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!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Homily 9-30-2012

 Everything a Christian does should be able to answer the question, “What is your goal in doing that?,” with the resounding answer of “To Build up the Body of Christ.” There are various ways to do that, and Jesus focuses on two of them today: sin and scandal.
If you love someone, you tell them the hard truth they need to hear even when they will be unsettled by it. Parents know that very well, because they have to do this often to their children. This is what Jesus says to us today. He reminds us both of the ugliness of sin, and of the reality of eternal punishment for obstinate sin which is unrepented.
We see how ugly sin is through the intensity of the words Christ uses to encourage us to avoid it: it is better to chop off your hand or gouge out your eye than to be stuck with sin. Those aren't very pretty images, because sin is not pretty.
By the way, it is probably a good thing we don't take this literally (even the fundamentalists don't seem to do so), otherwise we would have lots of us walking around in pretty miserable state! But seriously, Jesus is speaking symbolically: it is never our members that cause us to sin, because sin always requires a human choice, a free rejection of God's Will for My Will. Every sin repeats the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden. And that is why our sins were redeemed by Christ's obedience to the Father's Will in going to the Cross and his death. The Cross shows us two things at the same time: how ugly sin is, and how much love God has for us.
If sin is ugly, then holiness is beautiful. To be Holy is to be like God, to be full of God who is Love. We resonate with that beauty. When we see love, we are drawn to it, we are enlivened by it, we are strengthened to do the same in our lives. Love encourages love, and selfishness or sin encourages the same spiritual atrocities.
This brings us to the next topic Jesus mentions, which is the problem of scandal. As Jesus has to address those who do some good while not being perfectly in communion with Him as His followers, he also has to speak out against the leaders (including teachers, parents, etc.) who draw others into sin. Now I am certain that God glorifies His Name even through weak, fallen instruments, such as myself and Fr. Bill, but we need to be on vigil to help each other live holy lives!

Where are we focusing our energy? Better to focus on removing SIN and SCANDAL than on JEALOUSY for "God's" (our) Will.
2284 - Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor's tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Homily 9-16-2012 // Sacrificial Love & Stewards of Treasure

Today, the Gospel of Mark reminds of Christ's clear-minded focus on doing God's Will no matter the difficulties, on despising the world for the greater treasure of the Love of the Heavenly Father, on going to the Cross to die and then be raised. This cross is the core of our parish's sense of stewardship.
What is this “Stewardship” stuff we always talk about? Why do we pray this stewardship prayer every week? Well, Stewardship is simply a part of the concrete response of Discipleship. We practice stewardship because we, like Peter today, say to that man on the cross, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” and that changes all we do. We follow Him, even to the Cross, because His words are life.
A steward is someone entrusted with a treasure of some kind, and along with that treasure they have been charged with a responsibility to use it wisely & well.
The Christian steward realizes that everything they have is a gift from God, never earned even if we cooperate in producing it. This encompasses one's entire life: whether it is time, talents & skills, or financial “treasures.”
Today we focus on renewing our commitment to discipleship in regards to those worldly treasures, in “Stewardship of sacrificial giving. We call it sacrificial giving because it returns our focus to the center of the Gospel, the Cross, where God made the ultimate Sacrificial Gift for our salvation. And as reconsider how we are to give to the Lord from what we have received, please hear to Scott N.'s story.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Homily 9-12-2012

 Today's account is more than a miracle. Jesus performed all kinds of wonders and signs that weren't recorded by the evangelists. This one was written down because it spoke to the audience, and it speaks to us today, as Christ says, “Today, these words are fulfilled in your hearing.”
So besides the clear interpretation that Christ still can heal us today in miraculous ways, let us read this spiritually: Sin makes us deaf, dumb/mute to the things of God, to the promptings of His Spirit and the love of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. Christ heals us of our sins through a personal encounter, in secret, away from the craziness of the world – in the soul, in prayer. (and in the confessional).
And just like this man was taken from the crowd, Has God ever used a situation in life to drag you out of your routine to listen to Him? Do you ever have silence in your day? In your week? (Our world has come to fear silence.) One lesson from today is certainly this: in order to be healed by Christ, we need to move ourselves out of the world to meet Him in prayer. Mass is part of this, but not all!
St. James reminds us today that God chose and chooses the poor. There are infinite examples of this in Scripture: think of Joseph and Mary, of shepherd-boy David, of the backwater men who are the Twelve disciples. It is the poor to whom the Lord reveals Himself, not because He has anything against the rich, but because they are deaf, dumb, and blind. They cannot take in God's message. Do we choose the poor, or put them aside for the rich, strong, and influential? Do we shun poverty and weakness because they remind us that we are not God and cannot control this world? That we are doomed to one day give an account to God for all we have done?
Solidarity, that is, unity as a human family, is kind of intimidating. It asks a lot of us to truly live as if everyone is my brother and my sister. If that is true, I should be like Christ, taking the suffering of every individual as in some way my own hurt. Their pain should make me 'groan' as Christ did in today's story. Where does Christ groan today? Where does He ask us to turn our eyes toward heaven and beg God's Mercy over the human family, both for our own sins and those of the whole world? We need only look to the newspaper to know what we must pray for.
Did Jesus need to go through this entire ordeal of leading away, looking up, groaning, touching his ears, his mouth, even spitting and finally saying “eph-phatha”? No, of course not. So why does he do it? Because these human actions show exactly the reason of God becoming man in the first place: he wants to relate to us directly, on our plane, so that he can lift us up higher. This is why he established His Church with Sacramental Signs. Each sacrament shows forth the two natures of Christ: the human element is the physical signs, the divine element is the word that is spoken.
Here in this Mass, as we step away from the crowd, we go to the Lord to be healed. And here in the Eucharist, He reaches out, touches us, and opens our Hearts to hear.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Homily 9-5-2012 St. Joe HS - Joseph and God's Work

What makes this school different? What makes it unique? I want to read you a one-page reflection by a modern saint, JoseMaria Escrivà in his book, Christ is Passing By (#129).
Let me tell you about an event of my own personal life which happened many years ago. One day I was with a friend of mine, a man with a good heart but who did not have faith. Pointing toward a globe he said, "Look, from North to South, from East to West." "What do you want me to look at?" I asked. His answer was: "The failure of Christ. For twenty centuries people have been trying to bring his doctrine to men's lives, and look at the result." I was filled with sadness. It is painful to think that many people still don't know our Lord, and that among those who do know him, many live as though they did not. But that feeling lasted only a moment. It was shortly overcome by love and thankfulness, because Jesus has wanted every man to cooperate freely in the work of redemption. He has not failed. His doctrine and life are effective in the world at all times. The redemption carried out by him is sufficient, and more than sufficient.
God does not want slaves, but children. He respects our freedom. The work of salvation is still going on, and each one of us has a part in it. It is Christ's will, St Paul tells us in impressive words, that we should fulfil in our flesh, in our life, what is lacking in his passion, "for the good of his body, which is the Church."
It is worthwhile putting our lives on the line, giving ourselves completely, so as to answer to the love and the confidence that God has placed in us. It is worth while, above all, to decide to take our christian life seriously. When we recite the creed, we state that we believe in God the Father Almighty, in his Son Jesus Christ, who died and rose again, and in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life. We affirm that the Church, one, holy, catholic and apostolic, is the body of Christ, enlivened by the Holy Spirit. We rejoice in the forgiveness of sins and in the hope of the resurrection. But do those words penetrate to the depths of our own heart? Or do they remain only on our lips? The divine message of victory, the joy and the peace of Pentecost, should be the unshakeable foundation for every Christian's way of thinking and acting and living.

Today Saint Paul describes the Church, the living Christian community, you and me, as a field. It's not easy growing a crop in a field, especially when all you have is an ox, a plow and a few other simple tools. Much is involved, and the difficult work relies on various talents and skills.
St. Paul is reminding the Corinthians, who are all jealously competing with each other, that no one is better than anyone else. All are equal, because all work is done in the service of the one great work: living and sharing the Gospel of Redemption in Christ.
There is no work more important than this: not Calculus, not History, not Literature or Art, nothing is more valuable to our life than the work of God. However, nothing that we do on earth needs to be separate from this work: not sports, not music, not Biology, nothing needs to be an obstacle from the work of God. As Paul reminds us, we all have work to do in God's field, only different works. Our daily life is exactly what St. Josemaria Ecrivà was focusing on, and we have his favorite and perfect example as the patron of our school.

Saint Joseph helps us see that any work can be God's work.
Escriva says that “St Joseph was an ordinary sort of man on whom God relied to do great things. He did exactly what the Lord wanted him to do, in each and every event that went to make up his life. The name Joseph, in Hebrew, means "God will add." God adds unsuspected dimensions to the holy lives of those who do his will. He adds the one important dimension which gives meaning to everything, the divine dimension

Doing this, however, requires our cooperation, and this is in fact very simple: we keep our mind's eye and our heart oriented toward heaven, toward God. If we invite God through our soul to be part of our work, we have made that work holy, we have added that divine dimension, and God will add the rest.

Let us pray that here at St. Joseph High School, through the helpful prayers of our patron Joseph, we will never do anything without that divine dimension. Rather, as all of us do our various work here as students, teachers, administration, volunteers, etc., we will all do our best to keep our eyes on the prize, on the mission of this school: to be, as Bishop Rhoades mentioned at our recent dedication, a city on a hill and a light to the nations.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Homily 9-2-2012 Externals and Internals

Externals vs. Internals??
Today there is presented before us one of the oldest dilemmas in the Christian faith: How do the Law and God's Grace coincide with each other. The Church has long stressed that holding these two in opposition is in fact a false dichotomy. Here's an example of a false dichotomy that will make sense to us all: when presented with the question of having pie or ice cream, I always take them both. Who says I can't, right? They really aren't mutually exclusive, and, in fact, they sure do complement each other quite nicely! The same thing with the Law and Grace. Just like pie is made perfect with ice cream, so God's Law supports His Grace, even bears Grace.
So it is a good thing that the Jews treasured the Law. They were proud of it, they held it up as their pride and joy! And Jesus does not abolish even one letter of the Law. What He does, however, is challenge his listeners to remember what is more important, what the reason for the Law's existence is: the Human person, the Human soul. The Law is meant to make us holy, not miserly. The Law is meant to teach us to relate to God as He desires us, out of love made concrete in action.
This is why Jesus takes the focus off of the external rituals meant to shape our heart and onto the internal workings of the soul that end up driving our actions. Both are good, in one way or another, and if we have one without the other, our life becomes a contradiction. Rituals devoid of true religion is an empty show, and religion without action is worth nothing, as St. James says, “faith without works is dead.”
The Catechism defines true religion as the virtue of justice with respect towards God, or giving to God what is His due. So in par. 2135, the CCC states Adoring God, praying to him, offering him the worship that belongs to him, fulfilling the promises and vows made to him are acts of the virtue of religion which fall under obedience to the first commandment.” However, we should also notice that James does not mention these things at all when he describes religion to his audience: For James, True Religion means 1)care for orphans and widows in their affliction (aka the poor) and 2) to keep oneself unstained by the world. Religion is action, because we need both external and internal.
So both Law and Grace are good, and are needed by us to order our lives properly toward God and neighbor. Indeed we can have our cake, and our ice cream too!
So here, today, as we pray externally in this the highest of all rituals, the Mass, we beg God through these actions purify our hearts. As we carry out the Law, offering Justice to God (by true religion) and to neighbor, may we receive an abundance of Grace so that our hearts bring forth the fruits of the Spirit and not the defilement of wickedness.