Archive for April, 2009

Homily — 3rd Sunday Easter B 4/26/09

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Homily — 3rd Sunday Easter B                4/26/09

One Friday afternoon 2000 years ago, in a far flung part of the Roman empire, the lifeless bodies of 3 condemned criminals hung upon 3 Crosses, set up on a hill, just outside the city of Jerusalem.

Before taking the bodies down, the Roman Soldiers in charge of carrying out the execution checked to make sure all three men were dead.

This was a common enough procedure; and if the severe penalties for botching an execution and the ruthlessness of Pilate when one got him upset weren’t incentive enough for the soldiers, on this particular day there was all these religious officials pestering them.  “Make sure the man on the middle Cross is dead!  Before you take him down, we want to double check!”

But there was no doubts to be had.  You could maybe survive a Roman Scourging if you were lucky, but no one lives through a Roman Crucifixion.

Yes, they were all three of them dead all right – the two low-life thieves who no one even showed up to mourn for.  The soldiers found it hard to believe how peaceful one of those dead thieves looked, given these circumstances.

And the third criminal crucified that day, the one in the middle, was the first of to die of the bunch.  Quite the celebrity, he had been.

The big guy himself, Pontius Pilate, personally wrote out a sign and had it put on the Cross over his head written in three different languages, giving the man’s name and who he claimed to be.  The soldiers didn’t see that too often.

The governor even refused to take it down when people complained about it – one of the few times in his life the man ever show some real backbone.    He wanted that sign to remain there until the body had been taken off, so that all those religious fanatics who either worshiped the man or hated him would know for certain that the cold and dead corpse hanging on that Cross before there eyes was Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.

After taking Jesus off from the Cross, Jesus’ followers came forward to take His body and bury It.

The soldiers were surprised at how few came our for the burial:  His Mother, His Apostles minus Judas, and only several dozen others, mostly women.

The large crowds that flocked around him just a week ago were now running after a man named Barábbas, who promised a more earthly and easy salvation.

But three days later, it was not to the large crowds who went for Barábbas, but rather to that faithful remnant of disciples, that Jesus came to in the Upper Room.  He stood in their midst and said to them: “Peace be with you. . . .Why are you troubled?  Why do questions arise in your hearts?  Look at my hands and feet . . . . touch me with your own hands and see with your own eyes, I have really risen from the Dead!”

I didn’t re-incarnate in another body, my soul wasn’t annihilated, or made one with the universe.  Nor did I become an Angel or a Ghost.  I have Risen from the Dead, body and soul, never to die again!  And I will raise up all who believe in me in the same way

Let us, my brothers and sisters, as Peter in the first Reading exhorts us, Repent, therefore of all our doubts and anxieties and sins, and be converted to believing the witness of the Apostles, that our sins may be wiped away, and we may live in Hope for the Resurrection.

Homily – Divine Mercy Sunday MMIX 4/19/09

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Homily – Divine Mercy Sunday MMIX        4/19/09

We read in the First Reading how in the early Church,  people would voluntarily place all that they had, all their possessions, at the feet of Peter and the Apostles.    These possessions were then distributed to each according to their need.  And as a result, there was no needy person among the Christians.

The early Christians were so eager and willing to take all they had and lay it at the feet of the Apostles, because this is exactly what Jesus did in the Upper Room as we see in today’s Gospel – Jesus took all that He had and laid it at the feet of the Apostles, holding nothing back for Himself.

On the Thursday before, in that same Upper Room, Jesus had already given them His very Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist.

And the day after Jesus gave His Body and Blood to them, He gave His life up for them on the Cross to save them from their sins.   In doing so, Jesus gave an open door to the Kingdom of Heaven to the Apostles.

And just minutes before He gave up His life, Jesus while hanging on the Cross gave the Apostles the second dearest thing He possessed in Life, His Mother Mary.

We might think, what more could Jesus give to his Apostles than the Eucharist, the Merits of His Passion, the potential for Eternal Life of Heaven, and His Mother?

But after He rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, the Risen Jesus had three more things to lay at the feet of the Apostles.

That first Easter Sunday evening, when the doors were locked in that Upper Room where the Apostles were, for fear of those who crucified the Lord,

Jesus come and stood in their midst and said to them “Peace be with you.”

So the Risen Lord Jesus gave first of all His Easter Peace to the Apostles that first Easter Night.    The peace of knowing that Jesus is Risen, the first fruits of all who have fallen asleep.    The peace of knowing that one day He will raise us up, that He will raise our loved ones up, if we believe in Him and obey His commandments.

Secondly, when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus at the Last Supper had promised to give them the Holy Spirit after He had died.  And that Easter Night, the first thing the Risen Lord did was keep to His promise by breathing on the Apostles the Holy Spirit, a Spirit they would receive in its fullness 50 days later in the same Upper Room on Pentecost Sunday.

And the lastly, the third gift Jesus laid at the Apostles feet that Easter Night was the Sacrament of Penance:    Receive the Holy Spirit my Apostles.  Whose sins you Apostles forgive, they are forgiven. My Father and I will not hold those sins against them on judgment day.

And so from that day on, whoever came before the Apostles and sincerely confessed their sins to them were always forgiven by the Apostles by virtue of this great gift of the Sacrament of Confession given on Easter night.

And so today we rejoice with the Apostles, that the Risen Lord Jesus has laid at their feet these three new and precious gifts of Peace, the Holy Spirit, and the Sacrament of Penance,  gifts which the Church distributes to each according to their need, so that there is no spiritually needy person among all the members of the Church.

On this Divine Mercy Sunday, may you and I imitate Jesus and the early disciples by giving all we possess and placing it at the feet of Peter and the Apostles, at the service of the Church.

May we especially strive to give all we have in performing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy,

in Giving food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty
Clothing the naked
Freeing those unjustly enslaved
Welcoming the stranger or alien
Visiting the Sick

and     Burying the Dead (the Seven corporal works of Mercy)

and also
in Admonishing the Sinner
Instructing the Ignorant
Counseling the Doubtful
Comforting the Sorrowful
Bearing wrongs patiently
Forgiving all injuries

and     Praying for the living and the dead (the 7 Spiritual Works of Mercy)

In this way, we will truly be showing ourselves disiciples of our Merciful, Risen Lord.

Homily – Easter Sunday MMIX 4/12/09

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

Homily – Easter Sunday MMIX                    4/12/09

The Lord is Risen, Alleluia!  This is the Church’s message to our troubled world tonight (this Day) and for the next 50 days:  He is truly Risen!

He is Risen, despite the treacherous greed of Judas which stripped Him of all He had,

He is Risen, despite the cowardice of His Apostles who in the hour of darkness found themselves powerless to aid Him,

He is Risen, despite the blindness of His own people who preferred the sham Barabbas to the true Messiah,

He is truly Risen, in spite of the excessive beating the Romans gave Him,

He is truly Risen, in spite of the four sharp nails that were driven into His Sacred Flesh,

He is truly Risen, in spite of the death He truly underwent as a man, in spite of the three days His cold and lifeless Body spent in the tomb.

No, not greed, nor cowardice, nor rejection, nor beating, nor crucifixion, nor death itself could overcome Jesus Christ.  He has overcome them all, He has trampled them under
His pierced Feet.

The Third Day has dawned.  His Body rises from this fallen world, glorified, incorruptible, no more to die.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, may this Easter celebration impress deeply upon our hearts and minds and bodies and souls that Jesus our Lord is truly Risen from the Dead.

And as St. Paul reminds us, if then, we have died with Christ in Baptism, we believe that we shall also live with our Glorified and Risen Jesus.

The greedy of this world may rob of all we have,

We may be abandoned in our time of need,

We may find the world to be against us as Christians,

We may be beaten down by our past sins and by the world and the devil,

But no earthly trials, not even crucifixion or any other earthly death is able to crush our Hope for Resurrection in Christ Jesus our Lord.

May Christ fill you with Resurrection Faith this Easter Day, and all the 50 days of this Easter Season, and may the Joy of the Resurrection renew your family, our parish, and the whole world, for the tomb is really Empty, and Our Lord has truly Risen!

Homily – Good Friday MMIX 4/10/09

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Homily – Good Friday MMIX                4/10/09

Among the many sad scenes in our Lord’s Passion that first Good Friday, one in particular has recently caught my attention.

It is the scene where Pontius Pilate goes and stands before the vast crowd of people that is gathered in the Praetorium for what the synoptic Gospels say was the third time that day.

According to Matthew, Mark and John, Pilate asked the people:  “Which of these two men would you like me to release into your society?  Which of the following two men do you desire to have?”

Do you want, as part of your society, Jesus, called Messiah, the King of the Jews?

Or, do you want this other man, named Barabbas?

Certainly there were a blessed few in that crowd who cried out to Pilate that Good Friday:  “Release Jesus!  We want Jesus in our society, walking among us, teaching our children, ruling over us!  Release Jesus!”

But sadly, all four Gospel writers tell us that the overwhelming majority of people chose to have the other man over Our Lord.

St. Matthew says the crowd in response just chanted Barabbas!  Barabbas!

St. John said that the crowd cried “We don’t want this man Jesus, we want Barabbas!

Mark says the crowd was all fired up at the prospect of getting Barabbas from Pilate, so that they must have cheered for joy when he was finally released into their society.

And St. Luke even seems to imply that most of the people in the crowd were there that day for no other reason but to ask Pilate for Barabbas, indeed to demand that he give Barabbas to them.

So who is this man so desired by the masses?

Again, all four Gospel writers shed a different light upon the character of the man, or lack of it.

St.  John, as we’ve just heard, simply describes him as a revolutionary.  The word is also translated as robber, however.   Barabbas was a revolutionary and a robber.

St. Luke says that he was the leader of a rebellion that had taken place in Jerusalem, and also a murderer.

St. Mark says that Barabbas was imprisoned along with the rebels who had committed murder.  As if to say that the guy was so slick that the authorities couldn’t pin anything on him, so slick that his many fans would say “Barabbas isn’t a bad guy at all!”

And finally, St. Matthew describes Barabbas, the man overwhelmingly chosen over Jesus, as a notorious prisoner.

Matthew also gives Barabbas’ full name: Jesus Barabbas.

And so his full name is Jesus,
Bar (Hebrew word meaning “Son of”)
Abbas (Hebrew word meaning “Father”)

The crowd that first Good Friday my brothers and sisters, rejected and crucified Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God the Father Almighty;

and chose, to great cries of rejoicing, Jesus Barabbas, the Son of Satan the Father of Lies.

So it was that first Good Friday, and so it remains today in this fallen world we live in.  As Jesus tells us, Narrow is the road that leads to life, the road which winds it’s way up Mount Calvary, and those who are on it, those who choose Jesus, are few.

But broad and wide is the road that leads to destruction, and those who are on it are many, with the Barabbas’ of the world leading the parade.

This Day of Atonement, may you and I humbly acknowledge how often we have been seduced in leaving the narrow road of the Gospel to follow after Barabbas the robber who promises us material wealth,

to follow after Barabbas the revolutionary who promises us liberation and a loose morality to live by,

to follow after Barabbas the murderer who exploits poor and defenseless innocent human life,

to follow after Barabbas, the slick, charismatic figure whom we allow to entertain and entrance us, as Jesus is meanwhile cast out of our society, crucified and buried without our even noticing it until it is too late.

O Jesus, by the merits of your Passion, spare us in our day from falling under the spell of Barabbas.

Let the world mock us, let the majority reject us, let the crowd even spit on us and marginalize us and crucify us, we wish by your grace to reject Barabbas, and to choose you Jesus, and your Holy Cross, all the days of our life.

Homily – Holy Thursday MMIX 4/9/9

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Homily – Holy Thursday  MMIX                4/9/9

On the morning of that First Holy Thursday, the disciples asked Jesus Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?

And St. Mark tells us, in words we read this past Palm Sunday, that Jesus gave his disciples these detailed instructions:

The first thing, Jesus said, you must Go into the city (Jerusalem) and a man will meet you, carrying a vessel of water.

And for the past 2009 years, those who wish to Eat the Passover with Our Blessed Lord Jesus must also abide by those instructions:

You and I must first enter the New Jerusalem on earth, the Holy Catholic Church.

And upon entering the Holy Catholic Church for the first time, we like the disciples met a man, carrying a vessel of water.  He poured the water over our head, Baptizing us in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus told his disciples that first Holy Thursday that once they had entered the city and were met by the man with the water, to follow him.  He will lead them to a large, upper room, furnished and ready.

There, in that upper room, raised above ground level,

and here, in this upper room, on this Altar which the laws of our Holy Church require be raised above the congregation level,

There and here will take place on this night, the Passover of Our Lord.

That first Holy Thursday afternoon, the disciples sent by Jesus into the city found that large upper room all furnished and ready.

The table was all set:  finest white linen table cloth, candles, 13 mats to recline on, 13 plates, 13 cups, one of them, the nicest one, The Cup which would be used.

A large flagon of new red wine, a large, freshly baked round loaf of unleavened bread, and bitter herbs.

Furnished and ready, all prepared with the perfection of Martha, with the prayerfulness of Mary Magdalene, and with the unfathomable love of the Mother of Jesus for Her Son and Lord.

All had been prepared beforehand for this night.  All was now ready for a Supper which had been in preparation since before the dawn of Creation.

All that had gone before was a preparation for this night.  The Creation, The Old Testament were a preparation, The Incarnation, The Holy Infancy, The Public Ministry of Jesus were a preparation.

It was all now furnished and ready.

And tonight in this Upper Room, Our Lord makes all things new.

A new commandment,
A new priesthood,
A new and everlasting Covenant in His Body and Blood broken and shed for us.

He gives us tonight this New Commandment to Love one another as He has loved us.

There was nothing more humiliating for a Jew in Jesus’ day than to wash another person’s feet.  But Jesus teaches us that in our service to one another, no task should be too humiliating for us to perform.

But as humiliating as feet washing is, it pales in comparison to the humiliation of being stripped and scourged and crowned with thorns and nailed almost naked to a cross.

But Jesus says you and I are to love one another as He has loved us, even to death on a Cross.

Jesus realized that His new commandment would be difficult, if not impossible, for us to carry out, left on our own.

This is why Jesus gives us tonight a New Food to strengthen us, to enable us to live out the New Commandment of Love:  the Holy Eucharist.

Through the Eucharist we find strength to live as Christ calls us to live, through partaking of the Eucharist we can love one another as Jesus loves us.

The Eucharist is essential for our living a Christian life.  Unless you eat of the flesh of the son of Man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.

Jesus realized we needed the Eucharist, or else the journey through life would be too long for us, and we wouldn’t reach our destiny.

And so that we would until the end of time always have in the Church this Eucharistic Food, Jesus on the Night of the Last Supper instituted the New Priesthood of His New Covenant.

Do this, you Twelve, and your successors after you, in memory of my Passion and Death.

So we pray tonight for all priests, that Jesus would renew them in their total commitment to serve Christ and His Church.

We also pray for those young men Jesus is calling to be priests.    In the book of the prophet Jerimiah we read the Lord saying: Before you were born I called youin your mother’s womb I consecrated you.  Many, if not all priests, are called from the womb to renounce marriage and family and career for the higher calling of the priesthood.

Today, there are so many obstacles for young men to hear God’s call.  Our prayers, and especially the prayers of parents and grandparents, are more important than ever for the sake of those young men in our parish that Jesus is calling to the priesthood in years to come.

And so, tonight we thank Jesus for having all things furnished and ready beforehand for us to partake of His Passover with Him.

May He give us this Holy Thursday a deeper and stronger love for the Holy Eucharist, a deeper respect and love for the Priesthood, and through these things may He enable us to live out ever more fully the New Commandment of sacrificial Love He gives us this night.