Archive for June, 2007

Homily — Nativity of St. John the Baptist MMVII 6/24/07

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Homily — Nativity of St. John the Baptist MMVII 6/24/07

Father Blain's ordination picture - before the beard

You will go before the Lord to prepare His way.

Almost a quarter of a century ago, in August of 1983, a dark haired, dark bearded man came driving in to town down Mendon Road in his 1980 Chevy Sedan.

Ronald Regan was in the White House, Buddy Cianci was mayor of Providence (for the first time around), Marquette Credit Union was going strong – and I was not even a junior in High School yet.

Cell phones, PC’s, the World Wide Web, and Route 99 were all still a long way off in the future.

As he pulled in to the garage of St. Joseph Rectory (which is now the Rectory Office), this dark haired, dark bearded priest turned off the 8-track player in his car, snuffed out his cigar in the ashtray, finished the can of Tab diet cola he’d been drinking, and took the final suitcases out of his car trunk.

Rev. Joseph Albert Lionel Blain, Doctor of Philosophy, had arrived to begin what was to be a 24 year term as Pastor of St. Joseph Church, ending this weekend as he says goodbye to us at the end of all the Sunday Masses.

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist. And although the world has changed much in the 24 years Father Blain has spent at St. Joseph, it pales in comparison to the changes which took place during the 34 years John the Baptist spent on earth.

For when John the Baptist arrived on earth, at his conception in the womb of his mother Elizabeth, Satan was still the reigning prince of the world.

The archangel Gabriel had not yet appeared to the Virgin Mary. No star of Bethlehem was yet seen, no “Glory to God in the Highest” was yet heard sung, and no Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world was yet to be found.

But in that 34 year period from the conception of John the Baptist to his death as a martyr, the Word became Flesh and Dwelt amongst us; Christ the Savior of the world was born in the manger; Jesus was Baptized in the Jordan River;

Water was turned into wine; The Gospel began finally to be proclaimed, and the Kingdom of God had come to earth as Satan’s empire began to crumble and fall.

And in the midst of all those historical changes which occurred during his lifetime, John the Baptist was no mere passive onlooker. By God’s grace, John was rather an active participant in ushering in the Kingdom of God. He was an active participant in preparing the Way of the Lord Jesus.

And you and I, and every baptized believer in Christ are also called by God, not to be passive onlookers but to be active participants in the building up of Christ’s Kingdom on earth.

This weekend, as Father Blain leaves us as Pastor, we should look back on the past quarter century and honor Father Blain for the many ways in which he has prepared the way for the Lord’s coming into the hearts of the people of East Woonsocket.

How through well over 6000 Masses, 6000 Sermons (6000 jokes?) Fr. Blain has gone before Christ in the spirit and power of Elijah.

How through the dozens of parish missions he organized, the dozens of weddings and baptisms he’s celebrated, the hundreds of confessions and funerals and anointings of the sick and dying he’s done, the countless hours of work for the homeless and for inter-religious dialogue — all have helped prepare a people fit for Lord.

And finally, we look back on 24 years of day to day administration, on the dozens of parish dinners and dances and picnics, and on the major renovation and expansion of the Church he saw to complete, and we thank God for all the ways Father Blain has, like John the Baptist, helped so many people to Behold the Lamb of God.

The Church celebrates the Birthday of John the Baptist every year in late June for two reasons.

One is because June 24 is one of the longest and brightest days of the year, naturally speaking. This is to symbolize what Jesus said of John: Of all those born of woman (naturally speaking), no one is greater than John the Baptist.

The second and more important reason is because it’s the time of year when the days start getting shorter and shorter each day until late December, when at around the time we celebrate Christ’s birth, the days start getting longer and longer. And this is to symbolize what John said of Jesus: He must increase, while I must decrease.

As Father Blain goes off to a well earned retirement, and as this (currently) dark haired priest speaking to you becomes pastor of this parish, and as we all look forward to whatever changes the coming years will hold for us, may those words of John the Baptist be always before us.

He must increase, while I must decrease. May our sinfulness, our selfishness, our fearfulness to do the Father’s Will decrease in each of us; and may His Love, His Peace, His Joy and His Gospel increase for Fr. Blain and all of us for many many years to come.

Homily – 11th Sunday Ordinary Time June 17, 2007

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

Homily – 11th Sunday Ordinary Time    June 17, 2007

The Supper at the House of Simon - Philippe de Champaigne c. 1656

In today’s Gospel we encounter two very different people dining at table with Jesus:  Simon the Pharisee, and an unnamed Woman.

Simon has invited Jesus to his house to dine with him.  But after examining this Pharisees actions, one might question why Simon did so in the first place.

With Jesus present right before his eyes, Simon’s eyes are busy instead staring with disapproval at the other people around him.

His heart is also entertaining doubts about Jesus, doubting that Jesus is really the Person who His disciples claim He is.

Finally, Simon barely shows any common courtesy to Our Lord, as is evidenced by the fact that he does none of the customary things Jews of his day would do when they invited a friend or important person over their house to dine with them.

Apparently, Simon either is very weak and lacking in charity and fervor towards Jesus, or else he has other motives for dining with Jesus than friendship and discipleship.

Now we turn to the woman at table with Jesus.  In contrast to Simon, the woman isn’t looking around at others.

Her tear-filled eyes and her repentant heart are totally fixed on the Lord.

The only persons sins she’s thinking about are her own many past sins, and Jesus’ example of sinlessness.

And unlike Simon the Pharisee, the woman has no doubt that Jesus is the Prophet that His disciples claim Him to be.

Finally, not content with giving Jesus just customary courtesy and affection given to ordinary guests, the woman publically shows Jesus more than that:  Before everyone present at the dinner she piously kisses the feet of Christ, and makes an sacrificial offering to him of costly perfume;

And because she has shown great love to Jesus, Her many sins are forgiven.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, at this and at every Mass we too invite Jesus to dine with us at our House of Worship.

We have built and kept up this Church building, and placed this Altar in it, and employed a Catholic priest, so that, every Sunday at least, Jesus can come and dine with us here at the Table of the Last Supper, sacramentally made present in the Eucharist.

And so as we recline at table today with Jesus, we should ask ourselves “Am I more like the Pharisee in today’s Gospel, or am I more like the woman in today’s Gospel?”

Do I, like Simon the Pharisee, find myself looking disapprovingly at that person in the other pew or up on the altar, do I find myself making rash judgments about them?

Do I like Simon find myself wavering in my faith, entertaining doubts about who the Church says Jesus is, and what He teaches?

Have I invited Jesus to dine with me today for the sole reason that I what Him to be my best friend and my Lord?

Have I shown Christ that I value His Presence at my House of Worship by dressing up appropriately for Holy Mass, by preparing spiritually before Mass begins, and by getting to Mass before it starts and leaving after it ends?

Am I trying rather to be like the woman in the Gospel,
not afraid to show piety and devotion towards Jesus?

When I enter Church do I genuflect reverently (assuming I have good knees)?  Do I consciously and devoutly make the
full sign of the cross over myself at the appropriate times?

Do I make a real bow during the recitation of the Creed, and remember to bow my head as a sign of reverence before receiving communion?

Do I say the Our Father, and the other prayers and responses of the Mass conscious of what I’m saying?

Or, do I rush through or carelessly do or say these outward actions of love and devotion?

More importantly, does being in Jesus’ presence make me inwardly like that woman, weeping both tears of sorrow over my past sins and tears of joy over Jesus’ goodness and mercy towards me?

Finally, am I, like the penitent woman, generous in my sacrificial giving to the Church and to the poor?

Am I offering Jesus fine perfume, or cheap cologne?

Jesus, as you come to dine with me today in this Eucharist, help me to more fully, consciously and actively acknowledge your Real Presence in my midst.

May I show you my great love, and may you show me your great Mercy.

Homily – Corpus Christi MMVII

Sunday, June 10th, 2007

Homily – Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi Sunday) June 10, 2007

Holy Eucharist from http://www.thecatholiclibrary.org/gallery2/1058-1/cath_image1.gif

We are in a deserted place here,” the Twelve said to Jesus.

“It’s getting darker out here, and all we have to give these 5000 men, with their wives and children, is a little bread, just enough bread for one wafer-sized piece each.”

And as Jesus listens to all this, His face lights up and He says “Perfect! You Twelve, arrange these families in groups of about 50 families each.”

And so the Apostles that day, in that deserted place, created one hundred little congregations, one hundred little parishes out of those scattered families. Some of the families belonged to St. Peter’s Parish, others belonged to St. Matthew’s Parish, other belonged to St. John’s or St. Andrew’s, and so on.

And once that was done, Jesus took the loaves of bread that they gave to Him. And being a priest like Melchizedek, a priest who will forever offer God bread and wine, looking up to Heaven, He said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the Apostles to give to their parishioners.

And that deserted place was no longer deserted; it was filled with the glory of Almighty God.

All ate and were satisfied. All the families of those 100 parishes created that day by Jesus gave praise to God with one voice.

And all went home that day changed people, people with a deeper faith in Christ, people with a greater hope that God was with them in their trials, people with a stronger love for God and for one another.

And Jesus Himself went home that day saying “I can’t wait. I can’t wait for the day when I really feed them with the Bread of Life.”

“I can’t wait for the day when these my apostles build Churches for these groups of families. I can’t wait for the day when in these Churches they again bring their bread before me; and then I will do something even more miraculous than multiply it, I will transubstantiate it into my very Body Blood Soul and Divinity.

“I can’t wait for the day when in Churches all over the world, until the end of time, I will give them Bread from Heaven, having all sweetness within it.”

“And He who eats this Bread will have life eternal: the fulness of life in this life, and life everlasting in the next life.”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, what the Apostles initially said to Jesus that day can still be said by us in our day: “Lord, we are in a deserted place here.”

For apart from the Eucharist, this world is a deserted place.

Without the Eucharist, my soul, your soul is a deserted place.

A place deserted and emptied of love, of peace, of unity.

But the Eucharist is capable of filling this world, capable of filling my soul and yours to the brim with the Love of God, the Peace of Christ, the Unity of the Spirit; It is capable of filling us with Truth, Mercy and Divine Life.

All who eat this bread will not feel deserted, but satisfied.

But sadly, in our day, how many Catholics have themselves deserted Jesus present in the Eucharist?

Jesus asks each of us for only one hour a week out of 168, to come to Church and adore Him in the Eucharist with our brothers and sisters, to unite our prayers to His one great prayer to the Father, and to unite our crosses to His one and only saving Cross.

In return, Jesus blesses us with supernatural graces in abundance and gives us the strength and wisdom to be His good and faithful servant for another week.

But each weekend, over half the Catholics in our country just blow Jesus off, cannot even give our Lord one hour of their week to publically worship Him. No wonder our Churches are closing, no wonder we have a shortage of priests if parents and godparents could care less about getting to church on Sunday.

But an even greater scandal are those Catholics who do receive Jesus in the Eucharist on Sunday, and then desert Jesus and His teachings Monday — Saturday in their words and actions.

Bishop Tobin has this past week spoken out about this problem, and Pope Benedict recently wrote about it as well, saying we all need to have Eucharistic Consistency — in other words, our partaking of the Body of Christ must be consistent with a moral life and faith life in keeping with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

For example, if we can’t say “Amen” to the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of Human Life from conception to natural death, we shouldn’t be saying “Amen” and receiving Jesus in the Communion Line.

On this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, may we renew our commitment never to desert Jesus truly with us in the Blessed Sacrament.

Rather, may we spend as much time as we can with Him in Adoration, paying a visit to Him in Church during the week (or at least making the sign of the cross on our foreheads whenever we pass a Catholic Church where Jesus is present in the Tabernacle).

May Jesus, truly present to us in the Most Blessed Sacrament, turn all the deserted places into Gardens of Paradise by His Real Presence dwelling among us.

Homily – Trinity Sunday C June 3, 2007

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

Homily – Solemnity of the Most Blessed Trinity
The Trinity, 1414 Workshop of Master of the Gerona Martyrology

For the past 3 years, the most watched television show in the country has been American Idol.

Each year, thousands of young aspiring singers compete in the hope of being voted the greatest performer in the nation.

So for the past 5 years or so, the U.S. has never been lacking in American Idol wannabees.

And in a similar way, since the fall of Adam and Eve, our world has never been lacking in World Idol wannabees — persons, spirits, or philosophies who are competing against each other for the title of god.

Past American Idol winners include Kelly, Ruben, and Carrie; and most recently, Taylor and Jordin.

Past World Idol winners include Zeus, Baal, and Thor; and most recently, Money, Sex and Power.

Who the currently reigning World Idol is, is determined the same way the currently reigning American Idol is: the one who gets the most votes.

But sometimes in the TV show, a contestant who doesn’t come in first place goes on to prove him or herself more talented and worthy than the winner.

And so it is was when in the days of Abraham, when all the mediocre idols of little to no talent were getting all the praise, the LORD to whom all power and glory belongs called Abraham to renounce all other gods and worship the LORD alone.

And as the children of Abraham began to multiply, in the days of Israel, to the Days of Moses, to the Days of King David and King Solomon, it was more and more clearly seen that this underdog God of the Hebrews was indeed the all powerful and only One True God.

And so, the whole purpose of the Old Testament was to teach people that out of all the thousands of contestants for World Idol, One and only one was worthy of that title, that there was only One God and that was the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob.

But even in the Old Testament, something was different about the One True God.

For example, in the Book of Genesis God doesn’t say “Let me make man in my own image.” No, God says “Let us make man in our own image.”

And then there’s this very strange passage that says the LORD appeared to Abraham by the Terebinth at Mamre. Looking up Abraham saw three men standing there. But then, at the end of the story, after they have dinner, there’s only one standing there! Three, One, what’s going on?

And then, when the fulness of time came, God sent His Son into the world. And Jesus the Son of the Father showed by His words and actions that He too was worthy of beating out all of the world idols and laying hold of the title of King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

And so the Four Gospels show us clearly that while there is only One True God, there appears to be two persons in that One True God, the Father and Jesus the Son.

But the Gospels hint at there being another Person, God the Holy Spirit.

Jesus tells the disciples to baptize not in the name of the Father and of the Son, but in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

And the rest of the New Testament combined with the Gospels makes this all clear. In the Acts of the Apostles we see the Holy Spirit working through the Apostles, doing and teaching the same things Jesus did and taught. In every land the Holy Spirit has entered through the missionary action of the Church, the Holy Spirit has outperformed all the competition.

And so we come to the greatest and deepest mystery of our faith, that the One Only True God is a Blessed Trinity of Three Divine Persons.

Three distinct Persons, one blessed Unity. Each Person retains their individuality while being totally One with the other two.

As we celebrate Trinity Sunday, may we who have been baptized into this Holy Trinity cast off all idols, American and otherwise, from the place in our heart that rightly belongs to Him. May this Eucharist grant us a greater share in that communion with the Father Son and Holy Spirit, with Mary and the Angels and the Saints, and with one another.