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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Homily 2-12-2012 Full Healing is more that it appears

Last Sunday I described how the greatest human illness, and the one that Jesus came to cure us from primarily, is our spiritual infection of original sin which tugs our hearts away from God, away from who we were created to be. In our concupiscence, our tendency toward sin, we see a kind of self-centeredness in thought, word, and action that places our own needs, wants, desires above that of everyone else. This is why Christ came to die on the cross – to restore us to Grace and wholeness.

There are many things we can learn from the leper today. First, he approaches the Lord with two simple things: faith and humility. In his kneeling before the Lord and his words, “if you will it,” we see his Humility in recognizing his own wretchedness and his undeserving of God's gracious gifts. In his coming to Jesus and his words, “you can make me clean,” we see his awareness of God's power to do such good and the trust that His desire is to indeed do so. And like the leper, we can begin to experience restoration and healing immediately after we approach Jesus, in faith and in humility, for healing of our spiritual infection.

But today, the leper, who is admirable in so many ways, also eventually fails. Remember that in last week's Gospel, after curing so many and going away to the desert for prayer before sunrise, Jesus declares, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come. ” Today, the leper makes it impossible for Jesus to preach as He had wished, because he fails to follow the simple plans that the Lord had given him: tell no one, present yourself to the priest, offer what Moses proscribed. Instead of obeying this, this leper cannot contain himself: his gratitude overflows. Now, this is only human and natural since he has experienced a kind of foretaste of the resurrection, being given back his place in the community that had been but a memory. However, what he did hurt the preaching of the Gospel.

We must remember that all of Our Lord's commands for us are for our benefit. He cares for us deeply - this is why he heals the leper in the first place: "If you wish, you can make me clean." “I do will it. Be made clean.” Discipleship entails not only faith and humility, but practical obedience to the clear commands God has for us – this is the way to the fullness of restoration and healing. Concupiscence is not like chicken-pox: I survived it once, I am healed, and I need not worry about it anymore. No, recovery from our sinfulness requires vigilance, a life-long perseverance that even the saints must keep until they go to their eternal rest.

So Yes, we all must go to the Lord to be healed of our illnesses, particularly our most tragic: our sins and sinful tendencies. But beyond that, we must courageously obey His commands for our life by living the full message He has preached to us. Then and only then will we find rest for our souls, rest in a peace the World cannot give, a peace that we are offered today from this altar.

Homily 2-4-2012 5th Sunday of O.T.

The Cure to Human Illness and Suffering: Physical and Spiritual (self-gift)

As we have heard in today's Psalm, which says, “The Lord heals the broken-hearted,” so we have seen in the Gospel, where Our Lord meets human suffering head-on. The longer we live on this imperfect earth, corrupted by our human sin, the more true ring these words from the Catechism, paragraphs 1500-1501: Illness and suffering have always been among the gravest problems confronted in human life. In illness, man experiences his powerlessness, his limitations, and his finitude. Every illness can make us glimpse death. Illness can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God. It can also make a person more mature, helping him discern in his life what is not essential so that he can turn toward that which is. Very often illness provokes a search for God and a return to him.

In the first reading, Job is at the bottom of that experience – the absolute low-point. And while it seems that his darkness is insurmountable, God eventually saves Job from his suffering and fills him with joy. The Lord Heals the broken-hearted. Jesus fulfills that divine promise in his mission. Not only does he have power over demons, as saw last week, but today he has Simon's front-door packed with those who are in need of healing. And he does heal them – every single one.

Seen from the lens of our faith, we can perceive that Peter's mother-in-law, who was cured of her fever, can represent every single human being, who spiritually suffers from the “fever” of our fallen human nature – our concupiscence – which constantly tugs our life in a self-centered direction, placing our success, comfort, pleasure, or plans above those of everyone else, even God. This is, in fact, the most critical illness of all of us, for even as a physical illness can steal our bodily life, this spiritual infection can rob us of our eternal happiness in heaven. And this is what Jesus came to heal through his Cross and Resurrection. He was interested in our physical health, sure; but he cared about us more deeply than that – he longed for our souls, too: our whole person.

The mother-in-law of Simon was healed physically (the word “raised up” is the same as the resurrection), and she immediately served those of her household. She forgot about herself. She gave herself. And in doing this, she found herself. This is because she was also healed spiritually, she was re-oriented from that selfishness of her concupiscence to become like God who is Love, like Christ who came to serve and not to be served.

After Jesus finishes ministering to the town of Capernaum, he goes back to the well from which He draws the strength to carry out these good works day-in and day-out until he is Himself physically drained: he goes back to prayer with the Father. This must be seen as another lesson for us – if we wish to persevere in serving God and each other, we must go to the Lord in prayer, rest with Him, and draw from Love itself the strength to be who we are called to be, to give ourselves, to find ourselves.

Praise the Lord who heals the broken-hearted. May He do so for each and every one of us. And indeed he will, if only we have the faith to run to his door and knock.

Homily 1-29-2012 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Celibacy and its Purpose (1 Cor. 7)

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Celibacy and its Purpose (1 Cor. 7)

Today I want to focus on our second reading from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians which discusses about marriage and our present age. In chapter seven of the letter, the suggestion that Paul offers (which he clearly states is a counsel and not a command) is that those who are unmarried remain so, and the married also remain. This stems from the last line of what we heard in last week's reading, “the world in its present form is passing away,” which immediately preceded today's section. The urgency of the Christian vocation is exactly what Paul is emphasizing: nothing is more important than our daily growth in our relationship with the Lord, in our growth in his grace. This is what we are all supposed to be focused on, married or not...and God gives each of us the specific things we need to help us live that out in our unique situations. John Paul II, when describing Paul's words in a few of his “Theology of the Body” Wednesday audiences, emphasizes that “Those who choose marriage and live in it receive a 'gift' from God, “their own gift,” that is, the grace proper to this choice, of this way of living, of this state [of life]. The gift received by persons who live in marriage is different from the one received by persons who live in virginity and choose continence for the kingdom of God; nevertheless it is a true :gift from God,” an gift that is “one's own,” destined for concrete persons, and “specific,” that is, adapted to their vocation in life.

However, what we hear today is simply the reality that many of you are probably very familiar with: a married man or woman is concerned about pleasing his or her spouse, and the unmarried is dedicated to the Lord and the things of the Lord. “'Pleasing the Lord' [in contrast to pleasing one's spouse], has love as its background... 'Being anxious about how to please God' is thus a contribution by man to the continued dialogue of salvation begun by God. ...Every Christian who lives by faith takes part in this dialogue.”

So what about the “unmarried” that Paul describes? Recalling especially himself, Paul points out that those who have not given themselves to another in marriage are more able to give themselves entirely to the Lord. This is why Fr. Bill and I are not married to an individual woman: because we are meant to be about the things of the Lord, ministering to his needs in the parish. And even more fundamentally, we are already married mystically to the church, who is the bride of Christ Jesus to whom we have been bound by our ordination.

Finally, both the married and unmarried Christians provide answers to each others' mysteries, as John Paul II also reminds us: “These two dimensions of the human vocation are not opposed to each other, but complementary. Both provide a full answer to one of man's underlying questions: namely, the question about the meaning of “being a body,” that is, the meaning of masculinity and femininity, of being “in the body” a man or woman.” If the married couples and the priests / religious are living out their vocations to the full, then all are edified by the other, since they teach us what it means to love another by giving oneself, and where we are destined to be forever with the Lord.

And both of these are received today from this altar. As we encounter heaven come down to earth, we also see in the cross and the Eucharist what love truly is: the self given for the other. Let us pray that whatever God calls us to, whether priests, consecrated religious, married, single, we may all allow the things of the Lord to be our solitary focus.