Friday, October 30, 2009

Homily – October 30, 2009 – Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time - Friday

+ When confronted by Jesus with a direct legal question which places compassion and mercy above the law, the scholars of the law and the Pharisees simply cannot answer his questions. Perhaps they would leave their ox in a cistern, or their son and not pull them out if it was a Sabbath! The point of the passage is that it is always spiritually legal to do a work of charity on any day of the week! Compassion and mercy come first!

Yesterday in the gospel passage Jesus is very upset because his people (the children of Israel) are so stubborn and blind, and unwilling to be nurtured and gathered by him into a mutually loving family; today, St. Paul tells the Romans the same thing: I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart: I wish I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for their sakes: so that they could be gathered unto him. Compassion and mercy were topmost concerns for both Jesus and Paul – and they would do anything it took on any day of the week to distribute them to whoever needed them.

In this voting time of year I ask you, as Jesus himself would: in considering the only question on the ballot that refers directly to God his Father, and ours: Question 1 on the ballot: Is it lawful to redefine what God has defined in the beginning – that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and that the subsequent family life including children is to be lived out as he intended it – or is it unlawful to do this? This is the real question involved here – this is the only question involved here! It would seem that the compassionate, merciful and loving answer would be the truthful answer: it is not ever lawful to change what God has defined and set in motion for our good! Voting YES on Question One is a vote for God – which is what all this is all about!

Glorify the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion. For he has strengthened the bars of your gates; he has blessed your children within you.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Homily – October 29, 2009 – Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time - Thursday

+ Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests. This was our "alleluia verse" just recited! It makes two interesting points: 1) God has favorites; 2) Jesus is King of all nations sent from God to teach us how governance works. It is at this voting time of the year that it would do us well to remember these two emphases.

God, though basically loving and sustaining all of creation, including human persons, clearly favors most those who use their freedom as he intended it to be used: to choose Him and his ways above all others, and to creatively play work out this will and way in the details of their lives. The saints did this well – and he certainly favored them, and even had favorites among them: the ones who were the most humble and childlike and trusting! When we vote on Tuesday, therefore, if God is to be glorified and his peace is to be furthered on this earth, then, our choices will reflect God's will in the matters at hand: we will vote not with our hearts alone, or our minds alone: but with both of these combined with a "deep soul sense" that our decisions take into consideration God's plan of bringing all things together in Christ. For Jesus is king and ruler and ultimate goal of all, and how he would rule and administer justice and compassion and mercy and service needs to be taken into consideration always!

In the gospel passage Jesus rightly bemoans the fact that so many of his own people missed their chance at being gathered into his loving embrace, through their own stubbornness and spiritual and intellectual blindness. But he assures the few who are with him that the house would not be abandoned because he would literally save everyone by his life-giving, sin-forgiving death and resurrection!

And so, if we revel and celebrate the fact that because of our baptism we are irrevocably bound into membership of Christ's Body, the Church, which is a personal relationship with him, nothing ought to be able to separate us from him: not anguish, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or the sword: or emotionally charged political contests or intrigue: for the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord can saturate us and give us a true sense of inclusion, security and favor.

As we contemplate our votes on all the local and state issues may our guiding principle be: if Jesus, the true King of all nations, were to show up the day after the election to render an accounting of the votes cast, knowing as he would who cast each vote and why, would we find favor with him on each account? What matters most of all is our participation in building the kingdom of God: beginning with this earthly one: according to God's will. In these political issues, is this so?

Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests – may those be us, because we have done something to deserve it!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Homily – October 28, 2009 – Sts. Simon and Jude

+ St. Jude, also known as Thaddaeus, was a brother of St. James the Less, and therefore a relative – a cousin – of Jesus – to some degree. He was one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus. Ancient writers tell us that he preached the Gospel in Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia and Lybia. According to the writer Eusebius, Jude returned to Jerusalem in the year 62 and assisted at the election of another brother of his, St. Simon, as Bishop of Jerusalem. Jude was the one who asked Jesus at the Last Supper why He wound not manifest Himself to the whole world after his resurrection. Jude and Simon were martyred together on the same day in Persia. Jude is invoked in desperate situations because his New Testament letter stresses that the faithful should persevere in the environment of harsh, difficult circumstances, just as their forefathers had done before them. Therefore, he is the patron saint of desperate cases. St. Simon was called the Zealot for his rigid adherence to the Jewish law. He was one of the twelve and suffered martyrdom with Jude in Persia.

The first reading today reminds us that because of our baptism and our incorporation into the Body of Christ – we are no longer strangers and sojourners – wandering around aimlessly in the world; we are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles (including Simon and Jude) and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. This is an amazing reality! We all fit together and are held together as a temple sacred to the Lord: made of living, breathing, spiritual stones: us: a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

As Jesus chose the twelve to initiate the telling of this marvelous story of salvation, redemption and new life – so may we each today respond to his call to spread the same message to all we meet. We all exist in God; and when we acknowledge and celebrate it, he can manifest himself and express himself more really in us on behalf of others! We become transparent for him to minister to others using us! Not a bad way to spend the day!

We thank you St. Jude for hearing and attending to the prayers we place before you to present to God. We thank you for the ones that have been answered as we would have liked them to have been; we thank you for the ones that were answered in different ways that we might have asked for; we thank you for the answers that are still forthcoming: we know that in his way and in his time God will answer them for the very best of all involved.

We praise you, O God,

we acclaim you as Lord;

the glorious company of Apostles praise you!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Homily – October 27, 2009 – Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time - Tuesday

+ If anyone knew what heaven was like, it was Jesus, who came from there. He knew all about "the mysteries of the kingdom" and he decided to share them – first of all with the very lowly and the childlike. He figured that the high and mighty and overly adult would never understand anything he had to say, so he kept his audience at a different level than that one: a simpler one!

Today, in the gospel passage we see Jesus trying to describe in very simple but very accurate terms what the kingdom of heaven – the kingdom that he came from – the kingdom where his Father lives – is like: it is like a huge tree with many branches where many birds coming from all over the world can gather – heaven is a place for all of God's people coming from all over the world to come together and live in peace; and it is like a presence that can "get into everything" and affect it in a positive and growthful sort of way – if we let it permeate everything about our daily lives. If we, as little ones, let God speak to us as he wishes, and if we open our ears and listen to what he has to say, then it will be a wonderful day!

The first reading tells us that the whole reason the kingdom of heaven is needed here on earth at all is that creation – all of it – is subject to the slavery of corruption – corruptions of many kinds – especially the kind that erodes and eats away at a true sense of freedom. Those who are not free are detached from God and his kingdom. They have little cause for hope, for nothing really makes any sense to them. But we who are baptized have hope based on the promises of God to redeem us by the working of the Spirit and so make us truly free to sing God's praises and live and act as his true children.

May we be free today; may we have hope today; may we allow ourselves to experience the joy of belonging to God's Kingdom here on earth today!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Homily – October 26, 2009 – Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time - Monday

+ Jesus had not only the knack, but also the authority to put people exactly in their places. The one who reads hearts, reads minds also. He calls the leader of the synagogue a hypocrite because in his intellectual blindness he also suffered from the spiritual blindness of being incapable letting his heart have a say in the matter at hand: the charity involved in healing a woman on a Sabbath. Yesterday we spoke about Jesus ability to easily cure these two types of blindness on any day of the week. It seems this leader would not have sought out such a cure for himself; and today he is actually jealous of one who encounters the compassionate Christ and accepts his offer of healing!

It is interesting to note that Jesus himself calls sickness and disease "bondage under Satan" – which is exactly what it is: not necessarily as a result of personal sin – but as part of the sinful condition that we all share in as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. This condition will to some residual degree be always with us (and it can be aggravated by our personal sin) – and it is directly related to the presence of evil in the world – and calls for the spiritual angle of healing to always walk hand in hand with the physical. Treating a patient medically without involving spiritual aid is really like entrusting your automobile to a mechanic and then telling him he can't use his deepest intuition in solving problems with your vehicle. Sometimes it takes more than just following the instructions in the manuals to get the desired results.

The spirit of the first reading today tells us just how important we are, and how deserving we are of the very best care from God – in whatever way it might play itself out daily. By means of our baptism we are now sons and daughters of God – eligible to call out to him "Abba, Father!" This is astounding when you really stop to think about it! GOD IS OUR FATHER! WE ARE HIS CHILDREN! WE ARE BROTHERS AND SISTERS! And since this is so, when we follow the example of our true and never-failing brother, Jesus, in his SUFFERING and DEATH, then we will share undeniably in his GLORY and EVERLASTING LIFE! And the suffering involved means putting to death the things in our lives rooted in the flesh, in the material, in the earthy; and latching on to what is of the spirit, of the immaterial, of the heavenly: such as a life of sacrificial self-giving! This was the formula that merited our salvation; this is the right formula for us this day in order to participate in it!

You word, O Lord, is truth; consecrate us in the truth.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Homily – October 25, 2009 – Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time


+ We have heard this gospel passage many times before. And we are touched by Bartimaeus' impassioned plea for Jesus to heal his blindness, and Jesus' compassionate and immediate remedying of the situation. But we always apply this scene to one who is physically blind. Indeed, Jesus did have miraculous power from God to heal the physically blind. But, just as easily, though even more startling, is Jesus' ability to heal the spiritually and intellectually blind, who, having come to their senses, respond to the grace of conversion, and themselves ask to be healed thusly! The spiritual healing is the easy part; the reversal of prideful stubbornness of mind and heart is the hard part. Very few readily admit that they are spiritually or intellectually blind. But for those who are ready and willing – amazing things can happen.

Spiritual and intellectual blindness can be suffocating for the one experiencing them, and exceedingly detrimental to any relationship that such people attempt to build with others. There is always something faulty with such a person's vision, and their perspective is undeniably off-kilter and their conclusions are therefore unreliable. Do you know someone who is spiritually or intellectually ill-visioned, off-kilter and regrettably conceptually unreliable? Are you such a person yourself?

Such a state of blindness was the lot of the children of Israel for centuries. They were so blind and stubborn of heart that they all but exterminated themselves from existence – with the exception of the remnant that God preserved to keep his love and friendship with his people alive. It was God's intention to, in a very real way, perform a group miracle of conversion and restoration of sight to his spiritually and intellectually handicapped people! Behold, I will bring them back from the land of the north; I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers, and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng. They departed (into exile) in tears, but I will console them and guide them…on a level road, so that none shall stumble. Yes, God offered the grace of conversion and healing, and the people responded and were gathered as they were invited to be. Those that sowed in tears, reaped rejoicing!

It is important to pray for the physically blind, that sight might be restored; it is much easier to get around in the modern world as a physically seeing person – but it is even more important to pray for spiritual and intellectual healing so that what we look at and see with our physical eyes, will make sense to the eyes of our souls!

May we pray, now, for the faith needed to cry out: "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me! – and heal in me, whatever needs healing, spiritual or otherwise!"

Friday, October 23, 2009

Homily – October 23, 2009 – St. John of Capistrano

+ St. John of Capistrano was a renowned Franciscan preacher who is the patron saint of military chaplains and jurists. Born at Capistrano in 1386 in the Abruzzi region of Italy, he studied law at Perugia, married, and became governor of Perugia in 1412. He was imprisoned for a time during a civil war and claimed to have had a vision of St. Francis that generated a spiritual conversion. Upon his release, he was determined to become a religious. He separated from his wife, by mutual consent, joined the Franciscans in 1415, and was professed the following year after obtaining a dispensation from the Church. He was ordained a priest four years later, having studied theology under St. Bernardine of Siena, one of the greatest preachers of his time. John himself became a successful preacher, attracting large crowds using the same techniques as Bernardine. In fact he even defended his former teacher against heresy charges in the presence of Pope Martin V. John was involved for several years in efforts to reform, reorganize and unify the Franciscan Observant friars. He achieved limited success. John was given several formidable assignments from the Holy See against heretics and infidels. In the field, John succumbed to illness brought on by war. He died October 23, 1456, and was canonized in 1690.

What was John's inspiration during his ministry was the truth of the matter that those who live in Christ are entirely new creations. Once the waters of baptism are poured – and the baptized tap into the reservoir of God's graces flowing from the Heart of his Crucified Son – then nothing is the same. And from that point on we all become ambassadors of ChristGod appealing through us to be reconciled – to be made anew – to be alive in Christ Jesus. This was the message of John of Capistrano's preaching – this is what he defended against the heretics and infidels, this is what kept him on the road to his own eternal salvation.

In the gospel passage Jesus tells his disciples that his followers would not have it easy – that they would be inconvenienced – they would not be able to set their sights on "ordinary business" in life – but rather the "extraordinary" – the focused, inspired and God-fortified business of bringing self and others to God for eternal life! This is quite the task – but those who dedicate themselves to it, like John of Capistrano, like any and all of us, with God's help, can make strides today!

The Lord says: I am the light of the world; let us live this day entirely in his light and we shall be safe, we shall be cared for, we shall be on the right path!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Homily – October 22, 2009 – Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time - Thursday

+ This is a remarkable gospel passage. Jesus tells us that he did not come to earth for a tea party. He did not come to proclaim niceties where there really were none, he did not come to smooth over and assuage misguided notions, he did not come to tell everyone what a great job they were doing living life. If this was the why of his coming, then he never would have bothered coming at all– we would not have needed a Savior.

And so Jesus did not come to establish peace on the earth as an added bonus to what was already here. He did come in fact to cause a spiritual revolution that would be accomplished only by means of conflict and division. The fire that Jesus was so eager to have lit was that of the presence of the Holy Spirit who would burn away what was not of God and God's peace, and to replace it with what was of God and God's peace which was different than anything anyone could imagine.

In the first reading St. Paul tells the Romans to live the life of righteousness and freedom from sin (which included a life of supreme peace – real peace) because it is now available to them – because the baptism of Jesus had been accomplished (his death on the cross for our sins) and the anguish that went with it. But now it is our choice: do we want to participate in the life of redemption or not, do we want to live in the environs of peace or not, in the true familyhood of God, or not?

The choice may make us unpopular and at odds with other people – even members of our own families, as Jesus tells us in the gospel passage. But, how strong is our commitment to Jesus and the truth is the question we need to ask ourselves? When controversial political issues surface which challenge the faith, and attack God's authority directly, do we stand by the faith and God, or do we go the way of compromise and illogic?

Blessed are those who follow not the counsel of the wicked nor walk in the way of sinners, nor sit in the company of the insolent, but delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on his law day and night!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Homily – October 21, 2009 – Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time - Wednesday

+ We begin today now with the first reference of "the end things" that will continue half way into the new Advent Season that is coming in December. BE PREPARED – YOU DO NOT KNOW WHEN THE SON OF MAN WILL COME! We will hear this over and over again! But let it not fall on deaf ears! This goes for "masters" as well as "servants" – "shepherds" as well as "sheep" – those who are doing the leading, as well as those who are voluntarily being led. Everyone has something to do AS WE WAIT FOR THE COMING FO THE LORD! And if we do what we are assigned by God to do: his will: then more and more will get done, according to God's plan: and when "the time" comes for the grand culmination and transformation of all things: there will be a happy and joyful conclusion to this chapter of human existence!

The problem is that we as human beings, get easily distracted, anyway, and even moreso when waiting for something to happen that could take centuries and millennia to be accomplished, as it already has taken thus far. That is why we have repeated seasonal instruction and celebrations, to help us KEEP OUR FOCUS SHARP; and to keep us trying to do the most and get the most out of what we have been given to work with while we wait!

The solution, as St. Paul points out in the first reading today to the Romans and to us, is for us to become habitually obedient slaves of righteousness rather than of sin. If we stay focused on seeking out the right way – the Jesus way – of thinking, saying and doing what we do throughout the day – which is simply Spirit-led – then we will be ready on any day for the return of the Lord!

May we stay awake this day, O Lord, for we just don't know the exact day and time of our Second Coming!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Homily – October 20, 2009 – St. Paul of the Cross

+ Today we celebrate the feast of the founder of the Passionist Order: St. Paul of the Cross. This St. Paul was born at Ovada in the Republic of Genoa, Italy, January 3, 1694. His infancy and youth were spent in great innocence and piety. He was inspired early on by God to found a congregation: in a vision he beheld the habit which he and his companions were to wear. He consulted his spiritual director and it was concluded that Paul was to found a congregation in honor of the Passion of Jesus. On November 22, 1720, he was vested with the habit that was shown him in the vision, the same that the Passionists wear at the present time. For 50 years St. Paul was a stalwart missionary of Italy. God gave him great gifts in the supernatural order, but he treated himself with the greatest harshness, believing himself to be a useless servant and a great sinner. He died in Rome in the year 1775, at the age of 81. He was canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1867.

The first reading today tells us how St. Paul teaches that the way one regards the cross of Christ, is how he regards his own eternal salvation! For those who are perishing, and will spend eternity in hell, the cross is simply foolishness; but for those who accept the gift of redemption offered by God, it is the power of God. The only real sign for the world of God's power, as a matter of fact, is to be the Cross of Christ Jesus – the culmination of his Passion and Death – for human weakness, even death, is no match for God.

But in addition to being a display of God's tremendous power over the negative forces of nature and human life; the cross is also a sign of the enormous depths of God's love for each and every human being the world has ever known – including us. By his death, we die to sin; by his resurrection, we are reborn to everlasting life! This is an amazing reality and not just a story!

In the gospel passage Jesus reminds us that – because we have free will – we must participate in our own salvation – we must carry our own crosses and follow him into the life of resurrection that will change our days here into happy ones, and change our eternal life forever – into an experience of bliss and unbounded joy!

We thank men like Paul of the Cross who proclaim the Death of Christ, and his Resurrection – to keep before our eyes always the great realities of life: the human condition, redeemed!

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; for they will be satisfied.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Homily – October 19, 2009 – Saints John de Brebeuf and Isaac Jogues and their companions

+ Today we celebrate the feast of the first North American Martyrs: Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf, both Jesuits from France; and Rene Goupil, who was an associate to the Jesuits and a skilled physician. They found themselves in the middle of warring Indian tribes in Canada and upstate New York. In their efforts to help the Huron Indians they were attacked by the Mohawks and brutally tortured. They did not give up, however, and continued to both bring the gospel message and physical as well as spiritual aid to as many as possible. Finally in 1646 Isaac Jogues and companions were martyred at Auriesville, New York – where there stands today a worthy shrine to their memory!

The first reading today speaks of the evangelical spirit of these men: afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in their bodies. Being instruments of the grace of God was foremost in their minds and hearts, and this is what saw them through any and every difficulty that they encountered.

The gospel passage was their driving force, as well: go, teach, baptize – knowing that I am with you always until the end of the age! With this assurance from Jesus himself, Isaac Jogues and companions did what they were invited by God to do; and with his help saw it through to a happy conclusion: their crowing with the glory of martyrdom.

Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing; may all of our tears be turned into dancing!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Homily – October 18, 2009 – Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

+ The theme of the homily last Sunday was the possibility of a misguided notion of wealth. This week we have the idea of the possibility of a misguided notion of greatness.

All of the readings today point to the fact that worldly greatness and spiritual greatness are two entirely different things. And the one that counts in the end, naturally, is the supernatural one: the spiritual. It is what God thinks about anything that really matters: and he tells us prophetically in the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah that the great one who would justify many and bear the guilt of all would be the afflicted one and the suffering one: not a very appealing characteristic of greatness for the upwardly mobile, worldly minded, self-serving individual. This "Suffering Servant" would of course be Jesus, who would come to be our salvation and our true and lasting joy!

The second reading tells us that this Suffering Servant, Jesus, would also be the one, true, great and eternal high priest, who would do what no other high priest had ever done: offering one, unending sacrifice to remit the sins of all; and also to do this as one of us, one who could sympathize with our weaknesses and temptations(because he experienced them - although he never gave in to them and sinned): which gives us the hope of almost eradicating sin in our lives if we really work at it! We will probably never be entirely sinless – even after we go to confession – which we ought to do at least on a semi-annual basis – but when we hook our spiritual lives onto the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus – with its need for constant reexamination and inner conversion - we can get a lot closer than we ever thought possible.

In the gospel passage, of course, we have the classic lesson taught by Jesus about greatness. Sometimes it is easy to jump to criticism of James and John for being so presumptuous as to ask for privileged seating assignments in heaven. But the reason they did this was because they loved Jesus so very much, and wanted to be as close to him as possible when they got to his Kingdom. Jesus took this opportunity to gently teach them that who it is that will actually sit at his right and left at the end of the world, is yet to be determined; and that greatness – the topic of discussion among the twelve which precipitated this whole exchange in the first place – is not about places of honor, or power, of having lots of money – but it rather has to do with loving service – even to the point of great self-sacrifice! Just as he himself had left his divinity behind and came among us as one of his own creatures, coming to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many – so too, if we want to consider ourselves truly great, we must do the same (with his help).

Just think what a fantastic world it would be, beginning right here with this gathering and then extending everywhere – if greatness was truly measured by willingness to serve, in the lowliest positions (if needs be); and then the actual engagement in such sacrificial service, out of love for God – to give him thanks, praise and glory! He would be so very pleased and would bless us and our efforts abundantly!

Be great today, be small today, be a servant of all today – just like Jesus! You will receive him in Holy Communion shortly – what other help could you possibly need to do this well, to do it lovingly, to do it daily?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Homily – October 16, 2009 – St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

+ The first reading speaks today of "a knowledge that even surpasses knowledge!" It is experiential knowledge of true, immediate and overwhelming love that originates in God alone, is distributed by him and is offered to mankind to be shared in by his gracious free-will gift. When Christ dwells in our hearts through faith, when his love is experienced in the very fiber of our beings, then we can comprehend with all the holy ones, the breadth and length and height and depth of God which surpasses all human knowledge – and we can have the fullness of God! This is truly amazing!

All of this is summarized in the Heart of Jesus. God made available to men the experience of being loved immensely by himself through the Heart of Jesus, his Son, who loved us to the point of giving his life for us! The Sacred, Adorable and Generous Heart of Jesus is the fountain from which all graces flow. Jesus himself wanted this very dynamic to be made known and celebrated throughout the centuries. In the 17th century he chose Margaret Mary Alacoque, a French nun, to be the principal founder of devotion to his Most Sacred Heart. Due to the thinking of the time which exaggerated the sinfulness and unworthiness of men, the mercy and love of God were to be emphasized and celebrated with a special feast in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the Friday after Corpus Christi – and then on the First Fridays of the month thereafter. In the twenty-first century this particular devotion has seemed to wane. But with St. Faustina Kowalska and the Divine Mercy Message and Devotion: God's love, mercy and forgiveness are once again being brought into the forefront. Time may be running out, and Jesus wants to be sure that an abundance of his compassion is available for those who might want it before Judgment Day!

Both Margaret Mary Alacoque and Faustina Kowalska were simple and humble women who were receptive to the message of God's Heart, God's Mercy, God's Forgiveness. May we follow their example and give Jesus our burdens, our mistakes, our sins and take upon ourselves his yoke which is easy and light - as it emanates from his meek and humble Heart - because he made it so.

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

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Homily – October 15, 2009 – St. Theresa of Avila

+ Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) was the founder of the Discalced Carmelites and one of the first two women to be named a Doctor of the Church (with Catherine of Siena). She was born into an aristocratic family is Spain. She was familiar with illness early on in her religious life. It was while praying in front of a very realistic looking crucifix that she had a deep spiritual conversion. Not many were sympathetic to her claim of having mystical experiences and she was misunderstood and ridiculed by members of her order. After twenty-five years of dealing with this, Theresa founded her own community of unreformed Carmelite life – and introduced a Rule that would be strictly observed. She established such a house in 1562, and subsequently many other houses, in many other countries – though she remained physically infirm for most of her life. Her most famous writing is "The Interior Castle," a disguised autobiography written in the third person. She died on October 4, 1582, and nuns present at her death testified that a luscious paradisiacle scent emanated from her body, and later when her grave was opened, her body was still intact and redolent of lilies. Theresa was beatified in 1614 and canonized in 1622 along with Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier and Philip Neri and was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970 by Pope Paul VI in recognition of her outstanding contribution to mystical theology and Christian spirituality.

The first reading today speaks of the true labor that is involved in doing things God's way: how important it is to live always in hope while we await the fullness of redemption that is to come, and to pray with all our might for his will to be done, and to count on the Spirit of God to help us pray fully and trustingly when we feel our own attempts are less than perfect. Theresa trusted in the Spirit of God to lead her all the way through her spiritual life!

And of course the gospel passage speaks of the disciple's relationship to its Lord and Master's – the vine and the branches. This takes constant and dedicated work as well: daily choosing to be connected to the vine and not insistence on going off on one's own to become a separate and lesser growth! If we remain in God and he in us, we can ask for what we want (according to the will of God) and we shall get it!

Remain in my love, says the Lord; whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Homily – October 14, 2009 – Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time - Wednesday

+ In the gospel passage today Jesus condemns the Pharisees and the scholars of the law for negligence and hypocrisy. They, who ought to have known better, speak and act contrary to what they themselves uphold and teach. Jesus, on the other hand, spoke, acted upon, upheld and taught the one same thing: God's justice, love and mercy!

There are many in the Church today - religious leaders and scholars of the law - who are also guilty of negligence and hypocrisy. Their message and activity are their own – and any bits of God's justice, love and mercy that is proclaimed in spite of them, is so much less than it could be.

In any event God will repay each according to his works, St. Paul reminds the Romans in the first reading today (the Jew first, and then the Greek). The leaders and scholars, the good ones and the bad ones, will get what they deserve, and so will the ones who came under their jurisdiction – who are still responsible for their own actions – and who ought not to have followed the voice of a bad shepherd. The sheep of God's flock know enough to follow the voice of a good and caring shepherd. And, they, if they are good sheep will search and search until they have found such a shepherd to lead them.

Only in God are our souls at rest, he alone is our rock and our salvation, our stronghold. We shall not be disturbed if we trust in him at all times! Lord, give to us according to what our works deserve!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Homily – October 13, 2009 – Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time - Tuesday

+ Jesus makes a very interesting point in the gospel passage today: give alms, and behold everything will be clean for you (your sins and your iniquities). Giving alms has always held great weight in the Church. It can truly wipe away sins, as Jesus just told us – if, it is done with the proper intention and motivation. It is still not right to go out and deliberately do something sinful with the thought in the back of your mind that "all I have to do is to write out a check to the Food Bank and all will be spiritually well." No! This is not how it works. But if one does have sin – and there is no way to get to confession – and there happens to be a food kitchen in my neighborhood – and I do drop off some dollars there because my heart is moved by God to do so – not for my glory, but for God's – then my sin will be wiped away.

Presumption is always a sin; but, temporary stop gaps and pardons are always available for the truly contrite and repentant.

In the gospel passage, Jesus is mainly angry at the Pharisees who live a lifestyle of parading around religiosity and sinful self-importance, while their insides, their hearts are far from religious or important at all. He calls them fools because they ought to have known better. But even they can reconcile their insides and outsides if they would only give legitimate alms – heartfelt, generous aid for the poor!

May we embrace your word this day, Lord, and may it allow our lives to change, so that our insides and outsides match: what our hearts tell us, and what our actions actually are: may they be loving, and caring and charitable as were yours, Lord Jesus!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Homily – October 12, 2009 – Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time - Monday

+ It is important in asking God's advice and help to accept it as he gives it and not as we think it ought to be given. In the gospel passage Jesus tells the people gathered see him as wonderworker – no sign will be given your generation except the sign of Jonah (who spent three days inside of a fish, signifying the three days Jesus would spend in the earth after his death). He further tells them that they do not even understand signs at all: when you have the reality standing right in front of you, you need no sign at all. When you have me standing in front of you, you do not need signposts and posters.

In the Scriptures we read, the homily we hear, the Eucharist we share and the apostolic acts of charity and self-sacrificial service that we perform with the power of Jesus in us: we have all the "signs" we need that this is the right path and that it will lead us to God in his fullness one day!

In the first reading St. Paul talks about the obedience of faith that is now possible even for the Gentiles. This obedience of putting faith into practice because God invites us to and empowers us to will also produce an undeniable sign of God's reality, presence, power and providence!

If today you hear the voice of God, harden not your hearts – don't insist on seeing signs when Jesus himself is right here in front of you, and in fact, inside of you!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Homily - October 11, 2009 – Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

+ It is so easy in our contemporary society to think that the "smart ones" are the ones with the big bank accounts; the ones with multiple educational degrees; the ones who own the extravagant houses, boats, cars, jewels; the ones with the loudest voices (when money talks). How else would they be "rich" if they were not "smart?" But if I were to tell you the truth of the matter that "you cannot take it with you" – then, who are the "smart ones?" Can there be any smart ones? What, if anything, can you take with you? Again, I tell you the truth, you can take something with you, you can take love with you: and you can take anything that truly qualified you to love: the primary and most fundamental reality here being: wisdom! The smart one is really the wise one; not wise in the view of the world, but wise in the eyes of God!

And the fear of the Lord is the beginning of real wisdom! Some don't like the sound of that already. The "fear" involved here is a real and healthy "awe" that we must have for the almighty, the all powerful, but o so loving Father God, who existed long before anything or anyone at all! We are truly here on account of his love and his generosity and his good will towards us. If we do not have a healthy respect for this God, then we are foolish!

Now the wisdom of God (the very ability to see things as God himself sees them) comes from seeking her and asking for her – and then being willing to recognize her wherever she may be found: which could be anywhere at all. But it also comes from reflecting on the word of God-speaking: quite literally speaking in the Scriptures. Jesus is the Scriptures, and no one is wiser than he. The word of God is therefore sharper than any two edged sword: it cuts right to the heart and lays bare what is truly going on there, for where there is Jesus, there is not only wisdom, but there is also Truth! How very fortunate we are that we do not have to stumble around in the darkness of ignorance any longer; that our hearts can be pure and holy; that our lives can be filled with the joy of self-sacrificial giving and loving! This is what it means to be rich! Dollars and status and power do not make us rich at all; humility, obedience, compassion, mercy, tenderness, and self-giving do make us not only very rich spiritually, but also very wise supernaturally – and these things you can definitely "take with you" into everlasting life.

The young man is the gospel passage went away sad because in his riches he lacked wisdom: he lacked the insight to see that what really mattered was detachment from "what owned him," and attachment to Jesus and his seemingly contrary but eternally rewarding way of life!

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; not the rich and the famous – unless they get their priorities very, very, straight!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Homily – October 10, 2009 – Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time - Saturday

+ The first reading today talks about the approaching harvest time. It is an agricultural reference, but it also contains another reference: the time of harvesting the faithful nations of God into a holy and undisturbed people! We are among those nations and peoples – and when the spiritual sickle is wielded, we pray that we are found worthy to be counted among those fit for keeping when the new Zion is built!

We will be fit and ready if, as the gospel passage reminds us we hear the word of God and observe it! They are happy and blessed who do these things; they are counted among the crop that is ripe for harvesting! They are God's favored and protected!

Rejoice in the Lord, all you who seek justice and right living!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Homily – October 9, 2009 – St. John Leonardi

+ John Leonardi was born at Diecimo, Italy. He became a pharmacist's assistant at Lucca, studied for the priesthood, and was ordained in 1572. He gathered a group of laymen about him to work in hospitals and prisons, became interested in the reforms proposed by the Council of Trent, and proposed a new congregation of secular priests. Great opposition to this proposal developed, but in 1583, his association (formally designated Clerks Regular of the Mother of God in 1621) was recognized by the bishop of Lucca with the approval of Pope Gregory XIII. John was aided by St. Philip Neri and St. Joseph Calasanctius, and in 1595 the congregation was confirmed by Pope Clement VIII. John Leonardi died in Rome on October 9th of the plague contracted while he was ministering to the stricken. He was venerated for his miracles and religious fervor and is considered one of the founders of the College for the Propagation of the Faith. He was canonized in 1938 by Pope Pius XI.

The first reading today speaks of the fragility, vulnerability and humility that are needed to be a true, genuine and authentic disciple and worker for the Lord. A true disciple does not preach himself, but the Lord Jesus Christ. The light shining out of darkness shines for the good of the world: and this light is the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ. St. John Leonardi was a true and real ambassador for Christ and his gospel message of care and concern for the poor.

The gospel passage, of course, is all about what happens when we trust in the Lord completely and do whatever he tells us to do: in this case, "lower our nets" into the sea of life. Amazing things happen, and the catch is more than satisfying for us. And we can see how little we are, and how great God is and how much we owe him who provides everything for us! May we this day trust God, do what he tells us and watch what happens. We will see amazing things.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Homily – October 8, 2009 – Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time - Thursday

+ In the first reading today from the Prophet Malachi, we see God lamenting the fact that his people give up so easily trying to go the way of the virtuous, and they envy the way of the evildoers. "See how they (the evil doers) prosper" – is their recourse. But God assures them that the day of the evildoers who seem to prosper shall be turned around they shall become like stubble
– on the day that is coming, they shall be set on fire, leaving them neither root or branch.
And then those who fear God's name, the sun of justice shall arise with its healing rays. So, none of us ought to lament the fact that it is in vain to serve God, while those who don't serve him seem to be prospering so much better. It all comes down to the definition of prosper: prosper spiritually, is of much more value and import, than prospering materially!

In the gospel passage, therefore, Jesus message of persistence in prayer can be applied to this very process of spiritual prosperity. What we pray for, and ask for and seek after, ought to have something to do with our spiritual prosperity – rather than our material comfort (not that we are to neglect praying for the basics in life to which we have a right). But if we ask for all things in the light of and context of our spiritual lives then we will be assured of a hearing, and of swift and kind action on the part of God – who is our loving Father, and knows our true needs before we even ask him!

May we pray for an increase of the Holy Spirit in our lives daily, so that we can know what to ask for, what to pray for and how to apply the answers when we get them!

Open our hearts, O Lord, to listen to the words of your Son.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Homily – October 7, 2009 – Our Lady of the Rosay

+ Today we are celebrating the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, a feast which dates back to the sixteenth century. The victory of the Christian forces over the Turks in the naval battle of Lepanto, in the Gulf of Corinth, on October 7, 1571, which happened on the first Saturday of the month that year, was attributed to Our Lady of the Rosary. The rosary itself was a devotional prayer originating in the 12 twelfth or thirteenth centuries. It is made up of an organized structuring of Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be prayers, introduced with the Sign of the Cross and the Apostle's Creed. The meditative reflections or "mysteries" contained in it are regarding the lives of Jesus and Mary.

There was an upswing in devotion to the Rosary in the nineteenth century, especially because of the Marian apparitions to Bernadette Soubrious at Lourdes. The rosary remained a highly popular devotion through most of the twentieth century. But the Second Vatican Council took great care in reorienting Catholic devotional life that had quite frankly lost its primary Eucharistic focus. There is nothing more important than Jesus in the Eucharist, so long as we are on pilgrimage back to him. Any and every other kind of prayer format is secondary. Therefore, complete, active, lively and enthusiastic participation in the Eucharistic Celebration, the Mass, ought to be the full and conscious goal of Catholics everywhere. The Mass is no longer to be an ethereal backdrop for private devotions, including the recitation of the rosary. Mary would certainly ask that all the invited guests at the supper provided by her Son, give strict and joyful attention to what is going on – and participate humbly and gratefully! A rosary before or after Mass can be appropriate – but not during it!

Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you; you are blessed among all women!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Homily – October 6, 2009 – Twenty-seventh week in Ordinary Time - Tuesday

+ The message of the gospel passage today is about "taking advantage of a good situation when it comes and sits right in front of you!" Jesus came to visit his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus. While Mary just sits at Jesus' feet and listens very attentively to every word he says, Martha is all upset because she is not helping her get the dinner ready. But Jesus explains to Martha that Mary has chosen the better and more proper thing to do in this case; not that Jesus did not want Mary to help Martha – after all he tells us that we ought to help and serve one another. But when Jesus himself comes very near, for a very short period of time – as he did in this case, as he can do in our own lives in moments of more intense prayer and listening, or even unannounced or quite unexpectedly: then we would do better to spend some extra time with Jesus in this friendly exchange of presence and language – then to go off and do some manual labor.

The time of intense prayer will wane and then it will be time to "get back to work!" It is these moments when Jesus decides to come to visit us – that can happen any time he wants them to – that gives us something to look forward to in our day! And they can make all the difference in the rest of our day!

The people of the first reading today also listened not to Jesus, but to his Father – who, through the prophet Jonah, told them to repent of their sins or the whole city would be destroyed. Thankfully, this time they did listen and the city was spared at the preaching of Jonah. Yes, sometimes it is best to listen, and sometimes it is best to act! The Holy Spirit will help us figure out which time is which, if we ask him!

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

Monday, October 5, 2009

Homily – October 5, 2009 – Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time - Monday

+ We have two very colorful and imaginative readings today! The story of Jonah in particular is full of drama and movement. Jonah is tired of being the prophet of the Lord and wants to run away. He gets aboard ship, but the spirit of the Lord follows him and makes the sea turbulent. The shipmates find out that he is running away from God and know that the sea is angry because of it and so they ask Jonah to at least pray to his God to calm the sea so that they may not perish. This does not work. So Jonah tells them to throw him into the sea. They pray for forgiveness to his God first and then they throw him overboard. And a great calm does come over the sea. As Jonah sinks to the bottom he is swallowed by a large fish and remains there three days! Then at the Lord's command the fish spews Jonah out upon the shore (an obvious reference to the forthcoming resurrection of Jesus, after three days in the darkness of the earth).

The Lord rescues the lives of those who trust in him and who cry out to him!

In the gospel passage Jesus talks about the path that one must follow to inherit eternal life. Jesus answers a scholar of the law who was testing him by repeating to him the law: love God with all you got, and love your neighbor as yourself. Then when asked, "who is my neighbor?" Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan. The neighbor is anyone who is deserving of God's mercy: which includes everyone! And the most loving thing we can do is to treat all with mercy!

Jonah would come to learn the meaning of his job as prophet as one of loving service to God's people. So too must we learn the same. Whatever job or task the Lord assigns us, we are asked to do it with generosity, with grace and with love. I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Homily – October 4, 2009 – Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

+ Last week, in his DVD presentation, we heard Bishop Malone speak about a very important topic: Question One on the November ballot: concerning the redefinition of marriage in the State of Maine! In our first and third readings today, we have a direct reference to what God thinks about the whole issue. After creating the man and his helpmate, "bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh" – the one emanating from and complementing the other - he says that because they are so formed (by me), the man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh. Thus, from the Book of Genesis, we have God's very construction from nothing, and establishment of, the first human institution: marriage, the union of one man and one woman, and subsequent family life.

In the gospel passage, Jesus can only back up what his Father (and he himself said) in the first place, in the beginning, regarding marriage: marriage stands as is, as given, and no human must separate what God has joined together according to his own wishes, desires and formulation. God would not contradict himself. Divorce is therefore not to be allowed, but was tolerated by Moses only because of the hardness of hearts of the people. However, neither party could remarry without causing adultery to be involved in any new relationship, which is a grave sin in itself.

This is the long and the short of the Church's defense of God regarding Question One – and this is exactly what it is – a defense of God and his will! It ought not to be a defense of the Church or its status or its finances. And it is most definitely not to be an offense against those finding themselves with a same-sex sexual inclination. The Church would be making this same stand no matter who proposed it. In point of fact, the Diocese of Portland has had a long, nearly twenty year, history of working with the gay community to sponsor and defend civil rights legislation on the state government level. It fully supported a "gay rights bill" in the early 90's. The Church and the gay community stood together on this legislation. This bill was signed by the governor but overturned in referendum the following year despite the support of the diocese.

As Bishop Malone made clear in his address last week, the Church is not against the gay community in itself, but in this particular case, it must stand against it to keep the definition of marriage as between one and one woman and all the related terminology that goes with it – because it is GOD HIMSELF WHO FIRST SPOKE IT INTO EXISTENCE IN THE BEGINNING. This is one wheel that absolutely ought not to be reinvented
by anyone!

The emphasis of the gospel passage today is about STAYING MARRIED – after it re-presents its origin. The Church, not only of this diocese but all dioceses, cannot spend too much time and resources on catechizing and teaching its faithful members the
exact splendorous and magnificent reality of marriage as God made it – so that married couples and their children – who are all members of God's family – will get the most out of the wonderful relationship that they are already in. Children need a mother and a father in our own sacramental expression of married life.
This fact needs to be enormously emphasized - not to defeat a gay marriage bill – but because it is simply the nature of marriage and family life as God intended it!

Unfortunately, there is illogic and even purposeful misrepresentations in the media on both sides of this issue. May the Holy Spirit enlighten us all to form our consciences rightly so that we can see the light and grace of truth when it shines clearly through the hype of media presentations! The truth of the matter is certainly there to be seen – for those who have the eyes of faith. Without faith it is next to impossible to really understand what is truly going on here. Here is a hint from the second reading today from the Letter of Paul to the Hebrews: Jesus came to earth, to be our friend and to not be ashamed to call all of us "brothers" (and sisters). If we are thus related to him, then the real question here is this: How can we help our brothers (and sisters) who are crying out so desperately for true and legitimate recognition and a place with us that includes equivalent security, legitimate civil rights, love and a family-like living arrangement? How can we help them in a Christ-centered, Gospel-oriented way; not how can we judge them, hinder them, and cause them to lose heart and hope?

THEY ARE OUR BROTHER AND SISTERS, IF NOT IN CHRIST, THEN AT LEAST, OF THE HUMAN FAMILY!

It all comes down to love, doesn't it?

If we love one another, God remains in us and his love is brought to perfection in us!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Homily – October 3, 2009 – Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time - Saturday

+ This is a wonderful gospel passage today. Jesus affirms and confirms his very power over the forces of evil in the world that not only he himself possesses but also shares with his disciples. Jesus said: I have seen Satan fall like lightning from the sky (with his power to disrupt my Father's plans). But he cannot fully disengage them – the full force of the enemy is not a match, and nothing will harm you IF YOU REMAIN FIRMLY ROOTED IN HIM AND HIS LOVE AND HIS WAYS! So, don't get all excited about the power you think you have over evil. It is not your power, it is mine; what is worth more excitement is the fact that because you are my faithful disciples your names are written in heaven. But blessed are your eyes for seeing what they have seen. There have been many in the history of your religion who longed to see it but were not given that privilege.

The first reading today is about some of those people who are affected by the preaching and teaching of the disciples: they are prophesied in the Book of the Prophet Baruch: after the hearts of the people where disposed to stray from God, so now they seek him and will rejoice in being saved and brought back to him!

Let us turn back to God completely, rejoice and be safe unto eternal life!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Homily – October 2, 2009 – Guardian Angels

+ Today is the Feast of the Guardian Angels. The Church has never clearly defined their existence, but the scriptural reference made in the gospel passage today strongly suggests that at least children have such angels protecting them spiritually and physically from harm. And if the point of the gospel passage is that Jesus wants us not only to respect and care for the children, but actually to become like them to enter the kingdom of heaven, then it might be safe to assume that all who do in fact become like children do in fact have guardian angels as well.

The psalm refrain today too talks about the Lord putting angels in charge of us and all our ways.

I like what the Book of Exodus has to say in the first reading: see, I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared. Be attentive to him and heed his voice. Do not rebel against him, for he will not forgive your sin. My authority resides in him. This is regarding the people of Israel traversing the desert to the Promised Land, but it can also analogously apply to us, who are traversing the desert of life on this planet to the Promised Land of Heaven. True help, true aids, true voices, true angels of God can come to us in any form that God deems appropriate to get our attention, and provide for our needs in the many circumstances and situations in which we find ourselves. Let us be ever vigilant to our spiritual and angelic allies who are as near to us as we are to ourselves!

We are never, ever alone! God is with us always in some way, shape or form, and he will lead us home!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Homily – October 1, 2009 – St Theresa of the Child Jesus

+ St. Theresa of the Child Jesus was born in 1873 and died in 1897 (at the age of 24). She is known as the "Little Flower," a name which comes from the subtitle of her own famous autobiography. She was a highly influential model of sanctity for Catholics in the first half of the twentieth century because of the simplicity of her, and practicality of her approach to the spiritual life. Following the example of two of her sisters, she became a Carmelite nun at Lisieux, after the death of her mother in 1877. She was given the name "Theresa of the Infant Jesus." Her life in the convent was uneventful. Some of the sisters there chose an easier, softer way of penance and spirituality, but Theresa and others were drawn to a more traditional and austere format. Her reading of the great works and saints such as The Imitation of Christ (of Thomas a Kempis), the works of Teresa of Avila, Francis de Sales and John of the Cross were great inspirations for her to follow the narrower path. Theresa developed tuberculosis and was unable to undertake the missionary work in Indochina as she wanted to do. After a short life of deep spirituality and ending with intense physical pain, she died on September 30, 1897. Her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, became an instant success and was translated into many languages – and it qualified her to be declared a doctor of the Church. Cures were attributed to her: and she herself foretold that she would spend her life in heaven continuing to do good on earth "as long as there are souls to be saved" she would let fall a "shower of roses" from heaven. Pope Pius XI said of her that she achieved sanctity "without going beyond the common order of things." [Sanctity is for every one].

The gospel passage today can be applied directly to Theresa: she is among the greatest in heaven now, because she considered herself the least, and among the most childlike on earth. May we become and remain like humble children today – so that one day we can see her, and all the rest of God's children: our brothers and sisters, in heaven! In you, Lord, I have found my peace.

May 22 - 5th Week of Easter - Wednesday

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