Audio Available!

Audio Available!
Be sure to check out in each blog post the links to the audio recordings of my homilies. They are at the beginning of each post! Also, look to the right for links to Audio from other good resources!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Homily for 4-1-2012 Palm Sunday

Stories are always more compelling at delivering a message than facts. Christianity is not about mental information, about knowing the fact of our salvation, but rather goes so much deeper. Every Sunday we profess our faith in God – we declare the statements of our faith: God Our Father and Creator, His Son Jesus Christ, The Holy Spirit, the Church, etc. But that is never enough for us.

We see today that the things that really compel us are the stories, the drama of our salvation played out before us. Every year the Church comes back to the mysteries we remember today, taking an extra five or ten minutes to solemnly recall this great tragedy: Our Lord suffered and died. That King who we proclaimed at the beginning of Mass reigns not on an earthly throne but on a cross, and because He has humbled Himself becoming obedient to death on a cross God raised Him up and gave Him the name above every other name.

We recall this story every year because it is also our story. In Peter we see ourselves, denying Christ but repenting. In Christ's suffering and death, we see the horror of sin, and we die to our own sins. As Christ trusted in the Father's will, we try harder to follow God's plan for our lives. Like the centurion soldier, we see Christ's glory revealed mysteriously in His death, and we say with him: truly this was the Son of God. The stories are what move us and drive us to change, because we learn there that are lives aren't isolated: they are part of something bigger.

And the story of the Cross, our origin and our destiny, our guide and our goal, is present to us every week. The drama of the Lord's Passion is revealed mysteriously and sacramentally on this altar, where Christ gives His body and blood for you to have life and have it to the full. Come and drink from this life-giving font, embrace your own part in the story of salvation, and and receive the promises of our Loving God.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Homily for 3-25-2011 (cycle A for RCIA)

 This Gospel we hear today is chosen by the Church for many reasons. In John's Gospel the raising of Lazarus is the last of the “signs” that Christ carries out in his public ministry. So just as the disciples now only await the culmination of the Gospel, the greatest sign that itself fulfills everything the other events signify. So, then, Lazarus' death and resurrection are a foreshadowing of Christ's, and only from the Lord's future resurrection does it draw its power.
Throughout this church we have revived an old tradition of veiling statues and sacred art, except for the Stations of the Cross and our sanctuary crucifix. This is so fitting for today, when we remember that Lazarus, dead in sin, awaited new life from Him who is the Resurrection and the Life. As we enter into this deeper time of penance, we too await with eager expectation the Passion, death, and Resurrection of the Lord which we begin to enter into next week for Palm Sunday.
Physical death, which awaits us all, is only “sleep,” Jesus reminds us, because to God, all are living. The death that is worse than physical death is human sinfulness, and we see this in today's Gospel. Remember that death had only come into the world because of the sin of Adam and Eve, and while it seems a punishment, death is also a sort of gift because it brings the suffering of this life to an end. In today's Gospel God weeps at the death that is caused by sin, because He is human, not physical death but the death of sin. The affections that Jesus shows are because of the horror of sin, and the pain he feels today foreshadows his suffering from the garden of Gethsemani all the way to Calvary.
And that horror of sin which we see in Lazarus' death, Christ destroys and gives new life in its place. He desires to do the same for you. Allow Jesus to free you from the tomb of your sins: come to the Penance Service this Tuesday night. With eighteen priests and your fellow parishioners beside you, allow the Lord to heal you from death, so that you can joyfully experience the Resurrection of our Lord in only two weeks. Today, to all of us, wrapped in our sins, Christ calls out: “Come out! Come to me and find your sins conquered and your life renewed!” Come out!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Homily for 3-18-2012 (Cycle A for RCIA Scrutiny)

Fourth Sunday of Lent -   3-18-2012  (Cycle A for RCIA Scrutiny)
The blind man today sees. Jesus Christ, the light of the world, has shown into his heart and into his life, and he sees beyond just the physical world, to look into the things that truly matter and endure. As in the anointing of young David as King of Israel, where we hear that “Man does not see as God sees,” we need God's help to understand truth about our lives and about the world. This comes only by faith. A FOLLOWER OF JESUS MUST HAVE FAITH THAT HE IS THE SON OF GOD COME AMONG US. Nothing can replace this.
St. Thomas Aquinas notes four good effects of faith, without which no one can be called a true Christian:
The first is that through faith the soul is united to God, and by it there is between the soul and God a union akin to marriage. "I will espouse thee in faith."[Hosea 2].
The second effect of faith is that eternal life is already begun in us; for eternal life is nothing else than knowing God.
The third good that comes from faith is that right direction which it gives to our present life. We see this in that the blind man obeys Christ clearly, so his faith is made visible by his response to Christ's demands.
The fourth effect of faith is that by it we overcome temptations: "The holy ones by faith conquered kingdoms."[12] We know that every temptation is either from the world or the flesh or the devil. The devil would have us disobey God and not be subject to Him. The world tempts us either by attaching us to it in prosperity, or by filling us with fear of adversity. "This is the victory which overcometh the world: our faith."[14] The flesh, however, tempts us by attracting us to the swiftly passing pleasures of this present life. All of these are conquered by faith, since through faith we know that He is the Lord of all things and must therefore be obeyed, thus rejecting the devil's lie. Also, we faith overcomes the lures of the world and the flesh in that we believe in a life to come better than this one, and hence we despise the riches of this world and the fleeting joys it offers us. Only faith can show us this, only by faith can we see.
What kind of faith do we have? Do we show our faith by obedience to Christ? Do we need Christ's help to shine in the darkness of our hearts, to help us see?
Today, in faith, come before Our Lord, and ask for an increase in faith, so that we can 1. be united with God, so that (2) His eternal life can begin in us, that (3) we may walk clearly in his ways, and (4) we may overcome the temptations we face to sin. If we ask God for the gift and make ourselves open to receive it, He will never withhold his Grace from us.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Homily for 3-11-2011 (Cycle A for RCIA)

Mutual Thirst: Our Rest is in God Alone (3-11-2011 Cycle A for RCIA)

St. Augustine of Hippo is famous for many things, but one of his best quotes is this: “Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in you.” This summarizes what we find in the readings today.

In today's Gospel, a Samaritan woman, whose heart is wandering in a desert looking for water like the Israelites, meets a man, and something incredible happens: the more she gets to know him, the more she discovers about her deepest self, a process that for her brings trembling, fear, some old pains, and ultimately the peace of being fully known and still unwaveringly loved. Here in this encounter we see these words from the Catechism (142) come to light: By his Revelation, "the invisible God, from the fullness of his love, addresses men as his friends, and moves among them, in order to invite and receive them into his own company."1 The adequate response to this invitation is faith.

The Lord clearly invites this woman into a relationship today, and she responds, but slowly and in stages. At first, she refers to him simply as a Jew, but then only “Sir” and later on he becomes for her a “prophet.” Finally she discovers him to be the Christ, the Messiah who is to come, who has come right before her. This process ultimately breeds in this woman a great faith that drives her to invite others into the mystery of who this man is. By her words, “can this indeed be the Christ?,” we see someone touched so deeply that she keeps the full truth of her experience secret, offering others the opportunity to enter into the same life-giving encounter with their God. CCC 143 By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God.2 With his whole being man gives his assent to God the revealer. Sacred Scripture calls this human response to God, the author of revelation, "the obedience of faith".3

That faith wasn't something that came instantly full-grown for the woman, and neither does it for us. We have to be guided into faith with Christ. In these next three weeks, we as a parish walk with our Catechumens who are preparing for Baptism (and our Candidates for full communion), who have journeyed slowly deeper into Christ and His Church. Are we ourselves making similar progress? Hopefully we aren't in the same place we were last year. Have we talked with Christ? Have we brought to him our questions and fears? Has he drawn out our wounds to heal us? Have we rested in Him presence, aware the He knows us and still loves us?

Faith leads us to concrete activities which come to the fore during Lent: prayer, fasting, good works of charity and compassion. As we are quenched of our thirst by Our Lord in this Eucharist, let us beg Him that the gifts of the Holy Spirit will overflow within us and help us to make these Lenten practices a part of our daily life.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Homily for 3-11-2011

3rd Sunday of Lent - - - Jesus Cleansing Our Temples
“The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Saint Paul reminds us in our second reading from 1st Corinthians that God is so much bigger than us that even at his lowest point, we cannot compare to him. God is so utterly beyond our ways of thinking, beyond the limits of our powers, that nothing in this world can even begin to approach how amazing He is. Indeed, we see this in today's Gospel reading, where the Jews are baffled by Christ's actions and his words, misunderstanding “destroy this temple” to refer to the building itself rather than the deeper meaning of “his own body.” Yes, the God whom the world cannot contain has come in human flesh, and He is a mystery and a wonder to our human wisdom, a bulldozer to our human strength.
The otherness of God is seen in today's first reading. The whole purpose of the commandments of God is to protect the people of Israel, protect them from slavery. It's a paradox, I know, but that doesn't make it untrue to say: the laws of God make us free. Free from idolatry, from binding and submitting ourselves under the power of things that will destroy us, that will distort our human nature, that will infect our spiritual health. This is because, as St. Irenaeus so simply summarized, “the glory of God is man alive,” that is, for man to truly live with all that he has been given! Whenever we do not worship God for who He is, whenever we do not treat others with the respect they deserve as created in His image, whenever we do not relate to the world with the honesty that manifests a love of truth and a oneness of our own person, then we are implicitly but forcefully accepting a form of idolatry; and whenever we accept idolatry, we accept our own self-destruction, for as St. Irenaus has said, “the life of man is to behold of God.” This is why God has desired to reveal Himself to us in His Son Jesus Christ, who frees us most perfectly from our corrupt human nature and thus frees us from even the desire to serve idols.
And today we see his victory in the Gospel. The Lord Jesus enters the Temple, which is meant to be dedicated to the solitary end of worshiping God alone, both for the service of the Chosen People and in example for them. And Jesus does so with a violent strength that is at the same time compassionate: we do not hear of any attack on persons: only on tables and money. The whip Christ made is likely for the animals, to send them scurrying out of the place of prayer with one blow. And what remains when he is finished? A place of pure worship of God – free from anything that might stray our attention from Him.
This is what Lent is about for us: purifying our hearts so that what remains is for God alone. Remember that this January we heard St. Paul tell us, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit,” just as Christ refers to His body today as a temple. If we allow Jesus to come into our temple, what will he find. Will he see pagan emblems and idolatry to popularity, to what feels good, to money / success, to “freedom” without responsibility, to family, to “my future”? If none of those, good; but will he find a temple that worships Him only half-heartedly, focused more on the routine and on the status quo of “I'm good enough” or “I love God, I just don't pray”? It is a long road of conversion before our God will find in our hearts the pure temple that worships him rightly as he has found in the saints, and it will require some violence that seems like a death to “life as we know it.” However, if we allow the Lord to stir us up and clean us out, we will find ourselves happier, more peaceful and satisfied, and free from all those chains that idolatry so sneakingly shackles upon our hearts and souls. In this Season of Lent, let us open our hearts to the King of Kings who loved us so much to accept death in our place, the doctor of souls who hurts us so that we can truly be healed and not just superficially, to the Lord of Lords whose deepest desire is for us to live, for “the Glory of God is man alive, and the life of man is to behold God.”

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Homily for 3-4-2012

2nd Sunday of Lent – A Higher Perspective

When I was in seminary in Winona, MN (for my last two years of undergrad), I loved to enjoy the bluffs that were on the back edge of campus. Whether it was a nice jog, cross country skiing, or even a game of disc golf, it was great to see the world, and the university, from up there. The best view of campus was from what we all called “the rock” that jutted out and over the trees for a spectacular vista.

In our life on earth, we don't get enough opportunities to see things from that distant, far-reaching perspective: too busy about the day-to-day things that are always urgent but rarely important, we fail to spend time examining our past and future to see what God is weaving with our lives, and thus we can get wrapped up in the challenges and difficulties (some big, some small) that haunt our present.

I can't imagine the depth of suffering that Abraham must have been feeling in today's first reading – because I don't have a son and so God can't ask me to give him back. However, I have seen my own grandparents and other parents in this parish lose a child, and I can guess that the anguish Abraham must have been experiencing on an emotional level must have put him intellectually and spiritually into a huge dilemma about who God is: Does God change his mind? Have I done something so wrong? What is he trying to make of all of this mess?

And somehow in the midst of that terror, Abraham is able to trust in God. Even though he is a mess internally, he carries on his obedience to the God who has never abandoned him in all of his trials, and eventually he comes to see that God's plan was much bigger than what it seemed at the time. He was given a foretaste of God's enduring faithfulness. Up on that mountain, he is able to glimpse the events of his life from God's perspective. And this is exactly what the Fathers of the Catholic Church had noticed: that the story of the binding of Isaac foreshadows the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, where God Himself offers his own Son on Mount Moriah-Calvary after Christ carries the wood for the sacrifice on his own back in the cross.

The ability to trust in God's boundless Mercy when everything seems a disaster is exactly what the Apostles receive in the Transfiguration. On another mountain, they are given a foretaste of the future: what God's providential plan has in store for Christ and for them. This is because they are about to be traumatized by the horror of the passion, death, and crucifixion of the Messiah, the Hope of Israel, to whom they have devoted their entire lives. It is the Transfiguration that keeps the Apostles united in prayer until they encounter the Lord in the Resurrection.

In our lives, God has shown Himself to us, if we only take the to step back and reflect on where we have been. Allow God to remind you of those glimpses of His Plan that you have seen – for it is only from them that you will be able to draw the strength, (just as Abraham did, just as the disciples did) to endure in the difficult times. May the Eucharist, the Transfigured Lord, be our food along that road.

Homily for 2-26-2012

1st Sunday of Lent - - - The Desert: Hand-to-Hand Combat with Evil

The story of Noah may seem a peculiar start for Lent, but, as St. Peter reminds us in the second reading, in that story we are presented with the peculiar quality of water to both give life, and to destroy it. Just as in our Baptism water has given us life in the Holy Spirit, it has also destroyed the evil of original sin within us, although the misdirected heart continues to need of further healing by God's restoring Grace. Another beautiful aspect of this story is that while God restrains himself until the ark is complete, he further shows his abundant mercy by promising by means of a covenant, that his “bow” of power will be restrained for evermore: he hangs up his rainbow in the sky when the rains come as a token of peace. Thus God shows that he no longer wishes to fight the evil of our world from the safety of his castle ramparts in the sky. Casting aside his bow, He instead wishes to fight evil in hand-to-hand combat on this earth, in human flesh. And Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begins that battle concretely today in the desert, where there is nothing that can protect him, distract him, or hide him from the evil of our world. And that battle against evil eventually will bring Our Savior to the cross, where the Son of God takes the ultimate casualty against evil, offering His life as the final victory through the power of his resurrection. And the wood of the ark that saved the righteous of Noah's age from the flood, now reveals itself in the wood of the Cross that saves us.

As we embark on the Season of Lent, we too find ourselves in a desert: purifying ourselves of unnecessary distractions, we have to face the evil in our individual lives and in our world. The Lord is asking us to join him in that hand-to-Hand combat, to struggle against that evil, and with the strength that comes from God, to experience the life that He gives on the other side of death – death to our sinful ways, and life in God's will. Indeed, it is only in the cross that we are saved, and the spiritual battle of the christian life is fought in our hearts this Lent. May the Lord God, the mighty warrior who has conquered sin and evil, do the same in our souls through this Lenten Season. Amen.