Archive for October, 2006

Homily — 30th Sunday OT B October 29, 2006

Monday, October 30th, 2006

Homily — 30th Sunday OT B October 29, 2006

Christ healing Bartimeaus http://cgfa.sunsite.dk

“Master, I want to see.” . . . .immediately he received his sight and followed Him on the way.

In today’s Gospel Jesus restores Bartimaeus’ physical sight, but as we see, Bartimaeus wanted more from Jesus than that. He wanted to see, not just with his bodily eyes but with spiritual eyes. Bartimaeus wanted to see God.

What an experience it must have been for Bartimaeus, and for every blind person Jesus gives sight to, to have the first thing they ever see be the loving face of Jesus, smiling at them.

Bartimeus must have thought what Simeon did when He saw the baby Jesus being presented in the Temple: “My own eyes have seen the salvation which God has prepared for all the world to see.”

And seeing Jesus, he didn’t ever want to take his newly given eyes off of him, so he followed Him on the way says St. Mark.

As far as we know from the Four Gospels, Bartimaeus is the last disciple to be personally called by Our Lord Jesus himself. For the Gospels tell us that Jesus immediately leaves this town of Jericho and walks the ten or so miles to the outskirts of Jerusalem, where He gets on a donkey and rides into the Holy City on Palm Sunday.

And so Bartimaeus, just a day or so after receiving his sight, becomes an eye-witness to that first Holy Week to Christ’s Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem, to Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple with a home made whip, to His betrayal and arrest, to the Scourging and Crowning with Thorns, to the Way of the Cross and finally to the death and burial of Jesus.

And then, with his own eyes, Bartimaeus sees the empty tomb, and then sees the Risen Lord in the Flesh, with His glorified wounds.

He got to see all this and more, all because his prayer to Jesus was “Master, I want to see.” Not just with my eyes, but with the eyes of faith, do I want to see.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, this prayer of Bartimaeus should be our prayer to Jesus as well. “Master, I want to see.”

Even the best of us have a hard time, even the saints had a hard time, always seeing with the eyes of faith “24/7″. Look at the disciples in today’s Gospel: they begin by rebuking Bartimaeus, telling him to be silent. They didn’t think Jesus wanted to be bothered with a poor beggar. How blind they were! Jesus says to them “I want you to call him for me, to encourage him, not scold him.”

And how often are we like those disciples — how often do we come in contact with people each day who are begging to see Jesus, to experience His love, people who Jesus wants us to reach out to and, by our actions or words, bring them to Him? But because of our spiritual blindness, we pay them no heed.

And then a few days later, entering Jerusalem, the crowd is cheering Jesus as their hero and savior “Hosanna to the Son of David,” waving Palm Branches of Victory. But how blind they were — they thought Jesus was going to overthrow the Romans and make them all rich and famous overnight. When they saw later in the week that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah they were looking for, the same crowd lost patience and turned against Him.

And don’t we all fall in to the same blindness at times? We start out fervent in the faith like the crowd on Palm Sunday, but when God takes too long to answer us, we grow impatient and give up on God.

And then, when Pilate displays Jesus to the crowd, scourged and bloodied and wearing a crown of thorns, many people saw Jesus and said to Pilate “Take Him away, Take Him away!” They couldn’t bear the sight of Jesus, because He convicted them of their sins.

In the same way, we also don’t want to face our own sins head on, we’d rather run away from seeing how ugly sin is. But if we truly want to see as Bartimaeus did, as painful as it is, we need to see what our sins do to Jesus, so that we might atone for them.

Yes, if we want to see Jesus Risen and Glorified, we like Bartimaeus must follow Him on the way — the Way of the Cross. The more we embrace the Cross in our lives, the more our vision will become 20/20.

And finally, even after the Resurrection, the disciples were blind and didn’t immediately see Jesus. Remember the story of the two men on the road to Emmaus: Jesus walks with them for hours, talking to them about the Scriptures, and while their hearts start to burn within them, they still don’t recognize Him.

And it’s not until Jesus takes Bread and blesses and breaks it that Luke says Their eyes were opened and they recognized Him, but He vanished from their sight.

After two hours of Bible study and then Holy Communion, the disciples see the Risen Lord Jesus only for a brief moment — and then they are blind again! And so it is with us who walk by faith not by sight. But these little glimpses we get of the Risen Lord every now and then in life, after much prayer and worthy reception of Holy Communion, are meant to carry us through the dark valleys of life.

Meanwhile, we keep praying each day, and especially each Sunday when we receive the Lord in the Holy Eucharist Master, I want to see.

And one day, when our pilgrimage through life has ended, the light will go out of our earthly eyes once and for all. And then, if we’ve seen with the eyes of faith in this life, we will hear said to us “Take courage; rise, Jesus is calling you.”

And like Bartimaeus, we will receive sight from Jesus. Our eyes will be opened, and the first thing we’ll see is the face of Christ Our Lord smiling at us. And looking around us we will see the glory of Heaven, a place that eye has not seen. . . .nor has it so much dawned on us what God has prepared for us there. All blindness will have ended, and we shall see as we have never seen before for ever and ever.

29th Sunday Ordinary Time B (World Mission Sunday)

Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

Homily — World Mission Sunday MMVI (29th Sun. B) 10/22/06

The Great Commission

The Son of Man came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.

On this World Mission Sunday, we are reminded that if we are Baptized Catholics, and even more so, if we are Baptized and Confirmed Catholics, then we are on a “Mission from God.”

Our God given mission, both collectively as the Church and individually as believers, is to spread the Faith Jesus gave us.

This Mission of ours could not have been more clearly stated by Our Lord Himself, in His very last words to us before He ascended into Heaven, recorded in Matthew: All power in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.

Two thousand years later, the Church has grown from a few hundred initial believers to over 1 billion Catholics. And one third of the world’s current population has been Baptized in the Name of the Holy Trinity.

And while on the one hand this is impressive, on the other hand, at least 2/3rds of the world does not yet know Christ. Which means the Church and her members are not even half finished yet with the Mission God has given us.

So how then do we Christians spread the Faith to the remaining 2/3rds of the world, whether they are in foreign lands, or in our own city and state?

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, recently spoke about this very issue of spreading the Faith in his widely publicized speech at the German University of Regensburg last month. That speech was, in one sense, all about the right way and the wrong way of being a Missionary.

In that speech the Pope stated that “(S)preading the faith through violence is something unreasonable(,). . . .incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the (Human) soul.” And so, to coerce, or trick, or emotionally manipulate people into believing is sinful, and contrary to the Gospel message. And in the long run, it just won’t cause the faith to spread.

So forcing faith on others isn’t the answer. (How very sad it is, that because of a line in that speech which has been grossly taken out of context, a Catholic missionary nun who for years had served the poor children of Somalia was shot from behind and killed, and an Orthodox priest was kidnapped and then beheaded, both by people claiming to act in the name of God!)

And while the Pope in that same talk goes on to speak about the correct way, the only way to spread the faith, we have the answer from Our Lord Himself in today’s Gospel: Whoever wishes to be great will be (a) servant . . . .the slave of all.

Therefore, whoever wishes to be a great missionary will also be a servant to all. So, what does Jesus mean by being a servant? He means we must be servants of two things.

To be effective missionaries, you and I must be servants of mercy and servants of truth toward everyone we come in contact with.

To be a servant of truth to all people, we must believe firmly in the Truth, who is Jesus Christ, who died and rose again to save every person from sin and death. To be a servant of truth to all people, we must also hold fast to the Truths of our Catholic Faith, living by them, defending them when they are ridiculed or misunderstood by others.

And to be a “servant of mercy” to all people means to do those Works of Mercy Jesus teaches us to do: works such as feeding the hungry, forgiving all injuries, visiting and caring for the sick and dying, bearing wrongs patiently, praying for the living and the dead.

And not just to do the works of mercy, or proclaim the Truth when we feel like it, If we wish to be great missionaries, great disciples of Jesus, we must be slaves to mercy and truth, which means being merciful and truthful when mercy and truth demand it of us.

There’s a beautiful line in one of the Old Testament Psalms, Psalm 85: Mercy and Truth shall meet. Mercy and Truth have met in the Person of Jesus Christ, and to bring people to a knowledge of Christ, we can’t neglect one nor the other.

And so this weekend, we pray for all missionaries, especially those in the mission countries who may be today enduring great hardships, and may be even risking their lives to bring the love and the truth of the Gospel to peoples who have never heard it before. And in the second collection, we’ll be able to become even more a part of that effort, through our generosity to them.

May the Eucharist we celebrate this World Mission Sunday bless these foreign missionaries, and help us aspire to be the Truly Great Missionaries Jesus calls each of us to be, in the service of His mercy and His truth to all peoples.

28th Sunday Ordinary Time B October 15, 2006

Sunday, October 15th, 2006

Homily — 28th Sunday OT B October 15, 2006

For he had great possessions (painting by G F Watts, 1894)

A sower went out to sow His seed . . . . and some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it.

We see in this week’s Gospel an unnamed man who ran up to Jesus and knelt down before Him.

What do we know about this man? St. Matthew in his Gospel tells us that he’s a young man. A young man, running, not walking, to Jesus; Running, not being dragged by his parents, eager to be in Jesus’ presence.

And then, when he arrives before Jesus, the young man kneels before Jesus, in the front pew as it were, for everyone to see. Despite peer pressure, and at the risk of being labeled a religious fanatic, the young man publically and proudly displays his faith in Jesus.

So far, what we’ve seen of this man is pretty impressive. But it gets better than that — not only is the young man fervent, pious, faith-filled, and courageous, he’s also morally upright. Teacher, all of these (commandments you mention) I have kept from my youth, he tells Jesus.

And Jesus doesn’t say to him “you’re lying” or “not really”. The young man had kept those commandments, and kept them according to Jesus’ high standards. Which meant that even amidst all the many temptations which every young person faces in life, this young man remained gentle, peaceable, pure and chaste in body and mind, honest, just, and lovingly obedient towards his parents and teachers.

No wonder why Jesus loved him. What wasn’t there to love about this young man?

But what’s telling about this young man is what he initially says to Jesus: Good teacher, what must I do to inherit everlasting life? As good and faith filled as this young man is, something is missing from his life. His conscience troubles him, he’s not at peace within himself.

And he comes before Jesus today saying: “Lord, why am I not satisfied with my life? I’ve followed all the commandments, kept clear of sin, said my prayers and did my religious duties, but I still feel troubled. Haven’t I done everything right?”

And so Jesus, the Word of God, who (as the second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews states) can penetrate deep into the soul, who is able to discern….the hidden thoughts of the heart, looks on the man with love. Jesus, to whom no creature is concealed from but everything is naked and exposed to (His) eyes sees inside the young man what he himself can’t see: “You are lacking in one thing. One thing is making you unhappy, unsatisfied, and that is your attachment to riches. Repent of your greed, give your surplus to the poor, and then you’ll know what true happiness is.”

And the tragic, tragic thing is that this fine young man, who had faith, who was honest and pure and peaceful and obedient to his parents and teachers, went away (from Christ) sad, for he had many possessions.

Many possessions. My brothers and sisters, if we’re not careful, the many things we possess may end up possessing us as they did this young man.

And even the greatest exorcist ever, Jesus Christ, who cast out of Mary Magdalen the seven devils that possessed her, who cast out of the man at Gerasene the thousands of demons that possessed him, who delivered countless other possessed people from what possessed them, could not deliver this young man from his many possessions, because at the end of the day, the young man didn’t want to give them up.

Jesus tells us that the lure of riches are the thorns that choked the healthy plant in the parable of the seed and the sower. And we see in this Gospel how the lure of riches are beginning to choke this fine young man. Hopefully this experience was a wake up call for him to start being less materialistic.

It’s important that we don’t get Jesus’ message wrong. How much material things we have isn’t the problem, it’s how attached we are to material things. As St. Paul tells us, Love of money is the root of all evil, not necessarily being blessed with material wealth.

But it is true that the more materially wealthy we are, the more on guard we have to be about breaking the First Commandment (like the young man did, notice how Jesus didn’t mention that one to him) and making riches the real god we worship instead of the One True God.

Now, Jesus doesn’t call all of us to sell everything and take a vow of poverty (Although some young (and old) men and women are called to a religious vocation, a very noble calling). But Jesus does call all Baptized Christians, and even more so all Confirmed Catholics, to live what’s called “simplicity of life” or “the spirit of poverty according to one’s state in life”.

Practically speaking, “simplicity of life” means in all things curbing our appetites for material things. We might be tempted to buy the most luxurious car or home or ipod, but instead, out of love for Jesus, we should buy a more simpler one of these things and give the excess we would have spent to the poor or to the missions.

This isn’t easy at all when we can afford the luxury model, as Jesus says. But with God’s grace all things are possible.

Through the grace of this Eucharist, may we truly say with St. Peter: We have given up everything to follow you Jesus. We have detached ourselves from material things. We have deemed riches nothing in comparison with Your Eternal Wisdom. All gold is sand compared to you (cf the first reading of today’s Mass).

And may Jesus look upon us with love and say in the depths of our souls: “you my child, are lacking in no thing. Your treasure is great in heaven.”

27th Sunday Ordinary Time October 8, 2006

Monday, October 9th, 2006

Homily — 27th Sunday Ordinary Time October 8, 2006

THE ARNOLFINI MARRIAGE by Jan Van Eyck

“I take you to be my wife. I promise to be true to you, in good times, and in bad; in sickness, and in health.
I will love you, and honor you, all the days of my life.”

“I take you to be my husband. I promise to be true to you, in good times, and in bad; in sickness, and in health.
I will love you, and honor you, all the days of my life.”

These beautiful vows first exchanged by a husband and a wife on their wedding day, are another way of saying everything Jesus says in today’s Gospel: that marriage for the Christian is permanent, until death; and that the marriage bond is the best way for children to come to know, to love, and to be loved by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ teaching on the indissolubility of marriage is one of His most frequent teachings in the Gospels. He states it four times: twice in Matthew, here in Mark and again in Luke, to emphasize how important He sees this teaching to be.

Also testifying to Marriage’s prestige and importance in Christ’s eyes was Jesus’ choice of the very first miracle He worked. Jesus chose to work His first miracle at a wedding banquet in the town of Cana, turning 180 gallons of water into 180 gallons of the finest wine.

While the Gospel’s don’t tell us who the couple getting married at Cana were, it is very possible that the couple were both disciples of Jesus. And since the miracle at Cana happened very early on in Jesus’ public ministry, this man and woman may have been the very first two disciples of Jesus to tie the knot. This would make the wedding at Cana the first sacramental marriage! In any event, the manifestation of Christ’s power and glory through that marriage was Jesus’ way of saying He would to manifest His power and glory through every Christian marriage.

Because of the Gospel passages mentioned above and similar ones from the letters of St. Paul, since the time of the Apostles the Church has seen Matrimony to be one of the seven sacraments which Jesus instituted to confer His grace until He comes again. Of course, marriage was around before Jesus’ time, but Christ “restored the original order of matrimony and raised it to the dignity of a sacrament” (Compendium of the Catholic Church, 341). The sacramental marriage of two Christians is a sign of Christ’s indissoluble love for His Bride, the Church.

On Good Friday, Jesus the Bridegroom in effect said “I, Jesus, take you, One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, to be my Spouse. I promise to be true to you, in good times, and in bad; in sickness, and in health. I will love you, and honor you, all the days of my life (which for Me is eternal).”

Jesus and His Bride the Church are no longer two, but one Flesh. And Jesus will never divorce His Spouse. The Risen Lord Jesus will always love His Bride the Church with a Supernatural Love.

And it is this same Supernatural Love that the Risen Lord Jesus gives to a husband and his wife to love each other with on their wedding day. This is the grace the Sacrament of Marriage imparts.

But Christian Marriage is not only a Sacrament; Christian Marriage is also a Vocation, capital V.

Whenever engaged couples come to me to get married, the first time I meet with them I kind of quiz them on what a Sacrament is and what a Vocation is. They will be getting both, so they should know what they are getting! And I think in the six or so years since I’ve started asking, only one couple really knew what a vocation is.
So what is a vocation? A Vocation is a calling from God.

If you are married, God’s mysterious plan from all eternity was for you and your spouse to freely come together as husband and wife. Just as the rib was tailor made for Adam and Adam for the rib, so a particular wife is tailor made for her husband and a particular husband is tailor made for his wife.

And a Vocation, capital V, is a person’s main mission from God in this life. And sacramentally married couple’s God-given mission in life is three-fold: 1) to love each other, 2) to pray for the salvation of their spouse, and 3) (as the marriage ritual puts it) “to accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church.”

Which is why in today’s Gospel from Mark, Jesus goes from speaking about the indissolubility of marriage immediately to speaking about letting the children come to Him. (Jesus does the same thing in Matthews Gospel.)

By pairing up these two passages, Jesus is making the point that simply through the parents living out of their marriage vows, children will come to know the love of Jesus.

And all parents, young or old, might want to reflect on the verse from Hebrews in today’s second reading: (I)n bringing many children to glory, (Christ was made) perfect through suffering.

In bringing your children to the glory of knowing Jesus, in bringing your children to the glory of eternal life, Christian parents are also made “perfect” parents through suffering, the suffering of patience and trust in the Lord’s grace being more powerful than the bad influences children might for a time be tempted by. Through suffering, parents will bring their children to glory.

This Sunday, may Jesus help us all to esteem and uphold the Sacrament of Marriage as He Himself esteemed and upheld it, and as His Bride, our Holy Mother the Church, herself esteems and upholds Marriage. May the Lord Bless and guide all who have been called, or are being called, to this great and important Vocation in the Church.

26th Sunday Ordinary Time (Respect Life Sunday) Oct. 1, 2006

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

Homily — 26th Sunday OT B (Respect Life Sunday) 10/01/06

Christ the Judge Separating the Sheep from the Goats 6th-cent mosaic from Ravenna

Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!

That was Moses’ prayer to God that day in the wilderness. Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow His Spirit on them all!

It took about 1300 years, but God finally answered Moses’ prayer, when Jesus, after Ascending back into Heaven in His Risen Human Body, sent the Holy Spirit on the Church that first Pentecost Sunday, the anniversary of the day Moses was given the 10 Commandments.

From that first Pentecost Sunday on, the Lord has bestowed the fullness of His Spirit on every Baptized and Confirmed Christian.

And so at Confirmation, not only do we receive the Holy Spirit, we, “the LORD’s people,” become Prophets, the Prophets Moses wished we would become!

And yet, we may still unfortunately say today in 2006, “Would that all the Prophets were Prophets!” Would that we Confirmed Catholics all be worthy of that great name of Prophet.

For a prophet in the Biblical sense isn’t so much a person who predicts the future; rather, a prophet is a person who speaks out and stands for what is right and true — even if those words and actions aren’t very popular to the people around us.

A prophet is a person filled not with the spirit of the world, but with the Holy Spirit. And as Jesus figuratively says in today’s Gospel, serious sin should not exist in the heart of a prophet; the prophet must cut out and throw away not one’s hand foot or eye, but any person, place or thing in their life that would lead the prophet into sin.

A true prophet, therefore, will never lead another person into sin and wrongdoing; a true prophet will instead lead many people into virtue and holiness.

Would that all the LORD’s people, would that we Confirmed Catholics were the Prophets the LORD wishes us to be, that we might not give scandal to the little ones.

Today, my brothers and sisters, we observe National Respect Life Sunday in Parishes throughout the country. And probably the single most important truth that we 21st Century Prophets of the Lord are to proclaim to the world is what Pope John Paul II called the “Gospel of Life”: namely, that every human life is sacred from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death, and that to directly destroy or mistreat any innocent human life, for whatever reason, is to risk the fires of Gehenna.

[By the way, it is interesting that Jesus’ favorite term for hell in the Gospels is "Gehenna." Because Gehenna was the place just outside of the walls of Jerusalem where in Jeremiah’s day the Israelites sacrificed babies to false gods. Our Lord obviously saw the tolerance of such behavior to be hell on earth.]

Jesus teaches us that whatsoever we do to the most insignificant of humans — whatsoever we do, for example, to an embryonic human being only hours old, whatsoever we do to an unborn child in it’s mothers womb, whatsoever we do to the poor, the sick or the aged — that we do to the One who will judge us when our life on earth has ended.

As St. James reminds us, the excess wealth and power we hoarded while the poor went without, the comfort and laziness we indulged in while the unborn went legally unprotected to their death, the health and well-being we demanded at the price of destroying embryonic human lives — all these will all cry out for justice, and their cries, not ours, will be heard by God on that Dies Irae, Dies Illa, that Day of Judgement, Day of Wrath.

But while tomorrow may be Judgment Day for me or you, today and not tomorrow is Mercy Day for all of us. If the worm of a guilty conscience is currently gnawing away at us because we have failed to respect life, Jesus wishes today to forgive us and empower us in building a culture of life. But if we don’t deal with that worm today, tomorrow we may be living eternally in Gehenna with it, where the worm of a guilty conscience never dies.

Yes, Moses, would that all the people of the LORD were prophets, the prophets Jesus calls them to be in virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation.

Would that all the people of the Lord, would that all of us Catholics today stand up for innocent Human Life, would that all of us Catholics today be vocal in loudly rejecting legalized abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and everything that degrades human life, and not care how politically incorrect we are in doing so.

Would that all of us Catholics today be led by the Spirit to help support women in crisis pregnancies, to be mindful of the poor, to be compassionate to the suffering and their loved ones, and to promote scientific research to better all human beings, not just the ones deemed worthy of life by the self-proclaimed elite.

On this Respect Life Sunday and this whole Respect Life Month of October, may the prayer of Moses be our prayer, and may it be answered today by Christ in you, in me, and in the hearts of all Catholics, and other men and women of good will.