Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Tag Archives: homilies

Homily: Living Dangerously

second adventThere is much hustle and bustle taking place here in Northern Virginia to prepare for Christmas which is a little over two weeks away. Let’s consider a few thoughts together to place our preparation in context.

When we think of the first Christmas, we have a much sanitized perspective which does all of us a grave disservice. Consider the following:

A teenage girl rides into Bethlehem pregnant with a baby that does not even belong to her husband. And, he is so poor, that the best shelter he can muster for them in a “back-woods” poverty-stricken, no-name town is a stable that they will share with the local livestock. This stable is probably a rocky-hewn cave that is filthy, damp, cold, and smells like dung. Not to mention the only crib which the mother has to use is likely a disease-laden food trough lined with animal slobber to lay her first-born son in who also happens to be the Son of God. That’s not the bad part yet.«Continue Reading»

First Impressions

First impressions tell us a great deal about individuals. A Prelate’s first homily usually lays out his plan for those whom he governs. For Pope Francis, here we have the first homily to the Princes of the Church.  Vatican News has the full text.

I wonder what the Cardinals were thinking when Pope Francis said,

When one does not profess Jesus Christ –  I recall the phrase of Leon Bloy – “Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.” When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil.

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Sunday Homily: Fully Revealing Man to Himself

We all remember those famous words of the queen from Disney’s classic, Snow White: Say it with me, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” The mirror always told the truth to the queen whether she liked it or not…and, that’s how the saga began. Wouldn’t it be nice this Lent to have a mirror to do the same for us?

We do! Instead of having a genie trapped in a mirror to speak back to us, we have Jesus. Sound a little far-fetched? Blessed John Paul II didn’t think so. He loved to quote, Gaudium et Spes 22:1,

The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. [My emphasis]

Mirrors are meant to reveal ourselves to us. Unfortunately, they only show us what is placed before it; and so, with physical mirrors, only our physical appearance. However, I would suggest that by looking at Jesus, He reveals not only the outer-me but who I am per se. Remember when the prophet Samuel went looking to anoint a new king of Israel and found none until Jesse’s son David stood before him?

…the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

What I am about to suggest is terrifying and takes courage. It is one thing to ask ourselves or our friends, “What do you see,” but to ask the living God…that is quite another!

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31)

Not fear in the sense of fearing judgment or His wrath but a fear that is awe and wonderment. We should be experiencing that fear or awe and wonderment every time we see the Blessed Sacrament. If we don’t, then our hearts have grown callous and cold and are in need of this Lent. To be that cold means we are almost spiritually dead.

It may be terrifying to consider this and yet, that is what the Lord through His Church asks of us this Lent. And how is this accomplished? We need to steal away to a quiet place and mentally draw into the presence of the Lord; invite the Holy Spirit to teach us to pray and reveal our heart, and then, gaze upon Jesus in Sacred Scripture. Now, this cannot be a drive through prayer. We need to dedicate time daily. At least 15 minutes may be 30 if this is not new to us. It is here, in this time of revelatory prayer that he will reveal our hearts to us through Sacred Scripture. Because it is also written:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do. (Hebrews 4:12-13)

He who is an All-Consuming Fire (Hebrews 12:29) desires to purify us in his crucible of love (Sirach 2:1-10) so that we might be changed from “glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18) to resemble the Lord. The devil tried to accuse our Lord in the Gospel today of these sins but discovered that these were the sins of Israel, not of Jesus. To the devil’s dismay, Jesus chose to redeem Israel’s sins.

Let’s be honest, the prospect of our Lord revealing all our attachments, hidden sins and wounds is not comfortable. In fact, St. Bernard of Clairvaux in the introduction of his work, “The Steps of Humility and Pride” states that this is how the Lord imparts to us the gift and virtue of humility: by the bread of sorrow (Psalm 126:2) and the wine of compunction (Psalm 59:5).

It is also true that we have nothing to fear! St. Bernard also gives us a great deal of consolation by saying,

This first food, then is humility: bitter and medicinal; the second is charity: sweet and soothing…[1]

The first is bitter so that he may cleanse the wounds of our sin to make way for His wounds of love. The second is that love poured from the cross which becomes our strength to choose Him over all other things. Why does the Lord do this? That we might experience the profound depths of His mercy and His love and hear His tender voice. As Isaiah said in yesterday’s first reading, He is the “repairer of the breach” (Isaiah 58:12) and wants to heal the breach between us and God the Father.

Join me this Lent. I am committed to make this Lent different from every other. If you usually look back over Lent and realize that you want more, you need more – this is the way for you. I invite you to join me this Lent and take a long deep look at our Catholic mirror, the crucifix and Sacred Scripture in order to let our Lord reveal you to yourself. It is frightening. It is painful. It is even troubling and uncomfortable. But, then again,

The world promises you comfort, but YOU are not made for comfort. YOU are made for GREATNESS. (Pope Benedict XVI)


[1]Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, The Steps of Humility and Pride (Cistercian Fathers Series) (Collegeville: Cistercian Publs, 1989), 31.

Homily: Reckless Love for the Lord

The life of a Christian disciple is a life of faith. Not a life of just believing in those important dogmas and doctrine that under-pin our understanding of who God is and who we are not. No, we are called to have a lively faith; an expectant faith; a faith-life imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit. This is what St. Paul in his letter to the Romans refers to as living a life in obedience of faith. This faith is based on what we see and hear the Father doing – we are always responding to His actions in our life. It is a faith that draws us into and reveals to the world the life-giving love of Jesus. And, the two widows in today’s readings illustrate for us what kind of faith we who call ourselves Christian should have or need. Why? Because faith is the foundation and substance of our Christian life.

The widow in the First Reading isn’t even a Jew. Did you hear what she said, “As the Lord your God lives.” Not, “As the Lord my God lives, but your God.” And yet, she trusts in the word of Elijah and the promise he makes in the Lord’s name. Let’s be honest, there were no prospects for food and the prophet asking to be served. She was making a fire to cook the last bit of food and then sit with her son to die. And yet, she serves Elijah and doesn’t give out of her excess but out of her need. She put the man of God before herself and her family.

The widow in the Gospel also gives everything she had. Notice how she gave: without complaint, without grimacing, without calculating how many lattes she could forego this week. She too gave out of her need and not her excess. In fact, the Word of God says that she gave out of her poverty to support the work of God’s priests in the Temple.

Their self-giving and self-sacrifice, opened a pathway for God the Father to work in their life. They reveal the Father’s love in giving His only Son, and Christ’s love in sacrificing himself on the cross.

Again in today’s Epistle, we hear about Christ sacrificing his life in order that we might be reconciled to the Father: Jesus wants to turn our hearts and faces back to the Father – that is why He came (see Malachi 4:6); to renew and restore our humanity: we were made for grace – it makes us human; and to conform us to the likeness of Christ in order to potentially enter into the glory of heaven.

We are invited to imitate Jesus’ sacrifice of love in our own lives. We will be judged, not by the amount we give but rather whether we are Christ’s disciples and if the gifts he has entrusted to us reflect our livelihood, our whole beings, all our heart, mind, soul and strength.

So, how do we respond then to the Word of God proclaimed before us? The first question is, “Have we chosen to become a disciple of Christ?” Baptism, attending Mass every week and even serving the needy, while necessary and important does not make us a disciple. Choosing an intentional, personal, yes, even an intimate relationship with Jesus is our salvation.

Brothers and sisters, if you think I am sounding evangelical, you’re right! Introducing people to Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior is a Catholic expectation. We said it first! In fact, it was the Council of Trent (see Chapter 8) that first coined that term: it’s just being out on loan to our Christian brethren for a while. There is more than the acceptance but it is the starting-line.

Once we are in relationship with Him then and only then, should we ask, “Are we giving all that we can to the Lord—not out of a sense of forced duty, but in a spirit of generosity and love (see 2 Corinthians 9:6-7)?” To participate in those corporal and spiritual works of mercy is meant to be Christ to those whom we serve.

Our faith is not only in the relationship with the Lord but in His provision to do what He places before us. The prophet, this man of God today tells us, “Do not be afraid.” And, Blessed John Paul II echoes Jesus’ words to Peter after a long night of fishing that yielded nothing. He said, “Put out into the deep.” We know the story. Don’t you think that Simon Peter had some choice words running through his head when this carpenter, this Galilean said put out into the deep. Not only that, Jesus says toss your nets over on this side – as if the other side was any different. Simon Peter believed our Lord and had to call others to help him haul in the catch.

I know this kind of trust seems difficult but listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 6, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (see Matthew 6: 32-33). What is He saying, only the pagans worry – he will provide.

Jesus is calling us to be reckless with our love and generosity. All of you gentlemen were reckless with your time, talents and treasures when you were courting your wife. Yeah, I can see it in your faces. And ladies, you were very glad to accept that recklessness. How is it that we are so cheap with the Lord who will never fail us?

Sounds crazy doesn’t it! Maybe this will help. During a transition period between one job to another, my wife and I were praying for the Lord to provide food for us since it was beyond tight. Now, you should understand that we are severe carnivores. We came to a day when the frig and freezer were empty and we looked at each other and panicked trying to figure out where the meat would be coming from – I mean, we had two kids but it would be awkward and just wrong to consider them food! However, less than 30 minutes after having a heated discussion over the Lord’s provision, the UPS man knocked at our door. In his hands was a Styrofoam cooler with what we soon discovered contained 20 pounds of Omaha steaks in it. The note read, “Felt inspired to send this to you.” Okay, I’m dense but I can take a hint.

One more example of how the Lord desires to provide for us. Right after 9/11 I was the Executive Director for a non-profit and unfortunately had to assist in closing it down due to money drying up. This happened the second to last week of November. I had made a promise to my kids that we would get a Christmas tree on this same weekend months ago without knowing the reality of my job situation. When it came time to fulfill my promise, I had a total of $45 dollars to my name with no expectation of pay coming in any time soon. With a full gas tank and $45 we bought that tree. While setting it up that evening, I slipped on an envelope that had been left on my doorstep anonymously. I opened it and to my surprise, it contained 1,500. Utterly astonished, we thanked the Lord for providing for our needs. Now, the next morning I woke up to find an additional $1,500 in an envelope on my car seat with no one taking credit. Not only does the story not end here but that is not even the incredible part! I came home later that day to be handled an envelope by my wife who had a shocked expression on her face. I opened it only to see a note from an individual who had been praying for my family and felt that we needed the enclosed check. He also said that I should not let my arrogance be a stumbling block to his ability to share the Father’s blessings. The check was for $10,000. The combined provision from the Lord held us over to my first paycheck six months later. In fact, it was to the dollar. My family never was in need.

The Lord in his generosity can never be out-done. If you are thinking that you do not have this kind of faith or relationship with Jesus and you want it, approach one of the clergy and let us talk and pray with you. This is the way He intended us to live – to walk by faith, not by sight (see 2 Corinthians 5:7). Therefore, my prayer, our prayer for you today is that as we follow the widows’ example, doing what the Father asks, that we will be reckless for the Lord and confident that the Father will always keep our jars of flour and our jugs full of oil as we serve and place our trust in Him.

14th Sunday of Ordinary Time Homily: The Catholic Intellect

Over the last few weeks there has been much discussion, arguing, complaining and rolling of eyes concerning the US Bishop’s call for the Fortnight of Freedom. At the core of what the Bishop’s were and continuing to call for, is the center of our Old Testament reading and Gospel for this Sunday.

Our readings today, are a clarion call to remember who we are. On the day of our Baptism, the Bishop, Priest or Deacon, anointed you with Holy Chrism as prophet, priest and king. This was not just to carry on a tradition that we have being doing for over 3,500 years…yes, the Jews also anointed their prophets, priests, and kings. That anointing upon the crownof our skull was given to strengthen you personally to live out the office and dignity you have been given in Christ Jesus through the Church. Where God guides, he provides.

A prophet is most of the time not one who is able to see the future but the one steeped in the Word of God, safeguarding and proclaiming the Word of the Lord as He has passed it down to us his beloved. The prophet is the one who shouts out that justice, freedom, and dignity are being violated. They think and live what they believe. The construct or manner that informs us how we are to think and live is called a philosophy. Everyone lives by a philosophy – whether they realize it or not.

Did you know that as Catholics, we have a particular lifestyle or philosophy that we are called to live by? We are not meant to be accidental or incidental Catholics but people who are deliberately Catholic in all areas of our life. Our coworkers, friends and family are supposed to see us make the sign of the cross and offer grace before we eat at work, in school, or at the pool! We are supposed to look different. That is why we:

  • Receive ashes on Ash Wednesday: You’re not supposed to wipe it off. It is supposed to provide a small humiliation.
  • Eat fish on Friday’s even outside of Lent; or we offer an acceptable and equivalent penance (See Code of Canon Law 1249 – 1253 and the Catechism of the Catholic Church pars.1438 and 2043)

A Christian life is not just loving our neighbor with random acrts of kindness but it is how we approach life, how we engage the culture, and most of all, yes, even how we think. The intellect to our Lord is extremely important. So important that He restated that famous Old Testament command from Deuteronomy and said instead,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

As Frank Sheed once wrote, “To have a Catholic intellect is to see what the Church sees. To see what the Church sees is to look upon the Universe and see what the Church sees; and the enormous advantage of this is that the Universe the Church sees is the real Universe, because she is the Church of God”[1] who was promised by our Lord that He would infallibly lead the Church into all truth. We not only see the planets, stars and galaxies, we see:

  • That there are no creation myths because nothing is created in the myths – they use what is already there…so do we. 
  • Through our Jewish brethren we learn that creation was ex nihilo He created out of nothing. This was so radical that Philo the Jewish philosopher was thought to be crazy and insane when he spoke about this subject.
  • When we look up at the sky we don’t wonder who else is out there, there could be life out there I guess, but we stand in awe that our Lord created the universe just for us. Why did He do it? Because He could and thought we would enjoy it.

It is crystal clear that the majority of us here at St. Mary’s have Catholic shaped wills – we love, generally, the way Catholics ought to. The over 180 activities and charitable outreaches are irrefutable evidence that we deliberately choose to love our neighbor. At the same time, I wonder if I can say we have Catholic intellects. I think, when we all look upon creation we see what everyone else in the world sees with some intellectual post-its taught to us by our faith. Our vision, what we see and believe, pretty much is what everyone else does because the same influences teach us – the newspaper, periodicals, lunch-time discussions, internet, Oprah, Glee, Modern Family or whatever other popular television show is on this week. We have not conformed our minds to what the Church teaches and, therefore, do not see reality. We call health of the soul sanctity while health of the intellect is called sanity.

The fact is, as I listen to Catholics discuss this issue of religious freedom and healthcare, I hear a lot of insanity. Very few of us have any idea what we are talking about. Don’t get me wrong! We have formed our intellects by the talk shows, and articles we read but we are starting in the wrong place. What does the Church teach and why it chooses to say what it does IS the starting point. The Church teaches that everyone deserves affordable healthcare, period. The Church teaches that those who have, should reasonably assist those who have not, period. But there are deeper and more fundamental issues that must be addressed in this legislation! At the core is the freedom for a religion to follow its own religious teachings. The Catholic Church within reason is always going to support other religions to protect their beliefs even if they might be wrong. Why? Because it is better for someone to choose wrongly than to force them to do what is true.

How do we start then to form our Catholic intellects? I hate to say it but it cannot be done through YouTube. You cannot watch a 30 minute video for us to form our Catholic intellects. It requires work and lots of it. Let me also say that we need to stop reading commentators and start reading the source text, which by the way, for the Church, is online at www.vatican.va.  The best argument I have heard about not studying what we believe though, is that we do not have enough time. That is a great and reasonable answer. However, if that is true, then we must have the humility to conform our decisions –whether we understand the teachings or not – to the Magisterium of the Church who is incapable of erring in faith and morals.

Now, I agree with all of you listening to me know and who are thinking, “Church has told me that I have a right to follow my conscience!” I not only agree, I demand that you must follow it. I think if I took a poll, most of us would say that to follow my conscience is to do what I think is correct. At first glance, that seems reasonable, but, then one should ask three questions:

  • First, how do I know that what I believe is correct?
  • Secondly, who taught me that it was correct?
  • And, lastly, how do you know that the ones who taught me are correct?

We are again back to forming our Catholic intellect. Our Bishops are the successors to the Apostles. They are the guardians of the infallible teaching office of the Church. Together, which is unprecedented in US history the Bishops are standing arm-in-arm having told us that the current legislation is morally unjust and violates the most basic principles of human dignity and US law…our religious freedom. It is a moral issue, they more than have the right to discuss it and bind us to the truth of it.

Finally, it is not enough to know. Knowledge requires action. The intellect informs the will how to choose rightly. Sadly, our Bishop asked us here at St. Mary’s to stand together with him and all the other Bishops for an hour of prayer over the last two Thursdays. Of the 9,116 parishioners about 120 of us gathered for a total of two hours over two weeks. That is 1.3 percent of the parish. [Hear long pause…]

Queen Esther told her uncle Mordecai that she would not intervene with the King over the edict that the Jews could not worship their God in the manner prescribed by Holy Scriptures. Modrecai responded to Esther by saying,

For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

Esther responded with 3 days of prayer and fasting and an entire people was saved with a simple request of the King.

We need to inform ourselves on what is actually at stake which includes a great deal of unconscionable actions veiled as medical procedures and preventive care, but most of all, if for nothing else, our freedom to live by the tenants of our faith. And friends, we need to see the reality of what is at stake. It is hard to conceive or imagine that the US has allowed itself to put into this position. But who knows, maybe we were born for such a time as this. And maybe, just maybe, we are here to participate through prayer, fasting and our civic duties to help the US realize its dream of being the land of the free.


[1] Sheed, Frank. Theology and Sanity., page 3

Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter: Training for Love

The following is the homily I preached Sunday. For those who heard me preach, you will notice that you did not hear everything that follows. I tailor for the audience but I have shared it in its entirety.

It is impossible to miss the theme of love in our second reading and gospel today. And, to be honest, it is a controversial topic. Clergy sometimes shrink when they see that the “theme” or “topic” is love. There are just so many controversies and questions surrounding the word. Some of the more common questions of course are:

  • What is love?
  • It is a feeling?
  • Is it a choice?
  • Where does it begin and end?
  • Can I fall out of love?

I think that it is so hard to nail down the meaning because of our woundedness. The fact is that we have so many difficulties answering these questions because we have what CS Lewis would call “mercenary hearts.” He said it like this in, As the Ruin Falls:

All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you. I never had a selfless thought since I was born. I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through: I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek, I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin: I talk of love –a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek– But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.

What is the mercenary heart? It is the heart that always must have its way, in its time on its terms. If we take a moment in honest reflection, we would see that all of us are mercenaries concerning our relationships, but especially with God. We so often use the people around us to get what we want and our Lord is no different.

Do you remember when you first encountered God? Maybe it was at work camp, a youth conference, a sunrise that took your breath away – or for the mothers present here today, the moment when you saw and held your first-born. Regardless of the circumstance, we encountered Him and He changed our lives. We then pursued Him because of the feeling He gave us. We were excited about prayer. We were excited to learn about our faith. All these consolations flooded in and it sustained us…for a time. And, as time progressed, the feelings faded, the consolations ended until we arrived at the point where we say, “I’m here Lord…where are you.” St. Therese for 13 years, praying multiple times a day said that very statement.

It is at this point, the saints tell us, that love begins to grow. When there is nothing left. When we feel abandoned. When we are not getting our way.

Many times though we give up and give in. We act like that two year old who throws a tantrum because they are not getting their way. But the truth is – we need all the feelings and warm fuzzes to be taken away.

Love is choosing that relationship when there is no reason to choose, when it is not convenient, when it seems like the worse decision ever. Could you imagine if our mothers, when the baby woke up at 3:00 am, said, “Oh let him/her cry! I need my sleep. I tried to feed them at 5 pm, it is their fault they chose not to eat.” We would all say that her reply is ridiculous and we would be correct.

As we celebrate Mother’s Day, we should realize that our mothers have provided us with a practical example of how we are called to live out our lives of prayer. It is an example that teaches us to think less of ourselves and more about those whom we serve. At this point, we begin to combat our mercenary hearts. In our spiritual life, wherever we may be in the journey, we need to be:

  • Dedicated to prayer regardless of our feelings. Commit to a time and hold to it.
  • Ruthlessly honest with ourselves concerning our sins.
  • Generous in receiving the grace of reconciliation. We must allow the love of the Father to bathe us in His glory.

All these begin a life of virtue. Do you know what Brian’s, Perry’s, the entire youth ministry team and clergy’s greatest fear for you is? That those who have been entrusted to our care will never grow up. My Alma mater, Franciscan University, years ago struggled with the issue that when students graduated, a significant number left the Church. Their reasons were concerning their new or perhaps old parishes. They went like this:

  • The music is bad.
  • The homilies were too short.
  • I didn’t feel loved.
  • The talks were not entertaining.
  • The Church didn’t look like a Church.

All these “reasons”, are tell-tale signs of incredible immaturity. If any of us here struggle with these, it means that we are still seeking the gift and not the Giver. It means we like to be entertained and not do the work of a disciple. It means we have not yet learned to love.

What is important is what happens on this altar. That the King of the universe descends and is present among us. The spiritual life is not about entertainment. Youth ministry is not about entertaining you but training you to do the work of a disciple. It is boot camp before you are sent out into battle – whether you are ready or not. All activities we do have the singular goal of equipping you for heaven and evangelization.

Mary’s life was always about bringing Jesus to everyone she met. And that is more real than we probably could imagine. in fact, science tells us that when a mother is pregnant with he child some of the cells – even stem cells – remain in her for the rest of her rlife…And the same is true for all of you mothers present tonight. You will always carry your children within you…Mary truely brought Jesus to everyone because she was a living tabrenacle of His physical presence everywhere she went. We might even say that she was like a ciborium that still contained the fragments of the host that was just in it.

JRR Tolkien sums up the work of the spiritual life when writing to his son about how to make a good Holy Communion and grow in maturity. He wrote,

“make your communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children – from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn – open necked and dirty youths… Go to communion with them (and pray for them). It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people. It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand – after which our Lord propounded the feeding that was to come.”

Jesus in the Gospel said, “Remain in my love” not cuddle with me. Love is a choice of sacrifice not fireworks and hugs. Our Lord’s example of love? The cross. Are you willing to persevere in love till it kills you?

Youth Mass Homily: Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Over the past few weeks, I have received a number of questions about the crucifix.

  • Why do I wear one?
  • Why focus on a dead Jesus instead of one risen from the dead?
  • Why do I have to always be reminded of His death on a cross? It was a horrific act of violence!

Frankly, the questions are not usually from you, the youth, but from adults. Usually it is phrased like this:

  • Don’t you know that we are a resurrection people? He rose from the dead! Why are you stuck in the past?

All of these are great questions which today’s second reading allows us to consider.  So why the crucifix? Well, simply put, Catholics prefer crucifixes not crosses! But not just because we have a need to see Jesus on the cross. Traditionally, our separated brethren have preferred crosses because of the resurrection. Catholics focus on the entire paschal mystery that includes the resurrection whose doorway is the crucifixtion.

The first step to answer the question is to realize that we live in a fallen world. The sin of Adam and Eve ushered into the world suffering, sickness and death. None of these were part of the original plan of God the Father, but here we are.

I have to admit that when I look around in the world I do not see the fullness of the resurrection. I do not see a world that is teeming with resurrection glory. I see a world that struggles with sickness, sin and suffering. Many times the suffering is so deep we have no words to vocalize its misery.

In the midst of the suffering we are “comforted” by family and friends. Their words are usually careless and unhelpful. There is though something more to suffering if we dare to pierce the veil.

Our suffering in the body reveals man’s dignity unequivocally. Why? Because suffering reveals to us the possibility of a dialogue with God. When we are in the depths of our suffering we do not blame the world and ask why I suffer. When we cannot take the atrocities and deep human pain we expereince around us – we do not yell at the world…We instinctively cry out to the Creator and Lord of this world:

  • Where are you?!
  • How could you let this happen?!
  • How is it possible for an all-loving and good God to allow suffering?!

It is hard enough for me to grasp a perfect God in an imperfect world. But even worse, would be a God who does not understand my life and the lived experience of my…our humanity.

The answer to the why of suffering is hard to stomach but true nonetheless:

The Father in His desire to grant us the gify of love and choosing to be loved necessitated that He grant total freedom. In order to be free and thus love, He had to allow the possibility that we would abuse our freedom and unleash sin, suffering and death. Even by own hand.

As much as we seek for the answer to suffering, at the end of the day, the reason many times doesn’t matter. What we really want is a remedy. Yet, the only solution to the ills of this world and the twistedness of my heart is the crucified Christ. It is for this reason that we hear St. Paul proclaim,

…but we preach Christ crucified… (1 Corinthians 1:23)

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Cor 2:2)

It’s not that He doesn’t know Christ rose from the dead but, he knows that it is through the power of Christ on the cross that the bonds of suffering, sin and death are understood and broken.

The cross that bears the beaten, battered, and bloodied body of Jesus Christ, however uncomfortable it makes us to see and feel – is our salvation. Scripture proclaims,

  • By His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
  • And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)

This is why, we “keep Jesus on the cross,” because we, too, preach Christ crucified. The Crucifix reminds us not only of God’s power, but also:

  • His love for us – giving His only begotten Son up for suffering and death
  • His salvation – a perfect offering of atonement for our sins
  • the power of sacrificial love – it explains what it means to love
  • an understanding of compassion – for to be compassionate is to suffer with another

What is revealed about the body through suffering is its openness to the world in the form of vulnerability. This openness guides us to solidarity with our fellow men: the body becomes a place of communion by means of compassion.

As St. Louis de Monfort said,

“Willingly or unwillingly, all must carry the cross, both who serve God and those who don’t…”

We who are called the Body of Christ, not Hisen we  physical but His mystical, make up in our flesh the sufferings that Christ lacks. We participate in Christ’s redemption by uniting our sufferings to His. Even our liturgical actions betray this theology of redemption. Think of when we make the sign of the cross. Where is the corpus? You are the corpus.We are meant to become what we liturgically symbolize.

We wear our crucifixes to say,

  • I am a Christian who is looking to become another Christ to you and the world.
  • Am not afraid of suffering with Christ as my companion.
  • Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.
  • I know how to love – even if it includes suffering. The cross shows us how to love.

St. Francis told us to preach Christ and if necessary use words. And if we follow the Gospel command, then we must preach Christ crucified. This is done through our sufferings by offering them up as a sacrifice for an intention or to suffer with one of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Roses are only found among thorns. It is the cross alone that nourishes our love of God, as wood is the fuel which feeds the fire… (St. Louis de Monfort)

You have heard, “Be Christ to one another.” But to be Christ is to smile on suffering and to hold close to your heart those who suffer. Don’t run away from it. Embrace it and discover what it means to that Christ crucified is the Power and Wisdom of God!

 

Homily: At the Well

She was a woman of no distinction, of little importance, a woman of no reputation save that which was bad. Everyone gossiped about her. When people passed by, they cast that glance which is more painful than if they had cast stones. All she wanted was to be seen. To be known. To be loved. But her reputation, her sins, her lifestyle forced her to go out to draw water at noon. The hottest part of the day. The time of shame – when no one would be out.

Then suddenly, as Scripture tells us, an encounter happened that would change her life. A chance encounter? By no means! The Scripture immediately preceding our Gospel tells us that Jesus,

Had to pass through Samaria. (John 4:4)

Not because that was the route. The Jews and the Samaritans went out of their way to NOT encounter each other. But this day, He had a divine appointment. The Holy Spirit had compelled Him to go through Samaria.

Where does this divine encounter take place, this meeting that had been planned from the beginning of time and eternity? At a well. Well…at this point, we MIGHT think we know what is going on in the Gospel because Scripture says, “Jesus was weary” and obviously thirsty because He would soon say, “Give me a drink” (4:7). Clearly, He was traveling through desert terrain so, of course, He should look and ask for a drink!

Maybe we find the scene familiar because we so often talk around the water cooler at work. Perhaps, because it has become common place to converse over a cup of coffee. But this well, this is no ordinary well. It is Jacob’s well. It is the marriage well.

See, it was at this well that Jacob’s marriage arrangements were made. In fact, the brides of Isaac and Moses were found and arranged at a well. And suddenly Scripture says, the Bridegroom is there looking for His bride. Jesus was looking for love. Some might say with Waylon Jennings, He was,

looking for love in all the wrong places, Looking for love in too many faces

…but even with all our imperfections and lack of graces, He was still “lookin’ for love.”

Despite her past, her hurts, her trampled pride – this Samaritan woman desperately wanted to experience love. To be loved is to be known and to be known is to be loved. If not, what is the point of doing the other in the first place? To be known is to accept me just for who I am with all my loves, hurts, joys and trials. And what did she discover?

He knows me, my thought inside, and all the hairs on top of my head, every hurt stored up and every dread. He knows me…He sees me for who and what I am. But most of all, He sees me and hasn’t run away. He hasn’t condemned me. He instead, speaks with me.

Jesus’ question about her husband wasn’t to embarrass her or to expose her to further ridicule. It was to heal the wounds of her heart. The wound, the sickness, the cancer… the sin MUST be revealed in order for the divine physician to heal it.

By not only the Jews’ standard but even of her own people’s laws, she was a harlot. Not one husband… but five. To make it worse, the word for husband and God in Aramaic is a homonym. The Samaritan had not one God but five….just like her husbands.

We are no better than this Samaritan woman. Whatever we freely choose that impedes us from daily prayer, coming to weekly Mass, regularly participating in all the sacraments, being faithful to our spouses, living out our vocation and/or serving those in need; those objects, people are our husbands. They are our Gods. Our Lord zealously loves us so much He says,

I am the Lord your God and you shall have no other. I am God and there is none like me! (Isaiah 45:5)

Yet, hope remains. Jesus, by asking for a simple cup of water, transforms what little we have, and invites us to drink of His Living Water. This time, not the water of Baptism, which birthed us into life, but we are invited to drink deeply from the water that flows from the side of Christ.

The water of forgiveness found in Confession; the living water that St. Paul tells us is:

the love of God that has been poured out into our hearts (Romans 5:5)

through Confirmation (Acts 7:51) and realized by a life of prayer (Ephesians 3:16). We need to drink that Life-giving water that satisfies through reception of the Eucharist which we call the Communion of love.

Jesus invited the Samaritan woman, He invites us today, to a new love and faith in Him, the Messiah, the Lover to His Beloved, the Only Wise God. May every day of this Lent be for you, a divine encounter. We can count on the fact that He will meet us at the well of our heart and invite us to be loved and to be known.

To Him be the glory forever and forever. Amen!

Homily for Christ the King

For us who live in a Democratic society, we often think and feel that we have no point of reference for a feast like today that exults Christ as King. Many see kings as a hold-over from medieval society, a memory of tyrannical rule by those who have while, we, who don’t want a king, have not. Royalty are seen as figure heads that have now been replaced by some form of parliament. Others see kings as a way to oppress the masses – their motto and reasoning might go something like this: Absolute power absolutely corrupts. Thus, we have banished kings out of our vocabulary because we have no need of them. However, I wholeheartedly disagree.

We may say that we don’t want or need a king but if that were true, why is it so prevalent in our American culture? A few years ago Hollywood gave us the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Troy. We’ve seen Alexander the Great running rough shod across the silver screen at the local multiplex. Last year, we saw Clash of the Titans, Princess Kaiulani and even Mega Mind wanting to rule their world.

We have Burger King, and Budweiser – the king of beers . . . We have the Lion King (original and the 2011 remake) and Elvis – the king of rock and roll. I think at the end of the day we are okay with, and even desire Kings…as long as we are the ones wearing the crown. Have you ever gone to the Magic Kingdom where you could be a princess or prince for a day?

But we all know that deep down, something is amiss. We work so hard to be in charge and yet, feel so empty when we arrive at the top. And that is because, we were never meant to rule: our happiness is found in serving the King of Kings and His people. But it is not just an external service assisting our neighbor.

It is a service of the heart, a transformation of spirit that can only happen when we allow the rightful King to rule our hearts and minds and bodies. There is a simple maxim and truth: whoever creates something, best knows its purpose and place in this life. Meaning, the Blessed Trinity created us and, therefore, knows best what will make us joyful in this life and the next.

To be a Christian is to follow behind Christ and to allow Him to transform us into the men and women of God He designed us to be. He is the rule by which we make our comparisons not our neighbor. Being a Christian means submitting everything to Him: how we work, speak, the music we listen to, the movies we watch; how we treat our family, friends and loved ones. Even our time is not our own: serving does not revolve around our schedule or who we want to serve but around the action and timeline of Christ. For Scripture proclaims,

“to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and for ever!” (Jude 1:25)

Some of us may be saying, I don’t want to change. G.K. Chesterton would respond by saying:

“If you want to stay the same, you have to change.”

A house that is left alone deteriorates – that is why we should redecorate, to keep it looking new – please don’t tell my wife I said this! Our King, Christ the King, is not a tyrannical ruler. He is gentle and humble of heart. He wants to hear and then assist us in our actions, troubles, joys and sufferings. Unlike the Lord of the Rings in Tolkien’s classic, of whom Gandalf says,

“There is only one Lord of the Ring…and He shares power with no one;”

our King, desires us to rule with Him by perfecting His creation and serving each other with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength.

In a minute, we will have the opportunity to invite Christ the King to rule in our hearts, lives and homes. The Bishop has encouraged us to recommit ourselves and our families to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

This image and devotion has been given to us by the 17th century Visitation nun, St. Margaret Mary Alocoque. Our Lord appeared to her revealing His heart so we might know that our King is gentle, merciful, forgiving and aflame with divine love for us.

The Bishop, in fact, is encouraging us to enthrone the image, which can be found in the bulletin, in a prominent place in our homes as a sign that he reigns in our hearts. How does our King rule? He freely hands over His heart to us so that we may be transformed by being bathed in His love. It is His rule in our lives and our submission to His law and kingdom of love that heals and makes us whole.

In contrast, Dante in his Inferno, quotes satan who says,

“Better to rule in hell than serve in heaven.”

This could very well become the motto of our culture…look around at our culture…maybe we even embody this by our own words and actions. But we can change this, you can change this. If you are willing to take a chance, or you know that you need to submit to Christ the King, join me now as we bend our knee before the King of Kings and recite together the Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus…

Lord Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, we consecrate to You our persons and our lives. We give You our actions, our desires, our troubles, our joys and our sufferings. We give You our families, our friends, and our parish community. In the future we wish to live only to honor and love You and bring You glory. It will always be our heart’s desire to love You more and more, and to make You known, loved and served by others. We know this, O Sacred Heart of Jesus! You are the faithful friend, the heart’s intimate friend. You never abandon us. We trust ourselves to You! Above all, give us charity. Bind our hearts together in our parish community of [Insert parish name]. May our names one day be written forever in the Book of the Living with tjust who reign with You in the life of everlasting hahe ppiness. Amen.

Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Yours.

 

Homily: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Today’s first reading is a beautiful invitation to enter into a relationship with the Living God. It is an invitation to you and me.

Seek the Lord while He may be found; call to him while He is still near.

At first glance, we might wonder if these are dead words from a dead prophet taken from an irrelevant book. But our Lord continues after this reading to declare,

So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but shall do what pleases me, achieving the end for which I sent it.

Who is invited? The first type of individual is the thirsty and the dead-broke.

All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, buy grain and eat; Come, buy grain without money, wine and milk without cost!

Many of us here are thirsting for something more in our lives. You may feel like:

  • Your hopes have dried up
  • Dreams you wait upon seem never to be fulfilled
  • At the end of the day, week even month that you are going down a dead-end street again and again.
  • We may feel empty, unfulfilled, dissatisfied.

Always knowing, sometimes just hoping, that there has to be more to this life we live.

The second type of individual is the self-sufficient. It is who Isaiah addresses when He says,

Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what does not satisfy?

The first type of person has nothing while the second is someone who has money, who has the strength to labor.

The first kind of person is spiritually bankrupt and knows it. They are thirsty and broke.

But the second kind of person isn’t there yet. He’s got money and he is spending it. He’s got strength and he is laboring.

But to what end…utter frustration. The self-sufficient person isn’t like the other guy burnt out, anxiety ridden, at the end of their rope. No. This individual is still working, dreaming, chasing, searching, experimenting—different job, different city, different car, different house, different wife, new computer, new boat, new books, new bike, new grill, new season tickets, new diet, new looks—there’s still a lot of looking around left in this person.

But there is never fulfillment:

  • Looks fade
  • People stop applauding.
  • The chateau is boring and the boat is just a large toy.

We are always trying to replace our Lord with fleeting relationships and things. And yet, these “things” are just a medication for a thirsting that can only be quenched by the Real Thing!

If we are honest, all of can find ourselves in one of these two caricatures. And so, where does this leave us? 

St. Augustine said it best,

Our hearts are restless O God until they rest in thee.

Isn’t this what Isaiah is encouraging? To seek after Him. To Come to Him while He is still near. We are never so close to our Lord but in Holy Communion and through suffering. Never be satisfied for something less than divine.

Living our lives in conformity to the gospel and the teachings of the Church may not seem logical or profitable, and our Lord knows this, for He said,

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

The invitation today is from the one who declared Himself to be Living Water and the Bread come down from Heaven. So where do we go from here?

  1. Admit that there is something more and we are thirsty and dead-broke
  2. Reconcile ourselves through confession
  3. Commit yourself to prayer. Something more than just coming to Mass on Sunday
  4. Delve deeply into Scripture
  5. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who are going to help you grow not only as a person but in your faith

It does not matter your age, income or where you are spiritually. There is always more and he will bless you richly. Is that not what was proclaimed in the gospel?

If we heed Isaiah when he declares,

Only listen to me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare.

then we too will be able to sing

Late have I loved Thee, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new. Late have I loved Thee and feebly yet do. For Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee. (Confessions: Chapter X)