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.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time. October 30, 2018

October is quickly upon us. I mention this because, in October, we celebrate Pro-life month. We celebrate the gift of life given to us by God through Jesus—the image of the Father. Indeed, then Life is something to celebrate.
When we think of Pro-life, when we are called to promote life, we can, however, easily slip into the tendency to think of all the things the Church is against. Many there are who today speak of the current pro-life movement, not a “pro,” but as an “anti-movement,” i.e., anti-choice, anti-abortion, movement, etc., etc., etc.

Now, it is essential to know all the things the Church is against - we are against the evils of abortion, we are against in-vitro fertilization, experiments on human embryos, embryonic stem cell research, we are against euthanasia, artificial contraception, abuse of any kind, and against any sin against the life of the human person. By why are we against these things? The reasons have to do with so much more than prohibitions or thou shall not’s. In fact, when one understands the Church’s teachings correctly, one actually desires to follow them, for they are Spirit and Life.

I remembered a beautiful pro-life talk given by Pope Emeritus, Benedict, when he celebrated a family life conference in Spain, shortly after being named Pope. In this talk, Benedict never once spoke of prohibitions, the things that the Church is against. Instead, he spoke of the beautiful love of family life, which is the beginning of life for the whole human race. He was asked by the reporters why at the conference he was not speaking of those things the Church condemns, the evils she speaks out against? Pope Benedict responded by saying that he desired to put the conversation on, the wonderful riches of family life.

Pope Benedict back then was reminding us all that we have much to say in the wealth of our teachings about life and the family, and not just the negative restrictions-Pope Frances does the same. Actually, if we cannot understand the beauty of the life of the family—the domestic Church, which is called to be a school of love, then we cannot understand why the Universal Church is against certain things, certain things which actually destroy the family, as intended by God, and leads to a destruction of the abundant life that God wishes to bestow on all human persons.
So Today, on the threshold of the month dedicated to family and life, I’d like to again stress the wonderful good news of family life. Even though this message is often neglected in our world, today the Church wants to give us the good news of life—the Gospel of Life!

The first good news about life is that we have been created by Love, in Love, and for Love. In the beginning, Adam was created alone. This being alone did not only mean that Adam was alone without eve, but that the human being (both male and female) was alone amongst all the other creatures of the earth. The Human being was alone because he was different from the animals. Only the human being was made in God’s image and likeness, and so only the human being was and is given freedom. But what is this freedom of the human person?

It is the freedom to choose to the good and not the evil, the truth and not lies, life and not death, the freedom to choose to love and not hate, the freedom to offer oneself as a gift to the other—which is the fundamental truth about love. In this freedom, man is self-determining, in other words, he can choose to love or to sin, and by his free choice he actually creates or determines who he becomes and whether he will live a truly authentic human life in happiness, not only in heaven but beginning here on earth.

Here we discover that choice is what defines Man. To love is to freely choose our friend, to live for the other more than our self-to freely choose to give our self as a gift to our friend! This choice to love our friend begins with our relationship with God; Our Lord said in the Gospel of St. John- (15:15-16), “…I have called you friends, ...You did not choose me, I have chosen you.” I want here to emphasize the word choose or choice.

Each one of us through the grace of baptism has entered into friendship with the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. We are grafted into the Life and Love of the Most Holy Trinity, because this God, out of love, chose us while we were still sinners; as a result, the Blessed Trinity at our baptism actually began to live within us. For us humans then, the greatest act of freedom for us is not only to choose our friend-but to choose our highest friend, who is God. We choose him by giving Him the gift of our self, in and through all of the actions of our life, freely chosen. St. Pope John Paul II, stressed this over and over again in His teaching on family life. He never wanted us to relinquish our stance as pro-choice but understood in this correct way.

So, for us then, we Catholics are anything but anti-Choice. But we must use our choice correctly, because it is possible for us to chose wrongly, to chose things knowingly or unknowingly that actually destroy our freedom, happiness, and even our eternal life. We must always use our freedom of choice, to choose the truth in love. We must use our freedom to choose the path of life, not death; this is what pro-choice really means.

Choice is a word we as Catholics do not want to surrender to the modern culture, which chooses “self” over the other, which chooses death over life. It elevates selfish “choice” above everything else. And by doing this we are really elevating ourselves--the one who makes the choice, and putting ourselves as equals with God. Then we apart from God, begin deciding what is good and what is evil-true & false, what is a good choice and what is a bad choice. We then deny that we can make bad Choices, choices which on the surface appear good but which are bad because they go against reality, against God’s original design and purpose for life

We, as Catholics, want to tell the world that the choice for love is the greatest act of freedom for the human person. We are only truly free when we freely choose to love by choosing life. However, we destroy human freedom when we make bad choices such as to kill the unborn child, the mentally or physically disabled, the sick or elderly person. But I would argue, these bad choices can be the result of a misunderstanding of Human life at its very source, the sexual embrace.

The most visible human choice of love is that of a friend- to choose a lifelong spouse. The Church considers this choice of love between a man and woman, a Sacrament. The spouses promise to love, honor and obey each other freely for the rest of their lives, to freely give of themselves as a gift to each other, to lay down their lives for the sake of the other. They then carry out this oath before God and His Church by consummating it in a Sacramental marital embrace where the two literally become one flesh. In this act, God Himself wants to be present so much so, that in this act of love, a new, unique and unrepeatable life is conceived. The Church therefore, is not against sex, it is pro-sex; it has raised sex the level of the Sacred, to the level of a Sacrament. But just like anything sacred it must be used in a sacred way, that is in accordance with God’s design and God’s plan or otherwise it becomes profane, secular and dirty.

This choice of love within marriage is a covenant, which means it symbolizes the very love that Christ the bridegroom has for His bride the Church. This a love in which Christ offers Himself, His life, totally to each member of the Church. And just as mysteriously, married love somehow reflects the very love and union between the members of the Holy Trinity-Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who eternally give of themselves totally one to the other.
The married couple, of course, struggles to live out this love-it entails much self-sacrifice. The great fruit of this work however, is their children, conceived in the physical act, yes, but an act which expresses their intimate love for one another (but by the way does not cause it). The husband and wife welcome new life into the world as a blessing, not as a curse.

As a priest, I have had the privilege to observe families as they welcome a new life into this world. As they asked me to bless this new life, my heart was filled with joy at seeing the new mom and dad absolutely amazed at the miracle of their baby. All of their self-sacrifice, their self-denying, for love of one another, as born fruit in life-a new creation, made in God’s own image and likeness.

I have also seen this love in couples unable to have their own children. In the face of such suffering, these couples had a difficult choice to make. In reflection and prayer, they decide to follow the wisdom of the Church by adopting children. They decide they do not want to use their choice to conceive children in a way that goes against God’s beautiful plan for the sexual embrace; they refuse to allow misdirected science to replace a child conceived within the sacramental, loving, self-giving marital embrace of a man and women.
The adopting couple know that to go outside of this Marital embrace, even if done so with the best intentions, removes conceiving a child from the act of a free choice between the husband and wife expressed in the self-giving act of love where two become one flesh. They know, with the Church, that new life can never be separated from the gift of self-giving expressed in the marital sexual act.

The sorrow of not being able to have their own child gives way to the joy of true parenthood. The joy and love of taking a child, who might have had a lonely or abusive life, and bringing that child into their home is wonderful. I have seen these adopted children drink in, soak in the love of their parents, truly becoming a son or a daughter who realize their adopted parents as their real, true parents, all of them together becoming a true family.

I have also seen the great gift of love in long married grandparents, even in their last days that are filled with sickness and sorrow. I recall reading about a man who cared for his wife during her long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. This man cared for his wife at home with the help of some family and friends. Towards the end of her life, the poor wife even forgot who her husband of more than 60 years was. Yet, the man said that he loved his wife in her pitiable state even more than the day they married. She was still the apple of his eye, his beloved wife. She later died in his arms, gently falling into the sleep of death. What a beautiful testimony of the choice of love, the choice of life.

Today the Church recalls us to the greatness of the love of family life. How beautiful the love of the family is, how many riches it holds; that is, the family lived in imitation of the family of the Blessed Trinity, always choosing to love, always choosing to be open to life, the members always struggle with the help of God’s grace to offer themselves as gift to the other. Truly, authentic Christian family life gives life to the world!

The Church too, in celebrating life, wants to speak to the hearts of those who have used their choice wrongly, whether intentionally or unknowingly. For those who have made mistakes and failed in the choice for love and for life, the Mercy of God is available to you! God’s mercy is always greater than any of our sins, if we but only seek it through sincere repentance. The redemptive power of Christ, who came not to condemn but to give life, is available to all of us in the Sacrament of Confession. In the Sacrament, there is healing for your pain and sorrow… Behold, in Christ, all things are made new.

Beginning today, and throughout the coming month of October, let us pray, in a special way, that family life would be strengthened and sanctified. The bonds of love lived out in authentic choice have been attacked in our culture of death; it is a culture of anti-life; but we are not, we are pro-life and pro-choice, we stand for the beauty and life-giving love of the family, we stand for and defend love, and offer ourselves as gift for the life of every human Person, from conception to natural death. Let us turn to the Holy Family for help.

Let us pray: Jesus Mary and Joseph of mercy on our families. Jesus Mary and Joseph, heal our families. Jesus Mary and Joseph, save our families! Amen.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Who do YOU say that the Son of Man is?

Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 16th, 2018

This past Friday we celebrated the feast day of the Exultation of the Holy Cross. It reminds us that it is by the Holy Cross of Jesus that we are saved. Jesus, true God from True God, begotten, not made, one in being with the father, from Whom, in Whom and through Whom, the Eternal Father created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, reached down to earth as one of us, in all things but sin, yet still remaining Who is He was, is and always will be, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity—The true and Living God. This Divine Person, allowed Himself to be betrayed by His own, suffer His Passion, and be crucified. He died and was buried, but on the third day rose again in the body in order to be present in the body in the Holy Eucharist as our Heavenly Food, our only Food, for eternal life.

In light of this Eternal Truth, today, Jesus ask us, as he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” Each of us can come up with our own answers to this question? But today Jesus also is asking us the next question that he posed to his disciples, “Who do YOU say that I am?

The answer to this question may require deeper reflection than we may at first suppose. We, who believe the above-mentioned statement—that Jesus was and is the Son of the Eternal Father, who died for us, can quickly reply with the words of Peter, “You are the Christ!”

I would like to suggest that today, Jesus is asking these same questions to you and me in a different way, precisely to get us to reflect more deeply. In a different way, yes, but yet, the answers to these questions posed differently are inseparable to our answer to, “who Jesus really is?”

And so, in a different way, the first question; Who do men say is the Catholic Church? Now, we could answer; “Some say, merely a human institution, created by men, to be the opium of the people and keep them down; others, it is an institution from which sprang Western Civilization, which is and has been the cause of all the atrocities in the last two thousand years and which has and is preventing the building up of the Kingdom of men, and so peace on earth;” Others, say, an organization, that though it has done some good things in the past, nevertheless, its time has come and gone?” And finally, others, “it is a corrupt, evil organization, filled with sexually perverted priests, and the bishops who cover for them, and it needs to be wiped off the face of the earth and done away with once and for all!”

And now the Second Question posed to us today, in a different way; Who do YOU say is the Catholic Church? The answer to this question as I said, is intricately connected to the answer to, “who is the Person of Jesus Christ?” And Jesus requires that each of us give him an answer. Today, has as always been the case in the Last two thousand years, it is impossible to be indifferent to his question personally posed to each of us.

For my part, today, I answer, “The Catholic Church is truly the Mystical Body of Christ on earth, inseparable from Her Head, Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father. She is the Immaculate Bride of Christ, spotless and undefiled; She came forth from the pierced side of Jesus as He hung on the Cross, as Eve was brought forth from the side of Adam; And so, She is a Divine Institution, but made up of human children, who though sinners, some great, some small, have come forth from her maternal womb, the baptismal font, by being immersed in the blood and water still flowing from the Living Sacred Heart of Her Divine Spouse.

And so, She is our true Mother on earth. And Her faithful children love her no matter what evil some of her sinful members may be guilty of, for She is our Mother who from Her own breasts feeds and nourishes us through Her Sacraments of salvation, especially the most Blessed of which is Jesus, Her Risen Head, in the flesh, and so still present on earth in His body.

These same Sacraments were instituted by Christ Himself, and are administered by Him, to us her children, through the hands of sinful instruments like me; that is, through the men that He Himself has mysteriously chosen, and ordained and consecrated to be His Alter Christi on earth—His other selves, the priests and the bishops. The first twelve of whom, He posed the questions we heard in the Gospel today. And to the one who answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father,” Jesus chose him to be the head of the rest, the first Pope, St. Peter, who though he would go on to deny Jesus publically, nonetheless repented and followed where his master trod, himself being hung on a cross, albeit upside down. But also from whom, these first twelve bishops and priests, sadly, came Judas-a bishop and a priest and the one who would betray Jesus in secret, and with a kiss, abandoned Him up to the those who would crucify Him.

Today, Jesus begins to teach us anew, that like Him,

the Catholic Church must suffer greatly
and be rejected even by the elders, the bishops, and the priests,
and be killed, and rise after three days.

He speaks this today openly to all of us.

As His Mystical Body, The Catholic Church and her faithful members, especially Her faithful priests and bishops, will surely go where He Himself as trod. She too, and her faithful members, especially her faithful priests and bishops, like Her head, will be abandoned by their own, rejected by their own, betrayed by their own. She and her faithful members, especially her faithful priests and bishops, will enter into Her passion, and be crucified; for, Where I am there, surely there will my Disciples be. Jesus, as the Head, has suffered His passion and crucifixion, so too, the Holy Church.
But then, She, appearing to be dead to all the world, will rise again in glory and then through Her, as never before, Jesus, will draw all men to Himself, in and through the Holy Eucharist in which He is contain in all the fullness of His Humanity and in all the fullness of His Divinity.

The Church in these recent years has been truly been suffering her passion, and now it intensifies as never before, for Her crucifixion is near. She is, right now, truly being betrayed from within, from her own members, not only Her clergy but Her laity alike. But woe to whom the Holy Church, the bride of Christ is betrayed, “it would be better for them if they had never been born,” for betrayal of Her, is betrayal of Him (cf. Mt. 26;24). Being ransacked are Her sacred altars on which Jesus continues to pour out His precious blood as an offering to the Eternal Father for the sins of the whole world; Her tabernacles in which He waits day and night as a prisoner of love for souls to come to Him, are being abandoned….I ask you, “has there ever been a greater betrayal of love, of He who is Love, than this!

May we not be like Peter, and take Jesus aside and rebuke him: “Heaven forbid Lord that this happen to your Mystical Body. For Jesus will turn to us and rebuke us and say, "Get thee behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as men do."
In this light, if we are to remain faithful, Jesus summons us and tell us,

"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the gospel will save it."

It is impossible to love the Head without loving His Body, the Church. And he who does not have the Church for his Mother cannot have God for his Father (cf. Cyprian of Carthage, 258AD). Consequently, He who is not willing to give his life for his Mother is surely is not willing to give his life for Her Spouse--Jesus. And so, in persona Christi et capitis—acting in the Person of Jesus the Head, I ask you again, “Who do you say is the Catholic Church?”