Archive for June, 2006

12th Sunday Ordinary Time B June 25, 2006 “Waking Up Jesus”

Sunday, June 25th, 2006

Homily — 12th Sunday OT B June 25, 2006

 Rembrandt Storm at Sea

 We return to Sundays in Ordinary Time this Sunday, for the first time in over three months.  And in this Sunday’s Gospel, we see Our Lord Jesus do something truly extra-ordinary, so extra-ordinary that, in all the events of Christ’s life recorded in the Scriptures, this is the only one occasion that we see Jesus doing such a thing.

The extra-ordinary and unique thing Jesus does in today’s reading is sleep.

Jesus was in the stern (of the boat), asleep on a cushion.  There are many passages where Christ exercises power over the laws of nature. But Jesus is caught snoozing nowhere else but here in all of Sacred Scripture.

For example, there’s no explicit mention of the Baby Jesus sleeping in the manger, or sleeping during His forty days and forty nights in the desert.  After one real long day, which began with Jesus teaching and healing people, continued with Him traveling a long distance, and finally ended with Him feeding of five thousand people with five loaves and two fish, Jesus calls it a night by going alone up a mountain and spending the whole night in prayer.

On another occasion, Jesus spends the whole night praying about which Twelve Disciples He should pick be His Twelve Apostles that coming morning.  Finally, you’d think Jesus would have wanted a good night’s sleep before dying on the Cross on Good Friday. But no, He chooses to go to the Garden and pray, and He even makes Peter and James and John stay awake with Him! On another occasion, Jesus spends the whole night praying about which Twelve Disciples He should pick be His Twelve Apostles that coming morning. 

Finally, you’d think Jesus would have wanted a good night’s sleep before dying on the Cross on Good Friday. But no, He chooses to go to the Garden and pray, and He even makes Peter and James and John stay awake with Him!

But here, and only here, we find Jesus in the stern, which is the back of the Boat, sleeping away on a nice comfy cushion. 

Now, this isn’t to say that Jesus didn’t sleep on other occasions — we can probably safely conclude that Jesus the Son of God did sleep, just as He ate and drank and did everything a human does except sin.  But the Gospel is concerned with the things Jesus did which are essential for us to know in order for us to get to Heaven and have the fullness of Life.  And Jesus is shown awake in every other passage and asleep in only this passage, because that day in the boat, the disciples forgot to wake Jesus up.

You know, there’s a very famous Psalm in the Old Testament, Psalm 121, the one that begins I lift up my eyes to the mountains, from where shall come my help?/My help is in the name of the Lord who made Heaven and earth.  Then Psalm 121 says

May the LORD never allow you to stumble
Let Him sleep not, your guardian;
No, He neither sleeps nor slumbers
Israel’s guardian, the LORD.

God never sleeps, He is always watching over His chosen people, rescuing them from danger and leading them into calmer waters.  And so Jesus, God the Son incarnate, in the Scriptures is seen neither sleeping nor slumbering as He ushers in the Kingdom of the Father.

But notice how Psalm 121 says Let Him sleep not. Do not let the Lord fall asleep, or else noone will be guarding you.  And this was the big mistake of the disciples that day on the sea of Galilee. The storm picked up, the waves broke over the boat, and they forgot they had Jesus with them, they had let Him fall asleep in the back of their boat.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, how often are we like those disciples in today’s Gospel, both individually in our own lives and collectively as the Church!

How often in our own lives, as we journey across the sea which is our life on earth, do we put Jesus in the back of the boat and say “here’s a cushion, make yourself comfortable, I can do it on my own”. We put our faith life asleep and proceed to steer our ship into treacherous waters. And Jesus is always the gentleman, He respects our wishes, He doesn’t force the steering wheel from us.
And then, when we’re in the choppy water and panicking, we can even forget what part of our big boat we last saw Jesus in. We might even forget He’s even on the boat with us!

But no matter how rough the waves and wind gets, Jesus never abandons the ship of a baptized believer.

It would be much better however my brothers and sisters, if we make sure Jesus is awake and beside us at the front of the ship as we steer the course through life.

And finally, going beyond the confines of our private lives and looking at the big picture of the Church we are all members of, we see that the Church, the Bark of Peter, is currently weathering some pretty violent squalls herself in our generation.

And because of storms from without and within, the waves are breaking over the boat: and so we’ve seen in the past 50 years a serious decline in Sunday Worship, a disregard for Christian marriage and traditional Catholic moral teachings, a shortage of priests and religious to lead and educate, and the continued widespread idol worship of sex and material goods which has led to an increased disrespect for human life.

We can be tempted to look at all these problems of our modern world and say to Jesus “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  But the solution to all these problems can be found in this extra-ordinary, unique Gospel: we as a Church must wake up Jesus and get Him to the front of the boat, pronto.

When this boat which is the Catholic Church begins again to let Jesus take the wheel, when we as God’s people start acting again like God’s chosen people by living by faith according to the Gospel, the waves that threaten us and the rest of humanity will be stilled, for Jesus will have awoken again in our society.

May we approach this Eucharist with a burning love for Jesus and with sincere sorrow for the times we’ve put Him in the back of the boat, so that Christ will be fully awake and alive in our hearts, that He may still whatever storms come our way.

Corpus Christi Sunday MMVI

Sunday, June 18th, 2006

Homily — Corpus Christi June 18, 2006

Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still [Josué arrêtant le soleil] 1742-1743

Jesus took bread . . . . and said “This is My Body”

The Old Testament Book of Joshua is all about how, after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites, led by Joshua, finally entered into and took possession of the Promised Land, conquering it from the Hittites, Amorites,/ Canaanites, Perizzites,/ Hivites and Jebusites that dwelt there, through a series of military battles.

A critical point in this conquest, their D-Day of sorts, came when a key Israelite city called Gibeon was laid siege to by five Amorite Kings and their armies. Losing this very large city of Gibeon to their enemies would have been devastating to Joshua and the Israelites. If Gibeon fell, all hope of conquest of the promised land in their lifetime would have been lost.

Vastly outnumbered, their foes pressing on them from every side, the Lord then said to Joshua “Do not fear (these five Kings and their armies), for I have delivered them into your power.”
So Joshua and his small army marched all night, and arrived at Gibeon as the sun was rising in the sky.

And Joshua and the Israelites fought with all their strength, and as the noon hour approached, the Lord rained down hailstones on their enemies as well, even as the sun shone bright in the sky. And then as Chapter 10, verse 12 and following, accounts,

Joshua prayed to the LORD,
and said in the presence of Israel
“Stand still O sun, at Gibeon!” . . . .
And the sun halted in the middle of the sky, not for a whole day did it resume its swift course,
While the (Israelites) took vengeance on their foes.

Under the rays of this supernatural sun, the key city of Gibeon was saved, and the promised land was secured for God’s people.
The account of this story ends by saying: never before or since was there a day like this, when the LORD obeyed the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.

The Church has always interpreted militaristic Old Testament passages, like this one in Joshua, to be symbolic of the spiritual battle between good and evil. Joshua of the Old Testament is a forshadowing of Jeshua of the New: Jesus, our commander-in-chief, the head of our “army”.

The Promised Land the Israelites were trying to conquer is a symbol of the Kingdom of God we are trying to bring about on earth — His Kingdom of Justice, Peace and Love which we bring about not by the weapons of war, but by the “weapons” of prayer, self denial, and works of mercy.

Those nations the Israelites had to conquer — the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, — along with the Philistines, stand for the seven deadly sins we must conquer and obliterate if we are to be victorious and settle in to the promised land.

And finally, just as at the words of Joshua — Stand still, O Sun! — the light of the blazing sun shined brightly over the Israelites as they fought their way to victory, so at the words of Jeshua — This is My Body — the brilliant light of the Eucharist, brighter than the sun, illuminates the Church as we conquer the world for Christ.

On altars and in tabernacles throughout the world, the Eucharist enlightens the disciples of Jesus, gives them the grace to see clearly who the Enemy is, gives them the strength to fight bravely and successfully against those seven deadly sins.

The Old Testament prophet Malachi foretold this, when in Chapter 1 verse 11 he said “In every nation around the world, a Bread offering (minhah) will be offered in sacrifice to the God of Israel.”

Never before or since was there a day like this, when the LORD obeyed the voice of a man, the Old Testament Book of Joshua says. But now, by the grace of the New Testament, a man with the Sacrament of Holy Orders is able to stand before an altar, take ordinary Bread and speak four words and God must obey the voice of that man, whether that man is the greatest saint, or the greatest sinner, or somewhere in between.

For it is our certain Catholic faith that whenever a priest says at Mass “this is my Body . . . . this is my Blood,” God must obey, and change the Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of His only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

God the Father must do so, and He gladly does so, so that His chosen people may be enlightened and nourished with the Bread of Heaven, so that they may conquer all their foes with the help of God so abundantly poured out in this sacrament, and so that they may settle in and have rest in the promised land the LORD has given them.

This Corpus Christi Sunday may Jesus, truly present in the Holy Eucharist, shine ever more brightly on this altar, in this Tabernacle at St. Joseph Church, and in the hearts of all who receive Him with reverence and love.

Most Holy Trinity Sunday MMVI (Google Earth Homily)

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

Homily — Trinity Sunday                       June 11, 2006

Google Earth

         There is a fascinating, but not that well known, program on the Internet called Google Earth.   Most people are familiar with Google Earth’s big brother, Google search engine.  Even if you are computer illiterate you probably know they are making billions of dollars, and that if you want to look up something on the web, you go to Google and type in the thing you are looking for.
             Well, Google’s kid sister, Google Earth, is somewhat different.  It’s a free program that you have to download from Google’s Website in order to use it.   Once you’ve downloaded it (which takes only about 5 minutes), you are now ready to see the world from where you are sitting.
             Start by typing in your home address, street city state and country.  In seconds, you will be staring at a photograph of your home taken by an airplane at 1000 ft altitude in the Fall of 2000.   By using the arrow keys on the keyboard, or by dragging the mouse, you can follow the road you live on all the way to Church, or you can just type in 1200 Mendon Rd, and there St. Joseph’s is from 1000 ft above.  There’s the Rectory.  You can even see Father Blain’s old Blue Grand Marquis, and Fr. Moe’s Toyota.  There’s Kay’s Restarant, Chipman’s Corner.
            But here’s comes the real fun part:  take the little wheel that’s on your mouse and slowly turn it.  The Church gets smaller and smaller as you begin to go higher and higher in altitude.  You now see all of Woonsocket and Blackstone Valley, then the familiar shape of Cape Cod, all of Narraganset Bay, and all of North and then South America as the aerial photos become satellite photos.
            Finally, you reach the stratosphere and beyond, and there’s the earth from 37,000 miles away from you.  You’ve just gone from 1000 ft altitude to 195 million feet altitude in 10 seconds with the wonders of computer technology.  It would be great if they come out with a deluxe version that allows you to turn the mouse wheel back even more, so that you see the galaxy from a distance and even the universe from a distance.

            The Feast the Church celebrates today, Trinity Sunday, is kind of like a spiritual version of Google Earth — we might call it “Google Heaven”.   We start with looking at a man, soon we are rising to look at God the Father.  But then, we rise higher and see God the Son, then on an even higher plane we see God the Holy Spirit, and finally we get as high as one can metaphysically go, and there we gaze upon the Most Blessed Trinity:  One God in Three Persons.
            Now, with Google Earth, you can start any place on earth, and begin your ascent into outer space.  But there’s only one place a person can start if he or she wishes to end at the heights of the Blessed Trinity.  We must start our journey to God with the man named Jesus Christthe Way, the Truth, and the Life.
            It is only through the Humanity of Jesus — His words, His actions, His teaching and His Seven Sacraments — that we come to know God the Father.  Noone comes to the Father except through Me.
            Through the humanity of Jesus, we come to know fully the One who Moses spoke of in the first reading, when Moses said to the Israelites “ask generations past, look through the history of humankind, ask from one end of the sky to the other, Did anything so great ever happen before?  Is there any God better than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?  The LORD is God of all, there is no other.”
            The Old Testament gives us a taste of God’s goodness and greatness;  Jesus in the New Testament affirms these words of Moses and shows us how the Lord is even greater and holier still.
            But as the early disciples came to know God the Father more deeply through Jesus, they also began to see that Jesus was more than just a man.  Jesus was also God!  Jesus said The Father and I are One . . . .The Father is in me and I am in the Father.  These are either words of a mad man or a God man.  And if that wasn’t enough, the Father Himself at Jesus’ Baptism and again at His Transfiguration says This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.
            It was crystal clear to the early disciples that God the Father and God the Son were two persons, yet one God.  They couldn’t understand it, but they without a doubt believed it.   But Jesus takes us higher and deeper still into the mystery of the inner life of God:  He reveals to us a Third Person:  God the Holy Spirit.
            Jesus said If you love me you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of Truth. . . . Amen, Amen, It is better for you that I go, for if I do not go, the Advocate will not come.
             Jesus doesn’t say that the Father will come to us.  He doesn’t say that the Father will send the Son back to us to be our Advocate.  No, the Father will send another Advocate:  the Spirit.
            And since it’s better that Jesus goes so that the Advocate comes, the Spirit must also be God, because it wouldn’t be better for us if God left earth and something less than God was sent as a substitute.
            And so too, from the beginning of the Church at Pentecost, Christians have emphatically acknowledged Three Persons to be God:  the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Yet they just as emphatically proclaimed only One God.
            And so, high high above our starting point here on earth with Jesus of Nazareth, we have arrived at the heights of Mystery:  we gaze by faith upon the Most Blessed Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Divine Communion of Persons.
            A mystery not meant to baffle us, but to ennoble and enrich us.


Pentecost Sunday MMVI

Sunday, June 4th, 2006

Homily — Pentecost Sunday B June 4, 2006
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful,
and kindle in them the Fire of Your Love.

As we begin this Pentecost, this Fiftieth Day, our world is already brimming with life:

The trees are now all thick with leaves,
the grass is now green and lush,
the ground has fully lost its winter frost;

Lakes and springs are teeming with life,
Eggs have been hatched,
Animals that have mated months or weeks before
have now given birth to their younglings.

All creation is groaning . . . .

. . . .and not only that, but we ourselves groan inwardly, says St. Paul.

As the visible world around us brims with life, so also
the invisible world within the soul of the Disciple of Jesus already abounds with the joy Jesus has given it, even before the Spirit of God is born into this world later on this Pentecost Sunday.

How different a world it was the night the Son of God, the night Jesus Christ was born into this world.

The world Jesus was born into on Christmas Night was dark, cold, lifeless, colorless. And so did He find the hearts of men as dark, as cold, as lifeless and as colorless as a late day in December, the day He came forth from the Virgin’s Womb.

But even from the manger, Jesus began warming and enlivening the hearts of the simple shepherds and wise Kings who sought after Him. And every action and mystery of Christ’s earthly life — His Infancy, His first 30 years hidden in the carpenter shop and the home of a human family, His Baptism and Fasting, His preaching, teaching, calling of Disciples, healing, delivering, miracle working,

His suffering, Crucifixion, Death and Burial, His Resurrection, Ascension and Taking His Seat at the Right Hand of the Father — all of it was aimed at warming and enlivening our hearts.

And my brothers and sisters, All of Jesus’ Life and Death and Afterlife was to prepare our hearts for this Day of Pentecost — so that as the Day of Pentecost Dawns, our souls are as supernaturally alive as the creation around us is naturally alive.

Jesus was a warm up act for the Holy Spirit. The work of the Son is to Redeem us and Restore us; The work of the Spirit is to Sanctify us.

The Holy Spirit picks up in our souls where Jesus left off. Jesus enlightened your eyes, the Holy Spirit makes you shine with His Light, enabling you and me to enlighten others.

Jesus warmed that cold heart of yours, the Holy Spirit will not only keep it warm, but now make you a warmer of cold hearts.

For the Holy Spirit, simply put, transforms us into other Christs.

Rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me Jesus says in the Gospel for the Vigil Mass.

And at the Last Supper, Jesus said You will do the things that I have done, and greater things then these, for my Spirit will be in you.

As the summer months set in, we all know what will happen to the healthy plants and trees and vines in the world that soak in the water and the sun: they will now begin to bear fruit that will ripen and renew the earth. And Jesus wishes us to also bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit by opening ourselves wide to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Tradition, building on St. Paul, enumerates twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit, namely Charity, Joy, and Peace; Patience and Endurance; Compassion, Generosity, Gentleness, and Faith; Modesty, Self Control, and Chastity. A man or woman who brings forth those fruits is really the Tree of Life for those around him.

Perhaps we should this Pentecost examine whether we’re really living in the Spirit by looking at the fruit that our lives are producing. Are we Charitable, Joyful, and Peaceable; Patient and Longsuffering; Compassionate, Generous, Gentle, Faithful; Modest, Temperate, and Chaste?

If not, perhaps we’ve succumbed to what St. Paul calls the works of the flesh, which are directly opposed to the gifts of the Spirit.

As we celebrate this Solemn Eucharist, may we ever more fully surrender ourselves soul and body to the Eternal Spirit of God, that we may be a Tree of Life bearing the Fruit of the Spirit and feed a spiritually starving world with that blessed Fruit that enflames and enlivens cold and dead hearts.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the Hearts of the Faithful,
Enkindle in them the fire of Your Love, and
Renew the Face of the Earth.