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!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas!


What is the meaning of Christmas?  What a difficult celebration to preach, because it means so much!  But the truth is, you don’t have to look far to find why Christmas is important.  So, today I decided to meditate on the meaning of Christmas using a bunch of short words.  In fact, I thought I’d get creative and make them all four-letter words, and I hope you do not find this offensive.  I also hope they are the only ones you hear this Christmas.  But seriously, I think they will help you follow along with me.
Hope.  Lately I’ve been raving about the word Hope in my homilies.  The Catechism tells us that 1818 The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men's activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity.  So hope by definition affirms that things are moving in the right direction, but really aren’t there yet.  We celebrate today the source of that Hope, that God has become man to lead us in the right direction.
Here.  God comes into our lives and our world.  Right into the depths and the meat of it, and that connects to this word: Mess.  God knows that our lives are broken.  He knows that we have sinned and that we have been sinned against.  He knows we are hurting and imperfect people among a bunch of others in the huge dysfunctional family known as the human race.  That is exactly why He comes, and gets involved right in the mess.  Jesus’ family history, as told in the genaeology of Matthew’s gospel, is full of mess.  Perhaps He spent much of His quiet 30 years of His life reflecting upon this mess of sin, the mess that He came to save.
1. Need.  We need Christ.  I believe I’ve already given this horse a good beating, but if we don’t let it sink in, we won’t do anything with it.  We have to examine ourselves and truly say, “I need God!”  This should be a daily cry from our heart, as Saint Augustine so poignantly puts it: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until the rest in You.”
2. Know.  We must know Christ, in two ways particularly: Pray.  We will miss the mystery of God’s presence among us if we aren’t looking, just like all that people that missed Him, ignored Him, and hated Him during His lifetime.  Also, we come to know Jesus through Mass.  Every Sunday we help to satisfy our need by coming together as broken people to be healed by the Word of God, by showing mercy to each other, and especially in the Host, the sacrificial Lamb of God given to us from this altar, Jesus Himself.  There is no better way to get to know Jesus than by daily personal prayer and the Mass.
3. Show. (Loud.)  We must show Jesus to others. If we can confess that we need Jesus and then truly begin to get to know Him and to let ourselves be loved by Him, then we will show it to others.  (Escriva)The cheerfulness of a man of God, of a woman of God, has to overflow: it has to be calm, contagious, attractive...; in a few words, it has to be so supernatural, and natural, so infectious that it may bring others to follow Christian ways
Love. This is how this we show it.  We must love, love in the way God loves us.  Love after the manner of the Cross, loving both God and others, and God through the others.
Pope, or if you wish, Time, the magazine.  The reason Pope Francis won man of the year was because he shows love, in his actions, in his words.  He is like Jesus – attractive yet so often misunderstood.  Yet the actions draw people in.
And just recently, he called all of us to do the same.  In his big document Evangelii Gaudium, or The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis demands that we be people who know Jesus and who show Jesus.
114. Being Church means being God’s people, in accordance with the great plan of his fatherly love. This means that we are to be God’s leaven in the midst of humanity. It means proclaiming and bringing God’s salvation into our world, which often goes astray and needs to be encouraged, given hope and strengthened on the way.
The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.

120. In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients. The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries”, but rather that we are always “missionary disciples”.

So that, my friends, is the meaning of Christmas for us.  In a few easy four-letter words: need, know, and show.  After we admit that we need Jesus and then get to know Jesus, that love will move us to show Jesus.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Homily 12-15-2013 Waiting Patiently

 Last week I focused on the hope that we have at the focus of Advent. Two other virtues that are part of the greater virtue of hope are focused on today. The first virtue we see is joy, which is why the priest is allowed to wear “rose” today. This 3rd Sunday of Advent is referred to as Gaudete Sunday because the first words of the Mass in the Entrance Antiphon (which we replaced today with the “Come to us O Emmanuel”) are Gaudete in Domino (“Rejoice in the Lord...for He is near!”) from Saint Paul's letter to the Philippians. The joy that the Lord is near is what we see in the Gospel today. Jesus comes to meet us as our long-awaited Messiah, the anointed one who will save us from our sins, who will heal our ills (a savior in Greek is the same word as a healer). That is why we have joy during this season.
The second virtue related to hope comes to us in the second reading, from the letter of James. He calls us to be patient, and patience can only be practiced when one knows something greater is to be expected. The word for suffering (passio) is rooted to the word for patience (patientia). Whenever we have to wait for something, it means it will require a bit of suffering. But the greater the reward, the more it is worth the wait.
In our world today, we are trained in a Pavlovian sort of fashion to expect immediate results and have instant response whether from the push of a button or a text message. But with God, it doesn't work that way. Nor with any relationship do we just always get this as we want them and when we want them. There is a required give and take. There is a bit of suffering that is necessary – the Lord demands patience from us.
One big way this happens during Advent is the rush that the world has immediately following Thanksgiving to celebrate Christmas. The radio stations, the stores, the workplaces and schools are all driving toward the great holy day, and forgetting the need to prepare well for it.

Today, the Church invites us to wait patiently, just as John the Baptist had to wait quietly for years, and even suffer imprisonment, sacrifice his freedom, and eventually lose his life before his longing for the Kingdom of God could be completely satisfied. But we know that the greater the reward, the more it is worth the wait. And a Messiah who promises us healing and salvation in this life, and eternal bliss in the next, is worth any wait, any sacrifice, any suffering, any pain, and any loss. So with patience and with joy, we continue our Advent preparations for the blessed hope in the person of Christ Jesus.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Homily 12-8-13 Making Real Preparations this Advent

 Advent is a season of hope, a hope founded on what God can do, because of what He has already done. Rom. 15:4 "Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction, that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."
How does the history of the Old Testament gives us hope?  Certainly not by the sinfulness of the people of God.  However, their maintaining of their faith in God is strong.  Most importantly, though, our hope is founded on this fact that we find in the story of the people of Israel: God has not abandoned them.  He loved them even while they were sinners, and eventually, as we celebrate in just over two weeks, He came to them, loved them unto death, and restored those who receive Him to perfect communion.
That is our Hope, God's infinite love.  And, as John the Baptist reminds us, (as even Christ Himself says in His first words in the Gospel of Mark), the hope we have should demand within us a change.  "Repent! Turn away from sin! for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!"  For Christians, repentance is the first thing and the last thing we are called to: within this one call is contained all the other demands of the Gospel.
We spend a lot of time working on the right gifts for people.  This year I drew my brother's name for the exchange.  When I told my sister, who has had him for the last two years, she looked at me with the sober eyes of a traumatic flashback and said shortly, "good luck."  He is infamously difficult to purchase for because he knows what he likes and besides those things, not much else matters.  So what did I do?  I went out and bought the first thing I could find.  I hope it works!
But seriously, we spend lots of time and energy on these gifts because they are important.  They are concrete signs of our love.  But we are tempted to get things out of priority and forget the spiritual preparation that is absolutely necessary to make this season truly beautiful and really meaningful in the long run.  This holiday season exists because of God, because of the joy we have in Jesus.   As Pope Francis said in his recently-released exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, "Joy... always endures, even as a flicker of light, born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved." why don't we spend time preparing for the gift we can give Jesus this Christmas?  What does He want more than repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand?  What greater gift can we give than to truly turn our hearts to Him, to satisfy the longing of his Sacred Heart, pierced and bleeding out of love for us.  He wants to be loved.

Indeed, let us prepare the way for the Savior to enter into our hearts. Let us clear the humble stable of our souls for Him to find a place ready for Him, small but full of warmth and love. Let us wrap up the gift of true conversion and repentance, the gift of daily prayer, the gift of weekly attendance at Mass and regular confession. This alone is the gift for which He truly longs, for which we truly long.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Homily 12-1-2013 Advent wk. 1 - Which Mountain are we on?


John Chrysostom gave a homily on Advent, describing how we await not one coming, but two during this season. At the first coming he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. At his second coming he will be clothed in light as in a garment. In the first coming he endured the cross, despising the shame; in the second coming he will be in glory, escorted by an army of angels. We look then beyond the first coming and await the second.
Malachi the prophet speaks of the two comings. And the Lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple: that is one coming.  Again he says of another coming: Look, the Lord almighty will come, and who will endure the day of his entry, or who will stand in his sight? Because he comes like a refiner’s fire, a fuller’s herb, and he will sit refining and cleansing.
These two comings are also referred to by Paul in writing to Titus: The grace of God the Savior has appeared to all men, instructing us to put aside impiety and worldly desires and live temperately, uprightly, and religiously in this present age, waiting for the joyful hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Notice how he speaks of a first coming for which he gives thanks, and a second, the one we still await.

The prophet Isaiah speaks today's words of comfort and peace in a time of great turmoil and war. He promises a future of peace – a peace founded on justice, a justice founded on truth, a truth founded on the instruction of the Lord God. It is in the “light of the Lord” that the nations will walk together in harmony to the Lord's mountain.
Advent gives us a chance to reflect on what mountain are we on? Mount Zion, where the city of Jerusalem is found, isn't much to behold. It is right on the edge of higher mountains, really what we might call bluffs or steep hills. The Mount of Olives to the East is over a hundred feet higher in elevation, and if you travel about 20 miles to the north or south of Jerusalem you will find even taller mountains than this. But none of these mountains have the Temple, the place where the Lord dwells with His people. It is to Jerusalem that they must come for that.  And one day, Isaiah says, all those mountains are coming down, and Mount Zion will be raised up forever.
In the eyes of our modern world, there are lots of other mountains taller than Christianity, taller than the Catholic faith. Some dwell on the mountain of family, other on the mountain of worldly success (in whatever way they choose to define what “success” is), and many on the mountain of entertainment and distraction from what we fear. So what mountain are we on? Do we find ourselves dwelling on The Lord's mountain that will one day be raised up forever, or are we dwelling on the peaks of the world's passing priorities?
Another image that represents this passing of things is the theme of light.  As we began Mass, the first candle of our Advent Wreath shone brightly in the darkness.  It is only when the lights of human design are destroyed and put out that we see the light that endures beyond our making.  In the winter we see the light of God's eternal truth dispel the darkness.
The Lord Jesus, the Light of the World, will come at a time we do not expect as he did in Bethlehem, and the mountains of the world will come crashing down, the false lights of the world will give way to His Truth.  Only if we build our lives on his first coming can we wait in confidence for his second coming.  
The only way to let that light shine, the only way to get to the Lord's mountain, is humility.  Let us put aside our false lights and focus on Jesus.  Let us spend this Advent shedding off deeds of darkness, waking up to the Light that is coming over the horizon, and start the challenging journey up to the mountain of the Lord's dwelling.  And as we begin this season of Advent, we find the Lord comes to us already, in a hidden way, from this altar.  May we be His Bethlehem this day and every day; may we enthrone Him as king, so that His coming brings us the peace for which our souls long.