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, March 31, 2013

Easter


Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ Jesus

One morning lying in bed I had trouble sleeping. As I knew the morning was approaching, I heard a bird singing a beautiful song that seemed to continually beckon me to get up, and I wanted rather to enjoy my last bit of rest. Despite the darkness of the sky, the bird did not stop. I wanted to tell it he must have messed up daylight savings time or something! But soon my alarm went off and I was up. That bird knew something that I couldn't see: despite evidence to the contrary, the sun was just around the corner, and the night was about to begin to lose its ground to the power of light.
Today we rejoice in the new life that Our Lord Jesus won for us in the great Paschal Mystery. This mystery is recounted for us in the three most solemn liturgies of the year which we celebrate on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. After establishing His memorial in the Eucharist to remain with us always, dying on the Cross to forgive our sins, and going into the realm of the dead, today our Lord Jesus has arisen to bring the light of a new day for humanity. We must let this astonish us.
This is what Saint Paul speaks of to us today in Colossians: we are called to be dead to sin and alive in Christ Jesus. Last night, 21 people made that same journey that we renewed at the beginning of Mass: through our Baptism we die with Jesus to our sinfulness and rise to a new day in His Grace.
Old Man: Adam. New Man: Christ Jesus. “Your Life is hidden with God in Christ Jesus.”

This cannot be done alone. Like the Apostles, we must remain united with each other.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Homily 3-28-2013 Holy Thursday


 We began our Lenten journey with the first public words of Jesus. When we were marked on our foreheads with ashes, many of us heard the Lord call us to conversion, saying “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Over Lent, despite our efforts, most of us have not fully done so. Perhaps we still cling to sinful tendencies, or we are still attached to the things of this world, or we still harbor within us some fear of giving up everything and following Our Lord to Calvary, to die with Him as St. Thomas invited us to a couple weeks ago. We cannot do it on our own, we need help. Humanity has failed to respond to Christ's call to holiness, and today the Lord Jesus leaves his disciples with His last words and last actions before the Good Shepherd freely lays down His life for the sheep.
The entire Bible has led us to this point in the story. The centuries of human history converge on the mysteries we recount these few days. The story of the Bible is the story of mankind's need for redemption – this is why we call it “salvation history.” We need a Savior. We are in a mess and can't get ourselves out. This sin must be dealt with.
Thanks be to God for His infinite creativity: As Pope Benedict describes in Jesus of Nazareth Part II, (p 121) Time and again, God asks for our love and waits for mankind's response. When he receives a “no,” he generously find a way to open up a new path of love for us. “He responds to Adam's no with a new overture toward man. He responds to Babel's no with a fresh initiative in history – the choice of Abraham. When the Israelites ask for a king, it is initially out of spite toward God, who prefers to reign directly over his people. Yet in the promise to David he transforms this spite into a path leading directly to Christ, David's Son.
So also with Christ, we can see a sort of transition suggested in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke: After generations have continually failed to adequately respond to the call to “repent and believe in the Gospel,” the Lord opens for us another way for healing and restoration in taking our sins upon Himself and mounting the Cross as expiation for our sins.
This is the great humility of Christ that we see played out before us today in one symbolic action. What the Letter to the Philippians says in its great Christological hymn – namely that unlike Adam, who had tried to grasp divinity for himself, Christ moves in the opposite direction, coming down from his divinity into humanity, taking the form of a slave and becoming obedient even to death on a cross – all of this is rendered visible in a single gesture. Jesus represents the whole of his saving ministry here: He divests himself of his divine splendor (symbolized in the outer garments he removes); he as it were, kneels down before us; he washes and dries our soiled feet, in order to make us fit to sit at table for God's wedding feast. (Jesus 56) He takes our dirt unto himself by this act of washing.
What we hear in the Gospel today breaks our normal sense of the way things are meant to be: the master is the servant. This echoes back to what we just recalled on Sunday, where the King and Messiah was welcomed with songs of “Hosanna to the Son of David!,” yet while he himself was riding on a donkey, the humblest of animals. These are the paradoxes that prepare us for the greater mysteries to come: a God who dies for us, who loves His own to the end; a king who rules from a tree, who reigns by giving Himself for others; a Lord who returns to us alive, still bearing the wounds of his execution. And finally, as we recall from Saint Paul's account today, a God whose humility does not stop at becoming man, nor at embracing death, nor at the shame of the cross, but even to come to us under the form of bread and wine as the perpetual memorial of his sacrifice.
The Eucharist is the great gift of Christ that recalls forever His suffering and death, and thus it relies on the actual gift that Christ makes for us tomorrow. Without the Cross, the Eucharist wouldn't make any sense. Let us imagine the scene again: Jesus knew that he was about to die. He knew that he would not be able to eat the Passover again. Fully aware of this, he invited his disciples to a Last Supper of a very special kind, that constituted his farewell; during the meal he gives them something absolutely new: he gives Himself as the true lamb and thereby institutes his Passover as the replacement of the Jewish symbol that foretold Him. (Jesus 113) Thus Christ becomes Himself the New Temple that offers the New Worship in Spirit and Truth that alone makes the Father well-pleased. This new memorial at the Last Supper is the only way that Jesus is able to help us make sense of His Passion and death: without the Eucharist, the cross is a mere execution without any discernible point to it. Yet together, Jesus is able to transform the senselessness of death into the height of beauty: self-giving love. Now death, which was once the destruction of love, becomes now the means of verifying and establishing it, of its enduring constancy given forever in the Blessed Sacrament. (God is Near us, 29-30).
This is truly love to the end. And it is here, in this Blessed Sacrament, that we, the Church, are made capable of such love ourselves. Because the Cross, which the Eucharist brings to our very souls, does not work only on a vertical level: winning our salvation by expiation from our sins, and reuniting us with God. The horizontal dimension is also present: the Cross is the source of all Charity because it is the perfect act of Charity – Jesus giving Himself to us to be with us always, until the end of the ages.
And when He gives the Eucharist to us at the Last Supper, when He washes our feet, He gives us a New Commandment along with it - we are to love as He has loved us: “as I have done for you, you should also do.” This is ultimately impossible for us on a human level: because of Original Sin, we are corrupt beyond our own powers. However, with God's grace, we are able to have pure hearts. Through the saving bath of baptism into the Paschal Mystery of Christ, we are made dead to sin and alive in Christ Jesus, we are washed clean and our hearts are capable of being pure.
In this sanctification that makes the Church by uniting it to Christ through Holy Communion, we are given this great mission to love each other and bring that move to the world: “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one another.” This is why the Eucharist is called the Sacrament of Charity. Because while it calls us to perfect love in this new commandment, it also gives us the grace to do it by uniting us with Christ. It depends on our “I” being absorbed into his - “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Gal. 2:20. (Jesus 64) Only because of this are we able of making this love as real as getting down and washing feet as a slave.
Neither are we allowed to keep this to ourselves in some sort of eternal sleepover hug-fest of sentimentality. No, we must bring the Gospel to others: “an authentically eucharistic Church is a missionary Church.” … We cannot approach the eucharistic table without being drawn into the mission which, beginning in the very heart of God, is meant to reach all people. Missionary outreach is thus an essential part of the eucharistic form of the Christian life. (Sacramentum Caritatis #84)
This command to love and to invite others into this gift of Divine Love is meant for us all, but especially in the priest. Please pray for your priests daily (even as our Pope Francis has constantly urged us to pray for him) so that we may faithfully administer God's love to you and to all in our parish, Catholic or otherwise.
Lastly, do not forget that you are all priests through your Baptism, called to offer spiritual sacrifices to the Father. Called to expiate sins in the vertical dimension of the Cross, as well as exemplify the Charity of Christ on the horizontal level in your homes, workplaces, and local communities. May Our Eucharistic Lord, who left us this perfect example tonight, enable us in this great Sacrament of Charity to do so all of our days.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Homily 3-24-2013 Passion (Palm) Sunday

Why do we come here every Sunday? Why do we feel especially devoted to the Lord in this week that we call Holy?

We come to hear the greatest story ever. The center of history. The cross transcends time, transforms the face of the world and the shape of our own stories.

The story is our story. We are present in so many ways in that story, just like God is present in so many ways in our daily life.
St. Gregory Nazianzus
Let us sacrifice ourselves to God; or rather let us go on sacrificing throughout every day and at every moment. Let us accept anything for the Word's sake. By sufferings let us imitate His Passion: by our blood let us reverence His Blood: let us gladly mount upon the Cross. Sweet are the nails, though they be very painful. For to suffer with Christ and for Christ is better than a life of ease with others. If you are a Simon of Cyrene, Mark 15:21 take up the Cross and follow. If you are crucified with Him as a robber, Luke 23:42 acknowledge God as a penitent robber. If even He was numbered among the transgressors Isaiah 53:12 for you and your sin, do you become law-abiding for His sake. Worship Him Who was hanged for you, even if you yourself are hanging; make some gain even from your wickedness; purchase salvation by your death; enter with Jesus into Paradise, Luke 23:43 so that you may learn from what you have fallen. Revelation 2:5 Contemplate the glories that are there; let the murderer die outside with his blasphemies; and if you be a Joseph of Arimath├Ža, Luke 23:52 beg the Body from him that crucified Him, make your own that which cleanses the world.1 John 1:7 If you be a Nicodemus, the worshipper of God by night, bury Him with spices. John 19:39

We are called to fuse the two together, the past and our present, by our prayerful life: our faith, hope, and love.

Thomas said last week: Let us go to die with Him.
This is what we say on this Palm Sunday, looking into the Easter Triduum. Let us take up our crosses, whatever form they are for us this year, and carry them right beside our Lord to Calvary. And there, faithful to the end, let us repeat to our Lord the words of faith spoken by the Good Thief: “Lord, Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”





Sunday, March 17, 2013

Homily 3-17-2013 (Cycle A - Lazarus) A Matter of Life and Death


Homily 3-17-2013 (Cycle A) A Matter of Life and Death
When we watch movies, especially action movies, we see situations where the hero must make decisions that determine the life and death of sometimes large groups of people, and often their own. Maybe we sometimes forget that our spiritual life, which is more real than anything on television, is also a matter of life and death.
Sin is death. Spiritual death is worse than physical death. Living forever with evil in our soul is not anything to be desired. Even if all people were sinless, death would still remain a gift to humanity, because it puts an end to the evils that we suffer in this life – but most of all, the greatest suffering on earth is what we suffer because of our own sins and the sins of others.
Ezekiel promises to the people of his time that God is planning to restore the dry bones of their current experience. After years in exile, suffering the devastation of their capital city (and the Temple!), and the horror of massive loss of life, the shame of enslavement under Babylon, the Israelites feel death is their only companion, taking place of the life and joy that were once almost tangible to them. The dry bones which represent their seemingly irredeemable existence, The Lord promises His people that these He will restore. At the same time, we see a foreshadowing of the new life in Our Lord Jesus.
In restoring Lazarus to life, we see another foreshadowing. For us Christians, we too experience some form of resurrection like Lazarus, but what Lazarus experienced on a physical level (a mere biological restoration, which we do profess in the Creed), we ourselves have already experienced in our souls. Not having yet tasted physical death, we ourselves know all too well what spiritual death tastes like. Sin stinks worse than a body dead for four days, if we pay attention to the spiritual sense of our consciences. But this does not make Jesus afraid: “Take away the stone!” He is stronger that physical death; He is stronger than spiritual death. He did not make them, but, as God, Christ can use them according to His greater plan to offer us everlasting life.
That life, Ezekiel and Paul tell us, comes from the Spirit that the Lord gives us. Paul stresses that “you are not in the flesh; you are in the spirit if the Spirit of God dwells within...The one who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through His Spirit.” What Paul is describing here is not a matter of body versus soul, nor should “flesh” be thought of as simply our physical desires. The term “Flesh” refers to living as a part of Adam, as a part of humanity enslaved by sin. Life in the Spirit, however, means living in Jesus, as a part of humanity made free from spiritual death in the body of Christ.
It would be an utter contradiction for those who are in the life of the spirit to return to a life in the flesh. That would be like Israel leaving Jerusalem to go back to the devastation, death, and slavery of Babylon. Let us flee from sin as if from death! And if we find ourselves spiritually stinky, we better go back to Confession to be restored to spiritual life. No matter where we are, as we look forward to the Holiest Week of our Church year, we take ownership of our Baptism, and say with St. Thomas “Let us go too to die with Him.” And thus dead to sin with Our Lord, leaving our life of the flesh on the Cross, we may on Easter rise to new life with Him in the Spirit.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Homily 3-10-2013 Standing up for what is right: a miniature Triduum.


Standing up for what is right: a miniature Triduum.
Today we see that standing up for what we know is right, especially for our faith in Jesus, unites us with Jesus and with His Cross.
Last week we saw the woman at the well transformed by her personal encounter with Christ and inspired to bring the message of the Gospel to others, to share in the work of evangelization. While she received a positive response from her audience, the blind man's witness today is not so well-received. Rather, this story from John ch.9 presents us with a scene of social uprising, anger, pressure, and responses of both resistance and weakness.
Jesus, as he so often happens (even if we at times forget it or ignore it), causes quite a stir with his words and his actions today. This is because those who are so attached to the status quo see Him as a threat – mostly because Jesus is honest, wants change, and knows who He is. Christ stands up for what is right, and he almost always receives persecution for it, culminating in His Cross. Indeed, Jesus is either loved or hated.
We see the reality of Christ's own words before us: No one can serve two masters. Like the Man born blind; like the Pharisees; like the man's parents; like the crowds... we must choose. Will we love Jesus or will we hate him?
This is what we see in today's imagery of light and darkness. As Saint Paul reminds us, before we encountered Jesus and were united to Him through the sacraments of the Church, we were in darkness. We were blind to the truth of Christ until we met Him and were transformed from darkness into light. And if we were raised Catholic we still know that Jesus meets us weekly in the Eucharist, and daily in prayer, and we are meant to leave that encounter as a different person. Then, we are changed, and we see the world, we see other people, we see our mission in life in a totally different way. We know we were called to be like Jesus, just like the man was called to after he was cured.
In order to see the Truth, adore its beauty, and stand up for it, we have to meet Christ. Formation of conscience, to know what is right, is the result of an honest life and a continued encounter with Jesus.
CCC 1783 Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. ...The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings. 1784 The education of the conscience is a lifelong task. … 1785 In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path, we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord's Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.
When we let Christ change us and open our eyes, we know we are called to live like Him and stand up for Truth. And if you are like Christ, you will be treated the same was He was: with persecution. This is nothing to fear! With God at out side, persecution only purifies us, draws us closer to God, makes us more saintly. In a huge storm, Trees drop their dead/dying branches more than anything else. Then they are ready to grow stronger branches and produce more fruit. So too when we stand up for what is right will we be made stronger. Jesus will find you and console you for your faithfulness.
Today we ask God for the strength to stand up for what is right, to be so transformed by our encounter with Christ that we see the Truth with confidence as it is, even when the rest of the world is blind to it. And if God's plan calls for us to suffer for that Truth, let us hide in Christ's wounds, where suffering becomes healing. And in this Holy Communion today, may His wounds heal us once more.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Homily 3-3-2013 The Woman at the Well and the New Evangelization

When our former Holy Father, Benedict XVI, the first to resign the papacy in over 600 years, took up the ministry of guiding the ship of Christ's Church, he opened with a very powerful message in his first encyclical, titled Deus Caritas Est, or God is Love. He said that “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. I want today to consider this first “big statement” with our Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI's last “big statement” as Holy Father, the Synod on the New Evangelization which united some 200 bishops for over a week to discuss what this means. First, let's be clear on what the New Evangelization means: Pope JPII coined the phrase in describing how to take the perennial, the constant vocation of Christians to spread the Good News, and update it for our modern context by giving it a “new ardor, new methods, and new expression.” Particularly, Pope John Paul II had directed us to preach the Gospel to those peoples who think they have already heard the Gospel because their culture has a Christian heritage. This is where we see our connection with Pope Benedict XVI's words in Deus Caritas Est: a Christian is not truly a Christian until there is an encounter with the Lord, a relationship of love with Jesus, of both knowing personally and being known by God.
I've been reading a book [Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry A. Weddell], with the limited free time that Lent offers me, about U.S. Catholicism. Some recent surveys are very telling about the health of the Catholic Church among Americans: over 10% of adults in the U.S. are former Catholics, and only 2.5% have come into the Church, so we are losing that battle. These former Catholics very often leave early: sometime during their teenage or college years they abandon their practice of the faith, and eventually switch religions or (more increasingly popular) opt for no formalized religion at all. From the age group of 18-25, only about 10% of Catholics say they go to Mass every week. And the reason so much of this happens falls down to this basic statistic: only 48% of self-identified Catholics say that they believe in a personal God.
Well, if Christianity is stressing a relationship of love with Jesus, and the majority of Catholics do not even know if they can relate to God personally, no wonder some would stop coming to Church. God doesn't have any grandchildren: they must be his children, directly in relationship with him. The faith of parents doesn't mean faith for children: a Christianized culture or home-life is not enough.
We need to be pro-active in our work for the new evangelization. Archbishop Gomez of LA said, “Jesus Christ did not come to suffer and to die so that he could make cultural Catholics.” No, he came because he is dying of thirst for your love, for my love, for our neighbor's love.
This is where our Gospel today can help us: the story of the Woman at the Well is like a summary of the work of evangelization, and I propose that we use this story in our own efforts of evangelization. We first meet Jesus, dying of thirst to be with us. He initiates the conversation, whether He speaks to us in the silence of our hearts or through other persons. (For the Christian, in fact, every day of prayer is like this encounter between Jesus thirsting for us, and our thirsting for Him.) And we so often are hesitant, afraid, and confused by His words, because God sees deep into the well of our souls, where we so often avoid. Perhaps we are too focused on our daily tasks or immediate needs, as the Samaritan woman was for water. But Jesus slowly reveals Himself to us, shows that He knows us more than we know ourselves, and despite our sins, still loves us. And this intimate encounter of love transforms us, it fills us so deeply that we go out and preach to others: we have to share it.
So let us share it.  We first must go through this process ourselves: we have to make the stories in the Gospel to be our own stories - to meet Jesus and encounter Him.  This is first and foremost in our daily prayer and in the sacraments of the Church.  Then, we bring the experience of that encounter to others - inviting them to meet Jesus in their prayer and in the life of the Church - as these RCIA Elect and Candidates have experienced.  If we know of non-practicing Catholics, invite them to Confession, coach them through it, and go with them to the sacrament.  “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction."  May this be so for our lives, for our families, for our neighbors.