Archive for July, 2008

Homily – 17th Sunday OT A 7/27/08

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Homily — 17th Sunday OT A 7/27/08

Jesus in today’s Gospel gives us an image of a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds . . . .and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

This treasure Jesus speaks about is our Catholic Faith.

When we think of buried treasure, probably the image that comes to mind is a big old wooden pirate’s chest. Brush the dirt off, take the skeleton key and unlock it, open the chest, and inside there are heaps and heaps of gold pieces, diamonds, and precious gems.

Certainly our Catholic Faith, handed down to every generation intact and unchanged from the time of the Apostles, is just like that treasure chest we picture in our minds.

How many priceless gems we find in this Treasure Chest which is our Faith. Each article of our Creed — the Creation, the Blessed Trinity, the Incarnation, the Passion and Redemption, the Resurrection and all the rest — each one is a separate diamond of infinite value and worth found in that treasure chest.

The books of Scripture, the sacraments, the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit, the Saints, the moral teachings of the Church, the hierarchy and the religious life — each one of these things is a unique and beautiful and precious jewel found in that large treasure chest, each one in it’s own way a pearl of great price, worth selling all this earth can offer us to possess.

Which leads me to comment about an the anniversary of an event that occurred 40 years ago this past week. This past Friday marked the 40th Anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical letter Humanae Vitae, released July 25, 1968.

40 years ago last Friday, Pope Paul VI reached into the Church’s Treasure Chest, shined up one of the jewels found therein, and held up to the modern world. This jewel the Pope held up was the precious jewel which is the Church’s teaching on human sexuality.

Let us examine this beautiful Jewel ourselves and strive to appreciate it. The Catholic Church since the time of the Apostles has always and everywhere taught that the only morally licit sexual relations are those between a married couple, between a husband and a wife.

Furthermore, the Catholic Church since the time of the Apostles has always and everywhere taught that, as God is the Author of Human Life and as humans are created in the image of God, it is gravely immoral for married couples to willfully and unnaturally separate the procreative or life-giving aspect of the marriage act from its unitive of love-giving aspect.

Simply put, the Catholic Church has from the beginning held that artificial contraception and sterilization are gravely immoral actions that can never be morally justified, even within the marriage bond.

And up until about 70 years ago, the vast majority of Catholics everywhere, for over 1800 centuries, understood, accepted and strove to practice and pass on to their children this jewel of an infallible teaching of our Holy Mother Church.

As a result, marriages were strong, the faith was strong, and children grew up in a culture which extolled chastity and self control.

In fact, up until 1930, every Christian denomination condemned artificial contraception and sterilization along with the Catholic Church. The Protestant reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin, while rejecting other precious jewels of the Faith, had the wisdom not to reject this one, nor did generation after generation of their followers up until the past century.

And furthermore, as this teaching is rooted in the natural law found in every human heart, great non-Christian thinkers like the famous Chinese philosopher Confucius, the Hindu leader Mahatma Ghandi, and even the atheist Sigmund Freud all saw the separation of the procreative and unitive dimensions of sex to be a perversion, and not something good for the individual or for society.

But over the past century, a concerted effort has been made in our Western world, and even scandalously to some degree within our Church, to bury this jewel of a teaching which Christ has given us; or if not to bury it, to claim it is not a priceless jewel but a worthless piece of junk that would be harmful to place one’s trust in.

And so 40 years after Humanae Vitae, the Church’s teaching on marriage and human sexuality is now buried under a towering and ever growing mountain of dissent, ridicule, ignorance, sexual license, and radical feminist and population control ideologies.

In the meantime, widespread rejection of Church teaching and acceptance of Contraception and Sterilization by Catholics has directly led, one could argue, to the closing of our Churches and Catholic Schools, to the shortage of men and women entering the priesthood and religious life, to the resulting rising cost of Catholic education, and to a mainstream movie, TV and music industry that mass markets immorality especially to our teens and adolescents and holds up Rock Stars and Madonna and Brittany and Jamie Spears as role models.

We also have, as an undisputed direct result of our embrace of contraception, 50 million legal abortions. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in justification for the 1992 US Supreme Court decision Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, we must keep abortion legal because: “Abortion is (now) customarily chosen as an unplanned response to . . . . the failure of conventional birth control. . . .For two decades. . . .people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.” In other words, the Supreme Court will not protect unborn children because of the contraceptive lifestyle we have bought into!

My brothers and sisters in Christ, our society doesn’t have to be this way. We baptized and confirmed Catholics are called by Christ to be the Light of the World, the little bit of leaven Jesus spoke of in last week’s Gospel that raises the moral conscience of the World we live in. Unfortunately, many in the Church are more influenced by the ways of the world rather than being the ones who influence others to follow Christ.

This is not to say that the Church’s teaching on sexuality is easy. It takes great, perhaps heroic, virtue for married couples to live it out in today’s world. Which is one reason why the Church has given us the other jewels of our faith, especially the grace of the Sacraments.

Being a celibate priest is challenging, but God has given me the Sacrament of Holy Orders to help me live out this great vocation, and well as the Sacrament of Baptism, Confirmation, Penance and the Holy Eucharist. In the same way, God has given married couples a special Sacrament of Matrimony as well as the others, so that they “may assume the duties of marriage in mutual and lasting fidelity” (as the Marriage Ritual states).

The Church’s teaching on conjugal love and procreation, which is not optional but is a moral law binding on one’s conscience, is possible to live out, as thousands of Catholic couples who have embraced it can tell you. Many of these couples practice Natural Family Planning, which most people don’t realize has come a long way from the Rhythm Method, being a 99% effective way to space the birth of children. Natural Family Planning is morally accepted by the Church when practiced for serious reasons, and usually only requires at most 8 days of abstinence from relations a month.

But sadly for the past 40 years, God has endured a generation of Catholic clergy, college professors, doctors and nurses and politicians who have not known God’s ways and who have led many married couples astray to the point where many Catholics and medical professionals have never heard this Jewel of the Church’s teaching in a positive light nor been challenged on their duty to live it.

But the hopeful thing is that, as Scripture and Church History shows, God while merciful and forgiving, puts up with foolishness from His People for only so long. And 40 years, a generation, has now passed.

A new generation of young and faith filled Catholics have been on the rise of late; they include married and single, clergy and religious, educators and medical workers. This small but growing group of cradle Catholics, converts and reverts to the faith, schooled especially in the teachings of Our Late Great Holy Father Pope John Paul II and Blessed Theresa of Calcutta, are all very Catholic, very educated about their faith, and very up to the challenge Christ is offering them to practice their Catholic faith without compromise in today’s society.

This new generation gives me and others some hope that perhaps in another 40 years, the Catholics that remain in what’s left of the Western world will again all cherish and live and die for this great jewel Pope Paul VI so bravely held up to us in 1968, and wonder how we could have hesitated in selling all that we had to possess this pearl of great price.

Homily — 16th Sunday Ordinary Time A 7/19/08

Monday, July 28th, 2008

Homily — 16th Sunday Ordinary Time A         7/19/08

Two of the three parables Our Lord Jesus gives us in today’s Gospel deal with seeds.

The seed is a image commonly used by the great Christian writers in their teachings on the spiritual life.

At first glance, seeds are pretty insignificant looking things.  Most are so small that they can be easily overlooked or mistaken for a lifeless pebble.

It would really take an expert gardener to identify a particular seed apart from it’s plant or Burpee package.

It would also probably take an expert to distinguish between a seed that would bear edible fruit and a seed that would bear a weed or poisonous fruit.

But as plain looking and little as it seems, there is much more to a tiny insignificant looking seed than meets the eye.

Place one in fertile, well watered soil, and in time the seed will grow into a large plant or even a giant tree that the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.

Therefore, people who wish to grow something need to take seeds seriously, and also need to be able to distinguish good seed from bad seed.

While not all of us may not cultivate a vegetable or flower garden, as Christians we must all be concerned with cultivating the garden of our soul.

Jesus says that our soul is the field that he wants to plant the seeds of His Gospel in.   And just as there are a multitudes of varieties of seeds in the world that will bring forth many varieties of good fruits, beautiful flowers, and strong and mighty trees, there are also a multitude of varieties of seeds Jesus wishes to plant in us which will in time transform our soul into a beautiful garden of virtue and charity.

But while Jesus has many seeds He daily wishes to plant in us, we need to go to Jesus each day to receive these seeds into our souls.

We also need to be wary of the seeds of the evil one.  The seeds the devil sows can at times look very much like the seeds Jesus sows.  They are also small and insignificant looking, and we might even be tempted into thinking that planting a few of the devil’s seeds here and there in our souls won’t be that harmful.

But sin spreads like a weed in our souls, until before we know it it’s overtaking the good seed that was sown.  The weed then becomes the largest of trees in our garden, that crows and vultures make their nest in.

Jesus also comments in the first parable that while they were asleep (the) enemy came and sowed weeds through the wheat.   And so we must be vigilant in prayer, for when stop cultivating the Garden of our souls with the good seeds of Christ, the devil will pick up where we left off.

May Jesus in this Eucharist help us to recognize and value the many varieties of seeds he sows in our heart and to distinguish them from weed baring seeds, so that we may yield a rich harvest of grace throughout our lives.

No homily this weekend . . . .

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Vacation Lake in Maine

I am on vacation up in Maine. Here is a photo of the Lake my cabin is on. A picture can be worth a thousand homilies, depending on the preacher!
God Bless, Fr. Woolley

Homily – 14th Sunday Ordinary Time A 7-6-08

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

Homily — 14th Sunday OT A                     July 6, 2008

Jesus says to us in the Gospel today Come to me . . . .and I will give you rest.

We simply need to just come to Jesus, and rest will be given us.  No matter how weary we are, no matter how heavy burdened we are, no matter how hard our labor has been, Jesus will give us the rest our soul is longing for.

And coming to Jesus is not difficult or burdensome;  to come to Jesus is easy, and the burden it will entail for us is light.

For we come to Jesus every time we celebrate the sacraments.  Jesus is always present to us in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and in the Holy Eucharist Jesus is here 24/7 in the Tabernacle.  When we come to Jesus truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, he will always give us the rest our souls need.

We also come to Jesus in the Sacrament of Penance, placing before him the sins that burden our soul and cause our conscience such unrest.  And Jesus in the confessional gives us rest, the rest of a clear conscience, the rest of being reaffirmed that each of us is a child of God, redeemed by the Precious Blood of Christ.

And throughout the week, we can come to Jesus wherever we are, through daily meditation on the Scriptures and lives of the Saints, even through little acts of faith hope and love throughout the work day.  Whenever we lift our hearts to pray, we come to Jesus, and Jesus always gives His rest to those who come to Him.

And finally, we come to Jesus whenever we perform one of the works of Mercy, whenever we show a selfless act of charity towards another person.  If we help carry our neighbor’s burden, Jesus will give us rest from our own burdens.

 Come to me, and I will give you rest, says the Lord.

But why is it then, that sometimes we do come to Jesus in these ways, but seem not to get any rest from Him?  If all one needs to do is to come to Jesus, why are so many people still so rest-less?

The answer is that Jesus does give rest to everyone who comes to Him, but that this rest is hidden from the wise and the learned; that is to say those people who are wise and learned in the ways of the world, those who St. Paul would say live by the flesh and not by the Spirit.

Jesus says come to me, and I will give you rest, take up my yoke and learn from me and you will find (the) rest I give you.

The wise and the learned of the world, who live by the desires of the flesh aren’t child-like enough to learn from Jesus.  And so, while Jesus gives them rest whenever they come to Him in the Sacraments, in prayer and even in good works, they can’t find this rest because it is buried under their pride and worldliness.  In contrast, it is the the little ones, those who aren’t wise and learned in the ways of the world, the child-like who live by the spirit and put to death the desires of the flesh, that Jesus reveals the mysteries of the Kingdom to.

So let us ask Jesus to help us not only to come to Him, but most importantly to take up His yoke and learn from Him – to take up our Cross by embracing the daily trials of life, and to learn what Jesus is teaching us in the present situation we find ourselves in.

Through this Eucharist may Jesus give us the rest our souls so desperately need, and may we find this rest Jesus so desires all of us to have by taking on our shoulders His gentle yoke and learning more from Him each day what discipleship entails.