Archive for November, 2007

Homily — Christ the King MMVII Nov. 25, 2007

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Homily — Christ the King MMVII Nov. 25, 2007

There’s an interesting line in today’s First Reading from the Second Book of Samuel.

The last line says that “They (the people of Israel) anointed (David) King of Israel.

What’s very interesting about that Old Testament passage is that in every other Scripture passage, God, not the people, anoints David King of Israel.

Just one example, Psalm 89:19-20, states: “I (the Lord) have set the crown on one who is mighty, I have exalted one chosen from the people. I have found my servant David; with my holy oil I have anointed him.

But the One, True God doesn’t force anything on anyone; God wanted His people to freely choose the man He had anointed to be their King. They could have rejected David, and God, while He wouldn’t have been happy, would have respected their choice.

And just as God wanted His People to choose for themselves to have David rule over them as their King, so God also wants us His People to choose for ourselves to have Jesus, the Son of David, to rule over us as our King.

We celebrate today the Solemnity of Christ the King this last Sunday of the Church’s Liturgical Year. We proclaim Jesus to be the One anointed by God to be the Eternal King, not just of Israel but of all Creation, the King who all peoples and rulers must serve.

But like King David, God will not force His Anointed King Jesus on anyone. You and I and every man and woman must choose to anoint Jesus King over themselves, you and I and everyone else must choose to serve or not to serve the King of Kings.

To drive this important point home to us, Jesus allowed Himself to be betrayed, abandoned, spit upon, scourged, crowned with thorns and crucified. If God wanted to force people to serve His anointed Son, He could have sent armies of angels to stop the crucifixion. But He didn’t, if people wanted to reject God’s anointed, God and Jesus would respect their choice.

And so we see in the Gospel, Jesus the True and Just King nailed to a Cross, while many corrupt civil rulers sneer at Jesus, refusing to serve Christ the King.

We even see many Faithless Religious Leaders sneering at Jesus the King, not only on Good Friday but down through history, rejecting His truth and commandments and leading God’s people astray.

Many Military and Police, whose job it is to serve and protect, are also among those who choose to reject God’s anointed, and they too join in with the civil and religious leaders and the crowds in mocking the King of Kings.

But while the majority of people at the Cross, and perhaps a majority of people down through history, seem to choose not to anoint Jesus as their King, a small minority of people do anoint Him their King at the Cross and down through the ages.

Nicodemus, a civil ruler, along with Joseph of Aramathea, a religious ruler, go over to Jesus’ side by the end of the day. John the Apostle and Priest, the Virgin Mary and a few other Holy Women stay faithful to the end. The Centurion Soldier shouts out Surely this was the Son of God, and takes Jesus as His King. And finally, a criminal crucified with Jesus votes to anoint Jesus King over his poor wretched soul.

And really, the Good Thief teaches us all we need to know about serving the King of Kings. While almost everyone else around him mocks Jesus and tells lies and half truths about His teachings, the Good Thief isn’t afraid to defend Jesus, even while hanging on the Cross. The Good Thief also isn’t afraid to accept responsibility for his sinful actions. He knows that his punishment is a just one for his many crimes, and doesn’t try to deny his guiltiness.

And lastly, even though Jesus hangs on the Cross before him, rejected by the powerful of the world, rejected by even the majority of his disciples, just minutes away from a horrible death, the Good Thief still makes an incredible statement of faith in Jesus’ Kingship, of faith in Christ’s Resurrection, and of faith in Christ’s Great Mercy. This criminal says, Jesus, remember me when you come into Your Kingdom.

In effect this Good Thief is saying “Jesus I believe you are truly the King of Heaven and Earth, and that even Death must obey you. I believe that You will be King in that world where peace and goodness rules the day. I don’t deserve to go there Jesus, because of all the terrible things I’ve done in this life, but I believe that if you even just remembered me when you were finally in your Kingdom, knowing that You thought of me there would make any punishment I face bearable.”

And Jesus said to him, and to all the good thieves of the world “By order of the King of Kings, this day you will be with me in Paradise.”

Homily — Thanksgiving MMVII November 22, 2007

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

Homily — Thanksgiving MMVII            November 22, 2007

The Gospel today reminds us that Thanksgiving has two parts to it:  being Thankful, and giving Thanks.

All ten of those lepers could very well have been thankful for being healed, but only one of the ten actually gave thanks to Jesus.

And so today, we want to also do both things: we want to be thankful for the blessings bestowed on us, to take time to reflect on all we have to be thankful for

And then we want to give thanks in concrete ways to those who have blessed us.

In reflecting on what I personally have to be thankful for this past year, I’m actually having a harder time finding things I’m not thankful for.  There’s so many things I am really thankful for these days!

I’m thankful to God for my Catholic faith, for my vocation as a priest, and for the many ways I’ve seen Him work through me as a priest.

I’m very grateful for our Pope, Pope Benedict.  He is a scholar and a gentleman, a true Shepherd and a faithful Christian, and all those things I thank him for.  When he comes to New York City next April I hope I can tell him that in person!

I’m also very grateful for our Bishop, Bishop Tobin.  I’m grateful for the way he’s accessible to the people of Rhode Island, and for the gentle but firm way he publicly proclaims and defends our Catholic faith.

Of course, I’m also thankful that the Bishop made me the Pastor here!  The other day someone asked me if it’s sunk in yet that I’m now a Pastor, and I said I’m still can’t get over that I’m a priest!

And again, so far it’s very hard for me to find something about being Pastor of St. Joseph’s that I’m not thankful for.

I’m thankful for the legacy Fr. Blain left me, and for Fr. Blain himself.   I’m thankful for my part time live in Associate Fr. Marcin, who certainly is a big help for me and is a joy to live and work with.

I’m thankful for all of you St. Joseph parishioners — for the affirmation and prayers and support you give me every week.

I’m thankful for the great staff of employee I have, and the various groups in the parish that make everything run so smoothly.

I’m thankful for my brother priests in our city, for our Catholic Schools especially Good Shepherd School.

Lastly I’m thankful for my parents and the rest of my immediate family, for our present good health and well being.

I kind of wish I could put some of these blessings in a savings account.

But God is good, and even in the Crosses, even in those years when there’s a lot of struggles, He teaches us to be thankful regardless, to be thankful for the Cross which makes us more Christ like.

And so, my prayer for all of us this Thanksgiving is that we will always be like that Leper in the Gospel, realizing the many blessings God has poured out on us, being truly thankful for those blessings, and then finally giving thanks for those blessings in a concrete way, to God, and to all those who have blessed us.

Homily — 32nd Sunday OT C November 11, 2007

Monday, November 12th, 2007

Homily — 32nd Sunday OT C                November 11, 2007

Recently I was preparing an engaged couple for marriage, and in the course of my preparation I happened to refer in passing to this Old Testament passage in today’s Gospel, where it say that if an Israelite man died leaving a wife but no child, his brother must marry the wife of his deceased brother.   And the woman engaged to married said to me “That’s not still a rule is it?” And she looked at her fiance and said “I could never marry your brother!”

We believe as Christians that the law of marrying your dead brother’s wife and the law of not eating pork were temporary laws God gave the Israelites to set them apart from other nations in preparation for the coming of Christ.   Now that Jesus has come, those laws and others such as circumcision, keeping Saturday as a day of rest, and the laws of animal sacrifice — what are technically called Ceremonial Precepts — are all abolished.

But while the coming of Jesus did away with those old Temporary Laws of God, His coming brought a new and Eternal Law that will never pass away:  the Law of Resurrection from the Dead.

In a way, the Sadducees Jesus was arguing with were right in denying their was a Resurrection, because up until Jesus came there wasn’t any kind of afterlife worth writing back to earth about.

But with Christ’s Dead and Resurrection, God’s unchanging law is that every human being, you and I included, after dying in this life will rise again, body and soul, on the last day, to be judged according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil (as St. Paul puts it).

In the month of November, the Church exhorts us to reflect more deeply on the four last things:  Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell.  Reflecting on Death Judgment Heaven and Hell is probably like reflecting on what it would  be like to be married to your brother in law or sister in law — we don’t want to go there.   But while meditating on what it would be like to be married to your brother in law is probably not going to help us get to heaven, meditating on the four last things definitely will.

This weekend I thought I’d focus in on one article of the Apostles Creed, where we say “I believe in the Resurrection of the Body” — Carnis Resurrectionem in Latin, literally the Resurrection of the Flesh.   We don’t just believe in the Resurrection of our Souls, but of our bodies as well.  This very body I have will reunite with my soul on the last day and remain together forever.  As Job says, In my flesh I shall see God.   And since this is our firm belief, a dogma of our faith, the Church has always held the bodies of the dead to be sacred.

This month is actually the 10th anniversary of the indult given to the Church in the US permitting cremation.   It would be good to take a look at this document to find out how the Church views this practice.

The Catholic Church for the first 1,997 years, and the Jews before them, allowed cremation only in very exceptional circumstances such as during times of plague.   There were a number of reasons for this prohibition.  One reason was that cremation has been viewed by some religions and groups as a denial of the resurrection of the body.  This is especially so when people want their remains sprinkled into the wind, as if their soul was finally “free” from the “prison” of their body.

Sprinkling of ashes is still forbidden by the Church, and a Catholic cannot be given a Catholic Funeral if the ashes are later on going to be sprinkled and not buried, because a Catholic Funeral is by definition a “Mass of Christian Burial.”

In the introduction to the Norms regarding Cremation, the Bishops write that “Although cremation is now permitted by the Church, it does not enjoy the same value as burial of the body. The Church clearly prefers and urges that the body of the deceased be present for the funeral rites, since the presence of the human body better expresses the values which the Church affirms in those rites.” (No. 413, emphasis mine)

The document continues by saying:  “The body of a deceased Catholic Christian is also the body once washed in baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the Bread of Life. Thus, the Church’s reverence for the sacredness of the human body grows out of a reverence and concern, both natural and supernatural, for the human person.  The body of the deceased brings forcefully to mind the Church’s conviction that the human body is in Christ a temple of the Holy Spirit and is destined for future glory at the resurrection of the dead.

“This conviction in faith finds its expression in . . . .  the care traditionally taken to prepare the bodies of the deceased for a burial that befits their dignity, in expectation of their final resurrection in the Lord.”

Part of that preparation of course should include having a suitable burial place, preferably a Catholic cemetery or mausoleum where Masses will be said for those buried there for years and years to come.
As we celebrate this Eucharist, may Jesus give us a firm faith in Carnis Resurrectionem, the Resurrection of the Body.   The Faith that we will one day feel the tender embrace of Jesus and Mary, hugging us and kissing us; the Faith that one day we will see again with our eyes, and embrace again with our arms, our loved ones who have gone before us in Christ; the faith to one day say as the brother did in the first reading from the book of Macabees, right before he died:  It was from the LORD that I received (this body of mine). . . .(and) from Him I hope to receive (it) again.

Homily — 31st Sunday OT C November 4, 2007

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

Homily — 31st Sunday OT C                November 4, 2007

Several years ago I was asked by a young married couple if I could come over and bless their new home.   And when I got to the house, there was the husband and wife, with their baby which I had recently baptized, and also present was the family cat.  I can’t remember the cat’s name, but it was all white, and had more hair all over it’s face and body than any cat I’ve ever seen.

After I had finished the House Blessing, sprinkling Holy Water in each room, I sat down at the Kitchen Counter with the couple for a drink.   And on the Kitchen counter, there was one of those Big sized Yankee Candles burning.   So the husband and wife and I are talking to each other, when all of a sudden the cat jumps up on the counter, makes a bee line right to the Candle, and starts sticking her big fluff ball of a face into the lit candle.

Fortunately we got the two separated from each other before a disaster happened.   Afterwards, I told the couple that blessed house or not, they either needed to stop burning candles, or give their cat a good haircut!

I was reminded of that incident by today’s Gospel reading.   The hairy faced cat I just mentioned thought she could poke her head into a lit Yankee Candle, take a look at it, and go on her merry way.   And Zacchaeus, the Chief Tax Collector we meet in the Gospel, thought he could just climb the sycamore tree, get a close look at Jesus and go on his merry way also.   But one can’t get close to Jesus without it having an effect on one’s life.

Probably, Zacchaeus climbed the tree out out of curiosity.  He maybe thought it would impress people he worked with to say he saw this famous person Jesus the other day, and to give them his impression of Jesus based on what he saw.    But what Zacchaeus didn’t bargain on was that when he was high enough up the tree to finally see Jesus, Jesus is looking right back at him!

And Zacchaeus probably glanced behind him to see if there was someone else in the tree Jesus was looking at, because the look of joy and love Jesus had on His face wasn’t a look this chief tax collector got too often, if ever.

And then, not only does Jesus look lovingly at him, the Lord then also calls out to him by name:  “Zacchaeus!”   And the love and joy and mercy in Jesus’ eyes are even more present in Jesus’ voice; and what began as a superficial curiosity on Zacchaeus’ part is becoming a moment of major conversion for him, whether he likes it or not.

Then finally, Jesus says to Zacchaeus “Come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”   Jesus wants Zacchaeus to act quickly, while God’s love and grace is burning bright in his heart.  Jesus realizes that He’s caught a big fish, a big sinner, and that He must stay at Zacchaeus’ house, He must spend some more time with Zacchaeus, if this man’s conversion is to become permanent and lasting.

And Zacchaeus, responding to that Look, that Call, that Command, by the grace of God does come down quickly and receives Christ into his home.   And before you know it, he’s giving half of his fortune to the poor, he’s making restitution four fold to those he sinned against.  For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.

Yes, Fluffy, long haired cats should stay far away from burning Yankee Candles.  But tax collectors and all of us sinners should draw very near to Jesus.

May you and I do whatever effort it takes in seeking the Lord in prayer, that we may catch a glimpse of Jesus’ face as He passes us by.  If we take that effort, we will see Jesus make eye contact with us, and call us by name, and bid us to quickly come down and receive Him into our house.

Homily — All Saints Day MMVII

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Homily — All Saints Day MMVII

In the Preface of this Mass, before the Holy Holy, we say “Father, today we keep the festival of  Your Holy City, the heavenly Jerusalem, our Mother.”

And perhaps on All Saints Day, the Heavenly City of Jerusalem looks a lot like the earthly City of Boston did this past Tuesday.

Both sides of the streets of the Heavenly Jerusalem are lined with a great multitude which no one could count from every nation race people and tongue.

And parading down the middle of the street, in the heavenly duck boat, are this year’s winners:  all those men, women and children who over the past year entered Heaven straight from  Earth, without  having to pass through Purgatory.

Those Christians Martyred for the faith in 2007, those baptized children who went home to Jesus this past year before attaining the use of reason, and those recently deceased men and women and older children who in life exhibited what the Church calls “heroic virtue” — who were heroically faithful, heroically hopeful, heroically charitable

While few if any of them will ever be formally Canonized and honored by the Roman Catholic Church on earth, all of these newly minted Saints of 2007 are Canonized and honored by the multitude of citizens of the Heavenly City of  Jerusalem on this Festival Day.

And the parade ends at what you might call City Hall — it ends at the Thrones of the Risen Lord Jesus and His Glorified Virgin Mother.  And there, the new Saints of this past year take their places among the Saints of years and centuries and millenniums past.

This Feast Day should remind us that you and I are also called to be on that heavenly duck boat the November 1st following our death.  We must aim at becoming Saints, not just be aiming at getting into Purgatory.

Last week I was at a conference with half the priests of our diocese, and in the cafeteria at lunch, Bishop Tobin sat down right across from me.  Trying my best to make small talk, and knowing him to be a Pittsburgh native, I asked him how the Pirates were doing.   He said that for the past several years they’ve had a losing record — they lost more games in the season than they won.

Surely the Pirates aren’t trying to have a losing record, surely they are trying to win every game they play.  As followers of Christ, we must try to be Saints no matter what our past record has been.

Vatican II emphasized the Church teaching of the Universal Call to Holiness, which means that not just some special Catholics, but all of us are called to holiness of life by virtue of our Baptism.

So how do we become a saint?

First, we need to know who Jesus is.  We must have a knowledge of what Christ and His Church teaches, and then we must try to believe likewise and live according to this belief.

Second, we need to receive reverently and frequently the Sacraments Jesus left us, esp. communion and penance.

Thirdly, we need to have a daily prayer life, a  personal relationship to Jesus and his Mother.

And lastly, if we want to be a saint, we need to study the masters, we need to read the lives of the Canonized Saints of the Church.

We are called to be saints in unique ways, but this doesn’t mean that the saints of the Church can’t help us be the saint Jesus wants you or I to be.  Even those saints were inspired by other saints.

On this All Saints Day, let us enter into the celebration going on up in the Heavenly City of Jerusalem, and ask our Lord for the grace to one day be riding atop that Heavenly Duck Boat, being cheered on by the multitudes for winning the ultimate victory a human being can achieve.