Archive for June, 2008

Homily — Ss. Peter and Paul June 29, 2008

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Homily — Ss. Peter and Paul                 June 29, 2008

Since ancient times, the Church has celebrated the Martyrdom of the Apostles Peter and Paul together on this date.  This year however, St. Peter will be taking somewhat of a back seat as the Church begins a Holy Year in honor of the 2000th anniversary of the Birth of St. Paul.

And many people this year will be taking pilgrimages to the tomb of St. Paul just outside of Rome.   But probably with the price of gas being what it is, and with the dollar pretty weak against the Euro, perhaps most of us here today won’t be able to make such a pilgrimage, as much as we would want to.

Let us, then, on this Solemn Opening Day of the Pauline Year, make a pilgrimage in Spirit to the tomb of St. Paul, and pay homage to the Holy Relics of this great Apostle.   St. Paul is buried in the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, which was originally built by the emperor Constantine in the early 300’s.  The emperor built the Basilica over a small chapel which dates back at least to the year 200, located several miles outside the walls of Rome alongside the ancient highway connecting Rome with the city of Ostia.  Archaeologists are very certain that this really is the place where St. Paul was buried;  I’ll tell you why a little later.
I’ve had the good fortune to have visited the Basilica five years ago.  And what I remember was that over the main entrance to it was carved into the stone in big letters the inscription “Ave Spes Unica” a verse from a very famous Latin Hymn:  “Hail Cross, Our Only Hope”

I remember thinking, how fitting to have that over the front entrance to the burial place of the man who said in Galatians 6:14 God forbid that I should boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.   And in 1 Cor 1:21 The Jews demand signs and the Greeks wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and absurdity to the Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jew and Greek alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.   And in 1 Cor 2:2 said I resolved to know nothing except Christ and Him Crucified.  May this Pauline Year help us to embrace and even glory in the Cross as St. Paul did.

From the main entrance, one walks into the outdoor Courtyard.  Unlike the overwhelmingly imposing St. Peter’s Square in Rome, the square in front of St. Paul’s is intimate and prayerful, decked with palm trees, and lots of grass, almost like a little park.  In the middle of the courtyard is a statue of St. Paul with a hood over his head and a sword in his hand;  The sword not only a reminder of Paul’s martyrdom by beheading, but also of the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, sharper than any two edged sword, which Paul says is our greatest weapon in the good fight of faith, a fight not against human beings but against the principalities and powers of darkness.

As we enter the enormous Church, our eyes must take a minute or so to adjust to the very dim natural lighting.  This is because all the windows in St. Paul’s Basilica aren’t made of glass, but rather are thinly cut sheets of brownish colored alabaster donated by the King of Egypt about 100 years ago.  One is reminded of St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 13:12:  We see now (on earth as) through a glass in a dark manner, but then (in Heaven) we shall see God face to face; and 2 Cor. 5:7: We walk by faith, not by sight.

Once our eyes have adjusted, the first thing that stands out is the Paschal Candle.  Our paschal candle over here is about 5 feet high.  At St. Paul’s Basilica, the paschal candle stand alone is over 16 feet high!   (I’d like to see the size of the Deacon who has to raise the candle and says “Christ our Light!” on Easter Vigil!)

Certainly this giant Easter Candle is fitting for the Church of the man who in 1 Cor. 15 said If Christ is not raised, empty is our preaching, empty is your faith, (and) . . . .we Christians are the most pitiable people of all.  But Christ has been raised from the dead, the  firstfruits of all who have fallen asleep.   And in Eph. 2:5, when we were dead in sin, God brought us to life and raised us up with Him . . . .that He might show (us) . . . .the immeasurable riches of His grace . . . .in Christ Jesus.

In our touring of the various side chapels in the Basilica, we come across the chapel where St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Xavier and the other first members of the Society of Jesus took their first vows, giving birth to the Jesuit order.   One is reminded not only of the great Jesuit missionaries to India and the Americas, but of the greatest of missionaries, Paul himself, who became all things to all men that He might save some, and who said the Love of Christ urges me on;  Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!

And finally, we make our way to the high altar, underneath which, the mortal remains of St. Paul of Tarsus have lain for over 1900 centuries.  In 2006, archaeologists were permitted to excavate under the high altar, and they found what tradition told them they would find:  a sarcophogous dating from the 4th century, with the words “To Paul, Apostle and Martyr” written on the top of it, and a hole in the marble that was mortared up, which was used to lower cloths into it to touch the bones.  (The archaeologists haven’t got permission from the Vatican yet to open the coffin, maybe they will during this Year of St. Paul!)

Kneeling before the tomb of the man who under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote over 1/3 of the New Testament, before this man who gladly spent himself so fully for Christ, who in the years immediately following Our Lord’s Resurrection was shipwrecked three times, scourged five times, stoned to the point of death, beaten with rods three times, imprisoned countless times, and finally killed all so that people like you and me might come to know the Gospel, we can’t but be reminded how wonderfully real our faith is, how it is not some myth or legend, but the most powerful life changing thing on earth.

May this Year of St. Paul be one of coming to know more and more the life and writings of this great Apostle, so that in turn we may come to a deeper knowledge and experience of the saving power of Jesus Christ in our lives.

Homily — 12th Sun. OT A June 22, 2008

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Homily — 12th Sun. OT A                June 22, 2008

This week, Jesus continues his pep talk which He gave His Apostles before sending them out to preach the Gospel on their own.

He has just finished telling them that many people they encounter will reject the Gospel when they hear it preached by them; He says that people will go so far as to hand you over to courts and scourge you in synagogues.  He tells them that if they persecute you in one town, flee to another.

But after all that, Jesus tells them Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. . . . for whoever acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my Heavenly Father; But whoever denies me before others I will deny before my  heavenly Father.

Jesus is telling the Apostles and telling us that even if the vast majority of people around us reject the Gospel, that doesn’t give us any excuse to not preach it by our actions and words.

Yes, at times to be faithful to Christ will take great courage, but in those times we are to remember that God loves us so much that every hair of (our) heads is counted.

When we put fear of displeasing our good and loving God over fear of displeasing others and fear of persecution by others, we have nothing whatsoever to fear.

And this weekend the Church gives us three inspiring examples of believers who courageously continued to be faithful to God despite great opposition and persecution from those around them.

The first example of such a person the prophet Jeremiah who we see today in the first reading.

Jeremiah started his career as a prophet during the days of the pious King Josiah.  It was a time of religious renewal and reformation in Israel, a time when prophets like Jeremiah were well respected and their words heeded by the princes and people of Israel.

But after King Josiah died, people backslid into idolatry again.  They no longer wanted to hear prophets like Jeremiah reminding them about how they should be living.

And neither did the Kings of Israel that came after King Josiah — instead,  they surrounded themselves with prophets who told them false prophecies of God’s blessing on them and future prosperity, none of which was the truth.

Throughout this period in History, Jeremiah kept faithful to the Lord, and kept preaching the Commandments of God and prophecying what God told him to whether it was popular or not.

And because he did so, the High Priest of his day had him scourged and imprisoned.  It was this occasion that caused Jerimiah to say what we hear in the first reading:  I hear the whisperings of many: Terror on every side!  Denounce, let us denounce him!  All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine, (to trap me)

But Jeremiah realizes that every hair of his head is numbered. . . . the LORD is with me, a mighty champion he says.   And years later, after his prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem proved true, Jeremiah was vindicated as a true prophet of the LORD and is now among the canonized saints of the Old Testament.

The other two examples of faith in the midst of great opposition the Church gives us this weekend are Ss. John Fisher and Thomas More, whose feast day is today, June 22.

John Fisher was the Bishop of Rochester and Sir Thomas More was the Chancellor or Second in Command to King Henry VIII in 16th century England.   Both men refused to acknowledge the King’s divorce to Catherine of Aragon and his remarriage to Anne Boylen because he was denied an annullment by the Pope.

At that time, every other Bishop in England but John Fisher and every other politician in England but Thomas More signed an oath which claimed that Anne was the legitimate wife of Henry VIII.

Bishop John Fisher defended Queen Catherine in court and said that like his patron St. John the Baptist, he was ready to die in defense of the indissolubility of marriage.  After a number of imprisonments and 2 assassination attempts, the King finally managed to condemn him to death in a court of law June 17 1534.  It is said St. John Fisher accepted the sentence with “calm, dignified courage.”

He was beheaded on this day, just 2 days before the feast of John the Baptist, who also lost his head because he refused to acknowledge King Herod’s illicit marriage, a similarity that was not lost to the rest of Catholic Europe who viewed him as a saint and a martyr.

St. Thomas More’s story is more well known, especially because of the 1966 Academy Award winning movie A Man for All Seasons starring Paul Scofield, which everyone should see.   Like St. John Fisher, More was courageous and at peace until the end, saying that he died “the king’s good servant, but God’s first” and even joking with the executioner before he was beheaded two week’s after St. John Fisher.

Hopefully, none of us will ever have to endure such opposition as did Jeremiah or the English martyrs; but certainly if we are faithful to Jesus, we will meet with opposition both in the world and sadly even within the Church and within our own family.

When we do, may we not be afraid, but rather may we remember that if even so much as a hair of our head is touched, God will vindicate us, so much does He care for those who strive to truly follow His Son.

Homily – 11th Sunday OT A 6-15-08

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Homily — 11th Sunday OT A                    6-15-08

In the First Reading from the Book of Exodus, the LORD God says to the Israelites You have seen for yourselves how I treated (your oppressors) the Egyptians, and how I bore you up on eagle wings and brought you here to myself.

In this passage and several others in Sacred Scripture, God compares himself to an Eagle, the King of the Birds of the Sky.

This image of God the Eagle swooping down to earth, putting us on his back and soaring off to a high mountain top beautifully conveys God’s humbling himself and being born of a Virgin, and then through His Cross and Resurrection lifting us up with him.

In the first Reading, God was trying to impress on the Israelites that their deliverance was all God’s doing.  Without the Eagle swooping down and saving them and bringing them to the mountain, they would still be enslaved in Egypt.   And also with Jesus, if He didn’t swoop down from Heaven and die on the Cross for us, we would be enslaved in sin.

But God doesn’t save His people so that they would forever grovel at his feet.  As children made in His divine image, God empowers His people after He saves them.

And so in the Book of Deuteronomy for example we read Moses say As an eagle incites it’s nestlings forth by hovering over his brood, so (the LORD) spread his wings to receive them and bore them up on his pinions.

If we follow the Lord, He is forever trying to push us out of the nest and getting us to fly on our own.

In an old Smithsonian magazine there was the following description of an eyewitness account of an eagle training her young to fly:

It was about ten o’clock. The mother started from the nest in the crags, and roughly handling the young one, she allowed him to drop, I should say, about ninety feet, then she would swoop down under him, wings spread, and he would alight on her back. She would soar to the top of the range with him and repeat the process. One time she waited perhaps fifteen minutes between flights. I should say the farthest she let him fall was 150 feet.
My father and I watched this, spellbound, for over an hour. I do not know whether the young one gained confidence by this method or not. A few days later father and I rode to the cliff and out on Overhanging Rock. The eagle’s nest was empty.

And in the same way, Jesus pushes us out of the comfortable nest, and lets us fall into the world below — not to make us fall, but to make us able to fly by ourselves.

This is what we see in today’s Gospel.  Jesus takes his 12 baby Eagles and says “time for you to learn to fly on your own boys.  Go out and fly on your own, curing the sick and driving out demons.  Don’t worry, I’ll be hovering over you and swooping under you throughout your flight.”

Perhaps some of them would have rather stayed home, but there was no option. And in the same way, Jesus wishes us to fly as eagles in this world by living according to His Gospel.
Another very popular image that’s found in a lot of the Psalms is the image of taking refuge under the shadow of God’s wings.  Psalm 91 for instance says Under His wings you will find refuge;  Psalm 17:8 states Hide me in the shadow of your wings.

While we might think that this represents God sheltering us from evil, it also means more than this.  The Israelites hearing the words “under His wings you will find refuge” would have immediately thought of the Holy of Holies inside the Jerusalem Temple.   Behind the veil in the Holy of Holies, there were Two giant  Eagle-like solid gold Cherubims, each with a 15 to 20 foot wing span, staring at you.  The Cherubims wings were fully spread out, one wing touching the side wall closest to it, the other wing touching the wing of the other Cherubim.

And under the wings of these two Cherubim was the Ark of the Covenant containing the Commandments of God.   And so when the Psalmist says Under the shadow of His wings you will find refuge, the meaning was “in the Temple you will  find refuge” or “by following the commandments you will find refuge”.  And we members of the New Israel, the Church, can take this image even further, for the Virgin Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant!

The final Eagle imagery is given appropriately enough in the last Book of the Bible, in Revelation 12:14, where the Woman, an image of the Church, is being pursued by the Serpent.  Rev. 12:14 states the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly to the desert, where far from the serpent, she was taken care of.

God gives the Woman not just any wings, but The two wings of The Great Eagle, Christ Himself.  As Isaiah 40:31 states:  They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength/they will soar as with Eagles wings.

May God bear us up on Eagles wings and bring us to Himself; may He send us forth to fly in this world with His Eagle’s wings to fly with.  Then will be fulfilled Matthew 24:28, which is translated by many of the Church Fathers as: Where the Body (of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist) is, there the Eagles will gather.

Lake Cabin Pictures

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

cabin kitchen

cabin kitchen

cabin kitchen

cabin kitchen

chapel in cabin

chapel in cabin
chapel in cabin

chapel in cabin

Dining Room/Porch

Dining Room/Porch

Dining Room/Porch

Dining Room/Porch

Traditional Latin Mass Homily – 4th Sunday after Pentecost

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Traditional Latin Mass Homily – 4th Sunday after Pentecost 6/8/8

(Note: the Gospel for this weekend in the Extraordinary Form is Luke 5:1-11, the miraculous catch of fish)

In today’s Gospel we read:

Et sedens, docebat de navicula turbas.
And sitting,
(Jesus) taught the multitudes
out of
(Peter’s) boat.

This image of Jesus teaching from Peter’s boat has always been viewed to be a foreshadowing of the Holy Catholic Church. For the past 2000 years, Our Lord Jesus has sat in the middle of this boat which is the Church, a boat which sails safely through the stormy waves of history, with the successor of St. Peter, the Pope, at the helm.

And from this boat which is the Catholic Church, Jesus continues to teach the multitudes that are found both on and off the boat; and the multitudes down through the centuries continue to be taught by Christ in whatever waters this boat is found sailing in.

And once in a while, Jesus will cease teaching for a moment, and turn to the Captain of the ship, and say to him what He said that day to St. Peter: Duc in altum. Launch out into the deep, and lower your nets for a catch.

A few years ago, our beloved Holy Father Pope John Paul II went home to the Lord, and the Cardinals in conclave elected Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to succeed him as Pope. And taking the name Benedict XVI, he became the vicar of Christ, the successor of St. Peter, the captain of the S.S. Catholic Church.

Pope Benedict wasn’t long at the helm when he heard Jesus say to him: “Duc in altum- Launch out into the deep, Benedict, and lower the nets for a catch. But before you do that, Sailor, go down below the deck, and bring up from the storage room that older net that I like so much, the one you’ve hardly used these past 40 years, and start fishing with it again. And tell the sons of Zebedee, James and John, and all the other ships in the fleet, to get the older net out as well, and to start casting it alongside the newer one.”

And so our great Captain, Pope Benedict, obedient to the Lord’s voice, went and got that 900 year old net which is the Traditional Latin Mass. And on July 7th, 2007 he sent out a letter to all the Fishers of Men in the Church today, the Priests of the Church. And in this letter, this Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, the successor of Peter said that beginning September 14th, 2007, the Church was launching out into the deep, and lowering the nets for a catch, and that any validly ordained Fisher of Men of the Roman Rite who wished to had permission to use the older net instead of the newer one, and no one could tell him he wasn’t allowed to.

And over the past nine months since the implementation of Summorum Pontificum, we are seeing in more and more Parishes and Chapels around the country and around the world the older net being used by more and more priests.

And also over the past nine months, we are seeing more and more fish getting hooked by the beauty, the reverence, the mystery, and the majesty of this Extraordinary Form of Mass.

In the opinion of not a few Master Fishers of Men, the older net can go down much further into the depths than the newer one can, which enables it to catch some prize fishes that the newer one can’t hook.

Many also feel that the Traditional Latin Mass is able to reach further into the depths of our being: the silence, the rituals, the Latin prayers allow us to leave the shallowness of this fallen world and to plunge deep into the world of the spirit, deep into the unfathomable mystery of the Thrice Holy Trinity.

Certainly in a well celebrated Traditional Latin Mass reverently entered into, Jesus is capable of bringing us to our knees as he brought Peter to his knees after the miraculous catch of fish. Here we encounter the Holiness of Christ, and beg Jesus to depart from us, for we are sinful men and women, O Lord.

But at the same time, we also hear Jesus respond back to us, “fear not, stay close to Me on this great boat of mine, and with Peter at the helm, we’ll sail together, and catch many men and women for the Kingdom of God.”