Archive for March, 2007

Homily – 5th Sunday Lent C

Monday, March 26th, 2007

Christ and the Woman taken in Adultery by Guercino 1621

Homily — 5th Sunday Lent C March 25, 2007

Straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal.

We have now reached the 5th Sunday of Lent and are now heading in to the home stretch, the final two weeks.

We call the last two weeks of Lent “Passiontide.” For the past four straight weeks, we’ve been disciplining ourselves every day through greater prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

While the first few weeks were tough, by now these Lenten penances have become second nature to us, we’re now even starting to enjoy being more in tuned with God and the spiritual world and less in tuned with the material world.

So now that prayer, fasting and almsgiving is on automatic pilot, the next two weeks we need to turn our focus on the Passion and Death of Jesus.

In the Gospel, we see Our Lord Jesus writing on the ground. He stands up, he bends down again and writes again with a finger of one of his hands.

But soon those hands of his will be grabbed and held fast against a piece of wood. Soon those fingers will feel the pain of the nails shooting through them.

Soon Our Lord’s Body, which today freely sits and bends down and stands and bends and stands again, will be fastened to the Cross, and unable to move as It is spit upon and mocked at.

And Jesus will endure this suffering because he wants to save that woman from her terrible sin of adultery. Jesus will take that awful scourging and crucifixion because he wants to save those pharisees from their terrible sin of rash judgment.

And Our Lord Jesus will sweat blood in the Garden and die on Calvary Hill because he wants to save you and me from our sins, especially our terrible sin of spiritual adultery, of not being faithful to our covenant with our Loving God, letting our hearts become cold and indifferent to His law of Love.

The next two weeks of Passiontide is an opportunity to meditate deeply and daily on Jesus’ Passion, and to shed tears along with Peter for the times our sins have caused Jesus to suffer.

For as today’s Psalm says, only Those who sow in tears during Passiontide shall reap rejoicing during Easter.

We shall reap rejoicing because Jesus says to all who journey with Him through Passiontide what He says to the woman in today’s Gospel: Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now do not sin any more.

Straining forward to what lies ahead, may we continue our pursuit toward the goal of Easter joy.

Homily — 4th Sunday Lent C March 21, 2004

Sunday, March 18th, 2007

Note: I didn’t preach this weekend at my parish. However, here is my homily from three years ago:

Homily — 4th Sunday Lent C March 21, 2004

The Prodigal Son by Salvador Rosa

The Fourth Sunday of Lent is Laetare Sunday, Laetare being the Latin word for “Rejoice” — we are called to rejoice. Today’s Gospel ends with that very call to rejoice with the Father and with sinners who have come to their senses and returned to their Father’s House.

The younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country. To be in mortal sin is to be distant from God and from those who really love us. We can at times live or work under the same roof with prodigal people, but due to their life of sin they are in a distant country, far away from us spiritually.

In this distant country, the younger son squandered (all) his inheritance on a life of dissipation. It doesn’t take long for sin to consume us and leave us with nothing. Sin has a way of giving a moment of pleasure with nothing but faded memories to show for it.

When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country and he found himself in dire need. Not only does sin leave us with nothing, it leaves us with nothing in a distant country far away from home, surrounded by other sinners who have also lost everything. Sin creates a culture of death, depression, and isolation.

But then, Jesus tells us that coming to his senses the younger son thought about what life at home was like.

The man came to his senses. That’s actually a beautiful phrase we have in our English, but we probably don’t stop to think about it much though.

What does it mean to “come to one’s senses”? It means to realize what one is sensing versus what one could rather be sensing. We have five senses — sight, hearing, smell, touch taste — and sin ultimately does a number on them all.

What did the younger son see in that distant country? He saw famine, filthy pigs, strangers who didn’t care for him, and prostitutes who didn’t really love him. But coming to his senses, he also remembered what could be seen in His Father’s House: abundant crops, friends and family who had truly cared for him and really loved him.

In that distant country, the son heard the complaining of hungry, unsatisfied people. But in His Father’s House he remembered hearing fine music, laughter, and words of wisdom, love and forgiveness.

Coming to his sense of smell, he realized how terrible the smell of pig dung really was when you compare it to the home cooking and clean laundry he always received in His Father’s House.

And in the uncomfortable pig sty where his sin had driven him to live, he felt the pinch of poverty, cold and dampness. Little did he realize that the Father had a nice warm robe and comfortable shoes waiting for him should he return.

Lastly, the younger son came to his sense of taste. Now that sin had consumed all his inheritance, there was nothing to taste any more except animal food. And it was horrible to even think about it, but in his depravity he was beginning to develop a taste for animal food, he was starting to crave it, so low had he sunk. By coming to his senses, the man remembered tasting the Lord’s goodness in His Father’s House.

I shall rise up and return to my Father, saying “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you, I no longer deserve to be called your son, treat me as one of your hired hands.”

If we jump to the end of the parable, we see what happens when a sinner comes to his senses. There is that same younger son, once very young and foolish, now a bit older and wiser. There he is in His Father’s House, seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting all the good things that a life of mercy, love and forgiveness give us.

Now we must rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.

May we learn to rejoice with the Father over the return of his wayward son, and may our heavenly Father give us wayward sons and daughters the grace to come to our senses and taste the Lord’s goodness.

The Novena to St. Joseph Begins Today!

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

Those blog readers who belong to my parish, I remind you to pray our parish Novena to St. Joseph. The Novena can be found here. A printable pdf format of the novena can be found here.

Homily — 3rd Sunday Lent C March 11, 2007

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

Homily — 3rd Sunday Lent C March 11, 2007

Moses and the Burning Bush Tiffany Stained Glass Window

Are you a “burning bush,” or a “barren bush”?

In today’s First Reading and Gospel we encounter two very different kinds of plants.

The first reading from Exodus introduces us to the Burning Bush. The Burning Bush is a plant that is always giving off light, always giving off warmth, to anyone who comes near it.

The burning bush is also a plant that speaks. And whenever it speaks, words of encouragement, deliverance, and wisdom can always be heard.

The burning bush is blazing with fire, but the fire never burns it out.

Now, we all know that the burning bush Moses encounters is none other than the LORD God Himself.

But just as we have been made in the image of God, and are called to reflect that image, so we are made in the image of the Burning Bush.

And therefore, We are called to be always light giving, always heart warming, to everyone we meet.

We are called to always speak words of wisdom that encourage and liberate.

We are called to be totally consumed by the fire of God’s Love, to offer our lives and our wills as a continual holocaust to the LORD, because then and only then will we truly be able to say “I am.” — I am fully alive, fully the man or the woman God has created me to be.”

We are called to be like the burning bush of the First Reading, but too often we find ourselves more like the barren bush, the barren fig tree in the Gospel Reading.

That fig tree Jesus speaks of is fruit-less. Those who come to this tree hoping to be fed, hoping to find sweet fruit, always leave disappointed.

The barren bush never plants any seeds, never spreads new life around.

Instead, it selfishly sucks up for itself the precious nutrients in the soil, taking them away from others, and having nothing to show for it afterwards.

Too often we are more like that barren bush.  Our sins keep us from bearing the fruits of the Holy Spirit, we disappoint the people that come to us desiring to find the sweetness of a smile or understanding ear.  Because of our sinfulness, we don’t even plant any seeds of faith in the hearts of those around us.
The Burning Bush’s name is I AM; The Barren Bush’s name is “I am Not”, or maybe “I was, once upon a time.”

And so, my brothers and sisters in Christ, are we Burning Bushes or Barren Bushes?

Actually, we all start out as Barren Bushes. But Christ the Divine Gardener wants to change each of us into Burning ones.

The Season of Lent is a time when we allow Christ to cultivate and fertilize the soil of our hearts.

By means of our daily regimen of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, Christ the Gardener starts to clear the soil of weeds and rocks that hinder us from bearing good fruit.

Jesus gives us the grace to uproot the weeds which are the false gods we plant in our hearts alongside the true God.

Christ also gives us the grace of repentance, which is the only way to get rid of the boulders of serious sin and the smaller rocks of venial sins which keep us from bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

And once our soil has been cultivated through prayer fasting and almsgiving, then Christ the Gardener fertilizes our soil with the blood and water gushing forth from His pierced Heart upon the Cross.

Now is the time to be cultivated and fertilized by truly entering into the spirit of Lent. If we don’t bear fruit today, Jesus says we risk being cut down tomorrow.

May Christ give us the grace of repentance and conversion, that He may not only cause us to bear the Fruits of the Spirit abundantly in our lives, but cause us to be aflame, and to set the world on fire, with His eternal burning love.

Homily – 2nd Sunday Lent C March 4, 2007

Sunday, March 4th, 2007

Homily — 2nd Sunday Lent C March 4, 2007

The Transfiguration by Carl Bloch 1875

“Five weeks left to go — are you ready for the Resurrection?”

That’s the question Jesus asks Peter, John, James, and us in today’s Gospel. “Are you ready to see My glory?”

Before we answer “yeah, sure, whatever.” Let’s see how ready Peter was five weeks before that first Easter.

The Transfiguration of Jesus on the Mountain we’ve just read about is traditionally said to have taken place 40 days before Jesus died.

And at the Transfiguration, Jesus is running a kind of fire drill. Just like schools run fire drills to see how ready everyone is for the real thing, so Jesus runs a Resurrection drill to see how ready His disciples are for that most real of things.

And so Jesus brings Peter John and James up a high mountain, and there He is Transfigured before them, showing them what He will soon permanently look like to them after He rises from the dead. We read in Luke His face changed in appearance (St. Matthew says It shined like the sun), His clothing became dazzling white . . . .and . . . .they saw His glory.

But, as today’s Gospel clearly shows, with only five weeks to go, the disciples are nowhere near ready for the glory they saw — nowhere near ready for the glory of the Resurrection.

What was Peter and company’s reaction when Jesus privileged them with a sneak peek of the Resurrection?

Well, to begin with, they missed out on half the vision, because they were snoozing! They were overcome by sleep St. Luke says, probably from the tough climb up the mountain. Thankfully, Jesus or Moses or Elijah must have tried to talk real loud so as to wake them up!

Once Peter is fully awake and realizes he isn’t dreaming, Peter is clueless about what he should do or say. “I’m the Rock, and this calls for some profound statement” Peter says to himself. And so Peter starts babbling on about making three tents. But as St. Luke says, he did not know what he was saying. He was out of his league.

And while Peter said It is good Lord that we are here, that’s not at all what he was feeling. St. Mark in his Gospel said he and James and John were terrified even before the dark cloud surrounded them! And that cloud and the voice of God the Father only made them more afraid.

At the end of it all, Luke says they fell silent and didn’t dare tell anyone what they had seen.

No, 5 weeks before that first Easter, they were nowhere near ready for the glory of the Resurrection. They had a lot more getting ready to do before they could handle all that glory.

And my brothers and sisters in Christ, it is the same way with us. For us sinful, fallen human beings, the glory of God can be as hard to accept as the Cross is.

Just as Peter was shown the glory of God, and he slept through half of it, so we too often sleep through and miss half of the blessings God sends us. As the saying goes “We don’t know what we got ‘til it’s gone.” How many have been given the best parents, the best spouse, and don’t realize it for so long? Or how many of us older people look back at our youth and wondered why we wasted the best years of our lives?

And then, just as Peter bungles through that glorious vision once he wakes up, how often do you and I bungle the blessings and glories God sends in our lives, even when we realize they are blessings? Think for instance of people who are blessed with wealth, or great beauty or talent, and all it seems to bring them is misery. In our pride, we tend to misuse the blessings God sends us for our own selfish purposes.

And then, we like Peter get terrified when God wants to show us His greatest blessings. When I first felt God calling me to be a priest in my early 20s, I was I think as terrified as Peter was in today’s Gospel. But I’ve been a priest now for 8 years, and I can’t think of how I could have been happier doing anything else. I also know lots of married couples who are terrified when they find out their having another baby or their first one. But after the baby’s born, they don’t know what life would be without that child.

Lent is a time when through prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we learn to to use wisely the blessings God gives us, to put God’s gifts in the right perspective, to see what is truly holy and glorious in them and what is superficial and non-essential in them. Perhaps we need to learn also not to be afraid of the gifts God has given us, or wants to give us in the future.

Scripture tells us that Peter did eventually learn to receive God’s glory gracefully. After spending five more weeks with Jesus (listening to and watching him more carefully after that experience on Mount Tabor), and partaking at the Last Supper, and experiencing Christ’s Passion, and weeping bitterly over his sins, Peter was then ready to see the glory of the Risen Christ when the real thing did happen on Easter Sunday.

And instead of being asleep, Peter was wide awake when the women came to tell him the Lord had risen early that Easter Morn. He ran right to the tomb, the Gospel says.

He wasn’t tongue tied as on the mountain, but was rather among the first to proclaim “The Lord is Risen!” to everyone who’d listen.

He didn’t feel terrified and afraid, but Rejoiced when (he) saw the Risen Lord.

I don’t know if you notice, but on Sundays in Lent at Mass we omit the Gloria, we don’t say “Glory to God in the Highest” until the Easter Triduum. This is a reminder that we aren’t ready yet for God’s glory.

No, we have five more weeks of daily prayer, fasting and almsgiving before we can fully handle the incredible blessings and glories the Risen Lord wants to give each one of us come Easter.