Archive for February, 2007

Homily – 1st Sunday of Lent C Feb. 25, 2007 (My Annual “Get Back to Confession Homily”)

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

Homily – 1st Sunday of Lent C February 25, 2007

The Temptation of Christ by Ary Scheffer 1854

If you are the Son of God . . . .

With those spite-filled words, Satan commences his testing of Our Lord Jesus in the desert.

If you are the Son of God.

You will recall that just before going into the desert, Jesus had been Baptized in the Jordan. And there at His Baptism, Heaven was opened, and God the Father’s voice was heard saying “You are my beloved Son.” — You are the Son of God.

From the moment Satan heard those words, he said “We’ll see about that.”

To give the devil his due, Satan had every reason to be confident of winning going into that showdown with Jesus in the desert. Up to this point, Satan had been batting 1000 against God’s children, almost from the beginning.

When God first created man, male and female, in His own image and likeness, God looked down on Adam and Eve and said to them, “You are my beloved son, you are my beloved daughter.”

But after they had tasted, and swallowed, the forbidden fruit, the Devil had every right to say to them “No, you are my beloved son, you are my beloved daughter.” This is why in today’s Gospel, when he shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, the devil says “all this power and glory . . . .has been handed over to me.”

Who handed the world with all its power and glory over to Satan? Not God. We handed it over to him. When we sin, my brothers and sisters, we take the power and glory God has given us as His beloved sons and daughters, and we hand it over to the devil to give it to whomever he wishes.

If you are the Son of God.

Yes, Satan is most confident going into that desert, that Christ will also hand his birthright over to him.

But he’s wrong. Satan loses.

This is no old Adam, no son of God, small s. This is the New Adam, The Son of God, capital S. God Incarnate.

This Jesus is the Serpent crusher, who has come to reconcile all the fallen children of Adam and Eve to their true and only Father, Almighty God.

My brothers and sisters in Christ!!! This Saturday,
March 3rd, here in this Church, we will have for the 4th year in a row, All Day Confessions from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon.

Come to confession that day and you will hear Jesus say to you loud and clear “You are a Son of God!”

How often it is these days that we hear the devil lie to us that we’re not God’s children. He says to us “If you were really a son of God, you wouldn’t be so fearful;” “If you were really a daughter of God, you wouldn’t be so uncharitable;” “If you were a child of God, you would have never done that!”

“No,” the devil says to us, “you are not a child of God, you are, and you will always be, my beloved child.”

The problem with the devil is that he’s such a liar. A liar and the father of lies, Jesus calls him. For every baptized believer in Christ who dwells in the shelter of the Most High and abides in the shadow of His Mercy is and will always be a child of God.

And in the confessional, Jesus the Truth Incarnate says to us unconditionally “You are a Son of God. Go in Peace, your sins are forgiven!!”

This coming Saturday is a great opportunity for all of us, for you, to receive that affirmation of Jesus. For eight straight hours, two to four priests will hear individual confessions, in the two confessionals in back of you (turn around and see them?) and also in confessionals that’ll be set up through this sacristy door and through this door behind me.

Every confessional will have screens if you wish to confess anonymously, and chairs if you’d rather go face to face. Where you are to wait will be clearly marked for each of the four confessionals. Soothing music will be playing in the background all day.

And the name of the priest currently hearing confessions will be on each confessional. The names are in this weeks bulletin. All these priests are very gentle in hearing confessions. We priests all realize that it might be a long time since you’ve been and we’re all going to be patient and help you if you need it (We’ve got 8 hours!) After saying Mass, there’s nothing we priests like doing better than reconciling people to Jesus after all those years away.

Also in this week’s bulletin is this yellow insert which on one side has “Two Real Experiences:” (text of yellow insert follows)

After several years of not going to confession, I decided to attend the All-Day Confessions at St. Joseph’s Parish. When I entered the church I started to get nervous, so I prayed to God for strength. As I sat in line, I took a deep breath and said to myself, “I can do this”. When I went into the confessional, the priest was so helpful and understanding. He made it so easy! I could not believe I stayed away so long. If anyone is having any doubts about going to confession, just pray to God for strength.

a parishioner

I grew up in an agnostic home. My family said they believed in God and Jesus but practiced no particular faith. I ended up on the wrong path and fell into terrible worldliness and sin. By God’s grace, ten years ago I found what I really needed in the Catholic Church. Its sacraments feed me tenderly. In the Sacrament of Confession, Jesus is made visible in a way that can not be known by just saying “Sorry God” alone in my room. I can’t say I always find going to Confession fun but I’m drawn to it. I think the sacraments are His way of expressing how much He wants to touch us. To me, He uses his priests to show us how visible He wants to become to us.

In the confessional, I think He wants us to hear His voice. Sometimes I hear a condemning voice in my mind and soul accusing me of my past sins but I find the power that stops this voice in the words, “I absolve you of all of your sins.” To me, God’s authority is speaking, not the priest. I am willing to overcome all the obstacles within me to hear those words. It’s His voice that His sheep know.

a parishioner’s friend

And on the back of the yellow insert there’s the basic information of what/when/where. So go over that friend or relative of your’s house, say “Oh, I brought you this flyer about confessions next Saturday,” leave it on their kitchen table, run out the door, and let God do the rest!

Finally, as always we have stapled to the yellow flyer the excellent “Guide to Confession” put out by the Knights of Columbus that contains everything you need to make a good confession: An Act of Contrition, an easy to follow, step by step “How to go to Confession”, and an examination of conscience listing common sins committed against God, neighbor or the Church. You can take this into the confessional with you. And even if you still freeze up, don’t worry the priest will walk you through it.

I have been praying for you for the past month; 20 other people have been praying and sacrificing daily especially for you, two orders of cloistered nuns have also been praying for you over the past month.

And so, my dear brother in Christ who has been away from confession for so many years, You are a Son of God. My sister in Christ who’s been away from this Sacrament of Peace for too long now, You are a Daughter of God.

Be reminded and affirmed of the great reality of who you are, by taking just 10-20 minutes out of 8 hours of your day this coming Saturday to be reconciled to your true Father, who has been waiting so long for you to return to Him, that He might fill you with His power and His peace.

Statement from Bishop Thomas J. Tobin regarding the decision on Gay Marriages by Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch.

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

Statement from Bishop Thomas J. Tobin regarding the decision on Gay Marriages by Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch.
A News Release of the Diocese of Providence Office of Communications, February 22, 2007

Bishop Thamas Tobin of Providence

“The decision of Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch to recognize so-called “gay marriages” from Massachusetts in Rhode Islaned is very disappointing. Marriage, as instituted by God, blessed by the Church and affirmed by every culture throughout the ages, is a union of one man and one woman. The state should not be in the businwess of supporting other lifestyles or promoting immoral, unnatural sexual activity, and that, of course, is the net effect of the Attorney General’s decision.
“It is clear that the Attorney General’s thinking on this issue has been influenced by the relentless gay agenda so prevalent in our State. It is ironic, however, that his decision was announced on Ash Wednesday, when so many citizens of our State were beginning a special time of repentance and prayer. His decision has given us another reason to repent of our sins and pray for forgiveness.”

Homily — Ash Wednesday MMVII February 21, 2007

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

Homily — Ash Wednesday MMVII February 21, 2007

Crossing of the Red Sea by Cosimo Rosselli 1481-82

Behold, now is a very acceptable time.

A very acceptable time to “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel;” a very acceptable time to “remember man, you are dust, and unto dust you will return.”

During these 40 days of Lent, the Church invites us to reflect on several different events found in the Bible.

We reflect for example on the 40 Days Jesus spent in the Desert praying and fasting and being tempted by Satan.

We also reflect on the 40 Hours Christ spent in the tomb, and on the hours before those, of Agony in the Garden, of being Scourged at the Pillar and Crowned with Thorns and forced to carry the Cross and die upon it, all because of my and your sins.

And a third event we are invited to reflect on these next forty days, probably a little more in the background than the first two, is the 40 Years Moses and the People of God spent in the wilderness as they journeyed to the Promised Land God had prepared for them.

While we’ll have many opportunities in the days to come to reflect on all three of these events, I’d like to begin the first day of these 40 days of Lent by calling to mind the first day of those 40 years in the Wilderness.

Picture in your mind Moses and the Israelites that first day after they had crossed the Red Sea. There they are, standing on the shore and looking back over the sea, looking back to the place they had come from.

And as they look back, they think of how good God has been to them in the past. What great things He had done for them back there! All the many signs of His love, how time and again He delivered them from harm and brought them to the better place they were at today.

As Moses and the People of God look behind them that first day of their journey, they are filled with feelings of gratitude for all that God had so far done for them, both individually and as a people.

And then, Moses and the People turn away from the Red Sea and their past, and face what lies ahead of them. There before them is the desert road, as far as the eye can see.

And in front of them is a long, difficult journey. God will test them, will stretch them, in that desert in the days to come. They will have to walk by faith, one day at a time, not knowing exactly what will be in store for them at the end of it all.

But God has them journey through that desert in order to prepare them for the Promised Land, a land He says will be flowing with milk and honey. In the desert, Moses and the People of God will have to die to self, and afterwards rise again as a new creation.

My brothers and sisters in Christ! As we begin this first day of our Journey through the desert of Lent, may we also look back in gratitude over our past as God’s people. May we also reflect on how much God has blessed us and our families in the past. God has never let us down; whenever we trusted in Him, He blessed us more than we imagined He would.

And now, our good God and Father calls us to set out down the desert road of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. He calls us to leave the past behind and press on to the future He has in store for us beyond the desert.

God calls us in this desert of Lent to trust in Him more fully, to walk by faith, trusting that just as He never let us down in the past, He will never let us down in the future if we keep clinging to Him.

Behold, now is a very acceptable time. May God help us all to die to self these next forty days, so that come Easter, we will be prepared for the Risen Life Christ wishes to give each one of us, and our parish.

Homily — 7th Sunday OT C February 18, 2007

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

Homily — 7th Sunday OT C February 18, 2007

The Cross at Ground Zero

Then . . . .you will be children of the Most High.

In the morning hours of September 11, 2001, 19 terrorists affiliated with Al-Quada highjacked four commercial passenger jet airliners and succeeded in flying three of them into the Pentagon and both of the World Trade Center Towers.

When it was all over, 2,819 innocent people where killed, the majority being under 40 years old. Countless families grieved over a lost loved one, thousands of children found themselves without their father, or mother, or both.

The days immediately following 9/11 were probably the most difficult days our country had faced since the end of the Second World War. And everyone that lived through that nightmare, including myself, will never forget what happened that day, where they were, and what they were doing.

But not only will I never forget what happened on Tuesday, September 11th, 2001, I’ll also never forget what happened two days later, on Thursday, September 13th, 2001.

I was on my day off, at my parents house in Coventry, all alone there, because my parents had taken a trip to Ireland and they were stuck there indefinitely.

And I turned on EWTN, the Catholic Network, in the morning to watch the live Mass on TV. And Fr. John Trigilio, a priest around my age, was reading that day’s Gospel, which he didn’t pick but is pre-determined by the liturgical calendar as the Gospel for the 23rd Thursday of the Liturgical Year.

And the Gospel which he and every priest around the world had to read at Mass two days after September 11th was this very one we read today:

To you who hear, I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you . . . . For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them . . . . Love your enemies and do good to them . . . .Then will your reward be great, and you will be called sons of the Most High, for He Himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging, and you will not be judged. Stop condemning, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you shall be forgiven. For the measure you measure with will be measured back to you. Lk 6, 27-38

And I’ll never forget Fr. Trigilio’s homily. He paused, looking down at the words written there in the lectionary, as if he couldn’t believe they were there, and said “I don’t want to hear this! I don’t want to forgive those people! — But Christ wants me to hear this. Christ wants me, wants us to forgive them!”

The old sinful Adam of todays second reading, that wants to give back two times the suffering to his enemy, the Abishai of the first reading, who wanted to nail his enemy to the ground, first reared his ugly head in Father’s words.

But then Christ, the new Adam, the Son of David, started to touch Father’s heart as he realized no, I can’t bear hatred in my heart. Before we can restore justice and peace to our country and our world after 9/11, we must first remember the words of Christ to temper justice with mercy and forgiveness, as hard as that is.

And really, of all the many challenging moral teachings Jesus gives us, forgiving our enemies, even loving our enemies, is probably the most difficult of them all. But forgiveness is in some ways the litmus test as to whether we really are follows of Christ. Love your enemies, and . . . . then . . . .you will be Sons of the Most High.

Thankfully, it is rare that we are faced with forgiving such a grievous offence as September 11. Usually it’s the little things people do that we must forgive — the little faults of the people we live and work with that day in and day out get on our nerves. But even forgiving people these things is very difficult, and really if we learn to forgive in little things, when big things happen we will be prepared to forgive them.

How do we forgive? Forgiveness is first and foremost an act of the will. We must, with the help of God’s grace, choose to forgive another person. Even if our feelings towards that other person are still feelings of anger and bitterness, we can still choose to forgive them and ask Jesus to help us to understand them and even start to love them, start to feel no anger or bitterness towards them.

This is why in the prayer Jesus commanded us to pray, the Our Father, we say “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” In some ways we are saying “I am trying right now Jesus to forgive that person in my speech, help me to forgive them in my heart and in my actions, so that you will forgive me.”

Forgiveness is also usually an ongoing struggle. We usually never really say “OK, I’ve forgiven that person and now that’s done with.” Police officer Steven McDonald is an example of this. In 1986 McDonald was shot in Central Park by a 15-year old teenager. The injury left him paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of his life. Officer McDonald and his wife turned to their Catholic faith and realized their need to forgive this young man. They have since been outspoken advocates of the need for forgiveness, traveling to Northern Ireland and Israel to give talks.

But Officer McDonald says it’s a daily struggle to forgive, but when he wins the struggle through prayer and the sacraments, he and his family have found great peace and healing, and have shared those gifts with many people.

I’d like to conclude with one last story about a little girl named Agnes. Agnes was born about 90 years ago in an Eastern European country that was being torn apart by a war between the two major ethnic groups living there.

When she was only 8 years old, her father Nicolas, an Albanian, was poisoned by the Serbians and died. It is said that Agnes brother never forgave the people who killed his father. He ended up dying a bitter old man.

But his sister Agnes turned to God and tried to forgive those men, as difficult as that was. As the years went on, Agnes became a nun, taking the name Theresa; now she is known to all the world as Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta.

But Blessed Mother Theresa became one of the children of the Most High everyone now knows her to be only by first choosing to love her enemies with the help Jesus offers every one of us, most especially in this Eucharist which we now celebrate.

Homily — 6th Sunday OT C February 11, 2007

Monday, February 12th, 2007

Homily — 6th Sunday OT C February 11, 2007

Possible location of Christ's Sermon on the Plain

Since the beginning of the Church Year, which began this past Advent, we have been reading each Sunday from the Gospel of Luke.

The Sunday Readings follow a Three Year Cycle. We are in Year C, which as I mentioned gives us the whole Gospel of St. Luke. Next Year we will be in Year A which is St. Matthew’s Gospel, and the Year after that is Year B: St. Mark’s Gospel.

St. John’s Gospel also gets kind of sprinkled in here and there, so that by the end of three years, we’ve read virtually all four books of the Gospels in their entirety in the Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies.

In today’s Gospel, St. Luke gives us his version of Jesus’ Sermon on the Beatitudes, that list of attitudes Jesus says are blessed, which means they give us real, lasting happiness.

St. Luke’s version is rather different than the much more well known version given in St. Matthew’s Gospel. For example, St. Matthew has eight Beatitudes, while St. Luke lists only four of those, leaving out Blessed are the Meek, the Peacemakers, the Merciful, and the Pure of Heart.

It appears that the two versions differ because they were perhaps two different sermons given by Jesus.

St. Matthew gives us the “Sermon on the Mount,” where Jesus is on top of the Mountain, sitting down, with the crowd listening below Him — in some ways, imitating the way God the Father spoke to His people on Mount Sinai in the Old Testament.

St. Luke, however, gives us the “Sermon on the Plain,” where Christ comes down from the Mountain and is standing on a stretch of level ground in the midst of the people who are listening to Him — this time imitating the way His Father used to go down into the Garden of Eden and walk and talk with Adam and Eve before the Fall.

And Jesus in today’s Gospel comes down from that Mountain, just as He comes down from Heaven, to tell us what attitudes we need to have, and what attitudes we need to avoid if we want to climb that Way which leads to Heaven, and if we want Paradise to begin to be restored here on earth through Christ’s grace.
To have true happiness, which is what is meant by Blessed, Christ says we must now and throughout our lives be poor, hungry, weeping, and hated:

  • Poor in our attachment to material goods and pleasures;
  • Hungry for God, for personal Holiness, and for Justice for the oppressed;
  • Weeping and sorrowing over our many sins of omission and commission;
  • and Hated, excluded, insulted, and called “evil” because we follow Christ and not the ways of the world.

If these Beatitudes are the Attitudes we’re striving to live by, Blessed are we, — we’re all right in Jesus’ Book.

But Woe (defined by Webster as “deep affliction and suffering) to us, Christ says, if we are presently rich, satisfied, laughing, or popular:

  • Woe if we are Rich, attached to things, craving bigger and better stuff rather than a deeper relationship with the invisible God;
  • Woe if we are Satisfied with our present lukewarm relationship to Jesus, if we aren’t moved to action by the injustice done to the “least of Christ’s brothers” around us;
  • Woe to us if we laugh at the Teachings of Christ and His Holy Church as if they were antiquated rules that don’t apply to our modern and enlightened age;
  • And finally, woe to us if we are liked by everyone, if we hide our Catholic faith and morality when we are out in the world, so as not to offend anyone by it.

If these are our Attitudes, cur-sed are we, — we’re not alright in Jesus’ Book, are names aren’t even written in His Book of Life, and our future has only grief, and want, misery and emptiness in store for us.

Our Gospel today really is good preparation for the upcoming Season of Lent which starts one week from Valentine’s Day this year.

Lent is the best time to get dirt poor through almsgiving to the needy, to get starving hungry through fasting from our favorite treats, to get weeping as we confess our sins to Jesus in the Sacrament of Penance (maybe at our parish’s All Day Confessions on Saturday, March 3rd?), and to then get more hated on account of Christ through doing all the above.

Blessed will we all be, come Easter, if we take advantage of this upcoming Lenten Season to conform our attitudes to the Beatitudes.