Archive for November, 2008

Homily — Thanksgiving MMVIII 11/27/08

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Homily — Thanksgiving MMVIII 11/27/08

Today, our Nation and it’s citizens imitate the Samaritan leper in today’s Gospel by falling at the feet of Jesus and thanking Him for all His blessings and graces.

From the very beginning of our country’s founding, and throughout our nation’s history, the people of America have held national days of Thanksgiving to God for all His blessings on us.

The first recorded Thanksgiving feast in our Country actually took place in 1565 when 600 Spanish settlers arrived in St. Augustine Florida on September 8th, the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Birthday.

They immediately celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving for arriving safely (the first Mass ever celebrated in our country), and after Mass held a feast with the local Indians. According to researchers, no Turkey was on the menu, only Bean Soup.

Fifty-six years later, in the Autumn of 1621 in Plymouth Massachusetts, the Pilgrims held a big feast in the late fall after their first harvest in the New World. While Turkeys were on the menu that day, according to historians it was more of a big party than a day of Thanksgiving to God. When the Pilgrims finally had a Day of Thanksgiving, it was a day of Prayer and Fasting.

From the research I’ve done, Turkeys and Thanksgiving didn’t seem to come together until after our country’s Independence, when in 1777 the Continental Congress put out the First National Proclamation of Thanksgiving. This is what that proclamation in stated (I’ve removed only a few archaic words to the original):

FORASMUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the . . . . Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to Him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of:

And it having pleased Him in His abundant Mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of His . . . . Providence; but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defense and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties . . . .
It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and PRAISE:

That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that . . . . they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, . . . . and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance;

That it may please Him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively . . . .

To inspire our Commanders, both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty GOD, to secure for these United States, the greatest of all human Blessings, INDEPENDENCE and PEACE:

That it may please Him,

to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People . . . . that our Land may yield its Increase:

To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under His nurturing Hand;

and to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom, which consisteth “in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost.”

And it is further recommended, That servile Labor, and such Recreation, as . . . . may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.

And on that fine note, Thanksgiving began to be celebrated as a National Holiday in this great Nation of ours.

During this year of St. Paul in our Church, given the situation we find our nation to be in, it may be good to reflect on the passage from First Thessalonians 5:16—18, where St. Paul says

Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

As Christians, we always have much to be thankful for. God is so good to us, in giving us Faith to live by, in giving us a Church, family, friends, health, life.

Through our faith in Christ, we can even be thankful for the trials God sends us — so these days, we have a lot to be thankful for! But seriously, it was in the darkest hour of Jesus’ life that He gave Solemn Thanks to God in the Holy Eucharist. Even then, Jesus could see all the many many blessings God the Father had given Him, and Jesus was truly thankful.

May God help us this Thanksgiving to like Christ our Lord give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us.

STATEMENT of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to the President-Elect

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

On this Feast of Christ the King, I included as a bulletin insert this Statement made by the Catholic Bishops of our country to President-elect Barack Obama on November 12, 2008, during their annual Fall Meeting.   Taking the President-elect at his word, the Bishops in the letter are in large part responding to Obama’s July 17, 2007 promise to Planned Parenthood that “the first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act.”  

Let us join with our Bishops in asking God’s blessings to be upon our future president; may Christ the King even now help him to see the humanity and dignity of these “least of Christ’s brethren (Mt 25:40),” the unborn, and to defend their inalienable right to life.     — Fr. W.

STATEMENT of the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

“If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor; if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil.” (Psalm 127, vs. 1)

The Bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States welcome this moment of historic transition and look forward to working with President-elect Obama and the members of the new Congress for the common good of all. Because of the Church’s history and the scope of her ministries in this country, we want to continue our work for economic justice and opportunity for all; our efforts to reform laws around immigration and the situation of the undocumented; our provision of better education and adequate health care for all, especially for women and children; our desire to safeguard religious freedom and foster peace at home and abroad. The Church is intent on doing good and will continue to cooperate gladly with the government and all others working for these goods.

The fundamental good is life itself, a gift from God and our parents. A good state protects the lives of all. Legal protection for those members of the human family waiting to be born in this country was removed when the Supreme Court decided Roe vs. Wade in 1973. This was bad law. The danger the Bishops see at this moment is that a bad court decision will be enshrined in bad legislation that is more radical than the 1973 Supreme Court decision itself.

In the last Congress, a Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) was introduced that would, if brought forward in the same form today, outlaw any “interference” in providing abortion at will. It would deprive the American people in all fifty states of the freedom they now have to enact modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry. FOCA would coerce all Americans into subsidizing and promoting abortion with their tax dollars. It would counteract any and all sincere efforts by government and others of good will to reduce the number of abortions in our country.

Parental notification and informed consent precautions would be outlawed, as would be laws banning procedures such as partial-birth abortion and protecting infants born alive after a failed abortion. Abortion clinics would be deregulated. The Hyde Amendment restricting the federal funding of abortions would be abrogated. FOCA would have lethal consequences for prenatal human life.
FOCA would have an equally destructive effect on the freedom of conscience of doctors, nurses and health care workers whose personal convictions do not permit them to cooperate in the private killing of unborn children. It would threaten Catholic health care institutions and Catholic Charities. It would be an evil law that would further divide our country, and the Church should be intent on opposing evil.
On this issue, the legal protection of the unborn, the bishops are of one mind with Catholics and others of good will. They are also pastors who have listened to women whose lives have been diminished because they believed they had no choice but to abort a baby. Abortion is a medical procedure that kills, and the psychological and spiritual consequences are written in the sorrow and depression of many women and men. The bishops are single-minded because they are, first of all, single-hearted.

The recent election was principally decided out of concern for the economy, for the loss of jobs and homes and financial security for families, here and around the world. If the election is misinterpreted ideologically as a referendum on abortion, the unity desired by President-elect Obama and all Americans at this moment of crisis will be impossible to achieve. Abortion kills not only unborn children; it destroys constitutional order and the common good, which is assured only when the life of every human being is legally protected. Aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans, and would be seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of their religion.

This statement is written at the request and direction of all the Bishops, who also want to thank all those in politics who work with good will to protect the lives of the most vulnerable among us. Those in public life do so, sometimes, at the cost of great sacrifice to themselves and their families; and we are grateful. We express again our great desire to work with all those who cherish the common good of our nation. The common good is not the sum total of individual desires and interests; it is achieved in the working out of a common life based upon good reason and good will for all.

Our prayers accompany President-elect Obama and his family and those who are cooperating with him to assure a smooth transition in government. Many issues demand immediate attention on the part of our elected “watchman.” (Psalm 127). May God bless him and our country.

(Cardinal Francis George, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop of Chicago)

Homily — Christ the King MMVIII Nov. 23, 2008

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

Homily — Christ the King MMVIII Nov. 23, 2008

We have come now to the Last Sunday in the Church Year. A year ago, we began the Church Year with the Season of Advent in preparation for the Birth of the Messiah. At the end of Advent we celebrated Christmas, Epiphany, Christ’s Baptism.

Back in February we entered the Penitential 40 Day Season of Lent, in preparation for Holy Week, Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion and Death on Good Friday, the Holy Saturday Easter Vigil of the Lord’s Resurrection, and Easter Sunday.

Then for 50 days we celebrated the Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead; on the 40th day of Easter we came to Church to celebrate His Ascension into Heaven, and then for the next 9 days we prayed like Mary and the Apostles did — for an Outpouring of the Holy Spirit on our Church and our world.

On Pentecost, the 50th and final day of the Easter Season, the Holy Spirit did come on us as we celebrated the Birth of our Mother the Church.

Then, for the rest of May, June, July, August, September, October, and November, each Sunday we focused on the Public Life of Our Lord Jesus — each Sunday we followed him as he went from town to town, working miracles and healing the sick and casting out demons and teaching with authority.

And now, the last Sunday of the Church Year, as we celebrate this Feast of Christ the King, the Church invites us to reflect on the Absolute Kingship of Jesus, both now and at the end of time.

In the Gospel, we see an image of Jesus coming in Glory down from Heaven, with all His armies of angels with Him; He will sit upon His glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before Him.

In our modern government, we have separation of powers, three separate branches of government, the Legislative, the Judicial and the Executive. The Legislative branch is given the power to write up the Laws of the country which citizens are bound to abide by, the Judicial branch is given the power to judge whether those laws are being kept or broken, and the Executive branch is given the power to execute punishment on those judged to be lawbreakers, and the power to reward those Judged to be Law Keepers.

But as Jesus says in the Gospel, All Power and Authority has been given to me by God my Father. Jesus in His first coming exercised His Power as Legislator – He promulgated His Law of the Gospel, which every human being is bound to obey.

And at the Second Coming of Christ in Glory, Jesus will exercise both Judicial Power and Executive Power: He will sit as Judge of every man and woman who was ever created, from every age and nation. He will Judge them according to the Law of the Gospel which He is the Author of.

As St. John of the Cross says, “In the Evening of Life, you will be Judged in Love.” Our Salvation or Damnation will depend upon how well we have loved the Least of Christ’s Brethren.

And once all have been Judged, then Christ the King will Himself execute each man and woman’s sentence. Jesus Himself will carry His Sheep in His Arms to the Bosom of the Father, to the Heavenly Mansion He has prepared for each of them. And Jesus Himself will also cast into Eternal Hell each of those who failed in Charity towards the least of His brethren.
When Jesus, the Word of God, commands something, that command is executed at His Word. When He said This is my Body . . . This is my Blood Bread and Wine became His Body and Blood. And when Jesus at the end of time will say to the Sheep Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you and to the Goats Out of my sight you accursed, into the eternal fire, these things will be done by the Word of His command.
And after Christ the King has returned in Glory to earth, Jesus will then reign over His people in a land where there is no more pain or sorrow or sin or hatred, but only love and peace and health and union with God and all the saint for ever and ever.

Such is the image of Christ the King in Glory, at the end of time.

But what about until then? How is Jesus King of Kings and Lord of Lords in our world today? We pray in the Our Father “Thy Kingdom Come”; but when we look around the world, it seems as if we’re getting further and further away from God’s Kingdom.

That is because from now until the end of time, Christ the King rules in this World from the Cross.

We read above every Crucifix an abbreviation of those world Pilate put there: INRI — Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudeorum, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.

And so He still is — Jesus Crucified is King of the Jews and of the Gentiles, Jesus Crucified reigns supreme in this world.

And Christ Crucified can be found in every hungry and thirsty man and woman; Christ Crucified can be found in every stranger wanting to be loved; Christ Crucified can be found in every sick person, in every person imprisoned by sin;

Christ Crucified can be found in every person unjustly treated — in those who suffer violence or abuse, in the person sold into slavery.

And more than ever today, Christ our Crucified King is to be found in the unborn child whose life is threatened by abortion.

Whatsoever we do to these least of our brother human beings, that we are doing to The King who will Judge us at the end of our life.

May we be loyal servants to Christ crucified in our brothers and sisters today, so that when Jesus comes in glory, he may say to us Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

Homily — 33rd Sunday OT A November 16, 2008

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Homily — 33rd Sunday OT A                November 16, 2008

In today’s parable, Jesus speaks about a man going on journey, going away for a long time.

Before the man leaves however, the parable says the man entrusted his possessions to the servants.

One servant receives 5 of the master’s talents, another servant receives 2 of the master’s talents, and the third servant receives 1 of the master’s talents.

Now, to really understand this parable, we ought to know what the Gospel means by the word “talent”.

A talent in Jesus’ day was a measure of money, a very large measure of money in fact.  One talent was equal to 15 year’s salary of an average worker; or a hundred pounds of silver.

So even the man who received only one of the master’s talents received a huge amount, 15 year’s pay, and the man who received 5 talents received the equivalent of 75 year’s pay.

And (my children), it is somewhat unfortunate that when we hear this parable, we immediately think of the “talents” — that is, the natural talents –  God has given us.

Things like our intelligence, our skill at a particular trade, our athletic or artistic ability.

Certainly those kinds of talents are gifts God has blessed us with, and certainly we need to find and develop and use those talents for God’s glory in life, but if we read the parable closely, that’s not what Jesus is really talking about.

For the master entrusted His possessions, His talents to them.

And it’s obvious that the master is Jesus himself, who like the master in the parable has gone off on a journey, has gone off to Heaven to prepare a place for us, and like the master, after a long time, Jesus will return to settle accounts with us, at the end of our life.

And finally, like the master in the parable, Jesus has left His servants His possessions.  All that Jesus, the Master, the King of Kings and Lord of Lord, possesses has been given to us.

It wasn’t his material possessions Jesus left to us — the only thing Jesus owned was a rather nice seamless robe, but that was taken by the soldiers when they crucified him.

And it wasn’t His natural talent Jesus gave us either, his skills as a Carpenter, His eloquence in preaching, His art of  telling stories.

But what possessions Jesus gives even the least of his servants is worth far more than the 5 talents, the 75 years of wages, the first servant received.

From the moment we were Baptized, Jesus gave us all that He possessed.  He gave us His Divine Sonship — we became adopted Sons and Daughters of God.  He gave us the merits of His Passion and Death, and washed away our sins in His own Blood.

He gave us the infinite riches of His Holy Spirit, supernatural Faith, Hope and Charity, the seven Gifts of the Spirit.

He gave us the rich possession of His Mother Mary to be our Mother, our help through life.  He gave us the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist.

To some of us he’s given the gift of a vocation to Marriage or Religious Life or Holy Orders, or He’s given us charismatic gifts to build up the Body of Christ the Church.

These are the talents, these are the Master’s possessions the  parable refers to.

And so Jesus asks us:  have I used these talents God has given me to the best of my ability?

Have I put my stock in my Catholic Faith, have I invested 100% in it, even when people say that this is a foolish investment in this day and age?

Or like the third servant, have I buried these Supernatural riches God wishes me to live off of so deep in my heart, that I barely even think of God and His will for my life?

May we make good use of the vast Spiritual Riches Jesus has left us to live with, may we each day invest in them and use them so as to profit spirituality from them and cause others to profit from them also.

That way, when the Master returns suddenly at the end of our life, he may not overtake us like a thief in the night, but rather we will be prepared to welcome Him and share in our Master’s joy.  Having been faithful in those small matters on earth, he will give us great responsibilities in Heaven.

Homily — Dedication of St. John Lateran Nov. 9, 2008

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Homily — Dedication of St. John Lateran        Nov. 9, 2008

Today, we celebrate the anniversary of the dedication of a Church in Rome with a very long name, officially called the “Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour, St. John Baptist and St. John the Evangelist at the Lateran” (the Lateran is a district in the city of Rome).  Since that is a mouthful, the Church is usually called St. John Lateran.

And today’s Feast is in a way the 3rd and final feast in a Trilogy of November Feast days.

A week ago (yesterday), on November 1, we celebrated All Saints Day.  On that day we focused on the Saints, those Christians who have fought the good fight and now live happily forever in Heaven.

A week ago today, on November 2, we celebrated All Souls Day.  On that day we focused on and prayed for the Holy Souls, those Christians who have died in Christ and have been found worthy of eternal salvation, but must first be purified and cleansed further of their sins in Purgatory before they can enter Heaven.
And today, exactly one week after All Souls Day, on this Feast of  the dedication of St. John Lateran, we focus not on the Saints in Heaven, not on the Holy Souls in Purgatory, but on the Christians left — namely us, the Church on earth.

Because St. John Lateran isn’t just one of thousands of other Churches in the world.

The inscription above the entrance to this Basilica tells us how important this Church is.  It reads:

SACROS LATERAN ECCLES
OMNIUM URBIS ET ORBIS
ECCLESIARUM MATER ET CAPUT.

It translates to “Sacred Lateran Church, Mother and Head of All Churches, of the City (of Rome) and the World.”  Even St. Peter’s in Rome is second in importance to this Church.  The official Pastor of St. John’s is Pope Benedict XVI.  In a way, we are all members of that parish of St. John’s in Rome.

And this day is to remind us of what the Church on earth is all about.
The whole Church as we see is presently in three parts — in Heaven, in Purgatory, and on Earth.  We traditionally have called the Church in Heaven the Church Triumphant, the Church in Purgatory the Church Suffering, and the Church on Earth the Church Militant.  While the Church is in Three places, it is one mystical body united by Christ the Head.

And as we journey through this earthly life toward Heaven, we are reminded that we must be Militant, that we must engage in Spiritual Warfare and do battle with our three fold enemy, the world the flesh and the devil.

Now, some armies at times will wage offensive wars of aggression, while other armies will only fight defensive wars of protection.

The Church and it’s members on earth fight both offensive and defensive spiritual wars.

We go on the Offense only when it comes to our own personal sins.

In the Old Testament book of Joshua, God tells the Israelites to go into the Promised land and to drive out the 7 nations of people living there, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Jebusites, etc.

And all of the early Christian Fathers of the Church saw that to be a symbol of how the Christian must root out the 7 deadly sins in his own soul.

Tradition teaches us that the three weapons at our disposal in our personal fight against sin are prayer, fasting and almsgiving, which is why we focus on them during the Season of Lent.

While members of the Church need to wage an offensive war within themselves to conquer their sinfulness, they at the same time need to wage a defensive war without — they must defend their Catholic Faith when the Faith is attacked or misunderstood.

If someone speaks untruthfully about what the Church believes, we must defend the Faith by speaking up for it.

If someone is trying to force us to act against our Faith or Catholic Morality, we must defend our Faith by refusing in conscience to do so.

And St. Paul in the famous passage in Ephesians tells us that in this Defensive War we’re in, we need to be wearing the Armor of God:  having among other things the Shield of Faith, the Belt of Truth, the Helmet of Salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.

So on this Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran, we remember that we are members of a Church which must be Militant as it makes it’s Pilgrim journey through this life.