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, January 31, 2016

Discover Love As the Core of Christian Life

One modern Christian masterpiece, and a great saint of our day in her own little way (much like our Blessed Mother Mary whose power is in her littleness), is the Story of a Soul by Therese of Lisieux.  Born in Alencon, France in 1873, she died in 1897, age 24, after about 8 years in the local convent  of Carmel.  One of her most important experiences of her spiritual journey deals with the readings from St. Paul of last week and today.  Here is an excerpt from the Autobiography used in the Office of Readings for the memorial of St. Therese on October 1:

  Since my longing for martyrdom was powerful and unsettling, I turned to the epistles of St. Paul in the hope of finally finding an answer. By chance the 12th and 13th chapters of the 1st epistle to the Corinthians caught my attention, and in the first section I read that not everyone can be an apostle, prophet or teacher, that the Church is composed of a variety of members, and that the eye cannot be the hand. Even with such an answer revealed before me, I was not satisfied and did not find peace.
I persevered in the reading and did not let my mind wander until I found this encouraging theme: Set your desires on the greater gifts. And I will show you the way which surpasses all others. For the Apostle insists that the greater gifts are nothing at all without love and that this same love is surely the best path leading directly to God. At length I had found peace of mind.
When I had looked upon the mystical body of the Church, I recognised myself in none of the members which St. Paul described, and what is more, I desired to distinguish myself more favourably within the whole body. Love appeared to me to be the hinge for my vocation. Indeed I knew that the Church had a body composed of various members, but in this body the necessary and more noble member was not lacking; I knew that the Church had a heart and that such a heart appeared to be aflame with love. I knew that one love drove the members of the Church to action, that if this love were extinguished, the apostles would have proclaimed the Gospel no longer, the martyrs would have shed their blood no more. I saw and realised that love sets off the bounds of all vocations, that love is everything, that this same love embraces every time and every place. In one word, that love is everlasting.
Then, nearly ecstatic with the supreme joy in my soul, I proclaimed: O Jesus, my love, at last I have found my calling: my call is love. Certainly I have found my place in the Church, and you gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and thus I will be all things, as my desire finds its direction.
Now let's move forward about 40 years. 8 years after her death, on March 26, 1905, Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl was born.  Frankl discovered LOVE in a totally different life-experience, when he spent the years 1942-45 in four different Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz.  By the end of the war his pregnant wife, his parents and his brother had been murdered; among his immediate family, only he and his sister survived.  He is best-known for his 1946 masterpiece Man’s Search for Meaning — a meditation on what the gruesome experience of those years taught him about the primary purpose of life: the quest for meaning, which sustained those who survived.  It began when someone whispered to him “If only our wives could see us now, and it took Frankl back to a different world...:
"But my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.
"A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life l saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth--that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way--an honorable way--in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, 'The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.'
"In front of me a man stumbled and those following him fell on top of him. The guard rushed over and used his whip on them all. Thus my thoughts were interrupted for a few minutes. But soon my soul found its way back from the prisoner's existence to another world, and I resumed talk with my loved one: I asked her questions, and she answered; she questioned me in return, and I answered."
"My mind still clung to the image of my wife. A thought crossed my mind: I didn't even know if she were still alive. I knew only one thing--which I have learned well by now: Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance.
"I did not know whether my wife was alive, and I had no means of finding out (during all my prison life there was no outgoing or incoming mail); but at that moment it ceased to matter. There was no need for me to know; nothing could touch the strength of my love, my thoughts, and the image of my beloved. Had I known then that my wife was dead, I think that I would still have given myself, undisturbed by that knowledge, to the contemplation of her image, and that my mental conversation with her would have been just as vivid and just as satisfying. 'Set me like a seal upon thy heart, love is as strong as death.'" (Song of Songs 8:6) pp. 56-58.
The Mass  - Faith (Cross, Resurrection, Eucharist).
  Hope (Heaven on earth, union with the saints forever)
Love (Cross defines love, that love is poured into us in the Eucharist)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Renewed Identity in the WORD

Sat. 5pm Fr. Reginald, OP Audio
Sun. 9am Fr. Terry Audio 
The image of Saint Paul of the Church as a Body, the Mystical Body of Christ, emphasizes the point that we are different but united, and must work together to build each other up.  So also, when you look at the entire world, we see that the Church has a unique mission for the nations, much like Israel had in the time before Christ.  They were to be a sign and a messenger of God's desire for communion with humanity.
“You can't give what you don't have.”  We see this at work in the people of Israel and in the Church.
Returning after Babylon, Nehemiah leads the people of Israel in their work of rebuilding civilization, of preserving their lives and helping them to thrive.  Walls of Jerusalem were compromised.
Ezra, the priest leader, reads the entire Torah.  Six hours.  They weep, overwhelm with emotion.  They are spiritually returning tot heir old self, and seeing the ruins in their hearts being rebuilt by the words of the Law.
Israel almost entirely lost its identity, so they had to be rebuilt externally and internally, physically and spiritually.  And precisely because God has a mission for them.  “You can't give what you don't have.”
Same in the Church.  We have at times almost lost our identity.  We need to be recreated.  It is the Word of God that does this.  And exactly for this reason we read from Scripture, from the life of Christ, throughout the year.  Let us be remade by the Word of God, allowing the Lord to build up our walls so we can engage the world.  “You can't give what you don't have.”  We need walls of identity, and we need to guard our heart from spiritual attacks of the world, the flesh and the devil.  Let the world in, but not any and all of it.  Sunday.  Prayer.  Fasting.  Mercy.  May the Lord strengthen our hearts and souls so we can share the love that he has poured into us from this Mass, from our daily prayer, and from our good works.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sunday Homily (Ordinary Time C Week 2) - Cana and growing in faith

Today Saint Paul rejoices today in the various ways the Holy Spirit, the “Lord and Giver of Life,” works within the believing community of Christians to form many parts into one body. It is a beautiful thing that we are different, for the unique strengths and weaknesses we each bear allows us to rely on each other more and experiences the give & take of love in more concrete ways, some more common and others rare. In the Gospel today, we are invited to focus especially on the communion of man & woman, bridge & groom, which as we hear in the first reading from Isaiah, is meant to be a symbol of the relationship of God to his people. This longing of God is fulfilled in a definitive way in Christ Jesus, and will be completed in heaven, when we are united in the “Wedding Feast of the Lamb.” Here in the Gospel, where Jesus reveals himself at a wedding, we see the wine run short. This is no small situation. Since weddings were celebrations that lasted for days and would have included many relatives, running out of wine would have been both an abrupt end of the party and the public humiliation of the hosts who did not even have the ability to celebrate properly.
With this in mind, Mary runs quickly to Jesus. Think, thirty years have gone by of these two together. Joseph, it is commonly understood, must have passed away sometime after Christ had learned the trade and was able to provide for his mother. Just recently Jesus went to visit his cousin John and was baptized in the Jordan River like so many others, perhaps to a bit of confusion to Mary, who knows her son's heart more than anyone but still has no more control over him than the rest of us. And yet, because she knows Jesus so well, she comes to him.
Two times are Mary's words recorded in John's Gospel, and we hear them both. They summarize Mary's life. 1 – First, looking to her son, she says “They have no wine.” Mary is an intercessor. There is not legitimate need of ours (now her children through our baptism into Christ Jesus).
2 – Second, she turns to the workers (to all of us), and says the words of advice that she has learned through her entire life. “Do whatever he tells you.” Whatever! No not as in, whatEVER, but as in “anything and everything.” Listen. Obey. Follow. Say yes. This is Mary's advice, and she backs it up with her own life, a total yes to God forever. She has already tasted the finest wine of the Father's Providence and wants us all to enjoy the same.
But here is where we find the challenge, right in the midst of the invitation. It is not easy to have this kind of Marian openness. We question. We wonder why. The sound bytes of our culture run through our heads. The disorders of our heart turn our eyes from the love we see on the Cross and in the Eucharist. Will we respond like Mary advises? How will our response of faith in 2016 be different from all the other years?

Faith is not something we alone can muster up. Faith is a gift from God. Let us beg from Jesus like the twelve did, “Give us faith!” But we should also remember, faith is like a muscle: it must be used daily if it is to get stronger. There is no way I'm going to walk into a weight room and bench press 250lbs. I would probably find myself in a hospital. But if I did 10 push-ups a day for a month, then 30, then 50, and started benching 150lbs, 185, 215, I'd get there eventually. We have to put the gift of faith into practice every day. We need to be people of prayer. We need to “do whatever he tells us” in the small ways. Then we will be not just kinda-happy Catholics who go to Mass, we will be saints whose lives are a bright light for our dark world. Mary our Mother, pray for us to grow in faith. Amen!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Baptism - Three-fold calling.

Audio (9am Mass): click here

Forgive me for starting this homily off with some doomsday language, but I think it fits this time. The Catholic Church in the United States is undergoing a critical vocations crisis. In fact, it goes beyond just the Church to all Christians. We have a serious problem on our hands that is going to endanger our future if we don't make an adjustment to get it straight. I used to say that the crisis was fatherhood: too many men are falling short of this vocation. They are choosing other things for their hearts, and are leaving wounds in their sons and daughters. But I think this is the first and most tragic cause of a deeper vocations crisis, and no, it's not a lack of priests and religious here in the U.S. It's something far worse, something that hits closer to home and leaves more devastating effects. And now I'm finally going to end the suspense for you and tell you what it is: too many of us are failing to live out our fundamental vocation as Christians. Indeed, smaller numbers of priests is not so big a problem as fewer and fewer in the pews, in the confessional, getting married, etc.: priests and religious sure would look pretty silly if there wasn't anyone else in the church. We don't make sense without a parish community.

Our Baptism is essential. Fundamental. You know, we should almost celebrate it as much as our birthday. Which is funny because I didn't know the day I was baptised until I was in college. But now I can say it: Oct. 14th , 1984 was the day I was united to Christ Jesus, freed from original sin but not from its effects, and welcomed into the membership of the Mystical Body of Christ and thus received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God, at an early age I was able to have His grace at work in my heart, which needed all the time it could get.

I think the crisis of our universal vocation has a three-part remedy. Self-knowledge; self-possession; self-gift. This comes from the Catechism #357, which says in full: Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. And he is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead.
Since grace builds upon nature (not destroying it and not replacing it but healing it and raising it higher like leaven in dough) then our baptismal calling develops further our human calling.

1 - Self-knowledge. We are in Christ a new creation. We are the salt of the earth, the light of the world. How often do we forget this and just get put into the machine of human living that we see in TV & movies, hear about on the radio, read about in books or the newspaper. We have to watch what we are feeding ourselves and make sure we are remembering who we really are. God, who does not lie, calls you his “beloved.” Do we remember that?
Also, this means learning our gifts, talents, weaknesses, wounds, and being honest about them so we can move forward to the next step in becoming truly Christian.
2 - Self-possession. When we come to know who we are, with all our weakness, we begin to (by God's help) learn how to deal with ourselves and direct ourselves towards to a goal. Only if I can conquer my heart and its passions can I become greater than the animals who do not know how to deny themselves. If you leave a steak on the floor and leave, your dog will eat it. If you leave ten steaks out... you better go to Confession!
3 - Self-gift. Love is the gift of self, and we find ourselves only when we give ourselves away. If we are Christians, we see it especially in the Cross and in the Eucharist and in the washing of the disciples feet. That is the model we are to follow, giving ourselves like that. Day in, Day out. May God help us.

Finally, another word about the Mystical Body of Christ. We are all connected. The saints are praying for you. The saints are good examples for you. Read about the saints. Watch movies about the saints. Pray to your saint for the year (see me if you need one). May our big brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ show us the three-part path to living our baptism: Self-knowledge, Self-possession, and Self-gift.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Epiphany - The Little Drummer Boy and Us


The Magi, the great and wise men, are not named or counted in sacred scripture, but traditionally have been known under the three names of Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar.  The one thing scripture does tell us about them is their three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  They are interesting gifts that foreshadow Jesus' future, a future that was for the Magi written in the skies.  The signs of the stars, which were all given abundant symbolism in ancient times, spoke clearly at the time of Christ's birth: they declared that a new king was born for the people of Israel.  And so the Magi come with these gifts, and go first to Herod, who was very concerned about what these men were up to, and what they saw foretold in the future.  Undeterred by the disguised malice of Herod, the Magi follow the star to Bethlehem - they keep on searching even when the world is resistant.
We can indeed see in the Magi a bit of ourselves here at the start of 2016.  Following Thanksgiving, the month of December gives us lots of reasons to be vulnerable and think about our lives.  With Advent we are invited to reflect on what we are hoping for, even more powerful because 2016 was right around the corner.  In Christmas (with all its festivities, gatherings, and extra time to relax out of our routine) we are allowed to look at Jesus once again.  So by now, we are probably charged like the Magi to pursue something, to search more deeply, and to worship more sincerely.  We too are in a time & place that resists, in its own quiet way, our search for the Lord.  We too feel the pull to Bethlehem.  And we too have gifts to offer Christ Jesus.
What are those gifts?  Well probably not gold, frankincense, or myrrh (but if you happen to have lots of gold to give to Jesus, I'd be happy to help arrange that for you - see me after Mass please!)  Our gifts, like in the Christmas song "The Little Drummer Boy," are a little closer to home, down-to-earth, but are in fact more important.  Being creatures, the only things we can give back to God are the things he has given us, even if we cooperated in some way to develop them.  Our life is pure gift.  Our health is a gift.  Our family (& other relationships) is a gift.  Our talents were pure gift at first, and we fostered them (perhaps wasted them, too - at least I know that is true in my case at times).  Anything we have earned is based off those other things already mentioned.  Notice that didn't mention any spiritual gifts yet: God's love, his Grace, his Mercy, the holiness and infused virtues he shares with us to free us in ways we cannot free ourselves - all gift, never earned.  So when we bring gifts to God, we are laying at His feet what He has given us, and it is beautiful.  It's like a child asking mom or dad for $20 so that they can buy you a present to show you that they love you.  And there you see the beauty of the gift: it is love.
So for 2016, with all the New Year's Resolutions that we might have made, we need to ask ourselves: what gift am I giving Christ for this new year?  Will I pray more?  Volunteer more in the local community once a month?  Will I reconcile with that person I've been estranged from?  Any of these are beautiful signs of love for the God who loves you and has given you everything.  Pray for the rest of this Mass about your 2016 gift to the Lord, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you to pursue that star.  Amen.