Archive for the ‘Advent/Christmas Homilies’ Category

Homily — Mary, Mother of God MMIX

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Homily — Mary, Mother of God MMIX

As many of you know, our beautiful new outdoor Nativity Scene in front of the Church went through a rough first Christmas.

Some time early Christmas morning, strong winds blew the roof right off of it.  We managed to screw the roof back on tight before the 10 a.m. Mass, but by the time we got out of Mass the wind had flipped the whole wooden stable over!  (At least the roof stayed on).

Thankfully, there were some sand bags that we use to protect one of the back doors to the school when the stream in back of the Church overflows its banks, we put these sandbags on top of and around the crèche, and so far it’s still standing.

I just hope we don’t have any floods before the Christmas Season’s over!

While this is all kind of comical, the real stable of Bethlehem probably wasn’t much better of a shelter. Whether it was a damp, dark, cold cave like many stables in that day, or a creaky, leaky roofed wooden structure that fell down in a wind storm, it was far from a palace worthy of God’s Son to be born in.   In addition to being drafty, damp and poorly lit, the stable smelled of barnyard hay, animals, and manure.

And yet, in the midst of this bitter poverty, a figure could be found who was and is the most beautiful and radiant creature God had ever created, the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God.

And Mary probably had never in her life looked more beautiful, more joyful, than she did right after giving birth to Her Divine Son and seeing His face, for the very first time; and seeing His Face looking at Her who He chose for His Mother for the very first time.

As Jesus would say later at the Last Supper: He who sees me, sees the Father.  Mary even then knew that she was seeing the face of God in Her new born Son.

Probably, the strongest of human loves is the love of a mother for her child.  Mary has this natural love and affection for the humanity of Jesus her Son, which surpasses any natural love and affection you or I could have for Jesus.

But Mary not only has a natural love for Jesus as Man, whe also has a supernatural love for Jesus as God.  And it is this great supernatural Love found in Mary’s Immaculate Heart that makes us honor and venerate her.

For no Angel, no Shepherd, no Magi; no Apostle, or Martyr or Saint can come close to the Adoration and Worship that Mary offers to the Baby Jesus.  Her faith, Her Hope, Her love for Her Son is deeper and stronger than any of us can have.

And so, while the Stable was cold and damp and smelly and uncomfortable, Mary kept not those things, but rather the Love of God and the Joy of His being born to us in her heart, reflecting on them constantly.

And now that Jesus from the Cross has given her to us to be our Mother also, Mary wishes to share these precious gifts she has received with us her children.

As we begin this New Year of Grace, let us entrust ourselves and our families and our Church to our Bl Mother.    May Mary hold us all in her maternal heart throughout this year, and help us to reflect upon and keep all the great things her Son Jesus has done for us, and be open to all the great things He will continue to do his disciples.

Homily — Christmas MMVIII

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

Homily — Christmas MMVIII

Merry Christmas!

St. Luke, in his Christmas narrative, states that There were shepherds in that region, living in the fields just outside Bethlehem.

Shepherds trying to raise a family, trying to make a living, make ends meet.

Shpeherds who, as Midnight approached and the cold began to set in, looked out over those star lit fields to the town that lay in the distance, and began to ponder.

The town was filled with people.  One of the shepherds had to go into town earlier that day, and the sidewalks were filled with people; the muddy roads jammed with traffic.  You had to wait in long lines wherever you went.

And all throughout Bethlehem — in the Taverns, in the Marketplaces, in the places of worship — wherever you went, you could sense in the air a weariness, an anxiety about what the coming months might hold for people.

For as the shepherds and the townspeople knew full well, that this enrollment which Caesar Augustus decreed, which had caused all the inns of Bethlehem to be filled, could only mean one thing:  more taxes to pay to Caesar on top of the many other taxes they were already barely able to pay.

The enrollment of every man in the Empire might also mean that more wars were being planned by the powers that be in the months to come as well.

The shepherds looked out over the fields outside the city of Bethlehem, filled with these cares and concerns, and many other personal ones.

When suddenly, the Angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.

And after hearing the Angel’s message, and experiencing the Lord’s Glory, and after seeing the vast army of God’s Angels all about them, praising God and saying “Glory to God in the Highest, and peace to men of good will,” the many cares and anxieties of those shepherds didn’t trouble them any more, rather, only one care and concern remained:  to seek out and find that infant wrapped in swaddling clothing, lying in a manger, and once they had found them, to worship and adore Him, and offer Him all they had, and then to make known the message that had been told them to everyone they came in contact with.

Oh Shepherds, young and old, my brothers and sisters in Christ, this Christmas Day let us cast off all our worldly cares, and see that the Glory of the Lord is shining upon us!

Let us see how God’s Army of Angels surrounds all men and women of good will, to protect them from all harm.  This Heavenly Host bids you and me to join in their song of praise to God in the Highest with them.

O Baby Jesus, may our one care in this life be to ever seek out, this day and every day, that lowly stable where you can now be found; with your Virgin Mother Mary and St. Joseph beside you, there to adore you as our Lord and God, and to cast our cares upon you, for you care so much for us, and to offer you all we have and are.

May our one care in this life be to draw all our brother and sister shepherds, to draw every human being we meet, to your manger, to kneel with us there, to be fed by you in Bethlehem, the House of Bread, with the Bread of Heaven, your Body and  Blood, Soul and Divinity.

Bless us, Baby Jesus, this Christmas, and by Your Incarnation, bring Peace to all men, women, and children of good will throughout this coming New Year.

Homily — Baptism of the Lord MMVIII Jan. 13, 2008

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Homily — Baptism of the Lord MMVIII            Jan. 13, 2008

The Church has from ancient times celebrated Jesus’ Baptism as an adult only a few weeks after celebrating his birth at Christmas, even though there is a span of 30 years between the two events in the Gospel.

And while at first, the two feasts might not seem to have that much in common, if we look closer we see how appropriate it is to celebrate them one after the other.

For at Christmas, Christ is born a man; at the Baptism Christ is re-born, Sacramentally.

At Christmas, we see the Mother of Jesus in Silent Wonder looking down at her new born Son as He lies in the Manger;

At the Baptism, we “see” the Father of Jesus, not Silent but for the first time in the whole New Testament Speaking in praise of His Son as He comes up from the Water; this is my beloved Son, listen to Him.

At Christmas, we see the Magi opening up their treasures before Jesus, never to take back the gifts they give Him.

At the Baptism, we see God the Father opening up the Gates of Heaven for Jesus and us His disciples, never to shut them again, and never to take back His gift of the Holy Spirit.

And from the Baptism of Jesus on, every Baptism is a second Christmas, because at every Baptism Jesus is sacramentally born again in the hearts and minds of the newly baptized Christian.

And just as in the Incarnation, God’s Eternal Son, the Second Person of the Trinity sealed Himself indelibly to a human soul and body in the Person of Jesus Christ, so in the Sacrament of Baptism, you and I are sealed indelibly with the love of God.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in the section on Baptism, speaks about this Seal of Baptism:

1272  Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation.  Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated. . . .

1273 . . . .  (This) baptismal seal enables and commits Christians to serve God by a vital participation in the holy liturgy of the Church and to exercise their baptismal priesthood by the witness of holy lives and practical charity.

But while we are sealed with the love of Christ at Baptism, the gift we are given at Baptism is just like the baby Jesus — we must care, nurture, feed and protect it in order for it to grow to maturity.

On this Feast of the Lord’s Baptism, may we give thanks to Jesus for being born for us a Baby in Bethlehem on Christmas, and especially for being born again in us on the Day we were brought to the Font and Baptized in Christ.

Homily — Epiphany MMVIII Jan. 6, 2008

Monday, January 7th, 2008

Homily — Epiphany MMVIII                Jan. 6, 2008

Today the Church throughout the world, from the East to the West, solemnly celebrates the Epiphany or Manifestation of the New Born Christ to the Magi.

Today, the first of many countless Magi, who will come down through the centuries, rejoice at seeing the star right over the place they had been searching for.

For from this day forward, men and women from every race, ethnicity, and country, who, like the Magi, are highly educated, and financially prosperous, and whose names are well respected among their people,     who like the Magi are leaders in their communities,

These men and women also are called by a tiny light — the light of faith — to set out on a journey which ultimately brings them to the House of Jesus and Mary His Mother — the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church —  there to prostrate themselves before Jesus, and offer Him all that they have to give.

Many of these Magi, past and present, have had to make a long, difficult and even dangerous journey in order to arrive at their destination.

And while some have more challenging or exciting journeys than others, each and every Magi that follows the star all the way to the House where Mary and Jesus resides always leaves that house the way the first Magi did:  they depart for their country by another way; As the Gospel says.

They return to their pagan, unbelieving countries by another way, for the former way they had of worshiping the false gods of those around them no longer appeals to them.

They return to using their great wealth, their vast knowledge and learning, and their positions of authority by another way, for now they put all these talents and treasures at the service of Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

On this great Feast of the Epiphany, may you and I take our place alongside the wise Magi, the wise shepherds, and the wise sheep, and oxen and donkeys, and offer all we have to the Newborn King and God of all peoples and nations and ages.

Homily — Mary Mother of God MMVIII 1-1-08

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

Homily — Mary Mother of God MMVIII        1-1-08

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

Today we see our Blessed Mother reflecting on all that happened to her the past year.  Reflecting on her marriage to St. Joseph, on the Annunciation the Archangel Gabriel made to her that she would be the Mother of God.   Reflecting on the Holy Spirit’s overshadowing her, on her virginal conception, and how for nine months she carried in her womb the God Man.   Reflecting on her Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth, and on her surprise trip to Bethlehem with Joseph, and finally on the  miraculous Birth of her Son, Jesus, in the Manger at Bethlehem.

All these things, all these blessings of God over the past year, Mary kept and reflected upon in her heart.

We too should certainly take some time in prayer this New Year’s, reflecting on the many things God has done for us personally this past year — on the blessings and graces God has given us, even the trials God has permitted us to face.   May we keep these blessings and graces and ponder on them in our hearts as we begin 2008, knowing that the Lord has many more blessings in store for us this coming year.

We should also reflect not only on how God has blessed us individually, but on how God has blessed us as a Church community this past year — how God has blessed our parish, our diocese and our universal Church as a whole.

If we reflect on the past year at our parish, it was certainly a most eventful year.  Last March, Fr. Blain announced that he was retiring after 24 years of being pastor of St. Joseph’s.   Then, about a month later, it was announced that the Bishop had appointed me as your new pastor, effective July 1!

In August, Bishop Tobin visited our parish for the very first time, for my Mass of Installation as Pastor.

And in September, we were all pleasantly surprised by the arrival of Fr. Marcin, only 3 months ordained, as our new part time assistant pastor.

Our parish honored Fr. Blain with a Mass and dinner in October;

And finally, our parish this past year embarked upon it’s first major capital campaign since the renovation of the Church 13 years ago, and happily we made our $600,000 pledge goal in a matter of weeks.  May we keep all these blessings in our hearts.

On a diocesan level, the Providence Visitor became the Rhode Island Catholic, and Bishop Tobin could also be heard and seen very frequently on talk radio shows and TV News shows and Sunday newspapers, proclaiming the Gospel and teaching the faith “without a doubt” as he would say.

Our Bishop even made the national news because of a column he wrote in the Rhode Island Catholic criticizing a certain Catholic presidential candidate for his stand on abortion.   When the candidate was asked at a nationally televised debate to respond to Bishop Tobin’s criticism, lightning bolts kept silencing the microphone he was trying to talk into.

The Bishop told the national and local news media it was just a coincidence, but a few weeks later at a priest get together I was at, one of my confrère’s ask him “Bishop, can you really call lightning down from Heaven?”  and he said “Well, I’m tempted to try it on certain football teams!”

Finally, in the universal Church, probably the single biggest event this past year occurred, appropriately enough, on 7-7-7, July 7th, 2007, when our Holy Father Pope Benedict issued a document which lifted the restrictions on the celebration of the centuries-old Traditional Latin Mass, also known as the Tridentine Mass.   The Pope did so in response to the growing number of Catholics, old and young, who are strongly attracted to the older form of Mass.

And as I mentioned in the bulletin back in September, I plan by the end of this year to offer the Traditional Latin Mass here at St. Joseph’s, at a time separate from the normally scheduled Masses, for those parishioners who have expressed to me an interest in having it, and for anyone else who wishes to attend.

I’m now currently in the process of training some altar servers to serve the Mass.  I’ve already bought my biretta, the black felt hat with the pom pom on top, which I’m ready to put on and “Go to the Altar of God” with!

And so there are some of the major events that happened in our Holy Catholic Church this past year.  Certainly in countless other ways, God has blessed and guided us in 2007.

As we begin this New Year of Grace, let us entrust ourselves and our families and our Church to our Bl Mother.   May she hold us all in her maternal heart throughout this year, and help us to reflect upon and keep all the great things her Son Jesus has done for us, and be open to all the great things He will continue to do his disciples.