Archive for April, 2008

Homily — 6th Sunday Easter MMVIII 4/27/08

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Homily — 6th Sunday Easter MMVIII 4/27/08

I will give you another Advocate to be with you always.

In the First Reading today from the Acts of the Apostles, we see a man named Philip going down to Samaria to proclaim Christ to that city. Philip was one of the “seven reputable men” whom the Apostles ordained Deacons, which we read about in last Sunday’s first reading.

And Philip seems to do an outstanding job, Baptizing whole crowds of people, casting out unclean spirits and healing the sick. But then the Reading says When the Apostles in Jerusalem heard about all this, they sent them Peter and John . . . . that they might receive the Holy Spirit. And the reading ends by saying (Peter and John) laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Philip was able to convert whole crowds of Samaritans to Christ; he was even able to cast out demons and heal the sick. But Philip was not able to give these men and women the gift of the Holy Spirit. But Peter and John are able to do so.

Philip’s inability to impart the Holy Spirit wasn’t some moral or spiritual failure on his part; it had nothing to do with his personal holiness; rather, it had everything to do with his Holy Order.

Being an ordained Deacon, Philip didn’t have the Authority or the Power to give the Holy Spirit. The Apostles Peter and John on the other hand, being Ordained Bishops, did have the Authority and the Power.

This past Thursday, Bishop Tobin came to our parish and confirmed 26 young adults from our parish, as well as 9 from Sacred Heart Parish. Like Peter and John, Bishop Tobin prayed over them and laid hands on them, and they received the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I thought today I would focus on this Sacrament of Confirmation which most of us here have received.

The teaching of our Catholic Church, from the earliest times on, is that the Sacrament of Confirmation “is necessary for the completion of Baptismal Grace.” At the same time however, the Church has also always taught that Confirmation isn’t absolutely necessary for salvation, as Baptism is. But with all the graces Confirmation imparts to a person, one would be foolish not to make every effort to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation if one is eligible to and hasn’t yet.
The Catechism gives a list of at least five blessings Confirmation adds to a Baptized Christian:

1) The grace of Pentecost is given to the Confirmed Christian. As the Eucharist unites us with the disciples at Calvary and at the Last Supper, Confirmation unites us with the disciples in the Upper Room at Pentecost when tongues of fire descended upon them and they spoke the language of divine love.

2) Confirmation imparts a permanent mark or seal on the soul of the Confirmed Christian, which like the seal of Baptism remains even in the next life. Jesus speaks of this permanent seal when He says in today’s Gospel (The Father) will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot accept. . . . I will not leave you orphans.

3) In Confirmation, Jesus gives what He calls a spiritual garment: You shall be clothed with power from on high when the Holy Spirit comes to you, and you shall be my witnesses throughout the ends of the earth.

4) According to the Catechism, a passage in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 9:4) teaches that Confirmation gives “a promise of divine protection in the great eschatological trial.” In other words, if the end times come during our lifetime, we’ll be able to get through it much easier if we have the Sacrament of Confirmation.

5) Lastly, Confirmation gives us the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit as enumerated in Isaiah: Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Fortitude, Piety, and Fear of the Lord. These gifts allow us to “spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses to Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and to never be ashamed of the Cross of Christ.”

So may we appreciate the great gifts given us in the Sacrament of Confirmation, and use them to live our Catholic Faith to the fullest and to be witnesses to the Risen Christ in our world today.

Homily — 5th Sunday Easter A April 20, 2008

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Homily — 5th Sunday Easter A            April 20, 2008

This past week has been a glorious one for us Catholics in the United States.

At about 4:30 pm this past Tuesday at Andrews Air Force Base, Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, got out of his Shepherd One Air Jet, walked briskly down the stairway, and stepped foot on US soil for the first time as Pope.  If you heard our Church Bells ringing out for 5 minutes last  Tuesday afternoon, that was why!

And every day since Tuesday, with the most perfect Springtime weather we could have asked God for following him wherever he goes, Pope Benedict has been bringing the Gospel of Christ our Hope to the citizens of our country, Catholic and non-Catholic.

One topic the Pope has focused during this trip has made many headlines:  the Clergy Sexual Abuse Scandals.   While this is a painful subject that everyone would like behind us, it is wonderful that the Pope is addressing the issue head on, and that he has even met with some victims of sexual abuse.

While our parish, our diocese, and our Church in America will continue to do all we can to protect our children from sexual predators, this is not the only issue our Catholic Church in America faces, and it was also not the only issue Pope Benedict dealt with.  I thought in my homily this weekend, I would focus on some other very important topics our Holy Father addressed, which were kind of overshadowed in the News Media by the Sexual Abuse issue.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Holy Father met with 350 Catholic Bishops of the US, including our own Bishop Tobin, at the National Shrine in Washington DC.   The talk he gave there to our bishops more than the other talks he has so far given, addresses most fully the strengths and the challenges of the Church in the US.

Here are some quotes from that talk which list some of our strengths as the Vicar of Christ sees it:

“American Catholics are noted for their loyal devotion to the see of Peter.”

“Today the (US) Catholic community . . . . is one of the largest in the world, and one of the most influential. ”

“Let me express my particular appreciation for the many forms of humanitarian assistance provided by American Catholics through Catholic Charities and other agencies. Their generosity has borne fruit in the care shown to the poor and needy, and in the energy that has gone into building the nationwide network of Catholic parishes, hospitals, schools and universities. All of this gives great cause for thanksgiving.”

“America is also a land of great faith. Your people are remarkable for their religious fervor and they take pride in belonging to a worshiping community. They have confidence in God, and they do not hesitate to bring moral arguments rooted in biblical faith into their public discourse.”

Those are some of the Strengths the Pope mentions about Catholics in the US.  Then, he goes on to list the challenges:

“This leads me to ask how, in the twenty-first century, a bishop can best fulfill the call to ‘make all things new in Christ, our hope’? . . . .Perhaps he needs to begin by clearing away some of the barriers to such an encounter.”

(Here the Pope lists three specific barriers the Church in the US faces)

Barrier #1:  “there is a subtle influence of secularism which can color the way people allow their faith to influence their behavior. . . .Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs?  Is it consistent for practicing Catholics to ignore or exploit the poor and the marginalized, to promote sexual behavior contrary to Catholic moral teaching, or to adopt positions that contradict the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death?”

“Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel.”

Barrier #2:  “the subtle influence of materialism, which can all too easily focus the attention on the hundredfold, which God promises now in this time, at the expense of the eternal life which he promises in the age to come.”

“People today need to  . . . . recognize that implanted within them is a deep thirst for God . . . . It is easy to be entranced by the almost unlimited possibilities that science and technology place before us; it is easy to make the mistake of thinking we can obtain by our own efforts the fulfillment of our deepest needs. This is an illusion. Without God, who alone bestows upon us what we by ourselves cannot attain, our lives are ultimately empty.”

“The goal (we have) should be to help people establish and nurture that living relationship with ‘Christ Jesus, our hope’ (1 Tim 1:1).”

Barrier #3  A wrong notion of Freedom.  “In a society which values personal freedom and autonomy, it is easy to lose sight of our dependence on others as well as the responsibilities that we bear towards them.  This emphasis on individualism has even affected the Church, giving rise to a form of piety which sometimes emphasizes our private relationship with God at the expense of our calling to be members of a redeemed community.”

“Yet from the beginning, God saw that ‘it is not good for man to be alone’. We were created as social beings who find fulfillment only in love — for God and for our neighbor. If we are truly to gaze upon him who is the source of our joy, we need to do so as members of the people of God.  If this seems counter-cultural, that is simply further evidence of the urgent need for a renewed evangelization of culture.”

Along the same lines, the Pope says that “the state of the family within society” is to be “a matter of deep concern” for us, as it is for him.  He goes so far as to say “Healthy family life (makes an essential contribution) to peace within and between nations.”

The decrease in marriages and the increase in cohabitations should especially be address, because “In such circumstances, children are denied the secure environment that they need in order truly to flourish as human beings, and society is denied the stable building blocks which it requires if the cohesion and moral focus of the community are to be maintained.”

So the Pope has certainly left us much to reflect on and especially to pray about.

While at times the circumstances we Catholics find ourselves in can cause us to fear for the future, we are reminded in todays Gospel of Jesus’ parting words at the Last Supper:   Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me. . . .Amen amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.

Bringing the saving Gospel of Christ our Hope to this complex modern world we live in is certainly a “Great Work” that we Catholics in the United States have been entrusted with.   May Christ give us the strength to be faithful in striving to carry out this great work.

Traditional Latin Mass Homily — 3rd Sunday After Easter April 13, 2008

Monday, April 14th, 2008

Homily — 3rd Sunday After Easter (Traditional Latin Mass)

[Note: This weekend, I offered for the first time as a priest the Traditional Latin Mass at my parish. Here is my homily for that special occasion. If you wish to see my homily for the 4th Sunday of Easter in the Ordinary Form of Mass, please scroll down under this homily.]

We welcome the Reverend Clergy, (Religious), and lay people from other parishes for this, the first of Three Masses in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, commonly known as the Traditional Latin Mass.

We hope you will be able to attend one of both of the other two Masses, the next one being the second Sunday of May, May 11, which is Pentecost Sunday and also Mother’s Day (the Traditional Latin Mass makes a great Mother’s Day gift!); and the last one being the second Sunday of June, June 8.

This Mass is being offered for St. Joseph Parishioners, living and deceased, and especially for the many parishioners who have helped make this Mass a reality.

About a month ago I was talking to an older priest friend of mine, Fr. G., about how I was in the process of training the Altar Servers for the Traditional Latin Mass. Father said he remembered serving the Mass as a boy, but he didn’t remember the part at the Consecration, where, as the priest raises the Body of Christ, the Server lifts the back hem of the priest’s chasuble with one hand, while with the other hand he rings the bell.

Father remembered ringing the bell, but not raising the back hem of the chasuble.

But a few days later, he was with Fr. R., who also served the Traditional Latin Mass growing up. So he asked this priest if he remembered doing that.

And Father said said “Yes, I remember doing that. One time when I was serving all alone, I was so nervous that I shook the priest’s chasuble with one hand and raised the bell with the other!”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells His Apostles at the Last Supper A little while, and you shall not see Me, but . . . . I will see you again and your heart shall rejoice: and your joy no man shall take from you.

Jesus’ words proved true when on Easter Sunday Night, Jesus appeared again to the Apostles in the Upper Room and showed them His hands and side, and the Gospel says The Disciples Rejoiced when they saw the Risen Lord.

Well, Easter was 21 days ago, and the Easter Lilies are starting to droop, but the Joy of the Resurrection remains in full bloom in the Church, and hopefully in our hearts in a most special way throughout these 50 days of Easter.

But this Easter Season of 2008, the joy our hearts experience is made even greater by the return of this Traditional Latin Mass.

This Easter, thousands of believers throughout the Church, both young and old, are rejoicing in the Holy Spirit, as they hear Mass begin with the words “Introibo ad altare Dei”– “I will go to the Altar of God, to God, who gives Joy to my Youth;”

Rejoicing in hearing the Mother Tongue, the ancient and stately Latin language, being used again at Mass, as it was for well over 1000 years throughout Western Christendom;

Rejoicing, — yes, I say it again, rejoicing, to see the priest offering the Holy Sacrifice the way all priests everywhere offered it from Apostolic times up until the 1960s: Ad Orientem, Facing the East along with their congregation, where Christ, the Rising Sun that will never set, will one day return from to Judge the Living and the Dead.

Throughout the Church this Easter, more and more Catholics are coming to rejoice in the intimate and prayerful silence which takes place during the Canon of the Mass, a silence which many people find the best part of the Traditional Latin Mass, as it allows them to enter more deeply into the mystery of God coming down from Heaven to be present on this very Altar.

Rejoicing also as the Angelic sounds of Sacred Polyphony and Gregorian Chant can be heard adorning the Divine Worship.

Rejoicing in the Confiteor, the Last Gospel, and all the other ancient prayers that have nourished generation upon generation of Catholics for centuries.

And finally, rejoicing when the Server rings the bell, and lifts the hem of the priest’s garment (or visa versa if Fr. R is serving Mass!), and at that moment the greatest joy of all, seeing there, in the hands of the priest, Jesus Himself, come to us in this Holy Sacrament so that we may receive Him as food for our hungry souls at the Altar Rail in Holy Communion.

My brothers and sisters, let us ask our blessed Mother Mary and St. Joseph our Patron to intercede for the Church on earth today, that these Heavenly Joys may never again be taken from those of us who have a love and devotion to this Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite of Mass.

Fourth Sunday Easter A 4/13/08

Monday, April 14th, 2008

Homily — 4th Sunday of Easter A                 4-13-08

I am the Good Shepherd, says the Lord,
I know my sheep, and mine know me
.

Jesus used the image of a Shepherd to describe both His love and care for us and His Heavenly Father’s love and constant care for us.

Jesus also called the leaders of the Church He founded to Feed His lambs and Tend His Sheep, not as hirelings and certainly not as wolves or robbers, but as Good Shepherds who are willing to go after the lost sheep, tend to the sick and the young sheep, and even lay down their lives for the sheep all out of love for Christ and the Sheep He entrusts them with.

It is very providential that we read this Gospel for the 4th Sunday of Easter just days before the chief Shepherd of the Catholic Church on earth, Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, or as some like to affectionately call him, our German Shepherd, visits the United States for the first time since his election as Pope.

This is the Holy Fathers itinerary this week . . . . .

Tuesday — DC
3:30PM Arrives at Andrews Air Force Base greeted by President and Mrs. Bush, local dignitaries of the Church, and the apostolic nuncio.

Wednesday
10:00 AM  welcoming ceremony at the White House,  followed by a private meeting between the President and the Pope, and the dignitaries of New York and Washington.

5:00 PM  gathers with the bishops of the United States at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.

Thursday
9:30 AM  offers Mass at the new Nationals Park in Washington D.C.

4:30 PM  will address hundreds of Catholic Educators on the importance of Catholic education at the Catholic University of America.

6:00 PM meets with representatives of various religions for a prayer service at the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington D.C.

Friday — NYC
10:30 AM. will address the United Nations, after an early morning flight to New York.

5:00 PM  Visit to Park East Synagogue followed by a prayer service with leaders from other Christian denominations at St. Joseph’s, founded by German Catholics, in Manhattan.

Saturday
9:00 AM Mass for priests, deacons and members of religious orders at St. Patrick¹s Cathedral in the heart of New York City.

4:00 PM  meets with thousands of young people from around the country at Dunwoodie Seminary in Yonkers.

Sunday
9:00 AM  visits Ground Zero, the former World Trade Center site.

2:00 PM  celebrates Holy Mass at Yankee Stadium in New York bringing his historic U.S. visit to a close.

7:30 PM  Pope Benedict XVI leaves the US.

To prepare us for his visit the Pope wrote a letter to us.  Click here for a link to the video of the Pope reading this letter.  Here is the text of the letter . . . .

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the United States of America,

The grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you! In just a few days from now, I shall begin my apostolic visit to your beloved country. Before setting off, I would like to offer you a heartfelt greeting and an invitation to prayer. As you know, I shall only be able to visit two cities: Washington and New York. The intention behind my visit, though, is to reach out spiritually to all Catholics in the United States. At the same time, I earnestly hope that my presence among you will be seen as a fraternal gesture towards every ecclesial community, and a sign of friendship for members of other religious traditions and all men and women of good will. The risen Lord entrusted the Apostles and the Church with his Gospel of love and peace, and his intention in doing so was that the message should be passed on to all peoples.

At this point I should like to add some words of thanks . . . . I am especially grateful to all who have been praying for the success of the visit, since prayer is the most important element of all. Dear friends, I say this because I am convinced that without the power of prayer, without that intimate union with the Lord, our human endeavors would achieve very little. Indeed this is what our faith teaches us. It is God who saves us, he saves the world, and all of history. He is the Shepherd of his people. I am coming, sent by Jesus Christ, to bring you his word of life.

Together with your Bishops, I have chosen as the theme of my journey three simple but essential words: “Christ our hope”. Following in the footsteps of my venerable predecessors, Paul VI and John Paul II, I shall come to United States of America as Pope for the first time, to proclaim this great truth: Jesus Christ is hope for men and women of every language, race, culture and social condition. Yes, Christ is the face of God present among us. Through him, our lives reach fullness, and together, both as individuals and peoples, we can become a family united by fraternal love, according to the eternal plan of God the Father. I know how deeply rooted this Gospel message is in your country. I am coming to share it with you, in a series of celebrations and gatherings. I shall also bring the message of Christian hope to the great Assembly of the United Nations, to the representatives of all the peoples of the world. Indeed, the world has greater need of hope than ever: hope for peace, for justice, and for freedom, but this hope can never be fulfilled without obedience to the law of God, which Christ brought to fulfillment in the commandment to love one another. Do to others as you would have them do to you, and avoid doing what you would not want them to do. This “golden rule” is given in the Bible, but it is valid for all people, including non-believers. It is the law written on the human heart; on this we can all agree, so that when we come to address other matters we can do so in a positive and constructive manner for the entire human community.

Dear brothers and sisters, dear friends in the United States, I am very much looking forward to being with you. I want you to know that, even if my itinerary is short, with just a few engagements, my heart is close to all of you, especially to the sick, the weak, and the lonely. I thank you once again for your prayerful support of my mission. I reach out to every one of you with affection, and I invoke upon you the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
May God bless you all.

Let us pray, my brothers and sisters, for our Shepherd Pope Benedict as he visits our country this week, that his visit will draw us and our whole nation closer to Christ the Good Shepherd.

Homily — 3rd Sunday Easter A

Monday, April 7th, 2008

Homily — 3rd Sunday Easter MMVIII 4/6/8

Everyone we encounter in the in the Readings today have encountered the Risen Christ, and this encounter fills them with a great joy, a great zeal, and a great peace of soul.

We see the two disciples who had walked 7 miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus joyfully run another 7 miles back to Jerusalem after seeing the Risen Lord.

And we read towards the end of today’s Gospel the disciples saying “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!

Now, in the First Reading today, we see this Simon Peter in the Acts of the Apostles fearlessly leading the people of God, exhorting them boldly to acknowledge their sins have nailed Jesus to the Cross, and inspiring them through his teaching in the Second Reading.

Simon Peter, after seeing the Risen Lord, becomes a towering figure the second half of the New Testament, but that first Easter Sunday, before Jesus appeared to him, Simon felt even smaller than this little three inch statue we have of him in this Easter tomb scene we have in front of the pulpit.

He had denied His Lord three times, after saying he would lay down his life for Jesus. He had lied before everyone; He had blasphemed, swearing to God he never knew Jesus. Simon Peter had been a coward, his true character had been exposed big time.

And probably when the Risen Lord Jesus did appear to Simon Peter Easter Sunday, Peter was most probably still weeping bitterly over these sins and failings of his. And maybe Simon Peter was even battling strong temptations to do what Judas did and end all those feelings of guilt .

But when the Risen Jesus appeared to Simon Peter, He probably said something similar to what Peter says in the Second Reading: “Realize, Simon Peter, that you were ransomed from your futile conduct.
The debt your sins have incurred has been paid in full, not with . . . . silver or gold, but with my Precious Blood which I’ve poured out on the Cross, which I’ve poured out in the Eucharist, so that all may have eternal life.”

Simon Peter came to know and experience the Risen Christ through the Saving Cup of Christ’s Blood; and the Disciples on the Road to Emmaus came to know and experience Him through the Breaking of the Bread of Christ’s Body.

And in this and every celebration of the Holy Eucharistic, the Risen Lord Jesus wishes to make Himself known to us. He wants us to experience His forgiveness, His Presence and Peace in our daily lives.

May our sorrow for our past sins, our daily meditation and reflection on the Scriptures, and our participation in Sunday Mass cause our hearts to burn within us and help us to experience in our lives that The Lord has truly been raised and is with us always, until the end of the world.