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, September 30, 2017

PARISH FEAST DAY!


Audio: Click here!

Fraternal correction - how we reach out in love to help our brothers and sisters to grow in love together - is never easy.  Through the prophet Ezekiel today God calls us to this high demand of speaking the truth in charity to each other.  We are demanded by God to help each other grow, to point out each other's faults.  Marriages who have worked through difficult times know that this is never easy but truly always worth it.  For the false sense of "keeping the peace" is nothing in comparison with true peace.  Whenever I do marriage preparation with an engaged couple we always use a tool for discussion known as the FOCCUS Inventory.  One of the fun questions to discuss is "I prefer 'keeping the peace' at all costs."  I think this is fun because it can really spur true discussion: is "keeping the peace" really worth it no matter what?  Is it better to be open about things that really are robbing us of peace and communion and could ultimately sow seeds of resentment?  Indeed, there needs to be a balance between patiently enduring one another's shortcomings, and truly working for a peaceful communion that works together for a better way.  It may not always be easy to discern, but let us allow the prophet today to remind us of that need to work for building up the kingdom of God in each other's hearts and souls.  This goes for engaged couples, marriages, sibling relationships,, workplaces, and religious communities.  If we are going to do this well, we need humility, love, and justice in a radical way, after the heart of Jesus.
          In her own self-titled little way, Therese herself discovered how to help others to grow in their love.  Knowing that Jesus did not call her to be a leader as a superior to the order of Carmel in Lisieux, and one of the youngest and newest members of her community, Therese tried to quietly infuse love into her daily encounters with people.  "Jesus is my only love" she carved onto the wooden doorpost of her cell, or living quarters.
          She spread her love over the halls of the convent and into the hearts of her sisters in community.  God even gave her a couple special relationships with seminarians and eventually priests whom she took under her wing as pen pals and special recipients of her prayer.  But for Jesus, and for Therese, that was not enough.
          Marie-Francois-Therese (our patroness’ birth name, Mary-Francis-Theresa) fell ill April 1897 at the age of 24 coughing up blood for the first time, a tell-tale sign of tuberculosis.  As a sickly infant whose lungs showed early signs of illness, this was the worst that the family could have expected.  Her older sister, who at the time was abbess of the convent, asked Therese to keep writing more of her spiritual memoirs like she had ordered her (under holy obedience) a couple years ago to write childhood memories.  Without much grumbling, Therese began the work that would be published a year after her death as "the Story of a Soul" and take France and the world by fire, the fire of God's love.
          Her religious name was actually Therese of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face.  She wished to be humble and little like the infant king we adore at Christmas.  But She also honored the holy face of Jesus that was modeled from the shroud of Turin and the ancient descriptions of Jesus.  The Lord, whose face was disfigured by the fullness of love displayed in His Passion, was in these last months bringing to completion the plans He had for Therese: an invitation into the depths of self-emptying love.
          Therese lived the humility of the child Jesus in her little way every day.  And in the last six months of her life more than never, she experienced the love and justice of Jesus' Holy Face.
Saint Paul calls this love a 'Kenosis' - self-emptying.  Jesus "emptied" himself, taking the form of a slave and then being obedient unto the point of death on a cross.  If you look at the blood poured out, you could truly say Jesus emptied himself for us.  Spiritually, the Holy Spirit  is poured out from his open side into our souls.  Therese embraced this self-emptying freely in her own Passion, her own suffering.  And this was, in a mysterious way, how Jesus invited her to change the world.  As Therese wrote her story of a sould and finished her carrying of the cross until September 30th, 1897 at around 7:20pm, just over 7 years into her religious life, she never would have imagined that her words would be read around the world still over a century later and touching the hearts of so many to grow in the love of God.

And that lesson of the fruitfulness of self-emptying and obediently accepting the will of God for her life is the greatest lesson the little flower gave us.  Let us thank God for her birthday into heaven this day and ask her to continue to shower down roses upon us as we grow from her spiritual guidance.  Saint Therese, little flower, pray for us!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Oooops! The last two weeks finally arrive...



All: My apologies for being late in posting the last two weeks audio homilies.  They are found below.

I hope you enjoy them. =)

9-17 Romans Finale! - Click here!

9-24 "Common Goal" (Annual Bishop's Appeal - so a short homily!)  Click here!


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Owing Only God

AUDIO (9:30am Mass): CLICK HERE

“Love is the fulfillment of the law.”

Remember, this section of Saint Paul's letter is his general instruction of moral norms: that is, how does my faith affect every aspect of my life - how do I live as a Christian and not as a pagan worshipper of idols or of myself.  "Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice...your spiritual worship" effects everything: your calendar, your check book, your social life, your family life, your sex life, your recreation, your work.  If I keep first things first (meaning God is on the throne of my heart and not myself or anyone or anything else), then my life will look radically different than what is the norm in our society.
Today's first piece of advice, "owe no one anything" could easily be translated into the American culture in financial terms: "Have no debt."  I wonder how many fewer lives would be lost each year, how many relationships would still be intact, how many fights we would avoid with other people if we would simply fulfill this one sense of Saint Paul's words.  If you haven't heard of it, Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University is a wonderful program offered in church communities around the U.S. that really allows us to put God at the center of our finances.  I highly recommend this Christian-based approach to escaping the traps of our consumerist culture which you can find at his website (daveramsey.com), which also has many other helpful resources resources for various ages, including books and online tools.  If you feel like your finances are choking your ability to grow spiritually because you are constantly worrying and trying to stay afloat, this could be the way to learn the wisdom behind the advice of Saint Paul "owe no one anything."  And when we do that, then we can truly put into practice the rest of the verse, "except to love on another."  The word love is that same root as our english word "charity."  When we aren't slaves to our consumerist culture, we can finally practice generosity and allow our treasures to build up others.  A great gift.
            But the truth is Paul isn't referring merely to finances in this passage.  In some ways he is talking about where our allegiances lie, and the intangible kinds of "debt" we can find ourselves caught in.
            One way to discover some of our allegiances, or what we might call our "ties" to things in this world, is to simply review how we spend our so-called "free time."  For the Christian, of course, there is no such thing: our time, like our lives, like our gifts, like our breath, is not our own.  I didn't earn even one hour of life on this earth.  It's a gift from God.  My time is His - or it should be.  But still, the term can refer to those periods of time when we are able to choose more how it is ordered.  So what do we do?  What do I think about?  What do I read about or watch or play when I am "free"?  For me it is usually pretty boring: exercise, sleep, read a book, play music, listen to religious podcasts, visit with my family.  But I gotta be honest, sometimes I don't use that time as well as I should.  Sometimes that free time is spent more on me than on God, and at my worst, I can end up skimping on my prayer (doing only the "minimum" for a priest).  It is in those times I can see that I still have some serious allegiances, serious "ties" to selfish things that do not build up others.

            A saint owes no one and no thing, "except to love on another."  If "love is the fulfillment of the law," then the saint is the one who loves perfectly.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Romans Series #9 - - 12:1-2 Spiritual Worship - The Christian Challeng

Audio - Click here!

G.K. Chesterton did a great job expressing to our world the reality of so-called Christianized areas of Europe and the Americas when he said: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”  And the fact of our culture is that many people leave it at that.  We often don’t try, since there’s more than enough interesting things out there to keep our attention and distract us from the fact that our lives are really not satisfying and fulfilling without God.  Most of our culture only knows that Christianity, especially Catholics, simply have some very firm stances on things like human life (abortion, euthanasia, etc), sexuality, marriage, and poor, and just about no one outside the Church agrees with these teachings as a whole.  But they are truly a part of who we are, and we can’t sidestep them.
In chapters 12-15 we have the final section of Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans, and it is focused on moral exhortation.  This is not some last chance to squeeze things in and take care of business, but rather Paul is keeping things in proper order: the Gospel first, and the moral life second.  Relationship to Jesus always has a priority to Christian morality, even though the two can never be totally separated.  Thus Jesus tells us today: Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. In other words, we cannot truly love God without trying to follow his commands and live as Christ lived (take up our cross), and as we learn to follow the moral demands of Christianity we grow in our love of God (and neighbor). 
All of Chapter 12 is worth reading and re-reading, but I would encourage you to begin memorizing today’s two verses, which are a short summary of vocation of the Christian life.  When Paul tells us to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.  Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind – he is contrasting Christian worship against not only the pagan sacrifices of the day, but also the Jewish rituals of the Old Covenant that have been fulfilled in the work of Christ Jesus.  Hebrews 10:5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, He said: "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You prepared for me.
Our entire Christian life is summarized here.  Worship is the center of religion, and thus is the sort of pinnacle of religious practice.  But you see here that Paul makes it impossible for us to compartmentalize our religious practice from the rest of our lives.  Because we cannot simply go buy a goat and roast it (which might take a few hours) and leave it at that, and move on with life.  No, Paul makes it clear that it is we ourselves that our being sacrificed. 
And he also makes it clear that it isn’t just external or physical requirements that God is looking for – that was already included in the Old Covenant of Judaism.  Rather, God wants spiritual worship, and a renewal of our minds.  This is the whole person: body and soul.  Our entire person is what we are to offer.  Wow, that’s not easy. 
You know, the real problem with a “living sacrifice” (thanks especially our fallen human nature) is that a living sacrifice is able to get up and walk off the altar.  If the goat had known ahead of time, I’m sure it would passionately object to the proposal of sacrifice, and this is why Christianity is so challenging!  We, like Saint Peter, would rather things be quite different: God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen! But that living sacrifice is exactly what makes us Christians. 

When we offer the bread and wine, as well as the collection basket and our gifts for the food pantry, we are offering symbolically our entire selves.  This is an outward sign of our spiritual worship.  Let us pray that every day we truly allow this Eucharist to transform and renew our minds, so we can carry our crosses behind the Lord.