Archive for February, 2008

Homily — 3rd Sunday Lent A Feb. 24, 2008

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Homily — 3rd Sunday Lent A Feb. 24, 2008

This past fall, at my semi-annual checkup, the dentist took an X-Ray of my front teeth, which I guess is something they only do once every 10 years or so.

Now, if there’s one thing I pride myself on, it’s good dental hygiene. I brush twice a day, and floss before I go to bed; I think in the past 15 years I’ve had only one cavity filled.

So I was really shocked when at the end of my cleaning, the dentist looked at the X-Ray of my front teeth and said “Oh, that one looks blown out. I think it’s too far gone for a root canal; you’ll probably have to get it taken out.”

I couldn’t believe it. I said to him “But it doesn’t even hurt me.”

He said “you better make an appointment with the specialist as soon as possible — maybe he can still save it.” And he gave me a referral to see this oral surgeon for a root canal.

But a few weeks later, the morning that I’m scheduled for the root canal, the oral surgeon’s office calls me up and says “I’m sorry, but the doctor says your tooth is too far gone, you’re going to have to make a new appointment for an extraction.”

Well, this was not looking good. I tried one last time, saying “Tell the dentist that it’s not hurting me at all — ask him if I just keep it in and maybe it’ll never bother me.”

The receptionist came back to the phone a minute later and said “He said you better be pro-active with it, because if you’re not, and it starts bothering you, not only will it be the worst toothache you can imagine, it will also be a much worse problem to fix.”

And so, early last month, I went down the road to Dr. Domingo’s office to get this bad front tooth of mine pulled.

So they put me in the dentists chair, the Dr. comes in and shakes my hand, and then he gives me a good shot of Novocaine which numbed my whole mouth up. And then, . . . . well, I’ll spare you the rest of the details of what happened next!

Now, getting a tooth pulled without getting put to sleep wasn’t physically painful for me at all;

What was Psychologically painful was the thought that this nice front tooth of mine, which for the past 40 years I’ve smiled at people with, and bit into apples with, and which never caused me any problems was being brutally yanked out of me never to be there again.

And right after it had been extracted, I guess the Doctor noticed I looked a bit pale, because he said to me in a soothing voice: “You feeling a little light headed Father?” “Yeah, a little” I said.

And before I knew it, he had reclined the chair all the way back so I was laying down flat, and two nurses were swooping down on me, one with a moist facecloth for my forehead and one with an oxygen mask for my nose.

And so I laid there, taking a couple deep breaths of oxygen, and after a few minutes I felt much better, and then they put the fake one in and I went home.

And here I am a month later (smile). And so far, it hasn’t fallen out while I’m preaching just like they promised me wouldn’t!

Now, you may be thinking “Father, how does all that have anything to do with our Faith? Well, it has everything to do with what’s going on later this week at our parish.

This Saturday, March 1, we are having our 5th Annual All Day Confessions from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. here in the Church. Two to four priests will be available at all times those 8 hours next Saturday to hear your confession — that’s your confession.
And getting to confession for many of us, maybe for most of us, is like pulling teeth — in more ways than one.

In the bulletin this weekend, inside this booklet called “A guide to Confession,” you will find an X-Ray of your soul.

There it is: “An Aid to Your Examination of Conscience.” There’s the 10 Commandments — think of them as Ten “Teeth” God has given you to keep clean and healthy. And under each commandment is a list of ways a person can commonly sin against that Commandment. All total is listed 54 sins which definitely bring serious spiritual decay upon our Soul.

And just as my dentist needed to say to me “You see that spot on that tooth there on the X-Ray? That one’s going to need to be extracted;” So I as your priest need to say to some of you “You see this sin you committed against this commandment here? That’s going to need to be extracted by a good confession.”

And so for those of you who need it, I want to refer you to one of a dozen or so specialists who will be available this coming Saturday March 1st : here they are listed in this week’s bulletin: (list priests)

All of these specialists will make the extraction of those sins of yours as painless as possible.

But we still realize that a kind priest is not enough. For some of us, going to confession is even more intimidating an experience than going for dental surgery. And so because of this, to nurse you along, we’ll have soothing sacred music playing softly in the Church all day, we’ll have big signs telling you clearly where to wait for each priest, we’ll have easy to follow instructions on how to go to confession if it’s been a long time, we’ll have the option of screens set up in every confessional if you choose to be anonymous and not go face to face, we even now have two dozen people, including a dozen cloistered nuns, praying daily for you to make that Confession you’ve put off for so long.

And best of all, to help you before, during, and after your confession, we have Jesus here in the Blessed Sacrament looking after you, so happy that you’re being reconciled to Him.

So, do yourself a favor. Take ten or twenty minutes out of your day next Saturday, March 1st, some time between 8 am and 4 pm, bring this X-Ray with you, and let one of the good Fathers there treat you before it’s too late and that sin really becomes a problem, perhaps an eternal problem.

And I promise you that unlike me, after your sins have been extracted, you’ll leave that confessional with all the teeth you came in with, and a Big Smile on your face as well! :-)

Homily — 2nd Sunday Lent A Feb. 17, 2008

Monday, February 18th, 2008

Homily — 2nd Sunday Lent A                Feb. 17, 2008

Jesus led them up a high mountain by themselves, and He was transfigured before them.

The Church reads this Gospel of the Transfiguration every year on this Second Sunday of Lent, primarily because the Tradition is that the Transfiguration took place 40 days before Jesus’ death on Good Friday.

But it is also fitting that we read this Gospel today, because the Transfiguration is symbolic of our Lenten Journey.

In today’s Gospel, Peter James and John leave their world and it’s comforts behind for a while, and go off alone with Jesus on a strenuous journey.

And in Lent, you and I also hopefully have to some degree left the comforts of the world behind, and have also set off alone with Jesus on a strenuous journey of daily repentance, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

In the Gospel, after this initial work-out of climbing up a high mountain, Jesus is Transfigured before Peter James and John — He shines brighter than ever before them.

And so it is with us during Lent — after a few weeks in the wilderness with Jesus, away from our normal comforts; after of few weeks of strenuous prayer fasting and almsgiving, we reach a summit, and Jesus starts to be transfigured in our lives — He begins to shine brighter than ever before our eyes.

And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to Peter James and John, conversing with (Jesus).  Through this overheard conversation, the Scriptures began to come alive to these three Apostles; they saw how the Books of Moses and the rest of the Old Testament related to Christ.

And once Jesus begins to shine in our hearts, the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, begin to open up to us, we like Moses and Elijah see how they all relate to who Jesus is and the moral way Jesus wishes to live.

And next, as we start becoming Transfigured ourselves by our Lenten Journey with Jesus, we begin to share Peter’s desire to pitch a tent and stay up on this high mountain with Jesus forever.

But notice what happens next in the Gospel:

Peter and James and John are feeling closer than ever to Jesus; they are so glad that they made that strenuous journey to experience this.

But then, behold, a cloud cast a shadow over them, and they no longer saw Jesus.  And Matthew says they were very much afraid.

The Gospels don’t say how long the cloud hung over them.  Maybe it was a few seconds, maybe it was several hours.  Maybe Peter James and John frantically searched around in the cloud trying to find Jesus, like Mary and Joseph searched around for the 12 year old Jesus when they lost Him in the Temple.

Maybe Peter James and John started to despair of finding Him again, or maybe they were tempted to stop looking for Him in the cloud and go back down the mountain and back to their old lives.

But the three Apostles resisted all these temptations, and eventually they felt that familiar touch of Jesus upon them and heard His clear voice saying Rise, and do not be afraid.

And really, that cloud experience allowed Peter James and John to Rise higher in their faith than before;  that cloud experience allowed them to be less afraid and more trusting of Jesus than ever before.

And my brothers and sisters in Christ, if all goes well with our Lenten journey, Jesus will hide Himself from us in a cloud for a while, where we won’t be able to see Him or hear Him or feel His Presence with us.

Being in the Cloud, which is also called the Dark Night of the Soul, can certainly be a scary thing.  But Jesus sometimes hides from us in order to help us grow in Faith.  In the cloud, we must rely totally on supernatural Faith Hope and Love, therefore we end up growing in these three most important virtues.

And the longer Jesus keeps us in the cloud, the holier and more faith-filled we will become.  This is why many of the great saints, such as St. Therese the Little Flower and Mother Theresa of Calcutta, appear to have lived years in a Cloud of Dark, Spiritual Dryness, not feeling any consolation whatsoever in prayer, but still praying and hoping and believing and loving nonetheless.

For the great majority of Christians like us who are far from Major League Sanctity, Jesus in His mercy only gives us the Cloud in small doses.   And after having tested us for a time in the cloud, He always then touches us and says to us “Rise higher than before, and do not be afraid, because all you have experienced on this Journey and on this Mountain has prepared you to now fully enter with me, into my Passion, Death & glorious Resurrection.”

Homily — First Sunday of Lent A 2-10-08

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Homily — First Sunday of Lent A                2-10-08

Command that these stones become loaves of bread.

Throw yourself down.

All these (kingdoms of the world) will be yours.

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, in his recent Book “Jesus of Nazareth,” comments that these Three Temptations that Satan unsuccessfully tempts Jesus with are all things Jesus ultimately ends up doing with God the Father’s full approval.

For example, Jesus doesn’t create bread for the devil in the desert, but a few months later Jesus does create bread to feed the 5000 in the desert, and at the end of His life at the Last Supper He creates the Bread of Life which has fed billions of people and will feed us in a few moments.

Jesus doesn’t jump from the highest tower in the area to prove the devil wrong, but later on, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus does freely and willfully take a jump – into the hands of those who will torture and crucify Him, confident that God the Father would deliver Him and Raise Him to Glory.

And finally, Jesus refuses the offer to buy from Satan all the Kingdom’s of the (earth) in their Magnificence for the price of His Soul,  but by the end of the Gospel we hear Jesus say All power on earth has been given to me, not by Satan but by my Father.  And not only all power on earth, but better still all power in Heaven as well.

So how can the same three things be sinful temptations for Jesus in the desert, but virtuous actions for Him later on?  The simple answer is that God the Father wanted His Son Jesus to wait to get all these things.

If Jesus came to earth and immediately gave everyone in the world an unlimited supply of bread, it would solve the problem of physical hunger in the world, but would leave unsolved the more serious problem of spiritual hunger in the world.   Instead, God the Father wants Jesus to wait for the right moment to work that miracle, for the time when 5000 men, not counting women and children, are so on fire with Jesus’ preaching that they leave everything behind and follow Him miles into the desert to hear more of His Gospel.  That day the Gospel says They ate and were satisfied, not only bodily but spiritually as well.  And that army of people left the desert that day each with a greater concern for and commitment towards helping the poor and needy of the world.

Regarding the second temptation, God the Father didn’t want Jesus to perform miracles just to anyone, as if flashy miracles were an end in themselves.  God wanted Jesus to wait for opportune times, when people’s hearts would respond to the miracle in the correct way.  Miracles in the Gospel are given as a reward for faith or an incentive to greater faith; remember how Jesus performed no miraculous healings in his home town of Nazareth because of their lack of faith, and also how He appeared after His Resurrection only to believers.

And lastly, while Jesus could very well have called down St. Michael and the Army of Angels to battle and defeat Satan right then and there in the desert that first Lent, God the Father wanted Jesus to wait, for He wanted to show us humans the depth of His great love for us by having His Son undergo His Passion and Death and then His Glorious Resurrection.

And so that 40 days in the Desert was a time for Jesus of what is called “Waiting on the Lord.”

A lot of times, when we sin it is simply a failure of us to “wait on the Lord”.  We want pleasure now, and so we commit a sin of greed, or gluttony, or lust; while if we had resisted that temptation, God would have shortly afterwards given us what our hearts really desired – a greater portion of His love.  Or we want rest from our labors now, and so we commit a sin of sloth (spiritual laziness) and fail to rouse ourselves to be vigilant in prayer and penance; while if we had resisted that temptation, God would have refreshed our weary souls and given them rest.  And so on with the other deadly sins.

Lent is the time when we go into the desert with Jesus to wait upon the Lord with Him.  And we learn to wait upon the Lord through the three things Jesus talked to us about this past Wednesday:  prayer, fasting and almsgiving.   Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are disciplines which will help us see the shallowness of the devil’s promises of immediate gratification, and to see the richness of God’s promises if we say no to sin and yes to Him.

May this Lenten Season help us to Wait on the Lord, so that when Easter comes at the end of these 40 days, we will be ready to receive the great blessings God has in store for us.

Homily — Ash Wednesday MMVIII Feb. 6, 2008

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Homily — Ash Wednesday MMVIII        Feb. 6, 2008

Eleven months ago, we went to Church the Sunday before Easter and were given a green Palm Branch.  And as the Mass began, we all held up our Palm Branches as we proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem at the Entrance Procession of Mass.

And we took that Fresh Green Palm branch home with us, and put it behind the Crucifix hanging in our home;  or maybe we made crosses or other figures (the French Canadians make something called “cut-cuts”) out of the Palm branch.

But as Easter came and went, and spring turned into summer, and summer turned into winter, the Palm Branch we received on Palm Sunday started to lose its Greenness, and turn dry and brittle.

And yesterday, I took a bunch of those dry old Palm branches and folded them up into bunches, and pressed them down into a Hibachi out behind the Church.   I lit a match and Poof!  Within seconds a hundred palm branches turned into these ashes I will be blessing and putting on your foreheads.

In a lot of ways, those Palms are like our souls.   Last Palm Sunday, after 34 days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, our souls were pretty fresh and green and full of the life of the Spirit.  Jesus was riding triumphantly into Holy Week and we were riding high along with Him.

But then last Easter came and went, and when summer came we slowly started going back to our old ways again, started thinking less and less about God.   And our souls, like that palm branch, started to get dry and brittle and not as full of the love of God as they were on Palm Sunday at the end of Lent.

And now, as we begin a new Lent today, many of us find our souls so dried out that we’re in danger of spiritual burn out.  Some of us even find our souls black from playing with fire and giving in to sin and temptation.

But now is the very acceptable time to refresh our dry and weary souls again.  Now is the very acceptable time to get a clean heart from God our Father, through our discipline of daily Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.

And so we begin anew today, as we receive Ashes on our foreheads as an acknowledgment to God that our souls, which should be green and full of sap and bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit, have dried up and withered due to our lack of love, and that our sins have burned out and blackened our souls.

Just as a gardener uses ashes as fertilizer, Jesus want to use these ashes of repentance to grow His love anew in our hearts.

So as we begin these 40 grace filled days of Lent, may Christ inspire us to draw near to Him in deeper and longer times of prayer, in fasting from some of things that are really just distracting us from God, and in generously giving Alms to the poor throughout this Holy Season.

And may the Victory Palms we receive at the end of this Lent be fresher and greener and longer lasting than before.

Homily — 4th Sun. OT A Feb. 3, 2008

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Homily — 4th Sun. OT A Feb. 3, 2008

This Sunday, we see Jesus sitting on top of the mountain, teaching the stadium sized crowd gathered below Him the heart and soul of His Gospel, what we call the Beatitudes.

The Beatitudes are found at the beginning of Chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel. Chapter 4 of Matthew’s Gospel begins with Jesus going into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights to do battle with the Satan (which we will read next weekend, the First Sunday of Lent).

It’s appropriate that the Beatitudes were given by Jesus so soon after his 40 days in the desert. Because in the desert, Jesus battles our #1 enemy, the Devil, straight on and emerges victorious, while in the Beatitudes, Jesus battles our #2 enemy, the World, straight on, and emerges victorious.

Because the beatitudes Jesus gives us are directly opposed to the beatitudes the World gives us.

Jesus says Blessed – truly Happy and Grace filled — are the poor – those whose main treasure in life is the Faith. But the world says “Blessed are the Rich – money, power and fame are where’s it’s at. He who dies with the most toys wins.”

Jesus says Blessed are the sorrowful – those who open their hearts to the pain other people are experiencing, those who mourn over the sin and injustice that surrounds them. But the World says “Blessed are the Laughing – those who eat drink and make merry while closing their hearts to the cries of the poor.”

Jesus says Blessed are the Meek and Humble, who realize their littleness and their need for God in their lives. But the world tells us “Blessed are the Proud – don’t let God or anyone else get in your way — be your own God.

Jesus says Blessed are the Hungry and Thirsty — those who hunger and thirst for holiness, those striving each day to be a better Christian. But the world says to us “Blessed are the content. An informed conscience will only get you into trouble; Ignorance is bliss, don’t rock the boat.”

Jesus says Blessed are the Merciful, those who strive to forgive others; while the World says “Blessed are the Vengeful, give them back double what they gave you.

Jesus says Blessed and Happy are the clean of Heart, who strive to banish from their minds and from their bodies sinful and unchaste thoughts and actions, they shall see God. But the World says “Forget that. Blessed rather are the sexually liberated. Don’t be an old fashioned prude, only the good die young. But don’t forget to practice ‘safe sex’.” (The World neglects to mention the thousands of people who contracted diseases practicing so called ‘safe sex’.”)

Jesus says Blessed are the Peace makers, and the World counters “No, blessed are the Peace Breakers in this dog eat dog world.

And finally, Jesus says “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness . . . Blessed are you when they persecute you for following me;” While the World is whispering in our other ear “Blessed rather are those who are Praised by Me, those who keep their faith a private matter so as not offend someone with it.”

Yes, the World offers us a much different set of Beatitudes than Jesus offers. Jesus’ Beatitudes and the World’s Beatitudes are as opposed to each other as the Patriots are opposed to the Giants. But for the past 2008 years, Jesus’ Beatitudes have been and will continue to be undefeated in their battle with the World’s.

So, if you want to be on the losing team, go ahead and follow the World’s Beatitudes. You’ll find a small amount of temporary happiness, followed by a great deal of long term misery.

But if we reject the happiness this fallen world offers us and follow Jesus’ Beatitudes, after a small amount of temporary immediate sadness, we’ll start to experience a deep happiness and peace in this life, and an eternal reward of happiness in the Kingdom of Heaven to come.