Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Homily – June 30, 2009 – The First Holy Martyrs of the Church of Rome

Today's feast of the First Holy Martyrs of the Church of Rome is a very important feast in the Church calendar. It follows the celebration of the martyrdoms of Sts. Peter and Paul, by one day. And it includes all of those who gave their lives in the middle of the first century for the Christian faith, including James and Peter and Paul, the first of the Apostles to do so.

These deaths are significant because they give life to the faith which they confessed. If all the early Christians did was say "I believe in God the Father, Son and Spirit living in me and the Church" but did not act as though they believed it, especially when things got difficult, and the opposition was knocking at the door, then the faith would be worthless. The foundation stones of the Church are red with the blood of martyrs: as Jesus gave everything for us, including his last drop of blood, some were blessed with the opportunity to do the same for him, literally!

The actual martyrs that we celebrate today were killed in the first persecution of Christians by the Emperor Nero. Nero was a psychotic kind of person, and no doubt set fire to the city of Rome one hot summer evening just for the sport of it. When the fire got out of control and raged for seven days burning most of Rome to the ground he blamed the Christians for it and began rounding them up for the slaughter. He used a deplorable variety of barbaric methods to carry out his plan (even his own soldiers thought he was going a bit overboard in the ferocity with which he struck out against these Christians: but with the powerful help of the Holy Spirit, the Christians did not shrink back from their fate, but actually embraced it quite courageously. When one can unite ones sufferings with that of Christ Crucified, anything is possible, any amount of pain and even death can be endured – because the promise of a share in his resurrection is sure and certain.

As St. Paul tells us in the first reading today: if God is for us who can be against us? Who can possibly separate us from the love of God? As Jesus conquered the world, so can we!

Nero has long come and gone, but in the gospel passage Jesus himself warns us that the true disciple will face all kinds of turmoil in any society in which he lives – the Church is still being persecuted today in many ways – but that this disciple must stay true to the real teachings of the true teachers and prophets sent by God – and not to listen to the false ones who are quite obviously self-gratifying and the seekers of an easier, softer way. There is no easier, softer way: there is only the way of the Cross; and the one who perseveres to the end will be saved!

Thank you Holy Martyrs of the Church of Rome for carrying your outstanding witness to discipleship to its ultimate limit which was rewarded with a crown of glory! Pray for us that we might be strong as well!

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Homily - June 29, 2009 – The Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul

Today we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Martyrdoms of Saints Peter and Paul. Together they form the foundation on which the entire church of Christ rests. Peter is the leader, chosen for the task by Jesus himself (you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it); and Paul is its fearless preacher – carrying the message of salvation, as Jesus himself commanded, to the ends of the earth. We honor the living foundation of our faith today because we believe in the church that arose from their amazing lives and heroic deaths.

It was Peter who worked among the people of Israel, the Lord's own family, trying to convince them that Jesus: the Christ, the Son of the Living God (which he himself confessed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit at the command of God the Father) was truly the long-awaited Messiah. They were to look for no one else. No one else had the words of everlasting life; no one could have them, other than Jesus. Peter converted and baptized many Jews by his powerful preaching and witness to the realities of Christ's life, death and resurrection.

Paul, in his three missionary journeys brought the Good News of salvation to most of the known world. He endured many hardships, trials and persecutions. Yet he never wavered in his vocation to preach Christ Crucified to the entire world – and to bring to all the Easter message of the Joy of Risen Life: which is God's singular free gift, being the result of the death of Jesus on the Cross. I have competed well (Paul relates exhaustedly); I have finished the race; I have kept the faith…The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamations might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it.

Both Peter and Paul gathered into unity the one family of Christ; both Peter and Paul shared a martyr's death in Rome (Peter first, Paul soon following); and both Peter and Paul are praised throughout the world to this day – for being outstanding witnesses to what life in the church is all about: giving one's all, so that Jesus can continue to give his all, to all who are joined to him by baptism, and those even who still lack him: the welcome mat is always out in front of any Catholic Church door!

Sts. Peter and Paul we thank you for all you did for the Church and still do, and we ask your special blessings on the newly forming "All Saints Parish." As all the angels and saints are gathered around the throne of God in heaven, so may we glimpse our true destination every time we gather for worship in any of the "churches," "worship sites" of the new parish – but especially here at St. John's.

Taste and see how good the Lord is; blessed are they who take refuge in him.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Homily – June 28, 2009 – Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today's readings are about "what was and what will be," about "endings and beginnings," about "death and life." In a sense it is about the great "spiral of life" ever leading upward and onward, though in somewhat of a circular, motion.

The readings are very clear that God is a God of Life! "He did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned things that they might have being; and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is not a destructive drug among them nor any domain of the netherworld on earth, for justice is undying. God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. BUT BY THE ENVY OF THE DEVIL – EVERYTHING CHANGED – AND DEATH ENTERED THE WORLD AS A RESULT OF SIN and they who belong to his company experience it!" It is not God's fault that death and sin are in the world: it is ours, the individual and collective children of Adam and Eve.

But it was God's immediate response, as soon as the Great Sin happened – the sins of mistrust, and disobedience which is what Original Sin is all about – to change the sin to forgiveness and the death to life. The sending of his Son was all about such a tremendously compassionate and urgent desire for reconciliation. And because Jesus went through with it – and died on the cross – the sin was forgiven and life was restored – the gates of heaven were opened and things were once again made right – HOWEVER – the good effects would only apply now to those who want to participate in them, those who believe in Jesus and his Father and their Spirit and who are willing to act like they believe it in a life of self-sacrificial service after the example of Jesus. In a real sense he said: I carried my cross, now you must carry yours!

And so death was transformed into life; the ending of one situation was transformed into the beginning of a new one; what was, was transformed into what is now new and what will be from now on! Does any of this sound familiar?

In just a few days the same process of transformation will take place as six parishes in the Midcoast region experience a death in their present parish setups, but solely for the purpose of being transformed into one living new parish by the name of All Saints, having six "churches" or "worship sites" for the faithful to continue gathering for worship and to experience extended parish life; this will be marked as the end of the way things were, and the beginning of a whole new way to be; what was will be transformed into a new now and an uncertain but exciting future. Will it work out? Will we like the new priests? Will we all get along under one "parish umbrella"? Chances are we will! This has worked out in other places in this diocese and in many other dioceses in the country. In many ways it is much more like the way the early church was set up – with a central administration and several worship sites.

What will make it work out is if we remember the little girl in the gospel passage today: Jesus raised her to life for the good of her family! He will also raise up our new parish for our good and the good of the diocese of Portland if we approach him with the same trust, and faith and love that the parents of the child did! Jesus knows our need! He knows any pain and confusion and frustration that might be accompanying this transition (in the gospel passage he tells the people to stop their weeping and wailing and commotion) – and he will help, if we ask him! For both he and his Father, are the God of the living and not the whining and the dying and the dead! And he wants to see to it that our efforts in glorifying God are fully supported!

Another thing that would help, as with all new beginnings: is to let bygones be bygones (if there are any to be gone); not to carry unnecessary baggage from the old parish to the new one! Life is too short for people on the same team to quibble with one another over relative and subjective interpretations of things. We are "forgiven people" (all of us); and unless we forgive, then we really are not fully plugged into the ranks of discipleship and we are selling ourselves short of a truly happy parish life!

And so next week you will have a new designation as St. Ambrose Church of All Saints Parish; you will have a new Administrator: Father Frank Murray who seems to be quite capable of taking the helm of this new endeavor; and you will still have Angela, as Pastoral Associate and myself as Sacramental Minister – as we venture forth into the great adventure of being a brand-spanking-new parish!

St. Ambrose, pray for us! Holy Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, pray for us! All you Saints of God, pray for us!

God bless you!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Homily – June 27, 2009 – St. Cyril of Alexandria

St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church was born at Alexandria, Egypt. He was nephew of the patriarch of that city, Theophilus. He received a classical and theological education at Alexandria and was ordained a priest by his uncle. Upon the death of Theophilus, in 412, he succeeded his uncle as patriarch – but not apart from a riot between his supporters and those of Timotheus, his rival. He at once began an aggressive reign to purge the city of dissidents. He entered into the Nestorian controversy – Nestorius, being patriarch of Constantinople who was preaching that Mary was not the Mother of God since the Christ was divine and not human – she should therefore not have the term "Theotokos" (God-bearer) applied to her. Another way to say this is that Nestorius believed that Jesus was but a moral union of two separate persons – one divine, and one human – and that Mary was simply the mother of the human person – so she could not therefore be "mother of God." The Council of Ephesus, attended by some two hundred bishops, condemned Nestorianism and stated that Mary truly was "Mother of God." Theotokos.

During the rest of his life, Cyril wrote treatises that clarified the doctrine of the Trinity and the Incarnation that helped stabilize Christianity in the face of heresy. He was the most brilliant theologian of the Alexandrian tradition. His writings are characterized by accurate thinking, precise exposition, and great reasoning skills. He was declared a doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1882.

Cyril truly exemplified the life of the evangelist: the proclaimer of the word of God – as set forth in the first reading today. He was persistent whether convenient or inconvenient. He convinced, reprimanded, encouraged through all patience and teaching. He was self-possessed in all circumstances. He put up with hardships and faithfully fulfilled his ministry as evangelist! He was a good and faithful servant of the Gospel. In this Year of the Priest we pray that priests, whether first class or second, faithfully proclaim the Gospel, everywhere and in every circumstance, so that it can at least be noticed and heard. The reception and subsequent application is entirely up to the willingness of the listener to respond to this grace – but at least the evangelist will have done his duty!

Jesus told his disciples, all of them, that they must be salt and light in the world. It is up to them to make the difference in a rather tasteless and dim world. The peaceful light of Truth, the peaceful Light of Christ, and the peaceful light of Charity can make all the difference in a confused and hostile world!

Because we have heard the Gospel and responded to it, forever we will sing the goodness of the Lord.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Homily – June 26, 2009 – Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time - Friday

Today we have a continuation in the first reading of the story of Abraham and his family. Isaac will indeed be born to Sarah his aged wife – no joke! And the one born of impatience, Ishmael, will be blessed by God – a strong nation will issue forth from him and his descendants, but they will not be the covenanted people of God: this will go as was promised to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. Perhaps this is the bone of contention that still remains – and will remain in the Holy Land – unless both parties in the feud simply look at the facts from the beginning – and become reconciled to them!

The curing of the leper by Jesus with such great ease in the gospel passage shows how easy it is to bring about healing and peace and reconciliation: all it takes is faith in God and a willingness to be healed, be made peaceful and reconciled.

May we this day be people of the New Covenant of Christ's Blood – a covenant of looking out for other people first no matter who they are – family, friends or foe. This would please God very much – who looked out for us and our salvation when we were his foes!

Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Homily – June 25, 2009 – Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time - Thursday

In the first part of the book of Genesis we hear of the story of two contentious brothers: Cain and Abel – the story did not have a happy ending: and fratricide in a lot of forms still exists today; today, in the first reading, we have the story of another pair of brothers who lived, for the most part, a life of contention – and whose descendants are still living the "bad blood" between them to this day: Ishmael and Isaac: both sons of Abraham: but the first from the slave mother Hagar, and the second from the free mother Sarah.

What is always encouraging in this on-going "family feud" is that there exists the real possibility of a permanent reconciliation: the brothers did come together peacefully at one time to mourn the death of their father Abraham: so it is possible for life to come from death! Perhaps this historical reference can help deal with the situation, along with a new "common effort" to take the focus from the two individual parties involved.

The whole story of the birth of Ishmael ought to raise questions in our minds in the first place. Why is this rift in existence at all? Impatience is the answer! Abraham was impatient! God promised him to be the "father of a host of nations" – but ten years past and "nothing happened," yet! He and his aged wife were still "infertile," physically. So becoming impatient Abraham had a child through a concubine – with Sarah's permission (which was an acceptable practice at this time) – this child was named Ishmael (meaning "your message has been heard"); then, Abraham became the father of Isaac by Sarah his wife in keeping with the Lord's promise. Hagar and Ishmael were taken to the desert and abandoned, but the Lord saved them and Ishmael became the leader of the Arab nations. But, this whole situation could have been avoided in the first place if only Abraham had been patient with God's will and ways!

And so, doing God's will – the way he wants it, when he wants it – is always the best way to approach anything: especially, if God has already promised something to be done. Let it work out – in due time – in the natural and inspired way – without our fingerprints all over it! How many families have had Ishmael/Isaac experiences in them due to impatience?

The gospel passage reminds us that prayer – crying Lord, Lord is only effective when it is applied to God's projects rather than our own. If we did 100 projects completely of our own initiative, choosing and planning and did not involve God in the process at all – they will mean nothing; compared to one project done because we consulted with God, asked his guidance, followed his inspiration, and fulfilled the requirements with his help: this will be like the house that withstood the winds, the rains and the floods – because it will have God himself as its foundation, its walls and its defender.

Perhaps focusing on what is truly God's will can be the common denominator for the Arabs and the Israelis, the Protestants and the Catholics, the pagans and the Christians – and a happy result can be forthcoming: a result that will produce peace, and joy and love forever in the Kingdom to come!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Homily – June 24, 2009 – The Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist

Today we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist. This is a timely feast this year because of what it tells us about old endings and new beginnings. John was the very last predominating figure of the Old Dispensation, the Old Testament, the Time of Preparation for the coming of the Great Messiah: the one who would fulfill all of the prophecies. In a sense his was the "birth of the end!" But "the end" was necessary so that the New Dispensation the New Testament, the Time of Rejoicing in the Arrival and Presence of the Lord Jesus – our Savior and our Friend - could begin.

What I like so much about St. John the Baptist was that he was a very humble man – he knew who he was (the last of the old line), and who he was not (the awaited one). And today he can be a great help for us as we stand on the brink of a period of transition from one dispensation of parish life, to another – not only for one parish, but for six of them. We have been in the past several weeks and months, and are even moreso now, deeply into the birthing process of a brand new parish whose name encompasses all the saints of heaven! What a grand and glorious title to soon call our own!

What is naturally sad at this time is the "endings" involved: the retirements of several priests, the moving on of others, the renaming and redefining of things in a more communal sort of way – which is really quite good, as it is the Gospel way; and it includes the natural apprehensions of the unknown: will this really work out: will we like the new priests: will we all get along as one working parish with six "church" worship sites. Well, it is already working in many places in this diocese and in many other dioceses. Chances are good that it will work here too: but not without our willingness to let go of "the way we were" and to look forward with joyful hope to all of the excitement, joys and benefits of something brand spanking new!

And of course we must always remember that any and every parish, church and worship site – and faith-filled group of people who care for one another and are dedicated to serving the needs of one another and others at large – are but a foretaste of the Great Parish to which we are already members and to which we will all one day migrate to – the one in Heaven: where Jesus himself will be our Pastor, and Shepherd, and there will be – just as he said there would be – One Flock – all of us giving praise and glory to our heavenly Father forever in the Holy Spirit.

St. John the Baptist – Patron of Transitions – help us in the next few weeks to embrace "the happy death of one experience of local church" to fully embrace and love a new one!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Homily – June 23, 2009 – Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time - Tuesday

The gospel passage ought to make all of us a bit uneasy. Have we chosen the "narrow way" that Jesus not only recommends but insists on for those seeking real life? Isn't life meant "to be enjoyed" – do I really have "to be miserable" to be a disciple of Jesus? Yes and no! Yes, life is meant to be enjoyed, and no, one does not have to be miserable to be a disciple of Jesus, but there is a price that must be paid by us, a very slight co-pay compared with the very large amount that Jesus paid on our behalf for our salvation! We must carry our portion of the cross – because we are members of his body, existing in the world, which is still alive – and therefore we need to suffer with Jesus in order to share his resurrection. What is guaranteed is that the suffering will always lead to the resurrection – because the resurrection has already taken place and is always effective.

Jesus, in the same gospel passage, makes very plain what the narrow gate involves: it involves treating others the way we want to be treated. This is such an easy thing for him to suggest, but quite an uneasy thing to implement. There are so many strange and different kinds of people out there; some of them are quite contrary to myself; some of them are quite obnoxious and challenging and quarrelsome: how am I expected to deal with them? Jesus tells us point blank: with the same dignity, respect and compassion with which you want to be treated; the same way that I did it!

Apparently only a few are actually able to carry this out with any real success as Jesus says that those who find the road that leads to life are few; relatively few. Again, may we be among those who do find this way!

All we need do is to follow the light of the world: Jesus: and he will show us how to do it; how to get along with mostly everyone; the way he did it. Remember, Jesus did not necessarily like everyone; liking is not part of the deal, but loving is, being compassionate is, being forgiving is, being willing to give one's life for ones brothers and sisters whether we like them or not is.

I am the light of the world, says the Lord; whoever follows me will have the light of life.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Homily – June 22, 2009 – Sts. Thomas More & John Fisher

Today we celebrate a timely feast day: Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher. Both lived in 15th century England. Thomas was Chancellor of King Henry VIII – and he along with Bishop John Fisher stayed their consciences against the marriage of the King to Anne Boleyn. They both were executed and died a martyr's death for the faith.

In our day and age Christians across the board are called upon to stay their consciences on behalf of the faith against the wiles of the evil one that prowl society seeking the ruin of souls. The insidious nature of his ploys call for the same kind of staunch opposition if the brightness of the Light of Christ is ever to increase in a world so darkened by confusion, bad choices and sin.

The moral climate of an era cannot help but affect all of the society that it touches: if the climate is dark and stormy, so will the conditions in the society be; if the climate is light and pleasant, so will the conditions in the society be. Quality of morality precedes quality of society!

As St. Peter wrote in the first reading: do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you – but rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you…. Those who suffer in accord with God's will hand their souls over to a faithful creator as they do good.

Yes, we are blessed when we are persecuted for the sake of true righteousness: the very kingdom of heaven will be ours!

St. Thomas More, St. John Fisher and so many others lost their lives but found it just as Jesus promised they would. Taking up the cross and following Jesus never was meant to be easy, but it was certainly meant to be something that could be done with his help, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

May the Spirit of Christ help us this day to stand up for the faith wherever and whenever necessary!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Homily – June 21, 2009 – Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This is Father's Day – and I know for me it is a time to think about my own father – who even though he has passed on – still lives in my memory and encourages me with what he said and did for me and the family I grew up in. One thing that my father provided for in a special way was "security." I knew that I was living in a "safe environment" and that he cared deeply for my mother, my brother and me; and he would do whatever was necessary to provide for our needs. And he did. And he did these things in a very friendly and loving way! I hope that many of you have that same regard for your own fathers! Not that my father was perfect all of the time – ask my mother and my brother, ask me – but he tried to do his best with what he had to work with – my mother, my brother and me!

But there was once TWO FATHERS who were nigh unto perfect in every way: the first is GOD, THE FATHER! who was and is definitely not only perfect, but is Perfection itself, who is the very Author of Life, Creator of everything and everyone, and Provider for everything that his beloved children need in their pilgrimage through life on earth to our true home in heaven. And the other is a man of the house of David who was chosen from all time to be the FOSTER-FATHER of God's Son when the time was right for him to come to earth in order to save mankind from sin and death! This foster-father's name was Joseph – and he was the true virginal husband of the ever virgin Mother of the Son of God: Mary of Nazareth. Theirs was a very unique relationship and marriage, yet one that –especially at this exact particular time in history – needs to be talked about. With rightful marriage and family life being in an all time high critically challenged state; with wrongful marriage and family life being touted as a "logical, just and compassionate" alternative – may we spend a few moments today on this Father's Day, this Family Day to think about the way things were set up to be "in the beginning" as the normative way!

God the Father/Creator set these things up this way "in the beginning" – according to the first book of the Bible: Genesis:

  • he created "man" "male and female" (each with the "assignment" to fully discover and celebrate the purity of each sexuality: i.e. "masculinity" and "femininity" – the goal: for males to become fully male in a well balanced sort of way; for females to become fully female in a well balanced sort of way – this can and ought to be be a life-long process)
  • he created the male and the female to unite as one flesh as a sign of his own unity and love for his creations; and as a way to procreate with him new members of his family (unless he is directly involved in the process, then it is less than it can be)
  • he sent them forth to be fruitful and multiply and to subdue the earth (to fill the earth with children and the family life of "mother / father / sons/daughters" – and to use the good resources of the earth in a responsible way to supply for the needs of family life – and for legitimate enjoyment and pleasure)

This is the way things were set up and this is the way that God intended and still intends for them to operate and work – with no deviation. However…

when the man and the woman misused their gift of free will and caused sin and death to enter the picture, GOD THE FATHER set into motion a marvelous plan: to forgive their sin and restore their life – at the cost of the life of his own Son (the only one qualified to do it: because he was both God and man at the same time): Jesus – Son of Mary, Foster-son of Joseph, the carpenter.

An important thing to remember here (not only for this family, but for all families, including every family represented here today) – GOD ALWAYS PREPARES INDIVIDUALS FOR THEIR TRUE VOCATIONS IN LIFE! Everything they need to make them fully qualified is provided, and will all work out, if the people involved cooperate with the gifts given and prepare themselves humbly, willingly and generously from the heart.

Thus – since Mary would be the Mother of Jesus, who is God – his body would come from hers – it was only right that her body had no hint of Original Sin – thus she was immaculately conceived in the womb of St. Anne. Mary was always full of grace – a fitting dwelling place for the unborn Jesus. She is thus the most blessed of all persons. This we probably already knew: but did you ever stop to think that Joseph too was very specially prepared to do his job as foster-father and earthly provider of Jesus – Son of God and Son of Mary: he would be the one to teach Jesus so many things that only a father could teach a son: and so, while not immaculately conceived in his mother's womb: he was, however, the Church tells us, by certain logic and valid inference, all but completely sanctified in the womb of his mother and is considered second in degree of holiness only to that of Mary herself.

And so Jesus was born. Mary was his adoring mother, Joseph was his ever-attentive and devoted foster-father and the pattern of family life for all Christians was set. What made it all work out for them was that they each put God the Father and his will first in their lives, they each were as humble and unassuming as one can be and they each dedicated their lives to be of loving self-sacrificial service to other people, beginning with each other: we can do the exact same thing, both as immediate and remote family members!

But what a task Joseph had before him, no doubt he wondered "can I do this?" "can I be all that God wants me to be for this precious little gift he has placed in my life?" – and God answered "Oh, yes, Joseph, you can do it – with my help as your Father, you certainly can do it!" – and he did do it. May St. Joseph, the model of all earthly fathers, help all men – who follow their vocation to be fathers – do what they need to do to be the spiritual and material resources for those placed in their loving care.

St. Joseph, pray for us! Amen!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Homily – June 20, 2009 – The Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Yesterday we celebrated the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus; today we celebrate the love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary that was very much involved in the whole process of our salvation. If Mary did not respond generously with a loving "yes" to God's proposal of being the Mother of his Son, then we would not have had a Savior – and we would not be saved.

But she did respond generously and lovingly and her response was pure and holy – most pure and holy among lowly creatures of God. And because of it she became most blessed among all women.

Her heart was the fountain and source of her maternal care for the child Jesus; yet, from the start her heart would be a heart affected by all of the contradictory things that happened to her son. Yesterday we read how a lance pierced the heart of her son, Jesus, as he hung dead on the cross; her own heart was pierced that day as well. And as the church was born then from the flowing blood and water pouring from the side of Christ; so too her motherhood for all members of that church was born: she became our loving mother and we found a safe spiritual harbor deep within her own blessed heart!

Just as Jesus never ceases making intercession for us; neither does Mary his mother: and with these two, and all of the saints and angels pulling for us – we can be sure to get a proper hearing at the throne of God – for whatever we truly need in life.

This day let us honor Mary's Immaculate Heart and promise her even more filial recognition and devotion throughout the rest of this church year. Her heart exulted in the Lord, her God; may ours do the same!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Homily – June 19, 2009 – The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

We have recently celebrated the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity which summarized the gracious activity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the past several months of celebrating Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. God is Three, God is One and he chose to create us, and then intervene in our history when we got things wrong at the very start – by sin! Last Sunday we celebrated another solemnity: Corpus Christi: it was an emphatic celebration of the desire of God to remain very close to his people until the end of time – as we make our pilgrim journey to where he resides most fully: heaven. In his Word and in the Eucharist God is really and truly present to us, and in us: so that we can experience his life now – the dynamic life of Divine Friendship – as a preparation of sharing it and participating in it forever in heaven.

Today we have another solemnity and the final related major feast: that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This feast answers the question: "Why" did God, Jesus, the Spirit do all of this: the answer being: OUT OF A TREMENDOUS DEPTH OF LOVE, COMPASSION AND MERCY for us! In the first reading today we see this love prophesied: even when his chosen band sinned against him, God's heart was overwhelmed with pity for them – he would withhold his blazing wrath against them and send them a healer: he would send them Jesus.

St. Paul tells us (II) that when we open ourselves to the knowledge of God and his compassion and his merciful love then we are on the way to experiencing true faith and the accompanying peace will fill our hearts – and all of our actions will be pure and holy in God's sight – and he will be pleased.

The gospel passage of course is one of the most dramatic scenes in all of human history: the Roman soldier pierced the heart of the Crucified God/Man: he who laid down his life for each and every member of the human race including us – BECAUSE HE LOVED US BEYOND ALL TELLING AND WANTED TO FREE US FROM SIN AND RESTORE US TO LIFE FOREVER – and blood and water flowed out: the blood for the forgiveness of our sins, the water, for the beginning of the sacramental life of the Church which was born at that moment, when the Eucharist (given first the night before in the Upper Room) was effected.

What an astounding scene! Jesus gave it all for us and for our salvation! And he provided for it to be made present throughout the ages until the end of time through a line of priests given authority and power to make it happen when he said to his Apostles at the supper: Do this in memory of me!

Today marks the beginning of the Year of the Priest. A good and holy priest is one who offers his heart to God to become likened as much as possible to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Shepherd & Priest): a loving heart, a self-sacrificing heart, a generous heart, a compassionate heart, a forgiving heart, a healing heart, a friendly heart, a merciful heart! May priests rededicate themselves to their never-ending gift of themselves to God for his purposes; and may the people of God dedicate themselves to praying this year for good and holy priests – who are beset with faults and weaknesses like everyone else – but who have ordination gifts from the Holy Spirit to rise above them quite successfully for the good of the Church and the salvation of their own souls!

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque – who spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the 19th century – pray for us; St. Maria Faustina Kowalska who spread devotion to the Divine Mercy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the 20th century – pray for us; St. John Marie Vianney, Cure of Ars – pray for us!


 

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Homily – June 18, 2009 – Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time - Thursday

Today's gospel passage contains the "perfect prayer" that a human being can make to God: perfect, because it was given by Jesus himself; perfect, because of its content; perfect because of its oftentimes unremembered emphasis.

It is interesting to note that this version of the Lord's Prayer, found in Matthew, is the only place in the New American Bible: the scriptural translation used at Mass, that the outdated and mostly culture-based usage of the words "art" "hallowed" "thy" is employed. This rendition was purposely maintained when the Lectionary was reconstructed in 2002 because this one prayer, the Lord's own Prayer, is the one sure thing that all of the Christian denominations can agree upon as a priceless treasure. Therefore as a valid and licit compromise we use it – as is – to promote unity among us all: the unity and peace which are so lacking, and so needed more now than ever in history.

Each and every word of the prayer was carefully chosen by Jesus: "do not rattle on like pagans," just call God your "Father, because he truly is your Father as well as he is mine," call his name "holy" because he is holiness itself, pray that his "kingdom" will come as he has planned it, pray that his "will" will be done on earth as in heaven, especially as you each cooperate in making it happen. In bringing this about you are to ask for "daily bread" – the nourishment not only of physical needs, but also spiritual as well, and especially the daily bread of Eucharist – the Holy Bread of Friendship; you are also to "forgive others" who sin against you, even as you ask to be forgiven for what you do to others and God; you are to ask that "temptations" to deviate from God's will be not too strong for you; and you are to pray to ever be "delivered from" the plots and ploys of the "evil" one.

But then Matthew gives the often times unremembered emphasis to the whole prayer, in the subsequent paragraph: if you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours, but if you don't, then, he won't either! So long as we all are destined to live with each other in some kind of community on our pilgrimage to heaven – then we must regard one another with compassion, mercy and forgiveness no matter how many obnoxious, unruly, or ignorant fellow pilgrims we run up against in our daily lives. No one of us is perfect yet, no one of us ought to cast the first stone (Jesus said in another place).

And so we must forgive one another from the heart, while at the same time trying to effect a change for the good in situations that call for it: after all we are called to charitable fraternal correction as well. May we have the wisdom to know the difference between correction and condemnation.

And, of course, we pray for Christian Unity – so that the Lord's Prayer may eventually and simply cover all of his people under one umbrella of not only faith, but of organization and practice! There will be one flock, one shepherd; may it be sooner as a preparation for what it will be like later!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Homily – June 17, 2009 – Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Wednesday

Yesterday in the gospel passage we heard Jesus telling us to be perfect just as our heavenly Father is perfect.

Today, the "perfection" that Jesus wants us to consider is a "purity of thought" – a single-mindedness that focuses on God, rather than us, or, even, anyone else. When we keep our focus - as pure as we can make it – set in God's direction (on his love for us, on the Friendship he offers us) - as much as we can determine it to be - then everything else makes more and more sense and we know better how to get along with one another and ourselves –our human faults and weakness are less of a hindrance and our lives seem more constructive, productive and happy.

And so, in the gospel passage, Jesus has us consider three very important activities of a disciple: giving alms, prayer and fasting. I was watching a television program the other night and it showed a man talking to his young son about a pet goat: and he told the son: "Goats are not just for Christmas, they are for every other day of the year, as well." Giving alms, prayer and fasting are not just for Lent; they are very useful and even vital to our Christian spiritual lives the whole rest of the year, as well.

And when we do these things, Jesus tells us in a very detailed way, we are not to do them "for show" – to "make a name for ourselves" – to become "popular." We are to do them because the life of God that flows into and through us needs to be released in a positive way: the life that is enhanced by constant prayer, and periodic fasting must spill out into "giving to others from our want" not from our surplus. Tithing is giving from our ordinary means – and is essential for the smooth operation of a religious community; but almsgiving is from a heartfelt desire to take from what is in not even in great supply to us and share it with others who are in even greater need. God richly blesses this GIVING IN PRIVATE (alms giving), if it is done IN PRIVATE! In fact it was so highly esteemed in the early Church that it was considered a way to have less serious sins forgiven.

It is very true what is said in the first reading today about giving: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly; and whoever sows bountifully, will reap bountifully: God loves a cheerful giver, who gives from the heart, both from his lack and from his surplus – and he rewards such a giver, abundantly!

A goat is not just for Christmas… give, give from the heart today, and every day of the year for the good of the Church…the good of your neighbor… and you will be closer to perfection than you were yesterday and God will be very pleased!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Homily – June 16, 2009 – Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Tuesday

When in the gospel passage we hear Jesus telling us to be perfect just as our heavenly Father is perfect – we somehow think he does not really mean it. Jesus must understand and know: how can a human being be as perfect as God is perfect? Well, he cannot – on his own initiative and of his own power. But he can approach perfection and one day actually reach it because Jesus tells us to do it! The words of Jesus, the words of God are effective: this means, they really accomplish whatever it is they are saying: so when Jesus says to us "be perfect" he is actually giving us the grace to choose perfection as our course, our goal and our destination, and giving us the power to make it happen. And if we stay true to the course then we shall reach the fullness of perfection one day in the Kingdom when Jesus comes again and establishes it in its completeness.

Perfection then means going above and beyond mere human, earth-bound reactions to situations. It means loving enemies; praying for persecutors, greeting those you would rather not! Jesus empowers us to do these things simply because he tells us to do them! This is good news! We do not have to be slaves to destructive lower reactions and thoughts of revenge.

In the first reading St. Paul congratulates the Church of Macedonia for being truly Christ-like in the face of opposition: thus being motivated by the goal of perfection to be completed at the end of the course. They did so thinking of Christ Jesus who left everything behind and became poor and mistreated for us and our salvation. He became perfect by embracing persecutions and by being put to death unjustly!

May we this day ever strive to do what seems to be contrary to human nature, but not contrary to our divine calling, and befriend all others and thus make what Jesus did for all available to all – through our own willingness to be instruments of love and friendship and peace!

I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Homily – June 15, 2009 – Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time - Monday

The gospel passage today makes us want to recoil a bit because it is telling us to do something that seems unnatural. If someone plucks out your eye or tooth it only seems right to want to pluck theirs right out in return! It's only fair! But the passage tells us that this type of behavior only perpetuates the negativity involved. If one counters the negative with what is not only positive but consciously generous then a whole new dynamic begins to be involved and negative people and negative situations can begin to change. The one who strikes two cheeks will be more likely to stop and think about what he is really doing, and perhaps want to change his way. The one who receives two articles of clothing when he wants to rob you of one, might decide to change as well. If you go two miles with someone who asks you to go only one – will see and feel the presence of God in what is occurring. When we give to those who ask and not turn our back on those who want to borrow then we are not only being generous ourselves but we demonstrate God's own care, compassion and generosity working through us.

The same idea is found in the first reading: we have received the grace of God: let it not be in vain: there are all kinds of negative things to be done to us by the world because we bear the name of Christ and his gospel; yet it is Jesus and his Father and the Spirit who make it possible for negativity to be turned into something positive for the good of those who hear the message of hope and see the way the disciple is unaffected by ill-treatment.

God wants to provide a lamp for our feet, a light to our path as we trudge the road of life to a happy destiny! The oil for the lamp is our generous offer to be instruments of turning the negative into the positive by our grace-filled endurance of suffering for the good of others! Let it be so today!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Homily – June 14, 2009 – The Solemnity of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Today is part three of a series of homilies on the "dynamic life" of God that is available to us initially in the Sacrament of Baptism, and is increased in the Sacrament of Confirmation in the form of Seven Major Gifts (WUCKPFF). Last week I stated that there is still one "missing piece" to this series and I asked you to think of what it was. What is it? (Pause) Yes, it is the Most Blessed Eucharist: the great Sacrament of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus – that he left us as a memorial of his passion and our pledge of future glory when he comes again. "While you are waiting for me to come again, I want to be with you at every moment – not only in your tabernacles – but also in YOU – so that you will have every possible chance of making it to where you want to be: heaven, with me and your brothers and sisters!

The Eucharist then is "the missing piece" to our homiletic puzzle.

The way I have recently come to get the most out of Eucharist is to F.O.F. (as opposed to WUCKPFF). F.O.F.=
FOCUS ON (the Divine) FRIENDSHIP!

Let me break it down this way:

God's Friendship became a man: Jesus. (named at his birth). This is an astounding reality to think about: The Word of God has "pitched his tent in our world" – as "God's-Friendship-Made-Flesh!" WOW!

Jesus became a piece of bread: then died for us to prove that Friendship. (The Last Supper; The Cross of Calvary). Both of these were the exact same act of redemptive total self-donation on the part of Jesus for us and for our salvation. By this supreme act of obedience the lost friendship between God and mankind was reconnected! Where we have the bread, we have the cross; where we have the cross, we have the bread! They are inseparable!

When we eat the bread, we become the bread, Jesus, the Friendship – so we can be it (them) for others – all others! (Self-sacrificial Donation or Self-Sacrificing Service). Everything else that we eat becomes us, but not the transubstantiated bread: bread changed by the words of Christ using the instrumentality of the duly ordained priest by the working of the Holy Spiritwe are drawn into the very life of this bread. We become the changed bread! For it is the very dynamic life of God that energizes all of our spiritual faculties – if we don't put anything in the way to block it!

That's all there is to it! But once again: WOW! What an absolutely astounding reality that is! And it's as near to us as this Mass (or any other Mass we will attend in the future). Here we have an absolute guarantee that everything we could possibly need in life will be provided if our faith in the Eucharist, in the gifts of Confirmation, in our gifts of Baptism are fully engaged and used by us! It takes work on our part, but it is so worth it! And, oh yes, it is always a great day to be Catholic for the fully initiated member of the Church: initiated by Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist!

God wants our reconnected Friendship with him to reach Divine status in our own minds, because it has already done so in his! We are his dearly beloved friends and children. And so we must Focus on the Divine Friendship (F.O.F.) as often as we possibly can – especially in FRIENDING OTHER PEOPLE! This is the way to maintain and keep alive the grace of the Eucharist we receive here when we leave. FRIEND and you will KNOW AND FEEL JESUS like you never have before. FRIEND in a self-sacrificial way and the knowledge and feeling will be even deeper and more satisfying to you and to the one beFRIENDED!

And so my dear friends: let us this day and always F.O.F., Focus on the Divine Friendship – it makes all the difference in the whole world and will do so until the end of time!

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!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Homily – June 13, 2009 – St. Anthony of Padua

The readings today have the classic theme of preacher and evangelist carrying out the ministry of the Lord Jesus himself. St. Anthony of Padua was one such preacher and proclaimer of the gospel. There is perhaps no more loved and admired saint in the Catholic Church than Saint Anthony, a Doctor of the Church. He was born in Portugal, and first joined the Augustinian Order and then left it to join the Franciscan Order in 1221 when he was 26 years old. The reason he became a Franciscan was because of the death of the five Franciscan protomartyrs in North Africa—Sts. Bernard, Peter, Otho, Accursius and Adjutus. Anthony became a Franciscan in the hope of shedding his own blood and becoming a martyr. He lived only ten years after joining the Franciscan Order. St. Anthony was only 36 years old when he died and was canonized less than one year after his death.

So simple and resounding was his teaching of the Catholic Faith, so that the most unlettered and innocent might understand it, that he was made a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XII in 1946. He is called the "hammer of heretics." His great protection against their lies and deceits in the matter of Christian doctrine was to utter, simply and innocently, the Holy Name of Mary.

When the heretics would not listen to his preaching Anthony went out and preached the true Gospel to the fishes. This was not for the instruction of the fishes but for the glory of God, the delight of the angels and the easing of his own heart. St. Anthony wanted to profess the Catholic Faith with his mind and his heart at every moment.

He is typically depicted with a book and the Infant Child Jesus, to who He miraculously appeared. He is commonly referred to today as the "finder of lost articles" Upon exhumation, some 336 years after his death, his body was found to be corrupted with the exception of his tongue, so perfect were the teachings that had been formed upon it!

As Isaiah prophesied about Jesus, and about Anthony of Padua "the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me and sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and release to prisoners – to announce a year of favor from the Lord."

And as Jesus himself sent out his disciples, so he sent St. Anthony to proclaim very loudly and clearly: THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND FOR YOU! – if you want to allow it to make any difference for you; the choice is now yours! He armed them, he armed Anthony with "peace" – and sent them on their way!

Jesus, his disciples and St. Anthony of Padua delivered – along with the Gospel of truth - the peace which the world cannot give to any who would have it! May we be open to receive the truth and the peace today – for they are for us too – if we want them!

For ever we will sing the goodness of the Lord.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Homily – June 12, 2009 – Tenth Week in Ordinary Time - Friday

The gospel passage today is very clear about the nature of the relationship between men and women: it is to be a pure, wholesome, chaste and healthy relationship – anything less is not acceptable. This is the ideal ever to be striven for – in the face of the opposing lustful feelings ever emphasized by "the father of lies" – the Evil One himself. And it goes for those in a marriage relationship as well as those outside of one.

It is the "lust" that is the culprit: the demeaning objectification, and degrading perspective that is especially easy to perpetuate in the "me-centered" "self-gratifying" culture in which we find ourselves living. Jesus, in the gospel passage says "this is not the proper perspective that ought to be had regarding our brothers and sisters in the family of God." He goes on to say that we need to control any impulses, with any of our body parts, that have anything to do with such lustful pursuits before it is too late: and the gates of paradise are shut closed in our faces because we wanted to have one last vain-filled, illegitimate fling.

The pleasure and joy that can be found in a healthy relationship with Jesus and all our brothers and sisters who live in him – can far surpass any earth-bound temporary whim of a pleasure. But this pleasure in Christ comes from seeking the Cross of Christ first – comes from proclaiming his life and love – comes from believing in him and then speaking out that belief to others both by our words and our actions of self-sacrificial loving service. The joy that comes from self-denial and giving is worth more, and "feels better" (for those who insist on "feeling better") than any other for it is the experience of grace bestowed in abundance – which is meant to cause our thanksgiving to God the Father to overflow to his glory!

And so, the married, the unmarried are called – in their mutual respect for others to shine like lights in the world as we hold on to the truth of the word of life – a word that will never let us down or cause us to believe in something that is not from God himself for our own good!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Homily – June 11, 2009 – St. Barnabas

It was the desire of the Lord to save mankind from sin; but then to reveal the saving power of the Cross (which canceled the sin) to all the nations! The apostles were sent; and very shortly after that other men were sent to join them in the early stages of evangelization: Joseph Barnabas was one such companion sent along with Saul of Tarsus to bring the gospel message to the Gentile people.

It was Barnabas who brought Saul (after his conversion, but before he was named Paul) from Tarsus to Antioch where together they met with the Church and taught a large number of people: it was here that the disciples were first called Christians.

It was also here that while the community was worshipping and fasting, the Holy Spirit said to set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. Then they laid hands on them and sent them off. Perhaps this is when Saul's name was changed to Paul. And they went off together to do their missionary work, laying the very solid foundations on which the Church of God was to grow. Of course, it was not a smooth or easy thing to do, and the church leaders even disagreed among themselves about many issues – which was only natural as they found themselves attempting to construct (under the guidance of the Spirit) a new religion as a fulfillment of an old one.

The mandate, however, given them was the same as the other apostles: As you go, make this proclamation: "The Kingdom of heaven is at hand." Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.

Each and every time we make our acts of faith, and hope and charity; every time we participate wholeheartedly in worship and fasting for our God; every time we take in, digest and translate the Word of God (proclaimed by the modern day apostles and priests) into the action of self-sacrificing loving service to others: then we are affirming the work of Barnabas and Paul; and all the Twelve; and indeed of Jesus himself; and they are very pleased; and they never cease interceding for us – as we continue on own often times complex, even bewildering missionary journeys through life to meet them in heaven.

Go and teach all nations, says the Lord; I am with you always, until the end of the world.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Homily – June 9, 2009 – Tenth Week in Ordinary Time - Tuesday

Today's readings are very, very, positive which is very, very needed at this particular time in this history of our society, our church and our world. They are all about JESUS: as YES! which is all about, Jesus as LIGHT! Jesus as TRUTH! Jesus as SALT OF THE EARTH!

The world left behind by the sin of Adam and Eve was dark indeed: the mind was darkened, the will was weakened, the ability to get along with one another was seriously damaged. It emerged as the land of lies! It was to this world that the Son of God: the second Divine Person of the Most Blessed Trinity came for the explicit purpose of eradicating the darkness, restoring a vibrant life in God, making real Truth more easily accessible and understandable, so that followers of Jesus could go into the world and make a real and lasting difference.

If Jesus is the YES of God, then when we proclaim (by reciting or singing) our AMEN at Mass – (at the end of the prayer of thanksgiving) we join ourselves to his YES and we too become YES for God! And so we need to take care not to flip-flop (as we live out our day) and be now "yes," and now "no." If we are true disciples of Christ, then we will always, like Jesus, be YES! YES GOD, YOU ARE GOD! YES GOD, WE ARE YOUR CHILDREN! YES GOD, WITH THE GIFTS YOU GIVE US WE CAN LIVE A LIFE OF TRUE DISCIPLESHIP UNITL OUR YES IS REWARDED IN A LIFE OF ETERNAL GLORY!

Let our lives be like that of a "light set on a lampstand" which gives light to all in the house: indeed, to all in the world.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Homily – June 8, 2009 – Tenth Week in Ordinary Time - Monday

Today we have the wonderful message of the beatitudes. Summarily they point out to us that it is those who are empty who will receive fullness, and gifts and graces beyond measure. In the sight of God we must not only appear to be, but truly be "poor in our spirits" – spiritually hungry, thirsting, yearning for purity, peace and mercy – then we will be able to not only be satisfied ourselves when God generously fills and feeds us; but we will also have a superabundance to share with others: this is our primary tasks as followers of Jesus: to do as he did!

This is the same theme as the first reading with Paul writing to the Thessalonians: God encourages us in our weaknesses and poverties, so that when he satisfies us, we can encourage others who are undergoing the same difficulties and help to satisfy their needs: especially the spiritual ones. If we know that our spirits are being uplifted and strengthened by God, through an agent of a friend, then we have the courage to keep going!

Today we must rejoice and be glad – our reward for navigating safely through life, with the help of our friends, will be great in heaven!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Homily – June 7, 2009 – The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Last week on the Feast of Pentecost in my homily I said that it's a great day to be Catholic! We are so gifted! We are so primed! We are so ready to go out and make a real and lasting difference in the world as we find it May we rededicate ourselves to being Spirit-filled-and-sent Catholics today!

Today I would like to begin on another footing! IF we are so gifted! IF we are so primed! IF we are so ready to go out and make a real and lasting difference in the world as Catholic Christians, then why, as of late, is there such an unusual amount of negative commotion in the One Church that was sent out on that One Day to bring One Faith to all the world: drawing it together in unity and peace?

I am referring to the now familiar fact that a priest-president of a major Catholic University stood up defiantly against his own bishop and at least 82 other protesting bishops, and hundreds of thousands of faithful Catholics who petitioned him not to do what he did in inviting the President of the United States - who clearly demonstrates in certain critical areas of morality -values that directly oppose Catholic teaching - to speak at the Commencement Exercises of the University and award him an honorary law degree – causing embarrassment to the Church and grave scandal to the whole flock of God.

I am referring to the fact that a popular young publicly known priest in another part of the country recently not only "got caught" living a double-life but then left the priesthood of the Catholic Church (which he claimed to love so much) in order to marry the woman he was having an affair with - as an apparently quick and emotionally charged reaction to being caught - without proper time for thoughtful, objective and detached assessment of the entire situation in the light of his true vocation (whatever it might be), and his obedient response to it; and not only that, but in an even more stunning reaction to his misdeed, renounced his Catholic Faith completely by joining a protestant community and applying for its priesthood and being given permission immediately to start ministering to their people in a minor role – causing quite frankly a grave scandal in both religious communities.

I am talking about the fact that clergy abuse surfaced again recently, this time in Ireland, causing the healing scars of what happened in our own country these past several years to be brushed and bruised.

If the Church is so filled with the Holy Spirit and called to be the Light of the World: then how can all of these dark things be happening within it?

The answer is very simple: free-will. Men (and women) will always be free to choose the right or the wrong; the good or the bad; what is of God, what is of the Evil One. But even this takes some doing: for humans are pre-wired, pre-programmed as it were, to "go for the good and the right," it is part of our human nature. And then as I talked about last week there is Counsel as a Gift of the Spirit. This is what counsel is: it seasons our consciences with even more of a taste for the good and right – and it makes us want to go there. However, the Evil One who is still allowed to deal with us tempts us to go the other way: and since his greatest trick is camouflage, he makes the very bad appear o so good - and unless we think, pray, act and use WUCKPFF: especially, Counsel, then it is very easy to be duped. The things mentioned above have been examples of recent super-duping by the Evil One.

Now, the Good News today, on this Solemnity of the Most Blessed Trinity is that for the baptized and confirmed Catholic Christian person: there is an enormous amount of help available to successfully tread through life – day by day – for as long as we live. We have the very dynamic life of the Triune God within us. What is this "dynamic life?" It can be explained like this: before there was anything there was God, just God. He was Three Persons all intercommunicating with each another in a very living, dynamic, moving, energized sort of way. It was the Father, loving the Son; and the Son returning the love in a never-ending exchange: the circulating energy, love, friendship between Father and Son being the Holy Spirit. The Three Persons are all separate but equal; all individual, but united; all participating in what it means to be God. Where one is, the other two are truly there somewhere, somehow!

Then, God created everything, including people, male and female: man: to share the love and the friendship, to share his own dynamic life with persons outside himself: just because he could do it; and because love and friendship are expansive: they go out from themselves. But we know the relationship of love / friendship was all but destroyed by the Original Sin, until Jesus, Son of God, also came down to earth to become Son of Man. By his death on the Cross he restored the love / friendship relationship with the Father; and then when he returned to heaven he and his Father sent the Holy Spirit to remind us of all these things and to provide a way so we could be intimately reconnected to God (because we are born into this world still unconnected).

The way is baptism! Baptism is an amazing sacrament where our lives become completely different - we are born a new creation; we are alone no longer; we belong to a community of other baptized people and are confirmed (given gifts of the Spirit) to help each other out and the whole world the best we can! THIS GIVES US EVERY REASON TO HAVE HOPE: to believe that the Church has the fullness of God's presence no matter what might go on with individual members – who oftentimes have a very difficult time using the gifts they have been given. Without casting the first stone, (because we ourselves sin and sometimes choose to remain in darkness), we ought not judge these members; and also not neglect to pray for them to receive the fullness of God's grace and mercy that is always available to all of us! Yes! It is always a great day to be Catholic!

[Actually this homily is not finished – and actually it is the second of a three part series that began last week and will conclude next week (I didn't really even know this myself until I started writing it all out)– there is still a very important "missing piece" – perhaps during the week you can identify what that piece is? What is it that can guarantee that every day is a great day to be Catholic, come what may?]

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Homily – June 6, 2009 – St. Norbert

St. Norbert was born in the Rhineland in the year 1080. He enjoyed all of the benefits and pleasures of a completely worldly life, but then came to realize that these pleasures were futile without the presence of God – and so he even went so far as to embrace the religious state and was ordained a priest in 1115. He preached throughout France and Germany. Gathering together some companions he laid the foundations of the Praemonstratorian Order, for which he also founded monasteries. He was elected Archbishop of Magdeburg in 1126 and reformed the Christian life and spread the faith to nearby pagan nations. He died in 1134.

It is said of Norbert that he did all of his work with steadfast faith: Faith was the outstanding virtue of Norbert's life; as charity had been the hallmark of Bernard of Clairvaux's. Affable and charming, amiable to one and all, he was at ease in the company of the humble and the great alike. Finally, he was a most eloquent preacher; after long meditation he would preach the words of God and with his fiery eloquence purged vices, refined virtues and filled souls of good will with the warmth of wisdom.

The first reading today tells of the good shepherd who looks after the sheep of his flock with care and concern – especially in bringing back the lost, binding up their wounds and healing the sick. Norbert shepherded his flock rightly! The gospel passage urges us to give ourselves completely to the oftentimes difficult task of being a disciple of Christ. We must all take up our crosses daily and follow Jesus into everlasting life. But once we have decided to do this: we must DO IT WITH ALL OUR HEARTS AND MINDS. And the initial decision needs to be based not on our own abilities (like those building buildings, or leading others into battle) but on God's grace who will supply what is lacking in us at the time that we need it!

When we renounce everything – especially our ideas on how things should go – and believe that God's way is better, more efficient and in the long run much easier than we could have ever imagined it – then we are on the right track. The whole world would be much farther ahead than it is right now in grasping the true nature and reality of things if more and more people would only "let the shepherd be the shepherd!"

The Lord is our shepherd – and when we let him shepherd us – there is not one thing that we need for life that will be lacking to us! We need to take the risk and take him at his word!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Homily – June 5, 2009 – St. Boniface

There have always been good shepherds in the Church with the mind of Christ Jesus the One True Shepherd – and with his compassionate and merciful heart. Boniface of England was one such good shepherd. He was born about the year 673. He was first professed in the monastic life at Exeter, but in 719 went to Germany to preach the Gospel. He made many converts there and was consecrated bishop, ruling over the church at Mainz. He attracted many companions by whose help he founded or restored dioceses in Bavaria, Thuringia and Franconia. Hel also convened councils and promulgated laws. While preaching the Gospel to the Frisians, Saint Boniface was killed by pagans in 754. His body is buried in the monastery of Fulda.

Boniface was so very willing to bring the truth of the gospel to any in Germany who would listen. The truth sets the listener free. Boniface was intent on helping people free themselves from their former lives of sinfulness which enslaved them and to live the energizing, freeing life of Christ. It would not be an easy thing to do; Boniface knew this, but chose to follow his vocation and do it anyway. And he was a good shepherd who was willing to go so far as even to die for the cause of spiritual freedom for others: which he did, when he was killed by pagans while he was readying himself to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation for a group of his flock!

It is interesting to note that one of the most famous hymns in the Church's repertoire Veni, Sancte Spiritus, Come, Holy Spirit would be written by Rhabbanus Maurus in Mainz, where Boniface was bishop, just two hundred years later.

With the help of the Holy Spirit all things are possible: even the defense of the truth in a pagan land: or in a land that insists on re-paganizing itself more and more every day. In the words of St. Boniface himself we read:

Since this is the case, and since the truth can be assaulted but never defeated or falsified, with our tired mind let us turn to the words of Solomon: 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own prudence. Think on him in all your ways, and he will guide your steps'. In another place he says: 'The name of the Lord is an impregnable tower. The just man seeks refuge in it and he will be saved.'

Let us stand fast in what is right and prepare our soul for trial. Let us wait upon God's strengthening aid and say to him: 'O Lord, you have been our refuge in all generations'.

Let us trust in him who has placed this burden upon us. What we ourselves cannot bear let us bear with the help of Christ. For he is all-powerful and he tells us: 'My yoke is easy and my burden light'.

Go out to all the world and tell the good news!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Homily – June 4, 2009 – Ninth Week in Ordinary Time - Thursday

Today we have the absolute classic reading (I) about the marriage of Tobiah and Sarah. It even talks about the marriage of the two "being made in heaven." Take her as your beloved Raguel tells Tobiah – she is yours today and ever after. And tonight, son, may the Lord of heaven prosper you both. May he grant you mercy and peace. That night – the wedding night – would be an historic event – because Sarah had been married seven times before and all these husbands died "on the night they approached her."

But perhaps what made all the difference in the world – not only for the marriage of Tobiah and Sarah – but in a prophetic way made it possible for all godly marriages – is that before they retired for the evening they arose from the bed, got on their knees and prayed to the Lord to be granted mercy and deliverance. And because they made God thusly a very much invited and central part of the consummation of their marriage (and most likely, subsequently all of their married life) God granted their request for an ecstatic wedding night and a prosperous married life.

The entire prayer bears repeating: "Blessed are you, O God of our fathers, praised be your name forever and ever. Let the heaven and all your creation praise you forever. You made Adam and you gave him his wife Eve to be his help and support; and from these two the human race descended. You said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone; let us make him a partner like himself.' Now, Lord, you know that I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose. Call down your mercy on me and on her, and allow us to live together to a happy old age." They said together, "Amen, amen," and went off to bed for the night."

What a magnificent affirmation of what marriage is all about! What a profound statement of the defense of "marriage-as-given-by-God in the beginning" to be upheld in this day and age when the very essence of the bond is being challenged, defied and even disregarded entirely as is exemplified once again, this time in the state of New Hampshire. The Church is very clear in stating that there can be no "union" of marriage where no "union" is physically possible; and any nuclear type of "family life" that is not based on "the original" nuclear family is not really a "true family" at all.

The gospel passage give us the key once again as to how to deal with these very real everyday situations: with charity, with love: loving God first with all our hearts, then loving one another as we love ourselves. Anyone who loves God would not want to go against his wishes and desires (spelled out in commandments – which are really nothing but friendly reminders of what he does expect of us); and he would also not want to destroy the fabric of society that God himself has woven for our happiness and our safe passage through life on earth. And he would not want us to do something that would be injurious to ourselves – putting our own eternal salvation in jeopardy. Looking to God first and calling upon him for help is always the good and right and wise thing to do in any situation!

Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways! They shall eat the fruit of their handiwork, (in their marriages, in their daily lives); they shall be blessed and favored, forever!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Homily – June 3, 2009 – Ninth Week in Ordinary Time - Wednesday

Our readings today are about eternal life; the eternal life that is Jesus; the eternal life that Jesus now makes possible for us to share with him; the eternal life which is both like and unlike the one we are now living.

In this eternal life: we will still be who we are: we will have our bodies reunited with us: we will be living in a completeness and fullness we never thought possible, we will be in many ways "like the angels." But Jesus tells us in the gospel passage what this life will not be like: it will not involve marriage (as marriage is but a sign of God's love, and pledge of eternal fulfillment that now all will have); and it will not be like death in any way – having rules of descendancy apply – for God is simply the God of the living!

In the first reading we see Tobit – who in yesterday's reading was stricken with blindness – as a symbol of the spiritual blindness – that the people of Israel kept insisting on taking upon themselves regarding matters of God and his wishes for them. They refused to see things God's way; and so he removed their ability to see things aright spiritually completely for a while: he gave them leave to pursue their hardness of hearts and myopic internal vision.

But in the reading today we have another very powerful dynamic: the awakening of conscience: when grace and willingness to accept the grace meet! Tobit acknowledges that God is the one true Righteous One, and all his deeds are just; and all his ways mercy and truth; and that he alone is judge of the world. Tobit – who represents all who have a distorted, faulty and improperly formed conscience – now asks the great Lord of mercy to be mindful of him and to look with favor upon him. He admits that he and his people disobeyed the commandments, causing God's just punishment of them at the hands of their neighbors among whom they were dispersed.

He affirms that God's judgments are many and true; and that now God has every right to deal with them totally according to his will. Tobit is in great anguish and tells God that it would be alright with him if God chose to take his life – because he is in such misery and must bear such insults, even from his own people!

This entire story of Tobit – is a symbol of the people of Israel who sinned against God, had an awakening of conscience and then were ready for God's great gift of redemption in Jesus, the Messiah who would transform everything for everyone from death to life; darkness to light; hatred to love; sin to forgiveness; selfishness to self-giving. And so we know that this particular story will have a happy ending for those who want to apply it to themselves – for it also includes us: the new people of God!

May we want to do that today; may we want to take the lead of our rightly-forming consciences, tell God of our sorrow for not always doing things as he might have wanted, and take advantage of the grace of the Holy Spirit given by Jesus – so that our day today can be very positive, and loving and giving – our consciences can be clear – and we will be prepared for the life of heaven – whenever it will begin for us.

We pray as well for all of those who stubbornly refuse to even let their consciences be rightly-formed – there is always hope for them – until the last trumpet sounds! I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord; whoever believes in me will never die.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Homily – June 2, 2009 – Ninth Week in Ordinary Time - Tuesday

We are now into the Ordinary Season of the year again – the "green-vestment-time" – which lasts until the end of November. We "count-down" now away from Pentecost Sunday to the Feast of Christ the King. "Ordinary" in the way we use it here means "counting" – and so we resume our "counting weeks" of "Ordinary Time" with this the ninth week.*

These Sundays and weekdays are used primarily as teaching Sundays and weekdays. Having just celebrated the major feasts of the Church year with Christmas, Easter and Pentecost – we now go into depth – learning more and more about "what it all means" – the mystery of redemption - for us as individuals, as a group as Catholics and for the world at large.

Today then we pick up with the message of the symbolic blindness that Jesus came to remove. Tobit, in an unusual sort of way, gets cataracts, which causes his blindness, from bird droppings, as he slept one night outdoors next to the courtyard wall. Perhaps the bird droppings represents all of the little things – the little deliberate misunderstandings and prejudices – that finally end up altering one's ability to see reality as it really is at all. What is right and true can no longer be perceived correctly (it is all a blur) – and the result is words and deeds done in a sort of vincible or avoidable ignorance.

The "alleluia" verse before the gospel tells us the remedy for these spiritual cataracts: May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our hearts, that we may know what is the hope that belongs to his call! And that hope is, Jesus his Son – who came to scatter the darkness of the world, to restore sight to the spiritually blind and to proclaim liberty to those who are captive in a variety of spiritual, intellectual and moral ways.

The gospel passage today also is about spiritual vision where we see the Pharisees trying to trip Jesus up by having him clarify our civic and religious duties: give to Caesar what is Caesar's; give to God what is God's, was Jesus simple yet profound response to them. And, giving to God always comes first! Then you will be assured to have enough to give to both! The Pharisees were spiritually blind guides. They were no match for Jesus spiritual luminosity!

For us today this means: the spiritual light of Jesus – that is renewed as we celebrate this Mass and receive Holy Communion – can remove the spiritual cataracts from our eyes as well, because we are already baptized into his life, so that we can see things aright; we can give to the world the taxes and whatever else the state requires of us, but always after we have given to God what he deserves first: our love, our worship, our praise, our thanks and our promise to help him take care of people who are in need!

The heart of the just one is firm, trusting in the Lord.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Homily – June 1, 2009 – St. Justin

Today we have a very important feast day to celebrate in St. Justin the Martyr. He lived in the early 2nd century. He is interesting because he was a thinker – he was a philosopher. His search for the depths of knowledge led to Christianity. Following his conversion to the faith he wrote many books in defense of religion – in those early years when the Church faced a great deal of opposition as it made its way into the pagan world doing what Jesus commanded it to do: preaching the gospel to the ends of the earth. Two of his most famous books are the "Apology" and the "Dialogue with Trypho." To emphasize the free nature of seeking the one truth found in God alone he opened a school at Rome in which public debates were held. Justin was martyred along with several companions during the reign of Marcus Aurelius around the year 165.

Two important ideas to take from the readings today: first, the wisdom of God is the only true wisdom – because it has divine light as a part of it; the student, the scholar, the ordinary citizen, the person in authority can investigate, research, apply preexisting criteria to a whole range of topics using ordinary intelligence and unaided wisdom: but it is just not possible to attain a clarifying depth and accuracy of understanding unless the divine light of the Spirit is also present – and invited to be so! Without that light, Paul tells the Corinthians in the first reading, God makes the wisdom of the world foolish. For example: the absolute ultimate expression of God's power and love is found in the Crucified One – apparently lacking in any power whatsoever, apparently defeated, apparently dead! But the divine light of God's Spirit tells us that this is Jesus finest hour – that he as Son of God never did die – that at that point he immediately went to the netherworld to free the captives and open the gates of heaven – and that he himself as Son of Man rose from the dead three days later.

And so the stumbling block to Jews, and the foolishness of the Gentiles: Christ Crucified, needs to be understood in proper context. This is what preaching and teaching is all about; this is what apologetics is all about: defending the truths of the faith in the face of all opposition – even if it means giving up one's life! This is what Justin's job was all about!

The second point is this: we each are called to stay updated with our understanding of the truths of the faith – this, by listening to preaching, reading these matters for ourselves, debating them with those who are learned in such things – so that we can defend them when the times call for it. The times call for it now. The Church is being called upon to give witness in a paganized world as never before. But just as the early Church had the freshly given gifts of the Spirit; we have those same fresh gifts today – we are baptized, we are confirmed, we are ordained and sent forth to bring the salt and light of God's truth to others – who are so desperately searching for it.

For so many are simply like sheep without a shepherd; they need us and our vision, our values our faith to bolster them up! Strengthened by the Eucharist may we do our part today!

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

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. ...