Archive for August, 2008

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Homily — 21st Sunday OT A                8/24/8

At my first parish assignment in Cranston, there was a cute elderly couple both in their 90s named James and Katherine Quinn.  They had married each other in their late 40s, and in 2004 when Jim passed away at age 97, they had just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary the previous October.

Jim and Katherine had been married for at least a couple of years — it might have been as much as 8 years, I can exactly remember — but in any event, some time into their marriage Katherine was cleaning out the closet, and she comes across a Gold Medal that says “1928 Olympics, Amsterdam.”

She says to her husband “what’s this?”  “Oh,” he says “That’s mine; I won that in the 400 meter relay in the 1928 Olympics.  We set a World Record at the time also.  That was long before we met of course.”

I don’t know if Katherine said to him “Gee, what else haven’t you told me?”  But it’s a true story, back in 2000 he was the oldest living Olympic medalist in the country.

I was reminded of my old friends the Quinns not only by the current Olympic games going on, but also by the last line in today’s Gospel, where it says (Jesus) strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

You would think that if a person had won a Record setting Gold Medal in the Olympics 20 years ago, he would want to tell everyone, including his wife, about it.   And you would also think that if God became a man to save the human race, he would also want to tell everyone, especially God’s people, about it.

But time and again in the Gospels we find Jesus trying to hide His Divinity, and telling people he healed not to tell anyone who it was who healed them, and telling his disciples and even the demons not to tell people he is the Messiah.

And even when Jesus does work these miracles, He does them in out of the way places usually — in the middle of the desert, or in some hick town by the shores of Galilee, far from a big city like Rome or even a small city like Jerusalem.

And while at first this might seem a strange way for Jesus to act, forbidding His disciples to tell people He’s the Messiah or about His miracles, really Jesus is just practicing what He preached.   For Jesus on numerous occasions in the Gospel states that He who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.

Jesus never did anything for the purpose of drawing attention to Himself.  He rather did everything with the purpose of giving glory to His Heavenly Father.

It’s really this genuine humility of Jesus that caused the faith to spread so fast, and continues to draw people to our Lord today.   And certainly, the virtue of humility is something you and I should pray for in our life.  May we imitate Jesus and not flaunt our talents in order to get praise from others.

I’m not positive, but it might have been out of humility that my former parishioner didn’t tell initially his wife about winning a gold medal.  He probably didn’t so much want her to marry James Quinn the Olympic Gold Medalist as to marry James Quinn the whole man.

I also remember a story about Bl. Mother Theresa that illustrates her great humility.  In the seminary, one of our field assignments was to work in one of Mother Theresa’s homeless shelters in Washington DC.    A seminarian once told me that he was there one day, and I guess he asked a group of Indian nuns who lived several years with Mother Theresa if they ever seen her work any miracles.   And they all proceeded to tell of the time when this very sick person was brought to Mother, and after praying over him for healing he was immediately restored to full health.   And they ended the story by saying “and then Mother told us never to tell anyone about this.  And we said ‘yes, Mother, we will not tell anyone!’”

May we also Live and Profess our Faith that Jesus is the Christ in a humble way.

When Simon that day in Caesarea Philippi made that statement of faith in Jesus, the first person ever to publicly do so, Jesus said to Him “Blessed are you Simon.  And because of your stepping out in faith and professing this, I am making you not a tall lighthouse that everyone will see and praise; rather, I make you a Rock which will lay hidden deep in the earth, a Rock on which I will build my Church.”

“For the gates of hell cannot prevail against one who is humble and does all things not for self glorification, but for the glory of God the Father.”

Homily — 20th Sunday OT A 8/17/8

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Homily — 20th Sunday OT A                    8/17/8

In the first Reading, the LORD speaks through the Prophet Isaiah and says: All who keep the sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; Their holocausts and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar.

In this scripture passage and many others, we see God promising many blessings to those who keep the sabbath, the Lord’s Day, free from profanation.

I’d like to focus this week on what “Keeping Holy the Lord’s Day” entails, as this is one of the very few times the subject comes up in the three year cycle of Sunday readings.

When Moses received from the LORD the Ten Commandments, the 3rd Commandment as given in Exodus 20 verses 8—11 says:    “Remember to keep holy the sabbath day.   Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you.   In six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

God was able to do everything He needed to do Sunday through Friday, and He expected His people the Israelites to be able to do so as well. This Saturday day of rest the Jews took very seriously and they continue to take it very seriously.  For example, the Chinese government gave the President of Israel a room within walking distance from the Olympic complex, so that he could attend the opening ceremonies for the Olympics without violating the sabbath by driving in a car.  The other non-Jewish heads of state were put up in a hotel many miles distant.

The Saturday day of rest God commanded, however, was but a foreshadowing of Our Lord Jesus’ day of rest on Holy Saturday, as His crucified body lay dead in the tomb.

God the Father first created the world in six days, and then on the seventh day He rested.  But God the Son first rested on the seventh day, and on the eighth day He re-created the world and redeemed it through His glorious Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

And from that day on, Christians knew almost by Divine instinct that the Eighth Day, Sunday, was now the new and eternal Lord’s Day which must be kept Holy each week.   Jesus, who is, in his own words, the Lord of the Sabbath, moved the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.

Keeping Holy the Lord’s day for the New People of God, the Church, is a two-fold commandment.

First and foremost, it entails being physically and spiritually present at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every Sunday or Saturday Evening.

As my former pastor of my first parish, Fr. Donnelly, God rest his soul, used to say, “The prayers we say throughout the week are useless if we fail to join them to the great prayer Jesus offers in the Mass on Sunday.”

But while getting to Church is a very major part of keeping the 3rd Commandment, it’s not the only part.   In addition, we must also refrain from unnecessary work on Sunday.

Now, while the obligation to get to Mass if one is healthy and Mass is being offered nearby has always been a pretty black and white rule, refraining from work on Sunday has always admitted of a lot of gray areas and exceptions down through the centuries.

Certain professions have always been allowed to work, such as medical workers, policemen, food service workers.   On the other hand, one should refrain from other forms of work and business and commerce, especially manual labor if this is one’s main occupation the rest of the week.

Sadly, our American society over the past 50 years has got away from this second part of the 3rd commandment, and has turned Sunday into the biggest shopping day of the week.  Many people in the retail industry especially are forced to work on Sunday if they expect to keep their job.  In that case, an employee under these circumstances would not be violating the Commandment (although he should do everything he can to not work on Sunday).

However, certainly big business owners who claim to be Christian should examine their conscience on whether their decision to operate on Sunday and have sales that day is pleasing to God.   And also, we consumers who are Catholic should avoid unnecessary shopping on Sunday, for in doing so we are giving the business owners reason to force people to work on Sunday.   For if every Christian in this country refused to go shopping on Sunday, the stores wouldn’t bother staying open.

Now, the point of refraining from work and shopping on Sunday is so that everyone can spend time not only in prayer, but also with family and friends, visiting the sick, and getting needful rest to take on the coming week.

Let us my brothers and sisters examine our consciences on how well we have been keeping Holy the Lord’s Day.   When the Virgin Mary appeared to the children at LaSallette, she appeared crying, her face buried in her hands.   The children asked the Blessed Mother why she was crying and she said that it was because so many people were taking her Son’s name in vain and not keeping the Lord’s Day Holy.   May we not cause our Mother grief.

I will close with one of my favorite passages from Isaiah, which speaks of the great blessings we should expect if we obey the 3rd Commandment. Isaiah 58:12—14 states:

The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake, and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up; “Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you, “Restorer of ruined homesteads.”

If you hold back your foot on the sabbath from following your own pursuits on my holy day; If you call the sabbath a delight, and the LORD’S holy day honorable; If you honor it by not following your ways, seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice–

Then you shall delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Homily — Assumption MMVIII 8-15-8

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Homily — Assumption MMVIII 8-15-8

For over 1300 years, the Church has celebrated Our Blessed Mother’s Assumption into Heaven each year on this day (tomorrow’s date), August 15, in the middle of the summer season.

It is this time of the year that the earth and lakes, ocean and rivers are at their warmest; that the trees and fields are heavy with fruit and crops; and that the earth and sea and sky is teeming with all kinds of living creatures.

It is fitting that in the earthly glory of mid August, we celebrate the Heavenly glory of Mary’s Assumption Body and Soul into Heaven.

St. Paul in the 2nd Reading today states Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. Several month’s back, when we celebrated Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension, it was still the springtime, buds could only be found on the trees, and the earthly fruit spring promised us as well as the heavenly fruit Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension promised us was still a ways off. Today, as we celebrate the sinless Virgin Mary’s Resurrection and Assumption, we see the fruit promised by Jesus at it’s ripest and most beautiful.

Mary’s Assumption makes us even more hopeful that we will also share in Her Son Jesus’ Resurrection, because unlike Jesus who is true God and true Man, Mary is only a mere human like we are, although free from sin.

And just as it is beneficial to meditate often on Jesus Risen and Glorified in our daily prayer time, to picture Him before us in His glorified body, so it is also very beneficial for us to meditate often on our Mother Mary Risen and Glorified, to imagine Her before us in Her glorified body.

To aid us in our meditation, there are several Old Testament passages that have been used by the Church down through the ages in describing the Virgin Mary in Glory.

The Song of Songs 6:10 states: Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array?

And Psalm 45, parts of which are used in the Mass for Assumption Day, says in verses 14-16 All glorious is the king’s daughter as she enters, her raiment threaded with gold; In embroidered apparel she is led to the King . . . . amid gladness and joy she enters His palace.

And of course, in the New Testament Book of Revelation, St. John the Beloved sees a Vision of Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, inside God’s Temple in Heaven. He described it as A great sign . . . a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

Another help in meditating on the Assumption is to remember that Mary’s Immaculate soul is like a mirror which perfectly reflects God’s love and justice (which is why in the Litany of Loretto we invoke Mary as “Mirror of Justice).

Revelation 21:23 states that “(The Heavenly City of Jerusalem) has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and it’s lamp was (Jesus,) the Lamb (of God).” And so from the moment of her Assumption into Heaven, Mary the Mirror would have perfectly reflected that Light of Her Glorified Son, which means that Heaven is twice as bright now that Mary is there. And all the other Angels and Saints put together cannot equal the beauty and brightness that can now be found in Mary’s glorified Body and Soul.

And so we rejoice with the Church throughout the world that we are beloved Sons and Daughters of this Woman clothed with the Sun.

And we pray that she would intercede for us, that one day we may all be Soul and Body, with her and Jesus in the Everlasting Kingdom.

Homily — 19th Sun. OT A 8/10/08

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

Homily — 19th Sun. OT A                        8/10/08

I don’t know if you were one of the 2.3 billion or so people who watched the Opening ceremonies of the Olympic games this past Friday evening, but for those who missed it, in my mind the most impressive part of the ceremony wasn’t the 40,000 fireworks going off all at once but rather the Parade of Nations.  About 10,000 Olympic athletes from the 204 competing countries marched in the parade, each country dressed in a distinctive uniform symbolic of their nation.

There was great joy and pride on the faces of all in the parade, and for good reason, as these men and women were being honored as the top athletes in their country.   The applause and attention given to those athletes, who had trained long and hard to get where they are now, was well deserved.

But probably the proudest people last night (apart from the parents) were the 10,000 trainers of these athletes, those who in the background coached these men and women and were essential in enabling them to make it all the way to the 2008 summer Olympics.

It was the trainer’s job to push their trainee to the limit; to give them work outs and regimens that were demanding and at times even painful, but would ultimately in the end earn them the gold silver or bronze medal, if they persevered in the training.

And in today’s Gospel, we see Our Lord Jesus doing the same thing to His disciples;  we see Jesus being a kind of Olympic training coach.

After their big miraculous dinner in the wilderness with the 5000 families was ended and the sun had gone down over the horizon, St. Matthew says that Jesus made the disciples get in a boat and precede Him to the other side.

No sooner do they leave Jesus when a violent storm whips up on the Sea of Galilee.   And for the whole night, from early evening to about 4 a.m., the disciples are getting drenched by heavy rain and crashing waves, their getting beaten down by the wind which is against them, and their doing all they can the whole night to keep from getting shipwrecked.

Now, Jesus, being fully God, knew full well that this storm would be brewing up, yet Jesus made them get on the boat and be threatened by that storm.   This is because it was all part of the disciples training in the Faith.

And just like the good Olympic trainer who will sometimes train his or her athlete almost to the breaking point but not beyond it; Jesus does the same with the disciples on the boat.  Jesus is monitoring the whole work out as He prays on top of the mountain, and when He sees that the disciples are at the end of their rope, He come’s walking on the water to call the practice to an end and calm the seas and bring the boat to the shore.

My brothers and sisters, if we wish to call ourselves Christians, disciples of Jesus, if we aspire to be worthy members of His Holy Church, then we need to realize that God calls us to a holiness and a practice of the virtues of not ordinary, but extraordinary, even Olympic standards.

And in order to get us to the standard of faith hope and charity we need in order to be the Light of the World and the Salt of the Earth, Jesus our trainer in holiness must at times put us into stormy waters to test our faithfulness.

We should never be surprised when Jesus challenges us and puts us in situations where trials are pouring down upon us like heavy rain and crashing waves; where the winds of popular opinion are against our Traditional Christian faith and morality; and where temptation is so strong it threatens to shipwreck our faith.  These things are all part of the “work out” Jesus our trainer has developed for us; and He will not test us beyond our ability.

And notice how St. Peter, who is aiming for the Gold Medal and will not settle for the Silver, in the midst of the stormy sea asks Jesus to give him a special extra faith work-out:  Lord, if it is you, bid me walk across the water.  Jesus bids him come, and encourages Peter as he takes those first steps out on the stormy sea.  When Peter begins to sink, Jesus lifts him up, and while he admonishes his trainee for his little faith, there’s also a tone of approval that Peter tried to go that extra mile.

May we weather with Faith the storms Jesus puts us in throughout our earthly life, so that we will be stronger Christians with each passing year; and so that by the end of our life, when we get to Heaven, we may march in that Eternal Parade with our fellow countrymen who with us have also run the race and fought the good fight, amid the cheers of angels and saints, with Jesus our trainer looking on from the bleachers, beaming with pride.

Homily – 18th Sunday Ordinary Time A 8/3/8

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

Homily – 18th Sunday Ordinary Time A         8/3/8

Our Gospel begins today with Jesus getting the tragic news of the death of John the Baptist.

And hearing of the passing of the one Jesus called the greatest man ever born of a woman must have deeply affected Our Lord in His Sacred Humanity.  Jesus, being fully Human as well as fully God, would certainly have experienced, on an emotional level, the grief you and I feel when someone we love dies.  In fact, being a perfect Human, Christ while on earth would have grieved even more deeply than we would have, just as He would have loved others more deeply than we can ever love.

And we see Jesus expressing His grief over the death of John the Baptist by all His subsequent actions in this Gospel.

First, Jesus wishes to be alone and away from the crowds for a while, so he can pray and reflect on John’s life.   And what better place to reflect on the life of John the Baptist than the water!  He gets into a boat, and as the boat pulled away from the shore, Jesus must have remembered those days John spent by the banks of the Jordan River;  He must have remembered the day of His own Baptism by the hand of John.

And thinking of all these things, Jesus must have then said “I think I’ll sail off to a deserted place in the wilderness, and disembark there.”  The wilderness with it’s locusts and wild honey bees would also hold its own memories of John, who was the Voice crying out in the wilderness:  “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

And as Our Lord sailed across the Sea of Galilee, as He gazed out over the water, His thoughts must have reflected on all the many ways John the Baptist prepared the People for His own coming.  For John’s whole life, from his conception to his death, was a foreshadowing and preparation and warm up for Jesus’ whole earthly life and death.

Jesus’ miraculous conception was announced by the Angel Gabriel to His Mother Mary, but before that happened, John’s miraculous conception was announced by the same angel to John’s father, Zechariah.

Jesus was born of a young, newly married virgin, but before that happened, John was first born of an old, long time married childless woman.

At Jesus’ birth, the Heavens would break their silence as the angels sang out “Glory to God in the Highest and peace to men of good will;” But prior to that, John’s father Zechariah would break his imposed silence and sing out “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, He has come to His people and set them free.”

Jesus would preach “Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”  but only after John had got the crowds warmed up with  the same challenging message of conversion;

Jesus would Baptize the people with the Holy Spirit and fire, but only after John had first Baptized them with water for repentance.

“And now,” Jesus might have reflected as He sailed along that day, “John has been arrested, and executed.  Yes, it won’t be long now before I myself  am arrested and put to death by Crucifixion.”

And as his boat neared the shore, Jesus might have said to Himself “Yes, John the Baptist, you did very well in preparing the people for the coming of my Kingdom to Earth in every way — but one.

“There’s one major thing you weren’t able to prepare them for.  And it’s one major thing that they need to be prepared for.  But rest in peace John — I will be like you, and prepare them myself for this major work I will later do.”

And with thoughts of his late great cousin fresh in His mind, Jesus disembarks from the boat, and feeds a crowd of 5000 families with five loaves of bread and a couple fish.

The one time miracle of the multiplication of the loaves in the wilderness was a foreshadowing, John the Baptist style, of the ongoing Miracle of the Holy Eucharist Jesus would institute at the Last Supper, a miracle we will re-present in a few moments on this Altar.

And just as Jesus that day healed and taught and gave rest and satisfaction to each person who made the time and effort to follow Jesus into that wilderness, so Jesus now at every Mass heals and teaches and gives rest and satisfaction to each and every person who takes the time and effort to leave the world for a while and spend time with Him in God’s House.

And just as Christ that day took the bread the disciples gave Him, and looking up to Heaven, blessed and broke it and after that it was able to feed the multitude with it;   So Jesus today takes the gift we give Him of ourselves, and after taking us in His arms He looks up to Heaven, blesses us with His grace, and breaks us with His Holy Cross.

And after Jesus has blessed and broken us, He is then able to use us to feed the multitudes in the world with His Holy Gospel.

He is then able to make us His forerunners, His modern day John the Baptists, who prepare the way of the Lord in our world.