Monday, August 31, 2009

Homily – August 31, 2009 – Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time - Monday

+ Jesus understood clearly how familiarity could breed contempt. Sometimes the worst vantage point is the proximate one. The "home town" boy is only hailed and put on a pedestal for things done away from the home town. Otherwise, it is difficult to see how wondrous things could happen by "one like us!" And this is a shame, because here Jesus is announcing to his relatives and neighbors that he is the long awaited Messiah: and they miss the whole point because they only see him as "little Jesus," son of Joseph, a nice enough chap, a talented carpenter, and no more. They missed the finality and authority in his tone of voice that was ushering in a whole new era of life for everyone. And when Jesus reprimanded them for this they wanted to throw him over a cliff. Yes, they missed the whole point of their "home town boy come home for a visit!"

If Jesus knew this would happen, then why did he make this grand announcement that the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, the anointed one, to bring glad tidings to the poor, liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind – and to proclaim an amnesty year of grace from the Lord – in his home town? Because he at least wanted to give them the opportunity to be the first to know; he gave them the benefit of the doubt.

Sometimes, after being Catholic for years and years it is easy for us to fall into the "familiarity breeds contempt" syndrome. We seem to think we know all there is to know about Jesus. We often times take him for granted and begin to lose sight of the urgency of his message. We must "stay awake" and alert to his message of preparedness: for as St. Paul tells us in the first reading one day – any day – it could really be this day – the angel shall speak, the trumpet shall sound, the dead in Christ shall arise, and the living will ascend into the clouds, the Lord Jesus will come again as he promised and the final chapter of salvation his will indeed begin. This is not just a story, this is not just fiction, this is the absolute truth that Jesus came to tell us about, and sent preachers to remind us about, sent priests to provide the spiritual food of Eucharist and the forgiveness of sins in the sacrament of Penance to prepare us for.

The Lord is coming as judge; let us have nothing at all to fear, because for us familiarity does not breed contempt; for us we have a very healthy, holy, fear of God's awesomeness, but also knowledge of his deep love, tenderness and desire to gather us unto himself for all eternity! Amen.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Homily – August 30, 2009 – Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

+ We have come now to the end of August, and the new school year is upon us: some have already started school, others are soon to follow. If I were to ask all of you what is more important: what you learn in school, or what you do with what you learn – what would be your answer? There are pros and cons for each side being more important. It would seem to me that both are very important: and even equally so – we learn so that we can apply what we learn; we can only do successfully what we have learned well!

In the second reading today, St. James tells the Christian community to humbly welcome the word of God that has been planted in them – because it is not just simply an academic thing – facts, figures, dates – but it actually has the power to save their souls. There is no other word or lesson like it! But then once they hear these words: they are not to just sit there daydreaming: be doers of the word you have heard: put what you have heard into practice someway, somehow. Apply it! He tells them that their Christian religion is about hearing the need to help the poor; and to keep oneself unstained from the corruption and filth of the spirit of the world: and so he says: do these things: help the poor, keep yourself unstained, and you shall save your souls!

The first reading also spoke about "doing what you hear and have learned:" keep the commandments you have learned, not adding anything at all to them, nor taking anything away. God knew exactly what he was doing in giving them the way they were given: it is in his precise prescription of them that the power to save comes – not only to save our souls, but to save us and our nation from our enemies – even the enemies within!

Jesus says very much the same thing in the gospel passage: stop worrying about pots and pans, and dishes and the washing of hands: it is not what goes into your mouth that is evil, but rather what comes out: it seems you have learned the lessons about cleanliness backwards: it is what comes out of your mouth and what is in your actions that is a reflection of what is in your heart, that is truly evil: evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly! These are what defile; and these are what need to be eliminated by relearning the commandments of God in their entirety: for they have the power to save!

We pray today that all students this coming school year will remember that being a "doer" and not just a "hearer" of their school subjects is what education is all about: families can discuss at the supper table not just what was learned in school that day but how it can be applied! Encourage creativity! And of course this applies to us all each and every time we come to church – all throughout this school year and any other time: we must not just listen to the word of God in the Scriptures and the homilies; but we must also pray very hard to know how to apply what we have heard!

God gives us our whole lives long to learn and learn and learn, so that we can do and do and do all we can to help build his kingdom here on earth before it is reaches its completeness and perfection one day at the end of time!

Be a doer of the word, and not just a hearer!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Homily – August 29, 2009 – The Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

+ The death of John the Baptist was significant in that it marks the beginning of the end of Jesus' preparation period for his own public life. Shortly after he hears of the news of his cousin's death he would go into the desert for his period of final preparation – where he would contend with the devil on three different occasions to clarify his own mission in life.

The death of John by martyrdom was very significant as he stood up for the foundational values and truths of the Jewish religion upon which the Christian tradition was built: he protested the incest and adulterous nature of Herod Antipas' marriage to his niece and sister-in-law, Herodias. When the opportunity for misguided "revenge" presented itself in a night of drunken revelry, John lost his life but glorified God in doing so. Jesus would say that there was no one (other than himself and his own mother) greater than the John who baptized him in the River Jordan and ushered in the reign of God in a direct and personal way!

The first reading today tells how God told Jeremiah to stand up and tell the stubborn people of Israel, by words and deeds, all that I command you – and I will be with you to deliver you, no matter what happens or how it is carried out.

St. John the Baptist – you, who were persecuted for the sake of right-living, and felt the Lord's presence to help you – pray for us that we may stand up for truth, right, goodness and values based on every word and deed that your cousin Jesus gave to us and continues to give to us through his Church.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Homily – August 28, 2009 – St. Augustine

+ When one combines one of the greatest minds that ever lived with the lifestyle of one of the greatest sinners that ever lived into the same person you come up with St. Augustine of Hippo. Sometimes it takes the smart ones longer to "get" the faith – if they even allow themselves to "get it" at all! This famous son of St. Monica (whose feast we celebrated yesterday) was born in North Africa in the early fourth century. While his mother and siblings lived pious and holy lives, Augustine on the other hand was the black sheep, taking after his father: his young life was full of loose living, which included wild parties, drunken orgies, entertainment and worldly ambitions. He even fathered a child with a concubine. Though brought up a Christian, his sins of impurity and his pride darkened his mind so much, that he could not see or understand the Divine Truth anymore. It was through the prayers of his holy mother and the marvelous preaching of St. Ambrose, that Augustine finally became convinced that Christianity was the one true religion. His moment of conversion came when he was crying out to God for mercy over his past sinfulness and he heard a child singing the words: Take up and read! Thinking God intended him to hear those words, he picked up the book of the Letters of St. Paul, and read the first passage his gaze fell on. He read the part where St. Paul says to put away all impurity and to live in imitation of Jesus. That did it! From then on, Augustine began a new life.

He was baptized, by St. Ambrose whom he admired greatly, became a priest, a bishop and a forceful Catholic writer, especially in areas of the moral and spiritual life, a founder of religious priests, and one of the greatest saints that ever lived. He became very devout and charitable, as well. "Too late have I loved You!" he once cried to God; but with his holy life, he certainly made up for the sins he committed before his conversion. He is considered one of the first four Western Doctors and Fathers of the Church.

The greatest lesson that St. Augustine ever learned was, as St. John tells us in the first reading today, GOD IS LOVE – and that we know this, and experience this in his acts of mercy towards us, and our acts of self-sacrificial loving service (mercy) to one another. If we help someone out and do not feel the presence of God in the process then we have not done it as it could have been done! "Joy in giving and helping" is not just a slogan: it is the reality of God's presence!

And once we have learned our lesson and we wish to convey it to others, the gospel passage tells us that, like St. Augustine, we must do it in a humble, non-prideful sort of way: we are just passing along to others what was freely gifted and given to us by God. We are not the teacher or the master: there is only one of those and it is God!

St. Augustine pray for us who have constant need of conversion about stubborn aspects of ourselves to some degree. Let us be ready for the moment that a child sings to us: Take up and read! and then let us take up the words of life that only Jesus can speak to our hearts and let us live a full, happy and productive day of service to others! 

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Homily – August 27, 2009 – St. Monica

+ We have just read of Jesus raising a young man from the dead on account of the faith-filled request of his mother. This is precisely what happened with Jesus, St. Monica and St. Augustine her son. He was spiritually dead; living the life of a disenfranchised pagan in many ways. But the prayers of his mother paid off in the end.

St. Monica was married by arrangement to a pagan official in North Africa, who was much older than she, and although generous, he was also violent tempered. His mother lived with them and was equally difficult – which proved a constant challenge to St. Monica. She had three children; Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetua. Through her patience and prayers, she was able to be instrumental in the conversion of her husband and his mother to the Catholic faith in 370. He died a year later. Perpetua and Navigius entered the religious life. Augustine, on the other hand was much more difficult – as we shall learn more tomorrow as we celebrate his feast day; Monica prayed for him for 17 years, begging the prayers of priests who for a while, tried to avoid her because of her persistence at this seemingly hopeless endeavor. One priest did console her by saying, "it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish." This thought, added with a vision that she herself had received strengthened her. St. Augustine was baptized by St. Ambrose in 387. St. Monica died later that same year, on the way back to Africa from Rome in the Italian town of Ostia.

St. Monica is held up as the model of an ideal wife! She was a holy and decent woman who added grace upon grace. Like the sun rising in the Lord's heaven, the beauty of this virtuous woman was a brilliant radiance in her home!
Her light was Christ's Light – and she led at least three to salvation by means of that light! St. Monica pray for us! Help our children! Be an inspiration to Christian families in these days when paganism reigns again!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Homily – August 26, 2009 – Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time - Wednesday

+ Two things that Jesus could not tolerate were lack of charity, and hypocrisy. He detested both. We are here on this earth to be helpful to one another; and to be true to ourselves and to others. Today he speaks of hypocrisy in the gospel passage. Woe to you scribes and Pharisees: you who ought to know better, being the teachers of religion that you are: your outsides do not match your insides: externally your body performs all kinds of righteous acts, while on the inside your heart is full of the dead bones and filth of conniving with the enemy: the spirit of evil in the world. You cut corners, make excuses for unkind, immoral and uncharitable behavior and do it in the name of religion! You are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing!

The second example has to do with how the scribes and Pharisees adorn and beautify the tombs of the prophets and the righteous; you even go so far as to say "if we were living at the time, we would not have contributed to shedding the prophets' blood;" hypocrites: by your acts of evil doing and unrighteousness you are simply proving that you are children of those who murdered the prophets: and now you must take what comes around!

Let us always remember that the Lord knows our hearts! He knows those who are truly seeking perfection! He knows those who are trying to deceive not only him, but everyone else by their fancy outward show of righteous deeds! While our outsides will probably never match our insides entirely in this lifetime: so long as we are sincerely and honestly trying to make them so, more and more each day, with the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit, then we have nothing to fear, we are not hypocrites, we are simply sinful pilgrims on our way to our Father's house – each trying to help others out along the way: and God will be pleased with us! Whoever tries his best to keep the word of Christ has the love of God in him! God bless you!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Homily – August 25, 2009 – St. Louis, King of France

+ Today we celebrate the feast of a model Christian ruler: Louis IX, King of France. He ruled France at a time of great cultural achievement, symbolized in the building of great Gothic cathedrals and the development of universities. He himself was generous to the poor, often distributing food to them in person, founded a hospital for the destitute and the sight-impaired, established three monasteries, and was impartial but often merciful in the execution of justice. In 1248 Louis sailed to Cyprus with his army on a crusade to the Holy Land. After an initial victory, his army was afflicted with disease and then was defeated. He himself was taken prisoner, as is said to have prayed the Divine Office daily in captivity with two chaplains. After his release he returned to France but soon caught typhoid fever and died on August 24, 1254. He was buried near the abbey-church of St. Denis in Paris.
The readings today speak of Louis' Christian outlook: he was a worker of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy: he sheltered the oppressed, he broke the yokes over which he had power, he shared his bread with the hungry, he clothed the naked, his did not turn his back on his own. And now his light breaks forth like the dawn. The Lord guided him always and renewed his strength to do his will! The gospel passage simply states the great commandments to which Louis showed great obedience: Love God first and with all your being; and love others as you love yourself: and you will experience the joy of being human that can be found in no other way!

St. Louis, King of France, pray that we are as devoted to God in our daily tasks of prayer and work as you were in yours!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Homily – August 24, 2009 – St. Bartholomew

+ Today we celebrate the feast of St. Bartholomew. All that is known of him with certainty is that he is mentioned in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke and the Acts of the Apostles as one of the twelve apostles. His name means "Son of Tolomai" and scholars believe he is the same as Nathanael mentioned in John's gospel, who says he is from Cana and that Jesus called him an "Israelite…incapable of deceit." It is said that he preached in India and Greater Armenia where he was martyred.

In the gospel passage today we have the encounter of Nathanael / Bartholomew with Jesus. It was Philip who found Nathanael and invited him to come and meet Jesus of Nazareth. Nathanael mumbled "Can anything good come from Nazareth" – as Nazareth was not thought highly of as a place that anything good could come from. When Jesus saw him coming toward him he said: Here is a true child of Israel. There is nothing deceitful found in him! Then Jesus let Nathanael know that he already knew who he was because he saw him sitting under of fig tree. Nathanael then makes an inspired statement: Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel. Nathanael / Bartholomew was therefore used by the Holy Spirit to proclaim very strongly and clearly a very important truth about Jesus: he is the Son of God, he is the King of Israel, although not many at that point believed it at all…not even most of the apostles.

But later all did come to believe the Jesus is Son of God, and Son of Man – Savior, Redeemer, Friend. And Bartholomew along with the other apostles went out to preach this message of salvation to the whole world; and gave their lives for the cause. This message has come down to us; and now it is up to us to continue to share it with other all the days of our lives!

Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Homily – August 23, 2009 – Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

+ This is the last in our series of five homilies about Jesus as "Bread of Life." Last week Jesus said: I am the bread of life, and unless you eat this bread which is my flesh, and drink the cup of wine which is my blood you will not have eternal life. Today is the big fallout: the Jews quarreled among themselves and said: this kind of talk is very difficult to endure; and a great many of them left Jesus at that point and most likely never returned. Jesus looked at the Apostles and said: do you want to go too? But Peter said: Lord, to whom shall we go – you have the words of eternal life – we have come to believe and are convinced you are the Holy One of God! [Peter was graced by the Holy Spirit and blessed in order to make this statement of truth.] To put it another way Peter no doubt would also say: "you who speak, and can only speak, words of eternal life, you say that bread can become your flesh, and wine your blood – WE BELIEVE IT! WE, YOUR BEST FRIENDS, BELIEVE YOU ARE WHO AND WHAT YOU SAY YOU ARE: BREAD OF LIFE – AND THAT WE CAN SPIRITUALLY EAT YOUR FLESH AND DRINK YOUR BLOOD in a way that you will give us when the time is right! WE CANNOT POSSIBLY GO ANYWHERE ELSE for this truth and this life! And Jesus is relieved: someone "gets it!" Jesus is very happy!

As for us, here, today, many of us "got it" at one time or another (at least hopefully we "got it"). I pray that our faith and belief was very strong in Jesus; and all that he had to say of himself; including about being really and truly present: body, blood, soul and divinity spiritually in the Eucharistic bread and wine. But what is our "got it" quotient today – right now? Do we "get it" now as fully as ever? If so, great! If not, may I suggest this: close your eyes, and open the eyes and ears of your heart, and listen and believe Jesus when he says these words: I am the Bread of Life! I am the Eucharistic Bread you eat and the Eucharist cup you drink. I am the Bread of God's Friendship Restored. When you eat this bread and drink this cup you become more deeply and really a part of my living Body (which is the Church on earth), than you can possibly imagine; you become not only my Divine Friend, but also my Divine Friendship now available for others who are in need of comfort and compassion and care; you become my eyes and ears and hands and feet to bring light and love and peace to the whole world.

This is what Eucharist is all about! This is what "Bread of Life" is all about! This is why we take five weeks each summer to talk about it! It is meant to be the Object of our Focus all the days of our lives. We are to look at the Host (and remember what it looks like always); we are to say "Amen" "I believe it is you, Jesus," and then we are to be the Love and the Friendship that we eat and drink – so that not only we ourselves will have food for the journey of life, but we can help out a great many others along the way sharing the love and the friendship of God.

As Joshua addressed the people and said: We will serve the Lord, for he is our God! So, we say the same thing this day: fed by him and strengthened by him, we will serve him in love, for he is our awesome God!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Homily – August 22, 2009 – Queenship of Mary

+ Today we celebrate the feast of the Queenship of Mary – formerly celebrated on May 31. It is the octave day of the feast of the Assumption of Mary and is held to be an important part in the complete story of Mary's life on earth. As her life here at one point could contain her no longer – and as a reward for her faithful and loving service to God as Mother of His Son – Mary was assumed into heaven, body and soul, when God deigned that her life here was finished; and now she is crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth as she take her place beside her Son who reigns now as King of the Universe! When we complete our service on earth – if we have done it consciously and with love and dedication to Jesus – we too shall live with them both and with the Father and the Spirit, and all the angels and saints. It will be wonderful and we will rejoice with inexpressible joy forever!

Our God raises up the lowly from the dust, to seat them with princes, the princes of his own people! Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you, now and forever!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Homily – August 21, 2009 – St. Pius X

+ [I have a special interest in St. Pius X, as he is part of the apostolic line of succession in which I was ordained.] Two of the most outstanding accomplishments of this saintly Pope were the inauguration of the liturgical renewal and the restoration of frequent communion, and from childhood (age of reason, 7). He also waged an unwavering war against the heresy and evils of Modernism, gave great impetus to biblical studies and brought about the codification of Canon Law. His overriding concerning was "to renew all things in Christ" – which was his papal motto. Above all, his holiness shone forth conspicuously. From him we learn again that "the folly of the Cross," simplicity of life, and humility of heart are still the highest wisdom and the indispensable conditions of a perfect Christian life, for they are the very source of all apostolic fruitfulness. His last will and testament bears the striking sentence: "I was born poor, I have lived in poverty, and I wish to die poor."

The first reading today speaks very much of the way in which Pius X approached his work as Pope: delivering the solemn and veritable truth of the Gospel message that has been entrusted, but with gentleness and even tenderness – as a nursing mother cares for her children. And of course the gospel passage speaks to the mandate he received when he became Pope, to feed the flock of God, to feed the sheep, to feed the lambs – the words of life, and the bread of life! St. Pius X did well on all accounts. I pray that he help me do well in my vocational activities, and you in yours!

And forever we will sing the goodness of the Lord!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Homily – August 20, 2009 – St. Bernard of Clairvaux

+ Bernard of Clairvaux lived in the first half of the twelfth century. He is one of the great monastic leaders and theologians in the history of the Church. He is considered the last of the Western Fathers of the Church. In the time of his youth, Bernard noticed the laxity of monastic observance, and so eventually, persuading thirty of his own relatives and friends to join him he founded Benedictine Monastery of a more strict observance (which later became known as Cistercians) at Clairvaux. He became abbot there and held the post for thirty-eight years. He established other foundations in France, Britain, and Ireland. When he died, in 1153, there were 700 monks at Clairvaux alone.

Bernard was also very much active in the affairs of the Church, especially in caring for the pilgrims, and the poor; for fighting heresy, and at the request of the Pope in preaching the need for the Second Crusade as the Great Schism of East and West had begun. Some of his theological and devotional writings have become classics, especially his treatise On Loving God, and his best-known work: eight sermons on the Canticle of Canticles: which ranged from life as a monk, to mystical union between Christ the bridegroom and the Church as bride. Pope Pius VIII declared him doctor of the Church in the early nineteenth century.

The Book of Sirach today speaks of one who is gifted with divine wisdom and understanding and learning; such a one will be filled with joy and gladness as they pass on their find to others. We are given gifts never for ourselves alone, but also always with others in mind. The one gift that Jesus tells us in the gospel passage that he wants as many as possible to experience is the gift of unity and peace that can only be found fully by belief in him and in his Father. Gifted as we are with divine wisdom and understanding – we can learn this truth without much difficulty if we are open to receive it; and then we can encourage others to experience the same thing according to their graced capacity. I think Bernard of Clairvaux, who was all about unity and peace found in the depths of experience with God, would agree that no one is ever completely filled with all that God has to give at any one time; we must all keep making acts of faith, acts of belief, acts of trust, acts of love, acts of surrender to God and his will and ways: and then be open to receive anything and everything that he deigns to give us at any particular time during our days as an aid to living a productive day. This is the life of the bride of Christ; this is the life of the monk; this is the life of the Christian man or woman.

May we always be open to all that God wants and wishes to teach us about the things of heaven and earth!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Homily – August 19, 2009 – Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time - Wednesday

+ The gospel passage and parable today are just about self-explanatory. They tell us that the landowner (who represents God) can do whatever he pleases with his land and with those he hires to work the land (the many prophets and interpreters of the law that he sent on his behalf). When the landowner decided to give everyone who worked during an entire day, no matter how long they worked, the same daily wage – worldly standards cried "foul!" Perhaps, your initial estimation was the same. But, it is true; the landowner is free to do as he wishes with his money! Our envy of his generosity ought not to deter him from being so generous: and it did not! Otherwise, you and I would be standing at the end of a long line waiting for the fullness of the merits of Jesus' life, death and resurrection – which is what this parable is all about. The reality behind this parable is that from the very first days of the New People of God, (the newly formed Christian Community) God would send the richness and immediate effects of his graces, and compassion and mercy and forgiveness not only to the workers but also to those who responded to the work they did for them. This meant that we, the latecomers on the scene of salvation history, would be first to be thus blest, before he went back to the beginning and saw that everyone else in this salvation history got their just deserts. When the last are first, these first ought to be humbled and eternally grateful for so great a blessing! The ones who have waited so very long for their reward have gotten it by now – and so we are all blessed by God. He is always just in his own way and time to those who trust in him!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Homily – August 18, 2009 – Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time - Tuesday

+ In the gospel passage today Jesus makes it clear that possessions do not lead to everlasting life; belief in him does, and living like one believes in him does; but not possessing things, or rather having things possess us. When our focus is not set as much as possible entirely on God – then we are out of focus! When people, places or things cloud, distort or even remove our focus from God, then we are in great danger of losing our place in heaven.

As we heard in the first reading today, God is with those who have detached themselves from their possessions, those who have few possessions, and those who must trust in God because there is nowhere else to turn. God will do great things for such people to see that they are protected from harm and to see they get what they need in this life and in the next!

It is up to us then to accept the peace and the joy and the hope that comes from trusting in God as he desires us to trust in him. Even rich people can enter heaven if they know the secret password to get in: and that password is: DETACHMENT, full-focus and full trust and confidence in God's eternal mercy, grace and compassion!

The Lord speaks of peace to his people! Can we hear him speaking "peace" to us?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Homily – August 17, 2009 – Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time - Monday

+ It is interesting to note in the gospel passage today that the young man, while already keeping the major commandments of God, found something lacking in his own life – he knew that there was a perfection beyond what observance of the law could give. And he was correct. Jesus then spells out the formula: if you seek real perfection, then in addition to keeping the basic commandments of God as he gave them, you must also detach yourself from your own life, with its possessions and things, and minister to the poor. Since Jesus identified himself with these poor; when we minister to them we have a deeper, more perfect experience of relationship with him!

Now this does not mean that one cannot have possessions; but it does mean that the ownership involved is prioritized correctly. If we do the possessing of the things for our own true needs, then we are using them correctly; but if the possessions possess us, take up most or all of our time, and energy, concentration and focus, most possessions of which are not even necessary at all – then there is no way that there is any room for God in this picture. A true follower of Christ makes room for Christ, and follows the prescriptions that he gives to remain a strong and committed disciple.

The children of Israel, as we read in the first reading today, were far from being strong and committed children of God. God did such amazing and powerful things for them to help form them into his special family; yet over and over and over again they turned against him, very belligerently in some cases, and would not cease their evil practices and stubborn conduct. He was always raising up prophets and in today's case judges (who acted like prophets: being spokesmen on his behalf) and as soon as these messengers died, the people were back to their former ways of disobedience and sin. May we this day not be like them, but may we be and remain good and faithful disciples!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Homily – August 16, 2009 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

+ When something is there, it is there – whether anyone "believes" it to be there or not. For example, Niagara Falls is there. It makes no difference if anyone at all particularly "believes" it to be there or not – it really is there!

This reference has everything to do with today's very important Gospel message from Jesus. Jesus truly is the Bread of Life come down from heaven! Our believing it in does not make this fact any more or less so. Either he is or he isn't. And he is! Who are we to contradict Jesus and say that he isn't? Besides this, today, Jesus takes us one step further in his discourse of himself as this "Bread of Life": if you eat this bread and drink this cup you will have everlasting life, and if you don't you won't? Believe it, or not! But can you really afford not to believe it? Was Jesus serious here? Did he really mean that everyone must eat the bread that is his flesh and drink the cup that is his blood in order to share in everlasting life? Well, yes, he did mean it! Jesus would not kid about anything at all – let alone what has direct effect on where we will be spending eternity!

But not even everyone is Catholic – how can Jesus mean this? Does this mean that most of the world will never see heaven? No, not at all; what Jesus is saying here is that the ordinary and most direct route to eternal life is eating his spiritual body and drinking his spiritual blood in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist. If the whole point of eternity is to be totally absorbed into him (as scripture tells us: we will be "all-in-all"), then having us begin that absorption process right here on earth does not seem illogical at all: remember, when we eat any other kind of food it becomes us, but when we eat and drink Eucharist, we become it; we become Christ, we become God's intimate Friend qualifying us for life forever in our Father's house!

Now for those – outside of the Church - who have not yet responded fully to the grace of believing all of this to be so, God credits a sincere search for truth, a heartfelt desire for fullness of life in goodness, kind words said, and self-sacrificial deeds done as sufficiently qualifying them for a real, significant and blessed place in heaven. Such persons have "eaten the bread and drunk the cup" in a proximated but very valid sort of way and it does count if they truly believed what they were doing was right for them and can say that what the Catholic Church had to offer was not yet for them.

But for any who are not Catholic – and who seek the truth, desire the fullness of life in God, speak good words and do good deeds and have been given the
initial grace to consider the strong possibility that the fullness of what they are looking for just might be found in the Catholic Church – and this seems more than just a passing fancy – then they are obligated to follow through and fully investigate the entry process into fullness of life within the Church – which includes the Initiation Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist! They need to talk to a priest! God the Father is always so eager to welcome new members into the Body of Christ his Son – the Church - and to fill them to overflowing with the gifts of the Spirit for their own amazing happiness and his deserved glory! Everyone is invited to join – there is room for all!

Yes, Jesus was quite serious – you must either directly or indirectly spiritually eat his flesh and drink his blood that only the Catholic Church provides in its reality and fullness – it cannot be found really or fully anywhere else.

Yes, Niagara Fall is really there, believe it or not; but, believe it, says the Lord Jesus: whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him –both now and forever!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Homily – August 15, 2009 – The Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven

+ Today we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Though conceptually acknowledged from the first few centuries of the Church this dogma was not officially proclaimed until 1950 by Pope Pius XII. He set it forth this time, shortly following the conclusion of World War II, as a result of the cruelty of the sin of war, the degradation of the human body and hopelessness that war produces. Mary is seen, in her Assumption, as demonstrating the victory of God's grace over sin, and the negative influences of the material and spiritual worlds. Her victory gives strength to our own faith and hope in the resurrection of the body. Vatican II says of Mary's body and soul existing in glory that it is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. "She shine forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim people of God."

This day may we look to Mary as our sign of hope; and then allow ourselves to become beacons of hope and faith and light for all of our brothers and sisters in the world stumbling around in darkness either by choice or otherwise; the resurrection of Jesus has made all the difference in this world and in the world to come, for all of us!

Mary is taken up to heaven; a chorus of angels exults.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Homily – August 14, 2009 – St. Maximilian Kolbe

+ Our saint today, Maximilian Kolbe, a simple Franciscan priest, was born in 1894 in Poland. Due to several bouts with tuberculosis he remained frail all his life. After his ordination as a priest, Maximilian founded the Immaculata Movement devoted to Our Lady. After receiving a doctorate in theology, he spread the Movement through a magazine entitled "The Knight of the Immaculata" and helped form a community of 800 men, the largest in the world. Maximilian went to Japan where be built a monastery and then to India where he furthered the Movement. In 1936 he returned home because of ill health. After the Nazi invasion in 1939, he was imprisoned and released for a time. But in 1941 he was arrested again and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. On July 31, 1941, in reprisal for one prisoner's escape, ten men were chosen to die. Father Kolbe offered himself in place of a young husband and father. He was the last of the ten to die, enduring two weeks of starvation, thirst and neglect. He was beatified in 1971 and canonized in the presence of the man he saved and his family, by Pope John Paul II, in 1982. Today, August 14th is his feast day!

The first reading today from St. John spells it out very beautifully: the way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers! Fr. Kolbe experienced God's love before, during and after his self-sacrificial act of giving his life for a husband and father of children. The husband, father and children, no doubt experienced that same overwhelming love of God demonstrated by so great and act of faith and love by Fr. Kolbe.

The gospel passage reminds us that we are to not only preach the word of God, but give it substance and flesh by our loving one another from the heart no matter what that might entail. God is always with those who give themselves as entirely as they can for the welfare of their brothers and sisters. The fruit of love endure for generations – may we this day continue to tell the story of God's loving actions and saving deeds in our own lives – and send the message down the generations from us!

Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Homily – August 13, 2009 – Sts. Pontian and Hippolytus

+ Today we have two very interesting and controversial saints: Pontian, who live in the third century, was the first pope to abdicate his throne to ensure that the leadership of the church would remain solid and true; and Hippolytus was a priest who was set up as the first antipope against Pontian and who was the reason for his abdication later on. The life of the Church had its intrigue from the very beginning. What was clear with both of these men, however, and obviously, because they are indeed considered saints in heaven, is that they believed that what they were doing was good for the Church – and they tried always to follow the Spirit's lead into Truth, Light and Reward. Both of these men were exiled to Sardinia, during the persecution of Emperor Maximus I, to work in the mines. It is here that Pontian abdicated his position. Hippolytus was reconciled to the church there and both died a martyr's death. Hippolytus was also known for his very valuable writing: The Apostolic Tradition – which outlined the actions and prescriptions of the Apostles that was used as a basis for setting up the sacramental system of the Church.

The readings today speak of the price of glory – being persecution! Jesus says in the gospel: don't think you will be treated in any better way than I was when I send you out to spread the gospel; but rejoice when you are persecuted – for I am with you and the Spirit will strengthen you for everything you are intended to do for the Father's glory!

For one day we will all see how our souls have been rescued like a bird from the fowler's snare – and we will be freed to praise, and acclaim God in his majesty and glory forever!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Homily – August 12, 2009 – Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time - Wednesday

+ Today we have two very different readings for Mass, and two very different messages from them – as sometimes happens during the weekday cycle – but it is on occasions such as this that it means there is a message for everyone somewhere in all these words of God.

What strikes me first of all is the responsorial refrain: I think this is the only occasion in the whole year's worth of readings that it is used: Blessed be God who filled my soul with fire! What a powerful and magnificent statement this is! GOD FILLS MY SOUL WITH FIRE!! The fire of his Presence, the fire of his Wisdom, the fire of his Strength, the fire of his Compassion, the fire of his Mercy! And this is what happens when we open our minds and hearts and souls to his desire to come to us! We are filled with the purifying fire of God's reality, love and friendship!

In the first reading we see that no other person in all of Israel was filled with the radiance and light and fire of God as was Moses – who alone spoke with God – as with a friend – face to face! And because of his conversations with God – Moses was like no other prophet in history – God accomplished astounding things through him – most especially the performance of great signs in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, his servants and all his land: Israel was freed from slavery because Moses cooperated with God and let his fire burn within him! We too are called to be instruments in the hands of God – with his fire burning in our hearts - so that he can free the people we run across in our day from whatever it is they may need freeing from: we can bring hope, and compassion, and laughter, and a helping hand, and friendship to everyone we meet to some degree or another. And God will be very pleased with us as he was very pleased with Moses. And at the end of our lives, as it was with Moses, we shall have nothing to fear when our days are completed and we end our journey in the Promised Land.

The gospel passage now tells of fraternal correction and forgiveness. As we journey to our promised inheritance – along with brothers and sisters placed with us to accompany us and be there for us – there may come a time when we notice these brothers and sisters veering off the recommended path, thus getting themselves in real trouble and even sinning against us. We are our brothers' keepers – we are obligated to humbly, objectively and charitably point out their error and their sin for their own good, for their salvation, for their eternal happiness – and not to justify us or make us feel superior by any means – for we are as prone to sin as they are. If we are successful then again we have been used by God as an instrument of his own reconciliation and peace – and God will be very pleased with us – and when we pray for anything according to the Father's will, he promises – it shall be done for us: God loves to reward his faith-filled and charity-loving children!

Shout joyfully to God, all the earth; sing praise to the glory of his name; proclaim his glorious praise. Blessed be God who fills my soul with fire!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Homily – August 10, 2009 – St. Lawrence

+ It is so wonderful: God the Father will honor all those who simply serve Jesus: serve him by their belief in him; serve him by their attentiveness to what he has to say: serve him by the deeds they perform which demonstrate that they have truly understood what he had to say to them.

St. Lawrence was one such servant of God. A deacon to Pope Sixtus II, whose feast we celebrated last week, Lawrence was ever mindful of the love that Jesus had for him, and his desire to serve Jesus in any way he asked to be served by him: even to the point of death: "unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit." Lawrence, in life and in death, lost his life in the Lord Jesus – and he was always full of what he needed to do the very next thing. For because of the death and resurrection of Jesus to die is to live; to suffer is to rejoice; to surrender is to gain everything that God wants to give us!

Lawrence is Rome's most famous post apostolic martyr. He lived in the third century during the time of the persecution of Emperor Valerian. He was noted for his almsgiving to the poor. To him is credited the beautiful story about the true riches of the Church: when ordered to surrender the Church's riches, Lawrence assembled the poor to whom he distributed the possessions and said "these (poor) are the Church's real treasures." For this reason he was killed: some say he was roasted on a gridiron, telling his executioners to turn him over when he was done on one side; others say he was simply beheaded three days after the one whom he served as deacon with six others, Pope Sixtus II was also beheaded.

The first reading today reminds us that whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully… And when sowing bountifully, do so without sadness of compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. May we this day, like Lawrence of Rome, give ourselves entirely for God's use, cheerfully, and without sadness or compulsion: simply with great love and devotion and faithfulness and all will be well for us – as it was with Lawrence of Rome – for both in life and in death we are the Lord's and he will never let us be without his undivided attention and divine assistance and shepherd's care!

Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life, says the Lord.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Homily – August 9, 2009 – Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

+ Our readings today for the third Sunday in a row have to do with the idea and theme of Jesus as the Bread of Life come down from heaven; and this is only the half-way point: two more Sundays follow with the same theme. Why is that? It is because this is the high point of the "green-vestmented teaching Sundays" – the Sundays of Ordinary Time – ordinary not in content by any means, but ordinary, as in the word "ordinal" or "counting," having to do with counting down the Sundays to the Solemnity of Christ the King in late November before beginning again the whole "life of Christ cycle" in Advent. These Sundays are the high point of this season because they have to do with an enormously important and almost unfathomable gift of God to us.

Advent/ Christmas; Lent/Easter and finally Pentecost – are the three major seasons, celebrations and expositions of the works of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each season is rich in its pageantry and music and readings and festivities. But the point of these five teaching Sundays during the summer months, is that, as far as we Catholic Christians are concerned, Jesus as the very Bread of God's Life come down from heaven is what is meant to sustain, nourish and feed us throughout all of the days of the entire Church year, and throughout our entire lives. Jesus, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, is here on earth – by the words of the priest and the working of the Holy Spirit – as an object of adoration; he is here as spiritual nourishment, energy and motivation DAILY! This is astounding good news! Nowhere else can Jesus be found in this particular, truly awesome and truly miraculous way; in no other way can his disciples be so intensely spiritually fortified than this way; and in no other way can any human being feel him residing completely and deeply within the inner recesses of his human heart! We are fortunate beyond words to be able to eat this bread that not even the angels can eat! What an extraordinary gift the Eucharist is – an unmerited and exceptional gift from the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit!

The first reading today intimates the power of the Eucharist: eating and drinking the food that God himself will provide – (not by means of an angel – but by means of one who is higher than the angels – Jesus himself, through the ministry of his priests) – will give you all the strength you need to walk through your entire life until you reach the mountain of God and the heavenly banquet prepared for you there!

The gospel passage gives a typical worldly reaction to Jesus direct statement that he himself is this "bread that came down from heaven;" they ridiculed him and said: Yeah right! You are just the son of Mary and Joseph. You are just a carpenter turned rabbi. Who do you think you are saying you are "bread come down from heaven?" At the same time Jesus is trying to at least convince some to listen to what he has to say: because if you do listen and act on what you hear, he tells them, then the Father will draw you to himself through me and my words: and that is the only way that you can get to him! Eating the bread that I give, the bread of my flesh will bring you to everlasting life – will bring you to the Father himself! And all you have to do is to BELIEVE IT and then EAT IT and then LIVE THE LIFE OF THE BEATITUDES THAT YOU ARE NOW EMPOWERED TO DO BECAUSE YOU DID EAT!

All it takes is faith for all of this to work and to make perfect sense: my dear people, pray, pray, pray for more and more faith and you will be amazed at how your life will change for the better and forever!

God bless you!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Homily – August 7, 2009 – St. Sixtus II

+ Though of "optional memorial" ranking in the Church calendar, today's feast needs remembering by at least some of the churches in the world. Pope Sixtus II whose feast it is today is a rather remarkable saint. He was a Roman of Greek descent. Elected to the papacy in 257, he repaired the rift between the sees of Rome and Carthage that had developed over the issue of baptism and rebaptism. Like his predecessor Pope Stephen, Sixtus believed that baptism is a once-in-a-lifetime event, but unlike Stephen he tolerated those who rebaptized the heretics and schismatics when they desired to return to the Church. What was most important is that they returned; repeating something that can only be done once, does not cause it to be done twice, so for the sake of compassionate and lawful compromise Sixtus was for a peaceful solution. In fact, his biographer said of Sixtus: he was "a good and peace-making priest."

The events of his martyrdom are worth the remembrance of his feast day: he along with seven deacons of Rome was gathered for a liturgical service in a Roman cemetery. He was sitting in his "cathedra" – his episcopal chair - presiding over the ceremony, when soldiers of the Emperor Valerian – who changed his mind in midstream about Christians and began persecuting not just the general Christian population but also specifically bishops, priests and deacons – broke in and killed on the spot the pope (Sixtus) and four of his attending deacons: Lawrence, also a deacon, was martyred four days later. While Lawrence has his own special feast next Monday (August 10), today we celebrate the Christian heroism, and graced privilege of the martyrdoms of Pope Sixtus II and companion deacons.

Our first reading today – often read at funeral Masses – reminds us that the souls of the just are always in the hands of God – whether in life or in death; and when death may come upon them unawares, even at seeming inopportune times – they remain safely in the mind and heart of God – so long as in their lives on earth they persevered in believing in him, and living like they believed it. In the gospel passage Jesus forthrightly says to the Apostles: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, (if you are to be afraid at all) be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell. You are priceless in the sight of God; you are worth more than a flock of sparrows (who God also looks after in his providential care). Therefore, spend your energies telling others about me, and I will never stop telling my Father about you and the virtuous lives that you are trying to live in imitation of me; he will be pleased and you will have nothing to fear at the end of your lives – however they may end!

Blessed is the man who perseveres in life's trials, for when he has been proved he will receive the crown of life – as did Pope Sixtus and his attending companions and deacons.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Homily – August 6, 2009 – The Transfiguration of Jesus

+ The transfiguration of the Lord occurred for at least three reasons: none of which were of benefit for Jesus himself. He did not let his inner light glow just because he could do it. He did it, 1) to show himself as the fulfillment of the Law (in speaking with Moses), and the true fulfillment of the Prophets (in speaking with Elijah). For those obeying the Law and the Prophets a just reward would be theirs: a reward full of brightness, light and promise;

2)Jesus also allowed Peter, James and John – his three closest friends to see his true reality and glory as Son of God – to prepare them for the scandal of the cross that would occur within ten days, so that one day they would be able to connect the agony of the cross, with the glory of the resurrection; and also to give them something to focus on when they would be among the first of the apostles to suffer intensely for the sake of Christ after they are sent out into the world to spread the Gospel message. It would be the same brilliant light of Jesus' identity (the identity as Son of God that he never lost in becoming one of us) that would be and still is his identity as Risen Lord;

3) and finally Jesus allowed a large portion of his full glory to be seen for our own benefit, as a pledge and promise of our own transformation, which would occur when we share in his resurrection – if we believe in him, and live all the days of our life as though we truly do believe in him! Even Jesus resurrection was not for himself; he was always Son of God, and always full of life and glory, even in his death; but he died and rose fully glorious in his humanity to take into his humanity our humanity so that our deaths would be an easy burden for us, and the reward of resurrected life for all his faithful followers, a truly reality.

Peter, James and John heard God the Father's voice on that mountain of transfiguration: "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him!" It cannot get any more plain or simple than that: God commands us to LISTEN TO JESUS: because he IS AND KNOWS THE WAY that leads to him (the Father); he IS AND KNOW THE TRUTH about everything: he is a reliable resource; and he IS AND IS MORE THAN WILLING TO SHARE THE NEVERENDING LIFE OF BEATITUDE AND GLORY with all those who simply want it and ask for it! And so I ask all of us today: ARE WE LISTENING TO JESUS? – in the deep silence, in the awesome depths, in the golden temples of our hearts? And are we willing to "do whatever he tells us" to attain eternal glory with him?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Homily – August 5, 2009 – Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major

+ Today we celebrate the feast of a church building: a very old and venerable one: one of the four major papal basilicas in Rome: Saint Mary Major / formerly known as St. Mary Major of the Snows. With the Basilica of St. Lawrence outside the Walls, these five churches formed the "patriarchal basilicas" of Rome, associated with the five ancient patriarchal sees of Christendom. The other three papal or major basilicas are St. John Lateran, St. Peter and St. Paul outside the Walls. St. Mary Major is the only Roman basilica that retained the core of its original structure, left intact despite several additional construction projects and damage from the earthquake of 1348. The name of the church reflect two ideas of greatness ("major"), that of a major (or papal) basilica and that of the largest (major) church in Rome dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was formerly called "Our Lady of the Snows" as legend has it that the Blessed Mother left her footprints on the site during an unexpected August snowstorm in Rome.

Church buildings are very important images and symbols in Christendom: they are meant to reflect, whether they are the grandest of basilicas, to the tiniest of chapels, the holy ground and the awesome environs of the very "throne of God" itself, from which God administers his love and mercy and compassion and forgiveness and healing and blessings upon his beloved people; and it is also the focal point of the end of our journey on earth: the very bright light at the end of the tunnel of life: that leads to endless day and eternal glory and a never-ending experience of joy and happiness with God, with all the saints and all those beloved whom we know who have gone before us! "Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race!" as the Book of Revelation put it today. And of course he first came to dwell as one of us in the womb of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. And when we receive this Son of hers and God the Father in Holy Communion he comes to dwell in our own hearts to encourage us and gently lead us through one more day of praising him, and glorifying the Father in all our thoughts, words, and deeds: deeds emanating from the blueprint of the Beatitudes he taught us on the mountainside!

Yes, the gospel passage today, though very short, says it all: more important even than the womb of the virgin which housed Jesus for nine months, is the heart and life of the beloved and faithful disciple who not only adores and enjoys his company, but who also does the will of the Father, empowered by the Holy Spirit, being instructed moment by moment by Jesus himself!

Blessed, indeed, are those who hear the word of God and observe it!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Homily – August 4, 2009 – St. John Vianney

+ Today we celebrate the feast of one who was "simply a priest" – in fact he was so "simply" a priest, so "simply" a flawless instrument in the hands of God's will, so "simply" a minister of the manifold mysteries of God's knowledge, power and grace: that he not only held up as the patron of all parish priests, but as of today, the 150th Anniversary of his death, the patron saint of all priests.

John Mary Vianney was ordained a priest (in spite of being an academically very poor student, thus proving that the sign of holiness is truly much more important than intelligence as far as a requirement for ordination) in 1815. He spent most of his entire life in a tiny little village of about 250 people (Ars, France), where he became simply known as The Cure of Ars. His reputation spread throughout the Christian world as a confessor and director of souls. At the end of his life some 20,000 people a year would find their way to Ars to make their confessions or to receive wise counsel from him. John Mary would spend from 12 to 18 hours a day in the confessional.

The first reading today is particularly suited for this feast: it is about directing the unvirtuous from their sin. As Christians we have an obligation to at least point out to others their error in perspective and judgment and words and behaviors (based strictly on Gospel values and prescriptions); once we have done that, we have done our duty, it is now up to them to decided what they will do with the true and certain knowledge of God's displeasure that we have simply delivered to them. John Mary Vianney did this with his spiritual direction. Most listened to what he had to say and changed their way; most of them right there on the spot! All God wants is our undivided, dedicated attention in life so that we can merit the abundant blessings of a virtuous life – both for life here, and for life hereafter!

Accustomed to the most severe mortifications and penances, swamped by swarms of penitents, and besieged by the devil, this great mystic saintly man demonstrated an unwavering degree of patience. He was a wonderworker loved by the crowds, but he retained a childlike simplicity and remains to this day the living image of the priest after the heart of Christ: and this is precisely why our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI has designated this year, which coincides with the 150th anniversary of his death, as "The Year of the Priest." The Divine Heart of Christ moved him to his works of charity and love; the heart of the priest residing in that very Divine Heart leads him to the exact same works: of charity, of love, of spreading hope, and peace, and joy, forgiveness, healing and abundant blessing: to a world that so desperately needs these things.

Jesus' heart is more moved than ever with pity as he gazes around the world through the eyes of his priests. He asks all of you to pray for reinforcements: for more priests to help in the great task of preparing God's people for the great Wedding Feast of the Lamb of God, Jesus, that will take place one day, when all of the invited guests have taken their place. We are invited guests: let us live all our days like we believe we are!

St. John Mary Vianney was canonized on May 31, 1925 and declared patron saint of all priests on August 4, 2009.

Go out to all the world and tell the Good News!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Homily – August 3, 2009 – Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time - Monday

+ Once again we hear on oft repeated gospel passage and theme at this time of the summer: it is the great "Bread of Life" series that seems appropriate as we imagine the crowds of thousands of men, women and children reclining on the hillsides and being fed miraculously by loaves given them by Jesus: loaves that would only stop multiplying when he gives the word.

It is so very comforting to know that this miracle points to the time when he would give us the continuously flowing Bread of his Very Own Life – the consecrated Bread of the Eucharist – to be our daily food – not only for the duration of our own lives – but for the duration of the life of this world: until the end of time, in other words. Jesus will be present in our tabernacles until then, he will be present at Mass until then, and he will therefore be present in the depths of our hearts until then – because receiving him in communion is the only way that will provide this particular kind of depth of intimate union: the reassuring kind, the comforting kind, the healing kind, the hopeful kind, the joyful kind, the peaceful kind.

Moses had his hands full with the people of Israel – God's specially chosen ones – because they simply did not trust him enough to see to it that they got what they needed when they needed it. Let it not be that way with us! If we trust him absolutely and completely – he will give us everything we need not only spiritually but materially as well – we will have just enough for our purposes according to his plan. Who could ask for anything more!

One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Homily – August 2, 2009 – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

+ What powerful readings we have today at Mass! And how contrary to what the secular, worldly mind would think! Jesus tells us one thing today, in two different formats, so we get the message: do not work for perishable food (as though it were the be-all and the end-all of your earthly activities) as if collecting power, position, authority and money; homes, cars, boats and a variety of "things" were your chief goal and occupation in life. You will be sadly disappointed at the end of your life, if this is so! None of this will get you into heaven – at the moment when you truly arrive at the gates thereof – and knock on the door!

On the other hand, Jesus tells us to: work for spiritual food – with all of our might, all of our being, all of our energy, all of our ingenuity: this is and ought to be our chief and spiritual life's work! A great many people spend hours a day thinking about themselves and their appearance and their possessions and their projects and their plans, and their likes and their dislikes; going here, going there and everywhere – at a faster and faster, noisier and more chaotic pace: and all the while, their very real spiritual lives - that count so much more than the material and the physical - is slowly withering away and dying (if it is not already withered and dead) – and then when their lives around them start falling apart, said people wonder what happened! Jesus tells us today: CARING FOR THE SPIRITUAL LIFE WITHIN US MUST COME FIRST- everything else follows from that! "Seek first the Kingdom of God and his way of doing things, and everything else will be given to you besides!"

St. Paul puts it another way: BE TRANSFORMED BY THE SPIRIT OF YOUR MINDS! Wake up, mentally! Put on the new self that sprang to life at the moment of your Baptism; live with the Gifts of Confirmation, God's Way, in rightness of living, and holiness of life! Do the work of God which is: BELIEVING IN THE ONE HE SENT: JESUS CHRIST! It is a simple and complex as that! BELIEVING IN JESUS, and then LIVING LIKE WE BELIEVE IT! We make it complex by doing so much to block the inspirations that God gives us in order to come to fullness of belief! We sabotage our own salvation! We turn up the noise, the TVs, the IPODS, the cell phones, the clatter and chaos of modern living – and we can't hear God speaking slowly, softly and gently to us – all that we need to know about living productively life here, as a preparation for the Greater and more Glorious hereafter!

Not only does he speak to us in the Scriptures, in the homilies at Mass, in our private prayer time: but Jesus speaks most eloquently to us deep within our hearts immediately after we receive him in Holy Communion! Jesus is the Bread of Life, come down from heaven! Whoever eats this bread will live forever! When his heartbeat is in sync right next to our own, he reveals to us the secrets of the universe, the secrets of a happy life, and the secrets of what lies ahead for us in eternity! "We must be still and listen to God speaking": and then we must "obey and do whatever he tells us to do!"

We believe that Jesus is who he said he is: the very Bread of God's Life and Friendship for us come down from heaven! That is why we say "AMEN" when "The Body of Christ" is held up before us, and presented to us!

Yes, it is true, our relationship with you, Jesus, is the most important thing in this life – and everything, absolutely everything, follows from that!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Homily – August 1, 2009 – St Alphonsus Liguori

+ Today's saint, Alphonsus Liguori was born on September 27, 1696 near Naples, Italy, the oldest of seven children. He was raised in a pious home. He was educated at the University of Naples and received his doctorate at the age of sixteen. He began a career as a lawyer, but after visiting the local Hospital for Incurable on August 28, 1723 he had a vision and was told to consecrate his life solely to God. In response, Alphonsus dedicated himself to the religious life; even while suffering persecution from his family. He finally agreed to become a priest but to live at home as a member of a group of secular missionaries. He was ordained on December 21, 1726 and spent six years giving missions throughout Naples. Later, he joined forces with Bishop Thomas Falcoia and Sister Mary Celeste a pious and saintly woman and with their aid he founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer on November 9, 1732. The foundation faced problems and almost extinction from the very start, but soon new members arrived again. In 1749, Pope Benedict XIV gave approval for the congregation.

St. Alphonsus' greatest contribution to Church history is his clear, concise, simple, yet forceful take on moral theology. He applied the immutable and distinctly clear laws of God, with kindness and compassion. Alphonsus was later excluded and banned from his own community which caused him great pain and anguish, and later incurred a severe case of rheumatism that left him with a bent neck, but all the while his life remained as salt of the earth, and light of the world; he remained a true teacher of the manifold mysteries of God's never failing love, mercy and compassion until his peaceful death, at age 93, on the night of July 31/Aug 1, 1787. He was beatified in 1816 and canonized in 1839, and was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX.

He let his light shine before men, so that God the Father might be glorified!

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. ...