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, 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.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Homily 8-18-2013

Catechism par. #575 Many of Jesus' deeds and words constituted a "sign of contradiction",321 but more so for the religious authorities in Jerusalem, whom the Gospel according to John often calls simply "the Jews",322 than for the ordinary People of God.323 To be sure, Christ's relations with the Pharisees were not exclusively polemical. Some Pharisees warn him of the danger he was courting;324 Jesus praises some of them, like the scribe of Mark 12:34, and dines several times at their homes.325 Jesus endorses some of the teachings imparted by this religious elite of God's people: the resurrection of the dead,326 certain forms of piety (almsgiving, fasting and prayer),327 the custom of addressing God as Father, and the centrality of the commandment to love God and neighbor.328
576 In the eyes of many in Israel, Jesus seems to be acting against essential institutions of the Chosen People:
- submission to the whole of the Law in its written commandments and, for the Pharisees, in the interpretation of oral tradition;
- the centrality of the Temple at Jerusalem as the holy place where God's presence dwells in a special way;

I came to set the world on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.
Jesus brings not peace but a sword?? “The Prince of Peace”??
Tough love is often misunderstood by those who receive it. “Truth will set you free, but it could also put you in jail.”
I came to set the world on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing. Fire is dangerous. Nothing touches it unchanged. Same thing with Jesus.
Jesus struck to the heart, he hits in the gut, and he gets a gut-reaction, a reflex.
Fireworks too close. Scaring/surprising Mom.
Martyrs, Padre Pio, etc.
If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire. (Catherine of Siena)

Let's not shy away from being the powerful transforming force God wants us to be for our world. They may not understand it, it may shock and scare them, they may hate us for it, but the Truth will set us free and living (and dying) like Jesus will save us.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Life through Death

Jesus uses strong words today in his parable to issue a wake-up call call to his audience, a wake-up call that we all today still need to hear, reminding us that this world and this life is not what it’s all about.
In this life, everything is about something else: ultimately, heaven.  And because this is true, we have to be as Christ says today, “rich in what matters to God.”
When I ride my bike through narrow paths, I get nervous.  If I have to cross a street or turn a corner, I’d like to be able to see what is or isn’t coming down that street or around that corner!  Otherwise, I’m hitting the brakes and creeping.  The same goes for driving a car.  In life, we need that perspective, we need to be able to see the big picture.  That is what the author of our first reading, Qoheleth, had: a big perspective.  People would come to this wise figure for advice on the deepest mysteries of life, and he helped them remember the big picture.
In our world, one of the big “blind spots” of our society is death.  We pretend we are going to live forever.   There is also a tendency to sugar-coat death and anything associated with it (such as illness) so that it is re-defined: instead of funerals we celebrate their life – as if it is wrong to hurt.  No, it is wrong to lie about death, which is really a part of life: “This very night your life will be demanded of you.”
As a priest, I can’t hide from this.  Not just the occasional funeral, but every night I pray the dying words of Jesus: “Father, Into Your Hands I commend my spirit.”  Going to bed is like a little preparation for death.
The life of a Christian is already forfeit.  The only way to keep it is to lose it.  It is like when you are surrounded by foes: if you want to survive, you have to frantically put your life in danger.  It is like jumping out of a burning building: the only way to survive is to go straight into a new danger.
This idea made me read a poem I had heard of but never really read.  It is one of the greatest Spanish poems of all time, written by Saint Teresa of Avila, or her religious name Teresa of Jesus.  The poem repeats the line: muero porque no muero, I die because I do not die.  Primarily referring to her desire for heaven to be with God, this phrase has a double meaning for me.  If we do not die to ourselves and become more united to Christ, we lose ourselves.
In Christ, death is transformed.  It is redefined.  We don’t need to be afraid of it, because if we are living out our baptism, we have already tasted it.  Buried with Christ, we rose with Him, and we are in this Mass already on the other side of death.
Let us pray that with our Living Savior we can be rich in what matters to God, we can keep the big picture in mind, and we can daily die to ourselves so as to live in Christ.