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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, 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!