Archive for the ‘Holy Day Homilies’ Category

Homily – Trinity Sunday MMIX June 7, 2009

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

Homily – Trinity Sunday MMIX                June 7, 2009

Andrea Previtali, Trinità (copyright Marco Mazzoleni)

Andrea Previtali, Trinità (copyright Marco Mazzoleni)

If you remember a few months back, we covered all the statues and religious images in the sanctuary with Purple Clothes for the last two weeks of Lent.

Some people were wondering how we got the purple cloth over the Holy Spirit way up there over the altar.  I put it up there myself – very carefully!

Anyway, as I was coming down the ladder from putting the cloth up, something a few feet away from me caught my eye.

It was one of the two metal chains Cross in the center of our sanctuary hangs from, the one closest to me.  About a third of the way down the chain from the top, one of the metal links in the chain had broke wide open and was barely holding on to the link below it.

I said to myself “I wonder how long this has been like that!”

One of the liturgy committee went out and purchased some strong cable wire, and we reinforced the link.  (We also made sure the rest of them were in good shape – they are, don’t worry.)

But the incident got us thinking about what would have happened if that broken link let go.  Best case scenario, we’d come to Mass in the morning and the crucifix would be dangling diagonally by the other chain.  Worst case scenario, we’re in the middle of Mass and the weak link lets go, the other chain brakes because of the excess weight, and the whole cross comes falling down while I’m walking under it!

We can thank the Guardian Angel of St. Joseph’s Church, and the ancient Lenten Tradition of Covering images with Purple cloths during Passiontide, that none of that happened.

I was reminded of all this earlier this week, as I was looking on the Internet for an image of the Holy Trinity to put in this weeks bulletin for Trinity Sunday which we celebrate today.

It’s the image I ended up putting in the bulletin, and if you have one in your pew you might want to look at it now as I talk about it.
It’s kind of a strange image when you first see it.  There’s Jesus the Son on the Cross, and sitting (or in some versions standing) right behind Him is God the Father, looking like the familiar Wise Old Man with a long white beard.

God the Father is behind the Cross, grabbing on to both ends of the crossbar, as if He’s both holding it up or showing it to us (in some versions, the Father’s hands are not on the side, but underneath the crossbeam, further emphasizing that He’s keeping the Cross from falling down).

Then right above God the Father and God the Son, there is God the Holy Spirit, in the familiar form of a Dove like He was at Jesus’ Baptism.  In many versions of this image, there are rays shining down from the Holy Spirit, just like our Holy Spirit has rays up above the Cross here.

As a matter of fact, if you look at the picture in the bulletin, and then look at our Crucifix with the Holy Spirit above it, you can just imagine God the Father standing behind this Cross here in the sanctuary, holding on to both ends of the Crossbeams like in the picture.

Now, every time I see this popular image of the Holy Trinity, my initial reaction is that it’s weird.  Because there’s God the Father holding up His Crucified Son, looking as if He doesn’t care that His Son is dying this miserable death.

That’s my initial reaction every time I see that image.   But after a few minutes of meditating on the image, I begin to see the deeper meaning of it.  I also begin to understand just a little bit better this great mystery of the Holy Trinity.

For what does Jesus say in the Gospel?  No one comes to the Father except through me.  No one comes to God the Father except through Jesus His Son, and no one comes to God the Son except through the Cross:  unless you take up the Cross and follow after me, you cannot be my disciple.

This is why in the picture, God the Father stands behind the Crucifix, because to get to God the Father, we must go through His Crucified Son Jesus.

And then finally, how do we know all this?  How do we know that Jesus is God and that the Cross is our Salvation?   We know it because God the Holy Spirit is up there shining His rays like a spotlight on this Mystery, so that we see it clearly by the light of faith.

We sing in the Pentecost Sequence “Holy Spirit, Lord of light! From Your clear celestial height, Your pure’ beaming radiance give!”  The Holy Spirit gives us the light to see that Jesus is the Son of God.   As St. Paul says No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.    We would still be in darkness about how the Cross of Jesus saves us and brings us to God the Father if the Holy Spirit hadn’t enlightened us.

And so today we celebrate this wonderful and central mystery of our Faith: that the One True God is a community of Persons, Father Son and Holy Spirit.

The Bond of Love that Unites these Three Persons into One is like a Triple Linked Chain that nothing could ever break.

This Strong Love of the Most Blessed Trinity has been poured into our hearts at Baptism.    And so long as we remain united with the Trinity through loving God and loving our neighbor, even now in this life we get a foretaste of that Love we will abide in forever in Heaven.

But while chains of Love uniting the Persons of the Holy Trinity with each other are unbreakable, the chains of Love which unite us to God are not.

As the saying goes, a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link.  And when we commit sin, we may break only one link in the chain that binds us to God, but that one link can make our whole relationship to God come crashing down like that one link in this chain almost made our Cross come crashing down.

On this Trinity Sunday, may we examine each link in the chain which unites us to Jesus crucified and through Him to the Father and the Holy Spirit.  May the Blessed Trinity help us to strengthen any weak links and repair any broken ones,  that we may receive fully into our hearts the Love and Power of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Homily – Easter Sunday MMIX 4/12/09

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

Homily – Easter Sunday MMIX                    4/12/09

The Lord is Risen, Alleluia!  This is the Church’s message to our troubled world tonight (this Day) and for the next 50 days:  He is truly Risen!

He is Risen, despite the treacherous greed of Judas which stripped Him of all He had,

He is Risen, despite the cowardice of His Apostles who in the hour of darkness found themselves powerless to aid Him,

He is Risen, despite the blindness of His own people who preferred the sham Barabbas to the true Messiah,

He is truly Risen, in spite of the excessive beating the Romans gave Him,

He is truly Risen, in spite of the four sharp nails that were driven into His Sacred Flesh,

He is truly Risen, in spite of the death He truly underwent as a man, in spite of the three days His cold and lifeless Body spent in the tomb.

No, not greed, nor cowardice, nor rejection, nor beating, nor crucifixion, nor death itself could overcome Jesus Christ.  He has overcome them all, He has trampled them under
His pierced Feet.

The Third Day has dawned.  His Body rises from this fallen world, glorified, incorruptible, no more to die.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, may this Easter celebration impress deeply upon our hearts and minds and bodies and souls that Jesus our Lord is truly Risen from the Dead.

And as St. Paul reminds us, if then, we have died with Christ in Baptism, we believe that we shall also live with our Glorified and Risen Jesus.

The greedy of this world may rob of all we have,

We may be abandoned in our time of need,

We may find the world to be against us as Christians,

We may be beaten down by our past sins and by the world and the devil,

But no earthly trials, not even crucifixion or any other earthly death is able to crush our Hope for Resurrection in Christ Jesus our Lord.

May Christ fill you with Resurrection Faith this Easter Day, and all the 50 days of this Easter Season, and may the Joy of the Resurrection renew your family, our parish, and the whole world, for the tomb is really Empty, and Our Lord has truly Risen!

Homily – Good Friday MMIX 4/10/09

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Homily – Good Friday MMIX                4/10/09

Among the many sad scenes in our Lord’s Passion that first Good Friday, one in particular has recently caught my attention.

It is the scene where Pontius Pilate goes and stands before the vast crowd of people that is gathered in the Praetorium for what the synoptic Gospels say was the third time that day.

According to Matthew, Mark and John, Pilate asked the people:  “Which of these two men would you like me to release into your society?  Which of the following two men do you desire to have?”

Do you want, as part of your society, Jesus, called Messiah, the King of the Jews?

Or, do you want this other man, named Barabbas?

Certainly there were a blessed few in that crowd who cried out to Pilate that Good Friday:  “Release Jesus!  We want Jesus in our society, walking among us, teaching our children, ruling over us!  Release Jesus!”

But sadly, all four Gospel writers tell us that the overwhelming majority of people chose to have the other man over Our Lord.

St. Matthew says the crowd in response just chanted Barabbas!  Barabbas!

St. John said that the crowd cried “We don’t want this man Jesus, we want Barabbas!

Mark says the crowd was all fired up at the prospect of getting Barabbas from Pilate, so that they must have cheered for joy when he was finally released into their society.

And St. Luke even seems to imply that most of the people in the crowd were there that day for no other reason but to ask Pilate for Barabbas, indeed to demand that he give Barabbas to them.

So who is this man so desired by the masses?

Again, all four Gospel writers shed a different light upon the character of the man, or lack of it.

St.  John, as we’ve just heard, simply describes him as a revolutionary.  The word is also translated as robber, however.   Barabbas was a revolutionary and a robber.

St. Luke says that he was the leader of a rebellion that had taken place in Jerusalem, and also a murderer.

St. Mark says that Barabbas was imprisoned along with the rebels who had committed murder.  As if to say that the guy was so slick that the authorities couldn’t pin anything on him, so slick that his many fans would say “Barabbas isn’t a bad guy at all!”

And finally, St. Matthew describes Barabbas, the man overwhelmingly chosen over Jesus, as a notorious prisoner.

Matthew also gives Barabbas’ full name: Jesus Barabbas.

And so his full name is Jesus,
Bar (Hebrew word meaning “Son of”)
Abbas (Hebrew word meaning “Father”)

The crowd that first Good Friday my brothers and sisters, rejected and crucified Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God the Father Almighty;

and chose, to great cries of rejoicing, Jesus Barabbas, the Son of Satan the Father of Lies.

So it was that first Good Friday, and so it remains today in this fallen world we live in.  As Jesus tells us, Narrow is the road that leads to life, the road which winds it’s way up Mount Calvary, and those who are on it, those who choose Jesus, are few.

But broad and wide is the road that leads to destruction, and those who are on it are many, with the Barabbas’ of the world leading the parade.

This Day of Atonement, may you and I humbly acknowledge how often we have been seduced in leaving the narrow road of the Gospel to follow after Barabbas the robber who promises us material wealth,

to follow after Barabbas the revolutionary who promises us liberation and a loose morality to live by,

to follow after Barabbas the murderer who exploits poor and defenseless innocent human life,

to follow after Barabbas, the slick, charismatic figure whom we allow to entertain and entrance us, as Jesus is meanwhile cast out of our society, crucified and buried without our even noticing it until it is too late.

O Jesus, by the merits of your Passion, spare us in our day from falling under the spell of Barabbas.

Let the world mock us, let the majority reject us, let the crowd even spit on us and marginalize us and crucify us, we wish by your grace to reject Barabbas, and to choose you Jesus, and your Holy Cross, all the days of our life.

Homily – Holy Thursday MMIX 4/9/9

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Homily – Holy Thursday  MMIX                4/9/9

On the morning of that First Holy Thursday, the disciples asked Jesus Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?

And St. Mark tells us, in words we read this past Palm Sunday, that Jesus gave his disciples these detailed instructions:

The first thing, Jesus said, you must Go into the city (Jerusalem) and a man will meet you, carrying a vessel of water.

And for the past 2009 years, those who wish to Eat the Passover with Our Blessed Lord Jesus must also abide by those instructions:

You and I must first enter the New Jerusalem on earth, the Holy Catholic Church.

And upon entering the Holy Catholic Church for the first time, we like the disciples met a man, carrying a vessel of water.  He poured the water over our head, Baptizing us in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus told his disciples that first Holy Thursday that once they had entered the city and were met by the man with the water, to follow him.  He will lead them to a large, upper room, furnished and ready.

There, in that upper room, raised above ground level,

and here, in this upper room, on this Altar which the laws of our Holy Church require be raised above the congregation level,

There and here will take place on this night, the Passover of Our Lord.

That first Holy Thursday afternoon, the disciples sent by Jesus into the city found that large upper room all furnished and ready.

The table was all set:  finest white linen table cloth, candles, 13 mats to recline on, 13 plates, 13 cups, one of them, the nicest one, The Cup which would be used.

A large flagon of new red wine, a large, freshly baked round loaf of unleavened bread, and bitter herbs.

Furnished and ready, all prepared with the perfection of Martha, with the prayerfulness of Mary Magdalene, and with the unfathomable love of the Mother of Jesus for Her Son and Lord.

All had been prepared beforehand for this night.  All was now ready for a Supper which had been in preparation since before the dawn of Creation.

All that had gone before was a preparation for this night.  The Creation, The Old Testament were a preparation, The Incarnation, The Holy Infancy, The Public Ministry of Jesus were a preparation.

It was all now furnished and ready.

And tonight in this Upper Room, Our Lord makes all things new.

A new commandment,
A new priesthood,
A new and everlasting Covenant in His Body and Blood broken and shed for us.

He gives us tonight this New Commandment to Love one another as He has loved us.

There was nothing more humiliating for a Jew in Jesus’ day than to wash another person’s feet.  But Jesus teaches us that in our service to one another, no task should be too humiliating for us to perform.

But as humiliating as feet washing is, it pales in comparison to the humiliation of being stripped and scourged and crowned with thorns and nailed almost naked to a cross.

But Jesus says you and I are to love one another as He has loved us, even to death on a Cross.

Jesus realized that His new commandment would be difficult, if not impossible, for us to carry out, left on our own.

This is why Jesus gives us tonight a New Food to strengthen us, to enable us to live out the New Commandment of Love:  the Holy Eucharist.

Through the Eucharist we find strength to live as Christ calls us to live, through partaking of the Eucharist we can love one another as Jesus loves us.

The Eucharist is essential for our living a Christian life.  Unless you eat of the flesh of the son of Man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.

Jesus realized we needed the Eucharist, or else the journey through life would be too long for us, and we wouldn’t reach our destiny.

And so that we would until the end of time always have in the Church this Eucharistic Food, Jesus on the Night of the Last Supper instituted the New Priesthood of His New Covenant.

Do this, you Twelve, and your successors after you, in memory of my Passion and Death.

So we pray tonight for all priests, that Jesus would renew them in their total commitment to serve Christ and His Church.

We also pray for those young men Jesus is calling to be priests.    In the book of the prophet Jerimiah we read the Lord saying: Before you were born I called youin your mother’s womb I consecrated you.  Many, if not all priests, are called from the womb to renounce marriage and family and career for the higher calling of the priesthood.

Today, there are so many obstacles for young men to hear God’s call.  Our prayers, and especially the prayers of parents and grandparents, are more important than ever for the sake of those young men in our parish that Jesus is calling to the priesthood in years to come.

And so, tonight we thank Jesus for having all things furnished and ready beforehand for us to partake of His Passover with Him.

May He give us this Holy Thursday a deeper and stronger love for the Holy Eucharist, a deeper respect and love for the Priesthood, and through these things may He enable us to live out ever more fully the New Commandment of sacrificial Love He gives us this night.

Homily — Epiphany MMIX Jan. 4, 2009

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Homily — Epiphany MMIX                Jan. 4, 2009

Today we celebrate the Twelth Day of Christmas, the Epiphany or Manifestation of Jesus to the Magi.

While the Jewish Shepherds have been kneeling around the Creche for the past 11 or so days, the Magi just arrive today because they had a longer journey to make than the Shepherds did — a longer journey geographically, and more importantly, a longer journey spiritually.

For the Jewish Shepherds, who geographically lived just a few miles outside Bethlehem, had to take a much shorter Spiritual Journey to get to the Manger as well.

The Shepherds started out closer to God and to Jesus than the Magi did.  This was because the shepherds had years of following the Law of Moses, the Ten Commandments, behind them, when Christmas night finally came.

The Shepherds also had all the Old Testament writings, the Word of God (although not yet complete), to walk by:  the History of God’s Chosen People, the Psalms to help them pray correctly, the Proverbs and other Wisdom books, the Prophets to call them to greater holiness.

The Shepherds also had great role models of faith to inspire them:  Abraham and Sarah, Israel, Ruth, David, Esther, the Maccabbee Brothers — all these Holy Men and Women and many others helped draw them closer to the One True God.

And lastly, the Shepherds had their Rabbis to teach them the scriptures, and their priests to offer acceptable sacrifices to God to atone for their sins and to thank Him for His blessings.

And so it was fitting that on Christmas Night, these Shepherds who were so close to God the Father to begin with would hear clearly the words of the Angel of the Lord announcing the Birth of Jesus the King of Kings;   fitting that these Jewish Shepherds would see clearly the sky filled with an army of Angels and hear loud and clear their Singing Glory to God in the Highest, fitting that the Journey to the Manger would be short and quick for these Shepherds.

In contrast, the pagan Magi had a much longer spiritual journey to make than the Jewish shepherds.

For they were raised in man-made religions, and were taught to worship false gods that pointed them in the wrong direction from where the true God could be found.

Their moral codes, while not totally bad in some areas, still were gravely insufficient to lead them to the fulness of life.

And so in each of these Magi’s country of origin, the words of the Prophet Isaiah in the first reading bore true:  Darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds the peoples of these lands where the God of Israel was not known.

And yet the Magi were men who made it their life’s goal to rise above the thick clouds of ignorance, doubt, despair and pagan sensuality.   And piercing through this cloud cover that hung over their lands, each of them looked up and saw, off in the distance, a tiny star.  They knew then and there that this was the guiding light each of them had been searching for in life.

And so each Magi set out by himself from his pagan country, unaware that at the same time other Magi from other pagan lands were also being guided by that same star.

And as they journeyed through mountains and valleys, they eventually met up with one another and realized they weren’t alone in their search for the New Born King, and they continued on the road together, and all the while the thick clouds began to get thinner, as the star began to shine brighter.

And today, the Magi reach the end of their Journey.  They now see and adore the child Jesus with Mary His Mother, in the House they now call their home.

Darkness and thick clouds no longer cover them.  Nor do they walk any more by the dim light of a tiny star.  No, the glory of the Lord shines round about them, as bright as it shines for the shepherds.

On this Great Solemnity of the Epiphany, let us journey with the Shepherds and the Magi to Bethlehem to Adore the New Born King.

Like the shepherds, we too can take the short and fast route to the manger by daily reading the Word of God, both the Old and now the New Testament, by living by the teachings of Christ and His Church, by following the example of the Saints, and by frequent reception of the sacraments.

And  like the Magi, may we too rise above the thick clouds of disbelief and anxiety and neo-pagan sensuality that cover our land once more, and journey by the dim light of faith.  We will not be alone for long in our journey, we will meet up with other Magi from other pagan lands along the road.

May the New Born Jesus manifest Himself ever more fully,  and shine out ever more brightly and gloriously, to all Shepherds and Magi this New Year of 2009.