Saturday, March 31, 2012

Holy Week is Loyalty Week!

Today we join the millions of Christian voices throughout the centuries who have been faithful to Christ; and along with them, we too desire to shout our loyalty to Christ and even more to show it by our deeds. We call this week Holy, but it could also be called "Loyalty Week."

Sadly, in our day many Christians are like the faithless tragic figures we just heard about the Passion narrative, they have not remained faithful to Christ. Yes, they may give Jesus lip service, but in the end, they preferred comfort, convenience, laziness and emotional highs, instead of steadfast faithfulness, and so loyalty to Christ. Many Christians today preferred a get rich feel good gospel, instead a Gospel, which demands a sharing in the very sufferings of Christ, and so a share in His loving act of redemption for the salvation of souls. In others words, too many so-called Christians prefer a Jesus without the cross, love without sacrifice, cheap grace, no suffering and no self-denial.

Sadly, many Catholics as well, from so called Catholic politicians to Catholic news journalists, claim the name Catholic but deny Christ by denying His true Mystical Body, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and Her teachings. Speaking of journalism, a few weeks ago as many of you know, a terrible anti-Catholic ad was run in the New Times that called for Liberal Catholics who don’t agree with the Church’s teachings on things like artificial contraception, abortion and sterilization, to leave the Church. It said that, “now is the time to draw the line.” While the ad was nothing but bigotry and prejudice against all Catholics, I do agree with it in that there is a line that is being drawn in the sand, one that is becoming more and more pronounced. Which side are we going to be on? True loyalty demands no middle of the road positions--in fact, you get run over in the middle of the road.

The current debate over religious liberty shows forth this line very clearly. The debate is very disturbing indeed. But what makes it even more disturbing is how many Catholics actually disagree with Church teachings with regard to her teaching on the issues of life. This was brought out very clearly in the comments following an article I recently read on the Church’s teaching; while I don’t want to get in to particulars, the author presented the Church’s teaching in a very clear, articulate, concise and loving manner.

Yet, listen to some of the comments, “don’t worry, if you don’t follow the teaching of the Church, God knows what is in your heart. And although I am a CATHOLIC, I HIGHLY resent the Church, (i.e. the pope and bishops) telling ME (what to do). One of these dissenting comments was actually made by a deacon of the Church; he wrote, “Do not be dismayed over what has been written (in the article). Please do not concern yourself with a burden which should not be imposed on you.”

The sad part of these types of unfaithful comments about the Church’s teaching is the ignorance that lies behind them. The truth is, is that it isn’t the pope and bishops that make the teachings of the Church. The teachings of the Church are the literally the teachings of Christ. The job of the pope and bishops is to pass on faithfully what the Church has received from Her Head, Jesus Christ. Because they come from Christ who came to set us free, the teachings of the Church don’t limited our freedom and happiness, they ensure our freedom and happiness.

Never before in the history of the Church as there been so much division in the Church, so much dissension on Her teachings. Jesus, who is the Truth, is being mocked, all over again in our day because His Church and her teachings, which are His teachings, are being mocked and ridiculed. And even worse, He is being betrayed again because His teachings are not followed by so many of those who claim to be His followers.

Speaking of the present debate going on in our country over religious freedom. Even though we are emphasizing the aspect of religious freedom over the issue of artificial contraception, one can make an very good argument that the flash point which ignited the explosion of so many American Catholics not only dissenting from the teachings of the Church but believing that they could do so in good conscience and still be a “good” Catholics, the flash point was the release of the encyclical on Human Life—Human vitae.

This beautiful encyclical, issued by Pope VI in 1968, condemned artificial conception calling it a great moral evil that could only lead to a general lessening of morality in our society. If accepted and approved by society, the pope predicted it would lead to legal abortion and euthanasia, to men losing respect for woman no longer seeing them as their companion and friend, but now only as an object for their own self sexual gratification; and so divorce and the breakdown of the family would result as well. The pope didn’t mention the devastating health effects on woman, such breast cancer, tumors--cancerous and non-cancerous, heart attack, high blood pressure, blood clots and stoke…artificial contraception is not only destroying our society it is killing our beloved women. The Pope did however give a healthy, effective, moral and lifesaving alternative--Natural Family planning, which could be used by a married couple for appropriate reasons.

But again, Pope Paul didn’t make a new teaching of the Church in 1968; the Church as always condemned artificial contraception. One can find writings from the first centuries of Christianity condemning it; in fact, Scripture itself condemns it. Interestingly all Christians, universally condemned it up until the 1930’s when the Anglican council of Lambeth allowed it within Marriage but only for serious reason. That of course opened the floodgate within Protestantism in which you now find almost a universal acceptance of it. But this is not the teaching of Christ; Jesus condemns it.

The folks who hate the Church, like the authors of the New York Times ad and those of the paper who allowed it to be printed, use the division among us Catholics and among Christians in general, very effectively. The devil loves it when God’s family is divided, especially us Catholics. He loves it when Catholics reject the truth of the teachings of the Church. The devil for his part however, knows that all of the Church’s teachings are true, because He knows they come from God and not man.

In the present day of attacks on our religious liberty we can no longer get by without knowing what the Church teaches and why she teaching it, we can no longer get by without studying the teachings of Church in order to grow in our understanding of them, so that we can live them in our lives. The teachings of the Church are not hard to understand but it does take an effort to learn them. Are they hard to live? Yes, sometimes extremely so; this is why we need the help of prayer and the grace of the Sacraments of the Church. Where there is love all things become easier, possible!

The grace of the Sacraments doesn’t make it easy to following the teachings of the Church, but it does make it possible. It also help us to see that the effort to live these teachings is worth it and that our effort shows forth our love and fidelity to Christ and to members of his mystical body. Jesus won’t strike us with lighting when we fall, if we are trying. He knows how hard it is for our fallen nature; He will help us if we turn to Him. But if we just flat out refuse to believe His teachings because we don’t agree with them, or because we don’t want to, then He will have no choice to treat us as the unrepentant thief on the cross.

This week reminds us clearly that now more than ever we have a clear choice to make. And make no mistake; it is one that has eternal consequences. We can be loyal to Christ or disloyal to Him. The hatred for Christ and His Catholic Church and for His bishops and priests grows stronger every day. Will we be faithful to Christ, by being faithful to His Church? For there is no fidelity to Christ without fidelity to His Church and to all her teachings? Now is the time to repent and accept the Gospel.

When we look at the Crucifix and contemplate His Passion we see very clearly Jesus' unfathomable love for us. He suffered and died to take away our sins, for in the end our sins, our infidelity, hurt us, not Him. And so, we pledge our loyalty to Him no matter what the cost, even though many there are who prefer other things, the things of this world to Christ.

Let us Promise Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, that we will be faithful to Him not only during this Holy Week, but also during our whole lives by being faithful to His Holy Mass and His Catholic Church and all of Her teachings. Let us adore our God truly among us in the Holy Eucharist with His same human nature, which suffered the blows, insults and blasphemies of Evil unbelieving men. If at the name of Jesus every knee shall bend, what about before the very Person of Jesus? So come, come let us in loyalty adore Him, let us give ourselves to Him and to the Father through Him. Let us be willing to go to the cross and face hell itself rather than to be unfaithful to our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.

May Mary, the first of all the faithful disciples of Christ obtain for us the grace to live this commitment of loyalty no matter what, even to the cross, even unto death; help us to be willing to do what the first Christians did, and pay what they paid, in order to convert our beloved country and so be used as instruments in the salvation of the eternal life of countless souls. Amen.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

If I say the truth to you, why do you not believe me?

John 8: 46-59 Fifth Sunday of Lent (Extraordinary Form) March 25th, 2012

After hearing today’s Gospel it seems hard for us to believe that there could be people in this world with hearts so filled with malice that they would consider goodness and justice as reasons for accusing and condemning a just person. Yet there are such people. Today’s Gospel proves it and the history of the Church, sadly is one long demonstration of it.

Today our Blessed Lord asks His enemies: Who among you can convince me of sin? Only our Lord could make such a challenge, for only He was without sin. His challenge shows clearly His innocence, His purity, and holiness. His enemies couldn’t answer His challenge because they couldn’t finding any fault whatsoever with Him; however, this did not stop them from attacking Him. In fact, Jesus’ Goodness angered them all the more. It is as if someone would say; “It is just because we do not see any shadow of guilt in you, that we hate you so much; it is because we see that you are so good and pure and holy that we want you put to death.”

This reminds us of the first persecutions of the Church by the Roman Empire. As the hated for the Christians was intensifying, some of the provincial governors, moved by a human sense of justice, wrote to the emperor, asking; how shall we treat these Christians? We don’t find any kind of guilt in them. The emperor wrote them back: why trouble yourselves, looking for guilt? The mere fact of their being a Christian makes them guilty in and of itself. And so, if they renounce their faith, no matter how grave the suspicion be against them, they are to be set free. If they do not renounce their faith, they are to be condemned.

And it was in the Roman persecution, so too it is with some modern nations and their modern persecutions against Christ’s faithful. And so too will it be with the Christians throughout the ages remaining.

Why is this the case? What is really the offense of the faithful? Who can accuse them of treason against their county, or of conspiracy against the government, or of rebellion against its laws?

They are innocent. If they were guilty we wouldn’t say they are persecuted we would say they are punished. Christ’s faithful have not committed any crime of any kind, and for this many of them are put to death.

The persecutions of the faithful throughout the ages remind all of us of the prophecy of our Blessed Lord, which He addressed to His disciples: “If the world hates you, know that it hated me before you.” (Jn 14,18). “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (Jn 15-20). “You shall be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.” (Matt. 24,9).

But why does the world hate the faithful followers of Christ? Because hate is born of truth. The doctrine, the teachings preached by our Lord are the truth, plain and simple. In fact, our Lord said to His enemies: If I say the truth to you, why do you not believe me?

If the Pharisees were convinced that our Lord wasn’t telling the truth, why didn’t they try to refute Him and to convict Him of His error? In their inability to do so, they turn to the weapons usually employed by those who though losing the argument, still wish to fight back: insult and derision. And so they cried out to Him: “You are a Samaritan!” that is, you are an enemy of your country; “and you have a devil!”
Isn’t this the same thing that happens today to the Church, who teaches the same doctrine, the same truths of Christ? How many enemies there are to refute her, to batter her down, and to destroy her! And when they don’t succeed, they take recourse to slander and vilification. They say, “The Church and the doctrine of Christ goes against the best interest of mankind, to enlightenment, to progress!”—They even say the teachings of the Church are against women.

“The Followers of Christ are the victims of bigotry and in the eyes of many are seen as the real problem in the world today!” –Everything has been said and is said today to blacken the teaching and the Church of Christ, but nothing of it all has been proved to be really so. It was and is the Pharisees all over again, who accused our Lord of being a Samaritan and of having a devil, and the only proof of their assertion lay in the audacity and the vehemence with which the charges were made.

There are many today who say they love the truth, and that the truth is beautiful, but they don’t follow it. And there are many others who deny that there is any such thing as objective truth. In both cases, these folks won’t admit the fact that they do what they do and believe what they believe or refuse to believe because they hate the truth; because the truth reveals to them the truth about themselves. All men ultimately believe in the truth; even those who deny such a thing.

For example, all men believe in the truth that states, “That thou shall not steal!”, especially when they have something stolen from them. But when this truth means that they have to make restitution for something stolen, suddenly this truth doesn’t appeal to them so much, for it shows them the thieves that they are. All men believe that the family is a sanctuary that must be respected and protected. Yet, for the man that lust after another man’s wife, suddenly the truth of “thou shall not covet they neighbor’s wife is no longer so appealing. And all men love life; yet because of their own selfishness, when another’s life calls them to sacrifice something of themselves, suddenly that other life becomes inconvenient and dispensable.

However for us who love the truth, even though it too shows us who we really are, sinners, if in light of this truth we seek with God’s grace to improve ourselves to become better, holier, then we show to the world, give proof to the world, that we are indeed friends of God, that we are indeed Christians not just in name but in fact.

But if we force our gaze away from the truth, and in its light refuse to acknowledge the truth about ourselves and change, then we prove that we are not friends of God. And then we too will join in the opposition against the truth, against all of those who preach the Truth, and ultimately will show ourselves to be in opposition to He who is the Truth Itself, Jesus Christ.

And this is the meaning of the words, which our Lord addressed to the Pharisees: “He that is of God, heareth the words of God. Therefore you hear them not, because you are not of God.” To possess true joy and above to enjoy eternal life, it is necessary not only to hear the words of God, but also to put it into practice…For, “If any man keeps my words, he shall not see death forever.”

The malice of the Pharisee continues in the hearts of many in our day; those who cannot stand the light of truth, which reveals them to themselves as they really are; and so they try to turn their minds to other things, to anything but the conversion of their life to the truth. We might ask all of these the same question that the Pharisees put to our Lord today: Whom dost thou make thyself to be? O man, you who look down upon the Church and her priests, you, who smile at the Gospel and have no care of the men far greater than you, who, according to all reports have done the same as you are now doing, and they have passes away as you will pass away, and their memory has disappeared from among men, even as yours also shall disappear from the face of the earth.

If you persist in your present ways, Jesus will hide himself altogether from your soul as He did Himself from the eyes of His enemies, and conceal Himself from you in such a way that when you search for Him, you will not find Him. The Pharisees in their hardness of heart, when they could not best Jesus in argument took up stones to throw at Him, but He hid Himself from their eyes and went out of the temple.

It is in remembrance of this happening that the Church today covers the crucifixes and all the sacred images, as if to protect and defend them against the present enemies of the Church, and keeps them covered during these days in which she solemnly calls upon us to mediate upon the mysteries of the redemption. Let us then meditate on these sacred mysteries during this holy season; let us recall how often we have cast stones at our Lord in the form of the sins we have committed; how often we have constrained Him to leave our souls. But for all that He has not abandoned us altogether, He has not treated us as He treated His enemies, the Pharisees.

During these next couple of weeks Jesus desires to give us the light of His grace. The events of Holy Week to speak to our heart and move it; they impress our mind and invite meditation; they recall to us the sufferings and the death of the Divine Master, and inspire us with sorrow for our sin. May our hearts be softened, our souls warmed, and may our gratitude for God grow. Let us offer to the Lord sincere sentiments of sorrow for sins, and say to Him in all humility:

O Jesus, when our eyes are veiled with tears of agony, and can no longer see you, O Crucified Savior, in that dread hour have mercy on us! When our soul comes before the tribunal of your justice, to be judged, remember then the suffering and death you have undergone for us, and by the merits of your Passion, send us on to enjoy forever the vision, face to face, of your Father, to whom be glory and honor throughout all ages. Amen.
(This homily is greatly indebted to the Reverend Hercules H. Dominicis and his wonderful book, “The Ferial Gospels of Lent.”

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Family of families helping one another get to Heaven!

Our Holy Father, Benedict XVI in his Lenten message for this year, reminded us that Lent is a season to reflect on the very heart of the Christian life. He said,

“The Lenten season offers us once again an opportunity to reflect upon the very heart of Christian life: Charity. This is a favourable time to renew our journey of faith, both as individuals and as a community, with the help of the word of God and the sacraments. This journey is one marked by prayer and sharing, silence and fasting, in anticipation of the joy of Easter.”

One of the aspects of Christian Charity that the Holy Father calls us to reflect on this Lent is our “concern for one another.” When I reflect on this call to be concerned for one another I am thinking primarily of our Parish family and its members; after all, Charity begins at home. And this Parish Family is our home. It is where we, through Baptism, become beloved sons and daughters of the Father in Christ Jesus our Lord; where we are nourished and grow in holiness and Christian maturity through the other Sacraments of the Holy Church; and where we are finally born into eternal life. It is where we adore God, truly present in our midst in the Holy Eucharist, in order to be enabled to enter into Communion and Union with the True and Living God.

And so, Lent calls us to a deeper concern for one another and for the Parish Family! In this season of prayer, penance and almsgiving, these disciplines direct us to deeper concern for the spiritual and material welfare of our Family of families. And so, we show this deeper concern through our prayer for the parish, especially through liturgical prayer, the Holy Mass and the other Sacraments; and how much we show this concern when pray for one another in prayer before the Holy Eucharist. We also show this deeper concern through our fasting and penance for Her temporal and spiritual needs. And we show our deeper concern through our practice of almsgiving, which even outside of Lent, needs to be primarily directed to this Great Pauper in our midst, that is our Parish Family, for she is poor and depends totally on the generosity of her members for her material support.

And so, faithful stewardship needs to be at the very top of our list of Lenten practice; and it needs to be at the top of our list of our faithful Christian practice of charity all year long. It is one of the things we will be questioned about on the Day of Judgment, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” for the Parish Family is the Body of Christ in our midst.

The Apostle Paul encourages us to seek “the ways which lead to peace and the ways in which we can support one another” (Rom 14:19) for our neighbour’s good, “so that we support one another” (15:2), seeking not personal gain but rather “the advantage of everybody else, so that they may be saved”

Pope Benedict in Lenten Message also says to us, “The Lord’s disciples, united with Him through the Eucharist, live in a fellowship that binds them one to another as members of a single body. This means that the other is part of me, and that his or her life, his or her salvation, concern my own life and salvation.”
Benedict goes on to say, “Sadly, there is always the temptation to become lukewarm, to quench the Spirit, to refuse to invest the talents we have received, for our own good and for the good of others (cf. Mt 25:25ff.). All of us have received spiritual or material riches meant to be used for the fulfillment of God’s plan, for the good of the Church and for our personal salvation (cf. Lk 12:21b; 1 Tim 6:18).”

This week I want to speak about two ways that we can practically carry out our charitable concern for one another in our Parish family through Almsgiving and prayer. First almsgiving.
As mention in my bulletin article last week, instead of listing in our parish family bulletin our budget, and how we are doing with regard to the budget, as we have done in the past, the Stewardship Committee and I want to begin to show what the realistic potential of our parish is, with regard to its Stewardship of Treasure. And it is truly a very realistic potential.

Of the 1279 registered parishioners, only 481 families gave a financial gift to our Parish Family last year. The average income of the families in our parish is $47,888.00. Remember, the Biblical Tithe asks that we give 5% to our Parish Family (and 1% to our Diocesan Family and another 4% to a worthy charity like St. Vincent de Paul). This Biblical Tithe is surely a goal we all should take steps to achieve, even if it is only one step at a time.

So let’s say we all begin to take a step to arrive at our parish potential and take the Biblically suggested 5% to our Parish Family and cut it in half. Let’s say that we ask those 481 families to give only 2.5% of their income to our Parish Family per week. With this very modest step to reach our full parish potential, the average weekly gift per family would be only $23. Now, take that $23 and multiply it by 481 (number of families who gave last year) and you get $11,063 for our weekly collection or $575,276 per year in total giving to the Parish Family. And this would only be scratching the surface of the full potential of this incredible Parish Family; just think of what we could accomplish if a larger number of parish family members would be moved to a deeper concern for this parish and do what they could to financially support its great work.

$47888 Average annual income of our parishioners
x . 025 Tithe Percentage
$1197.20 Average yearly donation per family
X 52 Weeks
$23.00 Average weekly donation per family

$23.00 Average weekly donation per family
X 481 Parish families who gave last year
$11,074.10 Total per week collection

But in these troubled economic times, let’s set our first step to our full parish potential at an even more modest level. If the average gift per family would be just $20 per week (only 2.1% tithe), that figure would be $9620 per week of income for our Parish Family, or $500,240 a year for the mission of our wonderful Parish Family. As you can see, this is very, very doable. Think of what we could become; think of what we could accomplish with this very modest step toward our full potential. If everyone in our parish truly believed in our mission and support this mission with their sacrificial gift of treasure we could be a strong force to evangelize our community and our world.

If the average gift was just $20 per week per family, only a 2.1% tithe:

$47888 Average Annual Income of our Parishioners
x .021 Tithe Percentage
$1005.65 Average Yearly Donation per Family
÷ 52 Weeks
$20 Average weekly donation per Parish Family
x 481 Parish families who gave last year
$9620 per week collection

or $500,240 per year total giving to your Parish Family

Now of course many of us can do much better than 2.1%, and many members of our Parish Family do so. Some have even achieved the full potential of 5% in giving. I thank all of you who are giving in a sacrificial way to the good of the Parish Family and fulfill a necessary aspect of charity by our almsgiving to the Parish during Lent and all year long.

The next practical way to carry our another aspect of Charitable concern for one another in our parish is one of prayer: This week I want to give you all a unique opportunity to pray for your Parish Family and for her needs and the needs of her families and members. As you know, there is no more efficacious prayer than prayer before Jesus truly present in the Holy Eucharist, because it prayer directly before the Incarnate Living God with us, Jesus. Every Saturday night, as you also know, we have all night adoration before the Holy Eucharist. This is a great time for parish members and even whole parish families to come before Jesus, adoring and praying for their personal needs. However, remember it is always more blessed to give than to receive=charity dictates that we can’t just pray for our selves and our own needs.

And so, beginning shortly we are going to begin to pray a continuous silent rosary during the Saturday night adoration for the Parish and its needs. Do accomplish this it will be necessary to have at least two people signed up for each hour. With at least two people at every hour we will be able to keep the rosary being prayed silently for intentions of our Parish Family all night long.

At each hour, for the first half hour, person number one will pray the rosary silently for these parish intentions and person number two will pray for their own personal intentions. After the first half hour, they will switch, so that number two will pray the rosary for the next half hour and number one will pray for their personal intentions. This way each person will be able to spend half of their hour before Jesus for their own intentions while the rosary will also be prayed the whole hour for the parish.

Look for more info coming soon on this very important prayer event for our Parish Family and her well-being. We will be sending out a post card asking that all parishioners sign up for an hour. Maybe some can only do an hour only every once and while, or maybe some can do one hour a month or even one a week. This week I want to share with the actual Parish Intentions for which we will be praying. They are printed on an insert in this bulletin. Please look them over and pray for the intentions on a weekly basis. In place of our normal petitions for this Mass I want to pray these Petitions for Adoration about which I just spoke.

Let us continue to do whatever we can in “concern for the other” with regard to the material and spiritual welfare of the members and families of our Parish Family. In the Parish Family, as within our own individual families, we must, as Pope Benedict said His Encyclical God is Love, we must “learn to make a sincere gift of our selves rather than look out for “number one.” In the family, both the Parish Family and our individual families, we experience a “deep personal sharing” and learn that “I must give to others not only something that is my own, but my very self.” (Deus Caritas Est, 34).

Thank you for your concern for our Parish Family, for her members and for her families! And thank you for your prayers for her and for her mission, and for your sacrificial gift of your time, talent and treasure for her. Let us make St. Patrick’s more and more a “Family of families helping one another get to heaven.” God bless you all!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

How Awesome is the Place!!!

Homily for John 2 13-25 Third Sunday of Lent. March 10th, 2012

What a dramatic scene we just heard, Jesus comes to the temple and drives out the money changers- all those people who were doing commerce within the Temple area, which of course was the church building of the day. One can imagine the confusion and uproar at what happened, “the complete audacity of this man, to come into the temple and tell us what to do.” Of course it wasn’t audacity that Jesus possessed, it was Godly authority; and because of this authority, Jesus takes it upon Himself to drive out of His Father’s house all those who were not treating it as the awesome and holy place that it was.

Jesus bold action was done during a time of corruption, especially in the cult or religious practice of the Jews. As in many moments of Jewish history, as found in the Old Testament, the question of proper adoration was always the pivotal question with regards to the peoples’ relationship with God. We hear in our first reading, the first commandment, “I, the Lord, am your God- you shall not have other gods besides me. It seems the people were always testing this Commandment, which was a Commandment to adore God alone. For instance, in a story describing false worship found in Genesis, the people fashioned a golden calf and worship it—the calf symbolized the god Baal.

But, it wasn’t actually the golden calf that the people were interested in; no instead it was the liturgical cult or practice of this false religion. In the liturgical worship of Baal the people wanted to feel good. In this case to feel good the people went to the extreme, by actually practicing of a type of orgy like ritual, profaning the temple of their bodies in the process; it was truly an abomination before the Lord. In order to carry out these unconscionable activities they also had to practice other morally evil things like abortion, artificial contraception and even infanticide…yes, even back then these things existed and were an abomination before the Lord just as they are today.

All of the times the people went against the first commandment were the same, it was the people deciding on their own apart from the Command of God, how, when, and where they would adore God. In the process they ended up created a God of their own making. God, however, all the while was constantly calling the Jews back to proper adoration and worship of Him, adoration in Spirit and in Truth in order to bring the people in union with Him.

God always wanted to form a Covenant with the people, a Holy exchange of persons in which God would give to them all He has and is, and in return they would give back to Him all they have and are. But God will not be mocked; they had to and we have to worship God in the way and manner that He decides not us. True religion is to worship God not just anyway and in anyplace, but in the temple of God, the Holy Church and according to Her rituals and liturgies which come from God and not man.

It is God, who through His Church gave us the Liturgy, its words, gestures and action. Liturgy doesn’t get “created by liturgical experts or even by bishops or popes, it comes from God. He is the Creator not man. This is what lies at the heart of the problem of so many of the liturgical innovations and abuses that we seen after the Second Vatican Council…they come from man and not God.

In our Scripture readings today, the people were bowing down before other gods, not only the false gods of the Romans who occupied their country, but also the idols of greed and money, and in doing so they worshiped the unholy trinity of me, myself and I. It is against this background that Jesus acts; he shows the people His zeal for the Father’s house. He lets the people know that how a person behaves in the House of God, shows forth his inner love for the Father Himself.

By his action in the temple, Jesus points out that the lack of the people’s outward reverence is really a sign of the lack of their inner reverence toward God, their lack of proper adoration of God and thus their lack of true Love for God. This of course pricked the people’s conscience, and this pricking of their conscience forced the people to make a choice- do I repent and turn back to God and begin again to offer myself to Him through proper worship, or do I instead continue to construct more lies to justify myself? In the case of the Pharisees, and many of the Jews of the day, it was the second-they would plot to kill Jesus.

So as Jesus is driving out the moneychangers He exclaims, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace. In other words, stop treating it like any other place. Its not any other place, it is the place where heaven and earth meet, where the human and the divine kiss and embrace.” The Father’s temple is a house of adoration, it is holy ground; it is the place were God condescends, literally lowering Himself to actually meet his people in an intimate encounter, an encounter of divine love. And it is the place where the people response to God’s gift of Himself by offering themselves as a gift to God in return. By Jesus coming to the temple and purifying it of false worship, he was really telling the people, “I am God come down to you, this place is to be a place where we meet, where you adore me as God, where you respond to my divine presence in your midst, the place where in act of infinite love for you, I give myself to you and you in return for that love, give yourself to Me in love.

Once Jesus was bodily present in the temple of Jerusalem, the temple and its worship needed to be cleansed and purified, not just of the money changers, but cleansed of idolatry and false worship. Remember until Jesus came to the temple in Jerusalem, God was present in the temple only spiritually, but now He was present physically, bodily in Jesus. This coming of Jesus to the temple in a human body, was pointing to a time when Jesus would continually be bodily present in all the temples of the Catholic Church in the Holy Eucharist. The temple, from this point on was to be a place only of intimate heavenly encounters with the “God who is Love.” These heavenly encounters are of course known as the Sacraments of the Church, and especially through the Holy Sacrament of the Mass.

And the true temple is the Catholic Church; it is the Father’s House, the place where by baptism, God adopts us, literally taking us into His Family,/ the place where in confession, He gives us His fatherly pardon,/ the place where in confirmation, He gives us the courage and strength to do what pleases Him,/ the place where in Marriage, God seals the union of Husband and wife and makes them one flesh, /the place where we can come before Jesus still truly and bodily present in the temple--in the tabernacle, there talking to Him and listening to Him in prayer, asking for his help and advice; telling Him our joys and sorrows, our successes and failures and then basking in His divine consolation and love. And finally, the place where we can come and receive Jesus in Holy Communion, the true temple of His Body, not made by Human hands. In doing so, if we are worthy, that is if our souls are cleanse and pure of idolatry and false worship, we, ourselves can be made into living temples of the Living God, and so live our lives in a Covenantal union with Him.

People talk about experiencing God outside of organized religion or outside in nature, while it is true we can experience God anywhere all of creation is “sacramental, but for that experience to be authentic and truly pleasing to God, we must, must worship Him according to His rules and His commandments; and that is we must worship Him in His temple through His SACRAMENTS. God is present everywhere indeed, but He is only present physically, in His Body, in His true temple, the temple of the Catholic Church…It is only in the presence of His Body, and through His Body and with His Body, united with His worship and adoration of the Father at Holy Mass that we can offer the Father true adoration and worship in Spirit and in Truth, thus becoming pleasing to the Father…sorry, you can’t get this in the woods, or on a mountain, or looking out onto the ocean or any where else in God’s beautiful creation; no, you can only get in the temple of the Lord…the Catholic Church.

“How awesome is this place, this is truly the house of God this is truly heaven’s Gate.” So goes the song we sing every Sunday at Children’s adoration as the children of this parish actually bow down and worship and kneel before the Lord our maker...
Here in this Sacred House, through Jesus being truly presence here, we are all able to come to the Father, being absolutely sure that He loves us, despite everything. Let us continue to treat this house as a sacred house of silent prayer, Out of reverence to Jesus and His true Eucharistic Presence, and out of respect for our neighbor who is praying, let us help one another to never visit and talk in this sacred space, but only in the vestibule or at coffee and donuts; for if we treat this sacred place with disrespect I can promise you our Lord will treat us in no different manner than the money changers in the temple. Let us also continue to sacrifice in order to make this temple as beautiful as we can…Those who complain about money spent to build beautiful churches or on improvements to our churches don’t get it at all; they lack faith plain and simple. And as well then, let us with concern for one another, try to do our best to better support our parish family on which depends the salvation of so many souls, including yours and mine.

And even more importantly, let us ask God to purify our hearts and minds so that we can treat this sacred temple, this “House of God” with even more reverence by an even greater intensity of adoration of the God in Spirit and in truth. Let us never miss an opportunity to encounter this Great God of ours in the intimate embrace of the Sacraments--especially every Sunday at the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, which is heaven on earth--Jesus Christ-the total gift of the Father’s love. And most of all, in this penitential season of Lent, let us continue to ask of Father God for His grace so that He may more and more cleanse our souls, making them, through true adoration and worthily reception of the Holy Eucharist at Holy Mass, into worthy dwelling places, living temples made just for Him.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Glory of the Transfiguarion reveals the glory to come for those who love and are faithful to Jesus and His Church

Now that we are well into the season of lent, we have hopefully discovered that our Lenten penances are tougher than we at first thought they would be, if not then maybe we didn’t pick the right ones. Perhaps too, the tempter has already come to us and tried to convince us to give up to take the easy way telling us its too hard or your just going to fail anyway, what’s the use.

Perhaps, after making a good resolution to be more patient with our family, our spouse or our children, it seems we have become more impatience, not less. Maybe we have failed in our resolution to get to bed on time so we can get enough sleep in order not to lose our patience because of our tiredness. Maybe that resolution to guard our tongue lasted only a few days, only to slip up at the first frustrating event or person to come our way. Or maybe in our attempt to fast from complaining, we seemed to have given into complaining even more. In order to give us encouragement, today the Church gives us this Gospel, in order that the Transfiguration of Jesus would help us as it helped Peter, James and John.

In this Gospel, Jesus knows His disciples; He knows how discouraged they are after hearing that Calvary was coming, that His suffering and death was coming. Jesus can read their hearts; He knows how much they truly desired to follow him even though they are very, very weak. The Passion is just too difficult for them to accept; they couldn’t understand why this would have to happen to Jesus. They also were certainly quite afraid. Peter had the courage to say to Jesus- “God forbid this would ever happen to You!” Jesus however was very stern in his response, saying to Peter, “Get thee behind me Satan!” Poor Peter was living wonderfully, his faith strong one minute and the next he was failing miserably. The truth is, is that we all can be like Peter here, one minute we’re full of faith and fervor and the next we fall flat on our faces.

It is then that they climbed the mountain. The climbing I think symbolizing the disciples ascending to God in faith. The work of growing in faith is hard, being faithful to Jesus, His teachings, to His Holy Church and to His Holy Will is hard-it includes nothing less than the cross, nothing less than a dying to self in order to love Jesus and to love neighbor for love of Him; this is what our Lenten observance is all about.

At the top of the mountain and after the hard climb, the disciples arrive and suddenly Jesus is transformed before them. Jesus reveals to them just a hint of the incredible glory and power of His Divinity. How awesome it must have been--it was a glimpse into that of which eye has not seen, ear as not heard, nor has it even entered into the mind of man…

The Transfiguration was given as a precursor to the Resurrection. It let the Apostles know that Jesus would make it through His suffering, His passion and His death on the cross. The glorious white of His garments equal the glorious white garments of His Victorious Resurrection. The Transfiguration was for the disciples a glimpse into heaven; it was a sneak peak, if you will, at the goal of this life, the very reason and the meaning for it and for all of its struggles and even its crosses. This goal that disciples saw was heaven, not as a place, but as a life of intimacy with Jesus and His Father and the Holy Spirit.

And so, by seeing Jesus’ divinity shining through his humanity, the disciples were filled with hope, because they saw the Truth about Jesus who was their hope. And in this hope they began already to possess Jesus and be possessed by Him, a possession of love, heaven begun already on earth. Because of this hope that they possessed in their hearts, they would be able to pass through their own future passion and death. Peter and James would become martyrs-John would suffer exile.

The disciples suffered incredibly for their faithful witness to Jesus, to the truth of his resurrection, to the truth of His teachings and to their faithfulness to His Church, but they saw in the cross the hope of the resurrection, of ultimate victory. They knew through faith that Jesus was always with them, in order to strengthen them with His divine love given to them through His humanity, which they received in the Holy Eucharist. By the power of this love, Jesus’ love alive within them, they persevered to the end and reached that goal which they saw on that Mountain of Tabor-union with God.

The transfiguration however, wasn’t just for the apostles; it is for all of us as well. It reminds us that Jesus always treats in the same way, those who love Him and who are faithful to Him. Jesus too will come and strengthen and encourage us in our Lenten discipline. He knows of our desire to follow Him faithfully though we are very, very weak. He knows too, how hard it is for us to transform ourselves, how hard it is to acquire the virtues, even with the help of His grace. He also knows how hard we struggle to believe, to adore, to hope and to love Him. However, He desires to do this for us not only in Lent but also during all our lives.

In the very midst of our greatest discouragement, struggles and during our greatest sufferings, Jesus gives us the consolations we need to keep going forward, if we but keep our eyes on Him. If we keep our eyes on Him and are faithful to Him and His Holy Church, it doesn’t matter if we are on the mountain, or in the deepest valley, or even in the valley of death, Jesus will always be with us. No matter where we are, or the circumstances we are in, with His help, we will be able to see Jesus behind it all. If we are with Him, by being with His Church, then it is all the same whether we find ourselves surrounded by the greatest consolations in the world or in a hospital bed suffering indescribable pain or in the midst of the worst persecution of faith the world has ever seen. The only thing that matters is that we always see Jesus and live in His Divine presence. This is the only really good and important thing in this life and in the next.

The transfiguration reminds us that if we are to follow Jesus faithfully, as did Peter, James and John throughout their lives after the Resurrection of Jesus, we too will have to like them take up our cross and follow after Jesus; we too may even have to suffer and die for our faith in Him and His Holy Church. Yes the cross will definitely come to us, but we will know as did the disciples that after the cross comes the resurrection. If we keep our gaze focused on Him, we will with Him be able to pass through our own suffering and passion and make it to the goal of resurrection. With the goal in sight, we will never say, “God forbid that this happens to me, or to your Church, we can offer up our suffering, we can keep heaven in our sight and preserve to ultimate victory.

At this Holy Mass and at every Holy Mass we can literally through faith, climb Mt Tabor. Here, in the little White Host, Jesus becomes truly present to us the fullness of His Humanity. But shining through that humanity is the glory and power of His divinity. Although we can’t see his divinity shining through His humanity, as did the disciples, to see this glory through the eyes of our faith strengthens us nonetheless.

The Eucharist is the transfigured Jesus with us to give us hope in our trials, to strengthen us with his love in order that we would become like him. Like the apostles, the Eucharist, which is Jesus, gives us the strength we need to face our own trials and sufferings that await us, even if they include martyrdom. The Eucharist gives us the intimacy we need to face our trials and unite ourselves to Jesus. This intimacy is most important, as it will last for eternity.

Eucharistic intimacy is heaven begun on earth, a sharing in the joy of the resurrection even while we are in the midst the suffering of our passion. This glory, the glory of the Jesus in the Eucharist renews us. It is good for us to be here at this Holy Mass and we can come to Mt Tabor as well, when we come before the Tabor-nacle, and sit before the glory of Jesus hidden in the little white host. The more we behold Jesus in the Eucharist and adore Him there, the more we receive Him in Holy Communion, the more our faith is strengthened, our hope renewed and our love increased.

Jesus also wishes to transforms us as well in the confessional. In fact, it is there that he gives us the grace to purify our hearts in order that the eyes of our souls may ever more see clearly Jesus transfigured and truly present in the Eucharist. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God, they shall see God veil in the Eucharist now, but they shall also see God when the Eucharist is unveiled before us and we see Him as He is in heaven in all of His divine glory. But not only we will see the Eucharist unveiled in heaven, we will share in the Glory of the Eucharist in heaven for we will become part of God, we will become like Him, transfigured in Glory but only provided we remains faithful to Him and His Holy Church and all, all of her teachings.

The Eucharist unveiled is the end, the goal, the victory and the prize. To share in this glory is our goal, so let us continue our Lenten season with an increased fervor and with a renewed sense of how much Jesus in the Holy Eucharist really loves us and encourages us. And let us ask our Blessed Mother for the grace of perseverance not only in our Lenten disciplines, but also for the grace of final perseverance so that we too may share, along with Peter, James and John, in the fullness of the Glory of Jesus in heaven, sharing in this glory and united with Him in the eternal love and unity of the Most Blessed Trinity. Amen.