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Homily The Ascension of Our Lord Thursday , May 9, 2013

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Homily The Ascension of Our Lord Thursday , May 9, 2013

Who is Jesus? Imagine if someone who’s never heard of Jesus, someone from a non-Christian country or from our country, but grew up totally without religion. Imagine if they ask you that question. Who is Jesus? Or imagine if they ask you: what is the Catholic Church? Why are you Catholic?

The last sentence of today’s second reading has a great short answer to both questions. St. Paul says “the church . . . is . . . . the fullness of Jesus, who fills all things in every way”

So, who is Jesus? Jesus is the one “who fills all things in every way“. Did you ever hear someone say “I feel so empty inside” I feel incomplete, like something is missing in my life? Jesus is the one who can fill our emptiness, the only one Who can. Jesus is the one who can make us feel complete, who can fill every fiber of our being.

What does Jesus fill us with? Love. God’s Unconditional love. Joy. Happiness in knowing we are loved. peace. Mission. Purpose in life. Truth. Understanding what life and love Is about. Jesus is the one who fills all things in every way, who enables us to live life to the fullest, right?

But now, back up and read the whole last sentence of the second reading again. St. Paul says the church is the fullness of Jesus, who fills all things in every way” yes, Jesus alone can fill us with love and life, Jesus alone can take away our Emptiness and complete us. But you can only find the fullness of Jesus in the church.

Why am I Catholic? Because I don’t want a little Jesus. I don’t want a half Jesus. And I definitely don’t want 99.99% of Jesus. Love that holds something back is not love at all. No, I want all of Jesus. I want to be filled in every way. I want to ascend to the heights of love and goodness and peace and truth. I want to ascend to heaven where Jesus is. And so I am a Catholic. Because the Catholic Church is the fullness of Jesus, who fills all things in every way.

And so as St. Benedict once said “to a ascend we must descend”. I need to humble myself, descend onto my  knees in prayer, not my way, but Jesus’ way. I don’t know everything, I need to learn from Jesus and his Catholic Church. He who exalts himself, who tries to send himself to heaven, will be humbled, will descend to the other place. But he who humbles himself, Who kneels down and prays for wisdom and guidance and help in turning from sin, will be exalted, will ascend to heaven with the help of Angels.

May Jesus, through his body the church, fill us in every way With love and peace and the fullness of life.

My Wedding at Cana Homily from this past January

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

(A timely meditation on marriage)

Homily – 2nd Sunday OT C 1/20/13

 There was a wedding . . . . (Jn. 2:1)

The teaching of the Church on Marriage is so foundational, and so deep, that the entire Catholic Faith can be summed up in those four words from today’s Gospel: There was a wedding. . . .

. . . .Once upon a time, in a far off land called Heaven, there was a Son who lived with His Father.  And one day this Son left His Father’s house and journeyed to a far distant land, called Earth, to look for a Bride to marry.

And just as Moses, Isaac, Jacob, and Tobias of the Old Testament did, in that far distant land the Son found the girl of His dreams: Our Holy Mother the Church.

On the banks of the Jordan River, with his best man, John the Baptist, at His side, Christ proposed to her, pledging his love to her publicly for the first time, and the Father gave His blessing on this union that day.

There next followed a three year engagement period, where Jesus the Bridegroom and His Bride got to know each other better.  During the engagement period, many objected to this upcoming marriage – the Devil, the Pharisees, the rich young man, Judas Iscariot, even Peter at times – but nothing was going to stop these two foolish young lovers from becoming one.

Finally, at the Last Supper, the vows were exchanged. This is my body, given for you. This is my blood, my heart, poured out totally for you, as an eternal covenant of my unconditional, indissoluble love.

And, as it truly right and just, after those vows were taken, after the engagement period was finished, the marriage was consummated on the Cross the next day. “Consummatum est – It is consummated.”

Three Days later, on Easter Sunday, Christ came forth from tomb as a Bridegroom coming from his bridal chamber, and a 40 Day Honeymoon ensued.

During that time, it appeared to all eyes that the Bride was “expecting”, and on Pentecost Sunday, the Bride of Christ, our Mother the Church gave birth to the first of many Children, as 3000 were born again of water and the Holy Spirit that day.

A man shall leave his Father and his Mother, and be united to His wife, and the two shall become one Flesh. What God has joined, let no one separate.

Jesus left His Father’s throne in Heaven, and His Mother Mary’s home in Nazareth, and was joined to His Bride the Church, and the two have become One Body of Christ. And what God has joined, no one can separate.

And at the end of time, Christ the Bridegroom will take His beloved Bride to His Father’s House in Heaven, and then, the Wedding Feast of the Lamb and His beautiful Bride will begin.

Blessed are those who are called to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, where the wine never runs out, where the best is always yet to come.

Yes, there was a wedding, the marriage of the One God-Man Jesus Christ with His one woman, His Bride the Church. The couple just celebrated their 2013th Anniversary.

And even in those bad times, when His Bride is unfaithful to Him, even when she in her sinful members betrays Him and denies Him and nails Him anew to a Cross, even then Christ the Bridegroom forgives her, and remains faithful to her, and will not ever think of ever divorcing His beloved Spouse. No, He will love her and honor her all the days of His Risen Life.

And as our faith is Incarnational, which means that with the birth of Christ the Divine now comes to us through the human, if we accept Christ’s vision of Heavenly Marriage, we must also accept His vision of Earthly Marriage, as being a life long union of one man and one woman, oriented to the procreation and raising of children, a visible sign of Jesus’ indissoluble, fruitful love for His Bride the Church. For the Christian, this and only this can be called a true marriage.

The Church has always seen Jesus’ teaching on marriage to be a most integral part of the Good News Christ came to bring to people of all nations and times and cultures.

St. John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded for defending the sanctity of marriage;

Pope St. Calistus in the 3rd century declared that male slaves had the right to marry free women, even though centuries old Roman law declared such marriages illegal, and even though this led to the first major schism in the Church, and the first Anti-Pope in Church History.

In the 9th Century, Pope St. Nicholas (known as Nicholas the Great), declared that a daughter was free to marry a man even against the will of her father, even if her father was the emperor (which was the case at the time).

And in the 16th Century, the Church in England broke away from the Catholic Church, and Chancellor St. Thomas More and Bishop St. John the Baptist Fisher both lost their heads, all because Henry VIII was refused an annulment to his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

Finally, the Church has never been opposed to inter-racial marriages, and has never in her official Canon Laws held mixed race to be an impediment to marry.

Given her track record, there should be little surprise that the Catholic Church continues today to proclaim the good news of Christ’s teaching on marriage as a life-long union of one man and one woman, oriented to children.

May we be faithful to Christ, and to His Bride the Church, in esteeming and defending this institution as the saints of old did, and as we approach Jesus, the Bridegroom of our soul, in Holy Communion today, may we say to him, freely and without reservation, “Jesus, I take you to be my Lord. I promise to be true to you and all your teachings, and all the teachings of your Bride the Church, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you Jesus, and honor you, all the days of my life. Amen.”

Homily – 3rd Sunday Easter C 4/14/13

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Homily – 3rd Sunday Easter C                4/14/13

This was the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead.

Last Sunday, we read in the Gospel about the second appearance of the Risen Jesus to a gathering of his disciples. That appearance took place the Sunday night after Easter Sunday, when Jesus appeared to doubting Thomas and the other Apostles in the Upper Room in Jerusalem.

The Risen Lord appeared suddenly to the Apostles – and then disappeared just as suddenly it seems.  The Risen Jesus never says “I will see you guys next Tuesday at such and such a place at such and such a time.” He shows up when they least expect it, and leaves when they least expect it as well.  Perhaps Jesus wants to give them time to process everything, let it sink in.

“So now what do we do?” the apostles must have asked themselves those first few weeks after Easter.  “Well, both Jesus and the Angel told the women to tell the brothers to go to Galilee, where they will see Him.”  So the Apostles leave Jerusalem and head back to the region of Galilee, 80 miles or so to the North.

They must have visited their old haunts, maybe going to Capernaum where Jesus lived and preached for quite some time, maybe also going to Nazareth where Mary still had her home, maybe even stopping by Cana to see that married couple Jesus was friends with, and having a glass of wine or two with them!

But Jesus is nowhere to be found; nor has he appeared to anyone in all of Galilee.

The days go by, and Peter, getting a little antsy hanging around the house with his mother-in-law, decides to go fishing.  (Maybe it was opening day that day, like it is this weekend!)

So Peter and six other Apostles cast off in a boat on the Sea of Galilee.  How many great memories must have flooded through their heads that night!  How they first met Jesus on this lake, how Jesus preached to the crowds on the shore from this very boat, how they would sail from port to port with Jesus, proclaiming the Kingdom with Him, how Jesus more than once calmed the stormy seas before their very eyes.

A lot had changed since last they sailed these waters, but one thing hadn’t changed – the fishing stunk then and it stunk now.   Don’t they stock this Lake?

As the night wears on, the Apostles one by one begin to doze off, but Peter’s unable to sleep.  As the boat gently rocks back and forth, Peter’s failure to catch any fish calls to his mind an even greater failure that he can’t get over – his failure as a disciple, his failure as a friend to Jesus.

And maybe Peter was even thinking of his failure to really be that leader Jesus was calling him to be.    Only six of the ten other Apostles went fishing with him. Maybe the other four, almost half of them, had already lost confidence in Peter’s leadership.  And maybe some of those six who did follow him were starting to have their doubts.

As the night wore on, such discouraging thoughts began to play on him more and more, seem more and more plausible.  “Maybe I should just throw in the towel,” he thought, “just go back to living the life of a common fisherman.

“Maybe James could take my place, or his brother John.  They both once told Jesus they wanted my position, and John especially deserves it more than me anyway – he didn’t deny and abandon Jesus like I did.

“’Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you.’  I said that to Him. And I meant it, Jesus, at that moment at least.  I felt so strong at that Supper Table with you that night, surrounded by my brothers in the faith.  My spirit was willing to die for you; but later when I was by that charcoal fire, around that hostile crowd, my flesh became weak and I denied you! I haven’t stopped crying over it since it happened!”

The night wore on, the boat rocked back and forth, the net remained empty, and Peter continued to turn things over and over in his mind.

” I’ve seen him three times so far, and he hasn’t brought it up.  He appeared to me Easter Sunday morning, after I had left the empty tomb.  I was alone, weeping like a baby, and suddenly there he was standing before me.  He didn’t say anything, he just looked at me, then, He was gone.

“And then, in the Upper Room, later that night, and again the following Sunday night.  I was so glad to see him, I wanted to pull him aside, be alone with him again, to tell him . . . but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

“Oh, Jesus, if you can hear me now, please give me a chance to say I’m sorry! Please give me a chance to show you I do still love you, and still want to live and die for you!”

With those hope filled thoughts, Simon Peter drifted off to sleep . . . . when suddenly he was woken up by some commotion on the boat. In the dim light of dawn, Peter opens his eyes and sees the other six apostles pulling hard on the net.

As he rises and walks over to them, John sees him approach, runs up, points to the man on the shore, and says to Peter “It is the Lord!”

Peter’s dark night of the soul is over, he puts on his clothes and jumps into the sea, running over the waters and onto the shore, to affirm, three times, before a charcoal fire, that he loves the Lord, that he will feed and tend Christ’s sheep, that he will gladly stretch out his hands and go wherever Christ wants him to go, that he will, by the power of the Resurrection, follow Jesus, even to the Cross, knowing that all the dark nights of life will give way to the bright dawn of Christ’s Resurrection.

Homily – Divine Mercy Sunday MMXIII

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Homily – Divine Mercy Sunday MMXIII             4/7/13

Now it’s time to play “name that musical”! Ready:

The Constables sing:
Tell his reverence your story/Let us see if he’s impressed
You were lodging there last night/You were the honest Bishop’s guest.
And then, out of Christian goodness/When he learned about your plight
You maintain he made a present of this silver–

Then the Bishop says:
That is right.   (and holding up two silver candlesticks he continues)

But my friend you left so early/Surely something slipped your mind
You forgot I gave these also/Would you leave the best behind?

So Messieurs you may release him/For this man has spoken true
I commend you for your duty/May God’s blessing go with you.

But remember this, my brother/See in this some higher plan
You must use this precious silver/To become an honest man
By the witness of the martyrs/By the Passion and the Blood
God has raised you out of darkness/I have bought your soul for God!

If you haven’t seen the recent movie version of Les Miserables I highly recommend you do, but 1 leave your children home as its appropriate for teens and up, and 2 bring kleenex.

Les Miserables would actually be a great movie to see today, Divine Mercy Sunday. The title could even be translated “The People in Need of Mercy”.

The Film Makers could have put at the beginning of the Movie “Based on a True Story”.  Because ultimately it is based on the scene in today’s Gospel.    The Apostles are the original Jean Valjean.  By their sinfulness and weakness, they robbed Jesus not of his silver and gold, but robbed him of his very life.    And three days after they had abandoned him and denied publically they ever knew him, causing him to be scourged and crucified and killed, the Risen Lord appears to them.

Put yourself in Jesus’ shoes.  If you or I were betrayed by our best friends, and lost all that we had because of their betrayal and abandoning us, what would you or I say to those friends of ours if we were in a closed room with them three days later?  What would they say to us?

When Jesus walked through that locked door, those Apostles must have felt like Jean Valjean standing there red handed before the Bishop.  We are gonna get it now, they must have said.  Judgment Day has arrived.

But Jesus, like the Bishop in the musical, doesn’t say “I am extremely disappointed with you guys.” He doesn’t say “How could you do this, I thought you were my friends!”   Jesus doesn’t even say “Well, I guess my Father wants me to forgive you, so I guess I will”

Instead, Jesus, Mercy Incarnate, says to them “Peace be with you”.  Not only do I forgive you for being unfaithful to me, and for denying and abandoning me, and for crucifying me, I’m giving you the Candlestick as well:  Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven!

Tonight I, who as the second reading says walk among the Seven Candlesticks, a symbol of the Seven Sacraments, give you the Bright Shiny Candlestick which is Sacrament of Confession, so that if you sin and crucify me yet again in the future, your sins can always be forgiven and your soul can be always bright with the Glory of My Resurrection.

Certainly the Apostles must have then felt like Valjean did after the Bishop forgave him.  No wonder John says “The Disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord”

Jesus gave us the Sacrament of Mercy, Confession, on Easter Sunday Night, in the same Upper Room that He gave us the Eucharist.    Every time we receive Holy Communion, we experience the same intimacy and love the Apostles experienced at the Last Supper in the Upper Room.  In the same way, every time we go to confession to a priest, we experience the same joy and peace and mercy the Apostles experienced that First Easter Sunday night in the upper room.

After Jean Valjean was treated mercifully by the Bishop, he was then able to start treating others mercifully himself.   And it is only when we start realizing how in need of mercy we are, that we will then start being truly merciful and loving towards others.

In the words of one spiritual writer: Jesus came not for the righteous but for sinners, and those who do not recognize how they belong in the category of sinners cannot connect with Jesus.

We seem to have a great example of Mercy in our New Holy Father,  Pope Francis.    Mercy is certainly going to be a major theme in his pontificate.  In one of his first homilies on the Woman Caught in Adultery, the Pope said that “God never tires of forgiving us, it is we who get tired of asking God for forgiveness.”     How true that is, how often do we rationalize away our sins in our society today, or try to get our sins accepted by society, instead of just coming to grips with the fact that “Hey, I’m a sinner just like every other human being, but praise God, because Jesus came to save sinners like me from my sins!”

Lastly, Pope Francis’ Motto on His Papal Coat of Arms is “Miserando atque Eligendo”.  It is actually quote from a Sermon on the Call of St. Matthew the Tax Collector by the 11th Century English Monk St. Bede the Venerable.    The Pope’s Motto is best translated as “Jesus looked on him with eyes of Mercy, and He chose him.”  And this is what Jesus does to all of us, He looks on us, sees that we are weak and only human, yet He has mercy on us, and chooses us to be missionaries of His Mercy in the World.

May we like Valjean, like the Apostles, rejoice that Christ is Risen, and has mercifully forgiven us.  May we receive his mercy, and then bring that mercy to others, for “to love another person is to see the face of God”

Homily – Holy Thursday MMXIII

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Homily – Holy Thursday MMXIII                3/28/13

During the Washing of the Feet at the Holy Thursday Mass, the rubrics of the Roman Missal state that certain chants or other suitable hymns are to be sung while the priest washes the feet.

One of the centuries old antiphons that are found in the Missal is the following:

Let faith, hope and charity, these three, remain among you,
    but the great of these is charity.

And that antiphon pretty much sums up what we celebrate this night.

Jesus wants his Church as a whole, and his disciples who follow him as individuals, to cherish nothing in this life, to have nothing in this life, and to hold on to nothing in this life, except those three things:   faith, hope and charity.

When the Church makes those three things central, Christianity flourishes, conversions abound, and the Gospel takes firm root in our culture.    But when the Church fails to do so, Christianity withers, people abandon the True Faith and are swept away by the latest ideology, and a Catholic Culture is replaced more and more by a secular, anti-Catholic one.

But tonight, Jesus, who does not leave us orphans, gives the Church Three Gifts which help her keep Faith, Hope and Charity Central in her life and the life of each disciple:    The Eucharist, the Priesthood, and the New Commandment

First, the Eucharist:   We call it not The Sacrament, not even The Blessed Sacrament, but rather The Most Blessed Sacrament

We believe it to be Jesus Himself, the God Man, the Son of Mary, the Lord, here with us, 24/7, as Present to us in the Host as he was present to the disciples when he walked the streets of Galilee, healing, delivering from demons, teaching and converting hearts.

And really, it is the Eucharist, and nothing else, that glues the Church together, that should glue our parish and every parish together.   We come here as Catholics, not for a Spiritual Experience – although we probably should get that; not for inspiring liturgies, sermons and music – although we should strive for both of  those things; not out of the social custom that good Americans should be church goers, or because the Third Commandment and Church law binds us to do so – although if that helps us get out of bed on Sunday to get here, that’s fine;

No, we come here as Catholics first and foremost to meet Jesus Christ, who each Sunday looks forward so much to see us, who weeps and is broken hearted when we don’t show up for no good reason, but who lavishes his love and blessings on us every single time we attend Mass, even if we don’t or can’t receive.

Let faith, hope and charity, these three, remain among you . . . . and when it comes to the Eucharist, all one can have before it is Faith, Hope and Charity.   We have only Faith that tells us it is Jesus, true God and true Man. Doesn’t look like God or Man, looks like bread and wine.  Physical science would tell us it still is bread and wine.

Why on earth should we believe it becomes Jesus? Because He said it: This is my Body. Not this symbolizes my Body. As one of the greatest fiction writers of the 20th Century Flannery O’Connor, said, “if its just a symbol, to hell with it.”    O’Connor went on to say “this is all I will ever be able to say about (the Eucharist) .  .  . except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.”

And so we, like her, have Faith and only Faith that the Eucharist is truly Jesus alive and present among us, we have Hope that the graces we get from the Eucharist will give us the spiritual strength we need to persevere in faith each day until we die and Jesus brings us to Heaven,  and most importantly, we Love Jesus here and now in the Eucharist, we give ourselves, heart, mind, body and soul, totally and unreservedly to Jesus and His Bride, the Holy Catholic Church, surrendering our wills to His will, leaving all and following him out of love for him who so loved us.

And by the strength we get from the Eucharist we also are enabled to show true Love and Charity to our neighbors, especially to the most insignificant members of society such as the poor, the stranger, the sick, the imprisoned, the unborn in the womb, the newly conceived human being, and the dying, and even to love and forgive our enemies.

To give us this Greatest of Gifts until the end of time, Jesus tonight also gives us the Gift of the Priesthood.  Do this, you Twelve Men whom I have chosen, in memory of me.

You say This is my Body, this is my Blood.  At that moment your body will be my body, your blood my blood, your words my words . . . . Mysterium Fidei, the Mystery of Faith.

Priests are the guardians and ministers of the Eucharist, and therefore Priests are the guardians and ministers of Faith, Hope and Love in this world.   A Priest much each day make the words of Christ his own: Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.

A priest must say “As much as I would naturally desire a spouse, my own children and grandchildren, my own home, a private life, a fulfilling career in whatever I am naturally good at, each day, and in each phase of my life, I as a priest must hear Christ’s call to freely and whole-heartedly sacrifice all those things, and replace them solely with Faith, Hope and Love, and in them and in them alone will I find my Peace and Joy and Fulfillment”

Boy, and all I can say to you is, some times, that’s not easy. We priests all need your prayers and support as much as you need ours.  And I want to thank everyone tonight for all the prayers and support you have given me these past ten years.  Yes, I’ve been here going on ten years – time flies!  Some of you are saying “When will he ever leave?”

Finally, Jesus tonight gives us the New Commandment, Love one another as I have loved you.

At the beginning of the Year of Faith last October, Pope Benedict issued a Letter called Porta Fidei, the Door of Faith.   In the letter he said ‘Faith without charity bears no fruit, while charity without faith would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt. Faith and charity each require the other; in such a way that each allows the other to set out along its respective path.’

And therefore it seems that our Catholic Church is greatly blessed to have Pope Francis, a man solidly Catholic in his Faith, and at the same time a man of great charity to the poor and to the common man and woman.

He truly is the Pope we need at this time.  The past two Popes needed to focus on relaying the foundations of our Catholic faith after the upheaval of Vatican II.  But now that the dust has settled and the Faith has been again firmly planted so that everyone knows just what the Catholic Church believes and hopes, now is the time we show the world how the Catholic Church loves.

May those three gifts given to us tonight, The Eucharist, the Priesthood, and the New Commandment, help us who are called to be the Church, to be the Light of the World and Salt of the Earth, to  Let faith, hope and charity, these three, and only these three remain among you, but the great of these is charity.