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.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Let us pray that all people might see clearly the incredible gift of the priesthood of Jesus Christ that he shares with imperfect and sinful men.

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time. October 25th, 2009 Priesthood Sunday

Today we celebrate Priesthood Sunday. This yearly celebration should take on even more significance for us this year, for this is the "Year of the Priest," as proclaimed by our Supreme Pontiff, Benedict the XVI. It is the priesthood that provides the means for us to grow in Faith, Hope and Charity.

When I think of the Father’s great gift of the priesthood I look back in my own life to those faithful priests that have revealed to me the Father’s love. I can’t help but be filled with incredible admiration and thankfulness to the Father for those spiritual fathers that offered their entire lives to Jesus Christ in order that Jesus could form them into His “other selves,” so that they could be His “living sacraments” to the world and lead you (and me), to He who is the way , the truth and the life.

I can remember that night, that terrible night in the hospital after finding out my dear wife Kathy had terminal Cancer; it was that night that I began to realize the incredible power of the priesthood, a divine supernatural power that was Jesus’ own power. As I sat next to her bedside unable to cope with such devastating news, there came into the room a priest. He seemed to know just what I was thinking and asked me if I wanted to talk.

This priest showed me the Father’s love-he was there when I needed it the most. This priest let me know that my wife’s illness was not God trying to get back at me for not going to church and living the life that I should have been living. He told me of the Father’s love for me and for Kathy, and that the Father wanted nothing else than to show us that love. This father patiently listened to me and let me cry out in my pain and sorrow. He heard my first confession, albeit a clumsy one and not very thorough, but nevertheless the first one in many, many years. He gave the Father’s infinite mercy and forgiveness in the absolution. I don’t even remember this priest’s name.

Next came Father Kolfenbach, a holy, kind priest who my wife and I met after my aunt arranged a visit by father to my wife in the hospital. To this day, I don’t know what this holy priest said in his first visit with my wife. All that I know is that after he prayed with her, talked to her, & anointed her, her faith took off. She went from a young woman who was scared to death of the suffering and pain her cancer might bring, to an incredibly strong and brave person of faith. After her encounter with this priest, people would visit her in order to cheer her up but they would be the ones who would leave the hospital strengthened consoled in faith and hope after an encounter with Kathy. This priest so spent himself for Christ and for others, even after he "retired" that he himself would die of cancer some two years after my wife’s death (one of the persons present at his death was given a vision as father died. She saw Jesus removing his lifeless body from the cross and embracing it).

A year later, just some two months after my wife’s death, there was another priest that was there when I needed him. I prayed to the Blessed Mother to help me find a priest so that I could make a more thorough confession, a life-long confession. And there he was, Father Camella. This priest with great care, compassion and patience helped me examine my conscience in order to thoroughly confess all my sins. He again showed me the Father’s life giving love as I walked away with the heavy burden of guilt lifted off my shoulders. He would be a good friend for many years. I learned of his death from diabetes while I was in seminary.

Then there was my dear friend and spiritual director, Fr. Gabriel. Father was there for me in the many dark and agonizing years after my wife’s death. He helped me to see the truth about why God allowed my wife to die. Father spent many years patiently listening to my frustrations and struggles. He helped me to see that God had a special job for me, one that I would never have even considered; nonetheless, this father helped me see that God was indeed calling me.

How many other priest I could talk about with you today. I am sure many of you have your own stories of how priests have touched you lives. These priests that I mentioned served this member of God’s people, as well as countless others, extremely well. I honor them and all the priests that have had an impact on my life. I would not be here in front of you today if it wasn’t for their incredible lives of sacrifice. I can only hope that I can be half the priest that they were and are.

I also think about all the priest friends that I have today. I am humbled when I see their dedication and love for Christ, his Church and the people of God. I hear their joys and their pains. Even though one might think that the scandals of a few have caused them much pain, more pain is caused by the indifference and the lack of understanding of some souls that they come across. They know that all priests are not perfect, much less holy, and they pray to God that they, themselves may be always both faithful and holy. We too should pray for them that they always be holy and faithful.

These holy priests love the priesthood, not just because they are priests, but because they too, like me, have themselves been given the love of the Father through the many faithful and dedicated “fathers” that have been there when they needed them. They know the great gift of the priesthood by priests they have come in contact with and also by the many incredible works that they see Jesus perform through their own priesthood. It hurts them when people don’t love or understand the priesthood, not because they are personally slighted, but because the office of the priesthood is slighted. They are hurt when people don’t see that there is a difference, not only in degree, but in essence between the royal priesthood of the laity received at baptism and the ordained priesthood.

The power of the priest does not come from the people, his authority is not given to him by a delegation of the community; the priest's power and authority comes from none other than God himself through the laying on of the hands by the bishop who is a successor of the apostles. In his Encyclical, Mediator Dei, (which is necessary reading in order to understand the teachings of the Second Vatican Council on the priesthood and the Liturgy), Pius XII wrote the following:

Prior to acting as representative of the community before the throne of God, the priest is the ambassador of the divine Redeemer. He is God's vice-regent in the midst of his flock precisely because Jesus Christ is Head of that body of which Christians are the members. The power entrusted to the priest, therefore, bears no natural resemblance to anything human. It is entirely supernatural. It comes from God himself. "As the Father hath sent me, I also send you [40]. . . he that heareth you heareth me [41]. . . go ye into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mediator Dei. Pius XII)

At the Holy Mass only, only a validly ordained Catholic priest can act in the name and in the person of Christ, or I should say, Jesus can act in the person of the priest, in persona Christi et capitis (in the person of Christ, the Head). Because of ordination, there is an ontological change in their being and an indelible mark placed on their souls. This ontological change means that the priest is given a new capacity so that when the priest acts, it is Jesus Himself who is now able to act in and through the priest. When the words of consecration at Holy Mass are spoken by the priest it is actually Christ Himself who speaks these words through the priest. Or as John Paul the Second put it, the priest says these words; or rather he puts his voice at the disposal of the One who spoke these words in the Upper Room.

So the priest, and he alone, possesses Christ’s power to consecrate bread and wine changing them into the true body and blood of Christ (into God Himself) and then the power to offer Jesus sacrificially to the Eternal Father on behalf of the whole Christian people, in order that the power of Christ sacrifice and resurrection would be made available to those same Christian People. Because the Liturgy is primarily the work of Christ and not of the people (Jesus died on the cross not the people), because liturgy is the work of Christ represent through the priest; No priest--no Holy Mass, no Holy Mass--No Holy Eucharist, no Holy Eucharist--no heaven for anyone. (This is also true with all the sacraments. So that when the priest gives absolution, the anointing, or marries, it is Christ Himself who does so through the priest).

But this "in persona Christi et capitis," is not just limited to the Sacraments. Even when the priest blesses, when he prays, teaches, when he visits the sick or even when he visits your home, it is Christ himself who actually does these things through the priest; and they could not be done with the same efficacy (the very
efficacy of Christ), without the priest.

It is a strong sign of the great loss of faith in our age, when this correct understanding of what a great gift the priesthood is to all of us is not held and practiced by the very people to whom God has given the priest. This loss of faith results in people not honoring or even opposing the priest who brings the light, life and love of Christ to them; it is literally, "biting the hand of the one who feeds you." In this case, the one who feeds you the Bread of Life--Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

As we all honor those priests this weekend that have made an impact on our lives let us look for some ways to show them our love. I speak to myself as well as to you, because I too need to honor priests in my life that I depend on for the sacraments, especially that of confession. The priesthood doesn’t belong to me, because I am a priest, it is great gift for me as well as for you, so I too need to have great love and respect for it. Let us first begin by seeing priests as true “fathers.” Priests are rightly called “father” because they are true life-givers, givers of God’s own life through providing us with the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist the Bread of Life. Let us recognize that if not for the priesthood, there would be no sacraments and thus no possibility of us receiving the Father’s love and forgiveness and no possibility for us to reach heaven. This is why St. John Vianney said that the priesthood is the very love of the Heart of Jesus.

So, let us pray and offer up sacrifices for all priests that they may be holy and faithful priest. We all have a great responsibility to do so, and if we do not pray and offer our sufferings for them, then we all share in the responsibility when they fall, to the extent we don’t pray and suffer for them.

So let us indeed pray for them and thank God for them and the great gift of the priesthood. Let us forgive those priests that may have failed us through their human weaknesses. Let us obey the priest as our spiritual father in Christ; the priest is more deeply a father to us than our biological father; our biological father gives us life, but our spiritual father gives us spiritual life and so offer us eternal life.

If we pray for the priest, and don't condemn him or oppose him when he is trying to do nothing else than to be faithful to the dictates and teachings of the Church and Holy Father (for in condemning him or opposing him when he is being faithful to the Church, we condemn and oppose Christ himself; i.e. "he who hears you hears me..."), then he will have the strength and holiness to literally spend himself bringing you the graces, helps, blessings and love of God without which you cannot, cannot get to heaven.

Then he, the priest, will have only one aim and ambition in his life, to ensure that the great marriage feast of heaven will be full. With your prayers and sacrifices offered to the Father on the priest’s behalf, he will be able to be a man apart, yet belonging to everyone. He will then receive your respect, your cooperation, your love, and your devotion. Have a place for him always in your prayers and heart, just as every one of you has a place in his prayers, in his heart, and mine as well. God bless you! Holy Mary, mother of priests, pray for us.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Jesus desired instead to use His power to glorify the Father by perfect obedience to the Father’s Will carried out through loving service to others

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time. October 18th, 2009
Today we hear of two very different ways of thinking about what the “Kingdom” means. We just read the story of James and his brother John and their asking Jesus to be set apart or even above the rest of the apostles. They desire to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus when He comes into His Kingdom. Remarkably, Jesus accepts their request, but not in the way they are thinking. Jesus tells them, they will drink from the chalice, from which He will drink- which means of course they will drink, or share in Jesus’ suffering, passion and death, laying down their lives too, as a ransom for the many. There is a real contrast between Jesus’ knowledge of the Kingdom and the earthly kingdom that James and John have in mind.
Let us start with the “kingdom” of this earth, how the world would view the Kingdom. When we see James and John ask for a privileged position in what they believe is a worldly kingdom, we see in them the desire to be great, above others; it is the desire for power and control. It as been said that money is the root of all evil, but I think that the root of all is evil is the lust for power. Money is just a means to obtain power; what desire lies at the heart of our fallen human nature the most is wanting others to fulfill our desires, our will, to bow at our feet.
Regularly we see that in our world, people are competing for power and control in our government, in business, in Hollywood. It can be very destructive, as often times others are used and mistreated in the climb to the top; if any one gets in the way, they are dispensable and even disposable. It is selfishness at its worst; it is evil; it is opposite of the Kingdom of God.
This lust for power makes others servants or better yet, slaves of those who hold the power. This abuse of power, then makes those who are lorded over very angry, angry to the point of rebellion. And in the spirit of rebellion they too want power, no matter what the cost, no matter who gets hurt or destroyed. The oppressed then begin to hate, and they in end can become like those who oppressed them; and the devil laughs with delight.
This kind of behavior is not limited just to public life, it also invades our family life in our homes and in our parishes. The poor and sinful behavior of the world can affect us in our everyday life. We can unwittingly follow the example of people who desire power. We want members of our families and parishes to follow us, to serve us; we want to be the center of the universe. We manipulate circumstances in our families, schools, work and parishes in order to get our own way. We fail to take in account what would be best for our families, for our parish and best for the salvation of their souls; we instead want what we want, when we want it and how we want it.
Sometimes we even try to manipulate God in our prayer---God answer my prayer according to MY WILL, not Yours!!! It becomes all about me, we forget the common good. Through this attitude, we end up denying those who have legitimate authority and power from God, our parents, our bishops and priests, and we become disobedient, lusting after power, trying to grab it for ourselves, power that is not legitimately ours to take. Disunity and division follow! And this of course only leads to sadness and misery; and yes it is not too strong to say, "souls being lost in the process'.
Jesus answer to His disciples’ desire for power, for their desire to be served, is that, “His Kingdom is not like the kingdoms of the earth—it cannot be like that with us.” Jesus’ Kingdom is one of love; Jesus always loved those with whom he came in contact. His love was always reaching out to others…putting others before Himself. Jesus did not desire greatness, power or control; although as God, He had all of these things—Jesus desired instead to use His power to glorify the Father by perfect obedience to the Father’s Will carried out through obedience and loving service to others; a service which had to do with obtaining their salvation by becoming a ransom for the many.
In this Jesus wanted to show us the Father’s great love for us by the great works of mercy, forgiveness and healing that Jesus himself performed while He visibly walked on earth. However, to show us the fullness of the Fathers love, Jesus performed the greatest act of love possible, that of laying down His life on the cross for the sake of His friends-us. He would drink the chalice of suffering and death for our sake, in order to save us from eternal separation from God. This was the greatest act of service ever performed; the greatest act of charity ever performed.
Jesus showed his disciples and us that true power is the power of love. True service then, consists in truly loving God and one another in imitation of Jesus. And the essence of this love is sacrifice--denying oneself for love of Christ and for love of others in order to glorify the Father and for the salvation of souls. James and John ultimately learned this lesson. James drank the chalice of suffering, as he was beheaded as we read in the Acts of the Apostles. John drank it as the one who would be both priest-victim, offering himself along with the sacrifice of Jesus in the Mass. John, who lived to be very old, actually lived the Mass in his many sufferings and persecutions for the Church, for souls. In the end, Jesus did give both of these, his disciples, legitimate power; in fact the keys to the kingdom of heaven and earth; but for they part, instead of using it for selfish reasons, they used it to glorify the Father by “drinking of the Chalice of suffering” in order to bring the love of God to the entire world in order that souls could be saved.
The Kingdom of God, unlike the Kingdom of earth, is not about the desire for power and control, but it’s about Glorifying the Father, imitating Jesus out of love by serving others for their sakes not our own and for love of Jesus, Who is God. Today, like James and John, Jesus also invites us to drink from His chalice and to offer ourselves in love for Him and for others. Jesus may not ask us to do in great ways, like James and John, but he will ask us to do this in little ways throughout our ordinary daily life. Any way we can serve others, or deny ourselves in our homes, schools, work or parishes; little things like being kind when we would rather be cort; setting aside what we want or what we think for the good of our family or our parish family; doing our daily duties well, on time or doing the hard things first. Children can do this as well; being obedient to their moms and dads, or doing their chores before being told; being kind to their brothers and sisters even when you don't feel like it. Any way we can deny ourselves in love even in the smallest of ways for Love is always in the details.
When we give ourselves everyday in service to others, which is another way of saying giving ourselves for love of others, it causes us to suffer a little, sometimes even a lot; it’s like being nailed to the cross with pinpricks. We should all serve each other in our families, in our parishes out of love and for the common good of all not for the almighty me, but for the almighty Thee. This is the power of love.
When we really try to do put others before ourselves, to use our power to serve others, the fact is that we can feel our powerlessness to love. We then can become sad or frustrated by our families and we can lose hope that things can change, that we can change and become better. Jesus however, does not leave us alone. When he asks us to love until it hurts, he also gives us the grace, which is the power, His power to do so. He allows us to feel our weakness but only so that we know that it is only through His power that we can truly show our love for Him by loving and serving others. This is the greatest of all power that we can possess; it is the power to love with Jesus’ own heart living and beating within our soul; this is the power of a Mother Theresa of Calcutta, of John Paul II, and of all the saints. Jesus desires us to be dependent on him, not only for loving him, but for loving others as well. Jesus teaches us that true service to others in love can only come when we do it primarily out of service and love for Him alone, and with his love alive in us.
If you are sad and depressed, turn to God, especially in the Holy Eucharist, ask him to help you to love Him above all things, and then go out and serve others, help others for love of God and I guarantee you, you will become happier. This all begins here at Holy Mass. It is in the Holy Mass that we use best serve God and are given true power, God’s own power, the power to service and love Him and to serve and love others for love of Him. The Holy Mass is the summit toward which all the activity of the church is directed; at the same time it is the fountain from which all her power flows (SC 10).”; it is the very fount of the power of Charity. A power which can literally change the world.
To receive this power at the Holy Mass we need to, with the help of the Holy Spirit, offer ourselves in love and service to God in union with Jesus' self-offering which becomes truly present on this sacred altar by the great gift of the sacred Priesthood. This self-offering of ourselves is the greatest participate in the power of love that we can experience; it is the essence of full and active participation; it is full and actual participation in the power of infinite love.
Let us ask Jesus at this Mass to give us the true power, that is, the Power of His Love, available to us in the Holy Eucharist, which is very Self, the God who is Love. The Eucharist is power beyond compare, beyond comprehension; it is infinite power, the very power of God; God Himself. As we receive God in Holy Communion let us ask Him to possess our hearts fully in order that we can receive this true power, the power to love Him fully and to imitate Him by living our lives in sacrifice, serving Him and all of those whom he has placed in our lives, for their good not just our own; laying down our lives as a ransom for the many in love and for the glory of God. God Bless you.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The fact of the matter is, the rich man in our Gospel today was not truly living the First Commandment in the deepest depths of his heart

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time. October 11th, 2009
When we truly listen to Jesus' words in the Gospel and let them sink in, we discover that the demands of the Gospel are high. But today, Jesus seems to ask of us the impossible: “Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When we read this passage, if we look closely and honestly we can see something of ourselves in this rich young man.
Most of us have grown up Christian and we have been taught the Ten Commandments from our childhood. So, I think it’s easy for us to be very sympathetic with this young man. After all, he seems to show generosity- he seems to have a good and right intention- he certainly asks a wonderful question- what must I do to inherit eternal life? How many today, unlike this young man, just presume they are going to heaven and so don’t even bother to ask the question?
I think most of us would say that this young man is good and surely should be able to enter eternal life. However, Jesus’ response to him should be a shocker to us, Jesus says, “No! You have not yet done everything necessary to inherit eternal life…One thing is lacking, go, sell all that you have and follow me.” After Jesus’ response to this young rich man, I think it’s easy for us to feel rather despondent. I think this is natural. It seems that following the ten rules should be good enough. These demands of Jesus seem to be unreasonable… I think, this points out a common tendency, a common way of thinking for us Christians.
In other words, I think it’s easy for us Christians to think like the following, “I am a good person, after all I haven’t murdered anyone, I haven’t robbed a bank. I try to go to Mass on Sunday, although those Holy days are just a bit too inconvenient for me. I may lie, but usually its only little whites ones. And I put my dollar in the collection plate when it comes around.” Unfortunately, with this attitude, we simply make lists of the good things we’ve done and so try to justify ourselves before God. However, the fact of the matter it, this type of attitude does not require faith at all. Even an atheist can say it is wrong to kill or to steal. Living just by a set of rules is not living faith.
True Faith requires us to ascent fully to the person of God in Jesus and to follow His Commands, which come to us through His Church, the Catholic Church that is. And to follow them, because we love Jesus and His Church. The Ten Commands are not just a minimal list to follow, but are only the beginning of a greater list of the Ten Beatitudes—those things that by doing would perfect us in love: and as a consequence, give us true happiness and freedom. (A husband hopefully says he will follow the Fifth Commandment with regards to his wife, that is he would kill her, but if he loves her is love will go far, far beyond just not killing her). And so measuring ourselves and our actions against a list of rules can be helpful, but it is not in and of itself love…for we just cannot justify ourselves before God.
This is the problem with this young man. He tries to justify Himself before God. He says, “I have done all these since my youth.” How many of us can say the same. However, Jesus says in a word, “no, you cannot justify yourself in front of me, only God is good, only God can justify. You have done only those things that every human being should do, whether he or she believes in me or not. Even the pagans can do as much.” Jesus then goes straight to the root- “You must sell everything and follow me.” Ouch! Everything? Everything!
Jesus reveals the truth of the matter; this young man had never really given himself to God. He really didn’t trust God and so he trusted in himself and adopted the “following--the--rules--type--of--behavior in order not to be punished. He really lacked true faith. This of course is very minimalist and definitely does not show love. For example, a husband may not have cheated on his wife or killed her, but does he love her? Is he willing, better yet, has he given himself completely to her, faithfully serving her in love?
So yes, the rich young man may have lived a good moral life, but he failed to realize, that Christ was calling him to not just live a moral life (to be good), but to live a life of faith, through a total self-giving love. Living a moral life is absolutely necessary, yes...but love demands more, it demands our everything—our whole self.
True love demands a complete giving of one’s self to the beloved, a mutual total self-offering of one to the other. What woman wants a husband who will only give himself partway to her? Love holds nothing back, it gives all away to the beloved. Jesus' demand on the young rich man and on us, goes far beyond just giving away material wealth. Jesus wants us to give away much more than our riches, He wants us to give away ourselves, all of our love—absolutely everything=TO HIM!!! This is the essence of true adoration and love of God--of faith.
Jesus doesn’t demand that each of us immediately give up all our material possessions (we of course need some of these things to live) nor does He expect all of us to become a religious and live in a monastery. But He does, however, demand that we give him everything in an act of adoration and that we use our wealth in such away that we do not forget the heavenly Father who gave us these possessions, showing Him our love and gratitude by sharing what He gave us, our wealth with those who are less fortunate than we. He expects for each one of us to give up our wealth in this way; to give up thinking that we are independent, that we possess everything we need apart from God, to give up our pride, our hearts of stone, our opinions, what we think is right, what we want, getting our own way, and most importantly to give up, in fact to sacrifice, our self will. In this, Jesus wants us to become poor in spirit, realizing that everything, everything we possess is a gift—even our faith, even our very existence; a gift we are to offer back to God with no strings attached.
Today, Jesus is calling each one of us today to this type of love and faith. Today, Jesus is calling each of us to return the gift of our life, our very existence back to God the Father, in a sacrifice of love, through Jesus Himself, the only man who is truly Good, because he is God himself among us.
The gifts we receive from God are so vast and so generous. There will come the day however, when every single one of us, no matter how much or how little we possess, will have to do even in a material way what Jesus asks; someday we will definitely have to give away even our material possessions. Each one of us we will have to give up everything we have at death, we can take nothing material with us. The only thing that we can take with us is our love for Christ or sadly our lack there of—the amount of love we possess at the end of our life, is the amount we posses for all eternity; we will only enjoy heaven to the degree that we have given our love to Jesus, or for some, maybe not enjoy heaven at all; this should give us cause for reflection....
We like the young rich man can not justify ourselves, for God alone can justify us. The truth is in the end we are all poor, we are all sinners and in need of redemption and salvation through the blood of the cross. While it is true we will not be saved without good works, without following the Ten Commandments, our good deeds alone will not save us, only Jesus and His love can save us. But for our part, we have to detach ourselves from our self sufficiently and our stuff, and ask, beg Jesus for the grace to attach ourselves to Him, love Him above all things and trust in Him alone..
We can be tempted to become discouraged (for we too like the rich young man have many possession), but we should not let our face fall, give up hope and walk away sad. One of the Fathers of the Church, commenting on this passage, said that he believed that this rich young man of today's Gospel, may have been none other than St. John himself, before his conversion. St. John walk away sad, but as he walked away began to reflect where true riches are really found. St. John later repented, and in true faith sold all that he had and gave it to the poor and then came back to follow Jesus fully, giving his life totally and completely to God in loving sacrifice, remaining with Jesus faithfully even to the foot of the cross; the only one of the first twelve bishops to remain completely faithful. John shows us that the Power of God's Grace, which is the power of His Love, can indeed transform us, can indeed turn our hearts of stone into hearts for love alone. Be not afraid, when we give all we have to Jesus, we lose nothing of ourselves but gain everything in the end, because we gain Jesus Himself, our only true treasure.
Let us end with this prayer:
"Heavenly Father, I thank You that my family has enough and more than enough. Help us use our possessions according to Your wishes. Help us to share with those who have little or nothing. Help us to support Your work in the world. Help us to put our trust in You and not in our bank book. Help us to be gracious with others as You have been generous with us." But most importantly, with the power of the Holy Spirit, help us at this Holy Mass to offer it all back to you, along with our hearts, everything we have and are, on this altar of sacrifice in union with the Heart of your Son Jesus Christ. Through the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Help us to open our hearts and souls to receive Jesus fully when we receive Him in Holy Communion. Then we will possess the greatest of all riches you our God and Jesus Your only Son in the unity and love of the Holy Spirit..the treasure of heaven even while we still walk on this earth. Amen.
It is the Holy Mass that makes it possible for us to offer ourselves in Love to God; It is the Holy Mass which makes it possible to live this offering of love because it is the source of all grace. Let us offer this prayer as we offer the bread and wine asking our Father to accept our sacrifice of our riches, our hearts, our self wills, along with the sacrifice of His Son which He has of course already accepted. Pray brethren that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Father the Almighty. Our Lady of the poor in spirit, pray for us. God bless you.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

In our country, and world, we must fight for the meaning of words.

Homily for Respect Life Sunday October 3-4, 2009

This Sunday, our Holy Mother, the Church desires us to look closer at life and our desire that life be respected from natural conception to natural death. We celebrate the gift of life which is given to us by God Himself. Life is wonderful thing, it is indeed something to celebrate. When we think of this Sunday, when we are called to promote life, we too often tend to only think of all the things the Church is against. It is important to know all these things- we are against abortion, we are against in-vitro fertilization, experiments on human embryos, embryonic stem cell research, we are against euthanasia, artificial contraception, the homosexual lifestyle, poverty, abuse and so on; but even more importantly than what we are against is what we are for; and we are for life, human life.
The respect we have for life is throughout the entire life of a person, from conception to natural death. The reason we speak out this weekend and always is because life is being threatened today by ideologies that do not respect all human life. As Catholics, and as human beings, we hold that all human life, no exceptions, all human life from conception to natural death has God given dignity. This concept is simple and direct and underpins our teaching about life. And even more, because Jesus has died for every human person, human life has even more value and more worth; it has been redeemed by a great price, the most precious blood of Christ.
The ideological problem against life that we face in our world is a difficult challenge. Let me frame the problem by referring to article in the Parisian newspaper Le Monde. The article was an interview with a priest name Fr. Marie Dominique Philippe who was one of the foremost philosophy professors in the world (a modern day Thomas Aquinas). The reporter asked father what he thought was the biggest crisis in France. Fr. Philippe said without hesitation that he desired to restore the meaning of words. He explained that in the current situation, not only in France but around the world, people have changed or tampered with the meaning of words to fit their own ideologies, their own agenda. Words then lose their ability to describe reality as it is, not as we think it should be. This is disastrous because change the meaning of words all you want, but reality is still objective. Current ideologies try to image, and even worst create a world that just doesn't exist. Sooner or later the world you have tried to created in your mind will collide with the way things really are and come crashing down. Just look at the ideology of communism in the East; it failed to take account of the way things really are and so it literally fell apart; but not before it cause the suffering and death of untold millions.
I think one of the most glaring examples of this tampering with meaning of words of which Fr. Philippe spoke, is how own modern world has tampered with the meaning of the word "Choice." especially with regards to abortion. The advocates of “choice” claim that a woman has the right to decide what she wants to do with her body; and as a result no one can come between the woman and her personal decision. Sounds right, but it doesn't convey the truth, the true objective reality of the situation.
What we are talking about today is the choice for the life of an unborn child. With modern science, we can now look into the womb of a woman and see the truth of the reality that exists there, the truth that it is a tiny baby growing- the pictures are quite remarkable. The child is a separate person, with individuality and a great potential. Yet, contrary to science and common sense, our laws conclude that an individual, on the basis of freedom of choice, is able to say what is real and what is not real. The Supreme Court ruled that individuals alone can determine what is a person and what is not a person. This is indeed absolutely absurd--"a person is a person no matter how small; a baby is a baby no matter born or unborn- this is an objective fact and is not a matter of choice or opinion. Life begins at conception, this is an objective fact proven by modern science; it is not a matter of choice; and it is not, it is not even a matter of faith; it is a truth knowable by the human reason apart from faith.
As Catholics, we want to tell the world that we defend the right to choose, but only when our right to choose is used correctly; that is, with the objective truth, goodness and beauty of the human person as the primary consideration in the choice. The authentic right to choose, is only true and authentic, is only free, when we use it to choose that which is good, true and beautiful. Another way of saying this is that true freedom of choice is the freedom to choose love, to love the other person who is our true good and who is beautiful because he or she is alive, made in the image and likeness of God.
So The only authentic freedom of choice for the human person is the choice for love; and we can only love when we choose the life of the other before our own. We are only truly free when we freely choose to love by choosing life even if it means laying down our life for the other. We discover here that “choice” is actually what defines the dignity of Man.
To love is to freely choose our friend, to freely choose to live for the other more than for our self! Jesus exemplified this freedom of choice, the freedom to choose to love, by choosing life. Our Lord said in the Gospel of St. John- (15:15-16), “…I have called you friends, ...You did not choose me, I chose you.” I have come in order that you may have life and have it to the full. Jesus freely choose to love us even when we weren’t loveable. So much did he love us that he gave up His life so that we could live. Death is the very thing that he came to destroy, for Jesus is Life itself. By His very nature Jesus who is God is anti-death, anti-contraception; By His nature God can only be pro-life.
Let us think about people we know, famous people, ordinary people, people we love; what would the world be like without them if someone used choice to kill them before they were born? We can even think about our own family- all the what if’s if someone would have chosen against life and cause those we know and love not to be here, how different our world would be without them.
So for us then, we Catholics are anything but anti-Choice. But we human's must use our choice correctly, because it is possible for us to choose wrongly, to choose things knowingly or unknowingly that destroy our freedom and happiness and degrades us. The problem is that modern culture elevates choice” above everything else, including life. And by doing this we are really elevating ourselves--the one who makes the choice, and so we put ourselves as equals with God; we try to create our own reality. Then we, apart from God, begin deciding what is good and what is evil, what is a good choice and what is a bad choice. We then deny that we can make bad Choices, choices which on the surface appear good but which are bad because they go against God’s original design and purpose for life. in the end we end up creating something even worse than communism, we create hell on earth. It will all come crashing down eventually but again not before unimaginable suffering and pain is unleash and untold millions are murdered. This collapse is already beginning to happen with the current population crises in different parts of the world, such seen in Japan and Russia. the ideologies have tried to convince us that we have too many children when in fact we don't have even close to enough to support the elderly and to replace the population in order to survive.
We must always use our freedom of choice to choose the good, the true, the beautiful, to choose authentic love…to choose life, this is what pro-choice really means. Choice is a word we as Catholics do not want to surrender to the modern culture of death who tries to distort the meanings of words to fit it's selfish, materialist, hedonistic, paganistic and even atheistic mentality which can only lead to death.
We, as Catholics, want to tell the world that the choice for love is the greatest act of freedom for the human person. We are only truly free when we freely choose to love by choosing life. We destroy human freedom when we make bad choices such as to kill the child, the mentally or physically disabled, the sick or elderly person.
In our country, and world, we must fight for the meaning of words. Debates occur about the meaning of what is life and what is worthy enough to remain living; let us not be fooled by current ideologies, every human life is a life worthy to be lived. Let us pray that we can restore the meaning of words and the true meaning of life. Let us conform our thinking to the way thing are, the way God has created them to be; in other words, let us take on the mind of Christ who is the Way, the Truth and Life Itself. .
Let us turn to this source of human life, the very source of truth, Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. Let us at this Holy Mass and every Holy Mass come into more intimate contact with Jesus who is our life by adoring him and offering our life to Him, He who first offered His life for us, so that we might have life and have it more abundantly. I firmly believe that the only way we will end abortion and all crimes against life is when more Catholics with firm faith fall on their knees in reparation before Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, in order to beg Him for the grace of conversion for our country and for all of those who have immersed themselves in the culture of death either by explicit acts or merely by their indifference. Cardinal Canizares Llovera the current prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, who has competence over the way Mass is celebrated throughout the world, reminded us that the is an unbreakable link between the Eucharist and the defense of life. He said, "To live the Eucharist is to enter in communion with Jesus Christ and as consequence with His love. This a communion of life and makes us participate in the life which is Christ. Divine life, eternal life, but at the same time it makes us givers or carriers of love and defenders of life. If we Christians would live all that the Eucharist means, we would be defenders of life in every moment."
Let us turn to our Blessed Mother to help us. Our Lady, Mother of the Holy Eucharist and so Mother of Life itself, and Our Mother, pray for us who have recourse to thee; help us to end the crimes against life in our day and be people of life, people of Love, and so people of the God who is Love the God' who is life. Amen.