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.