Saturday, August 27, 2011

Oh Lord You duped me, and I allowed myself to be duped!

Everyone who has truly tried to authentically live the Catholic faith has experience to some degree what Jeremiah did in today’s first reading. For proclaiming, authentically, God’s Word, Jeremiah experienced mockery, derision, ridicule and criticism. And he did so from the majority of those around him, especially (and this is important to note) from those within the household of God. Yet prophecy he must! To Jeremiah, God’s name, God’s truth and Will, was like a fire raging within his heart and mind; overcome with charitable zeal, that is love for God and love for neighbor, he simply had to speak out, no matter what.

To be a Christian is to be Jeremiah like; we are all by our baptism, called to be prophets. By prophet, I don’t mean we are called to see or foretell the future, but we are called, by our witness to show others the way to the good, the beautiful and the true. Which really means we are called to show others the face of Christ, Who is Goodness, Beauty and Truth itself. To do this we are to lead them to Christ’s Church, which alone proclaims and shows forth Christ fully and authentically.

Because of our baptism, St. Paul in today’s second reading, reminds us that we are all members of the royal priesthood of Christ; so we too must, like Christ, be willing, no matter the cost, to offer ourselves as living victims of sacrifice to our God. Not that we are to destroy ourselves or be destroyed, but that we are to forsake our selfish will for the Holy Will of God and for His Glory. Our of love, we are to give our life for God’s truth, (both by proclaiming it to the death if necessary, but also by dying to self and sin, in order to live the truth fully for all to see). Jesus in today’s Gospel, with the authority of God Himself, puts it plainly:

“If a man wishes to come after me, he must deny his very self, take up his cross, and begin to follow in my footsteps. Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Christ here shows us the only way to authentic happiness and freedom in this world, even though the world will never accept it; and that way is to accept the sweet yoke of Christ, which is His Truth, His Way and His Life all of which comes to us through His Church, through her Sacraments and through her teachings, which are not just to be believed but are to be experienced and lived in love.

And so, a true commitment to Christ—living one’s faith in the midst of a misunderstanding even mocking world—is our calling and really is our privilege. There is no higher calling than to be asked to walk in the footsteps of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom we place our faith, hope and love, living within our own lives His life of self-oblation to the Will of the Father; setting aside our will for the Holy Will of the Father, for His glory and for the salvation of souls. Far from being a negative, this is the royal way of the cross, the narrow way that leads to authentic happiness, authentic freedom and the fullness of life--life in abundance. When we give our lives totally to God, far from losing our life we save it.

Yesterday we celebrated the feast day of St. Augustine, a man who before his conversion had fallen into great error and so into great sin, living a life far away from Christ and His truth and so His Church. Commentators have said that one of the principal errors that caused Augustine to go astray was the mistaken notion that a person can somehow follow Christ without faithfully following the Catholic Church. Augustine fell into the same error that many in our day have fallen into, thinking that they needed to leave the Catholic Church in order to find or adhere more fully to Christ.

After years of seeking the truth in all the wrong places, and so looking for love in all the wrong places, Augustine, through the grace that his mother constantly implored for him, became convinced that only in the Catholic Church was he to find truth and peace for His soul. He concluded that for faith to be sure, the divine authority of Christ found in Sacred Scripture and guaranteed by the Church was required. The Church and Jesus were one. To find fully the true Jesus and not one of our or some else’s own making, and to become one with Him, we must be one with the true Church.

True commitment to Christ means then, for us, commitment to His Church, founded, as we heard last week, on Peter the Rock and on the rest of the Apostles and their successors the bishops who are in union with the Holy Father. This Catholic Church is our Savior’s principal and universal sacrament in the world. It is here, and only here, that the fullness of truth and grace are found. It is here, and only here, that we, through the Sacraments, meet, hear, embrace, and are embraced by the living Jesus Christ in the fullness of His humanity and in the fullness of His divinity.

In the ancient Nicene Creed from the 3rd century, which we profess every Sunday, we describe and profess our Church as One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.”

One, because she is the one and only Church founded personally by Jesus Himself; a living community, better yet, a living family, with one head, one shepherd appointed by Christ, the Bishop of Rome, who not only succeeds Peter but is the Sweet Vicar of Christ on earth;

Holy, not only because she is the perfect and spotless bride of Christ but because she and only she possesses the fount of all holiness--The Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist; Jesus’ real bodily Presence, as well as the other sacraments which spring forth from the Pierced Heart of the Eucharist…the Sacred Heart. In the Holy Eucharist we can go to Jesus just as did the Apostles and sit at His feet and adore Him; if we love Him we should want to be with Him in the Holy Eucharist when ever we can.

Catholic, because as we said a couple of weeks ago, she is the universal sacrament of salvation through which our Lord desires to save all men. And so, her mission is universal, she preaches the truth that all men need to attain salvation;

And she is Apostolic because it is the same community of the apostolic era; there is continuity between the early Church depicted in the Acts of the Apostles and our Church today. And so, the truths she teaches come to us from the twelve apostles themselves, through their successors, the Pope and the bishops in union with Him. And by the way where did the apostles get the truth? From the lips of Jesus Himself. And so ultimately, we believe the Church’s teaching because we believe Jesus, who is God among us, God who can neither deceive nor be deceived.

Catholicism therefore is unique. There is ancient adage: “Love Christ, love the Church.” St. Cyprian wrote that, “One cannot have God for his father, if he does not have the Church for his mother.” St. Augustine argued that “to the extent that one loves the Church of Christ, one possesses the Holy Spirit.”

Too love Christ; listen to the Church. The Church speaks for Christ. Blessed John Paul II once said, “How could there be any authentic evangelizing, (that is leading souls to Christ and to His truth and so to salvation), if there were no ready and sincere reverence for the sacred magisterium, in clear awareness that by submitting to it the People of God are not accepting the word of man but the true word of God?”

To be a Catholic—to return to Jeremiah—to speak the truth, but especially to live the truth can be especially difficult today. Sometimes we feel like saying, “You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me.” We can even say to ourselves, “I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more.” But then if we love Him, by loving His Church, if we turn to Him by converting more fully through our submission and obedience to His Church, accepting and living her teachings with the help of the grace of the Sacraments, then, then, we will say, “But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it, I must, must speak it and live it even if men in the world don’t want to hear it; because even if they don’t know it, they need it.”

Let us not be duped by men, even some priests, who tell us what we want to hear but not what we need to hear; let us instead turn to the voice of our Lord which becomes audible and infallible to us in the teachings of our Beautiful Catholic Faith; the faith of the apostles and the faith of all the saints. Let us want to be spend time with the One we love, Jesus truly present in His Church and truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar which comes to us from His Church.

Let us pray; Jesus in our world today there are many false prophets who are proclaiming a message that sounds good to our ears but is detrimental and even deadly to our souls. Help us with your grace to hear your message, your truth, the fullness of which comes to us through the Catholic Church you founded. Help us to be open to the truth so that we may accept it with our intellect and embrace it with our wills, and so live according to the Will of the Father in order to inherit life and share that life with others. Jesus we want to be truly committed to you; only by our acceptance of your truth will we find a solution to problems of our present age; The answer does not lie in political and economic reform; for what does it profit us to gain the whole world and lose ourselves?” I know that to abandon the Church and her teachings is to abandon home, family and life, for it is really to abandon you. Help me to forsake all else in order to possess and be possessed by you and your love, that is all I need. Our Lady, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Truth and Mother of the Church, pray for us sinners who have recourse to thee. Amen

Saturday, August 6, 2011

With Faith in Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, we can "walk on water."

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time. August 7th, 2011

You know, this Gospel reading is one of my favorites. I am sure most of us have seen paintings depicting this scene of Peter meeting Jesus out on the water (I myself have multiple depictions of this poignant scene). Peter is sinking as he is desperately grabbing for Jesus’ hand. Jesus, for His part, is very much in control as He calmly reaches out his hand to Peter. Jesus takes Peter’s hand and rebukes Peter for his lack of faith, “O man of little faith why did you doubt?”

It is easy for us to be hard on Peter and want to “rebuke” him as well for his lack of faith. The interesting thing about this story that we must remember, however, is that-- Peter got out of the boat. How many of us would do the same? You see in this boat, at this point in their relationship with Jesus and at different stages in their faith in Jesus, the twelve apostles represent the different types of people found in the Church today.

There were those apostles who said, “It’s a ghost, it is not true. In others words, they were content with mediocrity. These correspond with those in the Church today who, while being Catholic, just don’t want to be “too Catholic.” They are content with mediocrity with regards to their relationship with Jesus and His Church. So better to not rock the boat; they think, “maybe if we ignore Jesus, that is if we just do the minimum, just enough, he will go away and leave us alone.”

There were those apostle in the boat who knew it was truly Jesus walking on the water towards them; they wanted to go to Him, but they lacked confidence in Him. They saw the waves and they were afraid; the Gospel tells us the boat was beaten by the waves. These represent those in the Church today who want to want to walk on the water, that is follow Christ totally, but they are afraid of what it might cost them, what they might have to give up or to suffer. These persons may even give Jesus a lot, they just won’t give Him their all. They want to give Jesus everything, but are afraid he might just take it all. In the end, they don’t trust God totally.

Then, there was a least one disciple in the boat who didn’t care one way or the other. He was in the boat but not with Christ and the others. He coincides with those in the Church who are indifferent to the words and teaching of Jesus, given to us through the pope, and the bishops and priests in union with him. They say, “No pope, no bishop, and for sure no priest is going to tell me what to do.” In this, they show that they are indifferent to the very person of Christ who is truly present in the Church in the Holy Eucharist and who shepherds His people through the pastors of His Church. Like Judas, they feel it is every one else who needs to change and not them; they’re a good person after all. They refuse to see their need to chance, for repentance, and so refuse to see their need for God’s Divine Mercy in their soul.

Finally, there was the one who got out of the boat. It was Peter alone got out of the boat in the midst of the great wind and waves. How much confidence Peter must have had to get out of that boat in the first place. How much he must have loved Jesus to risk it all to walk on the water toward Jesus. And Peter did just that; he performed the miraculous-walking on water, that is until the gospel tells us, “he looked at the wind and began to sank...In other words, Peter took his eyes off of our Lord, and as a result Peter’s confidence waned; his faith grew weak.

Peter represents those souls in the Church today, who thou not perfect, see that Jesus is their Way, their Truth and their Life, and so take the risk and get out of the boat; they struggle to leave mediocrity behind in order to give themselves totally to Christ. They begin to trust Jesus more and more…even enough to “walk on water.” And even if they begin to sink they call out to the Lord as Peter did, “Lord Save Me!” And that is what Jesus does, he holds out His hand and says, “my child why did you doubt, have confidence in me’, and as in the gospel the winds cease, if not in the world, within the soul.

I think for most of us Catholics, if we are honest, we can admit that at different times in our faith life we have been like each one of the twelve in the boat. Yet, the important thing for us today is to recommit ourselves to the person of Christ and turn toward Him with greater faith, reach out to Him in great trust and cling to Him with greater love.

To do this we need to ask God to increase our faith that Jesus is still in the boat, that is He is still physically present in His Church through the Holy Eucharist. And then, we need to ask Him to help us to keep our eyes on His presence there. We need an increase in our faith that the Holy Eucharist is Jesus, Our Lord and our God, and adore, trust and love Him there.

In our spiritual life and in our everyday life (the two should never be separate) we can indeed follow Jesus anywhere, fully, if we just keep our eyes on Him. To often however, we take note of the wind and the waves, we see the dangers, the difficulties, and the sufferings and so we fail to keep looking at Jesus. In our relationship with Him, we then begin to count the cost of following Him totally, fully and absolutely in love, and so we take our eyes off of Him and begin to sink in to despair, despondency and even, God forbid, loss of faith and love.

Yet even so, if we just call out to him and return our gaze to Him, reach out to him through our adoration of Him, then He will grab us by the hand and save us from sinking; He will increase our faith, hope and love. And then with Jesus, and our eyes daily focused on Him, we can do anything He asks us to do. United to Him we can even do the miraculous, that is we can leave all behind in order to follow Christ and become great saints.

But we must keep our eyes on Jesus, not as some ideal, but as a divine person who is truly present in His Church. And we can keep our eyes on Jesus only if we adore His very Person in the Holy Eucharist both at Mass and outside of Mass. The more we adore Him there in faith, the more we can handle the great winds and waves of this present world and of the spiritual life; the more we trust Him the more we can overcome the tempestuous, temptations, passions, and persecutions of our age. And the more we love Him in the Holy Eucharist, the more closely we can be with Him always, united to Him in love, until He finally leads us to the safe harbor of eternity.

In the Holy Eucharist we have to remember Jesus, our Lord and our God, doesn’t manifest Himself to us in great and stupendous marvels, or speak to us in a thunderous voice, but He comes to us hidden in the smallness of a little white host, and He speaks to us in the silence of our hearts with the tiny whisper of His Divine Love. Yet, united to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, with our eyes focused on Him in adoration, trusting in Him completely and with hearts united to Him in love, listening to Him speak through His Church and accepting her teachings as His, we will never sink for He will unite us to Himself forever and ever.

It is the blessed Mother who will help us to keep our eyes always focused on Jesus through adoration of the Holy Eucharist, which is Him. And as a result of our adoration of her divine Son in the Holy Eucharist, she will help us to keep our eyes on Him during the events of our every day lives and so never lose hope. She will help us draw closer to the Sacred Heart of her Son in the Holy Eucharist and keep us there until we reach the safe harbor of eternity.