Sunday, November 10, 2019

Death is not only the passage of our souls back to God, but one day our bodies will be reunited with our souls

Luke 20;20-28. Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time. November 10th, 2019

As we approach the end of our liturgical year, our readings are changing. We have heard Jesus talk about prayer over the last few months and all of a sudden now Jesus is teaching about the resurrection of the dead. Last week we celebrated All Saints Day-the Church triumph in heaven, and All Souls Day-the Church suffering in purgatory. All of these feasts and readings from the Sacred Scriptures remind us of the serious topic of death.

Death is a hard topic to talk about; as it can make us feel fearful- it is normal to fear death, it is normal to fear death because death is not natural for us human persons.

Yet death is a reality for us which nobody can deny. And so, we all need to face the fact that one day each and every one of us is going to die. Our age is in denial of death. In fact, in our modern world, when someone dies we don't want to face it; so instead, we celebrate their life, as if we can somehow just pass over the sadness and reality of their death. Why do we want to avoid dealing properly with death? Is it because death reminds us of sin, for death is the result of sin, of our sin…this, is why we must die? God did not create death; he does not delight in the death of his creatures—we creatures created death by our sin, not God.

I would argue we also see this practical denial of death, even in our modern funeral liturgy, we no longer have black vestments which remind us of the horror of the wages of our sin, and its sorrow, which is our death. We are told that we wear white at funerals because we are people of the resurrection. Yes, we are truly people of the resurrection, but we can't just pass over the reality of death, and jump into the resurrection. Why? Because First, we must face reality of our sin and its horrible consequence—death; first, there must be morning, wailing, and sorrow for our sin, because sin is a refusal to love, obey and serve God who is all good and deserving of all our love; first, their needs to be confession for our grave offenses against God’s infinite goodness, and then an acceptance of our just punishment—death; First, all of this, only then the resurrection.

In our Gospel today, Jesus confronts all of the errors of death in his day, which are the same as in ours, just with different wrapping paper. Jesus confronts the myths about death held by the Sadducees. The Sadducees believed in the soul, but they denied the bodily resurrection of the dead. In other words, they denied that someday God will raise our bodies from the grave in order to be reunited with our souls; and in these resurrected bodies, we will be present body and soul at the final judgment before Jesus, who will come then not as merciful redeemer but as Just Judge. The Sadducees denied that we would spend eternity for better or worse in our bodies.

For the Sadducees death consisted of just the soul returning to the bosom of Abraham- the body simply was ignored. So what does it matter? Well, the practical result of this is, is that the body just isn’t important, and if the body isn’t important, then it doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do in or with your body. You can sin in your body, but not with your soul. At the heart of the Sadducee's error, then, is that it separates the body and soul of the human person.

But, we are creatures who are body and soul; we are not a body with a soul or a soul with a body, but we are a body and soul composite, we are our body and we are our soul. This is one of the great terrors of death, our body and soul are not made to be separated, and it is sin that is the cause of this unnatural separation…if you want to know how bad sin is, look at the mystery and horror of death…the wages of sin is death.
How does this error of the Sadducees look in our day: We see it when someone gets caught in the act and gives an apology that consists of admission, not a confession, similar to the following: “Yes I did this bad thing, but that is not who I am.” But it is how you are. Our acts define who we are, what type of person we are. This is why there needs to be repentance and healing and forgiveness and transformation from Christ through his representative, the priest.

We also see this separation of the body and soul in our day, the idea that the body can be a different gender than the soul. And so, a person wrongly believes, I must mutilate my body to conform to what I think is the gender of my soul. And for your part, you must—or you will be forced, not only accept it but approve of it, thus, denying the truth of the human person as God has created, male and female he created them. (There is push to force even catholic hospitals to have to perform the “transitional mutilation…surgery”

We also see this error in everything from extreme body piercing, tattooing, to all forms of immodest dress. We see it in all forms of promiscuity, fornication and debauchery all carried out in the body… St. Paul reminds us, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.” We are to use our bodies to adore God both here at Mass, keeping them pure and undefiled by, with the grace of the Sacraments, living according to His Commandments and the teachings of His Holy Catholic Church.
After death too, we see the Sadducee’s error in a lack of respect of the body as a former temple of the Holy Spirit, by not burying the ashes of one cremated, placing them instead on the mantel of the fireplace or spreading them on the ocean or even making them into jewelry. St. Augustine, said that after their death we are so careful with the personal effects of our loved ones so that they are not lost, we should have the same care with regards to their body. The body should be buried with respect…this is one of the seven corporal works of mercy by which we will be judged…to bury the dead (by the way when the body is cremated what is left should never be called cremains, but instead called a cremated body, and it should be treated as such, a temple of the Holy Spirit and buried properly in sacred ground).

In our Gospel, Jesus points out that the Sadducees were wrong. And as we read in the book of Maccabees, the Scriptures do point out clearly the bodily resurrection of the dead and an eternity spent again in our bodies. In his condemnation, Jesus is pointing out as well all of the errors of death in our day and reveals to us the truth. Our faith tells us with certainty that the body is created as good and will be reunited with our souls after our death, at the end of the world. Jesus confirms this by answering the questions concerning marriage after the resurrection.

Death is not only the passage of our souls back to God, but one day our bodies will be reunited with our souls. So those who have already died are awaiting the resurrection of their bodies. Even the souls of the just that are now with God are not totally complete; they await the last day when their bodies will be reunited with their souls.

The truth is, is that on that last day we will be judged according to the works we performed while in the body. And this last judgment will be given to us after our souls have been reunited with our bodies—at the Last Judgment, all souls will be united to their body. For those who have done evil, their bodies will be horribly disfigured and they will suffer in those bodies eternally separated from God in hell.

But for those who have used their bodies to glorify God, they will receive a renewed body, a glorified beautiful body—the unimaginable beauty of their soul will shine through their bodies. This glorified body will have no need for food or drink or even marriage. Instead of the pleasures of food and drink and earthly marriage, there will be much, much greater pleasure. Earthly pleasures in the body are only a small hint to what pleasures God has in store for us.

Because at the end of our life, God will judge all of our deeds, all that we have done and all that we have failed to do, it is easy for us to be afraid of death and especially in the judgment that follows our death. However, St. Paul gives us encouragement in today’s second reading. He tells us that Grace is given to us in order to “encourage our hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.”

With faith and confidence in God’s grace, we can face our sins and ask God to help us each day to live this life on earth using our bodies and souls in a way that we will be ready to die and meet him. But we strive with the to use our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. We must not only treat our bodies as holy and sacred temples, but we must also use them assisted by God’s grace (again which comes to us through the Sacraments) to live holy lives, holy lives lived out in the body. Then we will be able to share in the joy of the resurrection, and live out eternity in heaven not only in our souls but in our bodies as well. If we are ready, meaning if we are holy, if we have taken care of our souls by confessing our sins and amending our lives, if we have been striving to by God grace live out God’s Holy Will in our body on earth, then far from fearing death, we will long for it so we can be with God forever and see Him face to face.

The Holy Eucharist is the key to the Resurrection of our bodies to the eternal glory of the Father, for the Holy Eucharist is the resurrected human body and blood of Jesus reunited to his human soul, along with the fullness of His divinity. It is through our Holy Communion with Him if we have faith, that gives us the grace to transform our earthly bodies into glorified bodies like Jesus in order to share in the happiness of all the angels and saints in the resurrection of the body in heaven. We become what we eat and we come to share more and more fully in the victory of Jesus until our communion with Him is consummated in an eternal union with the blessed Trinity, along with all of the angels and the Saint, whose bodies and souls together, like ours, will be glorified with the splendor of the Father love.

We live and move and have our being in Christ, and through the Sacraments, we are members of His Mystical Body, the Church, and children of Our Heavenly Father. Let us ask Jesus to help us deepen our faith, hope and charity and so be prepared to meet him face to face one day not with fear but with hearts full of joy. Even now, our bodies are being transformed into glory. Let us also continue to pray for our dead, all of the Holy Souls in purgatory. Holy Mary, Mother of God, Mother of the living not the dead, pray for us sinners, now and especially at the hour of our death. Holy Mary, we know you will honor all of the Hail Mary's we say in our life and you will be there for us at the hour of our death. Amen. God Bless you all.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

If you truly want peace, come in silence before the Holy Eucharist and in faith adore and love the living resurrected Jesus silently but really present there.

John 14: 23-29. Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time. May 26th, 2019.

The last few weeks in the Gospel readings we have been hearing Jesus calling us to the deepest form of love. It is a love that surpasses anything that man is capable of on his own power. Unfortunately, our English translations almost always use the word “love” to describe it. However, “love” is certainly not the best of words, for the love that Jesus calls us to is Charity. Charity is human love elevated and united, through grace, to divine love—elevated and united to the God who is Charity.

Charity is only possible in a human heart to the degree that that human heart trustingly offers itself in totally self-giving love to the God who loved us first- this begins at our baptism and grows through worthy reception of the Holy Mass and the other Sacraments, along with intimate daily prayer and the living out of our beautiful Catholic Faith through the human virtues animated with the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and of course, Charity.

Our Gospel today shows us how God loved us first. Our Lord here is preparing to enter into His passion and death in which he would prove his love for us with the greatest act of love the world has ever seen. Jesus in divine love, in Charity, would totally pour Himself out sacrificially for love of each one of us on the Cross-God would die on the cross for us. And He would do so, not just to save us, but in order to be able to give himself has a gift to us in the Holy Eucharist. In this sacrificial offering we discover that the God who has given us the very gift of existence, isn’t content to stop there, he offers us the gift of himself in the Person of Jesus, His Son present in Risen Body in the Holy Eucharist.

And so, it is in the preparation for His passion that Jesus says to us, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him and we shall come to him and make our home with him.” Loving Jesus first and foremost and above all else is the key to receiving the Father’s Love in its fullness. It is an act of gratitude to the God who has given us everything, and this gratitude can only be expressed in the offering of our self to the Father through Jesus in order to be united to God in Charity, to the God who is Charity.

But this love for Jesus must be shown and expressed through virtuous action. After all, love—charity is shown in deeds, not in sweet words. And so, as Jesus says, love for Him is shown in obedience to God's Holy Word. Obeying God’s Holy Word means keeping His commandments and living according to His teachings, which come to us through His Holy Catholic Church. It is in and through the Church that we have been promised the Holy Spirit to help us understand this truth and to be our Diving Helper in living it in our lives. If we do our part, the Holy Spirit, which he leaves with us, will help us to learn and understand the Church’s teaching so we can apply them in everyday life.

It is this obedience to the truth in our lives that bring us the peace that the world cannot give. Because the world rejects this truth and refuses to live in obedience to God’s Truth, the world has no peace. Rejection of the truth is ultimately a refusal to love God, by refusing to live one’s life in obedience to the truth that comes from God to the truth that leads to God. The result is a lack of peace. And if there is one thing that defines our world today, it is a lack of peace; not just exterior peace but most especially inner peace, peace of soul.

I think it was Pope VI that once said; “Peace is much more than just a lack of conflict or war.” Many people in the world mistakenly think that all of our advancements in technology are going to give us peace and make us happy. In fact, these technological advancements have led, at least partially, to the ideal that man can live a moral life, a good life, a flourishing life, apart from God and His Commandments, and especially apart from God’s first commandment which is to love Him above all else and adore and worship him according to His dictates, not our own. Our generation even seeks to use its technological advancements to overcome death apart from the power of the Resurrection of Jesus, which is the power of the divine and human love known as Charity, which is stronger than death. But even if he were to succeed, which he will not, to live forever without God and his love is not paradise but hell.

The result of this pride of man-this self-exaltation of man is nothing but an astronomical increase in the amount of crime, violence, and moral degradation in our society, which have surpassed what many of us never dreamed possible, not to mention the fear of terrorism and war. Peace is more elusive than ever. And what takes its place is a general feeling of insecurity and outright fear.

All of this has led to a degradation of man himself, who fails to see that his greatest lies in his relationship with His Creator. As result, we see a fear of giving oneself in love to the other, especially to God-this fear is manifested either in outright atheism or at least a practical atheism in which one speaks of God but lives one’s life contrary to God’s truth. We see this manifested in fear of making lifelong commitments to one’s vocation, whether in marriage or the religious life, fear of bringing new life into the world, and above all, fear of not being loved. Psychiatrists and other therapist are literally swamped with clients, depression is rampant, and suicide is epidemic.

And what is the remedy that most turn to in order to alleviate this fear, fear which stems from a lack of peace? Diversion; noise, lots of noise, TV, music, sex, computer games, pornography, drugs- baseless entertainment and amusement, the list is long. Our generation craves diversion through noise, because it lacks peace; it hates silence; it is afraid of silence.

In his book, The Power of Silence over the Dictatorship of Noise, Cardinal Sarah, who is the head of the office in the Vatican that oversees the liturgy, including how the Holy Mass is celebrated, speaks of this atheism and noisiness:

“Postmodern man seeks to anesthetize his own atheism. Noises are screens that betray a fear of the divine, a fear of real life and of death. But “what man can live and never see death? Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol?” (Ps 89:48). The Western world ends up disguising death so as to make it acceptable and joyful. The moment of demise becomes a noisy moment in which true silence is lost in weak, useless words expressing compassion.”

What is the solution? The solution is to turn back to the love of God. This begins by setting the diversions aside, especially the diversion of noise and returning in silence to the One who speaks in silence…the living and true God. In silence, alone with oneself and alone with God, we can hear the voice of God who speaks in the silence to our heart; and we can respond to Him still small voice with ours through intimate prayer, heart speaking to heart; heart giving itself to heart.

A few years ago, you may remember there was an interesting movie that was all about silence before God. It was actually entitled, “Into the Great Silence.” This three-hour movie about the lives of Carthusian monks in the French Alps had hardly any spoken words at all, and yet, the movie was a surprise hit. What is it that made this movie about silence so appealing to such a noisy world?

One of the comments about the monks in the movie is that they live in no fear…they live with peace, the peace that they have acquired through the years of silently nurturing their relationship with God. They have deepened their faith that they are indeed sons of a loving Father who loves them, each of them with a unique unfathomable love. If we only knew what it means to be a beloved son and daughter of God, we would have no fear, only trust.

In their faith in Jesus Christ and their striving to live in obedience to His words found in Sacred Scripture and interpreted by the Holy Spirit speaking through the Church, the monks have found that solace that the human heart looks for, the solace that comes from living the world behind and living for love of God alone. And this is really the test in this life isn't it?; whether we turn to human beings and to the things of this world for our solace, or turn to God alone.

Now, I am not suggesting we all become Carthusian monks, but we do need to enter more into silence in the presence of God, and we have to have the living obedient faith of Carthusian monks. In other words, we need show our love for Jesus by obeying His words, His commandments, and teachings and trusting in Him alone, and the power to this comes through silence, spending intimate time with him apart from the dictatorship of the noise that this world offers.

Again, Cardinal Sarah:

“It is necessary to protect precious silence from all parasitical noise. The noise of our “ego”, which never stops claiming its rights, plunging us into an excessive preoccupation with ourselves. The noise of our memory, which draws us toward the past, that of our recollections or of our sins. The noise of temptations or of acedia (sloth), the spirit of gluttony, lust, avarice, anger, sadness, vanity, pride—in short: everything that makes up the spiritual combat that man must wage every day. In order to silence these parasitical noises, in order to consume everything in the sweet flame of the Holy Spirit, silence is the supreme antidote.”

And so like the Carthusian monks, we need to come in contact whenever and however much we can with God in silent prayer before God, in the silence of our inner room, that is our heart and listen. And especially we need to come in silent faith before the Holy Eucharist both at Holy Mass and whenever we can before His physical presence in the tabernacle. The Holy Mass is the Sacrament instituted by Christ in order to bring the world peace because it makes truly present in the Holy Eucharist the One who is the King of Peace, along with His sacrifice of love for us, which made visible the love…no, which made visible the Charity that God has for us.*

In reality, the more that faith in the Holy Mass and the Holy Eucharist is lost, the more the Mass is ignored or treated as a time for feel-good noisy entertainment, instead of a time for a silent intimate reverential encounter with the living God in adoration and worship, the more we will lack peace and live in fear. This is why the Church has reminded us over and over again to make ample time for periods of sacred silence during Mass. But so sadly us moderns too often try to fill every moment of the Holy Mass with noise.

Thomas Merton summed this all up nicely when he wrote:

Silence is not a virtue, noise is not a sin, it is true, but the turmoil and confusion and constant noise of modern society are the expressions of the ambiance of its greatest sins—its godlessness, its despair. A world of propaganda, of endless argument, vituperation, criticism, or simply of chatter is a world without anything to live for…Mass becomes racket and confusion; prayers—an exterior or interior noise” (Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas).

Cardinal Sarah put it this way:

“Why are men so noisy during the liturgies while Christ's prayer was silent? The words of the Son of God come from the heart, and the heart is silent. Why do we not know how to speak with a silent heart? The heart of Jesus does not speak. It radiates with love because its language comes from the divine depths."

Therefore if you truly want peace, come in silence before the Holy Eucharist and in faith adore and love the living resurrected Jesus silently but really present there. It’s hard for us to do this because of the silence, I didn’t say silence is easy. The Eucharist makes no earthly noise, it is true, but it is in that sacred silence before the living God truly present in the Holy Eucharist that we will find the peace that we are looking for, the peace that the world cannot give because it is in the Holy Eucharist that we will find the strength to love God with deeds, in obedience to His truth. And then, then we will be able to give ourselves to him entirely, and He and the Father will come and make their Home in us and place His own love alive in our souls and in our hearts; then and only then will we truly have peace.

I want to end with a saying from Mother Theresa of Calcutta. She learned to love in adoration, in silent contemplation before the Eucharist. There she learned to see the true face of God in every suffering human being and showed her love for God by obedience to His word which resulted in her life of peace, lived in service to God and neighbor; and others experienced the Charity of God through her. Mother of Theresa said…

The fruit of silence is PRAYER.
The fruit of prayer is FAITH.
The fruit of faith is LOVE.
The fruit of love is SERVICE.
The fruit of service is PEACE.
And I would dare to add: the fruit of peace is complete trust in and abandonment to God by offering ourselves to God through Charity !!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Like the Israelites, God calls us too, out into the desert.

Luke 4:1-3. First Sunday in Lent. March 10th, 2019

Lent is our time to imitate our Blessed Lord and to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us into the desert.
But why the desert? Time in the desert signifies a time away from our normal cares, a turning away from the distractions of the world and worldly things which do not last, and a turning more fully toward that which last forever, the one thing in which we can truly trust--the eternal God and His unfathomable love for us.

In the Old Testament, God called Israelites out of Egypt, which represents the spirit of the world, and calls them into the desert. Why? So that apart from the distractions of Egypt, and all of its idols and false worship, He could teach them again to recognize His sovereign rights as their one True God. All so they could offer Him proper worship and adoration, not for God's sake but for their own.

In their struggles and hunger, they would see their complete dependency on God and then turn to worship Him and adoring Him alone and doing so according to His dictates. He for His part would reveal His great Love for them. He would provide for their every need, give them water from the rock of salvation, feed them with bread from heaven and lead them to the promised land flowing with milk and honey; but most of all He would take them to Himself; He would be their God and they would be His people; He would share Himself totally to Him and make them one with Him lavishing them with His divine Love, that for which they truly hungered and thirsted; He would give them life.

Like the Israelites, God calls us too, out into the desert. In the desert, filled with silence, we too can hear the small, still, voice of God speaking to us, teaching us, revealing His love to us. Apart from the distractions and noise of this world, we can come face to face with God in prayer, the God who draws near to us. It is then that we are able to honestly recognize the Creator’s sovereign rights over us. He is our Creator, the source of our existence and the loving and caring Father to whom we are called to return. We are poor creatures, completely dependent on Him and so need to reach out to Him by worshiping and adoring Him, and doing so properly. We must have an attitude of poverty because the truth is we are absolutely nothing, have nothing without God; but with Him, we have everything.

The more we come to this realization of the sovereign rights of God over us, the more we see the many ways we have replaced our dependency on God with our idols, that is, those things that we have put in the place of God and so have worshiped and adored instead of him. True religion always, if it is true, consists of adoring God. It is our supreme duty to do so; it is a matter of justice. But this duty is a duty of love, better yet a response of love that comes from the fact that God has first loved us; He has created us and wants us to return to Him.

As a result, in our effort to return to Him, we must necessarily deny ourselves of those things that have taken us or prevented us from a deeper relationship with Him. We must deny our self of those things we have loved before Him and so have, in a sense, “worshiped” before Him, especially, our love of comfort before service, pleasure before self-denial, power over others, and sinful amusements before adoration. Our inordinate attachments to these “idols” prevent us from offering proper worship and adoration of God.

And so, in order to help rid ourselves of these inordinate attachments, we are asked in Lent to take on a spirit of penance and repentance, this leads us to self-denial; in other words, to the cross—which is the way of Love of Jesus and others before ourselves. We deny ourselves by giving up comforts and delights, such as abstinence from meat or other food or drink. This sacrificing and denying of ourselves leads us to discover that nothing, nothing on this earth can fulfill our dependency and our longing for God. Think about the things people give up for love- things like meals, sleep; we sacrifice because we want to be closer to the one we love—this is what Lent is all about.

During this time of Lent when we begin to discipline ourselves so we can convert and draw closer to our God, it is then that we will experience many temptations from satan. The devil always promises more than he can give. He doesn't want our happiness; anything he tempts us with is a miserable deception. In order to test us, the devil takes advantage of our own ambitions, of our desire to be the center of attention and to seek ourselves in everything we do or plan. This self-centeredness is at the heart of wanting material things so much that we end up turning to them before God and so worshiping them. We then give God lip service if even at all. Material things then cease to be good because they separate us from God and from our fellow man. As a result, we fail to serve God and our neighbor for love of God and end up only serving ourselves, and this leads to our destruction. But Jesus tells us that we should seek only His glory. He tells us, "You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.

Ultimately God, allows these temptations from the devil to help purify us, to make us holy, to detach ourselves from the things of the earth, to lead us to where He is and by the route He wants us to take, so as to make us happy (even in a life which may not be comfortable), to make us flourish; He allows them in order to help us to grow in Christian maturity and understanding, and virtue, so as to become more effective in our apostolic work for the salvation of souls. He allows temptations above all to make us humble, very humble.

It is then very clear why we need to spend these forty days in the desert very close to our blessed Lord, fasting with Him, praying with Him and giving alms, three things which weaken the power of Satan over us. And above all, we need to stay close to Him by making use of the Sacraments, especially Holy Mass and confession, (you can’t really love or flourish without confession), all so that we may have the grace and the power to persevere in the battle and so share in Jesus’ victory over the devil and his temptations. Additionally, as well, we need to take in the Lenten devotions offered to us, like walking with Jesus along the way of His via Dolorosa, His way to Calvary in the Stations of the Cross on Fridays; also, by experiencing all the Holy Week Masses and services, like Holy Thursday and Good Friday. And especially, by spending time in adoration where we can really experience the silence of the desert but above experience the bodily presence of Jesus alongside us in our struggles.

In the temptations of Christ, we discover that Jesus has allowed Himself to be tempted for our sakes. He was tempted as one of us, having laid aside His divine power. Christ, true God and true man-made Himself like us in all things except sin and voluntarily underwent temptation. He was tempted in order to give us an example and a model of what we are to do when we too are tempted by satan and to give us hope that we too can share in His victory. St. John Vinney, the Cure of Ars, said:

“How fortunate we are, how lucky to have a God as our model. Are we poor? We have a God who is born in a stable, who lies in a manger. Are we despised? We have a God who led the way, who was crowned with thorns, dressed in a filthy red cloak and treated as a madman. Are tormented by pain and suffering? Before our eyes we have a God covered with wounds, dying in unimaginable pain. Are we being persecuted? How can we dare complain when we have a God who is being put to death by executioners? Finally, are we being tempted by the demon? We have a lovable Redeemer; he also was tempted by the demon and was twice taken up by the hellish spirit: therefore, no matter what sufferings, pains or temptations we are experiencing, we always have, everywhere, our God leading the way for us and assuring us of victory as long as we genuinely desire it.”

This lent let us ask Our Lady for help to enter into lent more deeply. Let us ask her to help us avoid the temptation of Satan, a temptation that puts personal pleasure first, and does away with personal guilt and sin and the need for redemption, satisfaction, expiation, mortifcation, and penance for our sin. A temptation that saythe s that essence of love is personal gratification and not sacrifice, a temptation that says love is not that of laying down one’s life for a friend. Our Lady can teach us how to adore Jesus, how to give ourselves entirely to him without fear in complete trust; all we need to do is to ask her. Let us pray, that the Blessed Mother, who while adoring Jesus on the Cross was given John as her son and by this gift was given to all of us as her sons and daughters as well, that she may help us to enter the desert this lent and there learn how to adore the unseen God from whom we came and to whom, through our proper adoration at Holy Mass, we are called as his little children to return. Amen.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Fourth Sunday in Advent. December 23rd., 2018

Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to Me? These are profound words coming from The Virgin Mary’s cousin Elizabeth. They not only point to the great reverence that Elizabeth had for the Blessed Mother but even more, to the reverence she had for the One of whom Mary was the mother. Elizabeth tells us, in fact, cries this out to us in her own words, words which are some of the most familiar in all of history, “Blessed art thou amongst Women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb--Jesus.

Elizabeth’s words reflect the profound adoration she had when she came into the presence of the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the True God, truly, physically present in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Additionally, Elizabeth’s own child in her womb—John the Baptist, was sanctified by being in the presence of this incarnate God, which caused the infant John to leap for Joy. What an incredible mystery, one given to us in today’s Gospel to prepare us for the coming of the Christ Child at Christ-mas.

This experience of Elizabeth, and of her child in the womb, was also experienced in some way by all who came into the stable at Bethlehem on beholding the newborn King--God Himself in the flesh, Emmanual come into the world to die in order to save men from their sin. However, before that little divine child, unlike the encounter in today’s Gospel, no words were spoken, all in the stable gazed silently at the little Divine baby in deep adoration. Probably one of the songs that best captures the image and feeling of this tranquil adoration is the song Silent Night. Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.

I am always amazed how if one truly listens with one’s heart on Christmas Eve, there is always a profound stillness that seems to be manifested in all of creation. Even amidst the greetings and the noisiness of Christmas celebrations, if you just take a few moments to listen, the whole of created reality seems to be in a type of hushed reverential awe. When I was in a parish, after I would offer Midnight Mass, as I walked back to the rectory, I would always be struck by this, and I would take some time to stop and listen to the “silence;” it seemed as if all of creation was on it’s “knees” so to speak, bowed down in adoration at the very thought of its Creator being born into the flesh as one of His own creatures. Yet, in all of creation, the only one of God’s creatures that is stirring against this manifest silence and referential awe before the incarnate God born into the world is God’s creature man.

Our age is surely an age of great noise. It is as if man is afraid of silence, afraid of what or Whom, he or she might encounter in the silence. In his book, “The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise,” Robert Cardinal Sarah, says:

“Noise is a deceptive, addictive, and false tranquilizer. The tragedy of our world is never better summed up than in the fury of senseless noise that stubbornly hates silence. This age detests the things that silence brings us to: encounter, wonder, and kneeling before God” (p. 74). He says, “Without silence, God disappears in the noise. And this noise becomes all the more obsessive because God is absent. Unless the world rediscovers silence, it is lost. The earth then rushes into nothingness” (p.80).

A few weeks ago, I made the statement, that we will never be able to keep Christ in Chriwithoutith out keeping the Mass in Christmas. The name Christmas literally means “Christ’s Mass.” Today, in the same Spirit that made Elizabeth cry out, I would also like to cry out, proclaiming that we will never be able to keep the Mass in Christmas, and so, not only keep Christ in Christmas but in our world and in our hearts, unless we recover the profound importance of Sacred Silence in our Catholic Churches.

Every Holy Mass is a Christ---Mass, for at every Holy Mass we truly celebrate “Christmas” when Jesus says through the priest, “this is My Body and this is My Blood. At God’s Words, Jesus the Eternal Word of the Father, becomes truly and physically present on this altar, no less present than He was in the crib at Bethlehem 2000 years ago. Jesus, God literally in the flesh, is reborn again on the Altar at the words of consecration and then elevated for us to adore in silent and profound reverence and adoration.

What reverence we should have; in what profound “silence” we should approach such a mystery as this. This is a priviledged time for us to be literally with Jesus in silence and let Him, as he did with John the Baptist, sanctify us in the womb of our hearts, especially as he comes sacramentally, truly, into our bodies and souls. Every Holy Mass is truly a silent night, a holy night.

In fact, every time we come into, or are present in a Catholic Church, we are like Elizabeth coming into the presence of Jesus in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We can look at the tabernacle as a type of womb, in which Jesus is contain, no less than He was in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Or we can look at it this way. Every Catholic Church is a stable, every tabernacle a crib, in which is contain that poor babe that was truly present in the stable of Bethlehem-the God-man come into the world in bodily flesh.

How did the Angels and Shepherds, how did the three wisemen act in the stable before the newborn King? How did all of those act, even the animals, who came into his true presence? Did they speak, or they did they kneel in silent adoration before their God and Creator? I think it was the latter. “This is a reminder that we should never infantalize the Babe of Bethlehem for, while He may whimper in the manager, this is the voice that made all things and judges all at the end of time” (Fr. George Rutler, Bulletin Article for this Sunday).
When we are in a Catholic Church, we are in the presence of Jesus through whom an by whom all that is was created—He is present for us, no less than he was present to those who came to adore Him in the crib at Bethlehem—this is the Mystery of our Faith. Just think of the truth of it—“And how does this happen to us, that our Lord should come to us?” (cf. Lk 1:39-45). Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk. 1:45).

A few years back, the bishop for Peoria said “that the reverence we show during Mass, expressed in words, gestures, music and surroundings, inspires reverence for all of the Catholic faith and ultimately for God himself. The bishop went on to say, “reverence at Mass starts with actions such as dressing appropriately and arriving on time; praying and reflecting on the readings of the Mass; observing the one-hour fast before Communion; repenting of one’s sins; going to confession frequently; performing acts of self denial; and showing Christian charity to others.” All of these things, he said, have been somewhat neglected in the past 50 years since the Second Vatican council and this neglect as contributed to a loss of the sense of mystery and sacredness of the Holy Mass and a loss of the realization of the holiness of the sacred space which contains the True Presence of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.

But I would argue, what has been neglected more than anything else is appropriate times of referential silence at the Holy Mass. It is as if, we have brought the noiseness of the world into the Sacred Liturgy. This as caused a profound lessening of the understanding of the mystery of the Holy Mass. St John Paul II, reminded us how necessary is silence in order to bring about reverence and a sense of mystery in the presence of Jesus, when St. John Paul said, “An aspect which must be cultivated with greater commitment in our communities is the experience of Silence…When people’s daily lives are frantic and full of noise, rediscovering the value of silence is vital.” He went on to say that, rediscovering the value of silence is vital to understanding the Holy Mass and entering into its profound mystery. Cardinal Sarah, who I quoted earlier, said, “Silence is an acoustic veil that protects the mystery…a sort of sonic iconastasis (a window into heaven).” On this earth veils are necessary for us to help us keep a sense of sacredness so as not to profane the things of God; this especially so with regards to the true presence of God in the Holy Eucharist.

In the General Instruction to the Roman Missal (explain), the Holy Spirit speaking through the Church gives us these recommondations on silence at Holy Mass:

First, in the Advent part of the Mass beginning with the penitential Rite, silence is to help us call to mind our sins and express interior sorrow for them.

After the Scripture readings and the homily, silence is to help us meditate on what we have heard and bring it into our hearts and minds.

After Christ has been born on our altars and has come Sacramentally into our bodies, at Holy Communion-Silence is a privileged time for us to pray to our God, to spend time in silent adoration with Him now substantially present in our souls. The time after Holy Communion is the most intimate time we have with our Lord. It should not be a time when we watch others going up to communion, or watch Father purify the chalice and remove the vessels from the altar; or even worse receive Him as did Judas, and immediately go off into the night.

And finally, before Holy Mass begins and after Holy Mass is over, silence is to be strictly observed in the Church to help us prepare for Holy Mass and to help us with prayerful Thanksgiving after Mass, thanking God for the privilege of attending Mass, and being in His true presence in the tabernacle. A privilege that is equal to that of Elizabeth and all those who came into the stable of Bethlehem.

Pope Francis Himself has said “At church, Catholics should spend their time in silence before Mass, preparing "to meet with Jesus" instead of engaging in "chitchat."

Times of silence far from being dead time can very much be alive, active times when we allow God to touch us, to talk to us and sanctify us in deep intimacy with Him. Silence is absolutely necessary in our prayer if we are to hear the Lord speak to us. “Silence has the capacity to open a space in our inner being, a space in which God can dwell, which can ensure that His Word remains within us, and that love for Him is rooted in our minds and hearts, and animates our lives" (Pope Emeritus Benedict).

In this time before this coming of our Lord again into our world, on this Altar and into our bodies at this Christ Mass, let us turn to the Mother of Jesus to help us prepare to adore Him in the silence of our hearts , so we can bear the fruit of the Christ Child alive in the womb of our soul, thus being able by the Holy Spirit to cry out with our very lives to the mercy and love of this God for this World and for all human persons, and to do so for their eternal salvation and ours. Hail, “Full of Grace,” the Lord is with Thee….Blessed are thou amougst Women, and bless is the fruit of thy womb—the Holy Eucharist. Amen.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time. November 11th, 2018. St. Anthony's Hospital Chapel.

Today in our Gospel, St Mark continues the theme of the Gospels of the last quite a few weeks, that of giving all of our wealth to the Lord. And so, today we hear the tale of two widows, one from the Old Testament times and one from the time of the Gospel. In both times, Old and New, there was not too many other people that were more destitute than a widow. Remember, before Christianity, and the rise of Western Christian Civilization, the dignity of woman was understood as being less than that of the household slave. So, in both of these cases the action of these two women point out something much deeper than just their great generosity, it points to the women’s motivation behind their actions.

The first widow by giving to this man of God, the great prophet Elijah, what little food she has, results in her being incredibly rewarded; in fact, her entire family is blessed through her. Same too with the widow in our gospel, by giving what little money she had in the temple, Jesus says of her, that her contribution though seemingly of insignificant value was actually worth more in the eyes of God than all those who gave of their surplus wealth, for she contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.

But what was it about both of these woman’s contribution that made them so acceptable in the eyes of the Lord? It surely wasn’t the amount or the worth of the gift! What was it that these women were actually contributing?
Isn’t it true that, each of these women’s gift represented much more than the gift of a thing, that what they were really giving was worth much more than a thing? For the gift that each of them really gave was the gift of their self to the Lord.
As a result, these women are blessed not by the value of the material gift, but by the value of the gift it signified, the gift of everything they had, and are, back to God. In the case of the woman in our first reading shown by giving food to the man of God, Elijah; in other words, by giving everything to the one who represented God on earth she was indeed giving everything to God. And the woman in the Gospel, her gift given to God in the temple, which was the symbol of Jesus on earth, she was giving everything to God.

God does not desire things from us. When, He says, as he did to the rich young man, that he desires that we sell everything we have and give it to the poor, his words are not about things per say. God is not about things, but about person. And so strictly speaking, He doesn’t want things from us; he doesn’t even want good works from us, for the sake of the good works, but instead, he wants what those goods works of donation, of time, talent and treasure should represent, our interior motives behind them, which is to love Him, and to love others for love of him; in other words, to show by our actions that we wish to give to God ourselves in an act of self-donation, freely given, acts of self-giving Love, to show our motive to give our self to God, totally.

Perhaps to even understand this in a deeper way we need to look at the very nature of God, Who God is. God is pure act. He is always acting as who He is. And who He is, is Pure Love. Love is an act of self-donation, and so God is always acting in self-donation for the sake of the other. This is the love between the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, their love is always in Pure Act. Always acting in an act of totally self-donation of love to the other. And this Act of God, this Love of God is what we are all called to enter into, beginning here on earth. With the help of God’s grace we are call to live our entire life, using everything we have, everything we do, think and say, according to the will of God in act of self-donating love. Even we give unto others, even if it be all that we possess—even if we lay down our life for them, the motive behind this act must be--giving this, doing that, as exterior act in order to express our interior motivation of total self-donation to God, total self-gift to God.

Another important aspect of the loving self-gift of these woman to God, was that it occurring precisely during great hardship and suffering in their life; in others words, at a time in their life when they were encountering the cross. Their actions also show that they were saying yes, to the cross and yes to the sacrifice of love that it represents.

By His own accepting of the cross, by suffering and dying on the cross, as one of us, Jesus shows us perfect love--offering one’s entire self for sake of his friends—Us. This is why the crucifixion of Christ points to the gift of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. Jesus died on the cross in order to give us Himself in love, for God to give Himself to us in the holy Eucharist; in this He gives us everything He has. In this, Jesus makes present the Trinitarian eternal Act of Love, of self-donation that occurs between each of the three divine Persons of the Blessed Trinity. And because this act of Jesus on the cross is an act of one of those Three Persons—namely Jesus, this sacrifice of Jesus can become actualized in our midst, truly present in our midst on this altar at this Holy Mass.

And through this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, by our full and actual participation in it; that is our interior motivation to offer our self in union with Jesus to the Father, we can literally share in the power of God’s pure eternal Act of Love, and actualize this love in our life, experience it on a daily basis and share it with others—this goes beyond emotion and feeling, because we live this most especially in midst of suffering, in the midst of the passion, in the midst of the cross…in fact, nothing good comes to us but by way of the cross in our lives, that is if we say yes to it. And if we do open our self, by our act of faith and of trust, we open ourselves up to the grace that God wishes to give us through the cross, and we become truly blessed, and others are blessed through us, for we truly become Christ-like.

And this brings us to our motives at Holy Mass, and our motives for how actions in everything we think, say or do in our life. The Second Vatican two said, Man cannot find himself except through a sincere gift of self-donation. This gift of self begins at Holy Mass, if we choose to freely say yes, and offer our self on the Altar. This act of self-donating is made possible by the Grace of the Holy Mass and it can only come to completion in perfection in our lives, through the Holy Mass.

In light of this great truth of our faith, and in light of the actions of the widow in today’s readings, let us examine our motives for being here? and Let us examine our motives behind the way we live our life. Why are we here today at Holy Mass? Is it because of an establish routine of our life, out of habit alone? Is because we feel bad, as we say, if we don’t get to Holy Mass on Sunday? Is it merely that? Is it chiefly because we adhere to a tradition rooted in our ancestry or ethnic background or family habits? Why are we here; why do we participate? And what are our motives behind how we participate? It is merely to express our self-righteousness? After all, “I am not like the others who don’t go to church on Sundays!!!” Additionally, why do I do the good deeds that I do in my life, give to the Church, or give to the poor? Is it for the same types of motivation? It is not sacrifice and oblation that the Lord wants, but the gift of pure heart, one that desires to do God’s Holy Will. And I said, “I have come to do your will Oh Lord, as a way to show love, as a way to answer in love to You—You who are Love, as a way to offer myself back to You, who as Pure Love, has offer to me, and continues to offer to me everything, including your very self.

Prayer to Our Lady of Hope
O Mary, my Mother, I kneel before you with heavy heart. The burden of my sins oppresses me. The knowledge of my weakness discourages me. I am beset by fears and temptations of every sort (especially fear of the cross). Yet I am so attached to the things of this world that instead of longing for Heaven I am filled with dread at the thought of death.
O Mother of Mercy, have pity on me in my distress. You are all-powerful with your Divine Son. He can refuse no request of your Immaculate Heart. Show yourself a true Mother to me by being my advocate before His throne. O Refuge of Sinners and Hope of the Hopeless, to whom shall I turn if not you?
Obtain for me, then, O Mother of Hope, the grace of true sorrow for my sins, the gift of perfect resignation to God's Holy Will, and the courage to take up my cross and follow Jesus.
But above all I pray, O dearest Mother, that through your most powerful intercession my heart may be filled with Holy Hope, so that in life's darkest hour I may never fail to trust in God my Savior, but by walking in the way of His commandments I may merit to be united with Him, and with you in the eternal joys of Heaven. Amen.
Mary, our Hope, have pity on us.
Hope of the Hopeless, pray for us.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Homily for Mark 10:46-52
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 27th, 2018

For the last couple of weeks, Our Lord has passionately challenged us. A couple of weeks ago, we were asked along with the rich young man, to give up everything and follow Jesus; in other words, we were asked to live our lives in imitation of Jesus, not paying attention to anything that doesn’t draw us closer to God. Last week, we were told to give up our pride and our desire for power and domination over others in order to serve them as if we were slaves of love, slaves of Christ. Today, Jesus again challenges us to believe and be converted more fully.

But again, we can say, I have already been converted; I am already a good person. Yet, today’s Gospel continues to call for a more intense daily conversion by allowing God to transform our life more completely to the way things really are—to God’s way. And so, the story of a physical healing of blindness in the Gospel manifests to us a spiritual conversion and healing it brings about.

Bartimaeus was blind and so he couldn’t “see” Jesus. But he heard the truth about Him from others and as a consequence, Bartimaeus begins to beg along the road that Jesus is coming on; this begging is a sign of his opening his heart to the gift of faith. Consequently, when Bartimaeus hears that Jesus is near, he cries out to Jesus.

Bartimaeus acts in a bold way; however, the others viewed it as nothing but rude behavior so they tell him to be quiet. Here in these others, we see manifested to us the difficulty of conversion and the resistance of the human heart to it. Contrastingly, however, it is in seeing his own sinfulness and his own great need for Jesus, followed by crying out from the depths of his heart for help, that Bartimaeus is able to break through the resistance of his own heart. Bartimaeus accepts the reality of his situation, accepts that he is totally dependent on Jesus; and in his utter poverty Bartimaeus cries out with great trust and with a great profession of Faith in Jesus, “Jesus, Son of David have pity on Me.”

Bartimaeus accepts in humility the truth and reality that he is a poor sinner. (Recall at the time of Jesus, people believed that illness was a direct result of personal sin. Bartimaeus may not have been directly culpable for his blindness, but he, like all of us sinners, was not without guilt). Yet, even so, Jesus stops and commands his disciples to: “Call him, call Bartimaeus.” It is always this way with the mercy of God; God in His Divine Mercy always reaches out to the sinner who humbly calls upon His Mercy, and he always opposes the rich, that is those who in their self-righteousness, think their own goodness is sufficient. For Bartimaeus then, Jesus rewards his humble trust and faith by saying, “What do you want me to do for you?”

It’s interesting that we are told that Bartimaeus’ faith is so great, that in response to Jesus, Bartimaeus literally “throws aside his cloak.” This seemingly minor detail is one that we could easily miss; it is however very significant. Here Bartimaeus, willingly and even with joy, gives up his most prized possession—his cloak, in order to be with Jesus.

To understand this fully, we have to “see” that the cloak of a poor person was his sole source of warmth, his sole source of protection from the elements, and of bedding for night’s sleep—it was usually their only physical possession. Bartimaeus’ jumping up and running to Jesus indicates that he seeks all his strength, security and solace in nothing but the Lord (in other words, not in any so-called security blanket of the world). Bartimaeus believes from his heart that Jesus will provide everything, everything he needs-and so he gives Jesus everything.

Every Christian, every human being, whether they know it or not, longs to hear the question that Jesus puts to Bartimaeus next, “What do you want me to do for you?” We would think that Bartimaeus would ask for money and for material possessions, for a way out of his poverty, to win the lottery, or even to overcome his enemies. But instead, all Bartimaeus ask of Jesus is to be able to “see”. At first, we might think that request is all about Bartimaeus and about his wish to see physically, but it isn’t.

Bartimaeus asks for his sight, but only so that he could “see” through the eyes of faith, in order to follow Jesus truly. Note well here that as Jesus heals him, Jesus also gives him a free choice. Our Lord says, “Go on your way.” Bartimaeus is now free to do as he pleases. Jesus doesn’t command Bartimaeus to follow Him, as was Jesus’ custom (Remember the rich young man). Unlike the rich young man, however, here the poor man, has thrown aside everything already, and so when given the choice, follows Jesus naturally. He has a healing that goes far beyond the physical and so he truly sees in faith what he is to do- He knows this from the heart- a heart full of faith and trust. The healing of his physical sight manifests the inner conversion of his heart and the healing of his spiritual blindness. And so now, being able to see Jesus with faith, Bartimaeus follows Jesus up the road…

Paradoxically, in the end, Bartimaeus who is blind comes to have faith—to see and believe the Truth, while the crowd around him, although physically able to see, nonetheless will not “see,” that is, will not believe and accept that they need radical conversion--they thought they were the good people, but they were the blind ones-they did not see who Jesus really was—the true and living God in the flesh.

The point for us here today in this beautiful story of Divine Mercy, is that we too, like Bartimaeus need Jesus to heal us of our blindness so that we can toss our cloak away; that is, toss away all those riches that we cling to besides Jesus; again, not only material riches but to throw away the cloak of pride and self-righteousness that has spiritually blinded us to our sinfulness and so blinded us to our great need for Jesus and his continual healing and forgiveness available to us in the Sacraments of the Catholic Church.

Spiritual blindness is far worse than physical blindness, because spiritual blindness blinds us to reality, blinds us to the way things really are; it blinds us to the way we really are. It’s clear then, we all, in humility, need to ask, as poor beggars, for Jesus to open our spiritual eyes in order to see ourselves as we are, to see reality as it is, not as we would like it to be or feel it is.
With our spiritual eyes open, we see, if we are honest, that one of the most, if not the most common trait of every one of us fallen human beings is an ever-present and all-encompassing egocentrism. This trait is very connected with the lust for power in order to have others serve us and fall at our feet; it’s the all about Me attitude- the “going my own way, doing it my own way” attitude of so many. But each of us must also admit to some degree, “Yes, my thoughts and desires and inclinations are spontaneously focused not on God or others for love of God, but on myself; my conveniences, my pleasures, my preferences, my possessions, my prospects, my plans, my sufferings, my desires, my aspirations, my reputation, my freedom.” Anyone who reflects a bit, who is honest, knows this to be true. All too often, we want to see things our way and not the way of Jesus.

One writer said that in this concentration on “me” many times we stubbornly cling to how we view things even in the face of strong evidence to the contrary. When someone confronts us with the truth, with strong evidence on how reality really is we say, “I am right because this is my preference and so I don’t need to consider your reasons and arguments seriously.”

It is at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, however, that we can confidently “approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” It is here, that Jesus asks each one of us, “What is that you want from me?” Jesus, I want you to heal my blindness so I can to see that you are the One that I really seek, for you alone can heal me and fulfill the deepest longing of our human heart. Help me to see not only my sins but to see you and to see the goodness that you have placed within me. And help me to see through the eyes of faith that soon, on this Sacred Altar you and your once and for all Sacrifice will become truly present before me for the sins of the whole world.

Through your heavenly mother we throw away our cloak, all that we have placed before you our God, including the false front with which we so often present ourselves before you, and in trust, we offer everything to you so that you would present it before the Face of Your Heavenly Father and ours. Jesus, You have given your everything for us in order to be able to come into us in the Holy Eucharist at Holy Communion, help us to receive you fully so as to possess you and be possessed by you fully. Give us your Holy Spirit so that we may follow you on your way, telling others about you--and not about ourselves, saying to them “Take courage, get up. Jesus is calling you? Go to him and tell him what you want him to do for you.” Finally, Jesus, son of David, Have Mercy on Me, a poor miserable sinner. That I may see. Amen.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time. October, 7th, 2018

If today, October 7th, hadn’t fallen on a Sunday we would be celebrating the Solemnity of “Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary." Considering the focus of the Gospel today is Marriage, and so also the family and life, I think it would be good to speak about the Holy Rosary, for the Holy Rosary is truly The Marriage and Family Prayer. The original title of this feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary was actually, “Our Lady of Victory;” the title was changed after Vatican II.

The feast of Our Lady of Victory was inaugurated to commemorate the miraculous naval victory of the fleet of the Holy Roman Empire’s, led by Don Juan, over the vastly superior fleet of the Ottoman Empire. It is a critically important historical event, one that we need to be aware of, particularly in light of current events. For if the battle of Lepanto had been lost, your life and mine, and our society, our country, would be very different today.

The battle of Lepanto took place on October 7th, 1571, and involved over 400 ships the largest in history till that time. The Christian fleet was outnumbered three to one, and any chance of victory was impossible by mere human strategic maneuvers. The stakes couldn’t have been higher as one of the Turkish leaders boasted that after the conquest, the first thing he would do would be to turn St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome into a mosque. And it wasn’t an empty boast, for his forebears had done this exact thing with the “St. Peter’s” of the Eastern Church—the Great Hagia Sophia. Hagia Sophia was located in what was the “Rome” of the Eastern Church, the great Christian City of Constantinople. Christian Constantinople is now present-day Islamic Istanbul, and Hagia Sophia is indeed a Mosque and all Christian symbols have been removed and defaced (remind them of this Church that they have all seen in movies etc).

So clearly, if the Battle of Lepanto had been lost, not only would this boast have most certainly become a reality—St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome being turned into a mosque, but all of Europe, then and even to the present day, including all of us in America, would be speaking Aramaic; in fact, American would not exist. Western Civilization would most likely have been wiped out, along with all its positive achievements, for which so many fail to give it credit and take for granted; for example, the founding of hospitals and the great advancements in healthcare; the creation of the university system; orphanages; the equality of women through the Indissolvability of Marriage, woman who before were treated worse than the household slave; the understanding of the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of life, made in the image and likeness of God and redeemed by the Precious Blood of Christ; the notion of a justice system that sees every person innocent until proven guilty (not guilty until they prove themselves innocent), along with justice tempered with mercy and love even toward our enemies, all of this would have been gone, along with all the intellectual achievements of Judeo-Christian Western Civilization.

Thank God, that at the time of the Battle of Lepanto, a great Dominican Pope, Pope Pius V, saw the seriousness of the situation clearly and so instructed all the Churches of Italy to pray the rosary as the battle began. The people responded. And through the faithfulness of so many Christians praying, from their heart and on their knees, the most powerful of all weapons—the weapon of the Rosary, a true miracle occurred, one which allowed the Christian fleet to win a miraculous battle against an almost invincible army, which was on the verge of subduing and oppressing all of Europe.

I think it is easy for us moderns to underestimate the power of the Rosary. Surely none of us here, but many other Catholics dismiss the Rosary as some outdated pious devotion which was done away with by Vatican II—thank God!” They say-we’re beyond that sort of thing. Those with this erroneous idea have never read the documents of Vatican II; and even more so, they have no faith.

Some other non-Catholic Christians can see the rosary as not scriptural but as an idolatrous addition to the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. Actually, however, as you know, the Rosary is entirely Scriptural; it consists of the Salutation of the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin of Nazareth, whom the Angel address not as Mary, but by the title, “Full of Grace;” and as well, of the greeting of Elizabeth, “Blessed is the fruit of thy Womb!” In the prayer of the Holy Rosary, let us not forget with whom we are dealing; we are dealing with the Great Mother of God, Mary most holy, whom we address directly as, “Holy Mary, Mother of God.

In the “Song of Song,” in the Old Testament, the question is asked, “Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?” Who is she?

She is the Woman that is mentioned in the Proto-Evangelium—the Pre-Gospel found in Genesis 3:15. Here, after Adam and Eve fell and were both expelled from Paradise, their relationship between God and each other having been severely ruptured, God gives satan his punishment, “I will put enmity between you and the Woman, between her seed and yours; you will lie in wait for her heal, and she will crush your head.” The only way there could be enmity between this Woman and satan is for the Woman to be “Immaculate, that is without sin from the first moment of her conception, never under satan’s power; another way to say this is, “Full of Grace.”

It is the Virgin Mary who will crush satan’s head; her humility will overcome his pride and his power over the earth and its inhabitants. This is why so many Statues of the Virgin depict her foot on the serpent’s head. This is not just pious imagery but soon to be historical fact. Jesus has defeated Satan, the death sentence has been pronounced, but not yet carried out; it will be carried out by Jesus own mother.

How much we need the Rosary in the great struggle that we are facing in our world today. The battle we are facing in our times is many many times greater and more important than the People of God and the world faced during the Battle of Lepanto-it is a battle for eternal life.

St. John Paul II, while he was still a cardinal, Karol Wojtyla, visited the United States back in 1976, in Philadelphia on the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of independence. At that moment, the future pope and saint prophetically said,

“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine Providence; it is trial which the whole Church, and the Polish Church, in particular, must take up. It is a trial of not only our nation and the Church, but, in a sense, a test of 2,000 years of culture and Christian civilization with all of its consequences for human dignity, individual rights, human rights and the rights of nations.”

We see this battle even within the Church. We see it not only in the crimes of the predator homosexual priests but in those bishops who not only covered up their crimes but in those who are homosexual predators themselves, and then as foxes in the hen house, deflect the attention from their own crimes by removing good innocent priests. And doing so without due process, destroying the priest's reputations and even their lives. At least supreme justice, Kavanagh, who too was judged guilty without due process, got to defend himself publically, these priests are denied that human right. We see it as well in the prelates around the world who are trying to change the Church’s teachings on Marriage and the family; for instance, calling for those who are living in adulterous unions to be allowed to receive our Blessed Lord through Holy Communion, the very Lord who in today’s Gospels called their unions, “Adulterous.” We see it in the leaders of the Church who emphasize the protection of the environment more than the salvation of souls.

We, our families, and our world, need the Rosary now more than ever. This is why Our Lady came to Fatima; she came to give us the secret to winning the battle of all battles that is raging right now in our country, in our world and our Church and family. Our Lady of Fatima asked us to pray the Rosary daily-she said it had the power to end wars. At Fatima, along with the
Rosary, she also offered us the Brown Scapular, worn as a sign of our total Consecration to her. These two indispensable spiritual weapons are actually the most powerful weapons in the world, they are means to an end, and that end is full, actual, conscious, and fruitful participation in the Holy Mass.

The Scapular worn with faith is a symbol of our consecration to Jesus through Mary. By wearing it, we ask the Blessed Mother to help us give our hearts totally to Jesus. We can do this anytime spiritually, but it is at the Holy Mass that we are called to do it definitively, by placing it, offering it, on the altar through the Immaculate Heart of Mary in union with St. Joseph. And by the prayers of the Holy Rosary, we ask Mary to help us and obtain for the grace we need to live out this self-offering in all the many aspects of our daily life, in everything we think, say or do. Then, all that we do will be done with Jesus, in Jesus and for love of Jesus, and for the love and salvation of our neighbor. This is to be the fruit of our Holy Communion, becoming one with Jesus, one with God and one with one another in God. This, and not politics or other human endeavors or weapons is how the world will be renewed, division ended, relationships mended, peace restored in our hearts, in our families, parishes, in our nation, and among nations, and most importantly, this is how souls will be saved and reunited with God forever and ever.

If we are not doing so already, let us commit today, October 7th, 2018, the Anniversary of the Victory of the Christian Fleet at Lepanto and the feast of Our Lady of Victory, to pray the rosary daily, as individuals, and also as families--"for the family that prays the rosary together stays together." Let us as well return to wearing the Brown Scapular as a sign of our consecration to Jesus through Mary.

I want to share with you quickly, something that I mentioned to many of the patient and families I serve in the Hospital. I ask, “Where is the Rosary explicitly mentioned in the Bible?” I then give them my theory, which by the way, if it is right, it has been mentioned before, but if it is wrong, then I am wrong…but I don’t think I am wrong. I say, the Rosary is mentioned in the last book of the bible which tells us that in the end Satan will be chained in hell. Satan is an angel, fallen, but still an angel. Angels are pure spirits, so that means they have no physicality, that is no body. So, if Satan has no body, what kind of chain are they going to use?

I say it is the Chain of the Holy Rosary. In other words, it will be the prayers of those little ones who accept the Kingdom of God as a child and who don’t “poo-poo” such things as the Holy Rosary. But instead, pray the Rosary daily while meditating on its mysteries, the mysteries of the life of Christ, so as to imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise—Jesus Christ, the Son of Mary, and the Son of God, truly Present on earth in the Holy Eucharist, and eternally possessing Him forever. It will be these little ones, who also wear the scapular as a sign of giving their heart totally and with complete trust, to Jesus through Mary. It is these true children of Mary, that she will use as her cohort, her army, to chain satan up in their families, in the Church, and in the world, bringing an end to satan and all the evil spirits prowling about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

In this great battle being waged in our midst against souls, it is only our faithfulness and steadfastness to the Lord that will decide the outcome. I don't mean will decide the outcome of this battle, for eventually, Mary’s Immaculate Heart will triumph as she promised, but our faithfulness will decide the outcome of our own eternal salvation, as well as the eternal salvation of millions of other souls. The stakes could not be higher, but we have hope for we have the secret to Victory-the Secret of the Most Holy Rosary and the Brown Scapular of Mount Carmel.

Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, Our Lady of Victory, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Cause of our Joy, Gate of heaven, Hope for the hopeless, pray for us sinners who have recourse to thee. Totus Tuus! Amen.