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Tuesday, December 24, 2013


What is the meaning of Christmas?  What a difficult celebration to preach, because it means so much!  But the truth is, you don’t have to look far to find why Christmas is important.  So, today I decided to meditate on the meaning of Christmas using a bunch of short words.  In fact, I thought I’d get creative and make them all four-letter words, and I hope you do not find this offensive.  I also hope they are the only ones you hear this Christmas.  But seriously, I think they will help you follow along with me.
Hope.  Lately I’ve been raving about the word Hope in my homilies.  The Catechism tells us that 1818 The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men's activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity.  So hope by definition affirms that things are moving in the right direction, but really aren’t there yet.  We celebrate today the source of that Hope, that God has become man to lead us in the right direction.
Here.  God comes into our lives and our world.  Right into the depths and the meat of it, and that connects to this word: Mess.  God knows that our lives are broken.  He knows that we have sinned and that we have been sinned against.  He knows we are hurting and imperfect people among a bunch of others in the huge dysfunctional family known as the human race.  That is exactly why He comes, and gets involved right in the mess.  Jesus’ family history, as told in the genaeology of Matthew’s gospel, is full of mess.  Perhaps He spent much of His quiet 30 years of His life reflecting upon this mess of sin, the mess that He came to save.
1. Need.  We need Christ.  I believe I’ve already given this horse a good beating, but if we don’t let it sink in, we won’t do anything with it.  We have to examine ourselves and truly say, “I need God!”  This should be a daily cry from our heart, as Saint Augustine so poignantly puts it: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until the rest in You.”
2. Know.  We must know Christ, in two ways particularly: Pray.  We will miss the mystery of God’s presence among us if we aren’t looking, just like all that people that missed Him, ignored Him, and hated Him during His lifetime.  Also, we come to know Jesus through Mass.  Every Sunday we help to satisfy our need by coming together as broken people to be healed by the Word of God, by showing mercy to each other, and especially in the Host, the sacrificial Lamb of God given to us from this altar, Jesus Himself.  There is no better way to get to know Jesus than by daily personal prayer and the Mass.
3. Show. (Loud.)  We must show Jesus to others. If we can confess that we need Jesus and then truly begin to get to know Him and to let ourselves be loved by Him, then we will show it to others.  (Escriva)The cheerfulness of a man of God, of a woman of God, has to overflow: it has to be calm, contagious, attractive...; in a few words, it has to be so supernatural, and natural, so infectious that it may bring others to follow Christian ways
Love. This is how this we show it.  We must love, love in the way God loves us.  Love after the manner of the Cross, loving both God and others, and God through the others.
Pope, or if you wish, Time, the magazine.  The reason Pope Francis won man of the year was because he shows love, in his actions, in his words.  He is like Jesus – attractive yet so often misunderstood.  Yet the actions draw people in.
And just recently, he called all of us to do the same.  In his big document Evangelii Gaudium, or The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis demands that we be people who know Jesus and who show Jesus.
114. Being Church means being God’s people, in accordance with the great plan of his fatherly love. This means that we are to be God’s leaven in the midst of humanity. It means proclaiming and bringing God’s salvation into our world, which often goes astray and needs to be encouraged, given hope and strengthened on the way.
The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.

120. In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients. The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries”, but rather that we are always “missionary disciples”.

So that, my friends, is the meaning of Christmas for us.  In a few easy four-letter words: need, know, and show.  After we admit that we need Jesus and then get to know Jesus, that love will move us to show Jesus.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Homily 12-15-2013 Waiting Patiently

 Last week I focused on the hope that we have at the focus of Advent. Two other virtues that are part of the greater virtue of hope are focused on today. The first virtue we see is joy, which is why the priest is allowed to wear “rose” today. This 3rd Sunday of Advent is referred to as Gaudete Sunday because the first words of the Mass in the Entrance Antiphon (which we replaced today with the “Come to us O Emmanuel”) are Gaudete in Domino (“Rejoice in the Lord...for He is near!”) from Saint Paul's letter to the Philippians. The joy that the Lord is near is what we see in the Gospel today. Jesus comes to meet us as our long-awaited Messiah, the anointed one who will save us from our sins, who will heal our ills (a savior in Greek is the same word as a healer). That is why we have joy during this season.
The second virtue related to hope comes to us in the second reading, from the letter of James. He calls us to be patient, and patience can only be practiced when one knows something greater is to be expected. The word for suffering (passio) is rooted to the word for patience (patientia). Whenever we have to wait for something, it means it will require a bit of suffering. But the greater the reward, the more it is worth the wait.
In our world today, we are trained in a Pavlovian sort of fashion to expect immediate results and have instant response whether from the push of a button or a text message. But with God, it doesn't work that way. Nor with any relationship do we just always get this as we want them and when we want them. There is a required give and take. There is a bit of suffering that is necessary – the Lord demands patience from us.
One big way this happens during Advent is the rush that the world has immediately following Thanksgiving to celebrate Christmas. The radio stations, the stores, the workplaces and schools are all driving toward the great holy day, and forgetting the need to prepare well for it.

Today, the Church invites us to wait patiently, just as John the Baptist had to wait quietly for years, and even suffer imprisonment, sacrifice his freedom, and eventually lose his life before his longing for the Kingdom of God could be completely satisfied. But we know that the greater the reward, the more it is worth the wait. And a Messiah who promises us healing and salvation in this life, and eternal bliss in the next, is worth any wait, any sacrifice, any suffering, any pain, and any loss. So with patience and with joy, we continue our Advent preparations for the blessed hope in the person of Christ Jesus.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Homily 12-8-13 Making Real Preparations this Advent

 Advent is a season of hope, a hope founded on what God can do, because of what He has already done. Rom. 15:4 "Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction, that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."
How does the history of the Old Testament gives us hope?  Certainly not by the sinfulness of the people of God.  However, their maintaining of their faith in God is strong.  Most importantly, though, our hope is founded on this fact that we find in the story of the people of Israel: God has not abandoned them.  He loved them even while they were sinners, and eventually, as we celebrate in just over two weeks, He came to them, loved them unto death, and restored those who receive Him to perfect communion.
That is our Hope, God's infinite love.  And, as John the Baptist reminds us, (as even Christ Himself says in His first words in the Gospel of Mark), the hope we have should demand within us a change.  "Repent! Turn away from sin! for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!"  For Christians, repentance is the first thing and the last thing we are called to: within this one call is contained all the other demands of the Gospel.
We spend a lot of time working on the right gifts for people.  This year I drew my brother's name for the exchange.  When I told my sister, who has had him for the last two years, she looked at me with the sober eyes of a traumatic flashback and said shortly, "good luck."  He is infamously difficult to purchase for because he knows what he likes and besides those things, not much else matters.  So what did I do?  I went out and bought the first thing I could find.  I hope it works!
But seriously, we spend lots of time and energy on these gifts because they are important.  They are concrete signs of our love.  But we are tempted to get things out of priority and forget the spiritual preparation that is absolutely necessary to make this season truly beautiful and really meaningful in the long run.  This holiday season exists because of God, because of the joy we have in Jesus.   As Pope Francis said in his recently-released exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, "Joy... always endures, even as a flicker of light, born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved." why don't we spend time preparing for the gift we can give Jesus this Christmas?  What does He want more than repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand?  What greater gift can we give than to truly turn our hearts to Him, to satisfy the longing of his Sacred Heart, pierced and bleeding out of love for us.  He wants to be loved.

Indeed, let us prepare the way for the Savior to enter into our hearts. Let us clear the humble stable of our souls for Him to find a place ready for Him, small but full of warmth and love. Let us wrap up the gift of true conversion and repentance, the gift of daily prayer, the gift of weekly attendance at Mass and regular confession. This alone is the gift for which He truly longs, for which we truly long.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Homily 12-1-2013 Advent wk. 1 - Which Mountain are we on?

John Chrysostom gave a homily on Advent, describing how we await not one coming, but two during this season. At the first coming he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. At his second coming he will be clothed in light as in a garment. In the first coming he endured the cross, despising the shame; in the second coming he will be in glory, escorted by an army of angels. We look then beyond the first coming and await the second.
Malachi the prophet speaks of the two comings. And the Lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple: that is one coming.  Again he says of another coming: Look, the Lord almighty will come, and who will endure the day of his entry, or who will stand in his sight? Because he comes like a refiner’s fire, a fuller’s herb, and he will sit refining and cleansing.
These two comings are also referred to by Paul in writing to Titus: The grace of God the Savior has appeared to all men, instructing us to put aside impiety and worldly desires and live temperately, uprightly, and religiously in this present age, waiting for the joyful hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Notice how he speaks of a first coming for which he gives thanks, and a second, the one we still await.

The prophet Isaiah speaks today's words of comfort and peace in a time of great turmoil and war. He promises a future of peace – a peace founded on justice, a justice founded on truth, a truth founded on the instruction of the Lord God. It is in the “light of the Lord” that the nations will walk together in harmony to the Lord's mountain.
Advent gives us a chance to reflect on what mountain are we on? Mount Zion, where the city of Jerusalem is found, isn't much to behold. It is right on the edge of higher mountains, really what we might call bluffs or steep hills. The Mount of Olives to the East is over a hundred feet higher in elevation, and if you travel about 20 miles to the north or south of Jerusalem you will find even taller mountains than this. But none of these mountains have the Temple, the place where the Lord dwells with His people. It is to Jerusalem that they must come for that.  And one day, Isaiah says, all those mountains are coming down, and Mount Zion will be raised up forever.
In the eyes of our modern world, there are lots of other mountains taller than Christianity, taller than the Catholic faith. Some dwell on the mountain of family, other on the mountain of worldly success (in whatever way they choose to define what “success” is), and many on the mountain of entertainment and distraction from what we fear. So what mountain are we on? Do we find ourselves dwelling on The Lord's mountain that will one day be raised up forever, or are we dwelling on the peaks of the world's passing priorities?
Another image that represents this passing of things is the theme of light.  As we began Mass, the first candle of our Advent Wreath shone brightly in the darkness.  It is only when the lights of human design are destroyed and put out that we see the light that endures beyond our making.  In the winter we see the light of God's eternal truth dispel the darkness.
The Lord Jesus, the Light of the World, will come at a time we do not expect as he did in Bethlehem, and the mountains of the world will come crashing down, the false lights of the world will give way to His Truth.  Only if we build our lives on his first coming can we wait in confidence for his second coming.  
The only way to let that light shine, the only way to get to the Lord's mountain, is humility.  Let us put aside our false lights and focus on Jesus.  Let us spend this Advent shedding off deeds of darkness, waking up to the Light that is coming over the horizon, and start the challenging journey up to the mountain of the Lord's dwelling.  And as we begin this season of Advent, we find the Lord comes to us already, in a hidden way, from this altar.  May we be His Bethlehem this day and every day; may we enthrone Him as king, so that His coming brings us the peace for which our souls long.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Homily 11-24-2013 The Good Thief

!!Look at the cross while this Gospel is read!

Last Sunday Jesus tells us we will be persecuted. Danger lies ahead for Christians. Yet, Jesus also said do not worry about it. Today, he shows us what exactly he means by all of that in His own Passion and death. We follow Our Lord who practices what He preaches, who loves until the end.
The Cross above our altar stays in the same spot almost all year long, but throughout the Church year with its changing readings and seasons, takes on a different emphasis and highlights a different aspect of its endless mystery.
Today, as we reflect on the reality that Our Lord Jesus Christ is the King of the Universe, of all time and space, we are struck by the scandal of the cross. Declared a king by his death sentence, his crown is a crown of intense suffering, and almost all of those around him are mocking him to shame. A King who rules from a cross is not much of a king, it would seem. But the Resurrection verifies our faith: the one who conquers death truly is the King of the Jews and of the entire universe. There we see that love is stronger than death, that there is always hope where there is sacrificial love.

We call the last person in today's Gospel the “Good thief”: this tells us that the person is good. Evil actions do not destroy the image of God in which we were created. It never can and never will.
However, that is what the devil wants us to believe. The lies he whispers (“You are bad!”) are what corrupt the heart of the other thief; that is why he is spiteful and spews out words of malice to Christ. He has lost hope. The bad thief sins against the Holy Spirit by blaspheming God and by denying the truth of his actions. The truth is this: God died on a cross so that I, a sinner, might repent. Now, not later, just like the Good Thief today.

Jesus says at the beginning of the Gospel the summary proclamation: "the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe in the gospel!" And here at the end of the story (not including the resurrection), we see that happening right before our eyes.

We also should say every day “Lord Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

"Today, you will be with me in paradise..." These words fit us in the Mass. Here we are united with God in our own glimpse of the paradise of heaven. Let us beg Jesus to fill our hearts with hope, hope founded on His Love and His Resurrection, hope that helps us to remember who we are in His eyes and inspires us to repent and believe in the Gospel.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Homily 11-17-2013

In the Creed we say that Jesus "will come again to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end."  If this is our faith, if this is the truth, then what does that mean for how we live now?

First, this line in the Creed reminds us that the power of this world will be overcome, and that we can say with certainty: The world is going to end.  I'm not here to tell you when, whether today or in a hundred years.  But I am here to say that the world will end.  Even if we don't know when the cosmos will implode or civilization annihilated, we can certainly say that with death the world does end, as far as the individual is concerned.  We die, and we enter a different reality, a new way of living in the resurrection of the flesh.  I think that phrase, the world is going to end, as ambiguous as it is, is perhaps the best way to say it.  Because the fact is, we don't know, and not knowing should create a sense of urgency for us.

So although Jesus instructs us to ignore those people who seem to know that "the end is very near," we should certainly live daily as people destined for judgment under the law of freedom.  At the end of our life, all will be laid bare before God whose light cannot be swallowed up by any darkness, and the Crucified Lamb of God will ask us how we loved, how we lived, how we served Him.  And we will be rewarded abundantly for what service we offered.  Malachi says that day will be a burning furnace for the wicked, but a pleasantly warm sunshine for the just.

Until that happens, though, we have a difficult road.  Look at our leader.  That's what we follow.  You may ask, "how literal is our following of that?"  Well, for some it is as literal as those Christians in northern Nigerian and Egypt who are being blown up in church, Not to mention the many countries east of Egypt.  According to the International Society for Human Rights in Frankfurt, Germany, 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed against Christians. (NCReporter)  Here in the U.S., persecution is not, nor do I suspect it to become, outwardly violent.  However, we are fighting serious culture wars that continue to put us against the grain of many as we attempt to defend the human person from conception until natural death and promote God's law both natural and divine.  Jesus says don't worry about how you'll defend yourself, just stay close to me and I will inspire you with the right words or actions when you need it.  By your perseverance, you will secure your lives.  Whether we suffer martyrdom or not, we know that our true life is in God and beyond this passing world.

The faith we profess is that things will turn upside-down and get set straight in God's kingdom.  We will have to wait for His return or our death for that to fully happen.  But, we also begin to experience that now, just as Our Lord told us: The kingdom of God is among you.  Within the Body of Christ, i.e. the Church, we find true communion, true unity and peace, thanks to the God that is a loving communion of three persons.  Let us beg our Eucharistic Lord to give us the perseverance to secure a merciful judgment and safe passage to the warm and healing rays of His love in the world to come.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The End and the Beginning!

The End and the Beginning!
Now that we are arriving at the end of Church Year (three weeks until Advent), the readings call us to think of the events at the end of time, both personally and cosmically.  Today, we reflect on the Resurrection; on the life to come; on heaven.  Today we see that death is an end and a beginning.
It's hard to talk about these things without talking about one of the few taboo topics of our society: death.  We Americans don't often talk about death.  We avoid it like it's a dangerous thought, as if only bad things can result from reflecting on the fact that we will one day die and go to God.  In any other area of life, we would label this with words like "suppression" and "denial" or some other psychological words.  Jesus today reminds us that it is nothing to fear.
This is exactly what the Thessalonians were worried about: death and the Resurrection.  How do they go together?  Saint Paul's response was two-fold: assure them of the truth that those who have died will rise with Christ, and urge them to practice their faith to strengthen their hope.
Pope Benedict wrote an encyclical on Hope that fits well with today’s theme:
 (#11)…Obviously there is a contradiction in our attitude, which points to an inner contradiction in our very existence. On the one hand, we do not want to die; above all, those who love us do not want us to die. Yet on the other hand, neither do we want to continue living indefinitely, nor was the earth created with that in view. So what do we really want? Our paradoxical attitude gives rise to a deeper question: what in fact is “life”? And what does “eternity” really mean? There are moments when it suddenly seems clear to us: yes, this is what true “life” is—this is what it should be like…St. Augustine tells us that in the final analysis, there is nothing else that we ask for in prayer besides this “true life.” Our journey has no other goal—it is about this alone. But then Augustine also says: looking more closely, we have no idea what we ultimately desire, what we would really like. We do not know this reality at all; even in those moments when we think we can reach out and touch it, it eludes us. … “There is therefore in us a certain learned ignorance (docta ignorantia), so to speak”, he writes. We do not know what we would really like; we do not know this “true life”; and yet we know that there must be something we do not know towards which we feel driven.8
12. I think that …  Augustine is describing man's essential situation, the situation that gives rise to all his contradictions and hopes. In some way we want life itself, true life, untouched even by death; yet at the same time we do not know the thing towards which we feel driven. We cannot stop reaching out for […t]his unknown “thing,” the true “hope” which drives us, [but] at the same time the fact that it is unknown is the cause of all forms of despair and also of all efforts, whether positive or destructive, directed towards worldly authenticity and human authenticity. The term “eternal life” is intended to give a name to this known “unknown”. Inevitably it is an inadequate term that creates confusion. “Eternal”, in fact, suggests to us the idea of something interminable, and this frightens us; “life” makes us think of the life that we know and love and do not want to lose, even though very often it brings more toil than satisfaction, so that while on the one hand we desire it, on the other hand we do not want it.
Heaven and eternal life is so much better than this very good life that we know and experience every day.
So, I believe that, not in a negative way, we Americans should think of death: the death of Christ, the death of the Christian in Baptism.  We think of death all the time at Mass.  We represent Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross.  Through our Baptism, we are drawn into that mystery every day when we die to sin and find new life in the Spirit.
(sec #10) Saint Ambrose tells us “Death was not part of nature; it became part of nature. God did not decree death from the beginning; he prescribed it as a remedy. Human life, because of sin ... began to experience the burden of wretchedness in unremitting labour and unbearable sorrow. There had to be a limit to its evils; death had to restore what life had forfeited. Without the assistance of grace, immortality is more of a burden than a blessing.” 6 … “Death is, then, no cause for mourning, for it is the cause of mankind's salvation.” 7
Death is the gateway to salvation, to being made whole.  Let us thank our Lord for the hope we have in His Son’s victory over death, and pray that he open our hearts to receive the gift of “eternal life” where we are with Him forever, a gift that we begin to share in through this Holy Communion of the Eucharist.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Homily 11-3-2013 --- Conversion = Grace + Response ("Co-operation")

Today a simple math equation: Conversion = Grace + Response ("Co-operation")
Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman said, "To live is to change; and to live well is to have changed often."  The saints are masters at changing - changing their disordered hearts to follow God closer and closer in every aspect of their life.  That is what conversion is: change.  And it requires two things.
Hence the simple equation: Conversion = Grace + Response ("Co-operation")
In our First Reading, The Lord God always seeks out the sinner, Wisdom tells us. Jesus makes this very clear today as he finds a rich man ready to turn his heart to from past wickedness, a man longing to see Him and know Him. Zacchaeus is a great example for us all: a man whom the crowd tries to keep away from Christ is humble enough to climb a tree, is surprised enough to jump down the tree and host the Man of God, is inspired enough to give away his possessions to those whom justice and charity would request.
Today we see conversion at its best: a work of God that we ourselves take part in. Zacchaeus needed God's grace to have that longing in his heart for Jesus; But he needed to climb the tree himself. He needed Christ to invite Himself to his home; but Zacchaeus had to accept the invitation and make preparations in the face of scornful onlookers. Zacchaeus graciously received the loving gaze of God in the eyes of the Savior; but the choice to change his life was still his own.
CCC 2022 The divine initiative in the work of grace precedes, prepares, and elicits the free response of man. Grace responds to the deepest yearnings of human freedom, calls freedom to cooperate with it, and perfects freedom.

CCC 1430 Jesus' call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, "sackcloth and ashes," fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance.

CCC 1428 Christ's call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, "clasping sinners to her bosom, [is] at once holy and always in need of purification, [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal."18 This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a "contrite heart," drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first.

Finally, a point of first decision: in order to be seen with the healing love of Christ's gaze, we must be little enough, that is, humble enough, to climb the tree – the tree of the Cross. When we climb that tree and cling to that Cross, when we meditate upon the sign of our salvation, we will see the love of God, drawing us to prayer where we invite the Savior into the home of our souls. There we are healed, there we are changed, and there salvation comes to our house.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Homily 10-27-2013 Humility: Starting well to finish well!

Last week, I talked about the importance of prayer no matter what the obstacles.

Today, as the Gospel shows us clearly the danger of using prayer to feed pride instead of prayer to find God, I want to make a confession: I still go to Reconciliation regularly – about every two to three weeks I participate in the sacrament of Penance, confessing my sins, and returning to loving Father who waits for me, to my Savior who died for me, as much as he died for you.

I was struck by Pope Francis' short description of himself in the interview in Jesuit Magazine America: “I am a sinner.” Today we remember that the prayer of everyone is the prayer of a sinner – a sinner like the tax collector who is just starting to mend his broken heart, or a sinner like the Pharisee who has long since been healed of many sinful habits but still has the cancerous temptation to pride. There is no perfect person other than the Blessed Mother – who even herself relies completely on God every moment. This humble posture of prayer is critical for us as Christians. Phillip Neri's simple morning prayer: “Beware of Philip, O Lord, this day; for, abandoned to myself, I shall surely betray thee. ” Not thinking too much of ourselves is not the same as beating ourselves us. If in the past we may have gone too far in self-abnegation, nowadays we clearly go too far in self-pampering and pretending that “I'm okay. You're okay.” when the fact really is “I'm not okay. You're not okay. But that's okay, because God can change us!”

John Vianney story (humility in letter from brother priest).

The righteous habits of the Pharisee cannot guarantee a proper interior relationship towards God. The sinful habits of the tax collector do not signify hopelessness. That doesn't mean good actions and righteous deeds don't mean anything – they mean a lot! They just don't guarantee conversion; they don't guarantee that we conform our lives to the Cross; they don't guarantee that a person falls in love with God who is Love. They only foster the chance for it.
Examples: Going to Mass every Sunday; praying rote prayers; putting money in the collection weekly; going to confession regularly. Do any of these guarantee a heart will turn to God? No. They only keep someone in front of the door: they still have to open it.

Regular confession is perhaps the greatest: It is so hard to fake! Pope Francis: “…one must do as Paul did – above all, confessing with the same ‘concreteness’. Some say: ‘Ah, I confess to God.’ But it’s easy, it’s like confessing by email, no? God is far away, I say things and there’s no face-to-face, no eye-to-eye contact. Paul confesses his weakness to the brethren face-to-face. Others [say], ‘No, I go to confession,’ but they confess so many ethereal things, so many up-in-the-air things, that they don’t have anything concrete. And that’s the same as not doing it. Confessing our sins is not going to a psychiatrist, or to a torture chamber: it’s saying to the Lord, ‘Lord, I am a sinner,’ but saying it through the brother, because this says it concretely. ‘I am sinner because of this, that and the other thing.

When prayer is dry and tough...when there is a type if persecution for it... : We must persevere in the difficult times, the times of tribulation. As. St. Paul tells Timothy today: it's worth it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Pope's on yesterday's Gospel: Pray Always!

Before praying the Angelus at the traditional 12 o'-clock noon, the Holy Father always gives a sermon on the Gospel of that Sunday.

From Vatican News:

Below, please find Vatican Radio’s translation of Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus address:
Dear brothers and sisters, good day!
In today’s Gospel, Jesus told a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. The main character is a widow who, forced to plead before a dishonest judge, manages to get him to grant her justice. And Jesus concludes, if the widow managed to convince that judge, do you think God will not hear us, if we pray to Him insistently? The expression used by Jesus is very strong: “Will not God then do justice for His chosen ones who call out to Him day and night?”
“To cry out day and night” to the Lord! This is a striking image of prayer. But we might ask, why does God want this. Doesn’t He already know our needs? What does it mean to “insist” with God?
And this is a good question, that leads us to deepen a very important aspect of the Faith: God invites us to pray with insistence, not because He doesn’t know what we need, or because He doesn’t listen to us. On the contrary, He always hears and knows all of us, with love. In our daily journey, especially in difficulties, in the fight against evil outside of ourselves and within us, the Lord is not far away, He is at our side; we fight with Him beside us, and our weapon is prayer, which makes us feel His presence alongside of us, His mercy, even His help. But the fight against evil is hard and long, it requires patience and resistance – like Moses, who had to hold up his arms so that his people could triumph (cf. Ex. 17:8-13). It is so: there is a struggle to carry on every day; but God is our ally, faith in Him is our strength, and prayer is the expression of this faith. Therefore, Jesus assures us of victory but in the end He asks “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” (Lk. 18:8). If the faith goes out, if prayer goes out, and we walk in the darkness, we will be lost on the journey of life.
Let us learn, therefore, from the widow of the Gospel, and pray always without growing weary. This widow was good, she knew to fight for her children, and I think of the many women who fight for their families, who pray, who never grow weary! Today let us remember, all of us, these women who with their behaviour give us a true witness of faith, of courage, of a model of prayer. Let us remember them! Pray always, but not to convince the Lord by the strength of words! He knows better than we do what it is we need. And so persevering prayer is an expression of faith in a God Who calls us to fight along with Him, every day, every moment, to overcome evil with good.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Homily 10-20-2013 Show Your Faith: Perseverance in Prayer and Scripture

When Jesus says “I Thirst” from the Cross, when he says “Could you not keep watch with me for one hour, Peter?” in Gethsemane, He is referring to the same longing in His Sacred Heart that we find in today's phrase: When the Son of Man comes, do you think that He will find faith on earth? He wants your love. He wants Christians, both as the Church and as individuals, to become what they are: The Body of Christ and living temples of the Holy Spirit. He wants us to show our faith at work in love – love of God, and love for each other, created in His image. We have to persevere in faith, like the widow who never gave up on getting what she wanted. And what we want, ultimately eternal life, is worth all the effort she gave – the problem is we don't see our need with the same urgency as she saw hers.

Two things that are fundamental to the Catholic life which are most often neglected and forgotten are mentioned in the readings today: Scripture and Prayer.

1. I Don't have time. Even I feel the pull to draw away from these things: many demands work at us every day – our family, our work, our friends, our hobbies, cleaning the house, getting exercise, doing laundry, preparing a good meal, doing something nice for somebody, etc. These are there all the time and they are never going to go away.
Nothing better to use your time for. It will actually, more often than not, make time – work more efficiently, prioritize more clearly, stay more deliberate. St. Francis de Sales: “Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer a day, except when we are busy-then we need an hour.

2. I Don't know how.
Lord, Teach us to pray!” This must be our prayer, even as Bl. John Paul II says he himself prayed in the interview Crossing the Threshold of Hope.
God helps those who help themselves – get a writing on prayer from the saints (Augustine's Letter to Proba, Teresa of Avila's Way of Perfection (free here; also see this summary of her wisdom on prayer), Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life (free online here), and Alphonsus Ligouri's little "how to") or from a good modern author (two years ago in Lent we read Thomas Dubay's Prayer Primer. Fire Within is an excellent and more in-depth exploration of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. Another easy-to-read modern author is Jacques PhilippeTime for God, In the School of the Holy Spirit) or from the Cathechism (Part IV: Prayer). Reading these books will help you to put your money where your mouth is when you say, “Lord teach us to pray!” because you really are trying your best at it.

3. I don't see the point. I rarely witness any effects.

If you pray long enough, you will witness the effects, and they start with yourself.
It is simply impossible to lead, without the aid of prayer, a virtuous life. --St. John Chrysostom
In order to be saints ourselves, we must pray. Mass isn't enough, as crazy as that might sound – there are a countless number of lukewarm Catholics that give evidence to that.

As far as unanswered petitions go: God doesn't always answer us yes. Just like the little kid who asks their dad for something that is only going to hurt them: he won't give it! Maybe every once in a while God will grant those prayers and then we learn our lesson. "There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers." --St. Teresa of Avila
Sometimes God answers “no” because He knows what we really need. Other times, He has something better to give us. And sometimes, He knows it would do us better to wait to receive it.

4. Scripture doesn't speak to me.
It will. Give it a chance. Listen. Put yourself in the story. Find a website that helps you see what the readings mean. Practice Lectio Divina.

When the Son of Man comes, do you think that He will find faith on earth? Satisfy His thirst. Ask Jesus to teach you to pray and show Him your love by praying and reading Scripture.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

10-13-2013 Thanking the Giver: the Eucharist

I just watched Fr. Robert Barron's review of the movie "Gravity" on his website  and was intrigued that the last words of the movie are a simple prayer: "thank you."  This was really cool to me because being thankful is the theme for today's readings.  Thankful for what? Well, that God loves you and shows His love ten times a day. Do you love Him? Do you thank Him ten times a day, or is it closer to one out of ten (like today's lepers)? Why are we so often forgetful and ungrateful?

Naaman was a foreigner, military general of Aram, a pagan, a leper, and extremely dangerous and unwelcome to the king of Israel. However, the formal guest marches in looking for a cure because of the witness of a slave of his, a Jewish girl, who told his wife he should to go to the prophet Elisha. Naaman must have been desperate and ashamed as he marches to an enemy king, is sent to Elisha, and is abruptly dismissed to go wash seven times in the Jordan River to be cured. He wanted flare and magic, but was instead told to work. When he finally puts his faith into practice, he is healed and begs Elisha to take some cash as a sign of his appreciation. Elisha refuses to let God be bought, and instead Naaman hauls a truck-load of earth back to his homeland so that he can worship the Lord God. Worship is the proper sign of thanksgiving.

The ten lepers today show their faith (and perhaps their desperation) when they cry out for Jesus to heal them. Then they have to put their faith into practice by going to the priests. When they are cured, it is the foreigner again who comes back to give thanks, “worshipping Jesus” (on his knees).

Fr. Emil Kapaun saved many of his fellow POW's in Ptotkong on the North Korean border of the Yalo River. The miracle of Fr. K. was not just that he patched leaky buckets or stole food. It was that he rallied men to embrace life when living looked hopeless. When starvation inspired betrayals, Kapaun inspired brotherhood. One day, as more men stole and hoarded food from each other, Kapaun walked into a hut, laid out his own food, and blessed it: “Thank you, O Lord, for giving us food we can not only eat but share.” And because of this man's witness, because the fellow prisoners knew all this man had already done for them, they stopped fighting and stealing from each other.

I realize I take things for granted. I have tried to overcome this by writing daily a short and direct prayer of thanksgiving to God for three things: whatever three things I want to thank Him for. I try to make it specific, concrete, and not too wordy. This has helped. I also try to thank God after I have a meal with the traditional prayer: “We give you thanks, Almighty God, for these and all your benefits, which come to us through Christ Our Lord. Amen. May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.”

Why do we take things for granted? Maybe it is because none of us find ourselves starving like the POW's, and only a handful of us at most have ever seen leprosy with our own eyes. I think the real reason, though, is that we hide our leprosy because we are ashamed of it. We ignore our wounds and hope they go away.  We forget how we have been healed by God because our wounded pride has blocked it from our memory.  We often aren't fully honest with ourselves until there is no other alternative.  Instead of being humble, we need to be humiliated.

As November approaches, we run into the one time a year that we are supposed to give thanks with a national holiday. Not only should we be doing this daily, but even on the holiday, we might not do so good a job at being thankful. For many of us, we honor God for the past year's blessings by stuffing ourselves with food and taking a nap, and hopefully not getting into a fight with family and friends.

Worship is the proper sign of thanksgiving. The word Eucharist means “Thanksgiving.”
Catechism par. 2637 Thanksgiving characterizes the prayer of the Church which, in celebrating the Eucharist, reveals and becomes more fully what she is. Indeed, in the work of salvation, Christ sets creation free from sin and death to consecrate it anew and make it return to the Father, for his glory. The thanksgiving of the members of the Body participates in that of their Head.
 What we do here is thank God. We come hear singing his praises for the ways He has healed us.  And also, in this Eucharist, we cry out, with humility, for Jesus to heal us once again: from the wounds we hide, from the wounds we have forgotten.  And we hear Him in our souls: "Go in peace, your faith has saved you."

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Homily 10-6-2013 Faith and Suffering

Today we hear for the only time in the 3-yr Sunday cycle from the prophet Habbakuk. This prophet comes right before the Babylonian exile and he sees it unfolding right before his eyes. God seems to be abandoning His people to these big nasty bullies, and the Prophet Habbakuk tries to intervene: “How long, O Lord?!” Don't you see this evil people rising up – they will certainly wipe your people out! And what does God do? God doesn't give him a direct answer. I think all of us can relate to this prophet: we see evil in our world, we see the success and worldly praise of the wicked. We ourselves throughout our life will have to suffer tragedy, injustice, destruction and abandonment. Sometimes it's a small thing: we get sick and feel weak and can't even stand the smell of food. Other times it's a big thing: loss of human life, a falling out between friends as we go separate ways. We ourselves cry out to God: “Why, Lord? Why did you have to take him? When will you stop this hurting?”
What is God's answer? Instead of speaking directly, he tells Habbakuk: “Hold on to the vision and pass it on. Wait for it! It will not disappoint!” God calls us to hope – to remember that not all is lost, and that He has a plan. God wants us to stake our lives on Him, not on the things He gives us, and that's why sometimes He takes those safety nets away.

CCC1820 Christian hope unfolds from the beginning of Jesus' preaching in the proclamation of the beatitudes. The beatitudes raise our hope toward heaven as the new Promised Land; they trace the path that leads through the trials that await the disciples of Jesus. But through the merits of Jesus Christ and of his Passion, God keeps us in the "hope that does not disappoint."88 Hope is the "sure and steadfast anchor of the soul . . . that enters . . . where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf."89 Hope is also a weapon that protects us in the struggle of salvation: "Let us . . . put on the breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation."90 It affords us joy even under trial: "Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation."91 Hope is expressed and nourished in prayer, especially in the Our Father, the summary of everything that hope leads us to desire.

Hope then is founded on our faith in the Cross. And that is God's great answer to the questions we have in life. When we ask “Why Lord?” He does not give us a straight answer. Rather, God tells us a story, a story about His Son who freely chose the most painful death so that we could be healed from all the suffering in our world. God says, “Look at the Cross and see how much I love you.”

We are called to faith, just as Jesus says in the Gospel, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” Jesus wants us to acknowledge that God is God and we are not – and when we do this, then we will move obstacles (or God will do it for us).

So when we are confronted with suffering in life (and it certainly will come), let us every day look to the Cross, let us remember God's answer, let us declare it to ourselves and witness it to others. Lord Jesus, in the Eucharist from this Mass, fill our hearts with the healing that you alone bring to the world!


CCC1821 We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will.92 In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere "to the end"93 and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God's eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for "all men to be saved."94 She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven:

(Teresa of Avila) Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.95

God's love is meant to be the cause of our actions, not the result. We serve God because He has loved us so completely and unconditionally in our lives, not because we are trying to win Him over to us. The second brother in the parable of the prodigal son was the opposite: He tried to love His Father in order to earn things. God is madly in love with us already, but our backwards world makes us forget that so easily because in school and work we are constantly trying to climb ladders, receiving praise for the good we do and meriting rewards for it. God is not like that.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Homily 9-22-2013 Our Jackpot

The Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote “It is not good to have too much liberty. It is not good to have all one wants.” The readings today are a sharp reminder for us of the need to smarten up about how we deal with the allurement of possessions and the false security they offer.  Most especially, this Gospel proves that old axiom that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Perhaps that is why we are all sinners: God has dealt us a jackpot of blessings in this life, and the enormity of it sometimes tempts us to squander it just as the prodigal son had done in last week’s gospel, and the steward in today’s.

“All is grace,” says Therese of Lisieux, realizing how abundantly generous God is with us unworthy creatures.  All of us have been exceedingly blessed; All of us fall short.  And all of us, at some time, will be demanded by God to give an account of our stewardship.  If we have not lived a life of generosity and forgiveness, who will know whether we will be able to change at the last minute like the steward.  Our best bet is to live now like we want to live at the end!
Christian stewardship embraces a life lived with an awareness that all things have been given to us by God: our “jackpot”!  Our response of loving appreciation takes three concrete forms of return to God: time, talents, and treasure.  At St. Pius X Parish, this is manifest in commitments to prayer, service, and sacrificial giving.  While these three pillars of stewardship are a requirement for every Christian, they take many different forms. For one person, God may desire a great sacrifice of time in prayer; however, probably not for the mother of nine children under the age of 15!  Service also takes many forms, depending on the gifts and talents that God has blessed an individual with: for example, a wonderful singer should try to cantor at Mass.  And with donations to the Church, responsible stewardship calls for not equal gifts, but equal sacrifice.
When our Lord tells us to “make friends with dishonest wealth,” he is referring to the passing things of this earth which are “as nothing in comparison to the glory that will be revealed in us” in the life to come (Romans 8:18). “Those who are trustworthy In small matters will be trustworthy in greater ones.”
Let us show our Lord in this life that we will be good stewards of his blessings in the next, where the real jackpot is given to us: God Himself, given already in the Eucharist as a foretaste!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Homily 9-29-2013

Today I want to ask you a very important question: “Does your wardrobe testify to Jesus?” I am not speaking about your physical clothes, though a shirt with a religious message on it might be a nice way to spark a good discussion (but it might not, and I'll get to that in a minute). I am talking about the things that really speak to others even more than our clothing (or lack thereof), our hair style, tattoos/piercing, whatever.

Pope Paul VI, an under-appreciated pope says: People today listen more readily to witnesses than to teachers; and if they listen to teachers at all, it is because they are witnesses!

What kind of witnessing do we do? What does our wardrobe look like?

The rich man of Our Lord's parable today doesn't receive a very good description: not even getting his name, all we hear is that he wore the best, he ate the best, and he ignored the worst. My guess is he ignored pretty much everyone.
As much as we hate to believe it, our actions can say a lot about what we love: is it God? Family? Success? “Retirement”? Self-righteousness? What we live our life for might not be the same as what we want to live our life for, and today is a reminder that we need to keep that in check. We should ask ourselves: What do we wear on the outside? Our “clothing” is the first thing people see when they look at us. Well, the first thing people “see” about our inner person is our actions: our choices. What do we choose put on every day? Hopefully it is God, Honesty, Goodness, Charity, and Humility.

Saint John Chrysostom has this to say about today's rich man: Ashes, dust, and earth he covered with purple, and silk; or ashes, dust, and earth bore upon them purple and silk. As his garments were, so was also his food. Therefore with us also: as our food is, such let our clothing be.
This holy bishop is noticing a kind of cause and effect relationship between what we put in and what comes out. Looked at spiritually, the rich man put in self-absorption, pride, and an attachment to worldly things, and look what he puts out: living high on the hog and a lifestyle oblivious to those who have nothing but gaping wounds.
we have to be careful what we put into our souls, so that we can control what we show to others on the outside!  What we ought to welcome in our hearts is only God and the things of God, and this is done through prayer, good works and especially the Eucharist.

• Ite ad Evangelium Domini nuntiandum.
Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.

• Ite in pace, glorificando vita vestra Dominum.
Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.

This Eucharist, what we put in our bodies and souls, is God Himself. Do we let that “consume” us, “take over” our hearts, and transform us into what we receive? Today, let us consciously put on a wardrobe of choices and concrete actions that witness to Jesus, that put God at the center, and that brings others to this community where our deepest human needs are satisfied by the Living God.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Homily - Dealing with Grief and Confusion

 Today's Gospel presents us with Luke's version of the Beatitudes, which are almost identical to Matthew's, but add some condemnations as well for those who receive their rewards in this life. Jesus reminds us that in the life to come, things are going to switch.
A parishioner at Mass this past Sunday was reading the petitions. She is on the parish staff and serves as a lector or petition reader often. This time though, she broke down when she was reading the petition about those who died in the Sept. 11th attacks. After she gathered herself, she carried on through. At the end of Mass, she told me that twelve years ago today her son was turning 10. The day had a really bad effect on him. He was flooded with horror and sadness on the faces of everyone he met throughout the entire day. But the worst thing for his mom was that after school that day her 10-yr old son said to her: “Mom, I wish I hadn't been born.” He was so confused and filled with sadness that he wasn't able to separate the pain that everyone was experiencing from the happiness he was supposed to feel. With the help of his parents and friends, he eventually got through this time and began to make sense of the situation.
I don't know if today causes that type of difficulty in your own life, but I can assure you that you will have something happen in life that brings the same kind of confusion. There will be times when we will have a joyful day turned inside out and upside down, and you will feel sick to your stomach and confused and your emotions will be all over the place. I guarantee its going to happen, and I am sure that any adults here could verify that they have had times like that.
The important thing is to know how to deal with them, how to make sense of it all so we don't allow ourselves to slide into a kind of despair.
I just read a couple days ago from a book by St. Escriva: Your life is happy, very happy, though on occasions you feel a pang of sadness, and even experience almost constantly a real sense of weariness. Joy and affliction can go hand in hand like this, each in its own “man”: the former in the new man, the latter in the old.

Saint Paul tells us about these two men in his Letter to the Colossians (3:1-11)
If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
...Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly:
immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire,
and the greed that is idolatry.
...anger, fury, malice, slander,
and obscene language out of your mouths.
Stop lying to one another,
since you have taken off the old self with its practices
and have put on the new self,
which is being renewed, for knowledge,
in the image of its creator.
Here there is not Greek and Jew,...
but Christ is all and in all.

For Saint Paul, we are all composed of two persons within in: Adam, the earthly man that we have to put to death but is always trying to rise up. And Christ, the new man whom we take upon ourselves in faith.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Homily (22nd Sunday of Ord. Time) God wants your heart, because He wants your whole person.

God wants your heart, because he wants your whole person.
Today's first reading from Philemon speaks to us about a slave, Onesimus, who is returning to his Christian master (Slavery in the ancient world was quite different from our country's past; in most cases a lot closer to the movie The Butler). Paul invites the master, Philemon, to receive his runaway slave as a brother. He wants him to change his heart about who he is, even if Onesimus will remain a servant of his household. Paul is interested in a change of heart, because it is there that everything changes.
The same for Jesus: he wants your heart, because he wants your whole person. Jesus was not a crowd-pleaser trying to keep everyone happy. He was not an entertainer or celebrity trying to remain popular and admired. He was not a sell-out rock star trying to stay on the headlines.
Jesus doesn't want only our happy feelings, or our friendship-of-convenience, nor our passive admiration. Jesus wants our hearts. So today, when crowds are following Him and getting a little too comfortable with who they think this guy is, He offers a kind of loving smack in the face that is meant to wake them up: “Unless you hate your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters...
unless you hate even your own life... unless you carry your own cross and come after me... unless you renounce all your possessions, you cannot be my disciple.” These are not the words of someone seeking popularity or admiration. These are “fightin' words,” as we sometimes call them, but not in the same way we normally think of them.
We all know what to say or do to get under people's skin. With our friends, our family, and even people we barely know, we know exactly the things we should not say if we want relations to continue smoothly. When we are tired, feeling ill, or upset about something, we might be tempted to actually do exactly what we never should. If we do this, we say, “them are fightin' words.” This is kind of what Jesus does today.

Instead of demanding a conflict between persons, Jesus demands a conflict within ourselves. He forces us to examine where our hearts are: What are the most important things in my life? What do I care about the most? What do I spend my time thinking about, worrying about, hoping for? Is it God? Is it success? Is it wealth? Is it family? Is it the pleasures of an easy life?

Wake up! Jesus says. Examine your heart, and put it in its right place. God wants your heart, because he wants your whole person.

Last week we heard about humility and how it is the foundation of the spiritual life: remembering that we are not the center of the universe, that we didn't make ourselves nor did any of the blessings we have in life (even the ones we think we got on our own) are all in some way from God who works through the world, through others, and even behind the scenes of our own souls to help us become what we are.
Today, we see the next step to building a good spiritual life: love of God. Putting our heart in the right place. Jesus doesn't want us to literally “hate” the good things we have in life, except in this sense: in any way that these things become an obstacle between us and God. If my family, either directly or indirectly takes first place in my life, they are a wall between me and God. If money or popularity or earthly pleasures become all I think about or look for, then I cannot be loving Jesus as I should.

If we love God and always have Him as #1 in our life, then we can keep family, friends, possessions, popularity, whatever: as long as it is not an obstacle. As long as God has our heart and not these things; as long as we are master of all that stuff; as long as they do not hold us on a chain and prevent us from following Jesus, then we can be free to give God our heart, and give Him or entire selves.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Homily 9-1-2013 The Center of the Universe

I know this may confuse you. I am sure that a lot of you, although you might not have been able to articulate it, thought this was the case until I just stated the contrary. But it's true: I AM NOT THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE.

. I was at a dinner this past Thursday and the speaker invited me to stand up because I was a priest.  As I stood to receive the gracious applause of people there, it felt nice.  But, as I mentioned already, I am not the center of everything, and this was a good reminder to me of that in a sort of way.  The only reason they were clapping for me was because I was a priest: that means they like priests, not that they like me.  It means that sometime along their journey of life there was some priest who was kind, loving, generous, compassionate, or whatever else - not that I was any of those things.  And it was a reminder to strive for it (just like we were told last week to strive to enter through the narrow gate).
. The more exalted we are, the more we need to humble ourselves.  Any good we are, any good we do, always starts from long before it reaches our hands: maybe our parents raised us well; so many teachers touched our lives in obvious or quiet ways; friends, neighbors, relatives, perhaps even strangers, all played a part in helping us to become who we are today.  And ultimately, this reminds us that everything in life is a gift.
The fruit of this awareness should be humility, which simply says: God is God and we are not.  I am not the center of the universe.
. Humility is the foundation of the spiritual life, and the gauge for holiness. Because its opposite, PRIDE, is the quicksand of the spiritual life, upon which no house of authentic holiness can stand, since holiness = loving.  Humility it also the foundation of holiness because, as the Catechism reminds us, it is the foundation of prayer: we cannot pray unless we recognize our nothingness and our reliance on God.

. Litany of Humility of Rafael Merry del Val, a Cardinal and the Secretary of State for Pius X.  (Song by Danielle Rose)

Mary is the example of Christ's principle today: those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Sirach: alms atone for sins. Consider daily acts of humility an alms-giving. This is in all sorts of small ways: not demanding recognition; not ignoring our need of others' assistance; asking for help; losing an argument by not lying, shouting, etc; not focusing a conversation on your own; actually being interested in the concerns of others; praying for others more than for yourselves; not pretending you know everything, especially in areas you are uninformed; not judging others harshly. Every way we practice humility, is similar to giving alms to our brother. In this action we say, “I am not the center of the universe!” This is a huge step toward genuine love.

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That in the opinion of the world others may increase and I may decrease,Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Homily - 21st Sunday of OT (Parish Feast of St. Pius) - HEAVEN IS WORTH IT!

Today, as we celebrate our parish feast of St. Pius X, today's readings give us an opportunity to reflect on where we are going as a parish. I don't mean some kind of field trip, but what life is all about: Salvation, which is found through a narrow gate.
Pope Saint Gregory the Great, speaking of heaven, says: “No misfortune should distracts us from this happiness and deep joy; for if anyone is anxious to reach a destination, the roughness of the road will not make him change his mind.” Ultimately, heaven is worth the challenge of getting there.

This past February I travelled to Buffalo, NY, to visit a close college friend for a few days of skiing and catching up with him. Driving over there in the winter, I was really pleased that I had perfectly clean roads as I carried into Ohio. However, things eventually changed after sunset. When I got around Erie, PA, a storm brewed up and snow was coming down hard, but the more I turned North, the crazier it got. Eventually, there were practically no cars on the road, and I could barely see a thing. Finally, all there was to see were my headlights, an unmarked mound of snow with a road somewhere beneath it, and every 4-5 seconds, the poles marking the end of the pavement on each side. Those poles were all I had to stay on this little path and carry through to get to my destination, and boy was I poking along and hoping things kept going well.
“No misfortune should distracts us from this happiness and deep joy; for if anyone is anxious to reach a destination, the roughness of the road will not make him change his mind.”

So in the Gospel today, we have a negative example, someone that we should not imitate: “Lord, will only a few be saved?” This person is either overly curious (and we all know what happened to the cat), or they are seeking this information for a purpose: “what is the least amount of work I need to do?” It is like a student viciously calculating what they have to do to get a good grade in school.
Jesus' response, then, avoids two bad results. First, if he says “hardly anybody,” then we would all fall into fear and forget why Jesus came to die on the Cross. Second, if he says “mostly everybody,” we would all then be prey to presumption, to lazily moving through life as if heaven was a given – and there are few things that will make our love for God fade away faster than like assuming on God's love, just as a married couple that doesn't show affection will eventually deteriorate.
Rather, Jesus says “Strive to enter by the narrow gate!” You yourself, stay focused! Keep your feet moving; keep your hands on the plow; keep your nose to the grindstone; keep your eyes on the road; keep your head in the game!
Strive! Becoming a Saint, which is what we are all meant to be about here, means striving! And let's not forget that this does not mean that we are 1. self-made, or 2. entitled, another pair of parallel traps. Saints are not self-made, as if they did it on their own. No, getting through the narrow gate to heaven means that we more and more allow God to re-make us, not we ourselves. Nor is it something that we expect to come our way as we just sit around. We have to strive.
Instead of asking in our hearts “What is the least I can do to be saved?” We instead follow our patron, St. Pius X, guided by his episcopal and papal motto: instaurare omnia in Christo. These words, borrowed from Saint Paul and prayed every Monday evening in the Church's Liturgy of the Hours, are known well to us: “renew all things in Christ.” (Eph. 1:10).
It is in Jesus that we are sanctified. This means the Cross. This means striving.
As a parish family, we strive together. We stay focused together. We allow ourselves to be renewed in Christ together, here, gathered around this altar. May it be so every single week, and may we never give up on the journey, because its worth it. St. Pius X, Pray for Us.