Saturday, July 30, 2011

O Most Holy Trinity, I adore you! My God, my God, I love you in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 31st, 2011

Our Gospel today reminds us that there is only one thing in this world that will ultimately fill our greatest hunger. And this one thing that will fill our greatest hunger is the Holy Eucharist. Our greatest hunger is for love. And St. John tells us that God is love. And so our greatest hunger is for God Himself. Because the Holy Eucharist is God, the Holy Eucharist is Love Himself; our greatest hunger therefore is for the Holy Eucharist, approached with faith, adoration, hope and love.

Ultimately the greatest crisis in the world, according to Pope Benedict is a crisis of faith. Not just a crisis of faith in God, but a crisis in faith in the Holy Eucharist, especially among Catholics. This crisis of faith in the Holy Eucharist as the God who is Love among us has literally affected our whole world. And it has embolden the enemies of our faith. Our Catholic Faith is being attacked as never before, in the media, and even in our schools, colleges and university.

I don’t know if you remember this, but a few years ago, a biology professor at a prominent university in America desecrated the Holy Eucharist. He ran a nail through a consecrated host and called the Eucharist a cracker. After posting a picture of the desecrated Host he wrote the following:

“Nothing must be held sacred. Question everything. God is not great, Jesus is not your lord, you are not disciples of any charismatic prophet. You are all human beings who must make your way through your life by thinking and learning, and you have the job of advancing humanity's knowledge by winnowing out the errors of past generations and finding deeper understanding of reality. You will not find wisdom in rituals and sacraments and dogma, which build only self-satisfied ignorance, but you can find truth by looking at your world with fresh eyes and a questioning mind."

Meyers went on to say how amazed he is that many Catholics mindlessly believe this silly symbol of superstition. Of course by saying this he includes in this category, of the mindless, all of the great Saints of the ages from the Twelve Apostles, to Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas (arguably one of the smartest men that ever lived) St. Francis of Assisi, St. Dominic, St Ignatius of Loyola, St. John Vianney, St Theresa of Avila, St. Therese the Little flower, St. Padre Pio, Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta, blessed John Paul II, and the countless others who all, everyone of them, believed that the Eucharist was indeed Jesus, God among us. It is a fact, that the most brilliant minds the world has ever seen (ones a lot more intelligent than Dr. Meyer) have believed in the Holy Eucharist…

The attacks like this one and the attacks which continue to be on the rise were actually predicted by the Blessed Virgin when she appeared at Fatima. Even though this apparition of Lady happened in 1917, Fatima is just as relevant today as ever. Fatima was really a message for our times.

The message of Fatima is a message all about the Eucharist; a warning of a great loss of faith; in fact, a great apostasy of faith that would occur if men did not believe and turn to God and away from their sins. Fatima was a call to faith.

Fatima was a call to all Catholics, living then and now, to an increase of faith in the Holy Eucharist. Fatima was a call to faith in Mysterium Fidei-THE Mystery of our faith—the Holy Eucharist. It was a call to adore the Eucharist as God. And it was a call for Catholics to make reparation for the sins of the world, especially those committed against the Eucharist (like the act committed by Dr. Meyer, but most of all the sin of unbelief and indifference on the part of Catholics toward the Holy Eucharist).

And because we need the Immaculate Heart of Mary to lead us to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Eucharist, Fatima was also a call for us to make reparation for the sins against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Fatima was therefore a call to an increase of faith in, Adoration of, hope in and love for Jesus, Our Lord and Our God truly present in the Holy Eucharist.

As terrible as Dr. Myers actions were we may not have thought about how us Catholics can desecrate or dishonor the Eucharist. Let me go over just a few ways we can dishonor and even desecrate Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. First of we can do so by:

*Receiving Jesus without faith. Scripture tells us about the first person to
receive the Holy Eucharist without faith, without believing that it was really
Jesus in His human body. Scripture even give us this person’s name…it
was Judas.

*Receiving Jesus in the state of sin mortal sin.

*Receiving without pure souls made so by frequent confession.
Everyone, almost, goes to Holy Communion but many do not go to
Confession on a regular basis.

*Receiving Jesus improperly, irreverently (like we are receiving a cracker). i.e. hands low, not checking for particles, etc.

*Not participating fully, actively and consciously at the Mass both externally
by our actions and responses and interiorly by offering ourselves in love to
God at the Holy Mass.

Other ways, we can dishonor can Jesus in the Holy Eucharist

*Not attending Holy Mass. Shows a lack of love for Jesus in the Holy
Eucharist and a lack of thankfulness in His Sacrifice on Calvary, which the
Mass makes truly present) for our salvation. A failure of justice (what the
creature owes the Creator); and a failure of Love….no wanting to be with
the God who loves us, the God who is Love.

*Not Attending properly dress; not dressed in our Sunday best as for a
wedding because Mass is THE WEDDING.

*Leaving Mass early (without a good reason), constantly, habitually arriving

*Talking in Church in the presence of the Holy Eucharist, which also interrupts those who are praying to Jesus.

*Complaining that Holy Mass is too long…St. Josemaria Escriva said… “Mass is too long because your love is too short.”

*Not respecting and obeying the sacred ministers, bishops and priests
with out whom we could not have the Eucharist.

*And probably worst of all; indifferentism, not caring one way or the other. (Caused our Lord the most suffering during His passion; why HE sweated blood).

All the above are really about a lack of faith. Again, Pope Benedict said that the greatest crises in the Catholic Church and in the world is a crises of faith. This crisis of faith has it very roots in the failure of so many Catholics who refuse to believe that the little white host is God, and so refuse to adore Him, trust in Him and Love Him.

If you really think about it, all of this is really not about what we should not do to dishonor Jesus in the Holy Eucharist but it is more about what we should do to show our love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. A man in love surely is concerned about the “shall nots” but he is more concerned about how to show his love for the woman he loves. And so lets look at what we can do receive Jesus more reverently and so with greater love. We can:

*Receive Jesus with faith. Faith is a gift from God and so we need to beg
God to increase our faith in order to truly believe that the little white Host is
our Lord and God in His true Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

*Receive Jesus only in the state of grace; If we have committed a serious
sin, if we have purposely missed Sunday Mass or a Holy Day of obligation
we need to go to confession first before we receive Jesus…it is not enough
to make an act of contrition before receiving.

*If you are in an unlawful marriage, that is you have been married outside of
the Church, don’t receive Jesus until you take care of your situation. If you
need help please see me or Fr. William; we would be more than willing to
help you.

*Make a frequent confession, at least once a month at the least once every
other month.

*Receive Jesus in purity and love, with reverence; consider returning to the
age old practice which the Church most desires, that of receiving
Jesus on the tongue.
Our Holy Father Benedict has made known his wish for Catholics to return to that age-old tradition of receiving communion kneeling and on the tongue. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks, you will watch the W.Y.D events on T.V., that the youth and I are attending. At the WYD Mass and all papal Masses you will see that all of those who receive communion from the Holy Father receive Jesus kneeling and on the tongue, unless they are physical unable to kneel; but then they still receive on the tongue. (By the way, it is good for Catholics to know, that Communion in the hand was merely an indult giving to certain missionary countries. It was never meant to be the normal way of receiving. (Show the Tee Shirt the youth made for the last W.Y.D. here… “If at the name of Jesus every knee shall bend…What about before the very person of Jesus?”). Kneeling again would be a great way to make reparation for all of those who don’t believe, adore, hope and love Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.)

*Adoration of Jesus at Mass offering our selves and all we have especially
our self wills in a sacrifice of love to Him and to the Father through Him.

*Proper behavior and dress in Church; silence in His presence; dress as to a
wedding for Holy Mass is the wedding of your soul with God’s.

*Adoration of the Holy Eucharist, Jesus, outside of Mass.
1 hour a day for those who can. At least one hour a week for others (Wednesday night adoration and all night Saturday night; Children and family adoration).
. About just coming to Mass early to adore Jesus as a preparation for
Mass. Or staying afterwards, just for a few moments, as a thanksgiving
for the gift of being able to be present at Holy Mass and receive Jesus in the
Eucharist (Mention St. Anthony’s here).

Adoration of Jesus is the best way to atone for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference of men like Dr. Meyers and others; especially the indifferentism of Catholics.

*Watch for desecrations of the Holy Eucharist at Mass. You have my
permission to stop someone who has not consumed Jesus in the Eucharist;
in fact, you have an obligation to do so. Do so however; with kindness and
love; don’t assume they are doing so intentionally.

*Finally, learn more our beautiful Catholic faith; study the Church’s teachings on the Holy Eucharist in order to grow in faith, hope and love for Jesus really present there. Study the Church’s teachings on the Holy Mass; read our Holy Father’s writings and come to understand why he is making the changes to the liturgy that He is. One of the reasons for the upcoming changes in the liturgy beginning in Advent is to address the lack of faith in the Holy Eucharist.

In the End, we all need to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in our heart…People need the Holy Eucharist…all people, not just Catholics…If the Eucharist is really Jesus the God Man among us, then we should want everyone to come into the Catholic Church to be able to adore Him by sacrifice themselves to Him in love and uniting themselves to Him in Holy Communion. And we should ourselves pray before Jesus until all men believe that He is really there and so come as well to adore Him. Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is the pearl of great worth for all men… He is the only way to the Father and so the only way to salvation…unless you eat my body and drink my blood…He is the True Bread from Heaven…

Before Our Blessed Mother appeared in Fatima, heaven sent an Angel to the three Shepherd Children. The Angel suspended in the air a Host above a Chalice filled with the Precious Blood. The angel then prostrated on the ground, that is fell on his faith and prayed three prayers, three times each before the Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, thus teaching the children and us through the Children these same prayers of adoration.
My God, I believe, I adore, I trust and I love Thee! I beg pardon for all those that do not believe, do not adore, do not trust and do not love Thee.

O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernaclesof the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.

O Most Holy Trinity, I adore you! My God, my God, I love you in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Our Lady then asked the Children to make say the following prayer as way to make up for sins against her Immaculate Heart and the Sacred Heart of her Son. This prayer, spoken sincerely, effectively allows any hardship, illness or pain in one's life to be offered as Acts of Reparation.

O Jesus, it is for the love of You, in reparation for the offences committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and for the conversion of poor sinners [Some add here "that I pray/do this"].

You can find these prayers on page 3 of the St. Patrick Hymnal.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"Ever Ancient, ever New!"

Homily for Matthew 13:44-52 Seventeenth Sunday of the Year July 24th, 2011

We have for the past few Sundays heard many parables from Jesus. Today we continue with more; the buried treasure, the pearl of great price, the net thrown into the sea, and the goods from the storehouse. All of these parables, however, have a common theme—and that is, our relationship with Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ is the Pearl of Great Price.

Jesus concludes His teaching today with a short discussion with His disciples, asking them if they had understood; and they replied they did. Then he adds one more parable- the Kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” Jesus’ teaching was very much like this, bringing the Old, presenting the Old, with a new perspective. This new prospect certainly invoked many emotions not only in the disciples, but in all of those who heard Jesus words.

Certainly in recent history, our Church has gone through this process of presenting old with a new perspective. In fact, this is exactly why Vatican Council II was called. The Fathers of the Council desired to present the Old with a new perspective, to show the world that the prenial teachings of the Church, which are the teachings of Christ Himself, are ever ancient every new.

Before the Council was held in the mid 60’s the Church knew who she was and what she believed. There was no such thing as an identity crisis. Because of the surety of faith the Church was experiencing, the Fathers of Vat II, wanted to boldly take the truths of our faith and all of its beauty out into confident dialogue with the modern world. In other words, instead of hiding from an ever increasing secularize world, the Church wanted to take its great patrimony of faith and its 2,000 years of human experience and use it to confront the great challenges facing the modern world.

Along with this, the Church wanted to rid itself of a type of Jansenistic harseness that too often had crept into its practices. The best way to describe this harshness is that a few in the church presented the truth of her teachings more with a club, than with the kindness and charity of Christ. I recently read one example of this harshness. It seems the very first catechesis class one person received while in first grade began with the teaching of mortal sin, and how just one unrepentant mortal sin would lead a person to hell. While this is true, it’s definitely not a teaching you want to use to begin teaching a 7-year-old child their faith, you’ll of course scare them to death.

Over the past 40 or so years, the Church has struggled much to try to understand this ideal of Vatican II—this, presenting the old with a new perspective. However, in the last forty years since the council there has arisen the mistaken notion of a pre-Vatican II church and a post-Vatican II church, as if the Church before Vatican II was somehow different because the council “changed” the Church’s teachings, change the nature of the Church herself. The truth is, is that Vatican II changed nothing; the truth is the truth and as such is unchangeable. Jesus Christ is the same today, yesterday and forever. And so to with His Church; the Church is the same Church, with the same teachings as before.

Probably nowhere is this confusion of a “new church" brought out more clearly as in the Liturgy, that is in the way we celebrate Holy Mass. After the council, some of the changes in the Liturgy were drastic and were too often changed over night, with out any explanation to the people. Many people were distraught and many left the church never to return. I’ll still meet many people who had gone through those times saying, one Sunday everything was in Latin and the next not a word. The shock was very hard on many people.

Others saw the changes as refreshing, especially with a let up in the Jansenistic harshness as I just described. However, now, many times instead of the truth of the Church’s teachings being taught with a club, they weren’t taught at all. We had only Catholicism light. People were led to believe that the Church’s teachings themself had changed; that the Holy Mass had changed.

In fact, the changes in the Liturgy we seen as proof that the church was evolving and so her teachings where changing as well and so now a person in good conscience could go along with the rest of the world in all things secular and profane. An example of this was in regard to the Church’s teaching on contraception, which many assumed would just automatically change
in light of the rest of the “changes” in the Church. And of course this did not happen, but many, including bishops, priests and theologians decided they would not listen to the Church anyway.

Now forty years after the council, we see the Church coming to look at Vatican II with renewed vigor. The Late John Paul II said many times that Vatican II has still not yet been fully and in some cases, correctly implemented. Pope Benedict has renewed this statement of John Paul. He says that the problem with the documents of Vatican II is that hardly anybody has ever read them. And so, he has called for a return to the Documents of Vatican II, to look at them ever closer, to prayfully study them in order to bring about just what the Holy Spirit was trying to accomplish.

As a result of this beginning to return to the actual documents and a turning away from the so-called “Spirit of Vatican II, we are now beginning to see some changes; especially in the Sacred Liturgy-in the way we “celebrate Holy Mass.” And so, just like the changes in the Sacred Liturgy after the council, recent changes in the Mass can stir up strong emotions. Many are pleased to see a return to the tradition and patrimony of our past. Some have much fear of “Going back.” The fact of the matter is however, is that no one wants to go back. The church is ever new, ever living in the here and now, she is progressive in the real sense of the word. She is ever fresh, and her teaching, because they are the truth of God himself, are ever relevant (The changes that are happing now are more like this, example of an airplane adjusting its course).

When we look at the documents closely, we find that so many of the changes after Vatican II, especially in the liturgy, were not called for by Vatican II. For instance, even though it called for the vernacular to be used in the liturgy, nowhere did the council call for a complete annihilation of all Latin, especially in our songs; or nowhere did it call for the sanctuaries of our beautiful churches to be stripped of things like high altars, stain glass, statues and communion rails. In fact just the opposite was the case, the documents tell us that Latin is to be maintained as part of who we are and were we came from, especially with regards to Gregorian chant; it is to be given “pride of place” in the Sacred Lituryg. The documents also called for the bishops to protect the irreplaceable beautiful art contained in our churches, like the beautiful high altars and commion rails.

When strong emotions occur over the attempt to restore the sacred, to bring back the beauty and transcendent nature of our sacred liturgy, could it be that those who feel these emotions are not so much afraid of a little Latin or incense, but are afraid of the harshness coming back that was sometimes seen in the church before Vatican II. By the way, no one wants the harshness back. No one is attracted to mean priests and mean nuns, although (smile) not all of the racks by the ruler did me much harm.

In light of all that I have said, we must look to our Holy Father, who has the grace from God guaranteed to help us navigate these changes. In fact, I would recommend one of his books call “Spirit of the Liturgy” in order to help understand these changes. This year we will see more changes in the Liturgy as we have discussing, such has a new and more accurate translation of the official language of the Mass, Latin into English. Remember, the Official language of the Mass is still Latin, English is only a translation. In the years to come, we may see additional Masses offered in some places in Latin, but we will not, will not, see current masses in English all changed to Latin; and we will not see the changes implement in the same way as after Vatican II, that is drastic and overnight.

Before the new Missal takes effect this Advent there will be much education in the changes and the reasons for them. Here at St. Patrick’s we will talk about them during homilies; we will offer classes on them; we will “walk” through the Sacred Liturgy, not only to explain the changes but to help you, to help us all, grow in our understanding, appreciation and love of the Sacred Liturgy? Why? So we can participate in it with “full, active, and conscious pariticipation” Why? So we can adore God in spirit and truth, giving Him due glory and entering into union with Him, a union for which we have created; and so we can be fruitful instruments of His grace to lead others into this same eternal union of love; which is the desire of the heart of every man woman and child who ever was, ever is and who ever may be.

In our Holy Mass today, we ask this grace of Jesus- the grace to have Him alone as our only treasure. Let us discover anew the awesome mystery of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and our true Treasure, Jesus in the Holy Eucharist; the Holy Eucharist is the Pearl of great price. May we abandon ourselves completely to Him and allow His grace to fill our hearts.

Our Lady of the Holy Eucharist helps us to be aware of the Mystery of the Holy Mass, help us not just to sing and pray at Mass but to sing and pray the Mass; in others words, help us to adore the Blessed Trinity through uniting the offering of our lives to the Sacrifice of Your Son on this Altar to the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit. God Bless You!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

May our lives become beautiful notes in the symphony of God’s good creation.

Sixteeth Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 17th 2011

Many of you, especially the youth, have heard of the novel known as the “Lord of the Rings.” The “Lord of the Rings” is actually a Trilogy of three different novels, all of which were made into blockbuster movies within the last ten years. The writer of the “Lord of the Rings” was a man by the name of JRR Tolkien. Tolkien was a very devout Catholic. He also wrote many other books, which are familiar to many, such as the “Hobbit,” which is part of the story of the “Lord of the Rings.”

There is another part to the story of the “Lord of the Rings” which is told in another one of Tolkien’s less known works called the “Silmarillion. The Silmarillion is part of the chronology of events that makes up the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. It is a type of a “Book of Genesis” of these great works and describes the origins of all of the characters of the Lord of the Rings, such as the Hobbits, Gandolf and the evil lord, Sauron.

As I said, the Simarillion is the least known of all Tolkien’s books. It is a long mythology about the creation of the world. In this book, Tolkien created characters representing both God and Satan, the Good Angels and the bad, the demons. The character for God, creates the world in a void and then allows his created “spirits” to form the earth and to give it order. The order is described as a great “symphony” of the most beautiful of all music.

The most powerful of these created spirits is Melkor, who is created good but then because of his pride, turns into the Satan like character. In an act of pride, Melkor places “discord” into the great symphony that is creation and tries to “spoil” the melody by “playing his own tune,” creating his own truth. The story then goes on to tell of the many battles that the powers of good and evil fight amongst each another.

In the Simarillion, the chief weapon of Melkor, the evil one, is lies, lies that cause discord in the symphony of truth. Tolkien writes of this, “Long was he (Melkor) at work, and slow at first and barren was his labor. But he that sows lies in the end shall not lack of a harvest, and soon he may rest from toil indeed while others reap and sow in his stead.”…. So along with the truth sown by the good god, Melkor the evil spirit had also sown some evil seeds, seeds of lies.

Even though it took these evil seeds much time to bear fruit, eventually Melkor, being patient, found some itching ears that would heed him, and some wagging tongues that would enlarge what they had heard; and his bad seeds, his lies, “passed from friend to friend, as secrets of which the knowledge proves the teller wise…” as the book tells us. The story continues by saying that:

“When he saw that many leaned towards him, Melkor would often walk among them, and amid his fair words, others were woven, so subtly, that many who heard them believed in recollection that they arose from their own thought.”

This little commentary on lies from the Silmarillion, may help us better understand our Gospel today and indeed the battle over the soil of our hearts and minds. Unlike the battles in the Silmarillion, however, this is a real battle, one in which we need to be sober, for Jesus tells us, “whoever has ears ought to hear.”

Jesus tells us that he goes and sows seeds in the good ground; yet Jesus very clearly lets us know that Satan is also there, sowing bad seed, the seed of lies. The seed of truth that Jesus sows, however small like the seed of the mustard plant, will grow. So too with the lies of Satan, they will yield a harvest as well, but one that is evil and is rotten, fit only for burning.

Let us take an modern example. In 1968, Pope Paul VI wrote an encyclical letter on human life- Humanae Vitae. The issue at the time, was whether artificial birth control could be used or not used in accord with the Church’s teaching and thus according to the plan, the “symphony of God”. In the encyclical, the Holy Father upheld the Church’s perennial teaching saying that artificial birth control went against the divine plan of God for the Human Person; and that it places discord in Marriage and family Life and so in society itself. The Holy Father wrote:

“Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity, the lowering of regard of the woman, instead of her being seen as a trusting companion, she would be seen as an object to be used for one’s own selfish gratification and finally it would cause a general lowering of moral standards.”

Pope Paul here warns us about the danger of lies. Once any spouse believes that he or she can withhold a part of himself or herself, such as their fertility, in their love for the other, a lie is sown and takes root in their belief and the lie grows in their love for another and so begins to destroy their life together; and leads eventually even to the destruction of the life of human persons.

One look at our world today and we can see this lowing of moral standards in our world, especially in a lack of respect for the dignity and sanctity of human life and of the Human Person. Also, we can see a direct proportion to in the increase of divorce and abortion to the increase of the use of artificial birth control. Indeed the lies have grown and produced bad fruit—as seen in our current culture of death.

Yet, the seeds of truth are stronger and will endure. Jesus is the one who gives us the truth through the teachings of the magisterium of the Church, which is the pope alone and the bishops in union with the pope. The truths of the magisterium bear good fruit—the fruit of eternal life. Think of the seeds of truth sown by Blessed Pope John Paul and the good fruit that resulted.

Pope John Paul spoke the truth to the communist countries of Eastern Europe, and they came tumbling down. The seeds of truth produced the downfall of these atheistic ideological governments. John Paul reminded us that the teachings of the truth, of the Church, far from restricting our freedom, actually protect and even ensure our freedom and life—there is no freedom in lies, only slavery and death.

Our current Holy Father, Pope Benedict continues to sow the seeds of truth. As a good, protecting German Shepherd, he reminds the world, each of us, that any attempt in the building a society without God and the worship of God being primary; any such attempt, will end in colossal failure. He, like Bl. John Paul, lived through the lie, patiently sown by satan, of politics replacing theology. The lie claims that we can have politics without God; and so there needs to be a separation of Church and state in which the state is protected from any Church interference.

The truth is, is that the ideal of the separation of Church and state is not to protect the state from interference from the Church, but to protect the Church from interference by the state. The father of lies has completely turned it around. By the way, this is really what lies at the heart of the evil atheistic ideological government regimes of the world, from Nazism, to Communism and to socialism. Hitler himself once said that, “if you tell a big enough lie long enough and to enough people, they will eventually begin to belief it. Each one, Nazism, communism and modern socialism promise a man made utopia without religion, without the worship of God, without the Church, but instead they give us nothing less than a man made hell.

Pope Benedict is taking on the bad seed sown by the “father of lies” and he is very clearly pointing out the modern lies. He is not afraid to take, head on, the error of our day sown by the evil one. And, I would add, he is doing it very well, in a way that anyone can understand. I would even say he is more easily understandable than John Paul the II. We are particularly graced with his pontificate; so how we all need to listen closely to this Pope and follow his instructions and deligently study them. By learning from His teachings, which are the teachings of the Church, which are the teachings of God, we will allow good seed to be sown into our hearts that will produce good fruit in our lives and in our world.

Let us also realize that there is a field in which it is okay and necessary to pull up the weeds before the harvest time, the judgment time, and that field is the field of our hearts. We pull the weeds in and through repentance and the help of the grace of the Sacrament of Confession—the Sacrament that has the power to even change weeds into good wheat through God’s patient mercy; divine mercy in which he desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth, the truth that sets men free, the truth that saves.

Today, as we celebrate this Mass, let us ask Jesus to sow and nurture the seeds he has sown in our hearts. May these seeds produce in us great fruits, and through our faithfulness, bring many, many souls back to our Heavenly Father. May our lives become beautiful notes in the symphony of God’s good creation. Let us pray to Our Lady, “Mother of the Good harvest,” that she would obtain for us the grace of the Holy Spirit, to worship our God in Spirit and in Truth and to make Him and His divine will always primary in our lives. Amen.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Preparing the Soil well.

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 10th, 2011

Today we read a very familiar passage-a parable we have heard many times. Jesus speaks to us about the planting of seeds- about the soil, how it grows, and ultimately the harvest. I think we would all like to imagine that our hearts are the good soil and that we produce a good harvest with our lives.

But perhaps the truth is that we are not as open to the Word of God as we would like to think, and so we need more of the fertilizer of God’s Grace to help us produce more good fruit. In today’s Gospel, Jesus points out the obstacles of the world, obstacles that try to hinder us from allowing the word of God to fully take root in our hearts and minds in the seedbed of our faith.

One of the obstacles Jesus speaks of is the devil. Satan, like a crow, steals away the seed before it even has a chance to grow; he does this by lies. Our world today is full of the “spirit of the evil one”, the “father of lies.” Even though it has much good, our western culture nonetheless is one steeped in many, many lies, which have been sown by the devil himself. Believing the lies is often justified with reasons such as “it’s my choice” or “it was for the good of others” or “I deserve it” or how about this one- “the child would have had a difficult life anyway.”

In this environment the devil also tries very subtly to make us question basic truths of our faith. It begins with a question we have about some aspect of our faith—now, nothing wrong with questions, questions mean our intelligence is searching for the truth. However, instead of forming our intellect and enriching our faith with and through the teachings of the Church, we choose to hear the voice of the world telling us the Church is wrong and out of date. Then doubt creeps in along with the temptations that come from the modern media and movies that are continually attacking our Catholic faith, the Holy Father, the Church herself, even God Himself. For example, best selling novels like the “DaVinci code”. Ignorance can then mislead us to questions like, “is the Church really hiding from me and from the world some great secret—like did Jesus really marry Mary Magdalene and did the two of them have a daughter. And did the Church over the last two thousand years try to kill of this bloodline of Jesus which is really the Holy Grail.” I am not making this up. These are the ridiculous accusation in a novel that has sold millions of copies to poor souls, many of whom are catholic, souls who because of their lack of knowledge, actually believe such unfounded lies sown by the devil himself and spread by poor souls taken in by him.

To combat this obstacle to our faith, the devil and the spirit of the world, we discover that for the Word of God to take deep root in our minds and hearts, we must work hard to prepare the soil of our souls in order to make it good soil so the devil can’t snatch it away from us. To do this, we need to continually study the truth that comes from God, because God is Truth. When we study the Word of God in Sacred Scriptures, given to us through the teachings of the Church, which is the Divine Institution and instrument in which God gives us the fullness of the truth, the seeds of faith have a good soil to fall into and take root and grow.

Additionally if we work the soil, the seeds of faith, which are sown when we hear the Gospel proclaimed and explained each week, can more and more begin to produce fruit in our lives; and consequently, we can begin to more fully have a living and vibrant faith. To work the soil well, we need to humbly ask God for help in order to open ourselves more fully to the seed of His truth.

And God will help us, if we do our part by listening more carefully to the prayers and readings, especially the Gospel, in order to understand and remember what we hear in the homily. Remember in the homily Christ speaks to his people in and through his priest, however, limited the priest may be. The priest may be a more or less effective homilist, his message may come through loud and clear or dull and garbled, we may like him or not, but God nonetheless can and does speak to you through him, if you keep the soil ready. It’s the message that is important, not the messenger.

Other obstacles to the Word of God not taking root in our lives stem from trials, persecutions, or from caring too much for material security and comfort or pleasure. At the root of these obstacles is something fundamental to all humans and that is-- we fear suffering, we do not like to suffer in any way. When we have trials - our greatest fears are realized. In the midst of our trails we look at others who seemingly have no problems and we begin to think, “If God were really good, he would just change or remove all of my problems.”

Likewise, in persecutions, we fear being ridiculed for our faith. We don’t want to suffer being embarrassed or ashamed. Sadly, we fear the loss of human respect, much more than offending our Blessed Lord. Or, our fear stems from our lack of knowledge of our faith which prevents us from being able to stand up to other’s who mock our faith and call the Church’s teaching into question.

Also, in caring too much about worldly and material security or comfort, we fear that in following the Gospel more fully we might have to do without or be inconvenienced; we then end up becoming indifferent to our faith. We look instead for pleasure, even illicit pleasure to make us feel good. We can then become narcissistic looking only to our own needs wants instead of the needs of our neighbor, the needy and poor. We then refuse to change, only seeing that others need to change and not ourselves.

In battling this obstacle to our faith, and really to combat all the obstacles to our faith, it is necessary that we have to be willing to deny ourselves, to suffer; in fact, suffering is an essential part of our life of faith. Without suffering a little, we would not be able to grow in virtue and character. Let me explain with an example. I once remember an interview with Michael Jordan, the retired great Basketball player for the Chicago Bulls and time World Champion. Was it just an easy or natural thing? Someone said to him, “it must be great to have been so gifted of a basketball player.” Jordan responded something to the effect that, yes it was a great blessing; however, don’t forget all the hard work, the many hours I practiced everyday; the great sacrifice and even suffering I endured to make use of that talent. I was on the court when no one else was, practicing, honing my talents” But if it is this way it is in ordinary human affairs, like basketball, how much more so with spiritual affairs, our relationship with God.

However, in light of the intense effort our spiritual life of faith entails, St. Paul encourages us not too lose heart; “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” We see small glimpses of this glory in human affairs- such as Michael Jordon’s victories. Yet, the glory of human success pales to the fruit of spiritual success, in other words growing in our relationship with god. St. Paul, reminds us of how much athletes suffer and deny themselves in order to win a crown that fades away, but how little man is willing to suffer for a crown that never fades, the victor of eternal life.

Remember, St. Paul, himself, suffered so much in an effort to follow the pattern set by Jesus our Savior. Jesus passed through terrible suffering to arrive at the resurrection. So too must each one of us. A seed sown must die to bear fruit; we must suffer and die to self, in order to bear good fruit. Nothing good comes easy, especially the good of heaven, we have to deny ourselves so we can love God and others in order to achieve it; “The Kingdom of Heaven is taken by force.” So we join our sufferings, however small to the passion of Christ. Jesus then transforms our suffering into fruit that lasts eternally. Jesus builds in us virtues-both human and divine. Human- as we can be more loving to our neighbor; and Divine, for the theological virtues are deepened in our hearts. We grow in our exercise of faith, hope and charity- the wonderful gifts we received in our baptism; we bear the fruit of God’s love in our lives, we can then share God’s love with others.

Let us today, as we celebrate this Eucharist, ask Jesus to make our hearts the good soil for His Divine work. We don’t have to go it alone, Jesus will help us if we only ask Him in prayer, He desires to help us for He knows how weak we can be. Let us surrender to Him all of our fears, all of our sufferings, past, present and future, and unite them to His passion, which will in a few moments be re-presented to us at this Holy Mass. Let us beg Him to deepen virtues in our lives, so that we can grow in love of Him and through and in this, love one another bear good fruit in our lives. Holy Mary, mother of our faith, mother of our hope, mother of our charity, pray for us. Help us to bear the fruit in our lives that will last for eternity. Amen.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

You gotta want it!!!

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 3rd, 2011

Many times homilies given at Holy Mass are based on the Gospel, but today I want to base this homily on the Second reading of this Sacred and Divine Liturgy. In today’s second reading we hear from St. Paul from the letter to the Romans. This past week we celebrated the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul; and so, it would be good to talk about St. Paul today.

In this letter St. Paul gives us advice about common struggles in our lives of faith. The Baptized Romans in Paul’s time were struggling with living out their faith just like we do. They found themselves struggling with a culture literally immersed in sin; especially the sin of hedonism--hedonism is the enjoyment of pleasure, entertainment and comfort in a way that is in opposition to the Holy Will of God. It’s not that God never wants us to enjoy pleasure, comfort or entertainment but that we must do so in a moral way, never placing our own will before His Will; in other words, never placing pleasure, comfort or entertainment before love of God and neighbor.

Pleasure, comfort and entertainment in Paul’s time had become the peoples’ god; while God, the true God was merely paid lip service, if even that; excessive pleasure and comfort had actually dulled their consciences. Remember that the Roman Empire at this time had dominated the entire known world. They had integrated many different religions and philosophies into their vast empire; no one religion or philosophy was thought to be better than another. You could basically believe what you wanted and practice in the way you wanted as long as you didn’t “push” your beliefs on others or onto the main stream culture; as long as you worship the Roman gods. The Roman’s practiced syncretism, that is, just mix all beliefs together and keep everyone happy and enjoy economical prosperity; whatever it took to keep the peace; in the end it was just plain paganism, a type of practical atheism. “What is Truth?”

And so enters St. Paul. St Paul was well versed in all religious and philosophical thoughts of the day; with keen insight, he addresses the situation in which the Baptized find themselves. Even though they had received the powerful life transforming grace of baptism, they still found themselves struggling with sin and couldn’t understand why. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict says that St. Paul’s time is much like our own time. And so Benedict reminds us that even though St. Paul wrote close to 2,000 years ago, his writings still have great relevance in our lives today, maybe more than ever. The constant struggle between good and evil played out in our own lives, within our own selves, is the same as in Paul’s day; it is a struggle, better yet, a war being waged between our souls and our bodies, between the Spirit of God and the disordered desires of the flesh, that is our passions and our fallen human nature; it is a battle within.

For us who are trying to follow God faithfully, our soul or spirit desires to do good, to follow the Gospel; it desires to be kind and considerate to our neighbor, to our family and even to share with them the truth of our faith courageously and with confidence. But instead, we often are short tempered or fearful, or just plain rude because we are in a bad mood. Many of us truly do desire to repent from our sinfulness and convert to truth in order to draw closer in intimacy with Jesus. Yet, sin is so attractive that it seems we will never be able to turn away from it; it seems that following Jesus is just too hard and demanding for us, and we love our own will. Comfort is much easier. As Saint Paul himself says, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. In his letter, St. Paul addresses people who are perhaps down on themselves in their struggles and failures; perhaps he addresses me and you.

St. Paul first reminds them that they were baptized and have received the Holy Spirit: “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also.” St. Paul reminds us that our baptism is a baptism into his death and resurrection. Through our own baptism, we have all died to that spirit of the world that opposes the Spirit of God. The death that works within us, that being the death of sin, is now reborn with the grace of Christ, who defeated death-sin on the cross. As Jesus was resurrected, so too are we resurrected or born again in the life of grace; and so in part, we share already in Christ’s victory of sin and death. The grace we receive in baptism has the power to give us all of the strength, courage, perseverance we need to finally win in our struggle with sin, with ourselves. But first we must first have faith in this Divine Power, call upon it, trust in it and in Charity use it and cooperate with it in our lives, persevering to the end of our lives on earth no matter the effort needed.

The problem is that too often we don’t call upon and so use the grace of our baptism; instead, we can be so lazy, spiritually speaking. We too often really don’t put up a big enough struggle to resist sin in order to practice virtue, and so we weaken or even lose our Baptismal Grace. St. Paul puts it this way, “you have not yet resisted to the shedding of your blood,” so in other words we need to keep trying harder. So many times we extend so much effort in the other activities of our life, but yet when it comes to our external salvation we don’t seem to think it’s worth the effort that is needed. Many there are who work hard for a crown that withers and fades, so work harder for the crown that never perishes, the crown of eternal life... Many don’t think that an effort even needs to be made, after all everyone goes to heaven. St. Paul says instead, “Work out your Salvation with fear and trembling”. He knew that even he could have lost eternal life; if St. Paul could have, what about you and me.

St. Paul today encourages us that we are not debtors of the flesh, to live according to the flesh and its desires. If we live according to the flesh and its desires, we will die (everlastingly); this is the truth, plain and simple. But, if by the Power of the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the body we will live; this also is the truth plain and simple. We have that Spirit available to us because we have been baptized into Christ death and resurrection; what hope we possess within us.

All of this, of course, doesn’t remove us from the struggle against sin; it doesn’t make it easy, but it does make it possible for us to overcome sin, if we only desire it and make the effort…we have to be determined. If we are not yet saints the problem isn’t with the grace of our baptism; no, the problem is with us, its that we don’t desire enough to be saints. However, in our struggle, Paul reminds us, we have the Holy Spirit, the Power and the Love of God, given to us mainly though the sacraments; it is the power to change our hearts, to make us Saints, that is one with God. As the saying goes, “we just gotta want it”…we’re talking about eternity here and our eternal happiness; as well as the eternal happiness of other souls. The Holy Spirit helps us to want it more than anything or anyone else; He leads us to the Sacraments of the Church to accomplish His work.

The Sacraments are intimate encounters with Christ, where we can take the burden of our sins and our labor to resist them, and give them to Christ’s redeeming Power. If we have lost the grace of our baptism or it’s power has become weak in our lives because of our failure to cooperate with it in order to resist the temptations of our flesh; as a result, if we have given into our passions in a disordered and moral way, then all is not lost, we can turn to Christ in Confession and have the heavy burden of our guilt taken away and our weaken state strengthened.

And if we need to nourish our soul because it has become thirsty for Christ’s love we can come to Holy Mass and give ourselves to Christ in order for Him to quench our thirst in Holy Communion. Feeding on His true flesh and blood nourishes our soul, increases our love and so makes us stronger to overcome the disordered desires of our flesh and blood. The Holy Eucharist is the unique way we can come before Jesus in our labors and in our burdens and find rest for our souls. “Come to me in the Holy Eucharist all you who are labored and burdened and you will find rest for yourselves. When we come before the Eucharist it is like standing before a source of radiation; we can’t necessarily feel its effects immediately on our soul, but nonetheless, the radiation of the Son—S.O.N., infuses our soul with His Divine light, Power and Love. We become like the One we adore.

May we today, in receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, the fullness of Jesus Christ, beg our Lord for grace for this coming week to struggle and to never give up hope in our struggle against the one thing that keeps us from God’s love—sin. May we never choose love of comfort and ease over love, love of God and love of neighbor. Jesus our Lord and God truly present in the Holy Eucharist, we adore Thee and Love Thee, through your Mother and our Mother—The Blessed Virgin Mary, help us to love Thee and Adore Thee more. Amen.