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Homily – Palm Sunday MMXIII

Monday, April 15th, 2013

 Homily – Palm Sunday MMXIII 3/24/13

And so we begin Holy Week 2013, in this Year of Faith.

And if we look with eyes of faith at the world we live in, and if we look with eyes of faith into our own souls, we see that Holy Week 2013 isn’t at all different from that first Holy Week we have just heard proclaimed in the Gospel.

Jesus again comes riding into town this week, riding into our world,to once more show us True Love;to once more show us Mercy;  and to once more be by and large rejected by the world he came to save.

Once more, we see the vast majority of us, his own disciples, flee Jesus out of weakness at the Hour of Darkness.

 Once more in our world today, we see us hardened, proud, blind hypocrites of the world patting themselves on the back as they bring down, crucify, and bury Truth and Love Incarnate.

 Once more in our world today, we see government leaders and judges caving to powerful special interest groups and the fickle will of we the people, condemning the Prince of Peace who would bring true freedom and justice to the world,while at the same time setting free the sham, charismatic Barabbas, who brings destruction and a culture of death to society while our news media makes it all look so cool and enlightening.

 Once more, we see us who hammered the nails in say we are just following orders, the worlds a tough place and we don’t want to rock the boat, we might lose our job or our prestige in society if we speak out.

Once more, us good men and women of the world fail to keep vigilant, and in our modern laziness and comfort fall asleep, while evil, corrupt and misguided men are wide awake, organizing, and preparing to successfully bring down Jesus and His Kingdom.

Once more, the majority of us go about our self centered business, while Love and Truth Incarnate is banished from the public square, pushed to the fringes, outside the walls of society, and left to die on a tree with only a handful of faithful believers by his side.

Jesus once again gets all the same treatment from us in 2013 that he got that first time he came riding into our world.

But at the same time, His response to our rejection is also the same:

Once again, from outside the walls on the margins of society, from the Cross Jesus says to us his crucifiers: “Father, forgive them, have mercy on them, they know not what they do”

Once again, he said to the Good Thieves and Big Sinners of the World, who after hitting rock bottom, finally give their lives to Christ, “Today you will be with me in Paradise”

Once again, Jesus says to the Beloved Disciple, who was close to Jesus in the Eucharist and didn’t run from the Cross: “Here is your Mother, she will provide for you from now on”

Once again, we see people who, like the soldier who pierced Jesus side, realize afterwards that they crucified the Son of God by their actions, and become believers then.

 Once again, we see the Josephs and Nicodemus’, former pharisees, break from their peers, and join the small band of disciples in mourning Christ’s death.

Once again, the Peters of the world weep bitterly this week after reflecting deeply on how they have denied Jesus time and again before men.

And once again, Jesus Christ willing goes to offer his body and blood, to suffer and die, to show the depth of his love for His one and only bride, His Body the Church.

May we accompany Jesus on His journey to the Cross this week, mourning over our sins that nailed him there, so that we may also rejoice with Him when He rises gloriously on the Third Day.

Homily — 5th Sunday OT C 2/10/13

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Homily — 5th Sunday OT C 2/10/13

 Its a blizzard outside, but the Gospel invites us to imagine we are out on the water on a hot summer day!

 Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.

 After the miraculous catch of fish, Simon Peter for some reason suddenly becomes acutely aware of his weaknesses and limitations, to the point where he can’t bear to be in Christ’s presence.

 What made Peter react that way? When Jesus turned 180 gallons of water into wine, or when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, we don’t see anyone at the wedding party or in the crowd start reflecting on their sinfulness. What was it about this miracle that struck such a chord in Peter’s heart?

  A closer reflection on the miracle itself can supply us the answer. How exactly did Jesus work the miracle? As one biblical commentator points out, Jesus did one of three things.

 He either one, suddenly created all those fish to be caught, or two, he miraculously knew that all those fish would be naturally there at that time, or three, Jesus miraculously summoned all the fish from around the area to come and congregate in that spot.

Of those three alternatives, the last one is the most likely way the miracle happened: Jesus gathered the fish at that spot. They were all swimming about the sea aimlessly at various depths and locations, when suddenly, drawn by a supernatural force, they were all led like the Magi were to that one location.

 And there, all those various types of fish (supposedly there are about 24 different species in the Sea of Galilee), who normally would be repelled by each other, or be afraid of each other, or would kill and eat each other, all those different types of fish are by God’s grace gathered peacefully together, swimming around as one body.

Simon Peter is the leader of the fleet of ships that catches all these fish. And as one by one, the fish are taken out of the net and land on the deck, Peter realizes that Jesus has drawn all these various types of fish together, and he realizes that he like those fish has been drawn to Jesus by some supernatural grace.

 And then, even before Jesus speaks those famous words to him, Peter understands what this miracle means: the catch is symbolic of the future catches of men Jesus will have Peter make. Men and women of different races, rich and poor, educated and unlearned, some who naturally hate each other, will all be drawn to Christ, and Peter will bring them all together into the Church.

 Peter sees the vision, and says depart from me Lord, I am a sinful man. No, not me Jesus, I will screw things up. I’m impulsive, I’m not that smart, I’m a coward deep down, quick tempered, over confident and proud, I get overly emotional, and I worry too much about what others might think; I crack under pressure. Even now, I barely obeyed you, and totally doubted your command would work.

 Pick me Jesus as an apostle, and I will just fail miserably and most probably end up abandoning you in time of need, and denying that I ever knew you afterwards.

But after that heart felt confession, after asking Jesus to leave him, Simon Peter didn’t leave; he still lay there clinging to the feet of Jesus, immovable as a Rock.

 Jesus said to him “Yes Simon, I know you are a sinful man, and I’m glad you know it also. But come follow me and I will make you a fisher of men. Not always a catcher of men, for some will get away, some will refuse to be caught, and some will be for other fishermen to reel in at a later time. Some days you will be at it all night and catch nothing. But be not afraid, you will be many days catching a miraculous amount of men who will be drawn to me through you, despite your sinfulness. For my grace will be working through you.”

My brothers and sisters, may we know that like Simon, like Isaiah, like St. Paul, Jesus calls us, despite our weaknesses, to follow him and do great things for him.

May we like them have a healthy and humble awareness of our faults, but still cling to Jesus and follow him as best we can, knowing that by His grace, all things are possible.

Homily — 4th Sunday OT C 02/03/13

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Homily — 4th Sunday OT C 02/03/13

 What’s not to love about Love?

 All patient, all kind, not jealous or pompous; totally selfless and forgiving; weeping over wrongdoing and rejoicing over truth; bearing, hoping, enduring all things; believing all things are possible; stronger and clearer and more truthful than any knowledge or language or vision:  What’s not to love about Love?

 Nothing at all – when we admire Love from afar.  Love is great when we read about it, or gaze at it over there on a pedestal, or hear of Love doing great things in other, nearby communities.

But when Love comes into town, into our lives, when Love gets close, and holds up a mirror to our souls, and shows us our impatience, our unkindness, our envy, empty show, selfishness, our anger and brooding and unforgiveness over petty offenses; when Love shows us how we so often delight in wrongdoing and reject the truth; when Love points out our lack of real faith, our lack of endurance; when it bursts the bubble of our sham hopes and dreams, and exposes our great ignorance and lack of real communion with God and others;

 When Love shows to us our great and desperate need for Love, then we rise up, drive Love out of town, and push Love as far out of our lives as possible, just as the townspeople in today’s Gospel did when Jesus pointed out to them their great need for Love to save them from their pride which was blinding them from their sins.

 Then we, like them, try to kill Love, for having the audacity to say we need to change and be more loving.

 But Love cannot be killed; Love passes through the midst of our pride and impatience and selfishness and doubt and hopelessness, and goes away – for a time – only to try again, maybe years later, to offer us an opportunity to learn to Love.

And one day, please God, Love will break us down, Love will conquer us;

Then we will put aside childish ways and become grown men and women, fortified cities, walls of brass, not prevailed over or crushed on account of any trials;  not admiring Love from afar, but fully knowing Love as Love has fully known and tried and tested and perfected us.

Homily – 2nd Sunday OT C 1/20/13

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

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.”

Mary’s Faith (Homily – Mary, the Holy Mother of God MMXIII 1/1/13)

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Homily – Mary, the Holy Mother of God MMXIII    1/1/13

Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.

There was a lot for Mary to process as we would say today, a lot for her to reflect on, as God had done so much in her life over the past year.    May we too, like Mary, take time to reflect on all the ways God touched our lives in 2012.

One of the major events in our Church this past year was the opening of the Year of Faith, which began October 11, 2012, and will end November 24, 2013 on the Feast of Christ the King.

So this New Year’s Day, as we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, I thought I would speak a bit on Mary’s great Faith and how she can inspire us to grow in our Faith.

We all of course need faith in God in order to be saved and get to Heaven. But in God’s mysterious plan, God calls some of us to have more faith than others, the greater the persons vocation.
And when we read the Gospels, we see that Mary needed to have more faith than any other human being.

Mary’s faith in Christ began of course at the Annunciation.  In many way’s the Annunciation is like the story of Joan of Arc. When Joan was just a young peasant girl, living in a small village of France, the Archangel St. Michael appeared to her and told her to lead the French Army to victory over the British, who for almost 100 years had devastated France. The 17 year old Joan, acting on faith, went and did just that.

But Mary’s story is even more incredible: like Joan of Arc, she is this young woman in a tiny backwater town in northern Israel, when an Angel appears to her and announces that God wants her, not to save France, but the save the human race by becoming the mother of His only Son.

And as the saints tell us, Mary believed the Word in her heart before she conceived the Word in her womb.

Gabriel wasn’t only asking Mary “Will you do this?” He was also asking her “Do you believe God can do this?” Not only do you believe God can make a Virgin conceive, but more importantly, do you believe God will work through you?  Do you believe with all your heart that your Son Jesus will be the All Powerful God come to earth to save all people from their sins?”

Mary said that day to the Angel, and every day after that: “I do believe it: Be it done to me according to your word” And  once the Angel left, Mary didn’t need a pregnancy test, Mary had total faith that God’s Son was growing within her, and one day He would save the world, all because of her faith-filled “yes I believe” to God.

How about us: do you and I, like Mary, believe that God will work powerfully in and through us ordinary people living in this small city of Woonsocket, RI? Do we believe that if we have faith, Jesus will grow stronger within us with each passing day, and that this faith of ours will help reconcile people to God, even save people from eternal death?

But Mary’s faith journey, and her need for faith, was only just beginning at the Annunciation. Right from the start, her faith led her into trial after trial.

How much faith did Mary need when it appeared that Joseph was going to leave her? Or when, 9 months pregnant, she had to travel 75 miles by donkey to a strange, unfriendly town of Bethlehem?

Or how much faith did Mary need when she started going into labor in a cattle barn in the middle of the night? Or when Jesus is not even a few months born, and her family must flee into Egypt? And all the while, Mary is reflecting deeply on Simeon telling her that her son would cause her great heartache in life, and the gift of Myrhh, embalming spices given by the Magi.

Then in Egypt, Mary hears the terrible, shocking news that dozens of babies and children in Bethlehem had been slaughtered, all because of her Son, all because of her “yes” to God – the first glimpse at the Satanic hatred Jesus’ presence in the world would stir up.  What had Mary gotten herself into?

But throughout it all, even when she couldn’t understand, Mary never regretted embracing the faith, but knew all the trials and hardships were worth it to have Jesus in her life, and that God would somehow bring good even out of the senseless tragedies of life. May we imitate Mary in also embracing the trials and hardships that come from living by faith.

But probably an even greater test of faith confronted Mary on her return from Egypt.  After two years of great signs and wonders and high drama at Jesus’ birth, there follows thirty long monotonous years of ordinary, daily living in Nazareth.

For thirty years, Jesus lived and prayed and worked, day in and day out, in the same house as Mary. But except for that one isolated incident in the Temple at age 12, Jesus seemed in her eyes and everyone else’s eyes, to be just another good but ordinary Hebrew boy from Nazareth, destined to be a simple carpenter to the end of his life.

But throughout all those long mundane years, and even when her husband Joseph died in her and Jesus’ arms, Mary never doubted that Jesus her son was the all powerful God become man to save us from our sins.

Once again, how about you and I? Jesus, the All Powerful God, is with us, day in and day out, here in the Blessed Sacrament. Do we, like Mary, believe he is here with us, even in the ordinary events of our life?

And then, one day, when she least expected it, Mary arises one morning, and Jesus has his bags packed.  “where are you going, Jesus?” “Jordan River. Goodbye, Mother.”

And – He’s gone. From this point on, Jesus physically and emotionally detaches Himself more and more from Mary, and Mary more and more spiritually attaches herself to Jesus through her greater and greater faith in him.

She sees him next just briefly at Cana, at the wedding banquet. And from her home in Nazareth, she begins to hear people talking about all he is doing in the towns of Galilee, and reflects on what he is doing and saying in her heart.

He comes back once to his hometown to visit, and the people he grew up with try to kill him; and he never goes back again. Mary lives on alone for the next two years in Nazareth, now hostile to her and her son, with greater faith in Him than ever.

She and her relatives go visit him one day in Capernaum, and he says in front of everyone “Who is my mother? Those who follow God are my mother and sister and brother!” Words which certainly must have stung her emotionally, while at the same time increasing her faith in Him spiritually.

And then, the Passover comes around, and Mary as was her custom went down to Jerusalem to celebrate it. Her maternal instinct tells her that things are coming to a head.    And in the middle of the night, she gets the call that all parents dread, that her only Son has been arrested.

And as the morning comes, she learns that Jesus has been condemned to death.

Like Abraham, Mary’s faith didn’t waver as she walks up the hill of Calvary with her Son carrying the Wood he will be sacrificed on.

But unlike Abraham, whose test of faith ended when he received back his living, unharmed son that day on Mt. Moriah, Mary receives back the lifeless, bloody body of her son that Good Friday on Mt. Calvary.

Her Child of the Promise lay dead in a cold tomb; and his last words to her weren’t “I love you mom” or “Don’t worry, I’ll rise again” but rather his last words were “There is your son, he will take care of you now.”

But even in this final earthly detachment, this final crushing test of faith, Mary does not doubt or lose faith.  Her  faith instead rises higher than any human being has to that occasion, and clings closer than ever to Jesus in his suffering and death for the redemption of the world.

And when Jesus rises from the dead on Easter Sunday, Mary’s faith is so strong that she believes Christ is risen even before she sees him.

As a matter of fact, the Gospels don’t record any appearance of the Risen Christ to His Mother. St. Ignatius said it wasn’t recorded because it was obvious Jesus would have appeared to her, and therefore it didn’t need to be recorded. But maybe there’s no record because Jesus didn’t appear to her, because His Mother’s faith was so strong He didn’t need to appear risen for her to be full of joy and total faith that He had Risen!

My brothers and sisters, as we begin this Year of Our Lord 2013 during this Year of Faith, may we entrust ourselves and our country to our Blessed Mother Mary.

It may well be that God will require more faith than ever from you and I and our whole world this New Year. It could be that this Year of Faith is providential, given to us by God to “get ready” cause we’re gonna need all the faith we can get.

May we, like Mary, rise to the occasion, and approach all the challenges this new year holds with firm Faith in Christ Her Son, so that we like Mary will rejoice when, after the trial of faith is over, Christ Rises more glorious than ever in our hearts and in our world.