Archive for September, 2007

Homily — 24th Sun. OT C (Catechetical Sunday) 9/16/07

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

Homily — 24th Sun. OT C (Catechetical Sunday)           9/16/07

We observe this weekend National Catechetical Sunday in parishes through the United States.

At the 10 a.m. Mass, those who teach in our Religious Education Program received a blessing as they begin the School Year. CCD for Grades 1-8 begins tomorrow; Confirmation for Grades 9-10 begins at the end of the month.

Whether we are a CCD or Catholic School teacher, or a parent (who are the real, primary educators of the faith for their children) or godparent or grandparent, for all of us there’s one aim of Religious Education.

And one could call that aim the “Prodigal Son Prevention Plan.” — keeping these children and young adults from growing up to be like that younger son in the parable.

We are all familiar with this story — how the younger son, when he was old enough to be on his own, took his inheritance and journeyed far away from his Father and his Father’s house.

For many years, the son never came back to visit his Father, and never wrote or called to see how his brother, his other relatives were doing.

And no matter where this son went, his Father would send him messages;  but the son didn’t respond to the messages, and even left the letters the Father sent to him unopened and unread.

The goal, my brothers and sisters, of religious education is to try to help the youth of our parish avoid making the same mistakes that younger son made.

To help our youth value the inheritance God the Father has given them — their God given gifts and talents, their education and skills — and to use that inheritance to glorify God the Father, rather than use their talents for sinful or selfish motives.

And we also hope and pray, that through the Religious Education we give them, our young people will come visit God the Father each week in “the Father’s House”, their parish Church; that they will have a care and concern for their brothers and sisters in Christ that they worship with.

We hope and pray that they would listen to and answer the “messages” God the Father sends them — that they would listen to, and follow and form their Consciences throughout their lives, in accord with the teachings of our Holy Catholic Church.

And that as adults, they will read each day the Holy Scriptures, which are the letters of love and encouragement and guidance God the Father sends them.

And we also pray that, through the seeds faith we plant in these young people, if they do wander far away from the Father and His House, that they will come to their senses like the prodigal son did, be given the grace to make that journey home to the Father House.

So this is the goal before us as we begin a new academic year of religious education.

But not only is CCD a “prodigal son prevention plan,” it has to be an “older son prevention plan” as well.

Pope Benedict, in his recently released book “Jesus of Nazareth,” speaks about how we who do go to Church can easily fall into the trap of legalism that the older son fell into, the trap of seeing following God as just a set of rules, of dos and don’ts, perhaps more don’ts than dos.

Because the older son represents people who obey God’s rules, but do so grudgingly, joylessly and half-heartedly.

The Pope says in people like this “there’s an inward bitterness regarding their own obedience (to the Father) . . . .in their heart of hearts, they would have gladly” done the things their younger brother did with his inheritance.

In the older sons, “There is an unspoken envy of what others have been able to get away with.”

The Pope concludes by saying that in the person of the older son, “Christ is addressing . . . . the ones who never left home, encouraging (them) too to convert truly and to find joy in our faith.”

And so the challenge is to teach our children that it is the greatest of joys to follow Jesus, to “take up His yoke and learn from Him.”

The challenge is to teach them that embracing God’s commandments is what makes us truly free.  But if we don’t believe that, if we become lukewarm like the older son, there’s no way others are going to learn from us.

So as we begin our Catechetical Year, may Jesus help all of us in this very important task of teaching the youth of our parish the splendor of the Catholic Faith.

Homily — 23rd Sunday Ordinary Time C 9-9-7

Monday, September 10th, 2007

Homily — 23rd Sunday Ordinary Time C                 9-9-7

In the Gospel today we read of two individuals who are embarking on massive undertakings:

One is a person who is constructing a tower.  The other is a King who is planning to go to battle with another King.

Try to imagine if you will, that you are that person who is constructing that tower.  Imagine that it is a security tower which will be used to protect you and your community from harm, and that you are the person who must see to it that it’s built properly.

Think of all the things you would need to be concerned about:  the right materials: steel, concrete, wood, blueprints and designs made up by architects and engineers,

You need to be sure you build it in the right location, and that the defense system you’re putting in the tower will really defend and give you early enough warning of an attack.

You’ll need to employ builders, carpenters, stone masons, computer people and electricians and see to it that their not ripping you off.

Then there’s DEM, the state, federal regulations, the fire marshall that you’ll have to comply with as well.

Finally, if this is going to be a real defense tower, it will be up to you to find the funds to pay for all this.

Clearly, the person who is in charge of overseeing the construction of a defense tower has a lot on his or her plate.

Now if you will, imagine you’re that King in the second parable, a King needing to prepare for war.

Think of all the things you would need to be concerned about:  making sure you had good weapons and armor, that you had wise Officers you could rely on, trained soldiers in good physical shape, a well planned out strategy for winning, and a well planned exit strategy.

As King, you’ll need also to be sure you know the enemy you’re facing inside and out.  You need to be sure morale stays high amongst your troops.  And finally, you are probably these days going to have to deal with protesters who oppose the war you are getting ready to fight!
Both the King and the Tower Builder have one thing in common:  they are doing something that will require a total, whole hearted, long term daily commitment on their parts.

And this is Jesus’ point in giving us these two parables.  To follow after Him as a disciple is going to be for us as massive an undertaking as building a defense tower or leading an army off to war.

Discipleship will require a total, whole hearted, long term commitment on our part.

Like that tower builder, we will need to daily assess how the work is progressing, taking inventory of what’s been accomplished so far, the graces and virtues we’ve grown in, and what still needs to be done.

We will daily, through examining our consciences, need to assess the weak spots in the plan that have been uncovered during construction, that is our sins, and rectify them before it’s too late.

We will also each day need to look down the road and foresee the potential challenges that lie ahead of us, planning for them ahead of time so that they don’t catch us off guard.

Finally, discipleship, like building a tower or waging war, will require our utmost attention until the work is finished, until the tower is built or the battle is won.

And for us disciples of Christ, the battle is over when we breath our last breath.

So may today’s Gospel help us realize what a massive undertaking it is to say yes to following Jesus.  It is not something we want to do lightly, but rather something we need to put all we have into, lest we won’t have enough resources to build that impregnable tower of faith, lest we won’t win that war over sin and death by surrendering all we have to Christ the King of Kings.

Homily — 22nd Sunday Ordinary Time C September 2, 2007

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

Homily — 22nd Sunday Ordinary Time C    September 2, 2007

When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor.

Every Sunday at Mass, after the Lamb of God, the priest holds the Body and Blood of Christ up before the congregation and says what’s called in Latin the Ecce Angus Dei.  It could be translated from the Latin as:  “Behold (Jesus), the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Blessed are those who are invited to the (wedding) banquet of the Lamb.”

Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding banquet.

A certain “Someone” my brothers and sisters, has invited us to a wedding banquet, and that someone is Jesus, the Lamb of God.

Every Sunday, Christ invites us to the wedding banquet of the Eucharist.

You have approached Mt. Zion, and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of believers now in Heaven, and the souls of the just now made perfect, and God the judge, and Jesus — it’s all here, right now before us.

And as Jesus says in the Gospel today, When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor . . . but take the lowest place.

Jesus isn’t so much telling us to take the back pew at Mass. He’s saying that we can’t come to this banquet saying “God and these other guests should be honored to have me at this banquet!”

If we put ourselves in a place of honor, God’s going to come along some day and tell us we don’t belong on the pedestal we’ve placed ourselves on, and knock us off of it hopefully in this life for our own good, and not in the next.

But if we come to the wedding banquet of the Lamb taking the lowest place — realizing that we’re far from perfect, aware of our sins, and emptying ourselves of pride and vanity, then Jesus will look on our lowliness and say “friend, move up to a higher position.”

To ensure that we’re taking the lowest place when we come to the wedding banquet of Mass every Sunday, we must exercise the virtue of humility each day throughout the week.

Whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.  Humility is the toughest of all virtues to grow in, because humility is directly opposed to the number one sin of pride.

A little prayer book I have gives a list of eight practical  little ways we can daily grow in humility:
1.   accepting the constructive criticisms and even the corrections we receive

2.  resisting the temptation to vanity when we are     complemented or praised, (and not looking for complements either);
3.  “stifling the urge to get the last word in”;

4.  trying not to draw attention to ourselves by our words or actions;

5.  admitting we were wrong regarding things we previously thought we were absolutely right about;

6.  being open to spiritual growth and direction, whether from a spiritual leader or good  Catholic spiritual direction book;

7.  trying each day to see our neighbor in an optimistic and positive light;  and finally

8.  realizing that we’re not irreplaceable, that the world would go on without us.

As Jesus says, whoever humbles himself in this way will be exalted by God.  And humility will make us grow in every other virtue because Pride will cease to get in the way — we’ll be able to see the other areas we need to grow in so that Jesus can say Friend, come up higher to us.

At the end of every celebration of the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb, the Priest says Ite, Missa Est.  Which could be roughly translated from the Latin as:  “Go now, you have your mission”

And our mission is to go tell others, by our actions and by our words:  “Behold the meal is ready, come to the Wedding Feast.

We are called to invite others to a relationship with Jesus in His Catholic Church.

And as the second parable says, it takes no humility at all to invite our spiritual brothers and sisters — the people we see each week at Mass —  to come to Jesus.

It takes no humility at all either to invite the Spiritually Wealthy people, those who already have a rich relationship to the Lord.

But it does take great humility and trust in God’s graces to invite the spiritually poor, crippled, lame and blind to a life of faith.

To invite that neighbor of ours who has been spiritually crippled through scandal, that co-worker who’s spiritually lame through bad upbringing, that relative who’s spiritually blind because they’ve become caught up in the ways of the world — these are the people Jesus says Ite, Missa Est — “Go, you have your mission to bring them here to me.”

May Jesus give us the gift of humility to witness to Him before everyone we meet in the world, that we may be repaid by Him in the Resurrection of the Righteous.

Homily — Assumption of the Virgin Mary MMVII

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

Homily — Assumption of the Virgin Mary MMVII

Those of you who went to my installation Mass last Sunday heard me recite a profession of faith.

This profession of faith must be recited not only by Pastor’s before they can take office, but also by Transitional Deacons before they can be ordained, and it’s even mandated that Theology Professors at Catholic Colleges and Seminaries take this profession of faith before they can teach.

The first part of this profession of faith is the Nicene Creed that we say every Sunday at Mass after the homily.

The second half of this profession begins by saying, “With firm faith, I believe as well everything contained in God’s word, whether written, or handed down in Tradition . . . .as divinely revealed and calling for faith.”

This profession of faith I just took last Sunday reminds us that God’s word comes to us in two forms:  Written, and Unwritten.  The written word of God is found in Sacred Scripture.  The unwritten word of God is found in Sacred Tradition, which has been “handed down” in the Church from generation to generation from the time of the Apostles.

And while the Protestants say God’s word can be found in Sacred Scripture alone (what they call sola scriptura), we Catholics hold that Sacred Tradition is just as important as Sacred Scripture, and that both must be interpreted by the Magisterium, the teaching authority of the Pope and Bishops.  (The Catechism says Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium make a three legged stool that we build our faith upon.  Take away one leg of a 3-legged stool, and the whole thing collapses.)

Today we celebrate the day the Virgin Mary was assumed body and soul into Heaven, at the end of her earthly life.

And this Dogma of the Assumption is a truth of our faith that most certainly is “contained in God’s word,”  — not God’s written word however, but His unwritten word that has been “handed down in Tradition . . . .as divinely revealed and calling for faith.”

While the account of Mary’s Assumption isn’t explicitly recorded in the Bible, it’s hinted at here and there.

The First Reading and Psalm of the Vigil Mass speak of the Ark of the Covenant, the Vessel which contained the Word of God in Stone, the 10 Commandments.

The Ark was meant to remain in the Holy of Holies, the inner part of the Temple in Jerusalem, but the Book of Macabees says that Jeremiah hid the ark in a cave during the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians.

And in the Book of Revelation, John sees a vision of Heaven, and there in Heaven is the Ark of the Covenant.   So it appears that the Old Ark of the Covenant was assumed into heaven.

Well, Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant!  Inside her immaculate womb was contained not the Word of God on Stone, but the Word of God made Flesh, Jesus Christ.

And so the psalm verse, Go up Lord to the place of your rest, you and the Ark of your holiness,  Is a prophecy referring to the Ascension of Jesus and the Assumption of Mary the Ark of the New Covenant!

And then of course there’s the famous passage in the Book of Revelation, of A Woman, clothed with the Sun, with the Moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of Twelve Stars.

Again, while Sacred Scripture doesn’t say the woman’s name, Sacred Tradition has always taught it is Our Mother Mary that St. John sees.

And from ancient times, and in the dark ages and middle ages, up to today, while Holy Shrines have debated over who had the real bones of St. Peter, or Mary Magdalene, or the Magi, no shrine has ever claimed to have had the bones of Mary.  That is because Christians from the beginning have known she went body and soul to be with her Son.

And so, “with firm faith” we today joyfully profess our faith in Mary’s Assumption “as divinely revealed and calling for faith.”

And with firm faith we believe that one day, Christ will raise our mortal bodies, rejoining them permanently to our souls.

And on this Solemnity, we look to our Heavenly Mother and Queen, trusting that she will obtain for us the graces we need to follow her Son faithfully in this life, so that in the next life we will be with her and Jesus and our loved ones, body and soul, praising God for ever in Heaven.

Homily — 20th Sunday OT C August 19, 2007

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

Homily — 20th Sunday OT C                     August 19, 2007

I have come not to establish peace, but division.

These words of Our Lord Jesus in today’s Gospel seem, at first glance, to totally contradict other words of Christ, and other Old Testament passages about Him.

The prophet Isaiah, for example, says that the Messiah shall be called . . . .the Prince of Peace.

Psalm 72 says that Peace (shall flourish) until the moon is no more in the days of the Christ.

Even the angels on Christmas Night sang out “Glory . . . in Highest Heaven, and Peace on Earth.”

Jesus Himself, in the Sermon on the Mount, declared “Blessed are the Peacemakers, they will be called the children of God

And on Easter Sunday Night, Jesus appeared to His apostles and said to them Peace be with you.

But Jesus in today’s Gospel says “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.  From now on, (even) households will be divided (against each other).”

And the first half of the Gospel shows us that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is not at peace inside — rather, Jesus is restless, full of unsatisfied desire, and in great anguish for his work to be completed.

How do we reconcile Jesus the Prince of Peace and Peace Maker, with Jesus the Stumbling Block and Division Maker?  Should we be singing “Let there be division on earth, and let it begin with me”?

The answer is that there really isn’t any contradiction in these two views of Jesus.  For Jesus came to bring peace and to bring division.

If we look closer at the hymn the angels sang on Christmas night, we hear them saying “Peace on earth to men of good will.”

Men and women of good will, men and women open to the Truth, whoever they may be, these are the people Jesus came to bring Peace to, a Peace which flows from knowing Christ and living His Gospel with a clear conscience.

Men and women of bad will, or even of indifferent will, men and women closed to Truth, or not caring about what’s true or not, these will refuse the Peace Christ offers them, and even be opposed to Christ and those who follow Him.

And due to the fallen world we live in, spreading the Peace of Christ will always bring a division with it between those who accept his peace and those who do not accept it.

The flip side of Blessed are the Peacemakers is Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you for spreading my peace.

And finally, just as Jesus in a way wasn’t very much at peace inwardly during His days on earth, neither should his disciples be very much at peace inwardly either.

How I wish the Fire were already blazing!  Jesus cried in the Gospel.  What anguish I am in until it is accomplished!

Of course, Jesus no longer has that restlessness and holy impatience, now that He is glorified in Heaven, with Mary at His right hand.

Jesus our Head is totally at peace in the land of eternal
peace.  But the Body of Christ, the Church on earth, will until
the end of time continue to be restless and in anguish for the Fire to be blazing.

Restless for the conversion of that mother, that father, that son or daughter, that mother-in-law or father-in-law to come to know the burning love Christ has for them, and the abiding peace that comes from knowing Jesus.

May Jesus the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us in this Eucharist not only that peace which comes from knowing and serving Him.

May he also grant us that Holy Restlesness and Impatience He had in this life, for the total conversion of all peoples, especially ourselves and our families, to His Love.