Thursday, April 30, 2009

Homily – April 30, 2009 – St. Pius V

Today's saint: Pius V was a real tiger among the hierarchy of the Church. He was born Antonio Ghislieri in Bosco, Italy (at the beginning of the 16th century), to a poor family. He worked as a shepherd until age fourteen and then joined the Dominican, being ordained a priest in 1528. Called Brother Michele, he studied at Bologna and Genoa, and then taught theology and philosophy for sixteen years before holding the posts of master of novices and prior for several Dominican houses. Named inquisitor for Como and Bergamo, he was so capable in the fulfillment of his office that by 1551 he was named by Pope Julius II commissary general of the Grand Inquisition. He was later named Pope, taking the name Pius on January 7, 1566. As pope, Pius saw his main objective the continuation of the massive program of reform for the Church, in particular the full implementation of the decrees of the recently concluded Council of Trent. He published the Roman Catechism, the revised Roman Breviary, and the Roman Missal; he also declared Thomas Aquinas (a fellow Dominican) Doctor of the Church, commanded a new edition of the works of Thomas Aquinas, and created a commission to revise the Vulgate. He insisted on wearing his white Dominican habit as Pope, and this custom stuck from that point on. In dealing with the threat of the Ottoman Turks he organized the naval battle of Lepanto – in which the Turks were turned back – at the intercession of the Blessed Mother, using the prayer of the Rosary: thus establishing the feast of Our Lady of Victories. The only blemishes to his pontificate were the continuing oppression of the inquisition and the often severe treatment of the Jewish people; and the ill advised excommunication of Queen Elizabeth I of England.

As I said, Pius V was a real tiger of a pontiff; not without his faults, but a zealous warrior for the Church in the time when it needed reform, renewal and an energetic role model.

The Church in our day, as always, stands in need of constant reform, renewal and role-modeling: as we heard from St. Catherine of Siena – a fellow Dominican of St. Pius V – yesterday: none of us can afford to stand still: we are either moving towards God or away from him: constant effort – if only slight – is needed to keep choosing God and his words and his ways!

And if our Church – which includes us – keeps itself updated spiritually – then as we go out into the world – we can effect a real purification of the environment in which we live; a real moral, ethical and spiritual reformation and renewal.

So very much of the world's ills are the result of plain, simple, unmitigated, vincible ignorance: the kind of ignorance that does not need to exist: if the ignorant ones would simply take the time to engage reason, engage conscience, engage the spiritual dimension that is very much a part of their existence. Denying and disengaging from these things does not make them less real – and it leads to irrational and potentially dangerous situations for a great many people – including themselves.

We are stewards of the mysteries of God – who, like Pope Pius V, are called upon to live them first ourselves, then to encourage others to follow our lead because the results are peace, joy and happiness: the things that everyone wants and seeks after! As Pius fed the flock spiritual realities, so can we – if we allow God to nurture them within us first. May we be fed by Jesus at this Mass with Word and Sacrament: and then may we move out at its conclusion to befriend and feed all others, spiritually and any other way that they might need – in order for them to know that God loves them!

I am the good shepherd, says the Lord: I know my sheep, and mine know me!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Homily – April 29, 2009 – St. Catherine Siena

Today's saint, Catherine of Siena, is one of the most brilliant theologians in Church history – and was such with no formal education; she was also a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic – (The Dominicans) Order of Preachers – she was born in 1347, the 25th child of a wool dyer in northern Italy.

Catherine was gifted with mystical experiences when she was only 6, seeing guardian angels as clearly as the people they protected. Becoming a Dominican tertiary when she was 16, she continued to have visions of Jesus, Mary, and the saints. St. Catherine was one of the most brilliant theological minds of her day, and without any formal education – proof positive that it is God himself who reveals the depths of his mysteries to whomever he chooses – most of all the simple and the childlike. It is God who chooses us to be in a living and working relationship with him, not the other way around. And unless he chooses us, there is nothing we can do about it except pray that he does choose us. This goes for ourselves and those we love.

God used Catherine to do some powerful things. On fire with the love of God she established peace and concord between cities. She vigorously fought for the rights and freedom of the Roman Pontiff: she persuaded him to go back to Rome from Avignon in 1377; she died trying to heal the Great Western Schism. In 1375 Our Lord gave her the Stigmata, which was visible only after her death.

St. Catherine's letters, and her treatise called: The Dialogue (which contained sections entitled: The Way of Perfection, Dialogue, The Bridge, Tears, Truth, The Mystical Body of Holy Church, Divine Providence and Obedience). My favorite sections are "The Bridge" and "Obedience".

The Dialogue itself is actually a written record of her own personal "interview" with God the Father himself. What we read here then is directly from God our loving Father for our knowledge, to be our motivation for action. The Bridge, that he describes for Catherine is the Passion and Death of His Only Begotten Son: Jesus – JESUS IS THE BRIDGE between heaven and earth. And we are either on the Bridge that will take us eventually into eternal light and life, or we are in the raging river below that will take us swiftly to perdition and eternal doom. NOW WE MUST DECIDE where we want to be – AT EACH AND EVERY MOMENT. There is no standing still. Even on the bridge we must continue to decide, because this is an unusual kind of bridge. It is like a treadmill that very slowly keeps moving us backwards unless we consciously choose to and actually step forward. Constant conscientious decisions to love God, and love others because you are loved by him are what is necessary to keep one moving forward! It's as easy as that! But it must be done day in and day out!

So therefore – Obedience, the last part of the Dialogue is extremely important. Basically, God the Father insists that he is our Father, and he knows best for us, his children, and that there is objective reality – and that our subjective participation in it is our free, conscious decision to stay on the Bridge. Obedience, then, to this, his loving will for our happiness, is essential for our happiness! Jesus found incredible strength, power and eventually JOY from becoming OBEDIENCE-IN-THE-FLESH to offset Adam and Eve's deliberate fleshly disobedience. Today may we be free from sin – may we stay on the Bridge and obey God the Father who only has our very best interest at heart.

Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom. St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Homily – April 28, 2009 – St. Peter Chanel – St. Louis de Montfort

Today we have the option of celebrating St. Peter Chanel or St. Louis de Montfort – both born in France – both priests who had a special devotion to Mary – both giving all they had to the preaching of the Gospel in season and out, in spite of all opposition.

Peter Chanel lived in the early part of the 19th century. He was a very bright young man with the help of his parish priest entered the newly formed order of the Society of Mary (the Marists – we know who they are!). He was even instrumental in helping the founder, Fr. Jean Colin present the Rule of the order in Rome for approval. It was approved and the missionary society was launched. Peter wanted to do missionary work – but he was assigned first parish work, then work as teacher and vice rector of the local seminary. But then, he had his chance to go to the newly formed South Sea Island mission territory. Life was not easy there – and the natives had very barbaric inclinations. After a valiant attempt to bring about conversion to the Catholic faith among the natives, Peter at last was given the crown of martyrdom for his efforts. Because of his efforts though, it did not take long for the Catholic faith to take root throughout the South Sea Islands and beyond.

Louis Grignion of Montfort, France lived two centuries earlier. He had great concern and cared for the poor and the sick. In his earlier years as a priest, he organized a group of women called the Congregation of the Daughters of Divine Wisdom. Pope Clement XI appointed him missionary apostolic and sent him to Brittany. He was a very powerful preacher, with great devotion to the Blessed Mother. He wrote a popular book called: Devotion to the Blessed Virgin. In 1715 he organized several priests and formed the Missionaries of the Company of Mary (commonly known as the Montfort Fathers). Even in France there was great opposition to the things of the faith at this time in Church history. Both Louis and companions had their work cut out for them. He died the following year and was canonized in 1947 by Pope Pius XII.

We too, have our work cut out for us today. We too must preach Christ Crucified to a world that could basically care less. We too must use the very Wisdom of God to overcome errant worldly wisdom and foolishness. We too must be willing to give our all for the cause, no matter what that might mean, always remembering that the foolishness of God (if there could be such a thing) is wiser than any human wisdom, and the weakness of God (if there could be such a thing) is stronger than any human strength; and always remembering that God IS in charge and he will always have HIS WAY, eventually!

In our world, in our country, in our families we must constantly recall Jesus' words that THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND. It is right HERE. It is right NOW! IT IS ME! And just as Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James and John; and Louis de Montfort and Peter Chanel to proclaim and live life in this kingdom here and now – so he is calling each of us – to do the same, in our own unique and planned for way!

Just so long as we commit ourselves to giving our all each day; just so long as we accept all the help that God will give us – especially strengthened by the Eucharistic and powerful food of his Body and Blood given at Mass; just so long as we go out of ourselves to help others as much as possible: so will we be pleasing to God the Father, a true Friend of Jesus, an instrument of the Holy Spirit and a very special child of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who will look down on us and smile because we are living like a true child of hers in humility, truth, joy and love! Go out to all the world and tell the Good News! Praise the Lord, all you nations; glorify him, all you peoples!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Homily – April 27, 2009 – Third Week of Easter - Monday

There seems to be some confusion about boats and crossings in the transitional passage from the feeding of the 5000 story to a short narrative discourse on signs in the gospel reading today. The first sentence remarks that Jesus walked across the sea of Tiberias on his own powers, which is not unlikely: if Jesus could feed 5000 with a few loaves and fish, he certainly could walk on water if he wanted to. The discussion is also confusedly situated in Capernaum which actually is not "across the sea" at all (so no one would have had to get into boats to go anywhere) – so there is some confusion by St. John as to exactly where this next scene happened and how everyone arrived there: but what happened there is clear.

Jesus said to the people – you are following after me because you have seen a sign, because you have been fed by the bread I gave you. Then he tells them to spiritually work for the food that does not perish (ordinary bread), the bread that is bread for spiritual and eternal life: the very bread of his flesh and blood (the Holy Eucharist) that he would soon give to them to eat throughout the ages!

Then he encapsulates today's message: this is the work of God: that you believe in the one he sent: ME! And if you believe in me you will receive amazing gifts both now and forever (like the gift of Eucharist) so that you can act out your belief and you can enjoy the peace and joy that comes from believing and helping others!

In the first reading Stephen, the deacon, was defending the very infant Christian faith against radical conservative Jews whose consciences were being pricked to the core: they were losing ground listening to Stephen's inspired, flawless and wise defense: so they planted person's who falsely accuse Stephen of blasphemy against Moses and God, saying also that he says things against this holy place and the law! We have heard him claim that this Jesus the Nazorean will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us. And then it adds: all those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him and saw that his face was like the face of an angel: Stephen was completely undaunted and was no doubt beholding the face of the Risen Lord Jesus while all this was going on: Jesus and his Spirit strengthen those who must withstand persecution on their behalf with an amazing amount of stamina!

The real law of God is the one that Jesus fulfilled, not changed; the real law of God is summed up in self-sacrificial loving service to all, rather than following legal prescriptions in a cold, calculated, clinical sort of way; the real law of God is the Person of the warm-hearted, merciful, loving shepherd of the sheep: JESUS THE CHRIST!

Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Homily – April 26, 2009 – Third Sunday of Easter

Last Sunday we celebrated Mercy Sunday! Our readings today still reflect that wonderful theme of God the Father's ever-present, heart-felt offer of mercy, forgiveness and healing which is ours for the repenting, the converting and the asking.

Sometimes, we human beings like to think that we have it "all together" – and that we know what is "best." If this thought does not come as a result of prayer: the letting of God in on the process; the reception of God's grace and the willingness to follow the Owner's Manual for Life provided by God (called the Scriptures)–then chances are we will not end up with what is best. We may even end up with what is worst of all.

The first reading shows how Peter is telling the Jewish people that they got it wrong. The long-awaited Messiah came – to them – and they killed him! The author of life you put to death! What an amazing statement that was! But God raised him from the dead – this is an even more amazing statement! Then Peter demonstrates a measure of compassion for them: he tells them that he knows that they acted out of ignorance. In this case too, ignorance was not an excuse, but it was an explanation!

Yes, sometimes God can even use ignorance to bring about what he wants brought about! But, once the ignorance is discovered and confirmed then the time has already come to acquire proper knowledge and to turn toward the source of that knowledge: God – so that your sins may be wiped away!

God delights in wiping our sins away – especially after we have acted out of true, non-contrived, sometimes invincible ignorance!

In the second reading today St. John urges the faithful children of God not to sin; but to know that if they do sin, they now have an Advocate with the Father who will bestow his merciful forgiveness because he is the One, True Righteous One and has earned the right to do so! Jesus will forgive our sins – through the instrumentality of the priests of the Church – so that we all can live as authentic and genuine a Christian life as we can – and experience the ever-increasing joy of the presence of the Risen Christ deep in our hearts!

John goes on to tell the Jews not to count themselves members of the children of God if they don't keep the commandments (if they sin). If they do so they are liars, and do they not know Jesus. To those who try the best they can to live the life of Jesus in them, keeping his word, then the love of God will be in them, they will love others and they will daily reach higher and higher on the scale of perfection!

The gospel passage today relates how Jesus – the great accomplisher of our salvation – the great forgiver of our sins – makes a third appearance after his resurrection from the dead. He uses the now familiar greeting of "Peace be with you!" when he appears." Then he has a meal of fish with them, and at the same time explains to them everything written about him in the Law of Moses, the prophets and the psalms that had to be fulfilled by him. He shows them how he did fulfill them. He opened their mindsand they understood!

Yes, the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name to all nations beginning from Jerusalem.

And once we hear this good news and believe it, then we are invited to be among those who retell the story, who bring this message to everyone, everywhere – in many situations and circumstances – translating it into paraphrases and analogies and modern day parables as needs be – whatever it takes – to let the world know that THE RISEN JESUS IS HERE – AND THAT HE WILL BE HERE WITH US UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD! Belief in him can make all the difference in one's life – and in the life of the world at large! All it takes is a little faith, a big generous heart – and the desire to put our belief into action!

Lord Jesus, open the Scriptures to us; make our hearts burn with love for you while you speak to us; fill us with your Spirit and move us out away from ourselves to put our love and our belief into action for others!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Homily – April 25, 2009 – St. Mark

Today is the feast of the author of the second gospel: John Mark. As Jesus, his mother's name also was Mary. He and his mother were highly esteemed in the early Church, and his mother's house in Jerusalem served as a meeting place for Christians there. St. Mark was associated with St. Paul and St. Barnabas (who was Mark's cousin) on their missionary journey through the island of Cyprus. Later he accompanied Barnabas alone. We also know that he was in Rome with St. Peter and St. Paul. Tradition ascribes to him the founding of the Church in Alexandria, Egypt.

St. Mark wrote the second Gospel, probably in Rome sometime before the year 60; he wrote it in Greek for the Gentile converts to Christianity. Tradition tells us that Mark was requested by the Romans to set down the teaching of St. Peter. This seems to be confirmed by the position which St. Peter has in this Gospel In this way the second Gospel is a record of the life of Jesus as seen through the eyes of the Prince of the Apostles. He was martyred, most likely on this date in the year 72.

Our first reading today from the first letter of St. Peter, himself, gives the full flavor of the writing of this Prince of the Apostles. He is so very sensitive and aware of the nature of God's tremendous graces grounded in the redemption that was won by the Death and Resurrection of Jesus; a death that was caused by his own people, the Jewish people; a resurrection that was foretold and promised from all ages, not to be hindered even by merciless death as its prerequisite.

Peter, then, first exhorts the Jewish people to humble themselves and to repent of their stubborn, sinful ways and to turn to the Lord of Life, the Lord of Love, the Lord of Forgiveness – and away from the Devil who is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. He tells them to resist the devil, stand firm in the faith, accept God's grace and know that their brother and sister Christians everywhere are engaged in the same struggle with evil. Many did listen to Peter, many were converted and the numbers of the Christian faith grew (and it is still growing).

In our day – the devil is still roaring – he is still devouring anyone and everyone who is caught off-guard – but we have available to us the same grace and strength that Peter offered the early Christians: the light, power and grace of the Holy Spirit. The thrust of St. Mark's Gospel – because it is the thrust of St. Peter's ministry is this: proclaiming Christ Crucified, we proclaim the power of God to overcome the world in all its sinfulness.

The gospel passage is from St. Mark's accounting itself. St. Mark is the "bottom line" gospel writer. His story of Jesus is very plain, simple, direct and not filled with long explanations and wordy analogies. He basically lets Jesus speak for himself. Here he is simply relating that Jesus appeared to the Eleven and gave them the commission to preach the gospel to the whole world, to baptize believers and to perform signs of healing. Then Jesus was taken up to heaven. And the apostles went and did as he asked them and the Lord worked with them (by means of the Holy Spirit) and confirmed the word through accompanying signs: and he is doing the same thing this very day – throughout the Church, throughout the world, throughout the ages!

Thank you St. Mark for being a faithful friend of St. Peter, and a reliable source of information about Jesus: the bottom-line version!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Homily – April 24, 2009 – Second Week of Easter - Friday

Today we have the pre-death/resurrection accounting of the miraculous feeding of the 5000 from five barley loaves and two fish. If we look back at it from the post death/resurrection perspective we can see clearly that it had everything to do with the spiritual healing and nourishment that would come from Jesus' total gift of himself to his Father and to us at the Last Supper and on the Cross the next day. This gift, of course, is contained in the Eucharist, of which the bread and fish are the type.

In order for us, today, to be healed and fed spiritually - Jesus' instituted Eucharist to be made present and celebrated daily until the end of the world. How fortunate we are and how loved, to be so amazingly provided for!

But, in our alleluia verse we see that one does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God. Jesus himself on many occasions said that unless you put your private beliefs and spiritual experiences into action for the good of others then they are being misused. Everything that is given to us by God is given both for our own good and the good of others. This means that everything about the Church is not for private and selfish aggrandizement – but rather for the glory of God and the good of the whole Church and indeed the whole world!

In the first reading we find Gamaliel – a very respected teacher of the law (who was a teacher of Saul become St. Paul) – convincing the Sanhedrin to let the Apostles alone to preach and teach about Jesus, reasoning that if he were simply a self-styled upstart – when he left the scene, his followers would sooner or later disband; but if he was truly from God – as the Apostles were saying he was: then no power on earth could stop them from doing his work.

And so, the Christians were left alone – and they praised and worshiped God in their homes – and spoke about him courageously and boldly in the public square! May we in so many words proclaim the words and truth and life of Jesus every day by our deeds of good– because we belong to the same group of believers as them. We will thus be putting our belief into action and actually experiencing Christianity the way it is meant to be experienced!

One does NOT live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God: even the challenging and disquieting ones!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Homily – April 23, 2009 – St. George

Today's optional memorial of the feast of St. George has come precisely at the right moment in this glorious Easter Season! Of course we know St. George to be the famous 4th century dragon killer, who rescued the fair maiden. Whether this be legend or fact the truth remains that George of England fought the devil in ferocious battles to preserve the integrity of the maiden – the Truth, who is Christ Jesus, who is the Church, who is us!

Today the Truth, Christ Jesus, the Church and we, find ourselves engaged in a very ferocious battle on many different fronts - the most obvious of which are three: abortion, redefinition of marriage, desertion and dissention from within our own ranks:

  • We know that, thanks to the efforts of the Catholic faithful, in thus far speaking out against the proposed Freedom of Conscience Act that it has been sidetracked for the time-being. But the dragon lives.
  • The Democratic Administration is further entrenching itself in the mentality that abortion on demand is a good thing: in fact, just yesterday, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton at a Committee Hearing said that "reproductive health includes access to abortion." Hilary as you know stands in "awe" of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger – one of the greatest eugenicists and racists of all times, who said "the most merciful thing a family does for one of its infant members is to kill it." Yes, the dragon still lives!
  • Within our own house: the Notre Dame Scandal continues to rage. Now 42 bishops have come out publically to oppose Father Jenkins' invitation to President Obama – the most radical abortion president this country has ever had - to speak at next month's graduation exercises, and to honor him with a law degree. Bishop D'Arcy of Fort-Wayne, South Bend has come out with a scathing denouncement of this whole affair saying that "the terrible breach caused by scandal at Notre Dame cannot continue." Yes, the dragon still lives!
  • And finally, very close to home: the redefinition of marriage process that is underway in the Maine State Legislature. As our own Bishop Malone, who spoke in Augusta yesterday said so well: this is not against the civil rights of same-sex oriented persons, it is about the institution of marriage itself! He, personally, has committed himself to be the leader in a massive educational program between now and the time that, most likely, the proposal will go to the Maine voters in November! (This is me talking now): no one has the right to redefine what God has already defined and set into motion, because all of a sudden some people think God must have got it wrong, or is now out of touch with reality. It is absurdity and blasphemy to do so! Yes, the dragon is still very much alive! – and he will devour our society and our civilization unless he is stopped!

St. George would have his hands full, if he were here today; we have our hands full of real, true, authentic and genuine "apologetic" work to do: apologetic meaning: work defending the Truth, Christ Jesus, the Church, ourselves – defending the fair maiden! This is the cross, of the gospel passage - that we must pick up and embrace – and dying to our own self-will – be committed to allowing Jesus to be,, through us, the Light that he is in his Glorious Risen State for all in the world – especially in our country, in our own state – in our own families – in our own parish – who are fighting dragons!

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of God rests upon you.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Homily – April 22, 2009 – Second Week of Easter - Wednesday

What perfect readings we have for this day in the Easter Season when Catholics in Maine (along with other Christians, and everyone with a true and rightly formed conscience) are standing in the public arena – the Civic Center in Augusta – telling people there, in so many words, about the life, words and works of Jesus – who came to earth to do the Father's will, rather than his own.
It is by this singular and perfect example that we know that no one has the right to redefine anything that comes from the mouth of God: not his commandments, not his precepts, not the formation of institutions. If Jesus did not do this – and he was God – then for any human being to do it is simply insanity!

Jesus came to fulfill the Law of Moses – not to rewrite it: the agenda we as Catholics ought to take up is to see how we can come to a richer, deeper, more fulfilled understanding of the way things are and can be made even better – starting from the same basis – and not changing the basis to suit particular and subjective needs.

Marriage and family life were instituted by God the Father to be operated in the way that he has in mind. More time needs to be spent on discerning what he means by it, and more energy needs to be put forth into programs that will ensure that it happens as he intends it – rather than arrogantly becoming too big for our intellectual and spiritual britches and trying to tell God that he has to "get with it" in these modern times. Very unfortunately, these "modern times" shout out that "life is what I want it to be – it is totally subjective – there is no such thing as 'objective reality' – which is completely out of touch with reality – because there was a time when there was nothing except Godwho is objective reality).

Fortunately, God sent his only begotten Son into the world – not to condemn it – even when it gets carried away with all kinds of more or less offensive and way off the track ideas; he sent Jesus simply to be a very bright and shining light – so that we, human beings, could use our precious gift of free-will and seeing brightly and correctly what is right, good, true and just – make God-fearing, God-loving, God-thanking decisions for life, for love, for creation as he made it in the first place!

There will come a time when all of us will be judged for how well we used the gifts of God given us to get through life according to the Father's will – may we be among those who are given a "well done, good and faithful servant – enter the Kingdom of your loving Father, and beloved Brother, Jesus, your Lord, your God and your Friend."

May those who are in Augusta, even as we speak, be given an abundance of light, grace and strength of the Holy Spirit – to speak out as boldly, confidently and convincingly as did Peter and John on the day of Pentecost!

God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might have what they need, day by day, in this life, to live life exactly as God has mapped it out, and have eternal life in the next.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Homily – April 21, 2009 – St. Anselm

Today, in this glorious Easter Season, we celebrate the feast of St. Anselm, who was a bishop and doctor of the church – which meant that he was noted for his learning and teaching! He was born in Aosta in Piedmont in 1033. As a young man he entered the Benedictine Monastery of Bec in France. He quickly progressed in the spiritual life and taught theology to his fellow students. He went to England where he was appointed archbishop of Canterbury. He fought vigorously for the freedom of the Church against government interference, thus getting himself twice exiled. He was achieved in fame for his writings, especially those on mystical theology. He died in 1109.

Our readings today well fit the feast! Anselm was one who had a deep knowledge of Christ Jesus academically, but what he knew to be even more essential and vital than that was to experience a true and deep relationship with Jesus as a person: as a friend, if you will. He knew that such an experience would fill him and anyone else who sought after it with the fullness of God, which is joy and peace!

The gospel passage tells us something that Anselm knew quite well: it is not only important to hear the word of God, but one must also act on it; and not just crying out "Lord, Lord – help me!" What the passage and Anselm are trying to communicate is that in the doing comes the power and the strength to do even more, and subsequently to feel good about it – because the power and the strength is the presence of the Holy Spirit who enables us to do God's work of loving and helping other, and to experience satisfaction.

Therefore, if you truly want to experience the life of the Risen Jesus in you, which is the life of joy and peace; the life of the Gospel in you; the life that Anselm knew and understood – then all it takes is a simple prayer: Lord, Lord help me to do what you want – and see, here I go, I am trying now to say and do for others what I knew is right and good! And you will find a newer inner strength and power that you did not know was there before. You will find joy, you will find peace!

These are St. Anselm's own words regarding finding joy in God:

O God, let me know you and love you so that I may find my joy in you; and if I cannot do so fully in this life, let me at least make some progress every day, until at last that knowledge, love and joy come to me in all their plenitude. While I am here on earth let me learn to know you better, so that in heaven I may know you more fully; let my love for you grow deeper here, so that there I may love you fully. On earth then I shall have great joy in hope, and in heaven complete joy in the fulfillment of my hope!

Your words, Lord, are spirit and life; you have the words of eternal life! Let us live your word today and have our spirits soar and our life renewed!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Homily – April 20, 2009 – Second Week of Easter - Monday

As we settle now into the long Easter Season – our first reading is about the necessity of connecting to the life of the risen Christ in the only way that it can effectively be done: by Baptism. As prescribed by Jesus himself, the only way to get in touch with the effects of his death, which transformed all death into life, is to be "born again spiritually" in the waters of baptism.

Jesus tries to explain this to Nicodemus, a Pharisee, who came to see him at night. But Nicodemus does not understand how a man his age could be "born again" now that he is old. "Surely I cannot enter my mother's womb again and be born again!"

But Jesus reply was: O yes, you can! You can enter the womb of the Church, your mother: the waters of baptism; and be born again, not physically, but spiritually. Unless you are born of water and spirit you cannot enter the Kingdom of God. And I want you, and everyone to be in the Kingdom. So be baptized – be born again spiritually!

Most of us are baptized as babies – this is when we are born again, shortly after we are born of our mothers in the first place. But even so – sometimes it is only much later in life that we come to a fuller realization of what happened to us on that day. That experience of that realization can likewise be a "fresh-new-birthing" kind of experience. We can freely choose, then, to be vibrant with what is already alive in us: the life of Christ himself. What a tremendous gift our parents gave us with our "second birth" – making us true "children of God" and recipients of his manifold graces and blessings to help us throughout our lives!

In the first reading today we see Peter and John and the first community of believers – who were saturated with the newness of Christ's risen life – as the first baptized Christians – and they found that with the help of the Holy Spirit – to whom they prayed daily for light, grace and strength – they had what they needed to continue to speak the word of God with boldness to both the Jews and the Greeks.

We too can pray to the Holy Spirit daily, to help us live out our baptismal commission to be proclaimers of the words and works of God – especially by our example of loving service to all in need.

Alleluia! If then we were raised with Christ, let us seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God; and let it make a difference in how we live our daily lives! Alleluia!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Homily – April 19, 2009 – Second Sunday of Easter – Divine Mercy

Last Sunday we celebrated the great event of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead; it was the astounding confirmation of his entire life. Everything that ever happened to him, everything that he ever said – everything that he ever foretold and predicted – everything that he ever did to demonstrate the tremendous depth of the love of God for his people was AFFIRMED, VALIDATED AND GIVEN ABSOLUTE ENDORSEMENT – absolute sureness, certainty and believability. Had Jesus not risen from the dead he would have been a complete fraud, a phony and the greatest of all impostors! BUT HE DID RISE FROM THE DEAD!
HE IS THE REAL DEAL! And now everything is DIFFERENT!

It is good for us during this Easter Season to reflect upon the attributes or qualities of what it means for Jesus to exist now in a glorified, risen state; and what it will consequently mean for us who will share in his resurrection – his newness of life – if we live as though we want it. According to St. Thomas Aquinas in his great masterwork Summa Theologica, the glorified, resurrected body (which shares in the very risen life of Jesus) has seven characteristics:

  • Identity – We retain our original identity; we will be essentially the same person as we were before we died. (John 20:11-16)
  • Integrity
    – We will retain all of the parts of our bodies – our bodies will be complete (if for some reason they were not before death). (John 20:24-27)
  • Quality
    – Our bodies will be youthful and will retain our gender – we will still be male and female. (Rev 1:12-18)
  • Impassability – We will be incapable of suffering, and therefore not be susceptible to death and pain. (Rev 21:4, I Cor 15:50-57)
  • Subtlety – Our bodies will be free from restraint by matter (even if there were matter to block us – we could pass-through it easily), our bodies will still be palpable (able to be felt and touched). (John 20:19-23)
  • Agility
    – We will have complete freedom of movement, our souls will direct our bodies without hindrance. (Luke 24:15,31,36)
  • Clarity – The glory of our souls will be visible in our bodies.  We will be beautiful and radiant (this is reminiscent of the Transfiguration of Jesus on the Mountain). (Rev 4:3, I Cor 15:40)


 

Yes, the Resurrection of Jesus was not only important for him, but it is very important for us who will share that very "newness of life!"

And so we can understand now what happened when Jesus suddenly appeared to the Eleven in the Upper Room on Easter Sunday night – even though the door was locked for fear of the Jews – the Apostles were afraid that they would be hunted down and killed too. With his new attribute of subtlety Jesus simply passed through the door without any problem at all and stood in their midst.

Then he made an extraordinary four word statement!:

PEACE BE WITH YOU!

His reaction to their running away from him, denying and betraying him when he could have used a friend very much, was to offer them PEACE!, deep, rich and abiding peace like no one else could ever offer! Jesus then immediately began to apply the effects of his sin-forgiving, life-restoring death: PEACE BE WITH YOU (he said again): AS THE FATHER HAS SENT ME, SO NOW I SEND YOU: (then breathing on them he said): RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT. WHOSE SINS YOU FORGIVE ARE FORGIVEN THEM AND WHOSE SINS YOU RETAIN ARE RETAINED.

In that very same room when three days before he gave them also an effect of his death, before it even happened: his presence in the Holy Eucharist (the transubstantiated bread and wine) telling them to do that in his memory; now in the same room he is telling them to forgive sins in his name, or to hold them (not to forgive them) (thus making them and their successors and helpers true and qualified judges in cases of faith and morality).

A week later, they were gathered together again, and this time Thomas (who was absent when Jesus appeared on Easter Sunday) was with them. Thomas told the others that he would not believe that Jesus was raised, unless he touched his wounds with his own hand. And so Jesus again simply appeared, as before – and he told Thomas to come to him and touch his wounds; he also invited him to believe! Thomas did come to believe and made the simple, yet dramatic acclamation: MY LORD, AND MY GOD! This scene also demonstrates the palpable, touchable nature of a glorified, risen body!

And so we have Jesus inaugurating the beginning of the sacramental system that came from the blood and water that flowed from his Most Sacred Pierced Heart as he hung dead on the Cross for us, and for our salvation! This is the Divine Heart of Jesus from which flows God's eternal love, forgiveness and mercy! On this Mercy Sunday we are reminded that the grace of God's mercy and forgiveness are always available now – simply for the believing, simply for the asking, simply for the willingness to in turn be merciful to others, simply in being willing to trust Jesus for absolutely everything we need in life! EVERYTHING!

After Mass today we will honor the Divine Mercy Image, celebrate the day in its fullness and fulfill all the requirements of the Plenary Indulgence for those participating in that option. The Mercy Chaplet will be prayed after Mass as the Prayer for the Intention of the Holy Father. It does not take very long to pray. Everyone – is invited to stay and pray that short cycle of prayers!

Our God is slow to anger; rich in mercy, and o so willingness to forgive our sins and cast them into the sea – if we but turn to him with all our hearts –and TRUST IN HIM ABSOLUTELY!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Homily – April 18, 2009 – Octave of Easter - Saturday

Today we celebrate the next to the last day within the Octave of Easter. Once again we celebrate that this is the day the Lord has made (the same Day of Resurrection); let us be glad and rejoice in it!

Today we have St. Mark's very sketchy narration of the resurrection event. He says simply Jesus rose and was seen by Mary Magdalene out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told his companions who were mourning and weeping – but they did not believe her. Later that day Jesus appeared in another form to two walking along their way in the country – they returned and told the others – but they did not believe them either. Later that night, however, Jesus came and stood in their midst – in his risen, glorified body; he rebuked them for their disbelief and hardness of heart because they did not believe those who had seen him. Then he told them to go into the world and proclaim the Gospel – this message of Resurrected New Life that is now available to everyone – to every creature.

What we have today is the tail end of a very long line of people passing on and proclaiming that same message: beginning with those who were there to see it. And unlike the child's game that has a different story told at the end of a line of a dozen people telling supposedly the same story to one another: the Jesus Story remains exactly the same. In fact, Jesus is saying in the gospel passage that it is important and very valid to come to know him at the word of others: this is what preaching and teaching is all about – we, the preachers and teachers, pass on what was handed to us – and we need not worry – if we pray and ask the help of the Holy Spirit, it will indeed be the exact same story.

The bottom line is that more and more people come to know the risen Jesus – fully live their baptized life in him – and proclaim that he is alive and helpful to everyone who needs to hear it.

In the first reading we see how Peter and John told the Jewish leaders that they simply could not stop preaching, teaching and proclaiming Jesus: it was their joy and their job to make him known – and they would do so in season and out! Billions have come to believe in Jesus and share in his life because of the bold and fearless proclamation of the Gospel that began with them!

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever. My strength and my courage is the Lord, he is my savior!

This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Homily – April 17, 2009 – Octave of Easter - Friday

We continue today the celebration of Easter Day for the sixth time: every day within the octave of a solemnity is celebrated as if it were the solemnity itself. This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it!

In the gospel passage today the risen Jesus appears at the lakeside to several of the fisherman Apostles. Then he causes a miraculous catch of fish to happen – which mirrors an earlier catch of fish he caused to happen when he told them that they would soon become fishers of men. It is almost time for them to take on that new task – but for now it is important for them just to BELIEVE that the Lord is truly risen from the dead and that Jesus, Son of Man; is now also Christ, the glorified Son of God.

Jesus invites them to come and have breakfast with him on the shore of the lake. And they were fed with bread and fish, reminiscent of another miraculous feeding of 5000 – the two symbols of Eucharist. This risen Jesus, by his own word, is spiritual food for all our spiritual needs.

In the first reading today we see that Peter and John – at a later time – after Pentecost – after the curing of the cripple in the name of the risen Jesus – are empowered by the Holy Spirit to defend their actions, which are causing quite a stir among the people: 5000 of the Jews are coming to believe that Jesus truly is the stone rejected which has become the cornerstone of an entire structure – a spiritual structure. This structure of course would be the Church which is now in its very early infant stage.

The name of Jesus is powerful indeed! It ought first of all to be respected with great reverence, respect and awe; and it ought to be used for what it can now be used: to cause powerful and wonderful things to happen for the upbuilding of the community of believers: the Church, which he was instrumental in launching into the deep of the sea of the rough world!

Salvation does not come from anyone else; nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved!

All hail the name of Jesus! Let every knee bend in heaven and earth at its sound.

The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Homily – April 16, 2009 – Octave of Easter - Thursday

We continue today the celebration of Easter Day for the fifth time: every day within the octave of a solemnity is celebrated as if it were the solemnity itself. This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it!

In the gospel passage today the risen Jesus appears suddenly (he stood in the midst of the Apostles who were talking about him) and said: Peace be with you! He must have been a sight to see with his glorified, risen body. They were terrified and thought it was a ghost! But he calmed them by asking for something to eat. He took some baked fish and began to eat it.
Then he explained to them about the prophecies concerning him that were now fulfilled – especially those written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins was to be preached to all the nations beginning from Jerusalem. Then he tells them that you are witness of these things.

It is important to reflect upon, during the Easter Season, especially Easter week, some of the attributes of the Risen Body. What was it like for Jesus to be now risen and existing in a glorified state – a newness of life that he will share with those who believe in him. There are seven attributes, St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica tells us, concerning the risen, glorified body:

Identity: We retain our original identity; we are essentially the same person we were before we died; Integrity: We retain all of our body parts, or regain them if for some reason we have lost them in life; Quality: Our bodies will be youthful and we will retain our gender – we will still be male and female; Impassibility: We will be incapable of suffering, and therefore not be susceptible to pain and death; Subtlety: Our bodies will be free from restraint by matter (we will be able to pass through matter at will); our bodies will still be palpable (able to be felt and touched); Agility: We will have complete freedom of movement, our souls will direct our bodies without hindrance; Clarity: The glory of our souls will be visible in our bodies. We will be beautiful and radiant (this is reminiscent of Jesus' own transfiguration on the mountain).

Jesus, in the gospel passage is manifesting all seven of these attributes. Isn't it wonderful what we have to look forward to! And we will have it, if we live our daily lives as though we want it!

In the same gospel passage, and in the first reading we see the importance of bringing the Good News about Jesus' life, death and resurrection to all who need to be reconciled to God – to those who need to repent of their past misdeeds, for those who need to be receptive of God's never-failing mercy and forgiveness. Jesus sends out the Apostles to all the nations to be his ambassadors of mercy! As Divine Mercy Sunday approaches we pray that many more in the waiting world will be open to the extraordinary graces that come from believing in Jesus, asking for mercy, being willing to be merciful to others and to trust in Jesus for absolutely everything we need.

A glorious life awaits those who allow themselves to be saturated with the mercy, peace and love of God – may we be counted among those who are thus saturated – and may we be instruments in the saturation of others!

This IS the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Homily – Octave of Easter - Wednesday

The readings for Mass on this Wednesday within the Octave of Easter are particularly beautiful. They speak of what happened at two specific hours of the day: the three o'clock hour of prayer; and late afternoon, just before evening. I should like to add another hour: when day is done!

At the three o'clock hour Peter and John encountered a crippled man seeking an alms. They told the man: Look at us! We do not have silver and gold – we have something infinitely better: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean rise and walk. And he did rise and he did walk. In fact he leaped up, walked jumped around and went into the temple with Peter and John to praise God. At any hour of the day the name of Jesus can do amazing things for those who believe that it can. The results may be quick or slow, but they will always happen sooner or later! All it takes is faith: the certain knowledge about realities beyond mere human reason!

The next scene, of the gospel passage, is one of my favorites: it is late afternoon (somewhere around 4pm) on Easter Sunday afternoon. The interchange between the two disciples and Jesus on the road to Emmaus - and what follows - is all about the great awakening of faith, the great feeding of thirsty souls, and the great strengthening for charitable action – it is all about the structuring of the celebration of the Mass as we have it today.

There is first the "Liturgy of the Word" – when Jesus walks and talks with the weary, confused and frightened disciples (not Apostles, just followers). They told him (not knowing he was Jesus) about what had happened to Jesus last week – how their friend, whom they had listened to and began to believe in – was killed by their own people, buried and supposedly was to rise again – but thus far they had seen no evidence of such a miraculous event.

Jesus then began to explain the scriptures that applied to his life, death and resurrection – and they listened and their hearts burned with fervor and the fire of the Holy Spirit. Their minds were being illuminated, their hearts were being moved, and their feet were moved to invite Jesus to stay with them as evening drew on – for a short meal in their house.

Now we transition to the "Liturgy of the Eucharist of the Mass." It was there that Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to them to eat – and they ate, whereupon he simply vanished from their sight. In his glorified risen state Jesus could do that: materialize and then disappear. Risen state is truly marvelous!

Then the two said to each other "Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?" Then strengthened by the spiritual food of the very first Eucharistic celebration (Mass) after the Last Supper that was presided over by Jesus himself: they went and told the Eleven what had happened; and how they had come to know him in the breaking of the bread.

When we come here to worship God, and to celebrate Eucharist (Mass) we come to let our hearts be fired up by God's word in Scripture and homily (we walk with and listen to Jesus); then we are fed with the same Eucharistic food that faithful Christians have been fed for two thousand years - (we go into the house to eat with him) - to so be motivated to go out and love and serve as Jesus himself did – completely self-sacrificially. It is in so doing that our hearts will burn, our spirits will be fed and we will have what we need to do what we need to do when we need to do it for others.

This leads to the final hour of prayer that I want to talk about today – Night Prayer of our day! After living a long and complete day as a real Christ-centered, Spirit-filled, service-oriented Catholic person – it is so soothing and relaxing and calming to spend some time in quiet, reflective, meditative Night Prayer of praise and thanks to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for all they have given that very day! Using meditative music, prayers, or just silence in a quiet place – we can get into the habit of consistent, regular and powerful Night Prayer. It is a great preparation for sleep. It is the most appropriate way to end every day!

As we proclaimed on Easter Sunday: this is the day the Lord has made; this and every day; let us be glad and rejoice in it!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Homily – April 14, 2009 – Octave of Easter - Tuesday

This morning we have St. John's accounting of Easter morning with Mary Magdalene at the tomb of Christ – weeping – talking with the supposed gardener who was actually Jesus. It was when Jesus called Mary by name that she recognized him and began to cling to him. She then took the news of the Jesus Risen to the disciples: "I have seen the Lord!" she proclaimed to them: and then reported to them what had happened.

Sometimes it is more or less easy for us to see the Risen Jesus. But one thing is guaranteed: he is always calling us by name, so that we might recognize him and cling to him who is our one true hope and source of charity. Then it is up to us to take this "good news that the Risen Christ is" in our midst to our brothers and sisters, to all who need to have hope and encouragement; to all who need to experience Easter peace and joy!

In the first reading today we hear Peter speaking to the Jewish people telling them that the joy and peace of Easter is most certainly for them too – even though they were instrumental in killing Jesus by crucifixion! But it was because this happened that the historical Jesus was turned into Jesus Lord and Christ – and this is a very good thing indeed. These Jews then needed to know what to do now – and Peter told them: Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. Three thousand were called by name and baptized into the life of the Risen Christ that very day. And numbers have been added every year down to this very year. The Easter Vigil last Saturday saw hundreds of thousands of new Catholics initiated into the Church on that solemn and glorious night!

This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it. Let us rejoice that God has called us by name, and has baptized us into his life and now feeds us with his Risen Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist we are about to receive! The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord: ALLELUIA!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Homily – April 13, 2009 – Octave of Easter

For eight days we celebrate Easter as though it were one day: that is the meaning of celebrating a feast with an octave. And so this second day of Easter finds us in a differing array of belief. The apostles did see him and believe in him as Lord on Easter Sunday night – all except Thomas – when he came a stood in their midst as they cowered in the upper room – and he said to them: "Peace be with you! My peace I give you!" This was his reaction to their disbelief and their running away from him a few days earlier when he needed them to stand by him as a friend the most. PEACE BE WITH YOU!

Some just won't ever believe – but not because the information was not available to them. It will take many until Pentecost to come to finally get the entire picture about Jesus. And then from that day onwards many thousands will come to believe – and not only believe, but live their daily lives like Jesus was making a difference in them. This past weekend hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were added to the rolls of believers at the Easter Vigil.

May we this day reflect upon how firmly we believe in the presence of Christ Risen! His dead human body was not just resuscitated – it was rather transformed into a newness of life in which we will all participate one day at our own resurrection from the dead: it is a life where the mind, body and spirit are all working and functioning together optimally – and it is all raised to the spiritual dimension. It is a newness of life that is even now contained in transubstantiated bread and wine at Mass

Thank you Jesus for modeling the Way, the Truth and the Life: which includes dying, rising and living forever! And thank you for making yourself available to us in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist. Let our sharing in your presence in this way motivate us today to live as you would have us – like you yourself did – being compassionate and merciful, loving and helpful to others.

This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Homily – April 12, 2009 – Easter Sunday

Actually I wrote these lyrics to a musical piece that I composed shortly before Christmas. If you recall at our Christmas Eve Mass I related how closely the "Crib and the Cross" actually were. I told you then that – as Bishop Fulton Sheen tells us – Jesus was the only person born into the world to die, and this, from the very first moment of his life!

The lyric, then, reads:
Look and see what was done to my most beloved Friend! Look and see why my sins have done to him; Good Jesus, gentle Jesus, Friend of Mine: receive my prayer of thanks and praise: "Deo gratias! Deo gratias!" Alleluia! "Praise and thanks to God forever!" Alleluia!
Alleluia!

Indeed:
Look and see what was done to our most beloved Friend! Look and see what our sins have done to him; Good Jesus, gentle Jesus, Friend of Ours: receive our prayer of thanks and praise: "Deo gratias! Deo gratias!" Alleluia! "Praise and thanks to God forever!" Alleluia! Alleluia!

On Good Friday we saw how Jesus proved his love for us by being willing to lay down his life for us: while we were still enemies; in doing this he restored the Divine Friendship between us and himself, his Father and the Holy Spirit; the Divine Friendship that was seriously wounded by the sin of our first parents; the Divine Friendship that only he could do something about, being both man and God at the same time. God was so much offended when we, human beings, chose not to be his Friends any longer; only one who was also God could mend what needed mending.

There is no greater love, Jesus tells us, than to lay down one's life for one's friends. And so it was our Lord, our God; but also our Brother and our Friend who was crucified on that stormy Friday afternoon! He endured it o so willingly and lovingly so that we could be free from our sins, and live with him forever in heaven.

Today we celebrate his reward: the fact that, in his humanity, Jesus was raised from the dead by his Father, by the working of the Holy Spirit – because of his obedience to his Father's will. And Jesus now lives nevermore to die again. He is the first-fruit of all those who would likewise never see death – if they believe in him and live like they believe it, here and now! This means very plainly that if we are incorporated into his very life by baptism, and are confirmed, strengthened and equipped by the same Holy Spirit that he was, and share the spiritual Eucharistic Food he provided at the Last Supper, and we try to live each day like he taught us in the Sermon the Mount – then we too can expect to share his life of resurrection: a newness of human life that we can't even imagine how wonderful it really is. He promised this to us! And he always keeps his promises!

Yes, look and see what was done to Jesus on the Cross; but just as importantly look and see where Jesus resides very much alive right now – in the tabernacle; in the Scriptures; in the Eucharist as we share it each week, and in each other
as we love and serve each other. Jesus becomes more really present the more we really love others like he did. If you want to truly experience the presence of the Risen Christ, then go out of your way, strengthened by the Eucharist you eat and drink, and become that Eucharist for others by your caring and loving concern and concrete help!

This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Homily – April 10, 2009 – Good Friday

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for ones friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.

Another piece of music that I recently composed says this: You are my friends if you do what I command! If you love as I have loved you! Lay down your life; lay down your life for your friends!

The really amazing thing about Jesus' death on the Cross was that he went through with it when we all were still technically his "enemies" – even though he told his Apostles that they were "clean thanks to the word that he had spoken to them." He meant here that they were clean from any serious obstacles that would allow them one day to understand fully what all that he was doing would mean.

And Jesus did die for us sinners, for us enemies, for us friends-turned-traitor; and at that moment the enormous forces of spiritual reconstruction, spiritual renovation, spiritual reconciliation began to happen – and the Divine Friendship between God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and us human creations was reconnected, reestablished, resurrected from the dead! At that point however, no one really knew about it – except the centurion who said: "Truly this was the Son of God – truly everything he told us will be fulfilled!"

And so, by dying, Jesus destroyed our death, and gained for us forgiveness of our sins – if we ask for it; and entrance into heaven – if we live our lives like we want to be there!

The price that we have to pay Jesus made very clear: I carried my Cross and suffered death; you must carry your share, you must occasionally suffer and then die physically – in order to get the full fruits of Redemption! But be not afraid – what I have done, will make it all that much more easy for you!

The second stanza of my composition reads: You are my friends if you do my Father's will, if you do my father's loving will! You are my friends if you follow after me! Pick up your cross, pick up your cross and follow! Follow me into everlasting life! This is the will of the Father that as many as possible will have life on high forever!

Thank you Jesus so much for doing what you
did not even have to do for us – thank you for transforming us once again into Divine Friends of yours; may we do our part so that the Friendship can last our whole lives long – and beyond! We carry our crosses best, when we forget about the pain and suffering and help others because we love God: this is how Jesus did it!

We adore you O Christ, and we bless you; because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Homily – April 9, 2009 – Holy Thursday

The lyric of a piece of music that I recently composed reads: The broken Bread of Life is the Holy Bread of Friendship! "This is my Body given for you; this is the Cup of your salvation!" Come, come and eat and drink!

This piece is all about what we are doing here tonight: remembering and being present at the Institution of the Broken Bread of Life as the Holy Bread of Friendship: The Most Blessed Eucharist, as our spiritual food and drink for then, for now, and for all ages.

The supreme act of reconciliation that Jesus came to this earth to accomplish was the reestablishment of the Divine Friendship between God and his people! God created Adam and Eve – he created the human family to be first of all friends of his, and then, friends of one another! When Adam and Eve freely chose to disobey God, they tragically and seriously wounded that Friendship – and they introduced sin and death into the world. Only one person could qualify to rejuvenate that Friendship – and that was a man who was also at the same time God: this, of course, is Jesus.

The only way that Jesus could accomplish the reconciliation – the forgiveness of sins and the destruction of death – was to take sin upon himself, and to die so that we might be freed from sin and death forever! And so the broken bread of his life on Calvary became the Holy Bread of Friendship, broken and given bread at the Last Supper.


This is my Body given for you; this is the Cup of your salvation! Come, come and eat and drink! When we eat and drink what was given to us, we eat and drink to the death and resurrection of the Lord, and our own!

What an amazing thing the Eucharist is – and it is there for us every time we come to Mass. It is real spiritual food, real spiritual nourishment for all our spiritual needs.

Now what guarantees that we, here, today have the exact same Presence of Christ in the Eucharist that has been there since the Last Supper is the Apostolic line of succession that transmits, from age to age, the spiritual power needed to really and truly change the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ – the line of succession of the priesthood – which began at this Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples. He told them "Do this in memory of me!" He wanted to be with us in this sacramental way until the end of time – and so he provided the sacramental means of the New Testament priesthood to make himself really present. Because the "ordination line" has been carefully preserved – you can trust that you really have Jesus here present today – I know, to the best of my knowledge, that I have been validly and licitly ordained.

But none of this spiritual food would really even be necessary unless we took Jesus at his word in St. John's accounting of the Last Supper: he leaves the narration of the "consecration" of the bread and wine to other writers, and focuses on spiritual action: having been spiritually nourished, it must lead to loving service or else the nourishment is simply selfish and ineffective.

Our reception of Communion must lead us to be a better neighbor, a better husband, a better wife, a better son, a better daughter, a better worker; a better student – a better FRIEND to all people – or else we ought not even receive it. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples; we must wash each other with loving acts of kindness, forgiveness, healing and help! After this homily we will have our customary "hand-washing" ceremony – which will be our way of doing the "foot-washing rite of the gospel"; may this external act move us interiorly to BE A GOOD AND FAITHUL CATHOLIC FRIEND to any who need us!

The broken Bread of Life is the Holy Bread of Friendship! "This is my Body given for you; this is the Cup of your salvation!" Come, come and eat and drink!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Homily – April 8, 2009 – Wednesday of Holy Week

Our first reading for Monday and Tuesday of Holy Week was concerning the first two oracles of the Servant of the Lord. The prophet Isaiah told us on Monday that the one who would open the eyes of the blind, bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness – would be the servant whom [God] upholds, his chosen one with whom he is pleased, upon whom he put his Spirit. Yesterday, Isaiah tells us more about this Servant of the Lord: he would make his servant a two-edged sword, and a light to the nations: that his salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. Today we have a third oracle: the one who had a well-trained tongue, who spoke to the weary to rouse them to hope, would be disgraced with buffets and spittings and beatings; yet he would not be overwhelmed, for he knew that the Lord God was his help and would prove him right! These oracles, of course, are prophecies concerning Jesus!

We are hours away now from entering into the Triduum Celebration of Jesus' passion and death, and subsequent resurrection. He knew the prophecies must be fulfilled in him; he eagerly wanted them to be so – even with the pain and suffering that was involved.

The pain began in earnest when one of his chosen twelve betrayed him by selling him out to the police. Sometimes even having Jesus for your very good friend is not enough to keep one from the blindness of selfishness and greed. Everyone, even Judas, always has free-will and the choice to opt for Jesus and his way! Judas, however, had other plans – and they led to his demise. May our decision be for Jesus and for life in him!

Hail to you, our King, obedient to the Father; you were led to your crucifixion like a gentle lamb to the slaughter!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Homily – April 7, 2009 – Tuesday of Holy Week

Our first reading for yesterday, Monday of Holy Week was concerning the first oracle of the Servant of the Lord. The prophet Isaiah told us that the one who would open the eyes of the blind, bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness – would be the servant whom [God] upholds, his chosen one with whom he is pleased, upon whom he put his Spirit. Today, Isaiah tells us more about this Servant of the Lord with the second oracle: he would make his servant a two-edged sword, and a light to the nations: that his salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. These oracles, of course, are prophecies concerning Jesus!

The two-edged sword meant both an external and an internal sword: the Light of his Word would bring hatred, opposition and persecution. In a few days we recall how this prophecy is fulfilled in the death of Jesus, the Suffering Servant of the Lord! His words and action of accepting death would pierce the heart interiorly, striking people in their consciences (not only those there, but all people); and it would bring the sword on many who followed after him and spoke as he spoke! But Jesus warned his disciples about this: don't think that you will be treated any better than I. And they all, except for one, were so willing to follow Jesus all the way to martyrdom.

The one who did not – was Judas! We read in the gospel passage today how Judas – in the cover of darkness – allowed Satan to enter his heart – and started the proceedings that would end with the death of the Lord of Life, the Lord of Light! Judas never was one who much liked living in the light – his deeds were crooked and his conscience was dulled: how else could he have betrayed the very Truth itself.

The interesting thing to note is that Jesus never stopped loving Judas – even though he knew what he was going to do; he never stopped being willing to go through with it all so that even Judas might be forgiven if he asked for it; he was hoping and praying that Judas would be a witness to his resurrection. But that was not to be the case, because Judas was so very self-absorbed with Judas, and his conscience was so very twisted and distorted, and his grasp of the truth was so distant that he could not even believe that God himself could forgive him. Poor Judas!

Peter, on the other hand, in one night denied that he even knew Jesus three times – but when he realized what he had done, he repented and wept bitterly – and forgiveness would be his very soon – because he knew that Jesus was the Way and the Truth and the Life: there was nowhere else to go; he knew that Jesus' death for the forgiveness of sins was for him!

May we today believe that Jesus death on the Cross is for our sins too! And may we always be ready and willing to repent, confess and rejoice in the life of healing that comes especially from the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance. You can always ask any priest any time you see him to celebrate that amazing sacrament with you: it is a direct application of these Three Holiest Days of the Year that we are about to enter!

Hail to you, our King, obedient to the Father; you were led to your crucifixion like a gentle lamb to the slaughter!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Homily – April 6, 2009 – Monday of Holy Week

The first reading for Holy Week weekday Mass is the first oracle of the Servant of the Lord. The prophet Isaiah tells us that that one who would "open the eyes of the blind, bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness" – would be the "servant who [God] upholds, his chosen one with whom he is pleased, upon whom he put his Spirit." He will bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, but making his voice heard in the street. He will be o so gentle and loving, a bruised reed he shall not even break, and if a wick is smoldering he will not be the cause of it going out – until he establishes justice on the earth!

The establishment of justice was and is Jesus' primary activity in this world: but not the kind of justice we might think! His justice is a justice of reconciliation. His justice was to take those who were his permanent and unable-to-do-anything-about-it-themselves enemies and make them his friends – by the self-sacrifice of his own life. Once we were thus justified and reestablished as God's friends – then, with his help and the power of the gift of the Spirit – we could maintain that relationship in a new kind of justice – one that seeks to preserve the way and the truth and of which Jesus himself is the life.

In the gospel passage, we see the death of Jesus anticipated shortly before it happens. Mary is concerned about honoring and loving Jesus; Judas is concerned about his own wallet. Mary's love will be rewarded when she sees Jesus' risen from the dead; Judas will not see that day!

Hail to you, our King, Lord Jesus; you alone are compassionate with our faults – and you alone can truly do something about them!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Homily – April 5, 2009 – Palm Sunday

We are now entering the most holy week of the Church's calendar year. Perhaps we can quickly review how we got here during the preparatory season of Lent.

  • First Sunday of Lent – we considered the "temptation of Jesus in the desert" and we saw how Jesus was not deterred at the beginning of his public life by temptations of Satan to forego the Cross that he knew awaited him at the end of his ministry. Jesus said: GO AWAY SATAN! I CHOOSE THE CROSS! I SHALL NOT BE DETERRED! BY THIS SHALL ALL MEN AND WOMEN GAIN FORGIVENESS OF THEIR SINS AND EVERLASTING LIFE IN HEAVEN! GO AWAY!
  • Second Sunday of Lent – we read the account of the Transfiguration of Jesus on the Mountain. Jesus became a brilliant, brilliant, white light! This reminds us that after the events of Good Friday would come the Event of Glorious Light: the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It also reminds us that by our baptism we too become LIGHT with Jesus living in us. We said how important it was for us consciously and deliberately and voluntarily to BE THAT LIGHT OF CHRIST as a COURAGEOUS, COMMITTED, CONCERNED, CATHOLIC in the world today!
  • Third Sunday of Lent – we saw that OBJECTIVE STANDARDS DO EXIST! They are the WORDS AND ACTIONS OF JESUS! What would Jesus say and do?: exactly! That is what we
    ought
    to say and do always freely choosing it - we need to put our belief into noticeable Christ-centered action – or what good is our belief! Our concerned Catholic voice in this day and age is extremely important. Bishop Murphy of Rockville Center recently said that the bishops cannot do it alone – make a moral stand against those attacking LIFE in various ways – the bishops are relying very much on the good and faithful people of their flocks to be the intelligent, sensitive and forthright Catholics that they are called to be – and to speak out!
  • Fourth Sunday of Lent – we celebrated Jesus' power over sickness – with the administration of the Sacrament of the Sick at Mass. It was a powerful and real encounter with Jesus who loves to heal his people!
  • Fifth Sunday of Lent – last week – we celebrated the power of Jesus over sin – with our joint Communal Penance Service held at St. Mary's Church in Bath. It too was a very powerful celebration of God's love and never-ending offer of mercy and forgiveness for those who choose to "come to their senses," to "repent" and who want to "return to their Father," who is just watching and waiting eagerly for their return so he can restore them to their full and rightful place in family life – and then to throw a welcome home party for them. (After Mass today, a party!).


     

Today we begin the celebration of the events that made all of these things possible: Jesus' ability and power to make our daily lives different; Jesus' ability and power to heal our wounds, our sicknesses, our diseases; Jesus' ability and power to really and truly forgive our sins; Jesus' ability and power to open the gates of heaven wide for us so that we can enter one day – if we choose to live a life close to the one he prescribed: simply a life of giving God glory and self-sacrificial loving service to all our brothers and sisters in the human family: we begin the celebration of Holy Week!

I invite you all – as many as possible - to come celebrate the Holiest Days of the Year [not because you have to: 2 of 3 oddly enough are NOT Holy Days of Obligation; but come because you want to: to demonstrate how appreciative to God you really are for all that he did and still does for you] :

Holy Thursday Mass (6PM) (The Commemoration of the Last Supper that Jesus ate with his disciples – which commemorates the Institution of the Eucharist as our Amazing Spiritual Food for Spiritual Action: loving service, for all time; and also the Institution of the Priesthood which allows for the real Eucharist to be present until the end of time);

Good Friday
Service (6PM) (The Commemoration of Jesus' most awe-inspiring agony and death on the Cross for us and for our salvation – this is the most dramatic event of all timenothing speaks love, mercy, forgiveness, life more than the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross); and of course, then, next Sunday

Easter Sunday when Jesus' entire incarnation; his entire coming to earth – and everything he said and did - is validated and confirmed
by his magnificent and glorious resurrection from the dead!

Sacramentally and prayerfully, we are so privileged to be able to actually "be there," in a very real spiritual sense, while these events are actually happening! So "be here," so that "you can 'be there,'" and participate wholeheartedly in these amazing mysteries!

Today, if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Homily – April 4, 2009 – Fifth Week of Lent - Saturday

We have come to the last Mass of Lent – tomorrow, with Palm Sunday, begins Holy Week. The verse before the gospel summarizes nicely the whole Lenten dynamic: cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, says the Lord, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.

These are very interesting and well chosen words. Lent is about taking the power of God that comes from the Holy Spirit and freely choosing to do what is right and just, what is truly pleasing to God: casting away all our crimes, so that we can make for ourselves a new heart and a new spirit: again but not without the help and grace of Jesus and his Spirit.

At this point, hopefully, we have cast from us more than we ever have, and our hearts are newer and the Spirit more active and fresh within us so that the events of Holy Week will take on a depth of meaning unlike we have ever experienced before.

Both readings today have to do with unity and peace that are to be obtained once and for all by the sacrifice of one man for not only one nation, but all the nations: Jesus, Messiah, King, Suffering Servant, and Beloved Friend. It was prophesied in the first reading that God's people would be unified physically and spiritually – brought to one land, and given one identity, to live in peace – God's eternally loved and protected people! In the gospel passage, the same thing is fulfilled in Jesus gathering all the nations into one identity in order to bestow grace, mercy, forgiveness, love and peace to them – both in this life, and forever.

May we be comforted in knowing how immensely loved we are by God – and that he went through all of these thousands of years of preparation so that you and I could, this very day, this very Lent, this very Holy Week experience the enormous depth of his care, the power of his protection and persistence of his desire to nurture us all the days of our lives – in all the dimensions of our lives – until we are one day safely home with him inside the gates of Paradise: in the one kingdom prepared for his whole family – where we will live together in peace and joy forever!

All glory, praise and thanks are yours, our loving God and Father – forever and ever. Amen.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Homily – April 3, 2009 – Fifth Week of Lent - Friday

With a week left to go before the events of the Passion and death of Jesus, the stage is being set, the interplay between Jesus and his accusers is climbing to new heights, and more and more people are coming to believe in Jesus. Push is coming to shove and what Jesus has to say (and do) is ringing truer and truer in the minds and hearts of many.

The believers may not have been completely onboard – there were still, most likely, many questions to be answered more fully; but these people knew that he was the right and only real source for what really counted: "your words, Lord, are Spirit and life; you have the words of everlasting life." And I should think that words that have to do with where we will be spending eternity would for most people be the most important words there are!

While many came to believe in him now, many more wanted him dead. They wanted to stone him and much worse. And no argument that Jesus could make would change their minds. They said it was not for doing good deeds that they were trying to eliminate him, but for blasphemy: Jesus' apparently making himself God. Jesus briefly tries to address this argument by saying that even in your scriptures you believe it when it says that "You are god" – you have been created a little less than the angels. And so if ordinary men are considered gods, then why is it so difficult to understand that perhaps that Messiah could be Son of God. But they didn't buy the argument!

And so Jesus – as is prophesied in the first reading from Jeremiah – senses the terror and derision that is mounting against him, yet his heart is steadfast and constant: he would do what he came to earth to do: and the Lord, his Father, would rescue him and restore him to life: in due time, and when he finished doing what the reconciliation of mankind required.

Let us too remember, that in our distress, as well, when we call upon the Lord, he hears our voice and rescues us – why wouldn't he – if we trust him, and believe in him!

Today, if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts!

May 22 - 5th Week of Easter - Wednesday

+ Our readings today are about unity and community, or a more contemporary way of saying it would be: participation . Jesus makes it ...