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, 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.