Archive for the ‘Parishioners Favorite Homilies’ Category

Homily — 21st Sunday Ordinary Time C August 26, 2007

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Homily — 21st Sunday Ordinary Time C         August 26, 2007

The Baseball Season is of course in full swing (no pun intended), and all the teams in their different leagues and divisions are trying their hardest to make it into the fall playoffs.

The players know all too well that Many will attempt to enter the post-season, but will not be strong enough to do so.

And when at the end of October it’s all over, many a manager and many a player will wail and grind his teeth in remorse for not trying harder throughout the season to win.

Today’s Gospel speaks about people trying to get not into  the World Series, but into the “Life of World To Come” (as we call it in the Creed) — into the Eternal Life of Heaven.

While Jesus, being God, knows how many will be eternal winners and how many eternal losers, He doesn’t let us know those statistics.

What Jesus does tell us, is that, just as many baseball teams aren’t good enough to make it into the playoffs, so many people will attempt to enter Heaven but will not be strong enough.

And unlike baseball, where “there’s always next year,” at the end of our life, when the last inning has been played out, there is no “next year” — we are either reclining at table in the kingdom of God with Abraham Isaac and Jacob, or we’re cast outside with the doors to Heaven locked to us forever.

And so we, like the Red Sox and the Yankees, need to  realize that this is hard ball we’re playing, and therefore we must strive to enter through the narrow gate of discipline.

Each year, ball players have both an intense period of discipled training in the spring, and ongoing weekly disciplined exercizes to keep them in shape for the season.

It is the same way in our spiritual life — we need to take very seriously our spring training season which we call Lent.

And we must also have a weekly regimen of disciplined spiritual exercizes, if we don’t want to end up being one of the many who aren’t saved.

As the letter to the Hebrews says My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord.

At the second reading describes, there are passive disciplines that we must undergo — the Crosses and trials of life God permits us to bear for our salvation.  But there are also active disciplines we must also embrace, for example:

The discipline of attending Mass each Sunday.

The discipline of every Friday throughout the year, abstaining from meat or substituting some other sacrifice or prayer in memory of Jesus’ Passion on Good Friday.

The discipline of moderation in food, drink and material pleasures, the discipline of chastity according to one’s state in life.

The discipline of almsgiving, of a daily prayer life, of going to confession on a periodic basis.

Do not disdain the discipline of the Lord  . . . at the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.

Those who do disdain the discipline of the Lord, who blow off these spiritual exercises bring shame upon our religion in the same way ball players who use steroids bring shame upon the Baseball Profession.

May we not take after them, but rather be inspired by those true Hall of Famers, the Saints of the Church, to embrace the disciplines of the Lord which will win us the crown of victory.

Finally, perhaps some of us today are striking out in the spiritual life, we keep losing game after game to the world, the flesh and the devil.

Perhaps we think our prospects seem bleak of even getting into Heaven as a wild card pick.

If this is you, don’t despair, but strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees, and make straight the paths for your feet into the arms of God’s mercy.

May we all keep fighting the good fight, never forgetting that some who are now last will be first before the game’s over, and some who are first now, will finish last if they cease striving to enter that narrow gate of life in Christ.

Homily — Nativity of St. John the Baptist MMVII 6/24/07

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Homily — Nativity of St. John the Baptist MMVII 6/24/07

Father Blain's ordination picture - before the beard

You will go before the Lord to prepare His way.

Almost a quarter of a century ago, in August of 1983, a dark haired, dark bearded man came driving in to town down Mendon Road in his 1980 Chevy Sedan.

Ronald Regan was in the White House, Buddy Cianci was mayor of Providence (for the first time around), Marquette Credit Union was going strong – and I was not even a junior in High School yet.

Cell phones, PC’s, the World Wide Web, and Route 99 were all still a long way off in the future.

As he pulled in to the garage of St. Joseph Rectory (which is now the Rectory Office), this dark haired, dark bearded priest turned off the 8-track player in his car, snuffed out his cigar in the ashtray, finished the can of Tab diet cola he’d been drinking, and took the final suitcases out of his car trunk.

Rev. Joseph Albert Lionel Blain, Doctor of Philosophy, had arrived to begin what was to be a 24 year term as Pastor of St. Joseph Church, ending this weekend as he says goodbye to us at the end of all the Sunday Masses.

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist. And although the world has changed much in the 24 years Father Blain has spent at St. Joseph, it pales in comparison to the changes which took place during the 34 years John the Baptist spent on earth.

For when John the Baptist arrived on earth, at his conception in the womb of his mother Elizabeth, Satan was still the reigning prince of the world.

The archangel Gabriel had not yet appeared to the Virgin Mary. No star of Bethlehem was yet seen, no “Glory to God in the Highest” was yet heard sung, and no Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world was yet to be found.

But in that 34 year period from the conception of John the Baptist to his death as a martyr, the Word became Flesh and Dwelt amongst us; Christ the Savior of the world was born in the manger; Jesus was Baptized in the Jordan River;

Water was turned into wine; The Gospel began finally to be proclaimed, and the Kingdom of God had come to earth as Satan’s empire began to crumble and fall.

And in the midst of all those historical changes which occurred during his lifetime, John the Baptist was no mere passive onlooker. By God’s grace, John was rather an active participant in ushering in the Kingdom of God. He was an active participant in preparing the Way of the Lord Jesus.

And you and I, and every baptized believer in Christ are also called by God, not to be passive onlookers but to be active participants in the building up of Christ’s Kingdom on earth.

This weekend, as Father Blain leaves us as Pastor, we should look back on the past quarter century and honor Father Blain for the many ways in which he has prepared the way for the Lord’s coming into the hearts of the people of East Woonsocket.

How through well over 6000 Masses, 6000 Sermons (6000 jokes?) Fr. Blain has gone before Christ in the spirit and power of Elijah.

How through the dozens of parish missions he organized, the dozens of weddings and baptisms he’s celebrated, the hundreds of confessions and funerals and anointings of the sick and dying he’s done, the countless hours of work for the homeless and for inter-religious dialogue — all have helped prepare a people fit for Lord.

And finally, we look back on 24 years of day to day administration, on the dozens of parish dinners and dances and picnics, and on the major renovation and expansion of the Church he saw to complete, and we thank God for all the ways Father Blain has, like John the Baptist, helped so many people to Behold the Lamb of God.

The Church celebrates the Birthday of John the Baptist every year in late June for two reasons.

One is because June 24 is one of the longest and brightest days of the year, naturally speaking. This is to symbolize what Jesus said of John: Of all those born of woman (naturally speaking), no one is greater than John the Baptist.

The second and more important reason is because it’s the time of year when the days start getting shorter and shorter each day until late December, when at around the time we celebrate Christ’s birth, the days start getting longer and longer. And this is to symbolize what John said of Jesus: He must increase, while I must decrease.

As Father Blain goes off to a well earned retirement, and as this (currently) dark haired priest speaking to you becomes pastor of this parish, and as we all look forward to whatever changes the coming years will hold for us, may those words of John the Baptist be always before us.

He must increase, while I must decrease. May our sinfulness, our selfishness, our fearfulness to do the Father’s Will decrease in each of us; and may His Love, His Peace, His Joy and His Gospel increase for Fr. Blain and all of us for many many years to come.

Homily — 4th Sunday Ordinary Time C January 27, 2007

Monday, January 29th, 2007

Homily — 4th Sunday Ordinary Time C January 27, 2007

Children of Men by PD James

Lord, You have taught me from my youth,
and till the present I proclaim Your wondrous deeds.

There’s a new movie out in the theaters right now called Children of Men. The movie is based on a novel by the English writer P.D. James. I almost went to see the movie Thursday night, but after reading a number of reviews, I decided to wait until I’ve read the novel, which is said to be far better than the movie.

The fictional premiss of Children of Men, the book and the movie, is that three years from the present date, a mysterious epidemic of infertility has set in over the whole world. The story takes place 25 years from then — 25 years after the last baby has been born. In other words, it’s all about a world where children have literally ceased to exist.

While the movie version is said to be mostly a shoot em up, non stop action film, the novel is more of a powerful meditation on how awful our world would be without any children in it.

My brothers and sister in Christ, today I’d invite you to reflect on, not what our world would be like without children to brighten it, but on a much more disturbing thought: what our Church would be like if children disappeared from Her ranks.

We observe this weekend throughout our country Catholic Schools Sunday. At the 10 a.m. Mass this weekend, the school children from Good Shepherd Catholic Regional School next door will do the readings and serve at the altar, and the student choir of 45 children will supply the music.

But let’s try to imagine what our parish would be like without Good Shepherd School being a part of it. Let’s imagine what our city of Woonsocket would be like without Good Shepherd and the other schools that make up the Greater Woonsocket Catholic Regional System.

What would our parish and city be like, without those 500 Kindergarten to 8th Graders offering up to God daily prayers for our community at the beginning and end of each school day, 180 days of the year? Or without Religion and Morality being taught to all those children, 5 days a week for an hour each day?

What would our parish and city be like with no beautiful annual outdoor May Crowning led by the 8th graders, no annual outdoor Solemn Eucharistic procession, no Living Rosary every October, and no All Saints Day Mass with the 5th Graders all dressing up as their favorite Saints?

What would our parish and city be like with no Catholic School Children in it raising $11,000 for Saint Jude’s Children’s Hospital over the past four years, or not raising over 4000 food items this past Advent for the needy who come to our parish food cupboard?

What would our Church be like with no Catholic Schools? I for one don’t ever want to find out.

About 200 years ago, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton founded the first Catholic Schools in Maryland, amidst great spiritual and financial hardship. Since that time up to the present, the Catholic School System has survived only due to the great faith, the hard work and the sometimes tremendous sacrifices of Catholic parents, men and women religious, priests and lay people.

Catholic education is truly a labor of supernatural love which the whole Body of Christ undertakes, a labor of love that as St. Paul says in the 2nd Reading bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

And to make Catholic education work requires great faith in the value of it. We see in the Gospel how the people of Jesus’ own home town of Nazareth, who grew up knowing and living with Jesus for years and years, failed to have faith in Him, and even tried to throw Our Lord off a cliff. May we not throw Catholic education off a cliff in our country today! For in doing so, we would truly be throwing off with itthe future health and well being of our Church in America.

As we observe Catholic Schools Sunday this weekend, I beg all of you to be as generous as possible in supporting our Catholic Schools in whatever way you can. In doing so, you’ll be seeing to it that 25 years from now, the blessed sound of playing children, who are learning each day to follow Christ the Good Shepherd, dressed in their school uniforms, will still be heard, coming from this parish during their recess, their voices blending in with the chiming of our Church’s Bells, and resonating throughout our city.

Transfiguration, Sunday Aug. 6, 2006

Sunday, August 6th, 2006

Homily — Transfiguration MMVI August 6, 2006

trransfiguration by Duccio di Buoninsegna

He was transfigured before them . . . . then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them.

In the Old Testament Book of Exodus, we read how the Lord delivered His People from oppression and slavery in Egypt. After the Ten Plagues and the Angel of Death, Pharaoh finally lets the Israelites go free. And so they began their journey: through the wilderness, and on to the Promised Land.

But the problem was, how do they get to the Promised Land from here? There was no super highway connecting the city of Raamses Egypt to the City of Jericho in Palestine. There were no Road Signs, no exit numbers, no AAA or map quest. And none of them had ever been there: all the Israelites had lived in Egypt since the famine brought Jacob and His sons there almost 200 years before the Exodus.

Because of this, the LORD gave His People two sure guides to bring them safely to their final destination: a column of cloud and a pillar of fire. Exodus says that when it was daytime, they were led by the column of cloud; and when it was nighttime, they were led by the pillar of fire. These two God-given guides led the Israelites safely through the barren and dangerous wilderness, all the way to the Promised Land.

On many occasions the cloud protected them from harm. And at the Red Sea, the pillar of fire actually struck at the advancing Egyptians and immobilized them, allowing the Israelites to get across the Red Sea before being overtaken.

Today in the Gospel, we the New People of God are shown our pillar of fire and column of cloud, which are to guide us through the wilderness of this life into the promised land of Heaven. The new Pillar of Fire is Our Lord Jesus, who appears today on Mount Tabor Transfigured in His Human Nature, shining brighter than the sun upon His disciples. But then the dark cloud covers Jesus, a cloud with the voice of God the Father. This is the new column of cloud that we are to follow: the cloud of faith in God’s Revealed Word, which cannot be seen or touched.

It is by the light of this Pillar of Fire, Jesus Christ, and by the darkness of this Column of Cloud, our Christian Faith, that we are to always walk in if we wish to reach the Promised Land of Eternal Life.

In the 2nd Reading, St. Peter is writing to the Christian faithful as his life is nearing its end. And Peter tells us to keep before us those two guides: the vision of Christ Transfigured, and the Revealed Word of God the Father, the Scriptures, which St. Peter calls the prophetic message we possess, which is altogether reliable. Not partly reliable, not un-reliable, but altogether, totally reliable, is the Word of God. Peter goes on to say God’s Word is the lamp we can use to walk by when it is dark, until the dawn appears.

And such is the pattern of our Christian life. At times Jesus will shine so bright in our lives, He will appear Transfigured to us within our hearts. The way will be clear and smooth sailing to the promised land. But then, the thick dark cloud comes, and we wonder where Jesus went. At these times especially, must keep following the cloud, keep walking according to the light of faith, according to Jesus’ teachings, according to the teachings of the Church.

For another passage at the end of the book of Exodus says that the cloud and the fire were really one entity: that when night came, the pillar of fire appeared inside the cloud. And Jesus, our pillar of fire, can also only be seen inside the dark cloud of faith. As the Psalmist says in today’s Psalm, Clouds and thick darkness surround Him. We will not see Jesus shine until we stop walking by the lights of this world and begin to walk only by the darkness of faith.

And this is the great challenge of the Christian life, to step out in faith, against the tide of those faith-less people around us who follow the ways of the world. The challenge to at times not see where God is leading us, not seeing how we’re going to handle what seems to be coming up the pike, but trusting nonetheless that God’s not leading us over a cliff or into an ambush. But if we are led by the cloud of faith, just as the Old Testament cloud shielded the Israelites from harm, so the cloud of faith shields us from harm if we remain under it. And, just as the Old Testament pillar of fire fought against and immobilized the Egyptians, so Jesus fights against and immobilizes our enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil. Jesus keeps those three adversaries from overtaking us.

My brothers and sisters, in a few moments Jesus will come to us in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Some of us today will see in the Host the Pillar of Fire: Jesus will be transfigured, will shine through bright and clear; and these peoples’ souls will be filled with light and sweetness and consolation as they receive Our Lord; But others of us today will see in the Host the Column of Dark Cloud: Jesus will be overshadowed, only God’s Words, This is my Body. . . . my Blood, will assure them. These people will need to struggle, to make a conscious act of faith that what looks like bread is Christ, that God is with them, as He promised, during the tough times they are going through.

Whether Jesus comes to us bright and shining or hidden and dark, may we follow Him with all our hearts, and may He transfigure us ever more into His likeness in this life, and bring us safely to that Promised Land at the end of our journey.

12th Sunday Ordinary Time B June 25, 2006 “Waking Up Jesus”

Sunday, June 25th, 2006

Homily — 12th Sunday OT B June 25, 2006

 Rembrandt Storm at Sea

 We return to Sundays in Ordinary Time this Sunday, for the first time in over three months.  And in this Sunday’s Gospel, we see Our Lord Jesus do something truly extra-ordinary, so extra-ordinary that, in all the events of Christ’s life recorded in the Scriptures, this is the only one occasion that we see Jesus doing such a thing.

The extra-ordinary and unique thing Jesus does in today’s reading is sleep.

Jesus was in the stern (of the boat), asleep on a cushion.  There are many passages where Christ exercises power over the laws of nature. But Jesus is caught snoozing nowhere else but here in all of Sacred Scripture.

For example, there’s no explicit mention of the Baby Jesus sleeping in the manger, or sleeping during His forty days and forty nights in the desert.  After one real long day, which began with Jesus teaching and healing people, continued with Him traveling a long distance, and finally ended with Him feeding of five thousand people with five loaves and two fish, Jesus calls it a night by going alone up a mountain and spending the whole night in prayer.

On another occasion, Jesus spends the whole night praying about which Twelve Disciples He should pick be His Twelve Apostles that coming morning.  Finally, you’d think Jesus would have wanted a good night’s sleep before dying on the Cross on Good Friday. But no, He chooses to go to the Garden and pray, and He even makes Peter and James and John stay awake with Him! On another occasion, Jesus spends the whole night praying about which Twelve Disciples He should pick be His Twelve Apostles that coming morning. 

Finally, you’d think Jesus would have wanted a good night’s sleep before dying on the Cross on Good Friday. But no, He chooses to go to the Garden and pray, and He even makes Peter and James and John stay awake with Him!

But here, and only here, we find Jesus in the stern, which is the back of the Boat, sleeping away on a nice comfy cushion. 

Now, this isn’t to say that Jesus didn’t sleep on other occasions — we can probably safely conclude that Jesus the Son of God did sleep, just as He ate and drank and did everything a human does except sin.  But the Gospel is concerned with the things Jesus did which are essential for us to know in order for us to get to Heaven and have the fullness of Life.  And Jesus is shown awake in every other passage and asleep in only this passage, because that day in the boat, the disciples forgot to wake Jesus up.

You know, there’s a very famous Psalm in the Old Testament, Psalm 121, the one that begins I lift up my eyes to the mountains, from where shall come my help?/My help is in the name of the Lord who made Heaven and earth.  Then Psalm 121 says
 

May the LORD never allow you to stumble
Let Him sleep not, your guardian;
No, He neither sleeps nor slumbers
Israel’s guardian, the LORD.

God never sleeps, He is always watching over His chosen people, rescuing them from danger and leading them into calmer waters.  And so Jesus, God the Son incarnate, in the Scriptures is seen neither sleeping nor slumbering as He ushers in the Kingdom of the Father.

But notice how Psalm 121 says Let Him sleep not. Do not let the Lord fall asleep, or else noone will be guarding you.  And this was the big mistake of the disciples that day on the sea of Galilee. The storm picked up, the waves broke over the boat, and they forgot they had Jesus with them, they had let Him fall asleep in the back of their boat.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, how often are we like those disciples in today’s Gospel, both individually in our own lives and collectively as the Church!

How often in our own lives, as we journey across the sea which is our life on earth, do we put Jesus in the back of the boat and say “here’s a cushion, make yourself comfortable, I can do it on my own”. We put our faith life asleep and proceed to steer our ship into treacherous waters. And Jesus is always the gentleman, He respects our wishes, He doesn’t force the steering wheel from us.
And then, when we’re in the choppy water and panicking, we can even forget what part of our big boat we last saw Jesus in. We might even forget He’s even on the boat with us!

But no matter how rough the waves and wind gets, Jesus never abandons the ship of a baptized believer.

It would be much better however my brothers and sisters, if we make sure Jesus is awake and beside us at the front of the ship as we steer the course through life.

And finally, going beyond the confines of our private lives and looking at the big picture of the Church we are all members of, we see that the Church, the Bark of Peter, is currently weathering some pretty violent squalls herself in our generation.

And because of storms from without and within, the waves are breaking over the boat: and so we’ve seen in the past 50 years a serious decline in Sunday Worship, a disregard for Christian marriage and traditional Catholic moral teachings, a shortage of priests and religious to lead and educate, and the continued widespread idol worship of sex and material goods which has led to an increased disrespect for human life.

We can be tempted to look at all these problems of our modern world and say to Jesus “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  But the solution to all these problems can be found in this extra-ordinary, unique Gospel: we as a Church must wake up Jesus and get Him to the front of the boat, pronto.

When this boat which is the Catholic Church begins again to let Jesus take the wheel, when we as God’s people start acting again like God’s chosen people by living by faith according to the Gospel, the waves that threaten us and the rest of humanity will be stilled, for Jesus will have awoken again in our society.

May we approach this Eucharist with a burning love for Jesus and with sincere sorrow for the times we’ve put Him in the back of the boat, so that Christ will be fully awake and alive in our hearts, that He may still whatever storms come our way.