Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Easter season is here to say our failures do not have the last word; Christ’s victorious love does.

Homily on John 21:1-19. Third Sunday of Easter. April 18th, 2010

Today we read the wonderful account of Jesus’ appearance to the apostles at the shore of the Sea of Galilee. This account is a real turning point in the apostles’ love for Jesus. Even though they had seen the risen Jesus twice, they still didn’t know what they should be doing and so they return to Galilee. Eventually, they would know and understand fully their mission, but that would come later on the day of Pentecost. But for now, in the mean time, they would go back to what is natural to them; in other words, they go fishing…sounds good to me…
We hear however; how these experienced fishermen after spending all night, didn’t catch a thing. There is an important message here; first they couldn’t really go back to a normal life after their true encounter with the Risen Jesus, they just were not the same men as they were before and never would be. But an even more important message is that in their new mission, their natural abilities would no longer be enough.
These professional fishermen, without Jesus, could not even catch fish on a natural level…they failed; their natural effort and skill was not enough, they needed Jesus’ help. And so if they needed Jesus to succeed even on a natural level of catching fish, how much more do they need Him to catch fish on a supernatural level, that is to catch the souls of men in order to lead them to love of Him.
At dawn, Jesus appears on the shore, but interestingly the apostles do not notice him. They are in the midst of their ordinary routine and so don’t expect the Risen Christ to appear in the ordinary. How often have we made the same mistake?..... Unrecognized, Jesus asks them if they had caught anything- they have to admit their failure honestly- “No,” they yelled back. And so, Jesus calls them to cast their nets off the right side of the boat. Where before they were unable to catch fish, but now at the command of Jesus, the apostles cast their nets into the deep. Perhaps they thought they had nothing to loose- but the power of God working through them, suddenly puts 153 fish in the nets (represents. With their success, the disciples began to learn that they had to rely on Jesus rather than their own power in everything, even on the natural level.
St. John, because he loves Jesus with a pure love, recognizes Jesus first and tells Peter, “It is the Lord.” At these words, Peter recognizes Jesus as well and without hesitation (for love never hesitates) Peter jumps into the water and swims to Jesus. After finishing the breakfast Jesus had prepared for them, Jesus while next to the fire begins to question Peter in a way reminiscent to how Peter was questioned in Jerusalem when before another fire he denied Jesus. A three fold denial at night is now to be atoned for by a three fold profession of love in the day. There is however, even more going on here however, than meets the eye. Our English translation of the Bible has missed an important element in this passage. If one could read it in the original Greek it would be much clearer.
In Greek there are four different words for love. Two of these words are used here. The first word is philia, which is a brotherly love, or a natural, human love. The second word is agape. Agape is more than natural human love, it is a sacrificial love, in which one lays down one’s life for one’s brother or friend. The New Testament writers used Agape in a new way in order to describe, a natural human love which is elevated to a Supernatural level. With agape love a man can actually love his brother and his God not merely with a human love, but also with the very love of God alive in his heart, in other words with a divine love. Agape is human love infused and elevated to the supernatural level or to the divine level; this is known as Charity, to love God and to love one’s brother with both a human and a divine love, to love one's brother with God's own love alive in one's heart.
And so Jesus begins. “Peter, son of John, do you agape love me; that is do you love me with a supernatural divine love, in which your give me your all, even your life?” Now Peter, perhaps still with the image in his mind of that penetrating gaze of Jesus given to him after denying Jesus, was not about to make the same mistake twice. Remember Peter at the Last Supper impetuously said, “Lord I will follow you even to the death. And yet when it came down to it, Peter failed to even admit he knew Jesus.” Peter had learned the hard way that alone He could not love Jesus with an agape love. And so Peter responds reservedly, “Yes, Lord, you know I philia love you, that is I love you with merely a natural human kind of love.”
And so Jesus asks Him again, “Peter son of John do you agape, love me?” Again Peter, again responds reservedly, “Yes, Lord you know that I philia, Love you.” And finally Jesus asks Peter, “Peter, Son of John, do you philia love me?” That is, you even love me with a natural human love?” Peter was of course distressed; some translations say, “cut to the quick” because Jesus questions whether Peter even loves him with a natural human kind of love.
With this question Peter realizes that without Jesus, not only is it impossible for him to agape, that is to love supernaturally—divinely, but it is also impossible for him even to love with a natural human love. In other words, Peter learned that we need Jesus to help us love authentically, to love as we have been created to love. We are made to be fully human, and to be fully human means to love not only with a natural human love, a philia love, but to love with an agape love, that is to love with God’s love alive in us.
We have been created for Divine love and to love divinely is to love fully human, to love the way for which we have been made. And so if we don’t love with God’s divine love alive in us, not only can we not love divinely, we cannot even love with a true human love, we cannot love fully human, we cannot therefore be fully human.
Our world thinks that it can somehow be fully human without Jesus Christ; it is sadly mistaken (this is what is wrong with socialism; loving and serving man without loving God and without God's love to help us). We have a fallen human nature and have lost the ability to love as we ought, as we were created to love. And as a consequence, the more we turn from God and from His commandments of love, the more we become less than human, and so the more we no longer love fully human. And so the more we become a culture of death. The more our society turns from God’s love the more we act inhumanly, the more we stop living authentically human lives.
Today, however, let us be encouraged by Peter. Peter, who had failed so miserably, by his repentance and confession, opened his heart to receive the very love of Christ and it slowly transformed him. Today’s Gospel ends with the prophecy of Peter’s martyrdom. In the end, Peter indeed would fully agape love Jesus- he would receive the grace to give his life in a sacrificial offering, in imitation of Jesus. We too, like Peter are so weak. We fail so often in love. Like Peter, we have to tell Jesus we love Him, we have to confess our failure to love Him, our sins, but confess them in order to open our hearts more fully to Jesus and to His love for us.
The Easter season is here to say our failures do not have the last word; Christ’s victorious love does. At Holy Mass we can receive this victorious love of Jesus in the holy Eucharist. The Eucharist contains the depths of the very Love of God, for it is, "the God who is Love". With the Eucharist, we can agape love Jesus and others; without the Eucharist it is impossible!
The Eucharist is the means, the source, for us to love fully human, to love with Jesus’ divine love, in order to be able to bring others to Jesus, so that they too may experience the saving power of the Risen Jesus' love present in the Holy Eucharist. But we have to, like Peter, jump out of the boat and swim to our Risen Lord who waiting for us on the shore…that is to Jesus who is waiting for us at the sacred agape meal of the Holy Mass and in the tabernacle in order to transform us as He transformed Peter. Peter in the end did love Jesus and others with a divine love even to the point of laying down his life, being crucified upside down on a cross. Let us like Peter entrust ourselves to the love of Christ.
Let us turn to the Blessed Mother for help, she was always faithful. We have to love what the Son loves, we have to love the Virgin, she will help us to Love her Son in imitation of her.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter Joy begins with our attitude and our love for the Holy Eucharist.

(“He has been raised- he is not here- Alleluia!” Tonight, the most solemn night of the year, the Passover of our Lord Jesus from death to life, we rejoice and are glad. Our Lord comes and fills us with amazement and awe. He comes to share this new life with us. In a few moments, Christ will indeed do this, as we welcome ___ new members into the Church. (Can also put here new life in baptism, if there are some.)

Very little about Jesus makes a difference in our lives if the Gospel stories are not true. In fact, if Jesus had not truly risen from the dead 2000 years ago and appeared to His disciples in a real body, I promise you we would never even have heard of about Him. Nothing else, except a historical, real resurrection could have changed sad and despairing men and women into believers radiant with courage, loyalty; and yes, Joy, true authentic Joy, which by the way is always Christian Joy. The resurrection is responsible for this change in the hearts of believers for centuries and it is no less powerful to change the hearts of men today. Indeed, “the joy of the resurrection renews the whole world”

It is exactly the lack of joy, or rather of meaningful joy, that torments many people today, even many Christians. There are some who even think that maybe it is wrong to seek joy in the face of so much suffering and injustice in the world and that maybe we should be apologetic if we are joyful. For all us, in the sufferings of this life, in it’s so many seemingly senseless tragedies, and in those times we ourselves feel darkness envelop us, we can be tempted to wonder whether our faith and trust in God is doing us any good. So often our faith, hope and love in God can be mocked by the harsh realities of life. Once however, we give into this temptation, which so many have, we lose the deeper meaning of suffering and death, then suffering and death ends up having the last word-despairingly, and then even life itself has no meaning.

Real Christianity, however, is about joy; joy not just in the life to come, but joy in the here and now, no matter what our circumstances. As one Christian writer said, “the Christianity of the New Testament was about crazy, total joy, the joy that put songs on martyrs’ lips as they were being marched to their deaths in coliseums, or roasted alive on a gridiron!” Where does this type of joy come from and how do we get it?

True joy, as I said, is Christian; it comes from the belief that life is not just a great tragedy that begins at birth and each day draws nearer to annihilation. True Christian joy also isn’t just about heaven, that joy cannot be found and experienced in this world but only in the life to come. Surely one can’t live in this life with this type of belief in which joy is only for the next life. No, at the heart of Christian joy is the conviction that Christ truly lives at this moment, that he knows his way out of the grave, and that everyone who believes in Him, and follows Him and His teachings in love, will share in his victory over death, beginning right now.

And so, it is exactly Christ victory over death, that gives meaning and power, not only to our faith, but to our lives. As many once Christian countries turn away from Christ and His Catholic Church, as so many souls are no longer practicing their faith or are practicing it only on their own terms, we now see more and more souls experiencing lives void of meaning and void of joy. A life without joy is a life without hope; is it any one the rates of suicide in our country, and in the world are exploding and why euthanasia is becoming more and more excepted.

The antidote to despair is faith, faith that Jesus is truly risen, not just metaphorically or some type of spiritual resurrection in the hearts and minds of the faithful, but that He is truly risen indeed, bodily, physically, really. And that He has promised to those who are His loyal and faithful disciples, that they will rise as well. This is the reason for our joy today and every day of our lives.

The Resurrection reminds us that in the midst of our sufferings, there is always the resurrection to follow, if, and this is a critical if, if we but love Christ above all things. If we put Christ and love for Him and for His Church first in our lives, then every time we are going through difficult times, we will be able to say with confidence, “this is just Good Friday, the Resurrection will surely come.” Once our hearts are filled with the consolation of this thought, we can even begin to experience joy amidst the sufferings in this world, the fruit of the power of the Resurrection in our lives. When we suffer with Christ, and this is the key phrase, “with Christ, that is with faith, hope and love in Him and His Church, by uniting our suffering to His, we begin to share in the joy of His resurrection which is the joy of eternal life.

The Key of all of this is the Holy Mass which truly makes present for us the victory of love and its power to not only save us but to fill us with joy, the joy of the resurrection. At this Easter Mass and at every Mass, we are redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb, which means, we are saved from everlasting death and so despair. This redemption happens by the Blood of the Lamb who gives us Himself anew under the appearances of bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist.

At Easter Mass we celebrate this victory of love. But every Mass is an Easter Mass, because it makes the saving act of Jesus death and resurrection truly present and affective to us here and now. But to share fully in the power and in the joy of this victory we need to share in this victory of love every single Sunday. Is it no wonder that as weekly Mass attendance around the world continues to fall, so too does the level of hope and joy, and love in our world.

At every Mass joy continues to break into our world; The Holy Mass is the cause of our Joy; this is how we get joy because the Mass makes present the true, physical presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is Jesus in his risen Body, alive among us. The Eucharist is where and how we united our sufferings to Christ in order to be filled with His Joy. This by the way is the secret of the martyrs; the Eucharist is where they found the strength to be joyful even while they suffered and died. The Eucharist is, “the remedy of immortality and the antidote against eternal death and despair” The sacramental Body and Blood of Christ, given to us in Holy Communion is the pledge of our own bodily resurrection, like Christ’s, so long as we die to sin and live for God alone in Christ.

Easter Joy begins with our attitude and our love for the Holy Eucharist. Those who believe the little white Host is truly Jesus in His resurrection and as a result fall on their knees before Him are given a share in the Joy of the world to come already in this world. People who kneel before the Holy Eucharist as their Lord and God and adore Him with their whole mind, heart and soul, and with all their strength do not jump off of buildings or give up hope, because they are filled with the joy that only the Risen Christ can bring. Joy=the Eucharist, because the Eucharist is our Joy--Jesus Christ--Our Risen Lord and our God.

On this Easter day, as we share in the power of the resurrection which is Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, we can be filled with the light of resurrection and the joy of the Resurrection. Let us here, now at this altar of sacrifice, united ourselves to Him by offering ourselves to Him, with Him and in Him to Our Heavenly Father, let us receive Him with open hearts and let us let Him take possession of us as we pledge our love and loyalty to Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord and our God truly present in the Holy Eucharist, so we can share in His Victory, the victory of love.

Queen of heaven rejoice, alleluia.
The Son whom you merited to bear, alleluia
Has risen as he said, alleluia

Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia
For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.

Pray for us who have recourse to thee...

Friday, April 2, 2010

Let us, tonight on Holy Thursday, thank God for the inseparable gifts of the Eucharist and the priesthood.

On Holy Thursday, also known as Maundy Thursday because of Christ's command (mandatum in Latin) that we should love one another with a demanding, even a demeaning love, as crouching to wash the feet of faithless friends who will abandon you in your darkest hour. But there is much more to the washing of the feet than just our love for one another in service. The washing of the feet is all about the priesthood of Jesus Christ and those whom He has called to share in that priesthood.

It's important to know that Priests in the Old Testament were ordained by the pouring of a special oil, over the head and the hands; the oil contained the power of God in order to make ordinary men, priest of the most high God. Each time they enter into the temple area reserved for priest, because it had the Altar of Holocaust, they had to washed. Only priest could offer the sacrifices of the Old Covenant and only priest that washed could enter into the temple area where the sacrifices were offered.

As Jesus washed the feet of the twelve, they understood that something more than just a gesture of humility was going on. It was humility yes, but Jesus was about to take his twelve "seminarians" and teach them how to offer Holy Mass and make them priests during the first Mass that was going to be offered in that upper room during this night, Holy Thursday night. This is by the way, Peter says to Jesus, why stop at our feet, why not wash our heads and hands as well. Peter understood this washing of the feet to be connected to the priesthood. He knew that Jesus was about to make them priests of the New Covenant. (This why only men should have their feet washed and why we should encourage our young boys to serve at the altar).

So today is the day that we celebrate Jesus instituting those whose feet he washed, as priests of New Covenant, giving them His own divine power in order to change ordinary bread and wine, through the miracle of Transubstantiation, into His own Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity—is very self. Jesus also gave them the power, His own power to offer anew to His Father throughout the ages, His saving sacrifice which He was about to undergo in Jerusalem.

By saying to His Apostles, "Do this in commemoration of me," and by the laying on of the hands, Jesus instituted the Holy priesthood, without which there can be no Eucharist and so no possibility of us reaching heaven—“unless you eat my body…!” The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass literally represents, that is make present again and again, in a sacramental way (that is really present under the appearance of sacramental signs), the once and for all sin-forgiving and life-giving Sacrifice of Christ and its power to save us. We for our part must have faith in order to receive its life-saving grace.

This is the meaning of service that Jesus spoke to the twelve. They as the new priests of the new and everlasting covenant, along with the priests to come, were to serve the people of God by providing them with the very sacrament of salvation—The Holy Mass which makes present truly before and for the people of God, Jesus own self-same sacrifice of Calvary and His truly body, blood, soul and divinity. They were supposed to, in imitation of the Master, lay down their lives in order for Jesus to continue His work of redemption through them.

And so Every priest must identify himself with Jesus as he offers such a sublime sacrifice. Every priest must be willing to walk the way of sorrows with Jesus; every priest must be willing to be hung on that cross, if he is to share in the fruits of the sacrifice of Jesus that he offers on a daily basis. How weak we priest are; how can we walk beside Jesus; how can we avoid leaving his side on his path to Calvary as the twelve did, except for John. For sure every priest needs the prayers, the support and the love of his people in order to follow the great High Priest, Jesus Christ to the cross in order to save His people.
If a priest does this with great love and holiness he will suffer at the hands of the faithless just as did the Great High Priest Jesus Christ, for the servant is not greater than the master We see this in a modern day priest who is faithful to Jesus; that priest is Pope Benedict XVI. The current vicious attacks against him are attacks against Christ Himself. The accusations, as those thrown at Christ, have no merit whatsoever. Yet those who make them don't care about the truth. Our Holy Father is truly walking the way of sorrows with Christ.

And every person that attends Mass must along with the priest Sacrifice of himself in union with the Sacrifice of Jesus, every person must to must be willing to offer himself in sacrifice as well. This is the meaning of the service that Jesus speaks…No greater love is there than this….than to lay down one’s life AT THE MASS for the sake of one’s friends. This is the true call of the laity of the Second Vatican Council. In order to help us,
Jesus continues through the Sacred Priesthood to offer his life for us; Through the Sacred Priesthood He continues to feed us with his flesh and blood, to fill us and consume us with His love so that we can possess and be possessed by the God who is Love, becoming one with Him at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb which is the Holy Mass.

Let us, tonight on Holy Thursday, thank God for the inseparable gifts of the Eucharist and the priesthood. Without the Eucharist there would be no priesthood and without the priesthood there would be no Eucharist; and without the Eucharist there could be no salvation. Let us Adore our Lord truly present in the Blessed Sacrament as He is carried in solemn procession, from the altar of repose to the place reposition which is the Garden of Gethsemane. Let us hear the Lord say to us as he said to his friends, "My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me." Let us spend time with Him truly present in the tabernacle on the eve of his passion and death—And when he says to us“ Could you not spend one hour with me?” Let us say yes we can Lord with the help of your grace. Holy Mary, Mother of all priests, Mother of the Holy Eucharist, pray for us, pray for me....

The Virgin is the source of our hope

Homily for Good Friday Passion of our Lord according to St. John

Each year on the Friday we call “good,” we read the beautiful account of our Lord’s passion and death according to the Gospel of St. John. The Church does this because it is St. John who reveals the deepest secrets of the heart of Jesus, the most precious and intimate words and gestures of Christ.
Many are the secrets that St. John reveals to those who look for them by meditating on St. John’s Gospel; I want to mention just a few of the secrets that St. John reveals and shares with us. There is the resting of St. John on the bosom--on the heart of Jesus; Jesus’ witness to the Truth before Pilate; the great gift of Mary to the beloved disciple; and the wounding of the heart of Jesus by the soldier’s lance. Much of course can be said, but I want to look more closely at one of the secrets I just mention, that of the great gift of Mary to the beloved disciple. I think that in this secret that St. John has given us a precious gift to help us enter into, and live more deeply the Pascal mystery of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.
The Virgin Mary is the one who stands with the strength of faith at the foot of the cross. The most extreme moment for our Lady is to watch her Son slowly being tortured to death, in fulfillment of all the prophecies about the death of the suffering servant, such as the one we heard in our first reading from Isaiah. Jesus gives the gift of His Mother to St. John, to help John’s faith in the midst of this terrible moment of Jesus suffering.
The gift of the Blessed Mother is a gift to John that will also help him in the terrible moments of his own sufferings to come. But through John, Jesus also gives this gift to us. Jesus gives us, as He gave St. John, the great gift of His Mother, as we too struggle with the darkness and suffering of our own sins. She is the gift to help us in our crosses, in all of our pains, sufferings and of course in the hour of our death. She is present to us to strengthen our faith if we call upon her powerful intercession. It’s interesting that St. John who was the first to receive the gift of Jesus’ mother, will also be the first apostle to believe in the resurrection.
This gift of the Virgin is given to us so that we will be able to enter into, be able to live in our own bodies, the mystery of the death of Jesus; for as Jesus had to pass through suffering and death to reach the resurrection, we too must pass through suffering and death to reach the resurrection.
The Virgin is the source of our hope. We are afraid, for we don’t know what is in store for us, what cross is in store for us with its pains and sufferings, with it’s death. But, if we ask her in confidence she will obtain for us the grace we need to, not only endure the cross in our lives, but to unite it to Jesus’ own suffering and death, to united it to his cross so that our cross will become our hope, our beacon, our joyful means to life, to eternal life, for ourselves and for others. She will help us to allow Jesus by the power of His cross to transform our suffering and pain into love to become a source of life…
This is transformation occurs when one accepts ones cross. This is the difference between the Good thief and the bad thief. The Bad thief refused his cross, refused to allow the transformation of His suffering and pain by the power of Jesus cross. The Bad thief allowed His pain and suffering to turn to bitterness and anger, thus transmitting this venom by blaspheming Jesus and saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!"
The good thief however allowed his suffering to be transformed by the power of Jesus suffering, death and resurrection. He accepted His cross as a just reward for His sins rebuking the other by saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed suffer justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
The Church, after the Second Vatican Council, restored Holy Saturday. Nothing happens on Holy Saturday, for it is a day of preparation, just as it was for the first believers. For us, Holy Saturday is a day of silent preparation for the resurrection, a day to spend in expectant hope with the Virgin in contemplation of Jesus great love for us—“He who love us to the end.” On Holy Saturday the entire world is ushed in silence awaiting that most glorious event that broke the chains of sin and death for ever for those who would believe. We enter the tomb with Christ, to die to our old life of sin that we might share more fully in the joy and power of the resurrection. May our faith strengthened by the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, prepare us to celebrate with Joy, her Son’s resurrection, not only on Easter Sunday, but fully in our lives. Then we too will hear those beautiful words of Jesus addressed to us, "Truly, I say to you, this day you will be with me in Paradise."