Archive for October, 2007

Homily — 30th Sunday OT C October 28, 2007

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Homily — 30th Sunday OT C                October 28, 2007

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

In the Gospel, we meet two men:   one who exalts himself before God (you could even say over God), who goes home unjustified and humbled;  and another who humbles himself before God (you could even say he puts himself under God), who goes home justified and exalted.

If we want to fully understand this parable, it’s very important that we realize that it could easily have been told the other way around, with the Pharisee humbling himself and the tax collector exalting himself.

The big problem for example with the Pharisee wasn’t that he was a Pharisee who tried to live a very upright moral life.  It wasn’t even that he was boasting about the virtues he had.

If you don’t believe me, notice how in the second reading, St. Paul the Apostle is boasting about his virtues:  I have competed well, I have kept the faith, the Lord will award me a crown of righteousness.

The difference between Paul and the Pharisee is that Paul hasn’t let it all get to his head, while the Pharisee has.   The Pharisee uses his good deeds and religion as something which makes him feel superior to everyone else.  It’s this attitude of superiority that’s the problem:   O God I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity: greedy, dishonest, adulterous.

i.e., I’m generous, but everyone else is greedy and tight.   I’m honest, but everyone else is a two faced liar.  I’m pure, but everyone else had a dirty mind.

And not only does the Pharisee think this about humanity in general, but worse he thinks it about each one in particular.   Every time he looks at someone, like the tax collector, he likes to find in them faults and sins which makes him feel superior to them.

Had the Pharisee had a different attitude, and prayed a different way, he would have went home justified also.   Had he prayed: “God thank you for keeping me from falling into greed.  Thank you for giving me a conscience which won’t let me tell a lie no matter what.  Thank you God for the wife you gave me and the love I have for her, and the grace you’ve given me to be faithful to my marriage vows.

“Help me God to keep fasting twice a week like I’ve been doing.  Help me to keep giving 10% of my income to charity.  May I not be tempted in the future to turn away from you.”

That is the prayer of a humble Pharisee who God will exalt.

Now, we look at the sinful yet humble tax collector of the parable, who has none of the virtues the Pharisee has.   It  certainly isn’t his many sins which Jesus is pleased with.  It’s rather his attitude towards his sins that justifies him.  And again, the tax collector could just as easily have exalted himself:  he could have said “It’s not my fault that I am the way I am God.  If I didn’t have the parents I have, if I didn’t have the wife and kids I have, I’d be a lot different person.

“And anyway God, what I do isn’t really so bad anyway.  I’m a good person, I don’t kill anyone, do I?  And at least I’m not like that holier than thou Pharisee up in the front row!”

Had this been his exalted and proud attitude, he would have been humbled by God.  But instead, the tax collector has a humble attitude about himself.  For one thing, despite his many sins of greed and dishonesty and betraying his own people, and maybe not a few other big doozies, the tax collector is there at Church, a place where all the sins he’s committed will be brought to light, where his conscience is going to be challenged by the readings and the sermons.

If the tax collector wanted to keep sinning, he would have been better off going to a bar than a Church, which means he’s at least looking for God and holiness in his life.   And at the Church he feels rightly ashamed even to look up to Heaven at God.  He only beats his breast and ask for mercy: “Forgive me God.  I am a sinner.  Help me to quit this sinful job of mine and like Matthew did, to start a new life with you.”

And  in doing so, the tax collector left the Temple one step closer to God and his neighbor, while the Pharisee left one step further away from both.

Whether we find ourselves with big sins like the tax collector, or by God’s grace with big virtues like the Pharisee and St. Paul, may this Eucharist we celebrate help us to humble ourselves, that God may exalt us.

Homily — 29th Sunday OT C Oct. 21, 2007

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

Homily — 29th Sunday OT C         Oct. 21, 2007

In the First Reading, God’s people are being attacked by their enemies.

So Moses asks Joshua to go down and fight against them, while he and Aaron and Hur go up a mountain to pray for victory.

And so long as Moses’ hands are held up to God in prayer, Joshua gets the better of the fight.  But when Moses got tired of praying, the enemies of Israel began to win.

What we have in this Old Testament passage is a beautiful image of the power of prayer, and of the necessity for us to pray always without becoming weary as Jesus teaches us in the Gospel.

In this fallen world we live in, God’s people are always under attack from the three fold enemy of the world, the flesh and the devil.

And just as in the Old Testament it was a man named Joshua leading God’s people in battle, so in the New Testament it is a man named Jeshua, Hebrew for Jesus, who fights and wins the victory for us.

And Jesus will, today in our world, in our families and communities, defeat evil and injustice and sin and despair if and only if His people are praying constantly without becoming weary as He tells us in the Gospel.

Prayer is so very very important, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem like many people realize this.

One of the early Church Fathers, Tertullian, has this to say about the importance of prayer:

(Prayer) gives the armor of patience to those who suffer, who feel pain, who are distressed.

The prayer of the just turns aside the whole anger of God (and) pleads for persecutors.

Prayer is the one thing that can conquer God. But Christ has willed that (prayer) should work no evil, and has given it all power over good.

Its only art is . . . .to give strength to the weak, to heal the sick, to exorcise the possessed, to open prison cells, to free the innocent from their chains.

Prayer cleanses from sin, drives away temptations, stamps out persecutions, comforts the fainthearted, gives new strength to the courageous, brings travelers safely home, calms the waves, confounds robbers, feeds the poor, humbles the rich, lifts up the fallen, supports those who are falling, sustains those who stand firm.

What more need be said on this duty of prayer? Even the Lord himself prayed. To him be honor and power for ever and ever. Amen.

Think for a moment about how much time and effort one must spend to keep one’s body in good health.

We need to brush and floss our teeth every day.
Stay away from junk food
Get exercise
Eat a balanced diet
Get enough sleep
Practice good hygiene like washing our hands before eating

We need to get periodic physicals and cancer screenings

If we don’t take the time to do these things on a daily  or other periodic basis, our physical health will deteriorate.

Well, it is the same way with our spiritual health.

To keep our souls in good shape,

we need to take 5 or 10 minutes of personal prayer each day,

we need to take time for good spiritual reading each week,

We need to examine our consciences every night or at least once a week.

We need to get to Mass every Sunday and on Holy Days.

We need to foster devotion to the Virgin Mary.

And we need to get to confession at least once a year.

If we keep our souls in as good physical shape as we try to keep our bodies, we’ll see Jesus and His army of love get the better of the battle in the world we live in.

May this Eucharist we celebrate inspire us to pray more frequently and fervently, so that when Jesus the Son of Man returns, He will find fervent faith in our hearts.

No Homily this Week . . .

Monday, October 15th, 2007

I didn’t preach a normal homily this weekend, as our parish had its in pew pledging for our Capital Campaign.  See you next weekend!

“From the Pastor” column this Respect Life Sunday

Sunday, October 7th, 2007

Note:  To commemorate Respect Life Sunday, I wrote this ”From the Pastor” column which was included in this week’s parish bulletin.  I would have preached it, but there was a special talk given at Mass regarding our Capital Campaign, and I feared it would be too long.  It ended up that the homily I actually preached ended up being about the same length.  For the homily I preached this weekend, click here .

The St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacres of 1572 — and 2006

August 24 on the Church Calendar is the Feast of the Apostle St. Bartholomew; it is also the anniversary of two of the most shameful days in Western history.

On August 24, 1572, the Catholic government of France gave sanction to the killing of all members of the French Protestant group, the Huguenots.  That day over 7000 Huguenot men, women and children were mercilessly killed by mob violence throughout France, in what has become infamously known as the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

Unfortunately, an equally horrible assault on innocent human life occurred just one year ago, again on St. Bartholomew’s Day, this time sanctioned by our own secular US government.  On August 24, 2006, the FDA approved over-the-counter sales of the “morning-after pill,” Plan B, as a non-prescription drug to anyone over 18.

If you do a Google News Search of Plan B, you will read over and over again in the major news media that Plan B “doesn’t terminate a pregnancy.”  “Barr (Pharmaceuticals, the company that makes the pills) says it has no effect on women who are already pregnant” says a September 2007 Associated Press article.  This is doublespeak at its finest, for while Plan B won’t terminate a pregnancy, it will “terminate” (doublespeak for “kill”) a newly conceived human being prior to its attachment to his or her mother’s womb.  The new human life won’t be able to implant him- or herself precisely because of  this “emergency contraception” (which isn’t a contraceptive at all, but an abortifacient, as a conception (fertilization) very often has already taken place by the “morning after”).

How great of a massacre has occurred so far?  “The company projects that sales of Plan B will total about $80 million for 2007″ says the same article, noting that this is eight times the amount sold in 2004 when the drug was prescription only.  At an average $40 a box (a well known Woonsocket based Pharmacy sells it for $45), that’s 2,000,000 doses of Plan B this year alone. 

May our prayers and sacrifices this Respect Life Month of October help every one of us in our nation, young and old, to reject “Plan B” and to embrace “Plan C” — the Plan of Conversion to Christ, of welcoming God’s great gift of Children, of learning and promoting the virtue of Chastity, and of building the Culture of Life.

Homily — 27th Sunday OT C 10/07/07

Sunday, October 7th, 2007

 

 Homily — 27th Sunday OT C      10/07/07

 In the first reading today, we hear the Prophet Habakkuk send up an anguished  prayer to Heaven: How long, O LORD? I cry for help but you do not listen!  I cry out to you “Violence” but you do not intervene.

 The LORD answers this prayer by telling Habakkuk to write down the vision (I give you) clearly . . . . so that one can read it readily . . . .for the vision presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint.

 We observe this Sunday in the Church Respect Life Sunday.  We look around at all the offenses against innocent human life in our world today — at the genocide going on in Africa, the war and terrorism in the Middle East, the sex slave trade in Asia, entering even into our own state, and the continued taking of innocent unborn and newly conceived life in our own country.  Looking at all these offenses, our prayer could well be that Habakkuk:  How long O LORD?  I cry for help but you do not listen!  I cry out to you “Violence” but you do not intervene.

 But the LORD tells us who follow His Son to also write down the vision upon our hearts, and to read that vision God has written in our hearts readily each and every day, and strive to live according to that vision.

 My brothers and sisters, the vision that presses on to fulfillment, the vision that will surely come is the Vision of a Culture of Life.

 This vision, written there in our hearts, is a vision of people respecting other people and themselves as created in the image of God.

 It is a vision of people of one race respecting people of other races.

 A vision of men respecting and not exploiting women, and of women respecting and not using men.

 The vision that presses on to fulfillment is one of individuals and especially governments respecting and protecting the unborn, the newly conceived, and the elderly.

 It is a vision of society once again valuing and extolling lifelong marriage, the family, chastity and virginity. 

 It is even a vision of a world where swords are beaten into plowshares — where arguments and differences and conflicts are solved without guns and bombs.

 This is God’s vision, which must be written in the heart of everyone who claims to follow Christ.  A vision that, as the prophet says will surely come to be a reality for those who wait for it with faith and strive to live by this vision.

 It certainly is easy, in this world in which we live, to grow discouraged and despair of this vision ever becoming a reality.  This is because we lack faith:  when the apostles said to the Lord in today’s Gospel “Increase our faith”, Jesus told them “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could move mountains and giant trees.  The problem is, you guys don’t even have faith the size of a mustard seed!  Realize how much in need you are of faith in my Gospel.”

 On this Respect Life Sunday, may Jesus truly increase our faith, that we may bear our share of hardship for the Gospel in embracing and building a culture of Life with the strength that comes from God.