Archive for May, 2010

Homily — 7th Sunday Easter MMX C 5/16/10

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

Homily — 7th Sunday Easter MMX C 5/16/10

The Stoning of St. Stephen by Annibale Carracci (1603-04)

The Stoning of St. Stephen by Annibale Carracci (1603-04)

Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, my reward with me.

Jesus, who this past Thursday Ascended into Heaven, is coming soon back to us. On Pentecost Sunday He will come into the hearts of the disciples in the Upper Room, bringing them “His reward”, the Holy Spirit, with Him.

(St. Paul, incidentally, calls the Holy Spirit the “down payment” of that reward given to all who follow Jesus in this life. On judgment day, Jesus will “pay in full” each person according to his or her deeds.)

This time between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday is kind of a mini-Advent for the Church, it is a time of waiting for God to come to us in a more powerful way.

On Ascension Thursday Jesus told the disciples Go and make disciples of all nations . . . .but first, wait. Wait in the Upper Room and pray for the coming of my Holy Spirit.

And this “mini-Advent” period of waiting for the coming of God the Holy Spirit into the world was much shorter and much different than that other more well known Advent period of waiting for the coming of God the Son into the world.

According to Biblical History, which may or may not be literal, God’s People had to wait and pray about 9000 years before Jesus the promised Messiah was finally born for them in Bethlehem.

In contrast, the Disciples had to wait only 9 days for the promised Holy Spirit to come to them.

And furthermore, the Israelites had to wait all those years in darkness, with only the dim, obscure light of the Old Testament to guide them (which is why we wear dark colored, purple vestments the 4 weeks of Advent leading up to Xmas).

In contrast, the Disciples of Jesus waited those 9 days for the Holy Spirit with the blazing light of the Gospel to see by –

while they waited in the Upper Room they reflected and prayed on the teachings and mighty deeds of Jesus, on His Passion and Death, on His Resurrection and Ascension, all of which enlightened their hearts and flooded the Old Testament Scriptures with light, revealing the hidden meaning of the Old Testament. (This is why during this “little advent” we’re now in, we don’t wear dark Purple but bright White Vestments.)

At the end of that 9000 year Advent, Christ was Born in Bethlehem. At the end of that 9 day Advent, Christ was Born again in the hearts of all believers.

And so my brothers and sisters, this mini-Advent time we are in between Ascension and Pentecost is for the Church and for us a time of intense prayer and waiting for the Holy Spirit to be born in a deeper way in our hearts.

I’ll end my homily by suggesting two practical ways you and I can prepare for the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost.

The first way is to pray the traditional Novena to the Holy Spirit I put on a pink sheet of paper at the doors of the Church (I give it out every year so you might have last years copy still as well). The Novena is a mini-course in who the Holy Spirit is and what He does for us as disciples of Jesus, which is everything!

The second way we can prepare for the Spirit’s coming is by imitating St. Stephen in today’s First Reading.

There are two ways we should imitate Stephen. First of all, the reading says Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit.

To be filled with the Holy Spirit, we first need to be emptied of all Unholy Spirits, we need to be emptied of sinful attachments especially, but even non-sinful attachments we need to empty from our hearts, so that we will cling to God alone.

So during this mini-Advent, may we pray Jesus, empty me of any spirit of this world, empty my heart of any vain attachment, so that I may be filled 100% with Your Holy Spirit.

And secondly, the first Reading says Stephen in the midst of all his trials looked up intently to Heaven, never taking His eyes off that vision of Jesus His Lord there at the right hand of the Father.

As we prepare for the Holy Spirit’s coming, may we keep looking up to the Lord in the midst of trials we face. Too often we can let our eyes and hearts fall from looking at God and we then look only at the problems where in, and the next thing you know, we are drowning in our misery and problems.

Stephen kept his eyes fixed intently on God, and as the Acts of the Apostles said, Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God the Father.

In the Creed and the Gloria we say Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, and in every other New Testament passage but this we see the Ascended Jesus sitting on His Heavenly Throne.

But in this passage, Jesus sees his beloved disciple Stephen filled with the Holy Spirit, looking up intently to Heaven in the midst of great trials and persecutions, and Jesus like a basketball fan jumped up from His seat in Heaven and rooted Stephen on: “way to go Stephen! Keep going, your gonna win! ‘Atta boy!”

Stephen got a standing ovation from the Ascended Jesus, and for a reward, Jesus answered Stephen’s dying prayer and converted the man responsible for his death, Saul of Tarsus, soon to become the great St. Paul the Apostle.

And Jesus wishes to give us a standing ovation also, and cheer us on in fighting the good fight of faith, and answer our deepest prayers, if we only take seriously these 7 or 8 remaining days leading up to Pentecost.

Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! Come Holy Spirit!

Homily — 5th Sunday of Easter MMX 5/2/10

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Homily — 5th Sunday of Easter MMX 5/2/10

I John, saw a New Heaven and a New Earth; the former Heaven and the former Earth had passed away.

The Book of Revelation, and the Bible itself, ends with this vision of John the Apostle of a New Heaven and a New Earth.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, St. John who was the youngest of the Apostles, wrote the Book of Revelation when He was an very old man, long after his brother Apostles had gone home to the Lord.

Normally, this Scripture passage is interpreted to mean that at the end of time, Jesus is going to make a new world where only justice and peace abides.

While that’s certainly the case, it is equally true to say that, after following Jesus faithfully for so many many years, after seeing all that Jesus had revealed in the Scriptures and Traditions He handed on to the Apostles,

After all that, John now saw a New Heaven and a New Earth – He saw Heaven and Earth from a totally new perspective now that Jesus was in His life. The former concept John had of Heaven and the former concept John had of earth had passed away.

Before coming to know Jesus, John perhaps saw Heaven as a place where only God and the Angels lived. After coming to know and serve Jesus, John saw a New Heaven that was opened to all men and women through the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, a Heaven where the dwelling of God is with the human race, a Heaven where the Angels and Saints worship together around God’s throne.

And before coming to know Jesus, John perhaps saw this Earth as a place filled with only sin and suffering and sickness and war, a place where joy and peace and health and happiness is a short-lived luxury of the few.

But after coming to know and serve Jesus, John saw a new earth, an earth where the Holy Gospel of Christ can turn sorrow into joy, can turn Crosses into Victories, can turn hardened sinners into fervent lovers of God and neighbor.

The one who sat on the throne said: “Behold, I make all things new.”

Jesus our Risen Lord has the power to make all things new and full of life. There is nothing so old or broken that Jesus cannot fix and make new – no old broken marriage Jesus cannot revive, no old sinful habit in us Jesus cannot conquer, no old broken state or country Jesus cannot mend,

But in order for Jesus to make all these things new for us, and in order for us to see Heaven and Earth with the new eyes of faith as John did, you and I must obey Jesus New Commandment which He gave us at the Last Supper: to Love one another as He has loved us.

We must have that Love and Respect for others in our hearts that Jesus had in His heart – a love and respect for the least of Christ’s brothers, the poor, the unwanted, an unselfish, unconditional love and desire to serve all who God brings our way, and a merciful, forgiving love towards those who hate or hurt us.

We also need to have a special love for those close friends of Jesus, the Saints. We need to love and honor the heroes and heroines of our faith as Jesus loves and honors them.

And finally, there is one human being we must love above all others, for Jesus loved her far more than any other creature God created: our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary.

It is through this New Commandment of love that Jesus makes All things New.

I’m reminded of the life of St. John Vianney, the Parish Priest who died 150 years ago this year, which is why Pope Benedict declared this the Year for Priests.

Sent to a town where there was little love for God or neighbor, a town plagued by alcoholism, promiscuity, abandoned children, a town where no one went to Church on Sunday or prayed during the week, a town where children weren’t taught the basics of the faith.

But John Vianney from the start had a vision of a new Ars, where the taverns would go out of business for lack of clientelle, where the Church would be packed with townspeople on Sunday, a town where many young men and women would hear and say yes to a call to enter the seminary or the convent.

A town where children knew and valued their faith and said their prayers, where orphaned children were loved and educated.

And with that vision of a new Ars on Earth, John Vianney also had a vision of a new Heaven, filled with all these former sinners who he would turn to God.

In a land where there was no love, the Cure of Ars put love and in a few years he began to find love, his vision became a reality.

May we too have a vision of a new heaven and a new earth, and by living fully that New Commandment may we see that vision become a reality.