Archive for May, 2007

Homily – Pentecost Sunday MMVII

Sunday, May 27th, 2007

Homily – Pentecost Sunday                        May 27, 2007
Pentecost by DUCCIO di Buoninsegna

The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles begins When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled.

We have reached the last and (in many ways) greatest day of the Feast of Easter (cf. the Gospel for the Vigil of Pentecost).  The time for Pentecost, a greek word meaning “The Fiftieth Day,” has been fulfilled.

We end the Easter Season with one of the greatest feasts of our religion:  we celebrate the Day the Holy Spirit came down upon the earth and began to set it ablaze with the Love of God.

Whether it was God the Father’s idea, God the Son’s idea, or the God the Holy Spirit’s own idea, this Day was historically the very day chosen for the Spirit to Descend and for the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church to be born into the world.

And people didn’t start calling this day “Pentecost” because of what happened 50 days after Jesus rose from the dead.  It was named Pentecost over a thousand years before that time!

For the Holy Spirit landed on earth on one of the High Holy Feast Days of the Old Testament, known by the Israelites as “The Feast of Seven Weeks” or in Greek “Pentecost”.

Pentecost back then was the Day, 50 Days after the Passover, that the first fruits of the season were all Harvested.  It was kind of like a late spring Thanksgiving Day for the New Fruits God had gifted His People with after a long cold winter.

This of course was a forshadowing of the New Eternal Fruits of the Holy Spirit God was to Gift His People with on this very day, after the long winter of Sin which began when Adam and Eve fell, was finally over.

Another aspect of the Old Feast of Pentecost was that it was the same Day that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on the top of Mount Sinai, written by God on two Tablets of Stone.

But on this New Feast of Pentecost, God writes His Law not on Stone Tablets, but upon our hearts of flesh.

And there’s one other little way God prepared us in the Old Testament for this great feast.

The Old Pentecost was Fifty Days after the Passover, which was also called the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

For Seven Days after Passover, the Israelites were only to eat flat, unleavened bread.   St. Paul alludes to this when in 1st Corinthians he says Clear out the old yeast (of malice and wickedness), for our passover lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.

The Old Passover was the feast of unleavened Bread, but the Old Pentecost was the Feast of Leavened Bread:  the Day they were explicitly told by God to offer and eat Bread that was leavened with yeast.

And in the same way, the New Pentecost is the Day when the Holy Spirit adds the leaven to the unleavened dough of our souls.   Those who have cleared out the old yeast of sin and evil, now rise by the New Yeast of the Holy Spirit to acts of virtue and goodness.

I will end by quoting Deuteronomy 16:10-11, which is even more applicable today than it was in Moses’ Day:

The Lord says:  You shall then keep (Pentecost) in honor of the LORD, your God, and your gift shall be in proportion to the blessing the LORD, your God has bestowed on you.

In the LORD’s house that day you shall make merry in His presence, together with your son and daughter, your male and female servant, and the priest who belongs to your community, as well as the stranger, the orphan and the widow among you.  Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, and carry out these statutes carefully.

The time for Pentecost has been fulfilled.  May we, this last and greatest day of the Feast of Easter, offer ourselves, soul and body, to the Eternal Holy Spirit of God, and make merry in the Lord’s presence, as we celebrate the Birthday of the Church.

Homily – 7th Sunday Easter C

Monday, May 21st, 2007

Homily — 7th Sunday Easter C MMVII May 20, 2007
Christ Enthroned

We could call these last 9 Days of the Easter Season “Ascensiontide”. It is the time of year when the Church invites us to reflect on the great mystery of Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven.

The mystery of the Ascension is in a way the conclusion of the mystery of Christmas.

During Christmastide we reflected on how the Eternal Word of God, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, made that long journey down from those glorious heights of heaven, and reaching earth, then forever joined Himself to a human soul and body, and was born in a manger in Bethlehem.

But during this Ascensiontide, we now reflect on how, in the words of Pope St. Leo the Great, “our poor human nature was carried up, in Christ, above all the hosts of heaven, above all the ranks of angels, beyond the highest heavenly powers to the very throne of God the Father.”

Christmas challenges us to believe that God loved us so much He came down here and became one like all of us.

But the Ascension challenges us to believe that God loved us so much He took us back home with Him, and made all of us like Him!

Humanity redeemed by Christ has now been raised to the heights of the Divinity. Notice how St. Stephen in the first reading sees The Son of Man, not kneeling below God, but standing at the right hand, standing alongside of God.

It’s no wonder the Jews were covering their ears, that would be a blasphemous thing to say if God didn’t become a man in Jesus Christ.

And as St. Paul says in the Letter to the Ephesians, quoting from one of the Psalms: When He ascended on high, He took with Him an army of captives.

God came down from Heaven traveling by Himself (and a few angels); He returns to Heaven with lots of company. And that company doesn’t just include the souls of the just who died before His first coming, St. Joseph, Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, etc. No, it also includes you and me and all the baptized still on earth, who are called to Ascend with Himin spirit”.

And that is just what we do whenever we celebrate the Holy Eucharist. Jesus at Mass doesn’t get off His throne in Heaven to appear to us in the Eucharist. He will stay right where He is until the day His father tells Him to return to earth to judge the living and the dead.

But what Jesus does do at every Eucharist is raise us up to receive Him, Body Blood Soul and Divinity, in Heaven. Every Mass is a spiritual Ascension for us all.

What does it mean to spiritually Ascend to Heaven? St. Paul in Colossians says If you were raised with Christ, seek that which is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. . . .

Therefore, put to death that part of you which is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion . . . . and greed, which is idolatry.

. . .(instead) put on (that which is Heavenly) heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, (forgiveness and thankfulness).

May the mystery of Christ’s Ascension raise our human nature up and away from base and earthly things, to ever higher heights of holiness.

Pentecost Approacheth – Have you prayed your Novena to the Holy Spirit yet today?

Friday, May 18th, 2007

Pentecost Sunday

Click here for a great Novena to the Holy Spirit, published in 1912 by the Holy Spirit Fathers.

Homily — Ascension Thursday MMVII May 16, 2007

Friday, May 18th, 2007

Homily — Ascension Thursday MMVII            May 16, 2007

icon of the ascension
St. Luke gives us a detail of Our Lord’s Ascension that the other three Evangelists leave out.

St. Luke says that as (Jesus) blessed them, He parted from them and was taken up to Heaven.

Luke’s account of Jesus blessing His disciples is not only unique among the accounts of the Ascension, it is also unique among the whole of the Gospels.  In other words, this is the only time we see Jesus giving a blessing over all his disiples.

This is very peculiar when you stop to think about it.

Once Jesus began His public ministry, He wasted no time in healing anyone who came to Him.   Neither did it take very long before Christ was casting demons out of people.  Also from the very beginning, Jesus taught on a frequent basis anyone who would stop and listen to his preaching.

So we see frequent healings, exorcisms, sermons and even miracles from Jesus, but never does Jesus give a blessing to the crowds or to individual persons.

There’s only one exception, and that’s the day Jesus blessed the little children.  Whether it was a kiddie blessing or the full thing, we won’t know until the next life.

But leaving that one exception aside, today we see the Risen Lord Jesus, 40 days after Easter Sunday, finally let loose and Bless His disciples.

And St. Luke says as He blessed them, He parted from them and was taken up to Heaven.

It’s as if Jesus’ Blessing was so powerful that all of Jesus went into that Blessing and nothing of Him remained on the earth except that Blessing.

And that’s really what did happen.

Pope Benedict before he became Pope wrote an essay on the Ascension, and he says the blessing of Jesus is the reason why the disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy.  The blessing of the Risen Lord went with them and remained always with them.

I dwell on this passage because it shows us how much we should value receiving a blessing, especially an official blessing of the Church.

Every blessing of a priest in a way re-presents that one blessing Jesus gave as He ascended into heaven.   We priests tap into the power of Christ when we bless people.

But there’s an even greater way we all can receive the Ascension blessing of Jesus, and that’s through the seven sacraments Jesus left us.  Jesus’ last words were I am with you always until the end of the age.  And He blessed us and disappeared.

He is with us always now through the Sacraments, especially through the sacrament of the Eucharist.

May the powerful blessing Jesus gives us today raise us up to the heights of heaven, that His Kingdom may be built on earth.

Homily — 6th Sunday Easter C May 13, 2007

Monday, May 14th, 2007

Homily — 6th Sunday Easter C                May 13, 2007

the new jerusalem c. 1255 london manuscript

 I am going away, and I will come back  . . . .

In both today’s Liturgy, and in today’s News stories, we see religious leaders going away on trips abroad.

The days of Easter Season are winding down, and Jesus in the Gospel is preparing us for the big trip He will take this Thursday — Ascension Thurday — to His Father’s house.

As Jesus prepares to travel to Heaven, in the first reading we see Paul, Barnabas, Judas and Silas also going away on a much smaller scaled but still historically significant trip — from the Apostles’ Headquarters in Jerusalem to the Church in Antioch (in what’s today Turkey), bringing with them the decrees of the First Church Council of Jerusalem.

Turning from the Ancient Scriptures to today’s Newspapers, there’s Pope Benedict XVI making headlines as he wraps up his week in Brazil and flies home today, leaving those 151 million Catholics of Brazil, the most Catholic country in the world, renewed in their Faith.

And then, while it had nothing to do with religion per se, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, the spiritual head of all Anglican Christians, also went away this past week to our country for the 400th Anniversary of the first American Settlement in Jamestown Virginia (and also to watch the big horse race).

Finally, in the second reading we are reminded of a trip we are all one day going to have to take:  the trip from this world to the next, from the earthly city to the heavenly city.

It’s a trip we best start preparing for today.

We prepare for our going away from this life by taking hold of the Peace Jesus has given us, the Peace which flows from the Eucharist, the Peace which is the Holy Spirit.

In this week’s Providence Visitor (which by the way is soon to be renamed the Rhode Island Catholic) Father Kiley has an interesting “Quiet Corner” column about the Sign of Peace we exchange at Mass before Holy Communion, reminding us that we’re not exchanging a natural human peace with our neighbor in the Sign of Peace, but The supernatural Divine Peace Jesus gave to us at the Last Supper.

And what we do symbolically before communion, we need to do concretely out there in the world, if we want one day to be going away to the Eternal City of Jerusalem.  We must live the Peace of Christ as we journey through this life.

Reading this description St. John gives of the Heavenly City actually reminded me of that Jamestown Settlement that Queen Elizabeth visited this week.

I recently watched a recently released movie on DVD called “The New World” which I really liked and would recommend (although its one of those movies that people either really like or really find boring).

The movie producers re-created rather accurately the original Jamestown Fort that the settlers first built and lived within.  The Jamestown Fort was in many ways the total opposite to the New Jerusalem St. John describes:    Instead of a high wall made of precious gems, it had a jagged wall of rough boards.  Instead of streets of gold, it had mud and dirt everywhere.  Instead of eternal happiness, there was disease, hunger, and constant threat of war.

In some ways, that Jamestown fort was kind of like this earth in miniature.   But there’s a beautiful uplifting scene in the movie, based seemingly on a true historical incident.  The colonists are on the verge of starvation during their first winter, thinking this is the end, when the beautiful Pocahontas, the Princess of the Native Americans, enters the gates of the Jamestown Fort with provisions and relief, and saves the colony from annihilation.

And in the same way, to rescue us from Spiritual Starvation and the Sickness of Sin, the Queen of Heaven and Earth, our Mother Mary enters into our cold world with her treasure house of graces and blessings.

We wish Mary, and all our earthly mothers who strive to imitate her, a blessed and happy Mother’s Day.  May Christ the Son of Mary bless our mothers with His Peace, and bring us all to that eternal Jerusalem once our journey through this life is ended.