in his image and likeness he created them! THEN ON THE SEVENTH DAY HE RESTED! Rest, then, is the rewarding part of the cycle of one week's worth of activity. It was so for God; it is meant to be so for us!

When we – his highest form of creation – (and even moreso, now, especially because the Only Begotten Son of God became also one of us human creations) engage ourselves in the activities of our weekly cycles, we must remember to "enter into the rest of the Lord," often, but especially on the Lord's Day! Sunday! Without this day of resting, regrouping, recharging of our spiritual batteries, resharpening of our spiritual focus and acuity it is very easy to become dull, unfocused, weary, burdened and burned out! American society has done itself a great disservice by virtually making Sunday like any other day of the week!

Those who listen to God and his invitation to rest will find themselves always renewed; those who don't condemn themselves to a life of unnecessary struggles and trials.

In the gospel passage today we see Jesus "at work" preaching, teaching and healing. As we recall these early days in his public ministry we see him now going one step further than he did before: he first proclaimed the presence of God's Kingdom on earth in a fuller way (in himself); then he accompanied it by signs of miraculous healings of people with various conditions and diseases; today he takes this one step beyond by announcing his ability to forgive sin (in association with his ability to heal – for forgiveness of sin is a true healing of sorts: the best and most significant kind of healing!) And so he tells the paralytic in the Gospel passage to stand up, pick up his mat and go home! And the paralytic did it! And all were astounded when they saw this and glorified God: for they knew that no one other than God could have done this: no one else other than God can indeed forgive sin: Jesus must truly be someone very special who could even forgive sin on behalf of God!

The full story of this would unfold for them in the next three years!

Today let it suffice for us to believe in the power of Jesus to do his work of preaching, teaching, healing and forgiving sin. And let us notice that after events like this Jesus usually goes away by himself to rest and to pray and glorify and thank his Father. After we do what God asks us to do each day – helping Jesus proclaim his message, assisting others any way we can and offering healing as we are directed by him – we too ought to go by ourselves to rest and to pray and to glorify and thank His Father, and ours!

Do not forget the works of the Lord!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Homily - January 15, 2009 – First Week in Ordinary Time - Thursday

Today's readings have to do with "openness" to God's saving action! Jesus came into the world to be the agent of our salvation; yet he cannot force this salvation on any one of us! It must be freely sought after and accepted after it is announced to us and presented for our consideration!

The gospel passage today speaks of "leprosy." There are many who suffer from different kinds of "leprosy," that is, many different kinds of diseases, both of the body and of the mind, and to varying degrees and intensity – which distracts everyone involved with it from doing what they have been called by God to do. We each and all are carrying around something that is holding us back from being fully engaged in the life of discipleship that we desire. We are each diseased in some way! The key to healing is openness to the Lord and Savior who can modify or remove the difficulties at his will – if we but simply ask with faith, and await his reply! When we leave the outcome up to him, the outcome and the timing for it are always best.

And so it with "unhardened hearts" that we hear the voice of the Lord today, and we encourage ourselves with the knowledge that we have become partners with Christ and have as our duty to hold on to what we have received firmly until the end!

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts – and you will be healed for the asking, and you will be productive in the vineyard of the Lord!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Homily – January 14, 2009 – First Week in Ordinary Time - Wednesday

Our readings today are about compassion! In order to redeem us Jesus had to become one of us – one of us weak, variously diseased and discomforted human beings. In taking upon himself our entire humanity, he therefore was able – by his life-transforming, sin-forgiving death on the Cross – to be the savior that our humanity so very much needed – and could not obtain on its own initiative. Jesus really was human just like you and me (except for sin)!

And so the first reading tells us that because Jesus became like his brothers and sisters in every way, he could be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people – he could help those who were being tested in the same way that he was tested while he lived in the flesh!

And help he did! The gospel passage tells us that Jesus had the power of healing – as a sign (credential) of the validity of his Gospel message. He compassionately spoke with and cured those afflicted with various conditions – beginning with the mother-in-law of Simon Peter, himself.

But Jesus never cured and stayed – he always cured and kept moving, moving on to other villages and towns – because he did not come just to be a miracle worker – he came to be redeemer and savior – he came to climb the hill of Calvary with a Cross upon his back – for your sins and mine, for your illness and mine – for your salvation and mine!

Today, then, we thank Jesus for being faithful to the covenant that God his Father made with Abraham and his descendants in faith (us)– to be their kind, loving, caring and merciful friend, liberator, healer and shepherd.

My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord. I know them, and they follow me – and they will follow me through this life, into everlasting life!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Homily – January 13, 2009 – St. Hilary

Our saint for today, Hilary of Poitiers was born at the beginning of the fourth century. Around the year 350, while still a married man he was chosen bishop of his own home city (they did things a little differently at this time of development in church doctrine and practice)! Because of his vigorous fight against the Arian heretics, Hilary was exiled by the Emperor Constantine. [The Arians claimed that Jesus was the greatest of all of God's creations but he was not equal to God. God made Jesus, like he made any of us! This we know is not true. Hilary convened a Synod of Bishops at Paris in 361 at which the Nicene Creed (that we use on Sundays) (constructed at the Council of Nicea held a few years earlier) was ratified. This stated that Jesus was God from God, Light from Light, true God from True God, begotten, not made, one in being with the Father! JESUS WAS INDEED EQUAL TO GOD THE FATHER AND GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT IN ALL REGARDS!

To strengthen the Catholic faith and interpret sacred Scripture, Hilary wrote works of wisdom and learning. They were said to be strict in tone. But it is true: "desperate times, call for desperate measures!" He died in 367 and was named Doctor of the Church in 1851 by Pope Pius IX.

The gospel passage today speaks of the necessity of building on a good foundation. The foundation of the Law of Moses and the content of the prophets' message was to be en-fleshed in Jesus, not destroyed. What the law and the prophets before him had to say would only be fulfilled, simplified and restated in a direct and unmistakable way by Jesus: much like the task of a Council of the Church.

And what these added up to was very simple and clear: Jesus came to us to be something very special and useful: salt and light! Jesus came to salt the earth with a new flavor which was to spice up the mundaneness and ordinariness of life: living for others always makes each new day, different and challenging and rewarding! Jesus came to be light of the world: no longer would anyone have to walk around in the darkness of spiritual ignorance and confusion.

Jesus invites us to be salt and light for the world, as well! And it by our baptism that we receive the salt and the light that we are to pass on to others – each according to our own particular vocations and states in life.

This is Vocation Awareness Week in the Church. God calls each of us to be salt and light in a very particular way: he will tell us directly what that is, if we but ask, and then listen for a reply in any way he chooses to give it to us! Whether we are already in our state in life or vocation, or about to change it for any legitimate purpose – or whether we have the power to influence other young people to prayerfully and trustingly consider what God has in mind for them to do – we owe it to God to be salt and light – to be instruments of his grace and encouraging word to others!

Receive the word of God, not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Homily – January 12, 2009 – First Week in Ordinary Time - Monday

Already on this First Weekday in Ordinary Time – the day after celebrating the Baptism of Jesus, and the beginning of his public life, after he was filled with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit – we see Jesus "at work" already "proclaiming the arrival of the Kingdom (himself) and telling people to repent and to believe this marvelous fact!"

He immediately, as well, began to gather his band of helpers – among which would be chosen the twelve apostles – who would be his best friends on earth and the ones to carry on his missionary activity after his death and resurrection! Today we see him choosing Simon and Andrew (Simon would become Peter); James and John: they were fishermen – and Jesus told them that he would take their talent for fishing and make them "fishers of men."

The first reading today from the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that the one who was doing these things: the one who was proclaiming himself as the Kingdom of God in the Flesh, and the one gathering a core group of friends-for-the-task was the One sent from God: the fulfillment of the prophets: the actual Word of God in the Flesh! We have celebrated this in the Christmas Season – now we will witness in this Ordinary Time how this Word communicated itself to any who would listen to it!

May we this day be among the ones who hear it, who take it in, who ponder it, who allow it to motivate us to make right, good, truthful and loving decisions on behalf of others – and ourselves!

The Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Homily – January 11, 2009 – The Baptism of the Lord

Today, in the readings for this feast of the Baptism of Jesus, for those who were paying attention, we have two very interesting contrasting ideas: in the "alleluia verse" it says: "The heavens were opened and the voice of the Father thundered: This is my beloved Son, listen to him!" In the reading of the gospel itself, from the same gospel writer (St. Mark) it simply says: "A voice came from the heavens, you are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."

Why the discrepancy in tone? The first account of the Father's voice actually took place on the Mountain of the Transfiguration a week before Jesus died on the Cross; the second was part of the baptismal ceremony that Jesus went through with John in the Jordan – the remembrance of which we are celebrating today!

In both cases it is clear that God the Father is speaking about his Son; and in both cases it is clear that the Father wants us to LISTEN TO HIM!: at first, at this the beginning of his public life as an overall gentle encouragement; at the end of Jesus life so that we don't miss the whole point of his life when his final actions would speak louder than all the words he had ever spoken!

Yes, today we reflect on the beginning of Jesus' "public life." Jesus was aware of his "vocation" to be Messiah his whole life long: and now the time had come for him to "get to work" on our behalf. All he needed was three years of concentrated, intense work to do what he came on earth to do: to be our ransom to God the Father (because we needed to be ransomed), to be our salvation (because we needed to be saved), to be our door to heaven (because there is no other door or entry apart from him)!

Today is also fittingly, then, Vocation Awareness Sunday in the Church: where we pause to reflect upon our "calling in life:" that work that God has in mind for each of us to do, because only we can do it best – in the particular time and place, and with the particular people that he has in mind. There are many vocations in life: among which are the vocation to married and family life! This is a magnificent vocation where husband, wife and children are called on to reflect God's own life and love within Himself, and his love for all people, everywhere! It is a very sublime and honored vocation, and its dignity and integrity needs to be promoted and defended at all costs.

There is also the vocation to religious family life. Life as a priest or a nun, a brother or a sister: either within a religious community or in a diocesan setting! This too is a sublime and honored vocation! Religious vocation now also includes the vocation to lay ministry (such as Pastoral Associate). The Church has been gifted in so many ways, and we are at the point where we need to rely on all the possibilities that the Holy Spirit provides for the present and future life of the Church.

There is also the vocation to the single state – which precedes both marriage and religious life – and can honorably exist in its own right. Sometimes the single state leads to marriage, at other times it might lead to priesthood or religious life. Sometimes it is a calling unto itself. In all three cases being a chaste, holy and generously giving person is part of the lifestyle!

God the Father sent Jesus into the world to bring a victory of justice, to be a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the spiritually blind, to bring out self-condemned prisoners to freedom, to bring out of darkness those who ignorantly choose to live with the lights out – if they would want it! And Jesus sends families and religious and single people into the world to help him!

God already knows what he wants you to do with your life, whether you are already fully involved in it, or not yet engaged in it fully, or you do not yet know what it might be at all. All you need to do is to ask him to let you know what it is that he wants you to do more fully, or from the beginning! In the silence, if you ask, he will tell you - if you LISTEN – with the ears of your heart!

He usually answers when you least expect, in ways you least expect. It could be a word from a stranger, a conversation with a friend, a song you hear on the radio; it could be a sign on the road, an intuition gotten while praying; it could be actually talking to a married person, a priest, a deacon, a lay minister, another single person about what its like to be them! If you feel the inkling: INVESTIGATE! QUESTION! DO NOT BE AFRAID!

So whether you need to hear it softly and sweetly, or like the sound of roaring thunder: God the Father is telling you today: this is my beloved Son:
LISTEN TO HIM!
and you will hear what you need to hear about living the exact calling (vocation) that has your name on it!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Homily – January 10, 2009 – Saturday after Epiphany

The gospel passage today tells us that it is Jesus that must increase, while those who announce him must keep to their place – as announcers only! But what happens is that Jesus himself greatly honors those who selflessly and humbly proclaim his gospel, his good news, the life that is available in, with and through him! Jesus had great regard for John the Baptist; he has great regard for us if we remember our right relationship with him and his Father.

Sinning is what happens when we don't remember that right relationship. Sin cannot really "hurt" God in a sense that he can be "hurt!" But it can hurt us and our right relationship with God – that we must obtain and maintain in our lives if we are to enjoy the eternal life prepared for those who believe and live rightly while on their earthly pilgrimage.

The first reading today tells us that our prayers will be heard if they are in accord with God's will. God's will always has to do with what is truly right and best for others: especially to steer them away from what would be harmful to them. Yet even then, the answer might not be quick; it will be in God's way and God's time: but it will be heard and answered.

There is a real Evil One who still has residual power in this world. What is so very sad is that the mesmerizing power of his evil influence still confounds a greater majority of people on the face of the earth. Real, sincere, honest, forthright, powerful prayer on behalf of those who are still in the intellectual and spiritual darkness (sin) that could cost them their eternal lives is needed more now than ever before.

May this be our thought today derived from this last weekday of the Christmas Season: "The people who sit in darkness can (if they want to) see a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light can arise – and all can be well!"

Friday, January 9, 2009

Homily – January 9, 2009 – Friday after Epiphany

The first reading today was obviously written many years after the Ascension of Jesus into heaven! There is already in St. John a development of thought about Jesus, a beginning of "theologizing" about the effects of his life among us!

The point of this reading as John tells us is to relate to us that there is eternal life for those who believe in Jesus; and that there are three witnesses to this reality: the Spirit, the water and the Blood. The Spirit is God's own affirming and confirming contribution to the validity of the claim: the Person of the Spirit does speak, the Spirit does affirm, the Spirit does confirm by enlightening the mind and heart of those who would have it! The water is that which flowed from the side of Christ as he hung upon the cross: it is the proof of the extremity of God's love for us: it is the sacramental life of the Church flowing from the grace of reconciliation. The Blood is the reconciliation; it is that which was poured out for the forgiveness of our sins and so that eternal life might indeed be possible for believers!

This then is great news! Eternal life is not only possible, but it is a reality for those who simply believe not in it, but in Jesus, the person who is it, who is the life and who made this newness of life available to those who believe in him!

The gospel passage today is about the healing power that is also involved in the reconciling ministry of Jesus. Jesus came to heal our spirits, but also our bodies. While freely curing the man of leprosy, he wanted this aspect of his ministry to be kept at a minimum – for he did not come to be a miracle worker – a worker of wonders – he came to be redeemer and savior! But at first people will come out to him and seek him out because they think there is something spectacular to see. Little did most know – that just to behold him was the most spectacular thing of all!

May we behold him this day! May we believe in him this day! May we keep our eyes of faith fixed on the eternal life that he does in fact promise us who believe in him – and may we help as many others as possible come to believe as we do!

Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom and cured every disease among the people.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Homily – Weekday – after the Epiphany to the Baptism

We have a very simple formula presented to us today in our first reading from the letter of St. John: loving the God we cannot see means loving the neighbor we can see. And not only does it mean this, it also requires it! The activity of loving produces the presence of God. It generates proof of existence of God. It gives that "feeling" of connectedness to God that so many people seem to seek after!

And so John rightly says: Since God first loved us, and our lives are meant to be a response to the love: he who says he "loves God" but "hates his brother" is a liar!

In the gospel passage today we see Jesus identifying himself with the Servant Messiah, the one prophesied by Isaiah to be anointed by the Spirit to reverse the curse of the original sin: so that the spiritually poor would be spiritually rich, the spiritually blind could now see spiritual realties and truths, the ones oppressed by their own constrictions and perspectives could be free to engage in loving and service activities with and for their true brothers and sisters – their neighbors – the people God has placed in this world with us so that we could prove our love for him and exercise it for our own good and theirs!

As Jesus was sent by the Father to be an instrument of love, so Jesus has sent us to do the same: the Lord sends us to bring glad tidings to the poor and to proclaim liberty to captives. May do our job this day – cheerfully and joyfully!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Homily – January 7, 2009 – St. Raymond Penyafort

Raymond of Penyafort was born near Barcelona, Spain around 1175. He became a canon of the diocese of Barcelona and then a member of the Dominican Order. At the request of Pope Gregory IX, he produced a collection of canon law. Being elected general of his order, he directed it wisely. His work Summa casuum which treats of the correct and fruitful administration of the sacrament of penance is the most notable of his works. He died in 1275 at the age of 100.

The first reading today from the letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians tells of the ministry of reconciliation that belonged to Jesus: that is why he came: to obtain forgiveness of sins for us and to make eternal life possible. The apostles and their helpers were to share in that ministry of reconciliation, both by re-presenting its source (at the celebration of Mass where the reconciling act of Jesus death on the Cross is once again made really present); and by the direct application of reconciliation by use of the sacrament of penance: the sacrament of reconciliation. Without the reconciliation man is doomed; with the reconciliation man is restored to friendship with God and an heir to heaven along with Jesus himself!

St. Raymond understood the depth of the meaning of the sacrament of reconciliation; and his was a ministry of gentleness and encouragement to sinners, all sinners. After preaching and administering the grace of the sacrament, St. Raymond, no doubt, warned his penitents to be watchful and alert so as not to fall into sin again – for the hour of Christ's second coming is not known. It will come at a time we least expect; it may come at a time of the greatest temptation to sin! Let us not be caught on the wrong side of reconciliation at that all decisive moment!

The kindness of the Lord is from eternity to eternity toward those who fear him!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Homily – January 6, 2009 – Blessed Andre Bessette

Our saint for today, Blessed Andre Bessette is one of the most beloved in Church history – once you get to know him! He was born in a little town in Canada near Montreal in 1845 – and before his death in 1937 he lived an extraordinarily ordinary life! He simply wanted to join the Congregation of Holy Cross and be a teaching brother. However, his health would not allow him to do what he intended to do; but God had other plans for Alfred Bessette. He would take vows as a Holy Cross Brother – but armed only with his love for God and extraordinary devotion to St. Joseph he would be assigned the job of porter (doorman) at Notre Dame College for boys in Montreal. He would live in a tiny cell near the door. He would greet visitors and guests – and would also take care of other small chores at the college – such as giving haircuts to the boys! But he would also do o so much more!

Having such great devotion to St. Joseph, Brother Andre wanted to make the saint more known and loved, and so he asked the Archbishop of Montreal if a small chapel could be built on the hill across the street from the college to honor St. Joseph. The Archbishop agreed "so long as I would not have to pay for it, and it never went in to debt." Collecting nickels and dimes Andre financed the building of the first wooden chapel.

When devotion to St. Joseph did increase, and people came by the hundred to the small shrine – and miracles began to be reported – Andre approached the Archbishop again to ask if the chapel could be enlarged. And again the Archbishop agreed so long as it was fully funded by private contributions. Soon plans were made and the edifice of what we now know of as St. Joseph Oratory began to arise on that hillside.

All the while Brother Andre, while being the chief fund-raiser for the shrine – also continued his job as porter, barber – and now counselor, friend, and healer for those who would come knocking on his door at the college. But he made it very clear that any healing that was done – was done entirely through the intercession of his beloved friend, St. Joseph.

Finally after living 91 years – most of them with severe, chronic stomach pain – Brother Andre died just a few years before the completion of his beloved shrine to St. Joseph. He did live, though, to see the large statue of St. Joseph mounted on top of the copper dome.

The life of Brother Andre is a prime example of the communion of saints to which we all belong. The saints in heaven and on earth unite to do God's will – and even in the face of insurmountable odds accomplish great things: because it is God who is accomplishing them through human weakness.

May we this day, as friends of the saints in heaven, and one another on earth pledge ourselves to doing God's will as he would have it done, with the strength he provides, shining through our weakness – until our last breath!

The multiplication of God's blessings – like the multiplication of the loaves and fishes in the gospel passage today – will then be a reality in our lives; and by our love, the poor will hear glad tidings and liberty will be available for captives – and miracles of many sorts will be possible for those who believe!

Lord, every nation on earth shall adore you – and it is up to me to tell them about you and your great gifts – given through the intercession of the saints!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Homily – January 5, 2009 – St. John Neumann

St. John Neumann, whose feast we celebrate today was a true and dedicated disciple of the Lord and an Apostle in the one line of succession. He was of German-Czech parentage and emigrated to the United States in the early 19th century. Though small in stature physically, he became very tall in stature spiritually for the benefit of the newly born American Catholic Church. He became bishop of Philadelphia and did much to establish parishes and schools (100 parishes and 80 parochial schools). He established the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia to help teach in the crowded schools. He wrote two German catechisms. He completed the unfinished cathedral in Philadelphia. He was also a member of the Redemptorist Order – and served as General of the order with headquarters in Baltimore.

Jesus began his public ministry with the proclamation: "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand." John Neumann, no doubt, made this his own motivation and proclamation: "Look and see, Jesus is here!" was his cry! "He is here in the newborn Catholic Church in America. He can make all the difference in your lives – as he has for centuries for others!" Look, see, believe!

And just as those who were not of God did not accept what Jesus had to say, so too, the first reading today tells us that those who do not accept what the true leaders of Church (bishops and priests) of any day - have to say - also are rejecting the very person of Jesus – and are declaring themselves not of God – or anti-Christ!

May we this day allow the gospel of the Kingdom to be preached to us, so that cures and blessings and benefits can be ours as God the Father intends them to be! May the Light of Christ's words be our guide this day!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Homily – January 4, 2009 – The Epiphany of the Lord

Today we celebrate the Feast of Jesus the Messiah as True Light of the World – the whole world. He came to enlighten everyone, not just the people of his family heritage, the people of Israel, but all people everywhere – the "people-everywhere" were called "Gentiles!"

What actually happened on that cold and starry night in Bethlehem was that an ENORMOUS LIGHT began to glow in that cradle! A light brighter than anyone could ever imagine seeing – a brightness greater than any bleacher could make a white garment – a light more brilliant than seven suns! The animals could sense it! No doubt Mary and Joseph could see it!

But not only was it just a light – it was also at the same time a peaceful light! Everything that the Light touched also was filled with an amazing sense of Peace, Calm and Joy!

That Light, that Peace, that Joy was the Christ-child, Emmanuel! the King of all Kings, the Lord of all Lords! His radiance filled the night!

But this absolutely brilliant light capable of reaching and flooding the entire earth – right there from that crib in that stable – was a very peculiar kind of light – because even though it now existed on the earth, and it shone for all it was worth – not everyone could see it, or benefit from it! In fact most couldn't! Or refused to! Some could see just dimly a few rays - and even that came and went!

Why is this so? This Light (of Peace) can only be seen by those who use the "eyeglasses" or "filter" of "FAITH!" The Light began shining that night, and it is still shining – but only those with faith-glasses can see it and be affected by its peaceful glow!

On the day of our Baptism the eyeglasses or filter of faith (if you will) are given to us – and the light is switched on! This is what happens when the water is poured and the words are said. In fact, this is the very same Light of the (Easter) Paschal Candle – and it is up to us to keep it lit always, to make sure that the light of God will be the light for the path of our life, and that it will be ours to share from our hearts with all with whom we come into contact – in our families, our schools, at our work, in our play!

What can dim our light or even extinguish it and make it impossible to see God's light at all, thus causing us to stumble around in darkness of spirit - is sin-after-baptism. We must at all costs avoid sin as much as we possibly can in order to keep the Light as bright and as strong as it is meant to be for us! Confession switches the light back on!

But what nourishes our faith the best – in order to live a strong Catholic faith-life - is the reception, with open hearts, of the very Body and Blood of Christ (which he provided for this very purpose) - that we share at this table week after week! It is real spiritual food! It is real spiritual drink! It is a real spiritual recharging of the batteries of the Faith-Light that we need to live day by day – in a way that is pleasing to God and helpful to others! And forgives lesser sins – it wipes our faith-glasses clean!

Active and enthusiastic life in the Church then is the remedy for the Un-life (the Death-wish) of the World.
The death of worldly selfishness and self-centeredness will happen only when we live more fully and effectively our Catholic faith. Let this be our Spiritual New Year's Resolution: "TO BE TRUE CATHOLICS, THROUGH AND THROUGH-OUT THE NEW YEAR!"

The people in darkness – the people of Israel – saw a great light!
It came to dwell in their midst! Most did not receive it or even notice it! But to those who did receive it – a new and glorious life was to be revealed! Today, the Magi represent all of us – the "rest of the world" – who come to the crib to offer gifts fit for a king, a priest, and a savior - to the very small but O so Radiant Light of this brand new and glorious Day!

May we see his star always rising above us, and showing us they way; and
let us make our lives ones of homage to the one who left so much behind - in order to give up so much - to make our futures as brilliant as the stars.

May the Light and Peace of the Christ Child be with you now and always! Amen!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Homily – January 3, 2009 – Weekdays before Epiphany - Saturday

Jesus was born into the world to take away sin! This is the most astounding fact of all time. There is no way that mankind could ever take away its own sin: when God is offended only God can make things right. And so God, to make things right with mankind would have to become a man – which he did: in Jesus! Therefore, a God-Man could reconcile humanity once and for all time.

And so the Original sin was taken away – and personal sin could now be forgiven. The only requirement was for mankind to be aware of its sinfulness, confess it and ask for forgiveness. This is where the rub comes in. So very many people think they are sinless. And this is a very grave mistake.

Everyone is a sinner – even after baptism – and everyone is in need of God's tender love, mercy and forgiveness. Everyone needs to confess their sins and ask for forgiveness – on a regular basis. There needs to be a great resurgence in the use of the Sacrament of Penance in the Church. It would calm the sea of turbulence that a great many Catholic people live in.

We are called to be sinless children of God – we are called to see the saving power of God. Let us let God save us and forgive us of our sins – as often as we might reluctantly find ourselves committing them!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Homily – January 2, 2009 –St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory Nanzianzen

Today we celebrate the feast of two great eastern Bishops and Doctors of the Church: Basil the Great and Gregory Nanzianzen. Basil was born in 330 at Caesarea in Cappadocia. He was leaned and virtuous and for a time became a hermit. Later he fought against the Arians and wrote many admirable works, especially his monastic rule which many Eastern Monks still follow today. He died on January 1, 379.

Gregory was also born in 330. Traveling as a youth he joined his friend Basil as a hermit and was later ordained priest and bishop of Constantinople. But he soon returned to Nanzianzen because of the factions dividing the Church in Constantinople. He died on January 25, 389. He was called theologus because of his outstanding teaching and eloquency!

The first reading today from the letter of St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians tells of the virtues of a good shepherd and bishop: humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, desire for unity and peace – all in an effort to build up the Body of Christ.

The gospel passage reiterates the humility necessary for one holding such a high and sacred office of bishop! The higher one is in ranking the more deeply he must submerge himself in the cellar of humility! The stairway that leads the heights of spiritual success leads downwards to the basement floor!

We have but one Father, the one in heaven; and one master, the Christ both on earth (in the Church) and in heaven! All our efforts must be directed to their glory!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Homily – January 1, 2009 – Mary, Mother of God

Today is the Feast of Mary the Mother of God. For us who have heard this term for many years it is not unusual and even though there is something a bit mysterious about it we accept it and we believe it: in fact, it is derived from the very profession of faith that we make on Sundays and Holy Days.

But in the early years of the Church things were not all that easy – and how it got its reference from the creed is an interesting thing. From the early years in the Church until the fourth century no one really questioned the fact that Mary was the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of God's Son. But, in the fourth century a bishop of the Eastern Church named Nestorius decided to question the whole concept and so he said that Jesus had two natures (one human, one divine) and two persons (one human, one divine). Of course this is not true! The One Person with the Divine Nature (God's Son, the Word of God) took into his One Personhood a complete human nature (all except for the sinful part). And so we have with Jesus One Person having two natures!

It was at a Church Council of Nicea that the matter was cleared up and Mary then once and for all time was recognized as the Mother of the Man Jesus, who was also God from God, light from light, true God from true God, and therefore Mother of God: the Nestorian heresy was squelched.

On this the Feast of the Maternity of the Mother of God – maybe we can pause for a moment and reflect on what all this means, much like Mary pondered all these happenings as she contemplated her newborn son in the manger. This babe, this child, this Emmanuel, this Messiah would make all the difference in the world for everyone! Mary knew her Jewish history – she knew the significance of the Messiah – she knew that her child would be the ransom that was necessary so that all might be free, all might be holy again, all might be acceptable in the sight of God the Father forever. She was very happy and very sad at the same time, for she knew that to bring it all about he would suffer much, but triumph in the end!

And so, she cried out: "Abba, Father!" ["Father, I give you your Son, I give you my Son – be with him constantly to help him grow in wisdom, and grace in your sight, I will be with him too to teach him – protect him from the Enemy and listen to his every prayer, I will listen to his prayers too. I stand in awe of your plan for the adoption of humanity as your true sons and daughters – I will help our son in any way I can, I will help my spiritual children too if they ask! Glory, praise and thanks to you, Abba, Father!"]

And now my little Messiah sleep in the peace of heaven while there is still time, for there is much work to do – people are waiting for you!

Perhaps our New Year's Resolution could be to bless others, to be gracious to them and to look kindly on them all as God our Father has done and continues to do for us – and maybe there will be "peace on earth and good will toward all men" and God's Kingdom will be more visible than ever!

Hail, Mary, gentle woman, pray for us, now, and the hour of our death! Amen!

Sep 13 - St John Chrysostom

+ St John Chrysostom was born in 347 in Antioch, Asia Minor. His father died when he was young and he was raised by a very pious mother. ...