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, January 26, 2013

Homily 1-27-2013 The Unity of Christ's Body

 Last week, as we heard the account of the Wedding at Cana, we reflected on how the inferior wine of the world runs short of our desires, and we need to go to Jesus to receive the deep joy of the good wine.
That is what we heard about in the first reading. The people, after having returned from the Babylonian Exile for over forty years, are restored to life in Jerusalem. But not until now were they fully restored, for in today's reading they receive the Torah again, and this moves them in such a deep way, awakening a part of them that had been long asleep, that it moves them to tears. The Lord offers them what their hearts were longing for – a relationship of love with Him!
Today we see a glimpse of that that good wine is: it is in experiencing the liberty that Jesus brings: the freedom from the captivity of our sins but also of all evil, especially death the greatest of evils. It is Jesus alone that restores our sight to we who were blinded and could no longer see the truth of this world clearly, who couldn't behold God face-to-face until He came to deliver us.
Just as Jesus transformed the good water into the best wine, he desires today to transform the good of our culture into a deep and abiding peace and joy that the world cannot offer. For we know that our country offers us a sense of freedom, that our culture stress a profound respect for the individual. But this is only part of the truth God wishes to offer us. The glad tidings which the Lord Jesus brings to us, the poor, transcends this, lifting it up, purifying it, and making it eternally meaningful.
This deeper meaning is found in our second reading: the Pauline image of the Body of Christ from 1 Corinthians 12. This text is absolutely required reading for any Christian, and should be central for us Catholics in understanding what it means to be part of God's family. What this passage reminds us of is two critical points that come from our Baptism into Christ: we are all important, and we are all inseparably connected.
Firstly, St. Paul essentially says, we all have different roles in the Body of Christ, and they are all important, all necessary. What would the Church be like if it were full of only priests and nuns? We'd look pretty silly, and Father wouldn't have anyone to baptize! What if the married couples all desperately desired to be priests or nuns? Then where would the holy marriages be? And don't even think of saying the maintenance people aren't needed, or you will find out real fast just how much so they are!
Secondly, we are all connected. I've been thinking of this a lot lately, with Fr. Dan's surgery, Bishop D'Arcy's cancer returning, and, for the high school where I am chaplain, four funerals for current SJHS students' fathers in the past month. Indeed, for us Catholics, when one part of the body suffers, we all suffer, because of our great love and concern for each other. We know that in this life, we share in each others' sorrows and each others' joys, because the Body of Christ is inseparably connected in Jesus, in this Eucharist.
And that is the better wine Jesus offers us. Sure, liberty is a good thing, and the individual needs to be respected. But we Christians know that the best wine is offered to us in the Communion that we have in the Body of Christ. Let us pray that we may ever more and more appreciate and live this mystery of unity that is so central to our Christian life that we re-live it every single week.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Homily 1-20-2013 A Better Wine

 This world offers inferior wine. If you want the good wine, you have to go to Jesus.
Someone who just met me asked if I was 21 yet. Now I know I look really young, and I certainly still am, but I assure you that I really am 28 and have tasted good wine and I have tasted bad wine – and thanks be to God I know what's good and what's week-old, nasty skunk wine. If that was my first glass, I may be a teetotaler!
Jesus manifests Himself to His disciples with wine, at a wedding – both symbols of joy. This should remind us that joy (real, sincere joy) is a sign of God, and if we don't have joy in our lives, we might be missing out on God!
Christian Marriages are meant to be joyful because the Christian life is meant to be joyful. If you want to have real joy in your life, let Jesus lead your marriage, and always invite Mary.
Marriages always start out joyful. There really is the wine of joy to be found in a nice ceremony, then dancing, cake, etc. But sooner or later, and it may be years down the road, that wine will run out. The honeymoon phase will end, and marriage cannot run on the fumes of human euphoria forever. Neither can priesthood or any life-long commitment! This drought is where where marriages can potentially stagnate and so many people sadly just give up. They feel they have drank the wine to the end, they have bought the lie that there is nothing more for them, when this is only an invitation to more.
This pain arises because the human heart knows there is something more out there.
We have to move to something deeper, and this will demand something great of us: we have to humble ourselves before Jesus, preferably through Mary, and tell Him “we have no wine.” Then, even harder than admitting our weakness, you must “do whatever he tells you”: no matter how difficult it may seem, whether it is growing in your prayer, changing your lifestyles, converting to the teachings of the Church, whatever.
This command, “do whatever He tells you,” comes from Mary. Mary knows that it is scary to obey God completely. She also knows, as St. Paul says, that “the sufferings of this present life are nothing to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us” in Heaven. Mary is telling us: there is better wine coming! This isn't the end!
So don't settle for mediocrity. Water = natural, pure, true, Good, moral. Wine = fulfilled, elevated, transformed to an absolutely higher plane. Notice that this does NOT destroy what was there, but making it more than it already was!
Marriage is a sacrament!, i.e., an effective sign of Grace that was instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church. The spousal love of husband and wife are meant to not just symbolize God's love, but actually to make it present, that's what an efficacious sign means: I mean the difference between a picture of the Grand Canyon and actually being there. A holy sacramental marriage makes the love of Jesus for His Bride, the Church, physically present by loving daily with the same dramatic love of the Cross, the love we experience in the gift of the Eucharist – here at the wedding feast of the Lamb. As this kind of living and breathing Gospel, marriage teaches the faith of the Church. CCC 1666 The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called "the domestic church," a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity.
So let's not give up in our vocations, especially in the great sacrament of matrimony, when the inferior wine runs out. Remember that God hold the good wine until later, for those who are faithful.
 This world offers inferior wine. If you want the good wine, you have to go to Jesus.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Homily - 1/13/2013 - Baptism of the Lord

God has a plan for your life, and that plan begins and is forever summed up in your baptism. The meaning of life is found in Baptism: it is that God makes us His Beloved Children and that we are to live in such a way that brings Him the greatest pleasure and delight.
I have sometimes surprised people when I tell them that the most important day of my life was not June 11, 2011 when I was ordained a priest, nor April 25th, 2010 when I was ordained a deacon, nor my birthday nor anything else but the day I was baptized, October 14th 1984. In fact, nothing comes close to that since without Baptism I would never have had any of those other important days, because Baptism is the “doorway to the sacramental life of the Church.” My priesthood is so very important to me, but it wouldn't mean anything, it wouldn't make sense without the vocation I have received in Baptism, the mission we all have as members of the one Body of Christ.
Since God's plan for your life in found in Baptism, this sacrament must lead us to a mission, a vocation. A mission or vocation requires a clear vision of both the big picture and our part in it. That vision comes from prayer and reflection on one's life. So Baptism without prayer means little, if anything at all. Let us look at Jesus.
Jesus' mission begins with His baptism, which is not the same as ours was, since He sancitifies the waters for us to be united with Him. From that Baptism, and from His prayer, Jesus receives the Holy Spirit upon Him in great power, and the voice of the Father calling out “you are my beloved.”
A Christian, a little Christ, must do more than just receive the sacrament of Baptism in order to find their vocation, to find out how they fit into God's big plan for the salvation of the world. This can only be accomplished by prayer. We must look to Jesus as our model: though we hear almost nothing of it in the Gospels, Jesus spends 30 years in preparation for his future mission – praying, studying Scripture, learning and practicing the trade of carpentry. We have to remember that the Lord is preparing us for something, and we have to help our children (and, really, all the youth of our parish) to see that. I am sure Mary and Joseph helped Jesus those 30 years. This should be a reminder to us that a vocation grows in a family, and we learn it from those who live their life with meaning and a vision.
Although prayer gives the necessary vision for the mission we receive in Baptism, we still need prayer afterward to help us keep that in focus. This is exactly why after Jesus has a clear vision of what His life is about, he goes to the desert to pray. And even throughout the Gospels he spends time alone in prayer, sometimes entire nights keeping vigil, recalling that vision and living from it. If he failed to keep that prayer, he would lose it – just as I have seen so many friends and acquaintances get lost in this world after drifting from prayer. So pray, see, live!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Homily 1-6-2013 (Epiphany) Adoration of Our Lord: What We Were Made For!

Who made a new years resolution? Who made one that had to do with their religious practice? Very often these “new years resolutions” are not very important – that is, they have little to do with God's Will for our lives, a.k.a. our vocation to be saints. Maybe that's why so many of them fail: they never mattered much anyways. We all worship something, because we were created for it: to worship/adore God. He has willed throughout history to manifest this goal in stages from creation, through the Old Testament, completed in Christ for all peoples.
So, in today's homily, I want you to find for yourself a spiritual resolution, or let's call it a “new years revolution.” For it is truly a revolution to live a life of holiness and do our part to overthrow the chaos of evil and sin in our world. Some possibilities include: a more structured, consistent prayer life; monthly confession; make spiritual retreat; not miss Sundays / Holy Days; use Sunday as a true day of rest & restoration with God & family; read the saints (about); learn about the Bible.
In today's Gospel, we have two examples about what our vocation is meant to include. The first example is the star, and it shows us two things. 1. We have to spend ourselves (using what God gave us, sacrificially). Stars burn up, they give themselves, just like the Easter candle, representing Christ's self-sacrificial love on the cross. 2. The star shows others the way to Our Lord. Evangelize by our love, by our actions, by our words, too.
The second example of our vocation is the magi. 1. The first thing they did is they got up and went. They showed up, they responded. We also have to go and seek God out: in Church, in the sacraments, in personal prayer, in the poor and needy. Just like with n.y. resolutions, it has to be more than just a nice idea in our minds: it needs to be practiced. 2. Bring something. The magi first bring their hearts, their very selves, all their longings and pains. But they also represent those in gifts. So also at every weekend Mass we have a collection, and the procession of the bread and wine to the altar represents what we carry in our hearts – both the ordinary and the special things. 3. They adore. This is what it was all about in the first place: the came to find God, they kneel down, take off their crowns, and worship the infant king. They look at God who reveals Himself to those who seek Him. Do we do this? Do we look at God with the eyes of our souls, kneeling down and letting Him be king? We all know what the answer should be, but it's very easy for us to fall into the wrong spiritual position while we are here at Mass, or during our personal prayer time. Let us adore Him. 4. Lastly, they bring that experience home. The wise men are changed, which is one reason they leave by a different road. If we adore God, we will be changed. This shouldn't frighten you. God promises only your good. So be changed, and take it home with you: that is, take it into your everyday life, and be a different person, a person changed because you have adored God Himself, a person who has made one more step toward your only true happiness: being a saint.
So what is your New Years Revolution? Keep praying for God to show you what He wants from you. Maybe it is that basic need for 10 or 15 minutes of time dedicated specifically to God in prayer, or making Sundays holy, caring for the poor, giving up something that wastes our time/energy, regular confession, an annual retreat, whatever. You choose, with God's guidance. CCC 2697
Good intentions are nothing without a concrete, specific plan of action. For example, my aspirations to learn Italian won't go very far if I don't actually start working on it – which is why I don't speak much better than I did four years ago! So get specific and figure out how to do it. This is your first annual Epiphany gift to God, a sign of your adoration of God, a New Years Revolution toward being a saint! May Our Eucharistic King bring your good work to completion.