Archive for January, 2013

Homily – 2nd Sunday OT C 1/20/13

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Homily – 2nd Sunday OT C 1/20/13

 There was a wedding . . . . (Jn. 2:1)

The teaching of the Church on Marriage is so foundational, and so deep, that the entire Catholic Faith can be summed up in those four words from today’s Gospel: There was a wedding.

Once upon a time, in a far off land called Heaven, there was a Son who lived with His Father.  And one day this Son left His Father’s house and journeyed to a far distant land, called Earth, to look for a Bride to marry.

And just as Moses, Isaac, Jacob, and Tobias of the Old Testament did, in that far distant land the Son found the girl of His dreams: Our Holy Mother the Church.

On the banks of the Jordan River, with his best man, John the Baptist, at His side, Christ proposed to her, pledging his love to her publicly for the first time, and the Father gave His blessing on this union that day.

There next followed a three year engagement period, where Jesus the Bridegroom and His Bride got to know each other better.  During the engagement period, many objected to this upcoming marriage – the Devil, the Pharisees, the rich young man, Judas Iscariot, even Peter at times – but nothing was going to stop these two foolish young lovers from becoming one.

Finally, at the Last Supper, the vows were exchanged. This is my body, given for you. This is my blood, my heart, poured out totally for you, as an eternal covenant of my unconditional, indissoluble love.

And, as it truly right and just, after those vows were taken, after the engagement period was finished, the marriage was consummated on the Cross the next day. “Consummatum est – It is consummated.”

Three Days later, on Easter Sunday, Christ came forth from tomb as a Bridegroom coming from his bridal chamber, and a 40 Day Honeymoon ensued.

During that time, it appeared to all eyes that the Bride was “expecting”, and on Pentecost Sunday, the Bride of Christ, our Mother the Church gave birth to the first of many Children, as 3000 were born again of water and the Holy Spirit that day.

A man shall leave his Father and his Mother, and be united to His wife, and the two shall become one Flesh. What God has joined, let no one separate.

Jesus left His Father’s throne in Heaven, and His Mother Mary’s home in Nazareth, and was joined to His Bride the Church, and the two have become One Body of Christ. And what God has joined, no one can separate.

And at the end of time, Christ the Bridegroom will take His beloved Bride to His Father’s House in Heaven, and then, the Wedding Feast of the Lamb and His beautiful Bride will begin.

Blessed are those who are called to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, where the wine never runs out, where the best is always yet to come.

Yes, there was a wedding, the marriage of the One God-Man Jesus Christ with His one woman, His Bride the Church. The couple just celebrated their 2013th Anniversary.

And even in those bad times, when His Bride is unfaithful to Him, even when she in her sinful members betrays Him and denies Him and nails Him anew to a Cross, even then Christ the Bridegroom forgives her, and remains faithful to her, and will not ever think of ever divorcing His beloved Spouse. No, He will love her and honor her all the days of His Risen Life.

And as our faith is Incarnational, which means that with the birth of Christ the Divine now comes to us through the human, if we accept Christ’s vision of Heavenly Marriage, we must also accept His vision of Earthly Marriage, as being a life long union of one man and one woman, oriented to the procreation and raising of children, a visible sign of Jesus’ indissoluble, fruitful love for His Bride the Church. For the Christian, this and only this can be called a true marriage.

The Church has always seen Jesus’ teaching on marriage to be a most integral part of the Good News Christ came to bring to people of all nations and times and cultures.

St. John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded for defending the sanctity of marriage;

Pope St. Calistus in the 3rd century declared that male slaves had the right to marry free women, even though centuries old Roman law declared such marriages illegal, and even though this led to the first major schism in the Church, and the first Anti-Pope in Church History.

In the 9th Century, Pope St. Nicholas (known as Nicholas the Great), declared that a daughter was free to marry a man even against the will of her father, even if her father was the emperor (which was the case at the time).

And in the 16th Century, the Church in England broke away from the Catholic Church, and Chancellor St. Thomas More and Bishop St. John the Baptist Fisher both lost their heads, all because Henry VIII was refused an annulment to his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

Finally, the Church has never been opposed to inter-racial marriages, and has never in her official Canon Laws held mixed race to be an impediment to marry.

Given her track record, there should be little surprise that the Catholic Church continues today to proclaim the good news of Christ’s teaching on marriage as a life-long union of one man and one woman, oriented to children.

May we be faithful to Christ, and to His Bride the Church, in esteeming and defending this institution as the saints of old did, and as we approach Jesus, the Bridegroom of our soul, in Holy Communion today, may we say to him, freely and without reservation, “Jesus, I take you to be my Lord. I promise to be true to you and all your teachings, and all the teachings of your Bride the Church, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you Jesus, and honor you, all the days of my life. Amen.”

Mary’s Faith (Homily – Mary, the Holy Mother of God MMXIII 1/1/13)

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Homily – Mary, the Holy Mother of God MMXIII    1/1/13

Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.

There was a lot for Mary to process as we would say today, a lot for her to reflect on, as God had done so much in her life over the past year.    May we too, like Mary, take time to reflect on all the ways God touched our lives in 2012.

One of the major events in our Church this past year was the opening of the Year of Faith, which began October 11, 2012, and will end November 24, 2013 on the Feast of Christ the King.

So this New Year’s Day, as we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, I thought I would speak a bit on Mary’s great Faith and how she can inspire us to grow in our Faith.

We all of course need faith in God in order to be saved and get to Heaven. But in God’s mysterious plan, God calls some of us to have more faith than others, the greater the persons vocation.
And when we read the Gospels, we see that Mary needed to have more faith than any other human being.

Mary’s faith in Christ began of course at the Annunciation.  In many way’s the Annunciation is like the story of Joan of Arc. When Joan was just a young peasant girl, living in a small village of France, the Archangel St. Michael appeared to her and told her to lead the French Army to victory over the British, who for almost 100 years had devastated France. The 17 year old Joan, acting on faith, went and did just that.

But Mary’s story is even more incredible: like Joan of Arc, she is this young woman in a tiny backwater town in northern Israel, when an Angel appears to her and announces that God wants her, not to save France, but the save the human race by becoming the mother of His only Son.

And as the saints tell us, Mary believed the Word in her heart before she conceived the Word in her womb.

Gabriel wasn’t only asking Mary “Will you do this?” He was also asking her “Do you believe God can do this?” Not only do you believe God can make a Virgin conceive, but more importantly, do you believe God will work through you?  Do you believe with all your heart that your Son Jesus will be the All Powerful God come to earth to save all people from their sins?”

Mary said that day to the Angel, and every day after that: “I do believe it: Be it done to me according to your word” And  once the Angel left, Mary didn’t need a pregnancy test, Mary had total faith that God’s Son was growing within her, and one day He would save the world, all because of her faith-filled “yes I believe” to God.

How about us: do you and I, like Mary, believe that God will work powerfully in and through us ordinary people living in this small city of Woonsocket, RI? Do we believe that if we have faith, Jesus will grow stronger within us with each passing day, and that this faith of ours will help reconcile people to God, even save people from eternal death?

But Mary’s faith journey, and her need for faith, was only just beginning at the Annunciation. Right from the start, her faith led her into trial after trial.

How much faith did Mary need when it appeared that Joseph was going to leave her? Or when, 9 months pregnant, she had to travel 75 miles by donkey to a strange, unfriendly town of Bethlehem?

Or how much faith did Mary need when she started going into labor in a cattle barn in the middle of the night? Or when Jesus is not even a few months born, and her family must flee into Egypt? And all the while, Mary is reflecting deeply on Simeon telling her that her son would cause her great heartache in life, and the gift of Myrhh, embalming spices given by the Magi.

Then in Egypt, Mary hears the terrible, shocking news that dozens of babies and children in Bethlehem had been slaughtered, all because of her Son, all because of her “yes” to God – the first glimpse at the Satanic hatred Jesus’ presence in the world would stir up.  What had Mary gotten herself into?

But throughout it all, even when she couldn’t understand, Mary never regretted embracing the faith, but knew all the trials and hardships were worth it to have Jesus in her life, and that God would somehow bring good even out of the senseless tragedies of life. May we imitate Mary in also embracing the trials and hardships that come from living by faith.

But probably an even greater test of faith confronted Mary on her return from Egypt.  After two years of great signs and wonders and high drama at Jesus’ birth, there follows thirty long monotonous years of ordinary, daily living in Nazareth.

For thirty years, Jesus lived and prayed and worked, day in and day out, in the same house as Mary. But except for that one isolated incident in the Temple at age 12, Jesus seemed in her eyes and everyone else’s eyes, to be just another good but ordinary Hebrew boy from Nazareth, destined to be a simple carpenter to the end of his life.

But throughout all those long mundane years, and even when her husband Joseph died in her and Jesus’ arms, Mary never doubted that Jesus her son was the all powerful God become man to save us from our sins.

Once again, how about you and I? Jesus, the All Powerful God, is with us, day in and day out, here in the Blessed Sacrament. Do we, like Mary, believe he is here with us, even in the ordinary events of our life?

And then, one day, when she least expected it, Mary arises one morning, and Jesus has his bags packed.  “where are you going, Jesus?” “Jordan River. Goodbye, Mother.”

And – He’s gone. From this point on, Jesus physically and emotionally detaches Himself more and more from Mary, and Mary more and more spiritually attaches herself to Jesus through her greater and greater faith in him.

She sees him next just briefly at Cana, at the wedding banquet. And from her home in Nazareth, she begins to hear people talking about all he is doing in the towns of Galilee, and reflects on what he is doing and saying in her heart.

He comes back once to his hometown to visit, and the people he grew up with try to kill him; and he never goes back again. Mary lives on alone for the next two years in Nazareth, now hostile to her and her son, with greater faith in Him than ever.

She and her relatives go visit him one day in Capernaum, and he says in front of everyone “Who is my mother? Those who follow God are my mother and sister and brother!” Words which certainly must have stung her emotionally, while at the same time increasing her faith in Him spiritually.

And then, the Passover comes around, and Mary as was her custom went down to Jerusalem to celebrate it. Her maternal instinct tells her that things are coming to a head.    And in the middle of the night, she gets the call that all parents dread, that her only Son has been arrested.

And as the morning comes, she learns that Jesus has been condemned to death.

Like Abraham, Mary’s faith didn’t waver as she walks up the hill of Calvary with her Son carrying the Wood he will be sacrificed on.

But unlike Abraham, whose test of faith ended when he received back his living, unharmed son that day on Mt. Moriah, Mary receives back the lifeless, bloody body of her son that Good Friday on Mt. Calvary.

Her Child of the Promise lay dead in a cold tomb; and his last words to her weren’t “I love you mom” or “Don’t worry, I’ll rise again” but rather his last words were “There is your son, he will take care of you now.”

But even in this final earthly detachment, this final crushing test of faith, Mary does not doubt or lose faith.  Her  faith instead rises higher than any human being has to that occasion, and clings closer than ever to Jesus in his suffering and death for the redemption of the world.

And when Jesus rises from the dead on Easter Sunday, Mary’s faith is so strong that she believes Christ is risen even before she sees him.

As a matter of fact, the Gospels don’t record any appearance of the Risen Christ to His Mother. St. Ignatius said it wasn’t recorded because it was obvious Jesus would have appeared to her, and therefore it didn’t need to be recorded. But maybe there’s no record because Jesus didn’t appear to her, because His Mother’s faith was so strong He didn’t need to appear risen for her to be full of joy and total faith that He had Risen!

My brothers and sisters, as we begin this Year of Our Lord 2013 during this Year of Faith, may we entrust ourselves and our country to our Blessed Mother Mary.

It may well be that God will require more faith than ever from you and I and our whole world this New Year. It could be that this Year of Faith is providential, given to us by God to “get ready” cause we’re gonna need all the faith we can get.

May we, like Mary, rise to the occasion, and approach all the challenges this new year holds with firm Faith in Christ Her Son, so that we like Mary will rejoice when, after the trial of faith is over, Christ Rises more glorious than ever in our hearts and in our world.

Homily – The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph 12/30/12

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Homily – The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph  12/30/12

During the Christmas Season, we are reminded that God, who is Love, became Incarnate in the Holy Family.

Just as Jesus, Love incarnate, is at the center of that first Holy Family of Mary and Joseph’s, and also at the center of their marriage, so Love incarnate should be at the center of every Holy Family of believers and every Christian marriage union.

But sometimes, even in the best of families, even in the best of marriages, Love can get lost.

Time goes by, we are preoccupied with other things, and all of a sudden we look around and say “wait a minute, where did the Love that was so central to our family relationships, so central to our marriage, where did that Love go?”
And as with Mary and Joseph, great anxiety and sorrow sets into our family life.

We search everywhere, make every effort, but Love is nowhere to be found, to the point where it seems we have lost the Love we once cherished, have lost the Love that was once so alive in our family relationships, for good.

But that first Holy Family didn’t call off the search for that lost Love, Mary and Joseph kept seeking, kept working at it, until they found that Love again.

And when the crises was over, and they again found that Love that was central to their family again, Jesus said to them, according to a well known, different translation than the one we just read, Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?

It is in times when love seems lost, when even God seems lost in our family relations, it is in those times that Jesus is most about His Father’s business. Its in the times when our families are going through great sorrow or stressful trials that Jesus is working behind the scenes in ways we are not privileged to see.
If families and married couples persevere through trials and sorrows, persevere through those dark times when Love seems to be hopelessly lost, they, like Mary and Joseph, will find Love again.

But the Love Mary and Joseph found was no longer the same, it had forever changed.  Mary and Joseph lost the child Jesus, but they found the young adult Jesus. They found a stronger, wiser Love than they had had before; a more mature Love.

Love for the Christian Family, for the Christian Marriage, is forever growing in age and wisdom and grace, at times dying to the old only to rise again to a new and better and stronger Love.

This is why the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple is both one of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, and one of the Seven Sorrows of Mary and Joseph.

May we make Jesus, Love incarnate, the center of our family bonds. May we have faith in times of family crises, that Jesus is about His Father’s business, working behind the scenes in our families, in ways we can’t understand now but will joyfully understand later, if we persevere in seeking Him.

And may the Most Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, bless all the families of St. Joseph’s Parish as well as our Parish Family of St. Joseph’s, this Christmas Season and upcoming New Year.

Homily – Christmas Night 12/25/12

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Homily – Christmas Night                    12/25/12

Tonight we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ into our world.

And during this Year of Faith, which our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has declared, we are reminded that the Night that the Christ is born is also the Night that the Faith is born.

For Faith is not a set of doctrines given to us to believe in. Faith is not a list of moral prohibitions of what we “shall” or “shall not” do.

Faith is not some blind assent to things that seem opposed to reason; neither is faith a sentimental or spiritual feeling or experience.

Faith is rather a Child, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying helpless on the hay, in that cold, dimly lit stable.

Faith is that Child, who comes into our world, not in strength, but in weakness; not in power, but defenseless; not forcing itself on us, but tugging at our heartstrings, drawing us by the bonds of love to take this Child, take this Faith, and protect, nurture and care for it.

Just as at that first Christmas, God entrusted this most precious, tiny and helpless baby Jesus to the safekeeping of Mary and Joseph;

So this Christmas, and each day, God entrusts the Faith to us, the members of His Church, to be kept safe in this cold dark world we live in; to be kept safe from the King Herod’s of the world, who see the Faith as a threat, who seek to keep the faith from growing, who even seek to destroy the faith.

The Child born this night is destined to be the King of Kings, the Light that all Good Shepherds and all wise men and women of Good Will shall walk by.

Tonight, however, he is but a helpless child, with only a poorly lit, cold, creaky and leaky stable – in other words, with only poor, dim witted, cold hearted, sinful people like us to shelter him and his Mother and St. Joseph.

But it is enough. He chooses to be born in us, because He truly loves us and wants to be Emmanuel, God with us.  He makes himself human for us, vulnerable for us, that we may know the way which leads to God, to peace, to life.

May we open wide the doors of our stables, and shelter this Holy Child, this Holy Faith, that is born into our world this Night to save us.

Homily — 4th Sunday Advent C 12/23/12

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Homily — 4th Sunday Advent C                12/23/12

With Christmas just two days away, and the Advent wreath  blazing at full candlepower with all four candles lit, this Sunday’s Gospel couldn’t be more appropriate in helping us get into the Spirit of Christmas.

We see the people in this Gospel doing the same things you and I are doing, and having the same sentiments you and I are having as we celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world.

First of all, we see the Most Holy Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, on the fly.

Mary set out in haste, St. Luke says.  There was a haste, a rushing around that first Christmas, to get everything done before the big day – just as there is a lot of rushing around you and I are doing these days.

Christmas always seems to come faster than we want it to, it seems like every year we say “I can’t believe it’s Christmas already”, and that might be just how God wants it to be.

The Christmas we plan and prepare for and then expect to happen is always different from the Christmas God gives us.

Each Christmas is always full of surprise graces from God that we didn’t plan or prepare for or expect, but end up being the best part of the whole Christmas.

So while we, like Mary our Mother, make haste and quickly get everything planned for Jesus’ birth, may we also like her expect God to give us some unplanned surprises.

Secondly, we also see that as that first Christmas drew near, there were relatives visiting each other.  The Visitation was kind of the first Christmas get together you could say.

The coming of Christ into the world naturally – or rather supernaturally – brings family together.

The birth of Christ makes us want to run out and visit loved ones we haven’t seen in a while, just as it made Mary want to run and visit her cousin Elizabeth.  It also makes us want to open our homes to others to share Christmas joy with.

May we, like Mary in the Gospel, carry Jesus within us to every home we visit this Season.

But while Mary and Elizabeth are certainly joyful at the coming birth of Jesus, nevertheless, if we look closely, we see both of them weighed down with many anxieties, fears and worries in their lives.

Its not certain whether Mary had told Joseph yet, but either was, she was probably very worried about what her husband was going to do, whether or not he would also say “yes” to his vocation as the foster father of God’s Son.  Certainly she would have been tempted to think what would happen if he didn’t believe she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit.

And Elizabeth was even more anxious about her situation – about being pregnant at such an advanced age, and about her elderly husband that had been struck mute. She was also so worried about what the neighbors and townspeople were saying that she went into seclusion for the whole time she was pregnant, going up into the hill country far away from anyone else.

Perhaps with all that was going on, Mary and Elizabeth were both wondering whether there would be much at all to celebrate when Christmas finally came.

And certainly many of us feel the same way this Christmas; we are wondering with all that’s been happening in our world and perhaps in our personal lives whether there’s any Christmas cheer to be had this year.

Like Mary and Elizabeth however, we need to approach the upcoming Birth of Jesus with Faith. Mary and Elizabeth were tempted to worry and despair, but instead they had faith that God was with them in their trials, that somehow, he would make everything work out, he would get them through the trials they were going through.
Our country continues of course to be deeply emotionally scarred by the terrible events in Newtown Connecticut two weeks ago. How could God have allowed such a thing to happen?

On December 28, three days after Christmas, the Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Innocents. On that day we honor those children from Bethlehem aged two and under that were killed by King Herod out of hatred for Christ.

But as tragic as events like these are to us, how much more tragic and senseless would they be if Jesus hadn’t come into the world? How could we ever get through times of terrible tragedy if we didn’t have faith that Emmanuel, God is with us, in our trials?

And so, in the midst of our many trials, even because of our trials, we celebrate this Christmas and every Christmas God gives us, celebrate the Hope of New Life that the Newborn Baby Jesus brings into the world each year.

And so lastly, we see in the Gospel amidst the rushing around, amidst the visiting of loved ones, amidst the cares and anxieties, a supernatural joy.

Elizabeth cries out in a loud voice; John the Baptist leaps in his mothers womb.

Christmas is a time of joyful, loud voices; voices singing at the top of their lungs O Come All Ye Faithful, and O Holy Night, loud voices wishing people a Merry and Blessed Christmas.

Christmas is a time when we like John the Baptist should be leaping at the coming of Christ to us:  Leaping into our loved ones arms, embracing that another Christmas has come to us. Leaping and dancing to music of the season these next Twelve Nights of feasting on the best food and drink with family and friends new and old.

May we make haste, for Christmas is upon us. And may we, like Mary and John and Elizabeth did, keep the Baby Jesus in the center of it all.