Archive for September, 2009

Homily — 24th Sunday OT 9/13/09

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Homily — 24th Sunday OT 9/13/09

The parish secretary at one of my previous assignments had a mother who was from an Eastern European country.

And any time a wedding came up in the parish, my former secretary would say “I remember when I got married 45 years ago. You got married in the morning in those days, and after I came home from the Church, I walking through the doorway with my wedding gown still on, when my mother said “stop right there!” ”

Then she said that her mother stuck out a teaspoon of honey and said to her “Eat this!” Then, after she ate it, her mom sprinked a bunch of salt on the same teaspoon and told her “Now eat this!” She ate the salt.

Then her mother got a little shot of whiskey, and said to her “Now drink this!” She said “Mom, I haven’t even had breakfast yet!” But her mom insisted, so she drank it.

Her mom afterwards told her what she did was a wedding custom from the old country:

The standing under the doorway represented the entering into married life.

The honey she ate represented the sweetness of married life she could now look forward to.

The salt she ate represented the bitterness, the trials of married life she had to also accept along with the sweet.

And the whiskey represented God’s presence and blessing, which would always be there for her throughout her married life.

Marriage has in it honey, salt and whiskey; or to use a different analogy, it is like the Rosary: it has Joyful, Sorrow, and Glorious Mysteries, and if you want one of them, you must accept the other two.

And as it is in the relationship of a Husband and a Wife, so it also is in the relationship between a Jesus and His Disciple.

In today’s Gospel, we see the Apostles start to learn that following Jesus isn’t all honey and sweetness. The honeymoon ended for them that day at Caesarea Philippi.

Up to that point, it had been all sweetness for Peter and the Gang. They had spent two whole bliss-filled years in the presence of Jesus, living with him, traveling with him, each day seeing him work greater miracles than the day before.

Up to this point they had witnessed Jesus heal countless sick persons, cast demons out of many possessed persons; they even saw with their own eyes dead men and women raised to life by Jesus, as well as hardened sinners, even prostitutes and tax collectors, transformed into saints and fellow disciples.

Better still, the Apostles saw themselves being transformed by Jesus’ words and actions, they saw themselves turning away from their past sinful ways and turning toward the light and truth of the Gospel Jesus preached, to the point where Jesus was sending them out in pairs to heal and teach and cast out demons.

Yes, those first two years of following Jesus were quite an extended honeymoon for Peter and the Twelve.

And as we see, because of this honeymoon time, it was finally beginning to dawn on all of them just who this man, that they had left everything to follow, really was.

After two years of following him, they knew he wasn’t some John the Baptist wannabe some were saying he was.

He wasn’t just another one of God’s prophets, as good as that would have been. He wasn’t even The Prophet, Elijah, who scripture said was to come and prepare the way of the Lord.

He wasn’t the One to prepare for the Lord, He was the Lord – not only the Christ, but the Son of God, God Himself become Flesh, as incredible as that sounded, but they could not deny it after all they had heard and seen those first couple years.

And Jesus, hearing this profession of faith on Peter’s lips, and seeing that same faith on the faces of the other Apostles, says to them “You have tasted the Sweet, now you must taste the Bitter.”

For the first time in the Gospel, Jesus announces to them Behold, the Son of man must suffer greatly and be rejected. . . .and be killed.

Suffering. Rejection. Killing. Where did the honey go? Peter takes Jesus aside and says “Lord, your disturbing us with this kind of talk. Please stop!”

And Jesus replies “Peter, you are talking like Satan, and thinking like humans do, when instead you and the others should be talking and thinking like God does.”

And from this point on in the Gospel, Jesus will more and more teach his disciples that following him will entail both for Him and for them suffering, and sacrifice and persecution. In doing so, Jesus is being loving, he is showing them the deeper and fuller meaning of love.

As Christians, we like the Apostles must learn to take the salt with the honey, the bitter with the sweet.

Jesus knows that the Cross is difficult for us to accept, which is why he always covers it with a lot of honey, which is why He usually gives us an extended honeymoon, and sometimes a 2nd and 3rd and 4th one as well.

And which is also why he gives us the shot of whiskey, the gift of His Holy Spirit, a foretaste of Heaven, in this life, to help us take the bitter with the sweet.

As we celebrate this Eucharist, which Christ gave us as “The Memorial of His suffering and death”, may Jesus and His Sorrowful Mother give us the grace to take up our Cross and follow Him to Calvary, that we may truly be counted among his disciples and friends.

Homily — 23rd Sunday OT B 9/6/9

Monday, September 7th, 2009

Homily — 23rd Sunday OT B 9/6/9

About a month ago I was visiting an old high school friend of mine, who is now married with two young children and living in the woods of Western Coventry.

He told me about how one day his kids were swimming in a pond at a day camp near his house; about 30 kids or so were in the water, when all of a sudden the life guard got out of his life guard chair, walked up to shore of the beach, and said in a calm, loud voice “All right boys and girls, everyone please swim over to this side of the pond right now, let’s go!”

All the kids on the right side of the pond swam over to the left side of the pond and kept on playing and swimming.

What the kids didn’t know was that the lifeguard had seen a big snapping turtle way out beyond the buoys, heading towards the right side of the shore. The turtle after a few minutes eventually swam off in another direction, and the kids went back to swimming on the right side of the pond, totally clueless as to what just happened.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus heals a deaf man with a speech impediment.

Through the gift of speech, the lifeguard was able to lead those children away from danger.

And through the gift of hearing, the children were able to hear the lifeguard and swim to safety.

But the Church also sees in this miraculous healing a symbol of how Jesus heals the spiritual deafness and spiritual speech impediment every human being is born into this fallen world with.

From ancient times up unto our present day, whenever children or adults are baptized, what’s called the Ephphatha Rite is performed as part of the Baptism Ritual: the Priest touches the ears and the mouth of the baby or adult, just like Jesus touched the ears and mouth of the deaf man, and prays “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the mute speak, may he open your ears to receive His word and your mouth to proclaim His faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father”.

The grace of Baptism enables us to hear the voice of Jesus speaking to us, it enables us to speak without any impediments the saving Word of God to others.

But even after Baptism, we can grow deaf to the voice of God, and forget how to speak the heavenly language of love and truth, if we are not careful.

Lukewarmness in our prayer life and even small venial sins can create a kind of spiritual wax build up that will make it harder for us to hear Jesus speaking to us.

We need to get out the Q-Tip so to speak, clean out that dirty wax by a daily regimen of prayer. Notice how before Jesus heals the deaf man, the Gospel says Jesus first took (the man) off by himself away from the crowd. If we want to hear Jesus speak to us, we need to spend time each day alone with Him in prayer and spiritual reading.

And then, if we’ve done major damage to our eardrums by listening and giving into the lies of the devil, we’ll need to get spiritual ear surgery by making a good confession.

He who has ears, let him hear says the Lord.

And once we hear God speaking loud and clear, o r tongue will be loosened and we will be then able to speak clearly as well.

One spiritual author says this about how a follower of Christ is to speak. He says “We Christians cannot remain dumb when we must speak of God and transmit his message openly: Parents (must speak) to their children, teaching them their prayers and the basics of their faith from their infancy; a friend (must speak) to his friend (about Christ), when the opportune moment presents itself . . . .a . . . .worker (should speak) to his colleagues, offering them, by word and example, a cheerful model to imitate . . . . “

“ . . . . there are even moments in which it would be unnatural for a good Christian not to (speak) something supernatural: (as on the occasion of ) the death of a loved one (or) a visit to a sick person.”

And this author concludes by reminding us of our obligation to speak out in defense of the moral and doctrinal teachings of our faith when these teachings are belittled, misunderstood, or denied.

As we come before Jesus in the Eucharist today, may He touch us and say to us “Ephphatha! Be opened!”

Be opened and hear me saying to you how much I love you;

Be opened and hear me saying to you how much I have forgiven you;

Be opened and hear my voice, gently leading you away from harmful and sinful things, and towards good and virtuous things.

Be opened, and speak with your mouth my words of truth and love to others;

Be opened, my beloved, and then see how your words and actions will open the ears and mouths of the deaf and dumb in your midst.