Friday, December 31, 2010

Let us resolve with the Mother of God’s help to make 2011 a year of intense adoration of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Homily for Luke 2:16-21 Holy Mary, Mother of God January 1st 2011

As we continue our celebration of Christmas, today (this evening) we celebrate the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God. At the stable of Bethlehem, we turn our eyes slightly from the infant child Jesus to the one who is holding Him in her arms, His mother Mary. She is the Mother who reveals to us not only the face of Her divine infant, but His Divine Heart and so His Divine Love for each of us.

The Blessed Virgin has been at the heart of the mysteries of Christmas from the beginning of Advent. God chose her from the beginning to be the one who would bear His only begotten Son which was announced at the coming of an angel: Angelus Domini nuntiavit Marie! Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto! The Angel of the Lord Declared unto Mary and she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Now, at the stable in Bethlehem, we join the Blessed Mother in the contemplation of the mystery of God incarnate; Et Verbum caro factum est! Et habitavit in nobis! And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us! We read, “All who heard it were amazed” and “Mary kept all these things, keeping them in her heart.”

This indeed is the true Christmas spirit- our eyes of faith fixed in amazement at the mystery of the Mother holding the Infant child Christ-the mystery of a Mother holding the very God who created her. Like small children, we are awe struck, as it were, caught up in the love that the invisible God has for us and now so wonderfully has made visible to us to in the little Christ Child.

The Mother of God will assist us in our prayer of adoration if we ask her. She offers us her example of deep adoration, as she is the one wholly given to God. She is mother to us, always praying and helping us to be joined more fully to Her Son. She desires us to be the bearers of Christ as she was- that our hearts might be the dwelling place for Jesus, just like the stable in Bethlehem. So we too might lead the little ones to the Child.

So as we continue this Christmas season and begin a new year, let us stay close to the Blessed Mother. May she obtain for us all the graces we need and desire in order that we can offer our hearts fully to the baby Jesus, the God who still dwells among us in the Holy Eucharist. Let us resolve with the Mother of God’s help to make 2011 a year of intense adoration of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Ora pro nobis, sancta Dei Genitrix. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi. Pray for us O Holy Mother of God, that we may be worthy of the promises of Christ! Amen.

Happy New Year and God Bless you!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holy Mass - Holy Innocents:
The Holy Sacrifice versus Human Sacrifice
Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

The title of our present meditation is certainly strange. In fact, it is really two titles wrapped in one. Both parts of the title are contrasts. The first is between the Holy Mass and the innocents who were killed by King Herod. The second is a contrast between the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifices of human beings.

Our first task, therefore, is to explain what we are talking about. We are basically talking about two things. We are relating the Holy Eucharist as the Mass to the slaughter of the innocent boys whom King Herod ordered to be killed. Our second contrast is between the sacrifice which Jesus made of Himself on the cross and which is perpetuated in the Eucharistic Liturgy with the present-day paganism which imitates the pagan sacrifice of children in the religions of prechristian society.

Our best approach to this delicate and difficult subject is to restate the title in more prosaic terms. We wish to speak about the Sacrifice of the Mass as the source of the graces we need to live lives of sacrifice ourselves, and to obtain for others the corresponding grace to live sacrificial lives. All the while we keep in focus what is at the root of the culture of death that has penetrated once civilized societies.

Whatever else abortion is, it is the tragic result of self-idolatry even to the murder of unborn children who are considered an obstacle to self-gratification. There is no possibility of converting, or re-converting, what I have come to call the New Pagans. The old pagans, as we used to call them, had and have a plurality of gods whom they worship. The new pagans are strictly monotheistic. They believe in only one god. That one god is the Self.

To bring these new pagans to their senses and have them return to the worship of the one true God will require not just a miracle but a litany of miracles in countries like our own. It is not a question of how these miracles are to be obtained. It is rather a question of who will perform them. There is only one answer: it must be Jesus Christ whose death on the cross is re-enacted in the Sacrifice of the Mass. Just before He died on Calvary, Jesus worked the miracle of bringing the repentant thief back to the grace of God. The other thief did not receive this divine mercy. Why not? Because he did not repent. But the repentance of Dismas was the fruit of the grace which the dying Christ offered to a criminal who repented his life of crime.

The Mass as the Sacrifice-Sacrament of the Eucharist

As Catholics we all believe that the Holy Eucharist is a sacrament. We know that a sacrament is some visible or sensibly perceptible ritual which Christ instituted as a channel of grace which is signified by the ritual. Thus the sacrament of baptism, which involves the pouring or immersion in water, signifies the cleansing of the human soul from the guilt and consequences of original (and personal) sin. Thus again Confirmation, which is received by anointing with oil, shows the strengthening of the soul, which is signified by the oil that medically strengthens the body.

Certainly the Holy Eucharist is a sacrament. But it is a sacrament three times over. Pope John Paul II is especially clear in insisting on this triple way in which the Holy Eucharist is a sacrament. What is the fundamental grace which the Eucharist confers on human beings? It is the grace to practice Christian charity, as prescribed by Christ at the Last Supper. On Holy Thursday night Our Lord did two things. He told His disciples until the end of time they are to practice such charity towards others as He, who died for our sins, practiced by His death on the cross. Needless to say, He had to provide the means for His followers to love unlovable people. Consequently Our Lord went on to institute the Holy Eucharist, as a sacrament of love, to enable His followers to do the humanly impossible.

This sacrament of love provides the graces which the followers of Christ need to live up to Christ's expectations of them. Among these expectations is the need that a believing Christian has to surrender his will to the will of God which is the precondition for loving others selflessly. This is the first and most basic form of grace which the Holy Eucharist was instituted to give to the world. It is the sacramental grace of self-surrender which Christ merited by His sacrifice on the cross and which He now communicates especially through the Sacrifice of the Mass. In later conferences, we shall explain how the Holy Eucharist as the sacrament of love also confers the grace of seeing Christ in everyone who enters our life, and in sharing what we have with others as the fruit of Christ's sharing Himself with us in Holy Communion

We return to where we began: to see how the Sacrifice of the Mass is the Sacrament of the Mass. The Sacrifice of the Mass communicates, you might say radiates, the divine assistance that our wills need to surrender themselves to the mysterious and often demanding will of God. As one saintly apostle of the Eucharist declared, the world would have long ago been destroyed for its sins of selfishness except for the Sacrifice of the Mass which has been offered over the centuries.

The Holy Innocents who were killed shortly after Christ's birth were the beginning of so many murderers of unborn children since the time of Christ. As historians of early Christianity tell us, one striking quality of believing Christians was their acceptance of the children whom they believed God was giving them. Abortion in the Roman empire at the time of Christ was legal, universally accepted, and simply assumed as the culture of the age. Already in the first Christian century a formal document was issued, called the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, which condemned abortion as murder. No follower of Christ, it was declared, would dare kill an innocent human being in his mother's womb.

Where did the Christians obtain the grace to live such lives of self-sacrifice? They obtained it from the Holy Eucharist. We have already said that the early Christians went to Mass and received Holy Communion every day. What we wish to stress in this meditation is that the Sacrifice of the Mass was instituted by Christ precisely to be the Sacrament of the Mass to enable the followers of Christ to live sacrificial lives.

There is more hidden here than appears at first sight. Left to himself, man is so selfish he will even destroy others to get what he wants. When God became man, He taught His followers to do the very opposite. They are to be willing to give up themselves, even their very lives, out of love for others. It is the Sacrifice of the Mass that offers us a share in Christ's generosity; and Christ offers us a share in the self-giving that He revealed by His death on the cross.

Abortion as Pagan Sacrifice

We know what the word "sacrifice" means. It means the surrender of something precious to the god in whom a person believes. Sacrifices have been part of world religions since the dawn of recorded history. Without exception, the deities of all the religions of the ancient world demanded sacrifices in their honor. The Egyptians and Babylonians, the Greeks and Romans, the deities of prechristian India and of the continent of Africa required that their inherents offer what we call sacrifices in their name.

What is less well known, however, is that these religions also required the sacrifice of children as an oblation and even as a condition, for obtaining blessings from the gods. We read in the Office of Readings for today's Divine Office that the Lord spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, charging the Jews of imitating the pagans in their practice of child homicide. Said the Lord, "They have built high places for Baal to immolate their sons in fire as holocausts to Baal: such a thing as I neither commanded nor spoke of, nor did it ever enter my mind."

As we read statements like the foregoing, we ask ourselves: how could human beings be so deluded as to seriously believe that their gods required human sacrifice as a condition for receiving divine favors? The key word is "deluded." Thirty years of teaching comparative religion has taught me that there is no limit to the irrational, indeed insane, practices that religious mythology will not put into practice as a mandate from the deities in whom they believed. Thus we read in the history of the Aztecs in South America before Columbus that they would kill up to ten thousand children on a major feast day in honor of one of their gods. Although seldom mentioned, infanticide as a religious ritual was practiced in India before its colonization by Great Britain.

We return to the thesis that should be explored far beyond the time we can give it in this conference. Abortion as the widespread practice that it has become today is incredibly a religious practice. It is inspired by the evil spirits who, in Christian terms, were and are the malignant deities of paganism. These deities, often goddesses, demanded the sacrifice of children to be propitiated. Unless children were killed and offered to these gods, they would avenge their anger against the people in the most devastating ways.

As believing Catholics, we know that behind the murder of unborn children is the superhuman mind and malevolent will of Satan and his minions. To know this is to also know that only divine power is a match for the demonic power behind abortion. This divine power is the power of the God who became man in order, as He told us, to conquer the devil as master of this world.

How did Christ provide for the conquest of Satan and his agents? He did so by dying on the cross. The one who died on Calvary was man, but this man was the living God. On these premises, Calvary is the divine sacrifice because it was God who assumed a human body and a human soul which could separate in a human death on Good Friday. Except for this divine sacrifice of Jesus Christ there would be no hope for the human race.

However, let us be clear. Christ did die for our salvation. He shed His blood on Calvary. In that sense, He completed the mission given to Him by His Father. But really that was only the beginning. By His sacrifice on Calvary, He won for us, the title to the graces we need to reach our eternal destiny. But this same Jesus Christ made sure that these graces would be communicated to mankind until the end of time. The principal channel of these graces is the Sacrifice of the Mass.

The graces which Christ pours out on a sinful world through the daily offering of Mass are the graces which a homicidal world needs to return to its worship of the one true God, and cease committing the crimes of abortion which are really acts of worship of the evil deities who we know are the evil spirits.

The Sacrifice of the Mass, therefore, provides us with the light and strength we need to live sacrificial lives. But we must use these graces and really live lives of sacrifice. If we do, and in the measure that we do, we shall obtain for the agents of death the miraculous graces they need to abandon their idolatry and return to the worship of the one true God.

Our faith tells us that the Sacrifice of the Mass is at once the sacrifice of Christ and our sacrifice, too. Christ has done all that He could by dying on the cross. We must do all that we can to follow in His footsteps and die to ourselves out of love for Him.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The mystery we will look at today is that of Jesus who lived in a family.

Feast of the Holy Family. December 26th, 2010

Merry Christmas. Just yesterday we celebrated the wonderful day of Christmas. We are again back at Holy Mass today to celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. As part of our prayer and reflection of Jesus coming into this world, the birth of Jesus is just one of the mysteries we will look at over the next eight days of the octave of Christmas. The mystery we will look at today is that of Jesus who lived in a family.

In today’s Gospel, St. Joseph showed himself to be truly the Protector of the Holy Family. It was not the first crisis for Joseph. Several months before, he was overcome with fear and doubt over the mysterious pregnancy of his young bride, Mary. Now a powerful and ruthless king threatens the life of Jesus. Decisions had to be made. God did not abandon him but sent angels to help. First, angels explained how Mary had conceived her child through the power of the Holy Spirit. Now they urged him to take his family to Egypt. Later, an angel was to tell him to return to Nazareth of Galilee with his family.

Mary and Joseph must have been aware of the awesome responsibility they had. Angels helped them make right decisions, but it was up to them to show faith and courage in danger. All holy families struggle with fears and dangers. They should always ask God to help them act with faith and courage and to make right decision. God will never abandon families who turn to Him for help; He will even send angels to our families to help if need be.

God knows there are so many dangers to holy families in our day, everything from divorce, to a godless, secularist society which is becoming ever increasingly tolerant of everything but God and His Church. It condones things that up until now, have always and everywhere been condemned, such as abortion and legalized homosexual unions. These are all such great threats to the family in our day. It is so hard to be a holy family these days, I would say harder than any other time in history.

The devil knows and has always known the importance of true authentic Catholic Christian family life. He knows the family has been given to us to help us to live and love in order to learn to love like the family of God so that each family member can reach heaven. He knows that it is in holy families that the members learn to give up their selfishness and live for each other in sacrificial love for each other. The devil knows that the Church herself is only as strong and holy, as her families are strong and holy. He knows that the family is the “domestic Church.” the very foundation of the entire society and the Church. He knows that to weaken and destroy the marriage and the family in any one society is to weaken and destroy the church in this same society. Destroy the family and you destroy the church and consequently there is no hope for salvation.

So how do we restructure authentic family life, strengthening it not only in our own families, but also in order to help and strengthen other families as well? The only way to restore sound family life by Catholic families is to learn, accept and live up to the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church, the Catholic Church. In our day, ordinary Catholic families cannot and will not survive. Just as there is no middle ground individually to follow Jesus fully, so it is with families. Families must be holy and heroic families in order to stand up against the demonic onslaught of marriage and the family experience in today’s world.

Families must become more and more authentic witnesses to the truth of the family. Like the Holy Family, they must be willing to suffer if need be for living a truly holy family life. Witness in the Gospel comes from the Greek word for Martyr. Any time you hear the word witness in the Gospels, the word there in Greek is really Martyr. Catholic families must be willing to suffer martyrdom for their faith. These Families must then reach out to other families in apostolic zeal to help them to become holy and live the Christian life. They must be willing to suffer in order to show others their fidelity to Jesus and his teachings. And in a society, which is no longer Christian, but is really pagan, they will suffer for their faith if they live it authentically, maybe even in some places of the world to the point of death. This all reminds us that the truths of our Holy Catholic faith matter, they matter with regard to salvation, that is, whether or not one lives in eternal bliss within the life of the family of God or eternal misery separated from the Trinity.

In order to renew authentic family life in our country, married couples and families must renew their efforts to follow Jesus Christ. It goes with out saying, that going to weekly Sunday Mass as a family to pray is indispensable, but we must do more. We must, as couples, families, and individuals escape the busyness of the world on a daily basis and ask the Family of God, in prayer, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit from whom all families have their origin, to strengthen our families in the face of so much which is against them. Just as the Couple that prays together stays together, so the family that prays together stays together.”

Essential to this renewal of Catholic family life, is for the family to put itself under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her help is indispensable, without it Catholic families will not survive. She is God’s mother, so she is powerful and we need to pray for her intercession to obtain from God, the graces we need in our families. I can personally attest to her powerful help with regards to the problems of my own family, as I am sure many of you can as well. We must go through Mary to Jesus for our family.

This can be done in practical ways. We must as Catholic families pray daily together to the Blessed Mother. The most obvious way is to pray the rosary together. A priest friend of mine recently lost his dear mother. When we where in seminary together he shared with me how he grew up seeing, after every evening meal, His parents on their knees in the living room holding hands and praying the rosary together. After His mom died a few weeks ago, we talked about his experience again. He shared with me that the whole family prayed the rosary every single night together growing up. They were farmers and where usually in bed by 8:30, but one night events on the farm caused them not to be able pray the rosary that evening. It was 10:30 before they were able to get into the house; yet, they still stayed up and prayed the family rosary together. Father told me how blessed he was to grow up in such a holy family; holy because it had holy parents. By the way, this priest is one of the holiest persons I know.

Another way to restore authentic family life is we must return to the custom of praying the Angelus together as a family at least once a day. A good time for this is before meals. Every Catholic family should have a least one picture or painting of Jesus, Mary and Joseph hung in a prominent place in their homes.

And families should have a least one statue of Mary in which to make a Marian shrine to allow family members to pray daily, at least one Hail Mary before it. And family members should return to the custom of wearing the brown Scapular of our lady and her miraculous medal and frequently pray the prayer “O Mary conceived without original sin pray for us who have recourse to thee.” There many other ways the family can practice a devotion to the Virgin Mary for her help and protection. Family devotion to Mary is absolutely necessary to obtain what it needs to receive at her hands from her Son.

Today, I have given some of the most important way for us to restore and strengthen authentic Catholic family life in our families, and in the life of our parish family. It goes with out saying how absolutely essential is the parish family in renewing our families. We all need the parish family, which again is a “Family of families helping one another get to heaven.” Let us end by praying together a parents’ prayer to the Holy Family:

Jesus, only-begotten Son of the Eternal Father, beloved Son of the Blessed Virgin and foster child of St. Joseph, we fervently implore you, through Mary, your ever blessed Mother and your adopted father, St. Joseph, to take our children under your special charge and enclose them in the love of your Sacred Heart. They are the children of your Father in heaven, and they were created after his own image. They are your possession, for you have purchased them with your precious blood. They are temples of the Holy Spirit, who sanctified them in baptism and implanted them with your precious blood. They are temples of the Holy Spirit, who sanctified them in baptism and implanted in their hearts the virtues of faith, hope and charity.
O most loving Jesus, rule and guide them, that they may live according to our holy faith, that they may not waver in their confidence in you and may ever remain faithful in your love.
O Mary, blessed Mother of Jesus, grant to our children a place in your pure, maternal heart! Spread over them your protecting mantle when danger threatens their innocence. Keep them firm when they are about to stray form the path of virtue, and should they have the misfortune to fall, then raise them up again, and reconcile them with your divine Son.
And you, O holy foster father, St. Joseph, do not abandon our children! Protect them from the assaults of the devil, and deliver them from all dangers of soul and body. Joseph and Mary, parents of the holy child Jesus, intercede for us also, that we may bring up our children in the love and fear of God, and one day attain with them the beatific vision. Amen.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Mystery of Christmas is a Mystery to enter into, to experience; in order to be transformed in love!

Christmas 2010

All the Christmas lights are hung, the Christmas tree is up, and our houses are decorated. The last month has been a flurry of activity. The retailers are hoping to have rung up record sales this season as the shoppers looked for and bought what they hope will be that perfect gift for those they love. Children have been waiting to see what gifts they are going to get…will they get what they want come morning?

Christmas is a truly a time for exchanging gifts. It is a time of showing our friends and family how much we care about them by the gift that we give them. And they do the same. But this exchanging of gifts points to something deeper, to a much deeper meaning behind the Mystery of Christmas.

First, Christmas is time to give the gift of ourselves to those we love. When it is all said and done, the greatest gift we can give to those we care about is our love; is ourselves. This is what our presents are meant to be, they are meant to be a reflection of our love, of the gift of ourselves in love to the one we love.

Christmas is meant to be time for an exchange of gifts, gifts of love. This reveals the great mystery that is Christmas. Christmas is the feast of Love, the feast to give ourselves to the one we love and receive the gift of their love in return. Our material gifts can only be a symbol of this, if we try to use them to make up or replace the gift of ourselves to those we love, we not only miss the point, but we fail to really see the reason for the season.

But the meaning of the Mystery of Christmas and gift giving and giving ourselves as a gift to those we love goes even farther… At Christmas what we are really celebrating is that this is what our God has done for the world; He has given men the gift of His love, the gift of Himself to men. God loved the world so much that He gave Himself to it as a gift of love by sending His only Son. In Jesus, God the Father has given Himself as a gift to men. This awesome gift of our God to the world is what we celebrate at Christmas. God’s gift to the world was the gift of the baby Jesus at that first Christmas.

Yet, the Mystery of Christmas goes much beyond what God has done for us, and this points to the ultimate meaning of Christmas. The Mystery of Christmas reveals what God continues to do for us, the gift He continues to offer to us. In other words, the mystery of Christmas is not just about something that God did for us, but it is about something that God continues to do to us.

IN other words, we celebrate Christmas not just by remembering that gift of God, Jesus, who was given to us 2000 years ago, but Christmas is a celebration of that God continues to give the gift of Jesus to us here and now. And so Christmas is not just a mystery to be remembered, but also a mystery to enter into and to experience now in order to be transformed by love, God’s love.

And so Jesus, the awesome gift of the father, hasn’t just come two thousand years ago, He continues to come still. Christmas continues to happen in our day, everyday, where?....Where ever and when ever Holy Mass is offered. In fact, Christmas points to the Holy Mass, every Holy Mass is Christmas. The Mystery of Christmas is the Mystery of Christ’s Mass, the Holy Mass. This is why Christmas is made up of two words, Christ and Mass.

The Holy Mass is the way in which God the Father continues to offer us, who weren’t around two thousand years ago, the gift of His Son. At every Holy Mass Christ comes from heaven, from the Father anew, and is born anew on our altars in the Holy Eucharist, in order for us to adore and worship, love and receive. God’s gift to us is the Holy Eucharist, for the Holy Eucharist is Jesus the only Son of the Father who came down and who comes down again from heaven anew in order to give Himself as the Heavenly Father’s gift to us here and now.

However, to receive this gift fully we must do more than just show up or to receive Jesus in Holy Communion. To receive this gift fully, we must first give ourselves as a gift to Him in return. The Holy Mass, like Christ-mass is meant to be an exchange of gifts-the gift of Jesus to us from the Father and the gift of ourselves to the Father through Jesus His Son.

Jesus is the gift that we are really longing for; he is that gift for which our hearts long, and all hearts long. Two thousand years ago, the world was very much like our own; so much suffering cause by the political and economic situation of the day, so many who were suffering from losing loved ones or from abuse and poverty. Human life back then, like today, was cheap and the dignity of the human person was denigrated in so many ways. The ultimate cause however of all this suffering was sin.

It was to this suffering, to this sinful situation of the world, that Jesus enter into; and this is why is first coming gave the world so much joy. Jesus entered into the sufferings of this world to give it joy by showing it and giving it the Love of the Father and the forgiveness of the Father. Jesus did this by giving Himself on the cross for the salvation of the World.

So many in our own day are suffering so much just like the world back then, the world isn’t a very kind place any more that it was then. And so, the Father continues to offer the world His mercy and forgiveness in the person of Jesus His Son. If we accept the great gift of our Father, who is Jesus by offering our self as a gift in return we too can have the Joy of those who experienced his first birth at Bethlehem. And we can experience this great joy no matter what our circumstances may be, no matter what suffering we may be experiencing in lives.

Christ’s first coming, His birth, brought joy and hope to the whole world. His continual coming on our Altars at Holy Mass, His being born anew on our altars at every Christ-Mass still can bring joy and hope not only to the whole world, but also to each of us and to our families. His offering of Himself anew on the Altar of Sacrifice can still free us and save us from our sins and give us great Joy and peace. But for our part, we must open ourselves to this great and awesome gift of the Father.

And we must come to celebrate Christ mass every Sunday, do I say even every day if we are able. However, we must come as little children, little so as to be able to enter into the mystery of the Holy Mass. No one likes presents more than children; and so we must come as children then to receive the great gift of the Father Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

When Jesus came the first time He was the answer and gift of the father to longing of millions throughout the years. Jesus is still the answer and the gift of the Father to longing of the hearts of millions in our own day. Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is the He is the answer and gift of the Father to the longing, to the hopes and fears of all of the millions of hearts in our own age.

Let us turn to Jesus’ Mother for Help. Let us begin by thanking her for the gift of her Son. Let us ask her to help us to give our lives as a Birthday gift to her divine baby as he lay on the crib of this Holy altar. Tonight (today) Imagine giving your heart (symbolizing all that you are and all your love) to the Blessed Mother asking her to give it to her son, wrapped in her merits and holiness, and then using the imagination of child, watch as she places it as a gift on the paten along with the bread as the priest offers it to the Father; then as the bread is transformed into Jesus Himself and you receive Him in Holy Communion, realize that you are receiving no mere bread, but Jesus the awesome gift of the Father the answer to longing of all your own longings and desires.

On behalf of Fr. William, the Parish staff, I would like to wish all of you and your families a Merry and blessed Christ Mass! God bless you all.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Sala Regia
Monday, 20 December 2010

Dear Cardinals,
Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It gives me great pleasure to be here with you, dear Members of the College of Cardinals and Representatives of the Roman Curia and the Governatorato, for this traditional gathering. I extend a cordial greeting to each one of you, beginning with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, whom I thank for his sentiments of devotion and communion and for the warm good wishes that he expressed to me on behalf of all of you. Prope est jam Dominus, venite, adoremus! As one family let us contemplate the mystery of Emmanuel, God-with-us, as the Cardinal Dean has said. I gladly reciprocate his good wishes and I would like to thank all of you most sincerely, including the Papal Representatives all over the world, for the able and generous contribution that each of you makes to the Vicar of Christ and to the Church.
Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni. Repeatedly during the season of Advent the Church’s liturgy prays in these or similar words. They are invocations that were probably formulated as the Roman Empire was in decline. The disintegration of the key principles of law and of the fundamental moral attitudes underpinning them burst open the dams which until that time had protected peaceful coexistence among peoples. The sun was setting over an entire world. Frequent natural disasters further increased this sense of insecurity. There was no power in sight that could put a stop to this decline. All the more insistent, then, was the invocation of the power of God: the plea that he might come and protect his people from all these threats.
Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni. Today too, we have many reasons to associate ourselves with this Advent prayer of the Church. For all its new hopes and possibilities, our world is at the same time troubled by the sense that moral consensus is collapsing, consensus without which juridical and political structures cannot function. Consequently the forces mobilized for the defence of such structures seem doomed to failure.
Excita – the prayer recalls the cry addressed to the Lord who was sleeping in the disciples’ storm-tossed boat as it was close to sinking. When his powerful word had calmed the storm, he rebuked the disciples for their little faith (cf. Mt 8:26 et par.). He wanted to say: it was your faith that was sleeping. He will say the same thing to us. Our faith too is often asleep. Let us ask him, then, to wake us from the sleep of a faith grown tired, and to restore to that faith the power to move mountains – that is, to order justly the affairs of the world.
Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni: amid the great tribulations to which we have been exposed during the past year, this Advent prayer has frequently been in my mind and on my lips. We had begun the Year for Priests with great joy and, thank God, we were also able to conclude it with great gratitude, despite the fact that it unfolded so differently from the way we had expected. Among us priests and among the lay faithful, especially the young, there was a renewed awareness of what a great gift the Lord has entrusted to us in the priesthood of the Catholic Church. We realized afresh how beautiful it is that human beings are fully authorized to pronounce in God’s name the word of forgiveness, and are thus able to change the world, to change life; we realized how beautiful it is that human beings may utter the words of consecration, through which the Lord draws a part of the world into himself, and so transforms it at one point in its very substance; we realized how beautiful it is to be able, with the Lord’s strength, to be close to people in their joys and sufferings, in the important moments of their lives and in their dark times; how beautiful it is to have as one’s life task not this or that, but simply human life itself – helping people to open themselves to God and to live from God. We were all the more dismayed, then, when in this year of all years and to a degree we could not have imagined, we came to know of abuse of minors committed by priests who twist the sacrament into its antithesis, and under the mantle of the sacred profoundly wound human persons in their childhood, damaging them for a whole lifetime.
In this context, a vision of Saint Hildegard of Bingen came to my mind, a vision which describes in a shocking way what we have lived through this past year. “In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 1170, I had been lying on my sick-bed for a long time when, fully conscious in body and in mind, I had a vision of a woman of such beauty that the human mind is unable to comprehend. She stretched in height from earth to heaven. Her face shone with exceeding brightness and her gaze was fixed on heaven. She was dressed in a dazzling robe of white silk and draped in a cloak, adorned with stones of great price. On her feet she wore shoes of onyx. But her face was stained with dust, her robe was ripped down the right side, her cloak had lost its sheen of beauty and her shoes had been blackened. And she herself, in a voice loud with sorrow, was calling to the heights of heaven, saying, ‘Hear, heaven, how my face is sullied; mourn, earth, that my robe is torn; tremble, abyss, because my shoes are blackened!’
And she continued: ‘I lay hidden in the heart of the Father until the Son of Man, who was conceived and born in virginity, poured out his blood. With that same blood as his dowry, he made me his betrothed.
For my Bridegroom’s wounds remain fresh and open as long as the wounds of men’s sins continue to gape. And Christ’s wounds remain open because of the sins of priests. They tear my robe, since they are violators of the Law, the Gospel and their own priesthood; they darken my cloak by neglecting, in every way, the precepts which they are meant to uphold; my shoes too are blackened, since priests do not keep to the straight paths of justice, which are hard and rugged, or set good examples to those beneath them. Nevertheless, in some of them I find the splendour of truth.’
And I heard a voice from heaven which said: ‘This image represents the Church. For this reason, O you who see all this and who listen to the word of lament, proclaim it to the priests who are destined to offer guidance and instruction to God’s people and to whom, as to the apostles, it was said: go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation’ (Mk 16:15)” (Letter to Werner von Kirchheim and his Priestly Community: PL 197, 269ff.).
In the vision of Saint Hildegard, the face of the Church is stained with dust, and this is how we have seen it. Her garment is torn – by the sins of priests. The way she saw and expressed it is the way we have experienced it this year. We must accept this humiliation as an exhortation to truth and a call to renewal. Only the truth saves. We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustice that has occurred. We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen. We must discover a new resoluteness in faith and in doing good. We must be capable of doing penance. We must be determined to make every possible effort in priestly formation to prevent anything of the kind from happening again. This is also the moment to offer heartfelt thanks to all those who work to help victims and to restore their trust in the Church, their capacity to believe her message. In my meetings with victims of this sin, I have also always found people who, with great dedication, stand alongside those who suffer and have been damaged. This is also the occasion to thank the many good priests who act as channels of the Lord’s goodness in humility and fidelity and, amid the devastations, bear witness to the unforfeited beauty of the priesthood.
We are well aware of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and of our corresponding responsibility. But neither can we remain silent regarding the context of these times in which these events have come to light. There is a market in child pornography that seems in some way to be considered more and more normal by society. The psychological destruction of children, in which human persons are reduced to articles of merchandise, is a terrifying sign of the times. From Bishops of developing countries I hear again and again how sexual tourism threatens an entire generation and damages its freedom and its human dignity. The Book of Revelation includes among the great sins of Babylon – the symbol of the world’s great irreligious cities – the fact that it trades with bodies and souls and treats them as commodities (cf. Rev 18:13). In this context, the problem of drugs also rears its head, and with increasing force extends its octopus tentacles around the entire world – an eloquent expression of the tyranny of mammon which perverts mankind. No pleasure is ever enough, and the excess of deceiving intoxication becomes a violence that tears whole regions apart – and all this in the name of a fatal misunderstanding of freedom which actually undermines man’s freedom and ultimately destroys it.
In order to resist these forces, we must turn our attention to their ideological foundations. In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children. This, however, was part of a fundamental perversion of the concept of ethos. It was maintained – even within the realm of Catholic theology – that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a “better than” and a “worse than”. Nothing is good or bad in itself. Everything depends on the circumstances and on the end in view. Anything can be good or also bad, depending upon purposes and circumstances. Morality is replaced by a calculus of consequences, and in the process it ceases to exist. The effects of such theories are evident today. Against them, Pope John Paul II, in his 1993 Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, indicated with prophetic force in the great rational tradition of Christian ethos the essential and permanent foundations of moral action. Today, attention must be focussed anew on this text as a path in the formation of conscience. It is our responsibility to make these criteria audible and intelligible once more for people today as paths of true humanity, in the context of our paramount concern for mankind.
As my second point, I should like to say a word about the Synod of the Churches of the Middle East. This began with my journey to Cyprus, where I was able to consign the Instrumentum Laboris of the Synod to the Bishops of those countries who were assembled there. The hospitality of the Orthodox Church was unforgettable, and we experienced it with great gratitude. Even if full communion is not yet granted to us, we have nevertheless established with joy that the basic form of the ancient Church unites us profoundly with one another: the sacramental office of Bishops as the bearer of apostolic tradition, the reading of Scripture according to the hermeneutic of the Regula fidei, the understanding of Scripture in its manifold unity centred on Christ, developed under divine inspiration, and finally, our faith in the central place of the Eucharist in the Church’s life. Thus we experienced a living encounter with the riches of the rites of the ancient Church that are also found within the Catholic Church. We celebrated the liturgy with Maronites and with Melchites, we celebrated in the Latin rite, we experienced moments of ecumenical prayer with the Orthodox, and we witnessed impressive manifestations of the rich Christian culture of the Christian East. But we also saw the problem of the divided country. The wrongs and the deep wounds of the past were all too evident, but so too was the desire for the peace and communion that had existed before. Everyone knows that violence does not bring progress – indeed, it gave rise to the present situation. Only in a spirit of compromise and mutual understanding can unity be re-established. To prepare the people for this attitude of peace is an essential task of pastoral ministry.
During the Synod itself, our gaze was extended over the whole of the Middle East, where the followers of different religions – as well as a variety of traditions and distinct rites – live together. As far as Christians are concerned, there are Pre-Chalcedonian as well as Chalcedonian churches; there are churches in communion with Rome and others that are outside that communion; in both cases, multiple rites exist alongside one another. In the turmoil of recent years, the tradition of peaceful coexistence has been shattered and tensions and divisions have grown, with the result that we witness with increasing alarm acts of violence in which there is no longer any respect for what the other holds sacred, in which on the contrary the most elementary rules of humanity collapse. In the present situation, Christians are the most oppressed and tormented minority. For centuries they lived peacefully together with their Jewish and Muslim neighbours. During the Synod we listened to wise words from the Counsellor of the Mufti of the Republic of Lebanon against acts of violence targeting Christians. He said: when Christians are wounded, we ourselves are wounded. Unfortunately, though, this and similar voices of reason, for which we are profoundly grateful, are too weak. Here too we come up against an unholy alliance between greed for profit and ideological blindness. On the basis of the spirit of faith and its rationality, the Synod developed a grand concept of dialogue, forgiveness and mutual acceptance, a concept that we now want to proclaim to the world. The human being is one, and humanity is one. Whatever damage is done to another in any one place, ends up by damaging everyone. Thus the words and ideas of the Synod must be a clarion call, addressed to all people with political or religious responsibility, to put a stop to Christianophobia; to rise up in defence of refugees and all who are suffering, and to revitalize the spirit of reconciliation. In the final analysis, healing can only come from deep faith in God’s reconciling love. Strengthening this faith, nourishing it and causing it to shine forth is the Church’s principal task at this hour.
I would willingly speak in some detail of my unforgettable journey to the United Kingdom, but I will limit myself to two points that are connected with the theme of the responsibility of Christians at this time and with the Church’s task to proclaim the Gospel. My thoughts go first of all to the encounter with the world of culture in Westminster Hall, an encounter in which awareness of shared responsibility at this moment in history created great attention which, in the final analysis, was directed to the question of truth and faith itself. It was evident to all that the Church has to make her own contribution to this debate. Alexis de Tocqueville, in his day, observed that democracy in America had become possible and had worked because there existed a fundamental moral consensus which, transcending individual denominations, united everyone. Only if there is such a consensus on the essentials can constitutions and law function. This fundamental consensus derived from the Christian heritage is at risk wherever its place, the place of moral reasoning, is taken by the purely instrumental rationality of which I spoke earlier. In reality, this makes reason blind to what is essential. To resist this eclipse of reason and to preserve its capacity for seeing the essential, for seeing God and man, for seeing what is good and what is true, is the common interest that must unite all people of good will. The very future of the world is at stake.
Finally I should like to recall once more the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman. Why was he beatified? What does he have to say to us? Many responses could be given to these questions, which were explored in the context of the beatification. I would like to highlight just two aspects which belong together and which, in the final analysis, express the same thing. The first is that we must learn from Newman’s three conversions, because they were steps along a spiritual path that concerns us all. Here I would like to emphasize just the first conversion: to faith in the living God. Until that moment, Newman thought like the average men of his time and indeed like the average men of today, who do not simply exclude the existence of God, but consider it as something uncertain, something with no essential role to play in their lives. What appeared genuinely real to him, as to the men of his and our day, is the empirical, matter that can be grasped. This is the “reality” according to which one finds one’s bearings. The “real” is what can be grasped, it is the things that can be calculated and taken in one’s hand. In his conversion, Newman recognized that it is exactly the other way round: that God and the soul, man’s spiritual identity, constitute what is genuinely real, what counts. These are much more real than objects that can be grasped. This conversion was a Copernican revolution. What had previously seemed unreal and secondary was now revealed to be the genuinely decisive element. Where such a conversion takes place, it is not just a person’s theory that changes: the fundamental shape of life changes. We are all in constant need of such conversion: then we are on the right path.
The driving force that impelled Newman along the path of conversion was conscience. But what does this mean? In modern thinking, the word “conscience” signifies that for moral and religious questions, it is the subjective dimension, the individual, that constitutes the final authority for decision. The world is divided into the realms of the objective and the subjective. To the objective realm belong things that can be calculated and verified by experiment. Religion and morals fall outside the scope of these methods and are therefore considered to lie within the subjective realm. Here, it is said, there are in the final analysis no objective criteria. The ultimate instance that can decide here is therefore the subject alone, and precisely this is what the word “conscience” expresses: in this realm only the individual, with his intuitions and experiences, can decide. Newman’s understanding of conscience is diametrically opposed to this. For him, “conscience” means man’s capacity for truth: the capacity to recognize precisely in the decision-making areas of his life – religion and morals – a truth, the truth. At the same time, conscience – man’s capacity to recognize truth – thereby imposes on him the obligation to set out along the path towards truth, to seek it and to submit to it wherever he finds it. Conscience is both capacity for truth and obedience to the truth which manifests itself to anyone who seeks it with an open heart. The path of Newman’s conversions is a path of conscience – not a path of self-asserting subjectivity but, on the contrary, a path of obedience to the truth that was gradually opening up to him. His third conversion, to Catholicism, required him to give up almost everything that was dear and precious to him: possessions, profession, academic rank, family ties and many friends. The sacrifice demanded of him by obedience to the truth, by his conscience, went further still. Newman had always been aware of having a mission for England. But in the Catholic theology of his time, his voice could hardly make itself heard. It was too foreign in the context of the prevailing form of theological thought and devotion. In January 1863 he wrote in his diary these distressing words: “As a Protestant, I felt my religion dreary, but not my life - but, as a Catholic, my life dreary, not my religion”. He had not yet arrived at the hour when he would be an influential figure. In the humility and darkness of obedience, he had to wait until his message was taken up and understood. In support of the claim that Newman’s concept of conscience matched the modern subjective understanding, people often quote a letter in which he said – should he have to propose a toast – that he would drink first to conscience and then to the Pope. But in this statement, “conscience” does not signify the ultimately binding quality of subjective intuition. It is an expression of the accessibility and the binding force of truth: on this its primacy is based. The second toast can be dedicated to the Pope because it is his task to demand obedience to the truth.
I must refrain from speaking of my remarkable journeys to Malta, Portugal and Spain. In these it once again became evident that the faith is not a thing of the past, but an encounter with the God who lives and acts now. He challenges us and he opposes our indolence, but precisely in this way he opens the path towards true joy.
Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni. We set out from this plea for the presence of God’s power in our time and from the experience of his apparent absence. If we keep our eyes open as we look back over the year that is coming to an end, we can see clearly that God’s power and goodness are also present today in many different ways. So we all have reason to thank him. Along with thanks to the Lord I renew my thanks to all my co-workers. May God grant to all of us a holy Christmas and may he accompany us with his blessings in the coming year.
I entrust these prayerful sentiments to the intercession of the Holy Virgin, Mother of the Redeemer, and I impart to all of you and to the great family of the Roman Curia a heartfelt Apostolic Blessing. Happy Christmas!

© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Saturday, December 18, 2010

We still have time to ask God to change our expectations and desires, which up until now have been too small

Today we celebrate the fourth and final Sunday in advent. Our readings today remind us the Great Feast of Christmas is just around the corner. There are just a few days left before Christmas day will actually be here. The pressing question now is, "Are we ready?"

In answer to this, you may be thinking about the Christmas preparations that needed to be done, such as the shopping, the decorating, the house cleaning, the wrapping of gifts, and so on and so forth. I would imagine that some of you may even say
with confidence, I am ready, let Christmas come.

But the more important question is, “have we spent this time of advent well, by fully preparing for the silent coming of Jesus into our heart and soul.” In other words, have we prepared for His coming more intensely than our preparation for the coming of our guests into our homes over the holiday? Have we prepared for THE guest of our souls? Thanks be to God, while we still breathe, it is never too late to prepare room for Jesus. Like last minute shopping, we still have time to prepare ourselves spiritually for Christmas.

Again, like most of the readings during Advent, this Gospel should wake us up from our slumber. As we read the Mysterious account of the birth of Jesus from the Gospel of St. Matthew, we should come to an ever-deeper awareness, that not only is Christmas near, but the coming of Jesus is near.

The question is then, what more can we all do in the next few days to prepare ourselves more fully, spiritually speaking, for Christmas? This may seem a rather daunting task in the very short time left before Christmas. And so, we need to cut to the bottom line, and simply start by turning our focus back to God in prayer. In prayer, we can ask ourselves, “what do I most desire from God this Christmas?” Let’s ask this question in a different way, “what is the gift I most desire from my God this Christmas?”

Answering this question can be both easy and hard at that same time. It can be easy if we ask God to simply wipe away all of our problems, give us peace on earth, and while He’s at it, let us win the lottery. It may at first seem the best thing God could do for us, that He would simply change everything for the better instantly. But would this really not be the best for us.

The people in the time of Jesus wanted this type of gift from God. If you were to ask them, what they most desired from God, I think the people of Israel would want to be freed from the cruel Romans who occupied and terrorized their country. Their desire was for God do something about all the mess and do it instantly. They knew all the prophets and how God had promised that the throne of their greatest king, David, would last forever. They knew how God had promised to deliver them from their enemies, just like of old when the Red Sea drowned the Egyptian army and they crossed into the Promised Land. One can imagine their inner prayers- God, if you would just give us a Political leader, one who was strong and could throw the Romans out, it would be paradise. We could have our own King and not have to pay taxes to the occupiers; peace and prosperity would return and the good old days would be back.

God heard all of their prayers, asking for this type of gift. In His wisdom, the time had come. God would answer all those prayers; he would fulfill all of the prophecies. However, the special plan- the one he had planned from the creation of the world- was not even in the mind of people at the time. God had something greater in mind, he wasn’t going to remove all of their problems and sufferings and give the economic prosperity, but He was going to fulfill their greatest desires, the most intimate desires of their heart.

In our Gospel today from St. Matthew, we heard of God’ answer to their prayers, and the prayer of all mankind throughout the ages, including our own, in the Mysterious birth of Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ, God’s love far surpassed any of the prayers of the people of that time or any time including our own. Who could have imagined that God, Himself would actually come to us as a poor child, and give us the gift of Himself in this little Child? A child who is both God and man: a child coming to save us, not from our problems, but from the worst things, the things that really keep us from peace, happiness and joy, and that is death and slavery to sin. God’s plan of Salvation is so wonderful that we should be filled with a simple, yet profound awe.

The next few days can be a time for us to stop at least a while during all the busyness and noisiness and enter into the silence of prayer before our Lord. We can go beyond the fact that most of our spiritual preparations may have been inadequate to this point, and in the silence of our hearts we can ask God to expand our hearts to a greater capacity in order to more fully receive Him and His infinite love, given to us in the Christ Child.

We still have time to ask God to change our expectations and desires, which up until now have been too small. At Christmas, Jesus, the awesome and complete gift of the Father, comes to us as the little infant. Think of how easy it is to see an infant. They are so little and so precious. We immediately get a smile on our face, infants are not scary or distant, they immediately make us drop our defenses and they warm and open our hearts to them and their love. Is this why Jesus came as a little babe; so we wouldn’t be afraid of Him, He who is the all mighty and powerful God? If Jesus came in all of his majesty and glory, we would have been scared into loving Him, which of course would not have been love at all!

Perhaps in our prayers, we can use this image of the infant child Jesus being given to us. We can imagine that our Blessed Lady willingly handing the babe in swaddling clothes to us. No words need be spoken, just silent in order to receive the infant child Jesus who smiles ever so tenderly at us and holds out His divine heart to us. We can then smile ever so tenderly back at Him, and accept His heart and offer ours back to Him!

In these closing days before Christmas, let us ask the Father for an increase of grace so that we might open our hearts, deepen our desires and completely blow away our expectations of what we can receive from Him. Our God desires to give us a gift greater than anything we could ever imagine or desire. God desires this more that anything. This gift is the greatest gift the world has ever seen and the deepest longing of our hearts; this gift is the gift of His only begotten Son Jesus. We need to simply open ourselves to receive Him more fully. Our Lady of the New Advent, prayer for us, help us to receive the gift of the Christ child, your child, more fully. Amen.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice!

Gaudete Sunday. Third Sunday in Advent. December 12th, 2010

“Rejoice and be glad for the salvation we have hoped for is here!” The Church celebrates today Gaudete Sunday; it is a foretaste in advance of the joy of the Savior’s birth. Today, we are again reminded of why we have Advent; Advent is a privilege time of preparation in which we prepare to enter fully into the joy of Christ’s coming at Christmas. It is also a time to remind us to prepare so that we will be able to experience joyfully and without fear, Jesus final coming at the end of the world or the end of our lives, which ever comes first.

But Advent is also meant to be in and of itself a time of Joy. Because it is also a time to remind us that every day of our lives should be a time of joy, because we know Jesus has already come; He is God with us Emmanuel. And where there is Jesus there is joy, not matter what our external circumstances may be. Where there is Jesus there is joy even in the midst of our heaviest crosses, our greatest pain and sufferings, even in our greatest darkness, even when all else seems lost.

If there is one thing that marks our present age, we can say it is an age, which is lacking in joy, which does not know true joy; it is an age of great sadness. It is an age of great abundance; many have so much, but yet at the same time feel so empty so sad. So many are seeking happiness in the world, not knowing that this world and the things of this world just cannot give the kind of happiness for which they are seeking, for which their hearts are longing.

The Liturgy of today’s Holy Mass goes against this present sadness and lack of joy. It’s readings repeats the words of St. Paul in which he urges the first Christians of Philippi to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice!” St. Paul gives them the reason for this profound happiness…the reason is that the Lord is at hand.

This is the reason also why we should have great joy, not only in Advent but every day of our lives. Our Faith offers us a true Christian joy, which goes beyond any merely earthly happiness. It comes from the fact, the reality that Jesus is very near to us; nearer to us than we are to ourselves; that we are friends of God and that He has made us His beloved sons and daughters in Christ who has come and who is here with us now.

And so St. Paul gives us the reason, the origin of our sadness and lack of joy; it comes from putting a distance between ourselves and God who is truly with us. This distance comes from our sins. It comes by not making our relationship with Christ the priority, not only of our Advent and Christmas preparations, but also by not making it a priority every day of our lives. This whole life is really meant to be a preparation for Christ; an Advent if you will, to grow closer to Him so that we may be able to truly enter into the Joy of that eternal Christmas in Heaven.

And so, sadness comes from looking for happiness in the world instead of in the presence of Christ in our souls through the grace of the Sacraments. Sadness comes from failing to grow in intimacy with Christ through the same sacraments and through intimate daily conversation with Him in prayer; it comes from failing to Adore and worship God, by failing to Love the Lord God with our whole hearts, minds, bodies, souls and all our strength; and out of that Love for God, loving our neighbor as ourselves.

We will be truly joyful if Our Lord is really present in our lives; that is, if He is really the priority of our lives, if we have not lost sight of Him. If we have not lost sight of Him by allowing our vision of Him to be clouded by other worldly preparations, that while maybe necessary, are not the one thing that matters. We will be truly joyful if we have not lost sight of Jesus by our lack of generosity, forgetting ourselves in our service to Him and service to one another.

We will also be truly joyful when we strive to share what we have with others, our faith, our possessions, our time, talent and treasure, in a word our love for others, especially in our family and our parish family, for charity begins at home. We will be joyful when we truly help one another to be joyful by, as St. Paul’s says, “bearing one another’s burdens…” Often we can bring joy to others and make life more pleasant for them in very little ways, by showing them that we appreciate them by a smile, a friendly remark, a word of praise, not making a great fuse over unimportant things that would be better off overlooked and forgotten, or just simply by a word of encouragement. An important part of our vocation as Christian, of our mission as Christians, is to bring joy to a world, which is so very sad of heart because it has drifted away from God. In this we keep our own joy alive.

When we try to find happiness in paths that draw us farther away from God, we find only sorrow and misery instead. Worldly happiness leads inevitably to sadness; But the Good New is that Jesus is near; and where Jesus is there is Joy. In this holy season of Advent the Church reminds us that unless we separate ourselves from the only source of true happiness and joy-Jesus, nothing and nobody can take our joy and our hope away from us.

And so, the advent call for repentance is a call for repentance throughout our lives. Repentance is merely our God reminding us that the world and the things of the world can only present us with an illusory happiness, a happiness that is passing and fleeting. If we go through periods of feeling unhappy, alone, bored or empty, maybe we have placed our trust in the wrong things to bring us happiness and joy and as result have weakened or even lost not only our joy but also our hope.

Let us get ready for this Christmas by being close to Our Lady. Let us ask her to help us convince others that the Origin of true joy and happiness is here, that He has been really born in Bethlehem. To do this, Let us ask her to help us to believe it ourselves, by making Holy Mass a priority in our lives, by visiting this same babe who truly present on our altars or in the Tabernacle. Let us ask her to help us prepare to receive Jesus more fully in Holy Communion by making a sincere and thorough confession, not only in order to make room for Him in the inn of hearts, but to clear away the impurity of sin and selfishness that prevents us from being able to see that He is already present there, so that we may behold His face and be transformed by His love in order to enter into Union with Him and through Him the Father and the Holy Spirit…the source of all joy.

May we today at this Holy Mass offered in this advent season pray for a deeper joy and a deeper desire for heaven, and may we pray for an increase in joy by possessing heaven even on earth, which is Jesus and His love fully alive in our souls; May we then share with others this Jesus whom we already possess and who possesses us.

Holy Mary, Cause of our Joy; Our Lady of the New Advent pray for us who have recourse to thee. Amen.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

In the first advent, folks didn’t realize how close Jesus was, and in a very real sense neither do we

2nd Sunday of Advent. December 5th, 2010

As we continue our Advent preparations for the coming of Jesus at Christmas, we now turn our attention to John the Baptist. He is the forerunner of the Messiah. John’s whole purpose in his life was to be the herald of the first advent, preparing the people of God for the first Coming of Jesus. So rightfully, now the Church turns to John for an insight into our own preparation for the coming of Jesus in our own time.

And so today, we hear again John the Baptist cry out, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is near.” In this season of Advent, John’s cry should be a wake up call to all of us. So often we can become caught up in the status quo of life, that status quo which tells us that everything is pretty much basically the same--day in day out. Our world for the most part changes doesn’t seem to change. Usually, nothing too drastic happens to our world, our surroundings pretty much stay the same…so not to worry. The status quo can in a sense easily become our god. We begin to think we can really trust it; we then spiritually fall asleep.

In that first advent, 2000 years ago, things were really not all that different from today in the sense that then the world was caught up in the status quo just like today. The people of Jesus’ time we told, like us, that the messiah would come some day; however, they looked at His coming a lot like we can look at the second coming of Christ, that even though it may be true is probably a long way off. The fact is we can all want Jesus to come, but just not yet.

In the first advent, folks didn’t realize how close Jesus was, and in a very real sense neither do we. Like us, the majority of the folks of Jesus’ day had just too many other things to worry about. When he was born, in that obscure little village, the vast majority of the world, including His own people, didn’t even notice…And now, as He is born on our Altars at Holy Mass just as truly as in the crib at Bethlehem, the vast majority of the world, including again His own people, doesn’t take much notice either.

John the Baptist’s message to those living in the first advent is the same message to us today. “Repent! Prepare the way for the Lord!” Change now, in order to let the King come more fully into your hearts; don’t miss Him, like most did back then. We don’t like change, but the message is all about change. We must change; we must repent.
This points to the main difference between the first advent and this Advent; the main difference is that the King is already here. Christ has come; He has come in the flesh, the flesh that he took from the Virgin Mary. Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God personified has come to earth. He lived liked one of us; He experienced the cares and struggles of daily life like one of us, and
He suffered and died like one of us, but rose again so that we might share in the power of His resurrection. The world will never be the same now that he lives—

Yes, the world is still a scary place, just like it was some 2000 years again. But it is different, because now the world has hope, and that hope has a name, it is Jesus. And this Jesus as not abandoned us; He is still Emmanual-God still with us, as one of us, in and through the Sacraments of the Church, especially the Most Blessed of all Sacraments, the Holy Eucharist, which is Jesus in Person. Jesus is still here with His power to heal us and save us.

So the message, for us today during this advent season is that now is the best time to prepare the way for the Lord in our hearts, to change, to repent and let the King of kings live again in each one of us. This is our call this holy advent season. In this call, there is indeed hope for those who have sufferings and struggles in this life. This is indeed hope for us even if the status quo of our own lives ever becomes shattered by tragedy, such as a person illness or the loss of a loved one-Jesus is still with us, not only in Spirit, in our memories, in our hearts, but in Person.

God is calling each and every one of us to a life of holiness and sanctity; we are called to be great saints--each one of us.
Through the Sacraments Jesus Christ wants to live again in our hearts; He wants us to be heralds of His to the fact that He has come to earth, that He continues to come at Holy Mass, and that He will come again in Glory and as Judge. How can anybody be ready for His second coming if they don’t know about His first coming and know about the fact that He comes again in the Holy Eucharist to prepare us and make us worthy to see Him face to face. In other words, if you don’t know, believe, adore, hope and love Him in the Holy Eucharist how will you be ready when Jesus comes again in Glory?

And so this Advent is a wake up call for us, you and me to become holier. It is a call to give up our own wills and live more and more in conformity to the Will of God, in order that it is not longer you and I who live, but Christ who lives in us. Through the Eucharist, Jesus wants us to allow Him this Christmas, and every Christ Mass to be born in the humble stable of our hearts.
But first we must be humble, for the King is a perfect gentleman and is not one to push Himself into a place where He is not welcomed and where there is no room for Him. How can we be humble and how do we prepare room for Him in our hearts?

Again John the Baptist has the answer, by repentance, which is nothing more than humbling ourselves by admitting our sinfulness; and then asking forgiveness for our sins, doing penance and amending our lives, that is changing our lives.
In order to truly repent we have to admit that we have sinned. We have to feel sorry for what we have done wrong and for what we have fail to do right, and to feel sorry about it to the point that we decide to, once and for all with God’s help, change. And so, to repent means to take a new viewpoint, a new attitude. It includes a turning away from the old self and a turning toward God and to a new self.

So this advent let’s take a look at what are we doing in our lives that displeases God—is it cursing, taking the Lord’s name in vain, how about missing Holy Mass deliberately, arriving late or leaving early without a good reason. Is it excessive drinking, anger, impurity, dishonesty, gossip? What are the things we are failing to do and thus displeasing God—are we failing to talk to Him in prayer, each and every day, or are we failing to make an effort to come to know Him better by learning more about Him through the teachings of the Church and reading the Scriptures with the Church. What about failing to make an effort to be thoughtful of others, failing in supporting the Church, our parish family, taking a part in the parish life; or falling to help the needy and underprivileged by helping and supporting the St. Vincent de Paul Society of our parish?

Doing what God does not what us to do or failing to do what He wants us to do, these are the barriers that prevent Christ from coming into our hearts not only in a special way at Christmas but at every Mass. These are the ways that we can shut him out as the innkeepers did on that first Christmas Eve night. The stable was the only place for him, because it was the humblest of all places where he could have been born. So we too must make our hearts humble and pure for the coming of the King. He will only stay where he is welcome, where the way has been prepared for him--that is in a humble heart, a repentant heart.

Jesus personally forgives of our sins in the Sacrament of Penance; this is how we can best prepare the way for Lord, this holy Advent season. When we have humbled ourselves and repented of our sins, the stable of our hearts is changed and so is prepared to receive him. Jesus can come again and take up his abode with us, to live again in us so that by His grace we can be formed into His image and likeness.

This Advent let us make room by preparing our hearts for him by giving ourselves totally to Jesus at this Holy Mass and every Holy Mass. We do this interiorly by an act of our will. The Virgin Mary gave her fiat, her total yes to God when she said, let it be done unto me according to Your will.” Let us ask her to intercede for us so that we may even more deeply offer to God our own fiat, our whole selves in union with the offering of Jesus on this altar of sacrifice, so that through her and by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ can be born again fully in our hearts when we receive Him in Holy Communion and then our hearts may be ones full of hope. And we will then be heralds of that Hope to others, because it is no longer just I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.

Mother of our Hope and Our Lady of the New Advent, Pray for us. Amen. God bless you.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Holy Father's Homily at the Vigil for Nascent Life

Dear brothers and sisters,

With this evening’s celebration, the Lord gives us the grace and joy of opening the new liturgical year beginning with its first stage: Advent, the period that commemorates the coming of God among us. Every beginning brings a special grace, because it is blessed by the Lord. In this Advent period we will once again experience the closeness of the One who created the world, who guides history and cared for us to the point of becoming a man. This great and fascinating mystery of God with us, moreover of God who becomes one of us, is what we celebrate in the coming weeks journeying towards holy Christmas. During the season of Advent we feel the Church that takes us by the hand and - in the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary - expresses her motherhood allowing us to experience the joyful expectation of the coming of the Lord, who embraces us all in his love that saves and consoles.

While our hearts reach out towards the annual celebration of the birth of Christ, the Church’s liturgy directs our gaze to the final goal: our encounter with the Lord in the splendour of glory. This is why we, in every Eucharist, “announce his death, proclaim his resurrection until he comes again” we hold vigil in prayer. The liturgy does not cease to encourage and support us, putting on our lips, in the days of Advent, the cry with which the whole Bible concludes, the last page of the Revelation of Saint John: “Come, Lord Jesus “(22:20).

Dear brothers and sisters, our coming together this evening to begin the Advent journey is enriched by another important reason: with the entire Church, we want to solemnly celebrate a prayer vigil for unborn life. I wish to express my thanks to all who have taken up this invitation and those who are specifically dedicated to welcoming and safeguarding human life in different situations of fragility, especially in its early days and in its early stages. The beginning of the liturgical year helps us to relive the expectation of God made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, God who makes himself small, He becomes a child, it speaks to us of the coming of a God who is near, who wanted to experience the life of man, from the very beginning, to save it completely, fully. And so the mystery of the Incarnation of the Lord and the beginning of human life are intimately connected and in harmony with each other within the one saving plan of God, the Lord of life of each and every one of us. The Incarnation reveals to us, with intense light and in an amazing way, that every human life has an incomparable, a most elevated dignity.

Man has an unmistakable originality compared to all other living beings that inhabit the earth. He presents himself as a unique and singular entity, endowed with intelligence and free will, as well as being composed of a material reality. He lives simultaneously and inseparably in the spiritual dimension and the corporal dimension. This is also suggested in the text of the First letter to the Thessalonians which was just proclaimed: “May the God of peace himself - St. Paul writes - make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ “(5:23). Therefore, we are spirit, soul and body. We are part of this world, tied to the possibilities and limits of our material condition, at the same time we are open to an infinite horizon, able to converse with God and to welcome Him in us. We operate in earthly realities and through them we can perceive the presence of God and seek Him, truth, goodness and absolute beauty. We savour fragments of life and happiness and we long for total fulfilment.

God loves us so deeply, totally, without distinction, He calls us to friendship with him, He makes us part of a reality beyond all imagination, thought and word; His own divine life. With emotion and gratitude we acknowledge the value of the incomparable dignity of every human person and the great responsibility we have toward all. ” Christ, the final Adam, - says the Second Vatican Council - by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear…. by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. “(Gaudium et Spes, 22).

Believing in Jesus Christ also means having a new outlook on man, a look of trust and hope. Moreover, experience itself and reason show that the human being is a subject capable of discernment, self-conscious and free, unique and irreplaceable, the summit of all earthly things, that must be recognized in his innate value and always accepted with respect and love. He has the right not to be treated as an object of possession or something to manipulate at will, not to be reduced to a mere instrument for the benefit of others and their interests. The human person is a good in and of himself and his integral development should always be sought. Love for all, if it is sincere, naturally tends to become a preferential attention to the weakest and poorest. In this vein we find the Church’s concern for the unborn, the most fragile, the most threatened by the selfishness of adults and the darkening of consciences. The Church continually reiterates what was declared by the Second Vatican Council against abortion and all violations of unborn life: “from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care ” (ibid., n. 51).

There are cultural tendencies that seek to anesthetize consciences with misleading motivations. With regard to the embryo in the womb, science itself highlights its autonomy capable of interaction with the mother, the coordination of biological processes, the continuity of development, the growing complexity of the organism. This is not an accumulation of biological material, but a new living being, dynamic and wonderfully ordered, a new unique human being. So was Jesus in Mary’s womb, so it was for all of us in our mother’s womb. With the ancient Christian writer Tertullian we can say: ” he who will be a man is already one” (Apologeticum IX, 8), there is no reason not to consider him a person from conception.

Unfortunately, even after birth, the lives of children continue to be exposed to abandonment, hunger, poverty, disease, abuse, violence or exploitation. The many violations of their rights that are committed in the world sorely hurt the conscience of every man of good will. Before the sad landscape of the injustices committed against human life, before and after birth, I make mine Pope John Paul II’s passionate appeal to the responsibility of each and every individual: ” respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!”(Encyclical Evangelium vitae, 5). I urge the protagonists of politics, economic and social communications to do everything in their power to promote a culture which respects human life, to provide favorable conditions and support networks for the reception and development of life.

To the Virgin Mary, who welcomed the Son of God made man with faith, with her maternal womb, with loving care, with nurturing support and vibrant with love, we entrust our commitment and prayer in favour of unborn life . We do in the liturgy - which is the place where we live the truth and where truth lives with us - worshiping the divine Eucharist, we contemplate Christ’s body, that body who took flesh from Mary by the Holy Spirit, and from her was born in Bethlehem for our salvation. Ave, verum Corpus, natum de Maria Virgine!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

“Viva Cristo Rey!” “Long live Christ the King!”

Solemnity of Christ the King. November 21st, 2010

We have been reading about the end times the past few weeks; the ultimate end of the readings we heard is the sovereign lordship of Jesus Christ. Over the past year of the Church’s liturgical year, we have celebrated the great mysteries of the life of the Lord; and so, the Church brings it’s liturgical year to an end with the Solemnity of Christ the King in order to remind us that our life too, will come to an end before this King. So just as the entire Church year is a type of preparation for this great solemnity, so too our entire life should be a preparation to stand before Christ the King when we die. Our late beloved Holy Father John Paul II, taught that:

“While the feast of the Epiphany, Easter, and the Ascension all relate to Christ as King and Lord of the Universe, the Church has desired to have this great feast to be a special remembrance to modern man, modern man who seems somewhat indifferent to truth and his supernatural destiny, that his earthly life and all earthly kingdoms will end in front of the Kings of kings.”

So on this special feast day, we now contemplate Christ in his glorified state as King of all creation and as King of our bodies & souls.

This feast day serves as a reminder to us then that the Lord should truly reign in our lives. The Lord Jesus needs to be sovereign over our hearts, minds and our bodies, by our allowing Him to be present in our families, among our friends, neighbors, and with our colleagues at work. Christ’s kingship in our daily lives should be a witness against those who would reduce religion to a set of negative “thou shall nots”, or some kind of “pick and choose” Catholicism. Many there are, who would like to limit Christ’s sovereignty to just a corner of their lives and make their faith solely a private affair, claiming that they can’t take their faith in Christ into their personal relationships or out into the public sphere. Against this type of mentality, this feast day is a call to each of us that we must affirm to all, both with our words and by our deeds, that we aspire with our full heart, mind and strength to make Christ the King reign indeed, over all hearts.

In our democratic way of thinking, this ideal of a sovereign King can easily seem foreign to us. We can think of a sovereign king, even Jesus as a sovereign King, as an absolute monarch or dictator, who commands without question and so takes away our freedom. We can think about all the crimes against humanity, the many injustices that tyrant kings have committed and wrongly conclude that any sovereignty is a bad thing. Certainly, the foundation of our own country was against a sovereign. We celebrate this in just a few days as give thanks for the blessings of freedom in our country.

Jesus is a sovereign, it is true, but not in the way of earthly tyrants. Jesus established a kingdom of divine love and truth, whose demands go much farther than mere justice. Jesus demands are demands of love because love demands that we give our all to the one we love, without ever counting the cost. This is of course difficult because it means that we must give up our own self importance, opinions and self will and conformed ourselves to the way things really are, to reality, to the truths of God. And so, Jesus’ Kingdom is kingdom of truth because only when we accept God’s truth by conforming our lives in obedience to it are we truly free, free to open our hearts in order to receive more fully His love. IN other words, by accepting God’s truth with our minds we are given the freedom to choose with our wills to live rightly, in order to receive God’s love more fully.

Because so often we wrongly think we lose our freedom if we give ourselves fully to God, the call to make Jesus our sovereign King can make us hesitate. This call goes against our modern society, which is so steeped in error and which for all practical purposes dethroned God. Our Society really no longer sees God as Almighty, for an almighty God has a claim on our lives, a claim that demands absolute obedience to His Will and to His truth.
And so, our world has all but abandoned God, and has especially abandoned Jesus Christ as King, maybe not in word, but in deed. If anything at all, it pays Jesus lip service. It is a world that not only no longer searches for the truth; it has abandoned any notion of absolute truth. For our modern society, which is based on radical individualism, truth has now been replaced with feelings and opinions; it is all about one’s personal “feelings” or one’s personal opinions; where once people would say they think this way or that way, now they say, “I feel this way or that way”. Deep within our modern society is a hatred for the very notion of the kingship of Christ and serving Him in obedience to His truth. “I want to be king; I want to be served, I want to define truth.” It is no longer about obedience to the Will of God, it is now about the “will of the people,” about our own will over and above the Will of God and others—“non-servium, I will not serve Christ the King!” is the cry of our age.

Jesus, through his life on this earth, gives us the cure for our modern culture of opposition to God’s will. The mysteries of Jesus’ life manifest the will of His Father by Jesus’ total obedience to the Father’s Will even to the point of accepting death, death on the cross. In fact, the cross is Jesus throne, the crown of thorns his royal diadem. While all those at the foot of the cross expected Christ to show a spectacular demonstration of His Royal claims by coming down off the cross, Jesus instead shows forth his obedience to the Father’s will by commanding the forgiveness of sins, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. While Jesus in his sacrifice atones for all of the sins committed by mankind, he chooses to manifest the greatest act of sovereignty the world as ever seen by being concerned with just one man, and a criminal at that. “Jesus, remember me when you come into Your Kingdom.” And Jesus says to him, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The most important question each one of us must ask on the feast of Christ the King is not whether Christ does or does not reign in the world, but does he or does he not reign in me?; not if his royalty is recognized by states and governments, but is it recognized and lived by me? Is Jesus Christ, truly King and Lord of my life? Who reigns in me, who sets the objectives and establishes the priorities in my life: Christ or another? Is it really Jesus that I serve? Since Jesus gave His life so that we might live, life is no longer about living or dying, but about either living for our selves, or living for the Lord! And to live "for the Lord," means to live in view of him, solely for Him, for His glory, and for the spreading of His Kingdom on earth in the minds and hearts of men.

The reign of Christ extends only in the hearts, minds and bodies of men, where there are men and women who understand themselves to be children of God, who are nourished by Him through His Church and her Sacraments, children who live only for Him and want others to share in this Family of God under the Kingship of Christ. It must be clear then, that the reign of Christ extends only as far as there are those who realize that it is only in being obedient and loyal to Christ’s Church, to her leaders and to her teachings, that one is truly obedient to Christ the King and so serves Christ the King.

To serve Christ and His Catholic Church through obedience to His Truth is the only path to true freedom and life. The martyrs and all the saints have taught us that the truest act and so the freest act is to give one’s life totally for Christ.

By the way, the solemnity of Christ the King was instituted only recently. It was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in response to the atheistic and totalitarian political regimes that denied the rights of God and the Church. The climate in which the feast was born was, for example, that of the Mexican Masonic Marxist revolution, when many Christians went to their deaths crying out to their last breath, “Long live Christ the King!” One of these Christians was a priest named Fr. Miguel Pro, who risked his life to bring Christ in the Holy Eucharist to his parishioners so that Jesus could reign in them. St. Miguel Pro, actually became an expert in disguises in order to go undetected by the communist. Eventually, he was arrested. As He was led before the firing squad he held out his arms in the form of a cross, clutched the rosary in his hands and shouted his last words, “Viva Cristo Rey”…Long live Christ the King. As the shots rang out, he fell to the ground and his soul entered into paradise.

As the Church gives us this feast at the end of the Church year, this end of the year should be a type of spiritual death for all of us, and a rising to a new beginning, to a new life, a life of greater holiness. And just as natural death brings with it the prospect of seeing and standing before Jesus Christ our Sovereign King, the end of the Church year brings us this opportunity to stand before Christ the King who is truly, physically, substantially present in the Holy Eucharist and allow Him to renew His divine Kingship over us. Let us offer our heart, mind and bodies fully to Him, so that at the end of our life we will be prepared to stand before this same Eucharist unveiled who is Jesus Christ our Lord and our King and hear Him say to us, “This day you will be with me in paradise.”

Let us turn to Our Lady for Help: Holy Mary, Mother of my King, obtain for me the grace to give my Fiat, my total Yes to Jesus
and so serve Him fully in truth in order to be truly free to love Him and serve Him. As we receive your Son at this Mass and return to our pews, help us in the silence of our hearts to cry out to Him, “SERVIUM, I will serve you my Lord and my King! “Viva Cristo Rey!” “Long live Christ the King!” Amen!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Have you ever seen the falling leaves in the sad autumn evening—they are like souls dying; one day one of those will be you."

Homily for Luke 20:20-38 Thirty-second Sunday, November 7th 2010.

As we see the rest of the leaves of the trees fall and the cold weather coming, we realize that this is year is rapidly drawing to a end. We see starting already, ads and displays for Christmas, even though Advent is still a few weeks away. The Church, in choosing the readings for this time of year, is helping us to look towards the last things of this life, the time that each one of us will experience as we stand before the Jesus when He comes again as judge of the living and the dead. We, of course, will speak much more of the Second coming of Christ during the Advent season; but, we are being prepared now for this focus with our readings today.

Holy Mother the Church, like a good mother, wants us to realize that nothing, nothing in this life is more important than our faith in Jesus Christ. And nothing is more important, than living that life in faithfulness to Him as a preparation to meet Him face to face at the end of our life. I read recently the following in an article on death....Have you ever seen the falling leaves in the sad autumn evening—they are like souls dying; one day one of those will be you." And then the article gave the following information, ( 2 souls fall, that is die each second, 110 per minute, 58million each year).

To emphasize the importance of our faith in our need to be ready, Holy Mother Church, in today’s first reading , gives us the incredible, moving and true story of another mother, a mother who realizes the importance of faith before even life, the life of her children. This mother is an image of the Church. She was willing to see all seven of her sons killed before her eyes rather than deny their faith; she like a good mother loved her sons enough to know that their eternal salvation, in other words, their eternal life was more important than their physical life in this world, or anything this world as to offer.

Sometimes we dismiss this idea for our times, perhaps because it has been much too easy for us to practice our faith. Our Holy Father Benedict remind us that martyrdom is always a distinct possibility for the true believer in any age, and most especially in our age, which is the age of the Martyr. He end by saying, “The possibility does not seem to be immediate (to us), however; how we should be prepared to die for Christ. Benedict then emphasized that in our preparation, it is the way we live our faith each day that is most important.

It is the way we live our faith each and every day that is most important. We should be willing to live a martyrs life for the sake of love. Love always, dies to self in order to give the whole self to the one it loves. We should struggle with God's grace to have this love for our God and for our neighbor. This is the key to our existence, to sacrifice oneself for love of the other...first for God, then for our neighbor and his eternal life.

This is the point that Jesus is trying to teach us in our Gospel today. Jesus corrects the Scribes and Pharisees because they failed to see how important is the way that we live our life here and now, with regards to how and where we spend eternity. The question regarding marriage in the afterlife was asked to Jesus- who of the seven husbands would the one woman belong to? Jesus tells them that they missed the point- the way we live today in our life of faith will be the way we will live life forever. In other words, how we live today will determine how we will live in the next.

Today the Church as our mother, is even more concerned about the eternal salvation of her sons and daughters, each of us, than the mother in our first readings; The Church wants us to realize what this life is really all about, preparation for the life to come. Today she is reminding us that the most important thing in this life of preparation is our beautiful Catholic faith and our living it out each day faithfully in love.

Like any mother, the Church doesn’t want to instill in us fear about death. She doesn’t remind us about the last things, death, judgment, heaven, hell to instill fear; fear doesn’t lead to freedom and so fear doesn’t lead to true love. No, she wants us to realize that Faith is not about fear, but about love; first and foremost our love for God our Father, desiring always to make Him pleased with us. What child doesn’t want his daddy happy with him. And second, faith is about our love for God shown in our love for one another, desiring one another's eternal salvation.

And so, Mother Church wants us to realize that what is needed is responsibility and accountability shown in our concern for our salvation and the salvation of the souls of our neighbor whoever they may be. In fact, Holy Mother Church’s prime consideration, the reason for her very existence and for everything she does, is to glory God and for the Salvation of Souls (Cannon 1752).

As with the Church, this has to be the primary purpose of this parish. The glory of God, and the salvation of souls. Without this, we become just like any other social organization. But with this in mind, through the power of Christ's cross we are more and more transformed from a natural community of man, into a supernatural community of the Church.

In this parish family we have to learn our to love one another, to give of ourselves for each person, each family of this parish. We have to become more and more a family of families helping one another get to heaven. This should be our most important focus...This why we have to take an full, active, conscious and fruitful participation in the life of this parish family.

St. Jose Maria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei once said, “Time is our treasure, the “money” with which to buy eternity.” And so next week we will spend time speaking about our treasure, our time, our talent, and yes, our treasure... and how best to use these precious gifts from God with our eternal end in sight. These things are the "money" with which to buy our eternity and other's as well...because how we used them will determine our eternity and the eternity of countless others...Are we using our time, talent and treasure primarily for the glory of God and for the sanctification and salvation of souls. If we have this end in sight, if we have eternal salvation as our primary concern, not only for ourselves but for our neighbor, everything else will fall into place. Jesus says, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all else will be given unto you."

Let us ask our Lady to help us to offer ourselves in love at this Holy Mass, both for love of God and love of our neighbor, especially all the members and families of this parish family. Sweet heart of Mary, be our salvation...Amen.