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.