Archive for May, 2009

Homily — 6th Sunday Easter MMIX 5/17/09

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

Homily — 6th Sunday Easter MMIX 5/17/09

I started my day off this week by going to see the new Star Trek movie at Lincoln Mall Cinema Tuesday morning.

As I was leaving to see it, I was coming from teaching a class at the school, and the children were out playing for recess.

Mr. Jones, one of the sixth grade teachers and a huge sci-fi fan was also outside monitoring the kids.

So I said to him, “Mr. Jone’s, I’m going right now to see the new Star Trek Movie.” “You’re going to be disappointed Father” he said; I said “Don’t tell me anything, I want to be surprized.” “You’ll see what I mean” he said.

Well, I wasn’t disappointed at all, the movie was for the most part a very entertaining, well put together film with good character’s lots of action and great special effects. And aside from one brief but very immodest scene, not morally objectionable for teens and over to see.

But I think I knew why a hard core Trekkie like Mr. Jones would be upset at the movie, and a few days later when I was over at the school and ran into Mr. Jones again, I found out I was correct in my assumptions.

Mr. Jones and some other Star Trek fans dislike the new film because it totally revises Star Trek History.

Without spoiling anything for those who haven’t seen it, in the new movie some major, life-changing events happen in the early lives of Kirk and Spock and the gang, events which are totally inconsistent with the original Star Trek series with the same character’s.

And as this new Star Trek is a huge hit, most probably there’ll be sequels made which will further revise Star Trek history.

Now, whether it’s wise or unwise to muddle the history of the fictional crew members of the Starship Enterprise is more a matter of opinion than morality.

But let us leave Cinema #5 where Star Trek is playing and pop our heads into Cinema #6, where Dan Brown’s “Angels and Demons” is making it’s weekend debut to a packed audience.

This follow-up to the infamous DaVinci Code also not surprisingly tampers with historical facts, not as blasphemously as the DaVinci Code does, but still enough to warrant calling “Angels and Demons” an anti-Catholic piece of entertainment.

In this new film millions of people will flock to see this weekend, the Catholic Church is portrayed as being so historically opposed to scientific progress that in 1668 the Vatican tortured and killed four scientists as a warning to other scientists not to disagree with the Church.

In the novel which the movie is based on, Dan Brown goes so far as to say that the famous scientist Copernicus was (quote) “murdered by the Church for revealing scientific truths” (endquote).

All of this is baloney. Copernicus was never even criticized by the Church, let alone persecuted. On the contrary, Copernicus and countless other early scientists were encouraged and even funded by the Church hierarchy to further their scientific research.

“Angels and Demons” sadly perpetuates on a mass-media scale the anti-Catholic myth which the Church in America has had to combat since the founding of our country, the myth that Church history is full of scientists like Galileo who were tortured and/or silenced by Church hierarchy.

What history really shows is that Galileo is the one sad exception to an otherwise glowing record of the Catholic Church being one of the foremost patrons of modern science down through the ages.

But let’s leave Tom Hanks and the movie theater altogether and walk out into the real world we live in, and let us take a look at the even more disturbing revision of history going on in around us.

We see court houses and senate chambers throughout New England rashly going where no man has gone before.

Now Judges, Congressmen, and Governors in Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont and Massachusetts are trying to tell us that all this time, civilized humanity has been bigoted in restricting the institution of marriage to one man and one woman, all this time the pedestal of honor society has put marriage on has been in reality a shameful perpetuating of inequality and homophobia.  The institution of marriage has been all this while an evil institution which, like human slavery, we must progress beyond in this 21st century.

Certainly this is how our children’s history books will spin things in year’s to come if we continue down this path to legal recognition of gay marriage.

Finally, I’d like to leave past history and pseudo-history and conclude with history in the making.

For today is certainly one of the saddest, lowest days in the History of our Church in America, as Notre Dame University, one of the biggest and most prestigious Catholic Universities in our country, bestows an honorary doctorate to our President, a President who in his first 100 days of Office has started using your tax dollars and mine to pay for overseas abortions and to fund the destruction of innocent embryonic human beings in the name of scientific research, a President who is trying to deprive health care workers of their right not to cooperate in abortion or other immoral medical practices. <!– @page { margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –>

While we Catholic can and should certainly respect our President, and while a leader with views such as he holds could be invited under certain circumstances to give a talk at Catholic institutions, we Catholics can in no way bestow honors upon people who hold such anti-life views, and for Notre Dame University to bestow an honorary degree and the honor of giving a commencement address on such a pro-abortion figure is a grave scandal.

You know, President Obama right now has the ability to do something no president in the past 35 years has had the ability to do: With the retirement of Supreme Court Justice David Souter, President Obama has the ability to overturn the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion.

Imagine if Mr. Obama said to America at this time “I’m replacing Justice Souter with a Judge who will defend the inalienable, God given rights of all unborn children in this country from the moment of their conception on. In doing so, I’ll be tipping the scales of our Supreme Court in favor of overturning our countries greatest offense against humanity since the Dread Scott decision which upheld human slavery.”

Do that, Mr. President, and every believing Catholic in this country from the bishops on down will give you an honorary degree from every Catholic Institution in America, from Notre Dame to Providence College to Mt. St. Charles to Good Shepherd Catholic Regional.

But after today, what hope do we have for our non-Catholic President Obama to ever change his mind on abortion?  Should he ever in the future get the slightest twinge of conscience on what he’s doing to the least of Christ’s brethren, he can brush it away by saying to himself: “Notre Dame gave me an honorary degree, what could be so wrong about abortion?”

And this is the message we’re sending not only to our President, but to our children and to the young adults of our Church. Is it no wonder why the Catholic Church is shrinking in America?

May we not lose hope however. Jesus has not abandoned us, and Our Lady has not either. As Jesus says in today’s Gospel “If you love me by keeping my commandments, Whatsoever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.”

Let us pray fervently to them, that our Country and our Church in this great land may, in the words of a famous Vulcan, continue to “live long and prosper,” and not die fast and flounder.

Homily — 5th Sunday Easter MMIX 5/10/9

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

Homily — 5th Sunday Easter MMIX 5/10/9

I am the true vine . . . you are the branches.

If you ever have the good fortune to go to Rome and you’re near the Coloseum, I would highly recommend you pop into the Church of San Clemente and pay a visit.

The Church doesn’t look like much from the outside, and even isn’t that impressive inside either.  But what’s very worth seeing is the giant 900 year old gilded mosaic found above the Main Altar in the Apse of the Church, which many people think is the most impressive mosaic in all Christendom.

The Mosaic is about the size of this archway above me. Right in the middle of it is a kind of cartoon like image of Jesus crucified on the Cross, kind of like the Franciscan San Damiano Cross. (The Cross is about the same size as our Cross hanging in this archway).

What’s most unusual about this particular Cross is that at the base of it, where the Cross meets the ground, there’s this bush of big green leaves growing up from the ground, as if the Cross was shooting up from this giant head of Romaine Lettuce.

And growing out of the left and right side of this big green leafy bush at the base of the Cross is an enormous green vine which curls back and forth and fills the whole space of the mosaic with 50 Spirally branches, 25 on each side, shooting off from the One Vine emanating from the Cross of Jesus.

And in these branches you can see people working at their jobs, studying at school, praying at Church, you can see all kinds of birds and fish and animals living, you can see angels playing on musical instruments.

And at the very top of the Mosaic, right above the Cross, is the hand of God the Father reaching down and grabbing on to the top of the Cross, pulling the Cross and the Vine and the Branches all up to Heaven with Him.

This famous 12th Century San Clemente Mosaic is a visual depiction of Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel: I am the True Vine, you are the branches.

Jesus is the True Vine which brings forth the Fruit of Abundant Eternal Life, wherever this True Vine grows in our World, the dry barren desert becomes a lush garden of paradise.

It is interesting though, how Jesus emphasizes that He is the True Vine. There are many other Vines in this world that we can attach ourselves to, but the other vines are False Vines, weeds really, that bear bitter poisonous fruit, Jesus is the One True Vine that bears rich abundant fruit.

And as branches of Jesus the True Vine, in order for us to bear the fruit of a Holy Life, Jesus tells us that we need to remain attached to the Vine.

Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit. We certainly break ourselves off from Jesus the Vine when we commit serious sin, and then we need to go to confession to get grafted back on.

But we also fail to remain in Jesus when we get really wrapped up in the cares of this world. We should try on a daily basis to take time out for prayer, that we might get ever more rooted in Christ throughout the week.

Jesus says whoever remains in me . . . .will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.

We can do everything with Jesus, and nothing without Him. But we should also remember that the reverse is also true in a way. Jesus also says to us “Without you, I can do nothing.”

Unless we branches remain in Jesus, His saving fruits of peace and love won’t come forth into the world.

As the saying goes, Jesus has no more hands in this world to care for the poor but our hands, he has no more feet to bring the Gospel to the world with but our feet, no mouth to proclaim it but our mouth.

May we remain more fully in Jesus the True Vine, that this Vine may again spread to all corners of our society and make a Garden of Paradise spring up on the earth.

Homily — 4th Sunday Easter B MMIX May 3, 2009

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

Homily — 4th Sunday Easter B MMIX            May 3, 2009

I am the Good Shepherd,  I will lay down my life for my sheep, says the Lord Jesus.

Every year on this Fourth Sunday of Easter the Church gives us this wonderful image of Christ to reflect on.

And at first glance, the image of Christ the Good Shepherd is a very consoling one.  Jesus is the gentle Shepherd, who cares for every sheep in his flock and calls each one by name.   The Good Shepherd leads us throughout our life to Green Pastures,  He is there guiding us through the dark valleys.

Only when absolutely necessary does the Good Shepherd have to get out his rod to discipline us when we stay onto dangerous paths.    But very very frequently is he needing to use his staff to gently nudge us from straying out of the pasture and onto dangerous paths.

All of the above is certainly true of Jesus the Good Shepherd.    But this year, given the circumstances the Church in our country finds herself in, lets take a deeper look at this image of the Good Shepherd as Jesus presents it.

Our Lord says I am the Good Shepherd, I will lay down my life for the sheep.    Jesus doesn’t say “the Good Shepherd will risk laying down His life for the Sheep” he instead says “the Good Shepherd will lay down his life for the sheep.”    Here we have a not very consoling image of a flock of sheep seriously threatened by a pack of wolves.

When these wolves attack the pasture, the Good Shepherd, as Jesus says, does not run away, but rather the Good Shepherd stands between the wolves and the sheep.

At times, the wolves will back down out of fear of the Good Shepherd.  At other times, no matter how fiercely the wolves attack, they are unable to overcome Him.

But the mysterious reality is that at other times, The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.    At these times when God the Father permits it, the sheep look with horror as the Good Shepherd is torn to pieces by the wolves, and dies.

This is of course what happened that first Holy Week, when the Apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane watched with horror as they saw Jesus the Good Shepherd be arrested by the wolves, then be scourged and then be crucified and buried in the tomb.   And throughout the history of our Holy Catholic  Church,  this scene has been repeated in times of persecution.

A similar image is presented in the first reading, and in the Psalm.  Jesus is the Stone rejected by the builders, says Peter in the First Reading.    The Stone is rejected, another stone is used as the foundation, and the building is built not on Jesus Christ but on a shaky foundation that really won’t withstand the storms and earthquakes and floods in the long run.

And once the building is up, it is next to impossible to change foundations on that building.  The Stone remains rejected, cast aside by the builders;  the Good Shepherd is killed by the wolves.

It is an image I present to you my brothers and sisters, because in a lot of ways this is what we are seeing in our culture today.   Jesus, the Cornerstone of civilization and true human progress, is being more and more rejected by the builders of our society today.

For example, Jesus’ teaching on the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, a teaching John the Baptist lost his head defending, is being rejected by the builders of our society today.

And Jesus’ teaching on the sanctity of human life, his teaching that whatsoever you do to the most insignificant of innocent human beings, we do unto him, this foundational teaching has also been rejected by the builders of our society today.    And sadly, Christ’s 2000 year old teaching on the sanctity of human life is being even rejected by some of our nations biggest Catholic Universities, as seen in the recent scandalous decision of one Catholic University to give an honorary degree later this month to one of the most pro-abortion politicians currently in office.

Jesus Christ, the cornerstone apart from whom there is no salvation, is no longer the cornerstone of our society; and even worse, He is no longer the cornerstone of many who claim to be Catholic in our country.

But let us end this meditation by returning to the image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, standing up to the wolves who seek to devour the sheep of his pasture.

The sheep look on as the Good Shepherd with great courage stands up to the wolves.    They see how he doesn’t run, they see his great love for them, and even as the wolves tear him apart they see how he does not hold any hatred for them.

And as the wolves finish dealing with the Good Shepherd and turn their eyes on the sheep, one or two of the sheep are so inspired by the witness of the Good Shepherd that they rush to the front of the flock.

And in imitation of Jesus the Good Shepherd, these once frightened, timid sheep themselves stand between the wolves and the flock, defending them from harm, laying down their lives for their brother sheep.

See what love the Father has bestowed on us, in making us the Children of God.  And so we are!

My brothers and sister, we are children of the Good Shepherd.  We need not fear the wolves of our day, who reject Jesus and build on another foundation.  May we remain close to the Good Shepherd; may we make Him the cornerstone of our lives, and pray that one day He will again be the cornerstone of our society.