Thursday, December 31, 2009

And so this is why we celebrate this Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God; it is because of her that we are able to celebrate Christmas.

Solemnity of Holy Mary Mother of God. Jan. 1st, 2010

I want to begin by wishing everyone a very blessed New Year. With this great feast of Mary Mother of God we come to the end of the Octave of Christmas; that eight days of solemn celebration of the nativity of our Lord. This Solemn feast of our Lady is a relatively new solemnity in which the Church desires to draws us more deeply into the mystery of the incarnation of our Lord. In other words, the Church wants us to contemplate and consider what truly happen on that blessed night two thousand years ago we now call Christmas, and to do so in order to grow deeper in our knowledge of and our love for our God and so enter into a deep abiding union with Him.
Hopefully we know the catechism's answer of what happened that night: that the incarnation was when the invisible God became visible in the flesh which He took from the Blessed Virgin Mary. Now the whole world can ‘see’ its God because He actually condescended from heaven to become one of us, physically born of the same Blessed Virgin Mary on Christmas. Now in Christ the fullness of deity resides in bodily form. But what did the birth of Jesus really do for us? Perhaps to answer this question we could quickly take a look at what the world was like before Jesus’ birth.
Well to sum it up in just one word, the world was cruel. The human person had no value; people were only valued only in so much as what they could produce. Woman were consider less than slaves, for the most part only consider the personal property of their husbands; property which could be discarded for any reason whatsoever. There was terrible, terrible immorality, dishonesty, and cruelty--everywhere. Although it’s hard to believe, conditions back then were worse then than they are now.
You see, back then there wasn’t much love for God because God in the hearts and minds of almost everyone, including the Jews, was so very far away. He was in His heavens light years away, infinitely distant. God, for average person, was a Divine Being who had to be pacified; God was an angry God who had to be made calm. So awesome was He (and His is awesome) that no one was even supposed to say His name.
The people back then did not have a personal intimate relationship with God. One’s relationship with God was merely in the sense that if you were good, God would bless you; if you were not, He would not bless you. Proof of God’s favor was many children and wealth; proof of God’s disfavor was disease, barrenness, economic poverty and political oppression. Unless you were wealthy and had power you were in a bondage no better than a slave or even an animal for that matter; economically for the most part there wasn’t such thing as a middle class there where only the rich and poor. And so most folks looked for the coming of the prophesied Messiah, the chosen and anointed one of God, but only so he would grant them material prosperity, comfort and security; they were looking only for a political Messiah-a “bread king”.
Even more than all of what I just mention, there was something even more terrible and dark, even though most didn’t realize it; there was something that was the cause of all the unhappiness, suffering and evil in the world. Because of it, souls lived in a bondage and poverty more terrible than any caused by an opposing earthly enemy or material or economic poverty. Souls before the birth of Jesus were in bondage with no hope for freedom, they were held in slavery to sin, the most horrible evil on earth and the actual cause of the separation and infinite distance between God and men; because of sin all men were enemies to God.
And so, before Jesus, no one could make it to heaven at all; everyone, everyone, was consigned to death, eternal death. This is why, as the bible tells us, the Christ had to be named Jesus. The name of Jesus means God saves—in other words, “Savior.” The name was assigned by eternal decree; likewise the reason: “For it is he who will save his people from their sins.” Today’s Gospel carefully records Jesus being given His name, that Most blessed of all Names.
And so, Jesus has come to offer to all men the possibility to be free, free from sin and free from eternal death. And if that wasn’t enough, He as even made it possible for those who would repent and believe in the Gospel, not only to be free from sin, but to become adopted sons and daughters of God the Father. Think of it: Do we really realize our great dignity? The Son of God became a son of man, so that the sons of men could become sons of God, actual partakers in the Divine Nature of God Himself. How can we even begin to begin to appreciate what the birth of Christ as done for us, each one of us?
And so this is why we celebrate this Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God; it is because of her that we are able to celebrate Christmas. It was by her fiat, her yes of consent freely given that we received Jesus the Savior, while we were still in our sins, as today’s second reading reminds us. Without her yes, which she was free to not give, none of us here would have any hope of reaching God, reaching heaven. If not for her, no matter how “good” we would be, there would be no hope for eternal salvation. But because of her, because of her sacrifice we now have hope. She has made it possible for God to come us. So that we might be saved, She has given God a baby, His own Son, to offer in sacrifice for our life! To keep this solemn feast then is to show her our immense gratitude and love to the Blessed Virgin Mary as well as to Jesus.
Yes, in some respects our world today doesn’t seem much different than it was before the coming of Christ—men’s hearts are still cruel, the human person is still in many cases, such as in abortion, not valued much; and there is still immorality, dishonesty, and cruelty--everywhere. But the big difference is now we have hope. God is no longer distant, somewhere out there high in His heaven; now because of Christmas and because of Our Lady, He is close, infinitely close to each one of us; closer in fact than we are to ourselves. Because of Our Blessed Mother we can be free from sin and even more-infinitely more, we can enter into a divine union with Him even while we walk yet on earth; a deep friendship which goes beyond what the mind can even imagine. Heaven has come to earth because of Mary, our heavenly Mother.
Now at this beginning of this New Year as in everyday of our lives, while we still breathe, we can begin anew. Because of the Mother of God we not only have a model to imitate but a advocate a helper to be with us as we strive to become better, holier, by turning away from sin to a new more fuller life in Christ. Our Blessed Mother is with us at this Holy Mass and every Holy Mass, inspiring us to “do whatever He tells us.” She will lead us to live more fully with her Son Jesus, who is God now with us…within us. She will help us find Him and see Him, with the eyes of faith, both in the Holy Eucharist at every Mass, and in the depths of our souls were He longs and desires to become one with us, to actually share His Divinity and so His divine life with us, so great is His love for us.
Jesus chose to come into this world through Mary, and he continues to come into souls through holiness by grace which by divine decree comes only through her. And so obviously, we would all be well to turn to her for help as we make our New Year resolution to start anew in our growing in our love, our hope and our faith in Jesus our Lord and God. In fact, as one writer put it, “anyone who desires grace but ignores our Lady seeks grace in vain.” She will help us if we turn to her, to believe even when we don’t fully understand; to grow in prayer and so intimacy with Christ; to expand every ounce of our energy to bring Christ to others and of course to avoid sin and anything that might distract from her divine Son, to whom she points with confidence, hope and love.
Today at this Mass, through her help and intercession, let us make her words our own as we offer ourselves through her to Her Son in the Holy Echarist: “Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.”—be it done unto me according to Thy Word.”

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"Liturgy is not the private hobby of a particular group; it is about the bond which holds heaven and earth together, it is about the human race and the entire created world."

-Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith, Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy (1986).

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Today in this temple, we have found Jesus, and He is in the Holy Eucharist.

Merry Christmas! Yes, we are or still should be, celebrating Christmas. The celebration of Christmas ends with the Baptism of the Lord. Today, within the Octave of Christmas, eight days of solemn celebration, we celebrate family; and the Holy family in particular. The Holy family is the model and image of what our families should strive to be. Now before you begin thinking that this is unreasonable, impracticable or impossible, let us take a closer look at the Holy Family.
In the thirty hidden years of Nazareth we discover that the Holy Family was in a sense an Ordinary family. There was nothing out of the ordinary in the life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The Holy Family even had turmoil, as seen in the flight to Egypt, and when Joseph and Mary “lost” Jesus for three days.
Mary, even though the Mother of God, lived her life as a traditional Jewish homemaker providing for the needs of her family. She was submissive to her husband. She sacrificed and made her house a home.
Joseph was an ordinary skilled labor who provided for his family. Jesus was known as the son of this carpenter. Most importantly, he was the spiritual head of the family, as he held and cradled Jesus the son of God in His arms (this is a hint to the relationship all fathers should have to Jesus). And Joseph loved his wife as he loved his own body, and so lived a manly life of chastity.
Jesus lived like any other inhabitant of Nazareth, working the same trade as St. Joseph and earning his living by the sweat of his brow. Speaking of Jesus’ life at Nazareth the Gospel sums it up by saying, He was obedient to Joseph and Mary. Even though He was God, Jesus lived as an obedient child, obedient to the fourth Commandment, to honor thy Father and Mother, thus showing his love for his parents on earth. Jesus has given the perfect example of how all children should treat their parents; and of how all spiritual children should treat their spiritual fathers in Christ.
So even though have lived an ordinary life, what are the great secrets of the Holy Families’ hidden life at Nazareth.
First, is the secret of its silence. Nazareth was a place of peaceful rest from the noise of the outside world. It was a womb so to speak, where the members of the family could grow in love for one another and in love for God. Our families should be the same; they should be a place of peace, of place of respite from the noise and clamor of the outside world that is always trying to distract our attention from the things that really matter—love of God and love of family.
In this, we discover that Nazareth was the perfect place for the rearing of Children. Nazareth as we have said is the perfect model of what family life should be. Mary and Joseph loved another, they always deferred to one another out of loved, putting the needs of the other before their own. It was a mutual submissiveness for the good of the family.
The family should be a community of true love and sharing, a place for perfecting all of the human virtues such as patience, kindness, responsibility, magnanimity, honesty, and trust to name but a few. This is the basic holy and enduring function of family in society. The family is the seedbed of the virtues because it is in the family that they can grow the most. However, this doesn’t mean it’s easy to practice the virtues in the family. In fact, as we all know, the family is where it is actually the hardest to practice the virtues; it takes tremendous effort, self-control and self-denial. But remember, where it is the hardest to practice the virtues, that is where they can grow the most.
And finally, the Holy Family’s secret was that it was centered not just around the life of a child and the activities of the child, but around and on the life of the child who was God-Jesus. Mary and Joseph loved Jesus more than anything, and so they loved God more than anything. Their love for one another had its very source in Jesus. The source of the love between the members of our families must be, must be, Jesus as well. And so the Holy Family was a family of prayer, a family that drew its life blood from Jesus.
Our families as well, need to love Jesus more than anything, and so love God more than anything; family prayer must be at the heart of our family life, especially the most perfect of all prayers--the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This obedience and love of Jesus must be lived out in obedience and love for the Church He founded and those spiritual fathers Jesus has placed to lead her, the Holy Father, bishops and priest. A family cannot love Jesus without loving His body, the Church.
If our families have “lost” Jesus, today’s gospel tells the parent to go look for Him. The gospel tell them, "You will find Him in the temple." Families today who have “lost” Jesus are those who don’t pray together who don’t look for Him in the temple by attending weekly Mass together, who don’t attend the sacrament of Confession regularly and who don’t come into the Church to adore Jesus present in his human physical body in the Holy Eucharist when ever possible.
This last point is the most important. To live a truly authentic Catholic Christian family life in the world today, really does take superhuman strength. It is the Eucharist, and only the Eucharist that provides this Superhuman/Supernatural strength to families.
In order to live like the Holy Family we have to have couples that do more than just get married. We need married couples to live out their marriage as believing and practicing Catholics. Living a Christian marriage and raising a Christian family goes so much, infinitely much, beyond non-Christian marriage and family life. This is why Christ instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Jesus Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist to give those who believe in Him the power they need to remain alive in His grace. For married Catholics and their families this means the light and strength they must constantly receive if they are to live out the sublime directives of the Holy Spirit for Christian believers, and live in imitation of the Holy Family. The Holy Eucharist is exactly how we keep Jesus the center and the focus of our family life.
Today in this temple, we have found Jesus, and He is in the Holy Eucharist. And so, the Holy Eucharist is absolutely, vitally necessary for Catholic families to remain united in a world of selfish instability, because the Holy Eucharist is God among us; it is Jesus. And so a living faith in (that is a faith that is practiced) the Holy Eucharist is the way, the only way to imitate the Holy Family and keep Jesus at the very center of our family life. This was the Message of Our Lady at Fatima (which is more relevant today than ever). And this why the Angel appear to the Children, teaching them the prayers of adoration; to teach the family through the children that they must adore God in and through the Holy Eucharist in faith, hope and love.
And, this is exactly why I have started children and family adoration on Sunday nights at 6:30pm. Because, how vitally necessary it is for our parishes to provide this most privilege time, the most privilege time we have on this earth, for families to be able to come together on the Lord's day, outside of Mass, and actually and literally be in the presence of the Child Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, adoring Him in love and asking Him for what they need to be holy and so happy families. This interactive Holy Hour teaches our children and our families Who it is they receive, in the Holy Eucharist, by teaching them how to adore this same Jesus truly present there. Come families, you have the opportunity, the rest is up to you.
Come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord! Let us ask, the entire Holy Family to help us imitate their love and their holiness. Jesus, Mary and Joseph we love you. Jesus, Mary and Joseph help our families to be holy families like your own. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, save our families, save souls. Amen.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Jesus desires with all of His heart to come and make our hearts a place where he can be born again and where he can dwell again.

Homily on Luke 2: 1-14--Christmas Day with Midnight readings
Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord! This evening (today) we gather together to rejoice and celebrate with the whole world the coming of the Infant Jesus in the stable in Bethlehem. For the past four weeks of advent, we have been preparing for this wonderful celebration with great longing and anticipation. And now our hearts are filled with great wonder and joy as we journey to the poor stable at Bethlehem and see there lying the little baby Jesus, He who is our Divine Savior. God as a baby, just imagine...
Some of you may be familiar with the comic the Family Circus, but maybe you didn’t know that Jeff Keene the writer is Catholic. A few years ago, Mr. Keene had a wonderful comic at Christmas time; it is one of my favorite comics of all times. I actually have it framed. In the comic, little Jeffrey is sitting in the church pew trying to pray to God; above Jeffery is a thought bubble in which he, Jeffery is thinking about God. He pictures God as an Old Man standing on a throne surrounded by all kind of angels and saints. Little Jeffery is shaking out of fear as he imagines God as this Majestic powerful Old Man looking down on him as he tries to prays.
The next picture shows little Jeffery at home trying to pray again. This time however, he gets an ideal. He tries to pray again, but this time he prays while thinking about baby Jesus laying his crib. The little baby Jesus is smiling and holding out his hands reaching toward Jeffery. In the next picture, Jeffery says to his mother, “It much easier to pray, when your prayin ta baby Jesus.
And so it is. Isn't it true, we put our guard down around babies. We can be sitting next to someone while we wait in a doctor's office and usually never talk to them. But if they have a baby we will look at the baby and strike up a conversion with the mother or father. Babies remove our inhibitions.
And when we encounter little babies doesn't it become very easy for us to become like little children ourselves. We even begin to act like them, speaking to them in baby talk, gibberish; and we do this in public around other people. It immediately becomes easy and natural for us to accept the love from infants, so we try to become like them. We let down our guard and simply love the infant, just like a child would do.
Is it not a Joy we experience when we encounter a newborn baby? Does not the newborn bring a smile on everyone’s face? Do we not immediately want to speak to the infant and hold and cuddle him? Some say to look into the face of baby is the closest thing on this earth to seeing the face of God; so pure, so innocent, so unaffected by the concerns and cares of this world..
Did God possibly come to us as a tiny little child because the Joy of Christmas is about receiving the gift of God like a child? In fact, the gift of God is Jesus. Jesus is the gift. And we need to be like children to receive Him.
However, Jesus is given to us as a gift, not just two thousand years ago, not just in the future when he comes again, But He is given as a gift to us now, anew, tonight (today) at this Holy Mass; and not just spiritually into our hearts, but actually, really and truly in His body and soul, with His human heart beating for love of us. The gift of God at Christmas is really the gift of the Eucharist and the Eucharist is Jesus, God become flesh, become Man. The Eucharist is the Father's gift to us, the gift of His Son.
The simple faith and love of children teaches us much about how we need to receive Jesus today. Jesus desires with all of His heart to come and make our hearts a place where he can be born again and where he can dwell again. He desires our hearts to be a new stable just like at Bethlehem. He implores everyone of us here tonight (today) to not be like the Innkeeper with no room, but instead He asks us to like little children--hearts open to receive the Christ child into our lives, not just at Christmas, but every single day for the rest of our lives. Tonight He comes to you as an infant so you won't be afraid, He is smiling at each one of you as he reaches out to you to embrace Him and open your hearts in faith to him.
Jesus reminds us that only in the spirit and attitude of little children can we receive the infant Jesus…only with the purity and innocence of little Children can we receive Him fully…Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. Today, let us risk opening our hearts. Jesus the all powerful God comes to us hidden as the little Divine child and He tells us simply to, “Be not afraid.” When we receive Holy Communion-Which is Jesus the Christ child hidden in all of His majesty and glory coming to us, in us, let us receive Him and allow Him to love us and transform us into true children of the Father, our hearts the living stable of Bethlehem.
If we open our hearts to Him, we will discover that the coming of Jesus as a Man, is more than something we are told is supposed to have happen two thousand years ago, we will find that He is still Man today, and He is still with us every bit as much as He was two thousand years ago. With hearts like little children we will find it easy to believe that Jesus is truly and really in the little white host we adore after we hear those beautiful words at this Mass, “This is my Body, this is my Blood. Our hearts and minds will be filled with incredible awe and wonder faced with such a incredible and magnificent mystery. We will not only want to be with Him but even more we will want Him to be with us, in us. We will begin to long with all of our being to receive Him in Holy Communion every single week, as often as we possibly can. This is the essence of Christmas and it is not too good to be true; it is true, come let us adore our God in the Holy Eucharist born again for us this day, on this altar of Sacrifice.
May each of us find new intimacy with the Child Jesus today and every day of our lives. Holy Mary, Mother of the Divine infant, help us to become like little Children so we can welcome your Divine Child fully into our hearts, souls, minds, into our very lives. Amen.
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Lord often comes to us in a big surprise...

Homily for Luke 1:39-45 Fourth Sunday of Advent 2009

“Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste.” These words begin our Gospel today; and as it is so close to Christmas, I would wager most children wish they could have Christmas come with great haste. In fact right now.
This week will certainly be the most hectic week of the year; finishing the shopping, preparing the meals, finishing the decorating, and the cards and gifts, the list is endless. We certainly feel the pressure and the haste with which we will have to accomplish all that we have to get done before Christmas. And so it may also be the case that we have not reflected much on, and so have not finished, our spiritual preparation for Christmas....maybe we are thinking, “I’ve got to get to confession this week!” Hopefully, this is what we are thinking if we have not made it yet.
We have to admit that many of the things we do this week will have to be done in haste if they are going to get done at all. But before we panic, let us remind ourselves of what the season of Advent is all about and what, or should I say, Who, we are preparing for. Our advent season is a time of expecting Christ to come.
If you recall we mentioned the three different comings of Christ, his future coming in glory, his past coming at Bethlehem and his coming now into our hearts through the Holy Mass and Holy Communion. On Friday we will liturgically celebrate Jesus' past coming in that first Christmas at Bethlehem; But we still have much work to do in the most important coming of Christ- the coming of Christ now into our hearts and souls through the Holy Eucharist.
To help us prepare, in what little time we have left, today in our Gospel, we discover that our Lord often comes to us through a big surprise. In today's Gospel, we hear the account of the Visitation- the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Elizabeth; the encounter of the two expectant mothers. For the two of them, their encounter was something that was not planned or even expected, it was a big surprise.
The surprise began when Zachariah the priest was offering the sacrifice in the Holy of Holies and St. Gabriel appeared to him, announcing that Zachariah and his wife Elizabeth would have a son in their old age. What a big surprise that must have been, In fact, poor Zachariah was so surprised he couldn't even believe what the archangel was telling him. After all, Elizabeth, his wife, had prayed for so long for a child, but remained barren.
Yes, it was a big surprise from God, but Elizabeth had indeed conceived a child. So surprised was she, that she actually went into seclusion; you'd could almost image how embarrassed she must have been conceiving at such an old age. But there in seclusion, she was in for another big surprise from the Lord, when her cousin Mary came to visit. Mary too was with Child. And because of Mary's Child, surprisingly, the child within Elizabeth's own womb leaped for joy. How big a surprise all of this was.
God had exceeded their wildest dreams and had fulfilled His will in these surprising events. In them, we discover that the heart of Elizabeth was open to the great surprise of God. After experiencing the surprise of the first Eucharistic procession, as Jesus was carried in to her presence in a living monstrance, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Elizabeth would exclaim, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” In light of the surprises of God in today's Gospel, we can only imagine about all sorts of surprises that God is capable of doing in our own lives.
As Christmas nears, we can all think about the big surprises we have had in Christmas' gone by And we all look forward, especially us who are a kid at heart for big surprise to come this Christmas. And even more we hope to surprise those we love with a special gift in order to show them how much they mean to us and how much we love them. I want to share with a personal story of a surprise I pulled this Christmas, on someone who means the world to me and who I love, my dad.
A few weeks ago I was home, and my dad and I were at Lowes buying some things for my house in Wisconsin. Before we left the store, he wandered over to the snow blowers and admired them. He told me how much he'd like to have one of these. His old snow blower it seems had served it's time. I never thought much of it, I was too busy worrying about getting my own work done before my return back to Rochelle.
Last week when we got that big snow, I was talking to my mom. She told me that my dad had been shoveling snow all day long; it seems that the belt broke on his old snow blower as he tried to start it; and so he had to shovel all that snow by hand. I thought about all those thing he had done for me while I was home; not to mention all the hours he worked on my house when I wasn't there, all the hours he spends helping me every time I go home. I felt sick, that here he was 74 years old, and he is out shoveling all that snow by himself, and wet and heavy snow at that.
I told mom, "We need to buy him that snow blower and we need to do it right now; and not even wait till Christmas to surprise him." I immediately went to the store in Rockford and looked at them. As I look at them, I called my mom and said, "the one dad wants is not good enough." The higher priced one is much better. I knew my dad would never buy himself such a good one, so I said to my mom let's get him the better one. And so I brought the good one for dad.
But I thought, if we give it to dad now, we need to surprise him in big way to make up for the fact that he'll miss out on the surprise of receiving it at Christmas. And so, with the help of two wonderful ladies at the store, we transferred the sale to the store near dad and devised a plan to give my him a big surprise. My mom would get him to the local store, by saying they should go look at new snow blower since his old one broke. And so as they looked at them, the sales lady at the store said she would take care of the rest.
The next day, off to the store mom and dad went. And so as my dad was in the store looking, at the lower price snow blowers (there were over ten of them, the sales lady told him she was sorry but all them were already sold, they only thing that was left was a plug in model (just a little fib, but all for a good reason).
As she pulled my dad's leg, another worker wheeled out the "top of the line" snow blower right in front of my dad and said, excuse me sir, but are you Don Lange. My Dad looking stunned said, yes. And the worker said, "This snow blower is yours." My dad said, "how can it be mine?" The worker said, "look it has your name on it.", as he showed my dad the sales receipt bearing His name and the words "Paid in full"!
My mom told me, if you could have seen you dad's expression it was priceless, he was totally shocked it was a big surprise. Then my dad looked at my mom and said, "you did this." She said, how could I do it, I don't know a thing about buying a snow blower. He asked the sales lady, "who did this?" And she said, "Sir, I believe it was Santa Claus." Dad said, "no I am serious, I need to know who did this?" and the lady said, "Sir, I am serious too, It was Santa Claus."
We, in our last days before Christmas, have the opportunity to be surprised, not only by our families, but by our Blessed Lord. Because He loves you so much, Our God this Christmas wants to give you as well, a big surprise. His surprises come in ways we are not expecting, in the ordinary and even in the mundane events of everyday life.
His surprises come in the darkness and the quietness of a womb; and in the darkness and quietness of a stable cave. His big surprise comes to us in a tiny little babe, who is at the same time the Almighty God among us as one of us. And finally, His biggest surprise of all comes to us as apparently ordinary words are spoken over ordinary bread and wine, and that same little babe of Bethlehem is born anew on this sacred altar--the bread and wine transformed, through the miracle of transubstantiation, into Emmanuel--God still with us.
And so, the question is, are you prepared for the big surprise God wants to give you. Is your heart open to receive it? It not's too late, there is still time.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Joy equals obtaining Jesus and sharing Him and His Love with others!!

Third Sunday of Advent. Sunday December 13th, 2009

As we come closer to the celebration of Christmas, today we celebrate Gaudate Sunday- the Sunday of joy. By the way, father is wearing rose, not pink, Father does not wear pink!!! Rose is the color of Joy and our readings today reflect this joy- the joyful expectation of the coming of the Savior- “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion,” “Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,” and “Rejoice in the Lord always!” When the readings at Mass say something numerous times, it’s because Holy Mother Church desires to send us a strong message- in this case, it’s a message of great joy. This joy however is not just a natural, but a supernatural Joy.
When we wait with expectant longing for that special Christmas present and receive it, we feel satisfaction and joy. It is a wonderful thing. Yet, this is passing joy. We might not be as joyful in six months…our present may break, or in the case of electronic items, like the new T.V.'s, a better one will surely come out in just few weeks, and so satisfaction in our new toy quickly leaves us.
In contrast, the supernatural joy the Scriptures speak to us today is one that comes from, and can only come, from God- This is a joy stemming from our knowledge that our savior, Jesus Christ is coming and we have an opportunity to possess Him and be possessed by Him. He is the cause and source of supernatural Joy. This type of joy does not pass with the seasons of the year or with the latest technological marvel, but remains in our hearts, forever.
The problem is that in our everyday reality we find it difficult to find this kind of joy. This can be for many different reasons, but usually because we have, in the past, tried to find it in all the wrong places and things--that is we have tried too often to find it in created things; or, in immoral or disordered pleasures, which we mistakenly think will bring us joy. The other problem is we equate joy with feelings; joy is not a feeling, it goes much deeper than feelings. Today our Gospel gives the key to finding joy.
Today, John the Baptist receives the crowd. The first thing to note is that the crowd has come to him in order to receive his Baptism. Their coming is an outward sign of their inner desire to follow God more fully. Theirs is an inner desire; an inner prayer that God might forgive them their sins…because sin is the main obstacle that prevents a soul from obtaining God and achieving union with Him and so obtaining true joy.
The individuals of the crowd have had a conversion experience, a transformation and change of heart…they have made a conscious decision and choice to leave their old ways behind. However, this is not enough, because they know that this conversion of heart has to be lived out in the grind of daily life, a grind in which it is sometimes, many times, very hard to find God and to keep a supernatural outlook and hope. So they are still searching for something- something more in their lives. And so they ask John the Baptist some questions, some very real and practical ones-, “I want to be good, I want to become better and love God more, what should I do?” The answers are in a way very surprising.
John the Baptist gives them practical answers. He doesn’t tell them to join him in the desert, he doesn’t tell them to leave the world or become some kind of weird religious person. But he simply tells them to return to their own life, but now live it according to the Plan, Law and Will of God, doing everything, no matter how small, for love of God alone. The tasks John give them are simple and they can be summed up in the following way, put God first, then others and then yourself. This is the first step in preparing them and us for the coming of Jesus.
The second step for us, is then to deepen our desire for the coming of the Savior. The people in today’s Gospel- as their hearts are more open to God- manifest a great desire to see the Christ. Is it John, could he be the Christ? John most likely disappoints them here--He is not the one. No, it would be one greater than he- one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire…and this of course, increased their desire and longing even more. The gift of God would be greater than anything they could think of- the gift of God was God Himself—God is the gift. The Holy Spirit offers us this gift, the fire of God’s love, which if we let It, burns all of the dross out of our hearts and makes room for God; only Love can do this.
In light of this love then, do we manifest this desire to Love Jesus, Do we really love Him? Do we think of Him all the time, just like a lover thinks of the one he loves all the time. And so do we pine after Jesus, long for Him, want nothing else but Him… …do we desire Him with all whole heart? If we don’t desire Jesus like this, if we don't want Him to come right now for us, then do we really love Him?
In this we discover the greatest key of all, the Love of Christ and to love others for love of Christ, brings true Joy (Jesus, Others and Yourself). This is the secret of the saints--to be centered on Christ and to leave our self-centeredness behind. This is the imitation of Jesus, the One who came into this world as the servant of all, not desiring to be served but to serve. When we focus on the love and service of Christ and love and service of neighbor for love of Christ. We then leave the secular humanism of our day behind and it's idolatry of self, which puts the wants of self before all else, and instead place God alone at the very pinnacle of our daily life.
Consequently, we no longer equate joy with having our every whim and fancy met or having our personal satisfaction in all things guaranteed and fulfilled. We leave behind this very emotional and superficial view of Joy and instead express the true Christian joy, which is Joy as a virtue to be lived and shown forth as an example and witness to others in this sinful and so joyless world of ours. Our witness of joy in our daily life, especially amid our trials and tribulations shows the world that our Joy is not of this world, but comes from Jesus Christ our Lord and our savior, following Him, not just to be good, but to obtain Him, our greatest Love. Joy equals obtaining Jesus and sharing Him and His Love with others!
Today St. John the Baptist points the way to obtain Jesus our joy, and so John points us to confession and the Holy Eucharist. In confession we encounter the healing power of Christ which purifies our hearts and gives us the power to put our decision to change into action. Confession then makes our hearts capable of receiving Jesus and His love more fully in the Holy Eucharist.
And so, being made pure by confession, joyful souls come before the Jesus they love in the Blessed Sacrament, whenever they possibly can, during the Holy Mass and times of adoration. There their joy is strengthen and their love for Jesus increased; Adorers are joyful, those who don’t adore are not (period). How could it be any other way, to be in the presence of Jesus Christ, whom we love, can only bring us joy.
If Jesus is the Eucharist and the Eucharist is Jesus, and it is, then how can those who do not spend time with Him ever expect to find peace much less joy? One has to question whether they really believe. Maybe they think they can somehow love Jesus without faith in His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist; souls filled with true joy, know that this is not possible. The Eucharist is our Joy because the Eucharist is Jesus. When we receive the Eucharist we receive what we truly desire, Jesus our joy and we begin to obtain Him and be possessed by Him for ever.
In this last week before we celebrate the Incarnation of God in Christ, let us ask the Holy Spirit through the intercession of His spouse- the Blessed Virgin Mary, to prepare our hearts by granting us the grace of an ever deeper desire not only to see the coming of Christ, but to possess Him fully with all of our mind and heart and be possessed by His Sacred Heart, by His Love, by His Joy, By HIM.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Jesus the Messiah always comes, and so we for our part must always be prepared, always be preparing.

Second Sunday in Advent. December 6th, 2009
Today, we hear in the Gospel of St. Luke, St. John the Baptist announcing the appearance of Christ. St. John the Baptist is a central figure in this time of Advent because he is the man of both preparation and haste. He gives up everything, makes way, hastily goes into the desert and there waits expectantly for the coming of the Lord. And he does so without knowing the identity of the messiah. Nevertheless in faith and in the silence of the desert, John is ever so attentive to the voice of the Holy Spirit which will announce the Messiah coming.
This theme of God’s coming is important to understand. Holy Mother Church during Advent stresses the three “comings” of Christ: that at Christmas, that at the end of time and the third and most important, that into our hearts. This "third interior coming," happens primarily through the Holy Eucharist. The coming of God is not just a past or future event, it is a present continuous action- He came, He comes and He is coming. In other words, Jesus the Messiah always comes, and so we for our part must always be prepared, always be preparing.
St. John the Baptist appears today in order to tell us that God is definitely coming and that we need to prepare the way; and do so now! John does this by preaching repentance--the need for a change of attitude and a change of heart. He is the voice crying out in the wilderness. The wilderness is the desert. If you have ever been in the desert, you know how quiet it is, how lonely it is. When a voice is heard out there, there is nothing that blocks it; it is totally smooth, no mountains to deflect it no valleys to absorb it. This is a good metaphor for how we listen to the voice of God.
To hear the voice of God, we first must be quiet. Our hearts must be open to truly listen, not just hear. We hear things all the time, but do we block them out? Or do we really listen, really try to understand and make changes in our lives according to what we are being told. Look at our own relationships for example- do we listen or just hear when our loved ones speak to us? …It can be like a woman saying to the man she loves or a mother saying to a child, "You are hearing me, but are you really listening to what I am saying to you.” More than often, we just hear what the other says, but we don't really listen to what they are saying.
With God it is the same: we must first not just hear his words, but listen with our whole hearts and minds. Then, and only then can we respond to His words with all the strength of our will. We respond first by asking God to forgive us of our sins- all that takes us away from God. Maybe this is a reason we do not want to listen- because deep down, we know God is asking us to reform ourselves and to change things in our lives which are keeping us from a deeper relationship with Him.
God speaks most clearly to us in the desert, which is a metaphor for silence. When we are silent before God, the first person we encounter is not God but ourselves, and the truth about ourselves. When I was first discerning my vocation as a priest, I went into the “desert.” I lived in for two years away from friends and family, alone in a strange town. To encounter yourself is really a difficult thing- we are afraid of really encountering ourselves and in particular encountering the truth about our sins.
In the silence God convicts of our lack of love, our sin. Is this why modern man seems to hate silence so much, why even in the liturgy, the Holy Mass, we try to fill up every moment with noise leaving no room for silence? In the worship of God, as our Holy Father Benedict, has said over and over again, we must begin to make room for more times of silence in order to hear the whisper of God's voice, even if it is difficult.
When we do spend some time in silence, we encounter ourselves in the presence of God. It is then that we can open our hearts to God and receive more deeply his love and mercy. We really do not have to be afraid; the experience of God’s forgiving love is far greater and more joyful than our fear. We face God and admit the truth about ourselves, we can then receive forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession so that we are enabled by grace to live deeper the live of faith, all because we have encounter God personally and intimately in the silence.
With this increase of faith we can move mountains; that is, remove the mountains in our lives that block us from listening and responding fully to the voice of God. We can remove especially, the great mountain of our pride of our selfishness and lack of love. We can remove whatever else is needed in order to make straight and smooth the way for the Lord to come and live with us and in us more fully.
Our Blessed Lord is kind and compassionate. He knows we are sinners; nothing is hidden from Him. He still speaks to us, most often in the quiet silence of our hearts. He says, “come to me the way you are and I will help you to change your life, to remove the obstacles, I will strengthen your Faith and Your Hope, and I Will strengthen your love, your charity for I will give you a new heart, a heart for love alone”.
Let us be honest, in this time of year it is so, so difficult to quiet ourselves in order to listen to the voice of God. We can become so busy with the material preparation for Christmas that the ever small still voice of God can be crowded out. This Advent season of grace invites us into moments of quiet amidst the hustle and bustle in order to stop and hear the voice of God calling us to repentance, calling us to turn back to Him and toward Him more fully. We can do this especially in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, who is God Himself among us.
We should not be discourage of our past patterns of sins and our past failures. Advent is a time when we renew our hope for the future- the coming of Jesus re-enkindles in us a deeper desire for holiness. But Jesus is coming now, He will not delay. Christian hope means to possess now through grace, that for which we hope; and that for which we hope is Jesus, and His coming more deeply into our souls.
To listen, really listen to God's Word, is to let it enter into your whole being, let it take possession of your all desires and your whole way of life. If we listen in this way, the Son with the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit will come now and dwell in us fully now and take possession of our heart now; then we will then prepared for the future come what may.
Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict said to us;
“In Advent, the liturgy often repeats and assures us, as though seeking to defeat our mistrust, that God "is coming": He comes to be with us, in each one of our situations; he comes to live among us, to live with and in us; he comes to fill the distances that divide and separate us; he comes to reconcile us with himself and with one another. He comes in the history of humanity to knock on the door of every man and woman of good will to offer individuals, families and peoples the gift of fraternity, concord and peace.
Therefore, Advent is par excellence the time of hope, in which believers in Christ are invited to remain in vigilant and active expectation, nourished by prayer and by a concrete commitment of love. May Christ's approaching nativity fill the hearts of all Christians with joy, serenity and peace! To live this Advent period more authentically and fruitfully, the liturgy exhorts us to look at Mary most holy and to undertake spiritually with her the path to the cave of Bethlehem. When God knocked on the door of her youth, she received him with faith and love. In a few days, we will contemplate her in the luminous mystery of her Immaculate Conception. Let us be attracted by her beauty, reflection of divine glory, so that "the God that is coming" will find in each one of us a good and open heart, which he can fill with his gifts.”

Let us follow these beautiful words of our Holy Father and turn to Our Lady for help. As Mother of the New Advent, she is the one that can help us prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas, not only for His coming at the Christmas to come in couple of weeks, but Jesus' coming in the Eucharist at the Christmas of this Holy Mass, so that we may be prepared when He comes again in Glory. Then we can join Him fully in the Eternal Christmas of heaven.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

To allow Jesus to come into this world anew, through us; this is really the "reason for the season".

First Sunday of Advent. November 29th, 2009

Happy New Year! Today we begin a new liturgical year and the beginning of the Advent Season, a season in which we prepare to celebrate the great feast of Christmas. The Advent season is, of course, more than just material preparation, such as Christmas shopping and decorating the house; it is meant to be, more than anything else, a time for spiritual preparation. And as such, it is a penitential season, as the Church calls us to conversion, to live more fully the truth of the Gospel in all aspects of our lives.
This season of grace, is a time of expectation, joyfully awaiting the coming of Jesus Christ. The Church wants us to prepare to liturgically celebrate at Christmas, Jesus first coming at Bethlehem; And at the same time, it wants us to prepared for Jesus second and final coming at the end of time, when He will judge the living and the dead and grant according to our merit, heaven or hell. But these two coming of Jesus are intimately connected to a third coming for which the Church wants us to prepare; that is, His spiritual coming into our hearts and minds, fully into our souls. This spiritual coming of Jesus is the reason for his first coming, and by our allowing it, we are prepare fully for His second coming at the end of the world or the end of our lives whichever comes first.
Jesus has come already; He is here with us in the Holy Eucharist and in all the Sacraments of the Church, and He will come again in glory; but this Christmas, Jesus desires to come and to be born anew into our souls. We for our part must make room for Him and prepare the stable of our hearts to be worthy dwelling place for the newborn King. This Spiritual coming of Jesus is known as holiness, and unless we strive for holiness, for this rebirth of Jesus in us, not only will we fail to understand His first coming, we will never be ready for His second coming. Our Inn will be full so to speak and Jesus will not find a room in us.
To allow Jesus to come into this world anew, through us, this is the really the "reason for the season". To illustrate what I speak of, I remember hearing a story of a young sister in the sisters of charity, asking Mother Theresa of Calcutta, "Mother, when we go out and feed the poor, what should we see in their eyes?" I assume here, this sister was thinking of the expression, "we must see Jesus in the eyes of the poor." But Mother Theresa said, "It is not important who we see in the eyes of the poor, but who they see in our eyes?" In other words, do they see Jesus in us, do they see him alive and active in our souls through our personal holiness.
This is the essence of our Christian vocation, to allow Jesus to possess us fully so that we can take Him out into the world around us. All in order that the poorest of the poor (that is those who don't know Jesus' love), may know it, in and through us, by the witness of our lives, by all that we say and do. This of course means there is so much more than just giving material comfort to those who are in need such as the hungery, thirsty and materially poor; it means feeding those who are starving and so dying spiritually. We are to "feed" them through our personal holiness, which is really Jesus feeding them with His love through us. We are to love them with the Heart of Jesus.
This advent season reminds us that we are not just to be ready for Christmas or for Jesus second Coming for our own sakes, we are to ready ourselves, for the sake of the other; and to do so, by growing in holiness and sharing what we have--Jesus, with others; with the entire world in fact. If we are prepared in this way, the way of holiness, of Jesus alive in our souls, then we will not be anxious about the future and what it might bring, we will not be fearful about our death and meeting Jesus, we will instead actually long for His coming with Joyful expectation. Dare I say, we will be excited. We won't be able to wait, to see face to face that dear friend that we already know intimately because we process Him fully in our hearts, and are united to Him in love--Jesus our love.
Let us this Advent be watchful and ready by making our faith and our relationship with Christ and with His Church the most important aspect of our lives. Let us prepare the stable of our hearts more fully for Jesus by making a good Sacramental confession during this time of Advent. We can do this by doing a intense examination of conscience with the help of the Holy Spirit, asking Him as well to help us make a firm purpose of amendment in order to change our lives for the better. Sin is the one thing that keeps us from Jesus' love and so makes us fearful.
Let us not be content with good enough, for it is the Lord that we are dealing with. And with the grace of the Sacraments we receive, let us make the most out of each and every day of this advent and of the advent of our life, working faithfully at the tasks God has given us no matter how small and seemingly insignificant. Praying always, placing our minds on God though out our day, doing everything we do in the state of sanctifying grace and for love of Him and love of neighbor.
Stay awake, be watchful, Look up, Raise your heads, keep your eyes always fixed on the cross and on Jesus love for us, realizing that this life was never meant to be easy or comfortable, but the place where we learn to deny self and live for Love of God alone and love of neighbor for love of God and so grow in holiness…
During this time of preparation for Christmas and for the coming of the Lord, we can easily become distracted with our “to do lists.” It is always a temptation to yield to our imagination and dwell on all of these matters. However, when we are tempted, grace is always available to help us overcome them. Our temptation is to spiritually fall asleep. We must always strive to stay awake. This heads up attitude begins right here and now at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, especially in this Advent season. We must stay awake during Mass not merely physically awake but mentally and especially spiritually alert to prepare ourselves for His coming. Look up and keep your eyes on the altar. Join in the prayers and responses. Lend you voices to the singing. Try to get the meaning of what you say and what you sing. Mean every word of it, pray from the heart. St Thomas says that to stay fervent and alert during the celebration of Mass is one of the most difficult things to do and it is only accomplished through the grace of Christ. Thank
fully, Our Lord promises this grace to help us pay attention and alert during Mass, but we must ask for and cooperate with His grace by working hard, fighting distractions with all our strength.
Lift up your heads.” Look at the Sacred Host. Look at the chalice of His Precious Blood. Right now we are traveling toward Christ. In a few minutes we will meet Him in the Christmas at this Mass when He is born on the altar during the Consecration. In a few weeks we will greet Him in the Christmas of Bethlehem. If we stay awake, if we prepare well, we will recognize His coming at this Holy Mass in the Holy Eucharist. In fact, only if we recognize Him in the Holy Eucharist through faith, can we remain faithful to His Grace, allowing Him to be reborn in our souls.
Let us prepare for all three comings of Christ. Keep you head up, stay awake, prepare well, watch the altar, Jesus is indeed coming again at this Holy Mass!!! Let us turn with trust to Mary, Mother of the New Advent. Holiness, which is the birth of Jesus in the soul, always occurs in the same way Jesus was born into this world in the first place, by the yes, the fiat, of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. She will help us to prepare well for Jesus coming at this Holy Mass by helping us to offer ourselves in a sacrifice of love on this altar, allowing the Holy Spirit to re-birth Jesus in us. Then we can take Jesus out into our world in order to prepare it, prepare souls, for His Second Coming in Glory in order to join in with us, the eternal Christmas of Heaven.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Beginning today, let us more deeply acknowledge Christ as our King;

The Solemnity of Christ the King

Today we end the 2009 Liturgical year with the celebration of Christ the King. Our Lord is King and ruler of heaven and earth and today in this solemn Liturgy we acknowledge this fact with our whole heart, mind, soul, strength, with our bodies and with our voices as we enter into full and actual participation in this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Our whole liturgical year is, in a sense, encapsulated in this great feast. Our reading from Daniel says it well, “the Son of man received dominion, glory and kingship- his dominion is an everlasting dominion.” We read the vision of the glory of Christ, but the fullness of this glory is not an earthly one- it is divine. Jesus has gained this throne, but His throne is not the one we might imagine.
In our Gospel today we hear Jesus telling Pilate: “My kingship is not of this world.” Jesus admits that He is indeed a King, but not the kind of king this world knows or even wants. Jesus is not a political King, He is not a Democrat or Republican nor is He an Independent; in fact, His Kingdom on Earth--the Catholic Church, from which He rules, is not a democracy at all. Jesus is not a military or revolutionary leader; He is not socialist. He is not a king of material wealth or worldly power. This, by the way, is the type of King that the Jews wanted; to them the King-Messiah was to be a politico-religious liberator who would obtain their freedom from Rome and restore the glory, power and prosperity of their nation of Israel, making it again the dominant world power. They wanted to create the perfect image of a King according to their own designs.
So many in our world today, as well, are looking for a king like this. Many like the ideal of Christ the King, but only Christ as a king that will fulfill their earthly desires, their materialistic hunger for the things of this world. And so, many will worship Jesus as a king that will bring them economic prosperity, financial security and blessings, and the ease and comfort of the good life. But they will not worship Jesus as a King who places demands on His subjects, demands which call them to renounce themselves for the sake of the Kingdom. As result, they want the Church that Jesus founded to be, not the Kingdom of God on earth, but instead a democracy where the truth should be voted upon and accepted according to the recent gallop poll, or better yet, their own personal opinion.
A good example of this refusal of many to accept the demands of Christ the King has been seen in the past few elections. Most of the voters in the elections of the last few years, the majority of who claim to be Christian and a good percentage of them Catholic, put the economy at the top of the list of importance and put the truth about human life and its need for protection at the bottom; and as a consequence, continued the destruction of our economy…They voted against the war in Iraq, but not against the war that is killing millions on our own soil through the weapons of mass destruction known as abortion, euthanasia, and embryonic stem cell research. How foolish, for without the protection of defenseless human life, there can be no economic stability and no peace.
They also allowed the distortion of human sexuality by caving into the Homosexual agenda, thus denying Marriage and the family as God intended. By doing all of this they rejected the truth that Jesus, the God-Man, came to proclaim; and by doing so, by their vote, they rejected the life Jesus came to bring. In this pride they again and again voted Christ out of the social sphere, bowing down instead to worship mammon instead of adoring and loving God before all else, in Spirit and in Truth. By this they repeated in their hearts and in their actions these words of Pilate that we didn’t read today, but that immediately follow today Gospel, “Quis et veritas…what is truth?
The Kingdom of God does not mean food and drink, economic prosperity, but instead righteousness and true peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. This is what Jesus Kingship really is. By His answer to Pilate in today’s Gospel, Jesus makes it quite clear to us, as He as always done, that His mission is a spiritual one. His kingdom is “the kingdom of Truth and Life, the kingdom of holiness and Grace, the kingdom of Justice, love and Peace.
And what Jesus look like upon His throne in His Kingdom? Jesus has the most royal of thrones and precious of crowns. We have this throne pictured here- it is the crucifix. The perfection of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom is the crucifixion. His royal throne is made of the wood of the cross and his crown is made of thorns. Jesus is most perfectly King on the Cross. In the book of Revelation, the scenes of the glory of God’s throne are always accompanied by the vision of the Lamb who was slain- immolated and pierced. It is from this throne that Christ truly rules. Jesus gives all that He has- His very life- for us poor sinners. The Kingdom of Jesus is a kingdom of a true love, the essence of which is a man laying down his life for his friends.
True love must be through Jesus, in Him, and with Him or else it is not true, for Jesus is the Truth. Love apart from Jesus and His truth, results in our ideas quickly taking charge and then we end up creating our own version of the Kingdom of God, which is just our made up kingdom with a puppet on the throne—a king of our desire and making. This is the dictatorship of relativism which our Holy Father, the true Vicar of the true King, continually warns against.
Christ for His part, only allows in His Kingdom, those who accept and practice the Truth revealed by Him and proclaimed by His Holy Catholic Church, his visible Kingdom on earth. By their obedience of faith, His loyal subjects, show their acceptance of His Father’s will and so His love for the world. Jesus became man to make this truth about the Father's love for man known and to enable men to accept it and live it, through the grace He won through his death on the cross. Those who recognize Christ’s kingship and sovereignty, accept his authority given to His Church, and so allow Jesus to reign over them in His eternal and universal Kingdom. His faithful subjects live their lives on this earth by following His Way, the only true way, which is the royal way of the cross, which is the way of self-denial and sacrificial love, loving God above all things and their neighbor as themselves for love of God.
The Solemnity of Christ the King, ends ordinary time and thus the liturgical year. We now enter into the Season of hope--advent. Our readings take on the tone of the last things, death, judgment, heaven and hell. The Holy Spirit wants us to be ready, not only for the coming of Christ at Christmas, but for His Second Coming in glory at the end of the world or at our death whichever comes first. “Behold Jesus is coming amid the clouds and every eye will see Him even those who pierced Him.”
But the Holy Spirit reminds today not to think this event as happening somewhere off in the distance future. Behold He is coming soon!!. For those souls who die this day, the second coming will happen today, and for each of us, our death is the second coming, for on that day we shall see the King face to face and He will question us about love, our love…our love for Him and our love for one another and He will judge us accordingly. On that day, He will exercise fully His Kingship and His Divine authority both on the righteous and the unrighteous. All people will serve him one way or another. For those who refused to acknowledge Him as King in this life and did their own thing, they will serve Him by force in the everlasting torment, where they can sing eternally the theme song of hell, "I did it my way". But for those who acknowledged Jesus as King in this life, allowing Him to reign over their hearts by adoring Him, following His commandments and the teaching of His Holy Catholic Church in loving obedience and loving God and neighbor more than themselves--these alone will serve Him in freedom and in love, they will bow down before Him for all eternity, as they did in life, and they shall see Him as He is, for they shall become like Him and praise Him for ever.
Beginning today, let us more deeply acknowledge Christ as our King; let us start by offering our Hearts to Him at this Holy Mass which makes the King, His royal throne of the cross, His crucifixion and His Kingdom truly present on earth, right here in this Church and in every Catholic Church around the world. As we prepare to receive the fruit of the Crucifixion, Jesus Christ our King in the Holy Eucharist, the Kingdom of God personified, let us ask Him for the grace to hear His voice and to heed his words in testimony that we are committed to the truth of His Kingdom with every fiber of our being. Let us ask Him through His Holy Mother to help us keep His Authority and the Will of His heavenly Father and our Father, as the driving force of our life. Holy Mary, Queen of the Kingdom of Christ, Queen of our hearts, pray for us.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Jesus knowing our fear, wants to bring us hope and cast out our fear; he wants us to be ready for Him when He comes for us;

Homily for Mark 13: 24-32 Thirty Third Sunday

Today is really the last “regular” Sunday of the liturgical year, as next week we will conclude this liturgical year with the Solemnity of Christ the King. Over the past year we have been reading from the Gospel of St. Mark, and so the Church chooses this reading from his Gospel to end the year. This reading about the second coming of Christ fits well: it anticipates advent, and it shows us that we are indeed ending the liturgical year, which signifies the end times, and so looks forward in hope to Christ’s final coming. It is the Second coming of Christ that is the major theme of Advent and our readiness or lack thereof, for His coming.
So in these last weeks, before Advent, the Church already begins to emphasize the coming of Jesus in Glory, and the End Times. This reminds us that just as the Church’s year comes to a close, so too will our life someday come to a close. As we begin Advent, a time of preparation, reflection, hope and anticipation for the coming of the Messiah at Christmas, we should ask ourselves if we have used the advent of our life as a preparation for the coming of Jesus at the close of our own life--are we ready to meet Him if He should come for us sooner than we expect.
From the first Sunday of the season of Advent, the Liturgy of the Church has a great sense of expectation, promise and hope. And so, Advent is not only a season for reflecting on the Second Coming of Christ, but for reflecting on the “last things” of our Catholic Faith, the last things of each of our future: Death, Judgment, Heaven And Hell. Death will come for each of us; and with death, Judgment; and with Judgment, heaven or hell. This is the truth that Jesus Himself has revealed to us, so let no one deny it.
The second coming of our Lord is indeed a mysterious thing- as St. Mark tells us: the tribulation will come and then He will appear in the clouds at a time that only the Father in heaven knows. The language here is symbolic and not literal in the strictest sense: The so called Rapture is not biblical and so is not a part of our Catholic belief. No, the language here is meant to bring us to deeper spiritual understanding of death; and eventually, the end of the world as we know it.
The whole idea is difficult to grasp and can lead us to be afraid. Certainly, no one wants to face terrible trials in the future and it is normal to have a natural fear of death. Both prospects can certainly fill us with fear. Jesus, however, knowing our fear, wants to bring us hope, and cast out our fear. He wants us to be ready for Him when He comes for us; and even to look forward to His coming with Joyful expectation.
Both the first reading and Gospel describe a period of tribulation, a time of unsurpassed distress. We immediately try to connect current affairs with this passage. The current list of bad news is long: disease, war, terrorism, abortion, euthanasia, the decline of all moral values as seen in the break up of the family as well as in all sorts of terrible crimes, such as the recent mass shootings. Certainly, these events affect us profoundly and indeed we need to be strong in face of these trials, and the trials to come.
But the trials also include the present trying circumstances of our lives, which can be very fearful for us as well. Think of the crisis of trying to pay the bills at the end of the month, tension at your work or the prospects of unemployment; or an illness or death in the family, or maybe even your own serious illness. All of these too, are tribulations; and unfortunately, we don’t have to look far to find them; sooner or later they find us. These trials cause us to be worried and anxious. Our mind is full of thoughts like, “What if this or this happened- the worst case scenario- what will I do?” These thoughts can really make us feel very afraid.
There is another aspect of our readings that can also bring us fear, that is the final judgment. In Daniel we read that the end for some will be an everlasting horror and disgrace; In the Gospel, we hear Jesus will come and gather the others, the elect - what if we are not in that book of the elect? Judgment brings us fear because each one of us are sinners, plain and simple. Each of us has done things that we are ashamed of and regret terribly. When we think about facing the judgment seat of God with these on our record, it can indeed terrify us.
Certainly at the time of Daniel the Jews believed the trials they were going through were a direct result of their sins. This may be true for us, for if we have done deeds we cannot take back, it seems we too will face the consequences. Many of us can think of a family incident where hurtful things were said and family members stop talking with one another. Obviously, the consequences of our acts stay with us- It is not so much that God is punishing us, but more that we are simply reaping from the natural effects of our actions, sad as they may be. It can lead us to think, will God punish us forever for these or will he punish us for them in the future?
Yet the fear does not have the last word. In Daniel, St. Michael will be sent to protect and hope is given- “the wise will shine brightly.” In the Gospel, Jesus says, “I will gather the elect from the four winds.” Salvation will come. Jesus will come and His mercy will be victorious over all sin and over death itself. Jesus has overcome our deepest fears. He has come to give us His mercy by taking away our sins. The wise then, are those who repent of their sins.
Ultimately, it is our sin that causes us to be afraid; to be afraid of the coming tribulation, to be afraid of dead and judgment and ultimately even to be afraid of God. Yes, God is Merciful but He is also the most just judge; He doesn't do away with Justice by His mercy. His mercy is His Justice.
The Message of advent, whether it be the liturgical time before Christmas or the advent of our lives is that God has come to save us, to save us from our sins; so do not be afraid. But for our part, in order to receive his mercy and so receive this hope, we necessarily, have to, must repent, confess our sins and with the help of God's grace amend our life, that is change ourselves for the better. And so, if we have not been to confession or made a good confession, perhaps this is at the root of our fear.
Therefore, Advent is a time of decision; a time of great action; a time for change. Are we going to continue to worry, hiding from God by hiding from the reality of our sinfulness and so stay in the grip of fear, the fear of what the future might bring; or are we going to try to turn God into a nice Grandfather like dude, instead of seeing Him as the Almighty God, merciful yes, but also most just God that He is; or do we hopefully instead, accept that truth that we are indeed sinners, receive God's mercy and forgiveness by making a good and sincere confession and so live in the freedom of God's sons and daughters, free from the fear of what the future will hold.
For those who don't heed Advent's call to conversion before the sudden unforeseen end arrives, the advent of their lives will end in a life never truly lived, a live ending with the death of hope. For those that heed this call before the end times, the advent of their lives will end in the fulfillment of hope-- the joy of the eternal Christmas of heaven and the ending love it brings.
This is the message of hope that this last “Ordinary” Sunday of the Liturgical year brings. This time of distress in this life is short; and so, those who are faithful should not grieve over the hardships of this present time, for a life of blessedness awaits them. Let us then repent with our whole heart, in order to save ourselves and to find life. Let us glorify the Father of Truth, who sent the Savior, and through Him revealed to us the truth and the heavenly life; to Him be glory throughout all ages, forever and ever. Amen. Let us end, by praying together the wonderful prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, that he would protect us and our family in the future tribulation. Hail Mary, Mother of our Hope, Pray for us.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Like the widow, we have to try and do our very best and give God our very best...

Homily for Mark 12: 38-44 Thirty Second Sunday

Jesus over and over again tells us that before anything else we must first love God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength; and then our neighbor as ourselves. Our Gospel today gives us an example of what Jesus means. Today we hear the well-known story of Jesus sitting by the treasury in the Temple as the poor widow places her two copper coins in the treasury. The account is a contrast to what Jesus had seen happen just before this loving act; He observed the prideful behavior of the scribes who neglected justice and used religion has an excuse for self-righteousness.
Jesus observes many very wealthy people giving large sums of money to the temple out of their surplus and then he sees a poor woman putting in two small coins worth next to nothing. The money in the treasury was for the maintenance of the Temple itself, which was the church of the day, as well as for the support of the poor. This woman gives a little, yet, this was all she had. She gave, not out of her surplus, but out of her need. However even more, this her offering, is a manifestation of a much deeper offering.
Before you think that this act of the poor widow is just a story, I want to tell you of a story of a beautiful Church in Iowa. This Church is in the middle of pig farms, out, really, in the middle of nowhere. The Church is named Sts Peter and Paul and is in a little town West of Dubuque, Ia called Petersburg. The Church is just stunning, with the most beautiful high altar you ever seen. As well as just beautiful statuary. I couple of years ago I took a couple priest friends of mine to visit this incredible Church. To our delight there was a retire hog farmer who was about to close up the church; he offered to give us a little tour. After the tour, he said to us, "wait until you see this." He went back into the sacristy and showed us two vestments made of solid Gold material.
I couldn't believe it, this type of beauty and this type of sacrifice for the worship and glory of God in this little town in Iowa. The farmer then went on to tell us that in order to build this incredible Church, so grand for the glory of God, every single farmer in the parish mortgaged his farm to raise the money. What a sacrifice to build such a magnificent structure to house the Tabernacle, the presence of God in our midst, and where in to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Here is an example of great faith, trust and love of God. And I might add, love of neighbor. For how many, after these original farmers were dead, were brought to a deeper reverence and love of God worshiping in this most worthy of temples. Remember, it was by the way, the great lover and care taker of the poor, St. Francis of Assisi who said that we should sacrifice much to build and maintain our temples and our parishes. He said, "that when it comes to the worship of God we should adorn the sanctuary with the finest linens and material, the finest vestments and most costly sacred vessels; not because God needs them but because we do. Our offering to the temple exhibits what is really important to us, who is really our God. But also, it demonstrates our love for neighbor.
St Francis, as all saints knew, that the greatest poverty is not physical poverty, but the poverty of those who don't know Jesus and his true teachings, and so don't know truly his love for them; don't know that He is still physically with us in the Holy Eucharist, and so as a result, they don't worship Him at all or don't worship him correctly. How vital it is that they see the importance we place on the true worship of God shown, not only by our correct worship of Him, but by our support of His Holy temple and the Church in our midst--St. Patrick's Parish Family. If He is really here and He is, how can we not give Him our very best. And so most of all, our act of giving must be sacrificial; the gift of our money must be an exterior manifestation of the gift of our hearts, the gift of our selves.
Today, the contrast we see between the poor widow and the wealthy, points to the disposition of our heart. Who in the Gospel loved God with everything? Jesus points out that it is the poor widow. The disposition of the heart is what Jesus saw more than the sum total of the gift. The poor widow was most likely destitute. Widows at this time, had no means of support if their families did not take care of them, and if they had no family, they survived on begging. Most likely then, the widow was a beggar and she gave from what she had begged. In her simple way, she knew in her heart that she needed to love God with everything she had and to love others as herself. She thought to herself, “I’m sure there are others who are needier than me. I know their plight, I’ll try to help by supporting the temple which contains the presence of God.” The poor woman had the proper disposition of heart, she gave God her all out of love, trusting totally in His Divine providence to care for her and for the poor through her gift, the gift of herself.
In her own way, the widow’s offering represents the Christ-like act of laying down her life. She gives of herself, utterly and without limit, not out of a sense of self-importance, not in order to win the praise of her peers, not in order to get anything for herself, but simply because she believes in God and loves Him above all things. It’s not the amount of her donation, but rather the ardor of her love that makes her offering the most precious in the eyes of Jesus, Who is God. But yet, she does give, and her gift is sacrificial; she doesn't give from her excess, she gives from her need. This shows her true motive and intention, she tries to do her best, to give God her best.
The greatest love we can give to God, like the poor widow, is the very gift of ourselves motivated by the same love with which God has for us. This brings up how important our offering of treasure is at Holy Mass. Our parish tithe, is more than just about money. Our offering manifests outwardly our inward offering of ourselves at Holy Mass. Just as in our Gospel, the woman gave whatever she could give, so too are we called to give to the maintenance of our temple, St. Patrick's, our parish family in order to show our love for God. We might not think we have much to offer, yet in God’s sight, and in fact mine as well, the gift of generously giving a portion of our treasure to the support of the temple are gifts that cannot be measured in a monetary way. The disposition of our hearts here, as in our Gospel, is what is most important. Like the widow, we have to try and do our very best and give God our very best...
As a result, we can't be miserly in the offering of our treasure to God. To be skimpy, shows, reveals the interior disposition of our heart. We have to give and our gift should be sacrificial, if our gift is to represent the gift of ourselves. To help us, I suggest that we begin to place the offering of our treasure here before the altar as a way to show that our money is a symbol of the offering of all that we are and all that we have to the God who has given us it all any way. Our gift shows our love to God, and love gives all to the beloved. We can't be miserly, for love is never miserly.
Some may think they can forgo supporting their parish family by giving of their treasure to some other charity. Yes, we need to give to other charities but charity begins at home; and this is our home; a home more deeply home than our own homes. By the way, speaking of our sacrificial treasure; if every family in the parish gave just 5 dollars more per week; that's just the cost of Big Mac or Latte, and we would have an additional $329,000 dollars per year. Just think what we could do as a parish family with those dollars. We could continue to prepare for our future; we could expand our youth programs, cover the cost of our parking lot repairs, and yes, even increase the beauty of God's temple for His glory and so continue in our primary mission and reason for existence to save souls created in the image and likeness of God, leading them to know, love and serve, and so adore their Creator in this sacred place.
In this troubling economic times, St. Patrick's needs your sacrificial gift, now more than ever, but even more importantly you need to give that gift, as a sign, as proof, of your trust and love of God; and as a sign of your love for your parish family. God will take care of the rest.
The poor widow of today's Gospel didn't have much, but she tried to do her best, let us all at least try to do better, to do better to support the parish family which we all need in order to be able to truly believe, truly adore, truly hope and truly love God. Remember it is only possible to practice authentic faith within a community, within a family of believers, a family of believers that can help- us to do our best. In this we can feed the poorest of the poor with our adoration, worship and love for God, thus obtaining the grace to satisfy their deepest hunger, the hunger of their souls for Jesus and His love.
Holy Mary, Mother of St. Patrick's Parish family, pray for us poor sinners who have recourse to thee. Amen.

Monday, November 2, 2009

This day is a special day to remember those who have died and are awaiting to enter joyfully into the vision of the saints.

Feast of All Souls

Yesterday, we celebrate the great solemnity of All Saints. All Saints, is the day that we celebrate with great joy those souls who have made it to heaven and so now enjoy the full and unveiled vision of the Holy Mass and the Holy Eucharist; they are the Church Triumph. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Souls. This day is a special day to remember those who have died and are awaiting to enter joyfully into the vision of the saints. They are undergoing a final “purge” if you will, of the self-love and the error that they did not fully rid themselves here on earth; they are the Church suffering. While we could spend much time this morning trying to prove the existence of purgatory, those of us who are faithful Catholics know with certainty from the teachings of the Church and the testimony of all the Saints that Purgatory is real. The rest, those who don’t believe it, will know about it when they get there; that is if they make it and don’t end up somewhere much hotter and permanent.
A few months ago I inserted an article in the bulletin about the modern failure of many Catholics to pray for the death (one of the precepts of the Church). The author pointed out that if you read the obituaries of many Catholics, you will no longer see an appeal from their families to have Masses offered for the repose of their soul. Many families believe that their loved ones are in heaven and declare it to be so; even though, only the Church has been given the grace of the Holy Spirit to canonize saints, being able to declare with certainty which souls are in heaven. Instead of offering Masses, which is the most loving thing that we can do for our departed loved ones, the author stated that many obituaries ask for money instead to be given to the favorite organization of the departed in order to keep their memory alive on earth. At the root of this, the author proposes is, if not an outright denial, at least a practical denial of the afterlife. In other words, their family is not concerned in the least bit about where the departed is in the afterlife, all there is this life, so they have to keep them living in this life by having works done in their memory. As one obituary for one catholic read, “In lue of Masses please give donations instead to the local Human Society in order to keep our loved one’s work and love continuing for his beloved animals.”
The fact is, is that there is an afterlife. There is death, and then judgment by God and after judgment heaven or hell. While many die in friendship with God, that is in the state of grace, many of have not yet reach that perfection of love that Jesus demanded while on earth, “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” How many of us can say we have reached that perfection of love and virtue. Many of the greatest saints have stated that the number of those who pass right from this life to heaven is very small. The mystic St. John of the Cross says, “Only a small number of souls achieve perfect love.” (And as we have said, perfect love is necessary to go straight to heaven). St. Teresa of Avila also had the experience that only a few will be able to avoid Purgatory. St. John Vianney said, “It is definite that only a few chosen ones do not go to Purgatory; and the suffering there that one must endure, exceeds our imagination.”
And so what a great responsibility we all have to pray for our associates, friends, and loved ones who have died. How much of a lack of love it is to assume that they are in heaven when they may very well be in purgatory in great need of our prayers for them. In our parish family, what a great responsibility of love we have to pray for the members of our parish family who have died. We may be the only ones who pray for them (This is why I have started a Holy Name Society as well to work on the cemetery in order to show our love for our departed family members). We must remember that souls in purgatory cannot pray for themselves or help themselves; they depend totally on us. It has been revealed to some saints that the souls in purgatory who suffer the most are the ones who have been forgotten, because they themselves neglected to pray for the Holy Souls in purgatory.
We should never doubt that our prayers help the souls in purgatory and our loved ones in purgatory. Our prayers for them truly show our love for them and truly help them. In fact, praying for our loved ones, offering Masses for them is the very best way to continue to show our love for them on earth now that they have gone. Where I grew up there is a Dominican convent nearby. I remember hearing a true story of a very holy nun there that had a great devotion to the Holy Souls. She spent her whole life praying, doing penance and offering suffering for them. At one point she began to doubt whether or not all her prayers and suffrage had done anything to help them. One day, after she had almost given up, she returned to her cell that evening and there appearing before her on the wall of her cell were thousands of faces. She heard Our Blessed Lord say to her, “These are the souls that you have released from purgatory so far. Please continue!” Needless to say she did! How we need to pray and to offer Masses for our loved ones in purgatory; that is if we truly love them and we do. It does nothing to degrade their memory to realize they may be there. If they happen to be in heaven then our prayers are not wasted because, as I have said, we still show them our love for them and they can actually use our prayers for helping us and others from their place in heaven.
One of the other aspects of our loved ones and of all the holy souls in purgatory is that while they cannot pray for themselves they can, if we ask them, pray for us. This is really, I believe, at the heart of why the devil doesn’t want people on earth to believe in purgatory and to pray for the souls there. He can’t do anything to them, they are saved. But, satan knows that if we believe in purgatory we can ask the souls that are there to pray for us and their prayers are powerful because they are truly Holy Souls; they are friends of God. And even more, when they enter into heaven and see the Holy Eucharist unveiled, in gratitude for our help, they will beseech the throne of God on our behalf. And so obviously the devil doesn’t want this to happen because even though he can’t touch them, he wants the ruin of our soul.
Today let us pray for our loved ones; all our loved ones who have gone before us. Let us have the hope that they are in heaven, but let us not play the church and canonize them. Let us instead pray for them and offer Masses for them whenever we can to show and continue our love for them here on earth. Let us visit the cemetery where they are buried and visit our cemetery here at St Peter’s to pray for them all. I ask all the men here to consider joining the Holy Name Society and help me take care of the cemetery and so respect the memory of the members of our parish family buried there; praying for them as we keep the cemetery well maintained and beautiful. By the way there is a plenary indulgence for those that would pray for the souls in purgatory today as they visit a cemetery.
And at this Holy Mass let us pray for them because here at the Mass they are present. We are again, never closer to those whom we love and have died than we are at the Holy Mass, for the Holy mass is truly heaven on earth. All the Angel and saints are here, but so too are the Holy Souls in purgatory, although they don’t get to see the Eucharist yet. Let’s ask them to pray for us as well so that we may increase our love by our cooperation to God’s grace given to us in the Holy Eucharist, becoming perfected in love so that we ourselves won’t have to pass through purgatory. We have to remember as St. Therese the little flower taught, “God our Father loves us and surely doesn’t want us, after we leave this world, to have to pass through purgatory, He wants us in heaven with Him. This should give us great confidence and trust in His Mercy and in His love. God really doesn’t want purgatory. We should never say, I hope I make it to purgatory! What cowardous, what mediocrity and lack of love; we should say instead, When I die, I want to go straight to heaven to be with my Father who loves me and with all the saints in heaven. And so, I will, with the help of His grace, strive to live the life of love and of holiness to which He has called me. Let us trust in the Father’s love for us and never take it for granted by sinning and living a life of mediocrity and indifference.
Let us pray; Our Lady visit the souls of our loved one and of our parish family that are in purgatory, bring them refreshment and peace; and if it be God’s will, carry them into the joys of heaven which you and all of the saints enjoy forever. Mother of Jesus who is Life Itself, pray for us sinners who have recourse to thee. Amen.

Friday, October 30, 2009

But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning"

Homily for All Saints
Today we celebrate the great Solemnity of All Saints. The liturgy today invites us to "Rejoice in the Lord" and so share with heart and mind, in the heavenly jubilation of the Saints. Here at Holy Mass our communion with the saints is intensified, and we can begin to taste their joy.
As I was preparing for this great feast, I came across the Holy Father’s homily for all saints a few years ago. In his homily, Benedict reminds us that, "the Saints are not a small caste of chosen souls but an innumerable crowd to which the liturgy urges us to raise our eyes. This multitude of souls not only includes the officially recognized Saints, but the baptized of every age and nation who sought to carry out the divine will of God faithfully and lovingly. While we are unacquainted with the faces and even the names of many of them, with the eyes of faith we see the countless others that shine in God's firmament like glorious stars.
Often we can think that the crowd of saints is made of up of only those saints that the Church has officially canonized, but on this feast we actually celebrate all the souls that have enter into the full vision of God, hence all saints day.
And so today, the Church is celebrating her dignity as "Mother of the Saints and as image of the Eternal City." Today she displays her great beauty as the immaculate Bride of Christ, source and model of all holiness.
Yes, the Church certainly doesn’t lack contentious or even rebellious children, but it is in her Saints that she recognizes her characteristic features and precisely in them savours her deepest joy. In other words, the true Church reveals herself, not by her rebellious unfaithful, disobedient children, but by her faithful obedient members. What other church has produced saints which shine with the light of God’s holiness such as Jerome, Augustine, Aquinas, Anthony of Padua, Francis, St. Theresa of Avila, Therese of Lisuex, Padre Pio, or Mother Theresa of Calcutta
In our first reading, the author of the Book of Revelation describes all the saints as "a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues" (Rv 7: 9). Included in this great multitude are the Saints of the Old Testament, starting with the righteous Abel and the faithful Patriarch, Abraham our Father in faith, those saints of the New Testament, the numerous early Christian Martyrs and the Blesseds and Saints of later centuries, all the way to the witnesses of Christ in this modern age of ours—the age of martyrs. (Why is our age the age of martyrs? Well, if you count the number of martyrs for the faith from St. Stephen to 1900; and then, count the number of martyrs from 1900 until today, the latter would be much, much larger: by far. More are dying for the faith, the Catholic faith today than ever; and that number looks to explode in a very short time.
Speaking of the Martyrs, Benedict points out that, many of the martyrs were ordinary people who had the courage to give their lives for the Gospel. Benedict also reminded us, that martyrdom for all believers is always a distinct possibility. True friends of God are united in the common desire to preach the truth of the Gospel by their very lives. By the impulse of the Holy Spirit they long to incarnate the Gospel, which means by the witness of their lives, they long to become the living Gospel for all men to see and hear. We should all long to be martyrs; that is if we really love God. In fact, every time Jesus says witness in the Gospel, the word He uses in the original Greek is the same word for Martyr. Jesus calls us to live a Martyrs life, even if we are not called to a martyrs death.
In his homily Benedict asks, "why should our praise and glorification, or even the celebration of this Solemnity, mean anything to the Saints?" He answers by quoting a famous All Saints Day homily by St. Bernard in which Bernard says, "The Saints have no need of honour from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs.... But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning" (Disc. 2, Opera Omnia Cisterc. 5, 364ff.). In other words, St Benard says we honour the saints in order to inflame in our own hearts and minds the desire to be like them.
This, then, is the meaning of today's Solemnity: to look at the shining example of the Saints in order to reawaken within our hearts the great longing to be like them; happy to live near God both in this life and in the next, to live in his light, with in the great family of God's friends. To truly celebrate this feast, is to manifest our desire to live our lives close to God; in fact in union with Him.
In fact, being a Saint means living in union with God, by living in union with His family-the Church, by living His will on earth as it is in heaven. This is the vocation of us all, vigorously reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council and solemnly proposed today for our attention…The universal call to Holiness, the universal call to become great saints, great friends of God in the deepest sense of the word, united with Him in love.
Our Holy Father Benedict in his homily asks another question, “But how can we become holy, friends of God? He answers, that to be a Saint requires neither extraordinary actions or works nor the possession of exceptional charisms. However, it is necessary first of all to listen to Jesus and then to follow Him without losing heart when faced by difficulties of living faithfully the duties of our daily lives in love and obedience to God and His commandment of love; this entails the cross.
Here,Pope Benedict reminds us that while the Church's experience shows that every form of holiness, even if it follows different paths, the path of holiness always passes through the Way of the Cross, the way of self-denial. The Saints' biographies describe men and women who, docile to the divine plan, sometimes faced unspeakable trials and suffering, persecution and martyrdom. They persevered in their commitment: "they... have come out of the great tribulation", one reads in Revelation, "they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rv 7: 14). Their names are written in the book of life (cf. Rv 20: 12) and Heaven is their eternal dwelling-place.
The example of the Saints (especially those whom the Church places on the liturgical calendar) encourages us to follow in their same footsteps and to experience the joy of those who trust in God; for the one true cause of sorrow and unhappiness for men and women is to live far from God. Yes, holiness demands a constant effort, because love demands a constant effort, but holiness is possible for everyone. But rather achieving it by human effort, Holiness is first and foremost a gift of God, who is thrice Holy (cf. Is 6: 3). And we for our part must asks for it constantly through prayer.
In our second reading, the Apostle John remarks: "See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God; and so we are" (I Jn 3: 1). It is God, therefore, who loved us first and made us His adoptive sons in Jesus. Everything in our lives is a gift of His love: how can we possibly be indifferent before such a great mystery, the mystery of His Divine love for us, mere creatures? How can we not respond to the Heavenly Father's love by living as grateful children striving to do His will? In Christ, the Father gave us the gift of His entire self, His entire wealth; and so He calls us to a personal and profound relationship with Him in response to so great a love as this. As a result, only a insane person would not want to be a saint.
Consequently, the more we imitate Jesus and remain united to Him, by our faithfulness to the Pope and the Church, the more we enter into the mystery of his divine holiness. We discover that He loves us infinitely, and this prompts us in turn to love our brethren. Loving always entails an act of self-denial, "losing ourselves", and it is precisely this that makes us happy. And this is what the Gospel of this feast proclaims, the proclamation of the Beatitudes which we have just heard in this holy church. The happiness God calls us to is crazy, out of this world happiness; the happiness that the saints enjoy known as Beatitude. And so, nothing could be a greater sadness that if by the end of our life we fail to become a saint.
In just a short while we will be entering the heart of the Eucharistic celebration that encourages and nourishes holiness. On the altar, Christ will make himself present through the priest, in the most exalted way, Christ the true Vine to whom the faithful on earth and the Saints in Heaven are united like branches. This altar becomes the very altar of heaven, uniting the pilgrim and militant Church in the world with the Church triumphant in glory, so that we can literally join with all the saints in heaven as we together adore the Lord, joining in the wedding feast of the Lamb.
In the Preface, right before the Sanctus, we will proclaim that the Saints are friends and models of life for us. Benedict ends his homily encouraging us on to perseverance in holiness by saying, "The saints didn’t fall from the sky perfect; they were born as ordinary people like you and me who first realized that God first loved them and then allow themselves to be formed by that loved into images of Jesus Himself (Benedict XVI). And so let us invoke the saints so that they may help us to imitate them and strive to respond generously, as they did, to the divine call, the call to holiness which is the call to union with the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit together with the Communion of Saints and Angels. In particular, let us invoke Mary, Mother of the Lord and mirror of all holiness. May she, the All Holy, make us faithful disciples of her Son Jesus Christ! Amen.