Saturday, December 28, 2013

Mary and Joseph, yours was truly a Holy Family, because it was sanctified by the presence of the Child Jesus.

Feast of the Holy Family. Sunday December 28th, 2013

Merry Christmas! Christmas is such an important feast day, that like other important feast days in the Church, one day is just not enough time to celebrate. This is why we have the Octave of Christmas, eight days of solemn celebration, followed by a season of Christmas. As part of our prayer and reflection of Jesus coming into this world, the birth of Jesus is just one aspect of the mystery we look at over the Octave of Christmas. The aspect we look at today is the fact that Jesus was born into and lived in a human family.

It was the will of God the Father that Jesus live in a human family. After all, the family is essential for life and the nurturing of life. All of our readings today give us counsel and advice on how we need to live in our families. In our times when even the definition of a family is under attack, the counsel of the Holy Scriptures needs to be followed. The Holy Family is then our model and guide.

In today’s Gospel St. Joseph showed himself to be truly the Protector of the Holy Family. It was not the first crisis for Joseph. Several months before, he was overcome with fear and doubt over the mysterious pregnancy of his young bride, Mary. But Joseph invited Mary into his home and by doing so brought into his home as well, the baby Jesus within Mary’s womb. Now a powerful and ruthless king threatens the life of Jesus. Decisions had to be made. God did not abandon him but sent angels to help. Just as an angel explained to Joseph how Mary had conceived her child through the power of the Holy Spirit, now he was urged him to take his family to Egypt. Later, after it was safe, Joseph was told to return to Nazareth of Galilee with his family.

The point is, is that GOD helped the Holy Family make right decisions. St. Joseph received the grace of God from the angel appearing to him in a dream, but it was up to Joseph and Mary to show faith, trust and courage in danger. All holy families struggle with fears and dangers. However, God Our Father in heaven will never abandon families who turn to Him for help; but they like St. Joseph, must show faith and courage and keep their eyes always on Jesus, making Him truly the center of their daily family life.

God knows how difficult family life is today. There are so many dangers to families in our day, everything from just the busyness of our world, which makes family time so hard to find, to divorce, to a godless, secularist society which is becoming ever increasingly tolerant of everything but God and His Holy Catholic Church. It is a society beginning to more and more condone things that have always and everywhere been condemned, such as abortion, euthanasia and legalized homosexual unions. These and so many others are all such great threats to the family in our day. It is so hard to be a holy family these days, I would say harder than any other time in history.

The devil knows and has always known the importance of true authentic Catholic Christian family life. He knows the family has been given to us to help us to live and love in order to learn to love like the Family of God so that each family member can reach heaven. He knows that it is only in holy families that the members learn to give up their selfishness and live for each other in sacrificial love for each other and the sake of the family.

The devil knows too, that the Church herself is only as strong and holy, as her families are strong and holy. He knows that the family is the “domestic Church.” the very foundation of the entire society and the Church. He knows that to weaken and destroy the marriage and the family in any one society is to weaken and destroy the Church in this same society. Destroy the family and you destroy the Church and consequently there is no hope for salvation; not to mention society itself collapses.

So how do we restructure authentic family life, strengthening it not only in our own families but also in order to help and strengthen other families as well? The only way to restore sound family life by Catholic families is for them to increase their understanding of the authentic Catholic Faith so that they can accept, and with the help of God grace live more faithfully, the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Holy Church. Just as there is no middle ground individually to follow Jesus fully, so it is with families. Families must be more and more holy and heroic families in order to stand up against the demonic onslaught of marriage and the family experience in today’s world.

Families must become more and more authentic witnesses to the truth of the family. Like the Holy Family, they must be willing to suffer if need be for living a truly holy family life. Families must reach out to other families in apostolic zeal to help them to become holy and live the Christian life. They must be willing to suffer ridicule in order to show others their fidelity to Jesus and his teachings. And in a society, which is no longer Christian, but is really pagan, they will indeed suffer for their faith if they try to live it authentically. This all reminds us that the truths of our Holy Catholic faith matter, they matter with regard to salvation, that is, whether or not one lives in eternal bliss within the life of the family of God or eternal misery separated from the Blessed Trinity.

In order to renew authentic family life in our country, married couples and families must renew their efforts to follow Jesus Christ. It goes with out saying, that going to weekly Sunday Mass as a family to pray is indispensable, but we must do more. We must, as couples, families, and individuals escape the busyness of the world on a daily basis and ask the Family of God, in prayer, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit from whom all families have their origin, to strengthen our families in the face of so much which is against them. Just as the Couple that prays together stays together, so the family that prays together stays together.”

Essential to this renewal of Catholic family life, is for the family to put itself under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her help is indispensable, without it Catholic families will not survive. She is God’s mother, so she is powerful and we need to pray for her intercession to obtain from God, the graces we need in our families. I can personally attest to her powerful help with regards to the problems of my own family, as I am sure many of you can as well. Like St. Joseph, we must invite Mary into our homes and into our hearts. She will bring with Her Divine Son.

We must learn to go through Mary to Jesus for our family. This can be done in practical ways. The first of these ways is to make personally the total Consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This can be done by picking up a copy of the wonderful book, “33 Days to Morning Glory,” which helps you to make a total gift of yourself to Jesus through Mary and to be able to make everything you do, say or think an offering, a prayer to God. This book will change your life and your family life.

Secondly, We must as Catholic families pray daily together to the Blessed Mother. The most obvious way is to pray the rosary together. So many holy people that I have met, tell me that as children they seen their parents kneeling together at night, some every night, holding hands and praying the rosary together.

A priest friend of mine, Fr. Shick, said his earliest memories were of his parents kneeling in the family room holding hands together and praying the rosary with the kids gathered round them. A few years ago, Father’s mother died and I told him how many times I shared this with people. He said that it wasn’t just his parents alone, his whole family never missed a night praying the rosary together…in fact, being farmers, one night the cattle got out of the fence and it took them until 10:30 to get them back in. Now normally he said they went to bed by 8:30 since they got up by 5 in order to do chores. And so, He said, he and his siblings thought for sure they would skip the rosary that night and get to bed, but no, his father went to his knees in the living room and led the family in the family rosary before going to bed even at such a late hour.

Other practical ways: along with family prayer is to eat meals together beginning with praying grace and ending with a prayer of thanksgiving, even in public. Also, we can return to the custom of praying the Angelus together as a family at least once a day. Every Catholic family should have a least one picture or painting of Jesus and Mary hung in a prominent place in their homes. Families should have a least one statue of Mary in which to make a Marian shrine to allow family members to pray daily, at least one Hail Mary before it. And family members should return to the custom of wearing the brown Scapular of our Lady as a sign of their consecration to her, and as well, wear her miraculous medal and frequently pray the prayer “O Mary conceived without original sin pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

These are only a few of the many, many ways the family can practice a devotion to the Virgin Mary for her help and protection. Family devotion to Mary is absolutely necessary to obtain what it needs to receive at her hands from her Son. I want to end with letting you know about a wonderful organization dedicated to helping to save families by helping families become holy families through Mary to Jesus in union with St. Joseph. The organization is called the Apostolate for Family Consecration. It was founded by Jerry Conicker and his wife Gwyn, parents of thirteen Children. It has received pontifical recognition by the Holy See. Gwyn died ten years ago and her cause for beautification has been open. Their organization has so many valuable helps for you and your family; I recommend it highly. The Apostolate for Family Consecration—you can look them up on the web. Let us end with a prayer:

Mary and Joseph, yours was truly a Holy Family, because it was sanctified by the presence of the Child Jesus. Help us to always keep Him in the center of our family life by Keeping His real presence in the Holy Eucharist as the center of our family life, so we too may have holy families and so happy and peaceful families. All for the Sacred Heart of Jesus, all through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, all in union with St. Joseph. Amen.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

God has done everything; he has done the impossible: he was made flesh. His all-powerful love has accomplished something which surpasses all human understanding: the Infinite has become a child, has entered the human family. And yet, this same God cannot enter my heart unless I open the door to him.

Pope Benedict
Christmas 2012

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas 2013

Tonight (Today) is the great celebration of the beginning of the fulfillment of all our hopes and dreams and the dispelling of all our fears. The theme of the last four weeks of advent preparation has been hope, and here we are at Christmas, which is the great “Feast of Hope.” Tonight (today) we celebrate, liturgically, the birthday of our Hope, of Hope Himself—Jesus Christ, the Christ Child--God become Man.

In Jesus, God become one of us in order to be intimately and personally united with each one of us. In Jesus, the Majestic God descends from heaven in sublime humility in order to take each one of us to himself so that he can lift us up to a higher level of life and joy, life immersed in the inner life of God Himself. This is the great mystery, the great reality that we celebrate on the solemn feast day.

For centuries man longed for a savior, someone who would come in order to give hope, to bring light to the darkness of the world and to the darkness of man’s own heart; but even more to fill a great longing in the very depths of each human heart, the longing for greatness, a longing for love. Mankind, mainly through earthly kings and kingdoms, philosophies, occult practices and man-made religions, kept trying to lift itself up by its own boot strap, to obtain true and lasting happiness through earthly realities, only to fall deeper in sadness and despair. Oh how dark was the world before the coming of Christ into it; how the hearts of man earned for something greater than the world alone could give. All this changed with the birth of Jesus—God’s own Light has come into the darkness of our world; Love itself was born into the world.

The birth of Jesus was literally God coming down to man, man who could in no way lift himself up to God, in order to lift man up to God. "For the Son of God became a Son of man so that the sons of men could become the sons of God!" This is the real meaning of Christmas—this is the true gift of Christmas, the gift of the Father’s only begotten Son—“For God so loved the world that he sent His only begotten Son” (Jn 3:16). Jesus became one of us so that he could take each one of us to himself and lift us up to a high level of existence so that we could live a higher fuller life, a happier life, a life of out of this world joy. I am not here just talking about heaven after we die, but the birth of Jesus offered us and still offers the possibility of fully, a life of joy now even amidst the darkness, amidst the sufferings and trials of this present age. Jesus offers us the abundant life, a life of intimacy and friendship with God that flows out to a greater love of neighbor and our self for love of God…and so a life of true contentment and peace. He offers this to each one of us personally and to all men of good will.

In light of this great truth, the truth of Christmas, this reality of God coming to man in order to lift man to Himself, now, even amidst the continuing and ever increasing darkness of this world, a darkness which sadly is caused by man still trying to lift himself up by his own boot strap without reference to God; yet even so, there is so much to hope for; there is so much hope in our world. For Christmas is truly not just a celebration of the past, it is a celebration of what continues to happen in our midst now! Jesus Christ was truly born 2,000 years ago, yes, but He is again truly reborn anew on our sacred altars at this Mass and at every Holy Mass. This is why Christmas is made up of two words….Christ and Mass. The Holy Mass is Christ’s Mass the source of this world's true hope, the source of all our hope.

At Christ’s Mass God continues to come down from heaven, in order to lift us up to God. Through the Holy Mass Jesus continues to be come to earth, to be “born” if you will, into our world in order to be able to take you and me to Himself in order to take us into a greater and fuller life with God, life with the Blessed Trinity Himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is still truly God with us, Immanuel, as one of us, in our daily lives for He is truly physically present in the same body He was born with at Bethlehem in every tabernacle of the world in the Holy Eucharist where He continually waits for us to come and adore Him and even receive Him into us-His Body into ours, His Blood with ours, His Heart with ours, so He can fill us with His hope along with His peace and joy.

Christmas is really all about THE GIFT, the gift of the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist is the gift of the Christ Child still offered to us; in fact still with us; the Eucharist is Emmanuel-God with us. The Holy Eucharist is the gift of the Father, the gift of His only begotten Son. In the Eucharist God continues come to us, to offer Himself on our behalf, to offer Himself to us, in order to lift us up to a fuller life, a more joyful life and life with Him. But one thing remains, hope has a condition, and that is, will we respond to the gift of His love, to the gift of himself, will we open the inn of our hearts to Him and let Him enter.

Love is then really an exchange of gifts. This is why we exchange gifts at Christmas. Our gifts to the ones we love a meant to symbolize the greater gift of our love, the gift of our hearts the gift of our self. So to truly respond to the gift of the Father—Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, we must do more than just receive Him, we must give in return the gift of our love, the gift of our hearts, the gift of our self—a sacrifice of love to the one who sacrificed Himself for in love. This is the true meaning of Christmas. God lovingly gives man the gift of Himself in order that man would respond by freely offering himself in return to God, so God could lift man to Himself in order that man and God would be united as one in Love. No greater gift is there than this, The Holy Eucharist…the meeting point of God’s heart with ours, this is the source of all hope.

Here I think of the beautiful and inspired hymn of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Listen to the beauty and the truth of the last two verses of this Christmas Hymn of love.

How silently, how silently

The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

And so let us celebrate Christmas with great joy and great hope. In fact let us celebrate Christ’s Mass every Sunday; dare I say, even every day if we are able. However, we must come as little children, little, that's is made pure by a good sacramental confession, so as to be able to enter more deeply into the mystery of the Holy Mass. No one likes presents more than children; and so we must come as children then to receive the great gift of the Father Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, come with the humility and the faith of a child, receive the Heart of the Son, and give Him our heart in return.

When Jesus came the first time He was the answer and gift of the father to longing of millions throughout the years. Jesus is still the answer and the gift of the Father to longing of the hearts of millions in our own day. Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is the He is the answer and gift of the Father to the longing, to the hopes and fears of all of the millions of hearts in our own age. The Eucharist is the God who is Love. We can’t pull our self up by our boot straps….only God can save, and God saves us through the Eucharist for the Eucharist is the Child born at Bethlehem still with us.

To help us let us turn to St. Joseph. Let us ask Him for his help. When Joseph was visited by an angel and told that he had been chosen to partake in the mystery of Mary’s pregnancy by power of the Holy Spirit, Joseph responded by taking Mary his wife into his home. By doing so He brought as well the child within her womb into His Home. Beginning this Christmas, let us more fully imitate St. Joseph. Let us welcome the Holy Virgin to cross the threshold of our hearts, the threshold of our daily activities, our prayers, our crosses, let us welcome her into our lives and into our families. By doing so we too are welcoming her child more fully in to our lives, for to invite Mary into our hearts and into our lives, is to welcome Jesus, because her heart and His heart are united as one—where she is, He is. May we like her become one with Jesus and His Sacred Heart, by offering Him fully this Christmas and every day, the gift of our hearts the gift of our self. Amen.

(On behalf of Father Parker the pastor here at St. Mary’s and myself, Fr Lange, I would like to wish all of you and your families, a very blessed and merry Christmas. God bless you all and again Merry Christmas to you and your families and all the families and friends of St. Mary’s parish!)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Mary, Our Lady of the New Advent, Mother of God, by your faithful yes to God’s Will you brought forth true Hope into the world-Jesus your Son; help us to open the door to our homes, to our hearts and welcome you in, and so welcome Him in. Amen.

Matthew 1, 18-20 Fourth Sunday in Advent. December 22nd, 2013

Over the last couple of weeks of Advent, we have been preparing for the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas. We have been told to stay a wake, not to fall asleep. In this we have discovered that Advent is the liturgical time, which reminds us that all of our life is an Advent, a time of joyful preparation for the coming of Jesus at the end of the world or the end of our life, which ever comes first. But we have also been reminded that Jesus has already come, and even more that He comes to us now at this Holy Mass and at every Holy Mass in His same body and blood that he was born with at Bethlehem. This great truth is not only the cause of our Joy, it is the very source of our hope…the source of all hope…We have hope because our God is truly with us!

Speaking of hope, a few years ago I came across a very interesting true story about hope. A priest was once given the assignment of serving at a woman’s prison where many of the inmates were in for life. He was told that these particular women were very tough, and so it would be hard to get much of a response from them. In fact, at his first meeting with them only two women showed up. So he knew he had to do something in order to get more of the inmates to come and hear the truth about God and the truth about themselves.

So he devised a plan to invoke the curiosity of the inmates. So he said to the two women, I am going to ask you the following question, if you can’t give me the correct answer I’ll stop talking, leave and come back next week to see if you have the answer. He asked them, “What is the worst sin? One of them immediately answered, “Murder.” No, the priest said and he left.
The next week there were about twenty women present. They all gave various answers to the question, such as “rape” and even “killing a baby.” Again, the priest said, “No.” and left.

The following week the room was completely packed. Still none of them had the answer. This time however, the priest revealed to them the correct answer. The worst sin he said was the sin of despair, loss of hope. He went on to tell them that they had hope even in their desperate situation, (prison for life) because they were daughters of Most High God and because they had God as their Heavenly Father. “Without belief, without faith in this,” the priest said, “they would be lost in despair.” He then told them of the unconditional love of the Father and how we don’t have to earn His love; we just have to open our hearts to it and trust in it, place our hope in His goodness, and then with a contrite heart, ask and receive His forgiveness and mercy vowing to live, with His Help, as His beloved sons and daughters.

Pope Francis gave this same message of hope last week in his weekly Angelus address. Our Holy Father said:

He (God) is always with us in order to help us to go forward. He is a God who loves us so very much, he loves us and that is why he is with us, to help us, to strengthen us, help us go forward. Courage! Always forward! Thanks to his help, we can always begin again. How? Begin again from scratch. Someone might say to me: "No, Father, I did so many reprehensible things ... I am a great sinner.... I cannot begin from scratch!". You are wrong! You can begin from scratch! Why? Because he is waiting for you, he is close to you, he loves you, he is merciful, he forgives you, he gives you the strength to begin again from scratch! Everybody! And so we are able to open our eyes again, to overcome sadness and mourning to strike up a new song. And this true joy remains even amid trial, even amid suffering, for it is not a superficial joy; because it permeates the depths of the person who entrusts himself to the Lord and confides in him.

To entrust ourself to the Lord means to trust in Him, and to trust in Him means to hope in Him—and to hope in Him means to already begin to possess Him in Whom we hope. In God alone is our hope!
We have so many troubles in this life, our world is in great trouble, and we see others in so much trouble. To have hope, we as individual and as communities have to return to faith in God, not only believing that He exists, but struggling with the help of His grace to live our lives in complete fidelity to Him, to His Holy Church, to His truth and obedience to His commands and the teachings of His Church out of love for Him. Hope is impossible without this true faith.

Our Catholic faith is not just about information we know; Christianity doesn’t just tell us facts, doctrines and truths. Our faith and these doctrines and truths tell us with certainty that each one of us is personally loved by God our Father. Each one of us is so loved by Our Father that he sent His only begotten son, Jesus to earth for us. Jesus became a man for us, was born for us, lived and died for us, and finally, He rose from the dead for us. God did all of this for us so that He would move our hearts to trust and hope in Him, love Him so that we might enter into an eternity of perfect happiness with Him forever. Our faith gives us hope by showing our true goal, giving us a reason to live no matter the situation; and so those with hope have the abundance of life.

When we really truly believe that God only allows what is best to happen to those who love Him we have hope and this Hope does something to us, it changes us, redeems us; it saves us. In the words of the former black slave now saint-St. Josephine Bakhita who was brutally beaten by multiple “masters” and eventually found true freedom in the true Master Jesus Christ, “Once I am aware that I am definitively loved by God, it doesn’t matter any more what happens to me, what situation I am in or what kind of “master” I may have; God is with me and with in me; I have hope and so I can endure joyfully come what may for love of Him.” Because St. Bakhita had hope, she began already to possess and be possessed by the object of her hope—Jesus!

Hope like faith however, is not just something we have it is something we live. Our hope in God cannot be static; it must be operative; it must be performative. What keeps us from hope is not the situations of our lives but rather how we respond to them. It’s not our defects or other people and their defects but it’s the way we respond to them that can keep us from hope. We can either rebel against God because of our circumstances and so become angry and despair, or resign to our fate with a woe is me attitude; Or instead we can accept our situation with the attitude that Our Father God knows best—I am loved-I am saved-God loves me definitively and so I hope in Him even when it seems hopeless. I will still trust in Him in every situation because I know through faith that He will only allow what is best for me so that I may reach my goal of eternal happiness with Him beginning already here on earth.

We need to ask our Lord for the capacity to accept big things, little things, to accept others they way they are, to accept ourselves the way we are. Yes, with God’s help and through prayer and action, we need to change the things we can, we need to keep struggling to become better, but we need to accept our weakness in order that we can rely on God more than on ourselves, to become better by accepting all circumstances by crying out, Jesus I believe in You, I trust in You; I trust in Your love for me, I abandon myself to you O My God help me to trust in You and love You more!

The season of advent and Christmas can sometimes be the worst. It is so busy and our hearts and minds are so preoccupied. It is also the season of rampant depression resulting from so many reasons, sadness, the loss of a loved one, life in a mess, unemployment, the state of affairs in our world and in our Church, Christmas away from those we love. All of this really shows us that we can’t place our hope and trust in ourselves to bring us happiness. If we rely on ourselves we lose hope and then we get angry at God-why does He allow this to happen to me or to my loved ones.

We also can’t place our trust and hope in the world. Man continually tries to create a system to trust apart from God and we end up with the gulag of Communism, the Auschwitz of Nazism and now the dictatorship of relativism. We can’t put our trust in politics or political systems or ideologies; we can’t put our trust in Government or even science to save us—only God saves, in this is our hope.

In this season we have our family and friends and their love. This is good it helps to show us and lead us to the love of God. Yet, even those who are closest to us can and will let us down. Just like we can’t trust the world, so too, we can’t trust our love ones totally, because they are imperfect and weak just like us. So too, there is no perfect priest, no perfect bishop; there is nobody who is perfect save One, The One, Jesus Christ; He is our only Hope.

In these last couple of days before we celebrate Christmas we must turn ever more to the source of our hope and so the source of our joy, Jesus in the Holy Eucharist…the Eucharist is our hope. In the Eucharist God is truly with us as one of us!!! And adoration of the Holy Eucharist puts us in touch with our Hope, Jesus. Those who adore both at Holy Mass and outside of Holy Mass, have hope those who don’t adore their hope is dying or is already dead. (end?).

And so what is the secret to obtaining hope! It is the Holy Mass, and our active, full, conscious and fruitful participation in it, is the source of our hope. In our actual participation in it, the Mass which is primarily about our interior adoration of the Father through Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, becomes the source of our hope because the Mass makes truly present Jesus and His Perfect act of adoration to the Father, His sacrifice of love that saved us, is saving us and will save us, if we place our hope in its Power to save us.

At the Mass, in the Holy Eucharist, Jesus’ birth two thousand years ago becomes again present before us, and so Jesus is born anew on the altar before us, lives before us, dies before us, and resurrects and ascends before us, actually, truly and really. Jesus becomes fully present before us again in the Holy Eucharist as true God and true Man.

At the Mass as well, His second coming becomes present; at the Mass we are at once at the beginning of the world and at the end of the world. At the Mass our Goal, which is heaven becomes present on earth as well. And at the Mass, our hope can be increased when we adore and receive in true faith Jesus the source of our hope, if we open the doors to our hearts, minds and soul so that He can enter and mount His throne, ruling over our lives and transforming us into His image and likeness. Then we can become instruments of hope; better yet, living tabernacles of Christ and hope for the world, for we can take Jesus out into our daily lives and share with others the joy and the hope that is within us because we possess and are possessed by the God who is Love.

In our Gospel today, St. Joseph gives us the secret of Christmas and the aid for obtaining hope at Holy Mass. He lets Mary into his home! And by doing so He lets the Divine Child within her into his home as well. So too with us, if we want to let Jesus into our homes, into our hearts more fully this Christmas and at this and every Christ-Mass, then we must let Mary, more fully, into our homes and into our hearts. And she for her part brings with her, her divine Son Jesus who is our Hope.
Let us pray:

Mary, Our Lady of the New Advent, Mother of God, by your faithful yes to God’s Will you brought forth true Hope into the world-Jesus your Son; help us to open the door to our homes, to our hearts and welcome you in, and so welcome Him in at this Mass and at every Mass. Amen.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Holy Mary, Cause of our Joy; Our Lady of the New Advent pray for us who have recourse to thee. Amen.

Third Sunday of Advent Sunday December 15th, 2013

“Rejoice and be glad for the salvation we have hoped for is here!” The Church celebrates today “Gaudete Sunday”-Gaudete is the Latin word for “rejoice” so today is “rejoice Sunday.” Today’s liturgy is meant to give us an advance taste of the joy of the Savior’s birth; hence the Rose-colored vestments—rose, the color of joy; ( and by the way it is rose, not pink…Father does not wear pink. Better yet, as my altar server reminded me this morning it is actually salmon colored. I was very impressed;Smart altar server!) Nonetheless it stand for Joy and joy in our hearts causes us to Rejoice always.

And so, today, we are again reminded of why we have Advent; Advent is a privilege time of preparation in which we prepare to enter fully into the joy of Christ’s coming at Christmas. It is also a time to remind us to prepare so that we will be able to experience joyfully and without fear, Jesus final coming at the end of the world or the end of our lives, which ever comes first.

But Advent is also meant to be a time of Joy, because it is also a time to remind us that every day of our lives should be filled with rejoicing because we know Jesus has already come; He is God with us Emmanuel-Jesus is here with us now! And where there is Jesus there is joy, not matter what our external circumstances may be. If we have intimacy with Jesus then there is joy even in the midst of our heaviest crosses, our greatest pain and sufferings, even in our greatest darkness, even when all else seems lost.

If there is one thing that marks our present age, we can say it is an age, which is lacking in joy, which does not know true joy; it is an age of great sadness. It is an age of great abundance; many have so much, but yet at the same time feel so empty, so sad…there is such a longing in people’s hearts. So many are seeking happiness in the world, not knowing that this world and the things of this world, as good as they are, just cannot give the kind of happiness for which they are seeking, for which their hearts are longing.

The Liturgy of today’s Holy Mass goes against this present sadness and lack of joy. It’s readings repeats the words of St. Paul in which he urges the first Christians of Philippi to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice!” St. Paul gives them the reason for this profound happiness…the reason is that the Lord is truly at hand.

This is the reason also why we should have great joy, not only in Advent but every day of our lives. Our Faith offers us a true Christian joy, which goes beyond any merely earthly happiness. It comes from the fact, the reality that Jesus is very near to us; nearer to us than we are to ourselves; that we are friends of God and that He has made us His beloved sons and daughters in Christ, Christ who has come and who is here with us now.

And so St. Paul as well gives us the reason, the origin of our sadness and lack of joy; it comes from putting a distance between ourselves and God who is truly with us and turning in our selves. In other words, this distance comes from our sins. It comes as well by not making our relationship with Christ the priority, not only of our Advent and Christmas preparations, but also by not making it a priority every day of our lives. This whole life is really meant to be a preparation for Christ, an Advent if you will, a time to grow closer to Him so that we may be able to truly enter into the Joy of that eternal Christmas in Heaven with all of His Family.

And so, sadness comes from looking for happiness in the world instead of in the presence of Christ in our souls through the grace of the Sacraments. Sadness comes from failing to grow in intimacy with Christ through the same sacraments and through intimate daily conversation with Him in prayer; it comes from failing to Adore and worship God, by failing to Love the Lord God with our whole hearts, minds, bodies, souls and all our strength; and out of that Love for God, loving our neighbor as ourselves.

As one Christian writer put it, “We will be truly joyful if Our Lord is really present in our lives; that is, if He is really the priority of our lives, if we have not lost sight of Him. If we have not lost sight of Him by allowing our vision of Him to be clouded by other worldly preparations, that while maybe necessary, are not the one thing that matters. We will be truly joyful if we have not lost sight of Jesus by our lack of generosity, forgetting ourselves in our service to Him and service to one another.

We will also be truly joyful when we strive to share what we have with others, our faith, our possessions, our time, talent and treasure, in a word our love for others, especially in our family and our parish family, for charity begins at home.

We will be joyful when we truly help one another to be joyful by, as St. Paul’s says, “bearing one another’s burdens…” Often we can bring joy to others and make life more pleasant for them in very little ways, by showing them that we appreciate them by a smile, a friendly remark, a word of praise, not making a great fuse over unimportant things that would be better off overlooked and forgotten, or just simply by a word of encouragement. An important part of our vocation as Christian, of our mission as Christians, is to bring joy to a world, which is so very sad of heart because it has drifted away from God. In this we keep our own joy alive.”

(As one sixth grade girl once taught me…. “Father if you want joy you have to remember that joy stand for J.O.Y. Jesus, Others and then Yourself. If you remember that proper order Father, you will have great Joy.” Out of the mouth of babes!

All of this is what our Holy Father is reminding us in his Encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium, the Gospel of Joy…sadness is not attractive, joy is. He tells us we need to be Christians of great joy in order to spread the Good News to others; we can’t afford to be, I think he uses a Latin phrase here, we can’t afford to be sourpusses. When we try to find happiness in paths that draw us farther away from God, we find only sorrow and misery instead. Worldly happiness leads inevitably to sadness; But the Good New is that Jesus is near; and where Jesus is there is Joy. In this holy season of Advent, Holy Mother Church continues to remind us that unless we ourselves separate ourselves from the only source of true happiness and joy-Jesus, nothing and nobody can take our joy and our hope away from us.

And so, the advent call for repentance is a call for repentance throughout our lives. Repentance is merely our God reminding us that the world and the things of the world can only present us with an illusory happiness, a happiness that is passing and fleeting, only He can fill our heart-intimacy with Him alone brings joy. If we go through periods of feeling unhappy, alone, bored or empty, maybe we have placed our trust in the wrong things to bring us happiness and joy and as result have weakened or even lost not only our joy but also our hope.

Let us continue to get ready for this Christmas by drawing closer to Our Lady the cause of our Joy. Let us ask her to help us convince others that the Origin of true joy and happiness is here, that Jesus, God has been really born in Bethlehem, that is coming again soon, and in fact comes now through the Sacraments, confession and especially the Blessed of all Sacraments the Holy Eucharist. To do this, Let us ask her to help us to believe it more fully by helping us to enter more fully into the mystery of the Holy Mass by visiting the Holy babe who is born anew on the altar and who is present truly in the Tabernacle. Let us ask her to help us prepare to receive this same holy babe, Jesus, more fully in Holy Communion by making a sincere and thorough confession, in order to clear away the impurity of sin and selfishness that steels away our joy. In this way we prepare the way for Jesus to come more fully into our hearts in order to be transformed by His love and enter into a deeper Union with Him and through Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit…

May we today at this Holy Mass offered in this advent season pray for a deeper joy and a deeper desire for heaven, and may we pray for an increase in joy by possessing heaven even on earth, which is intimacy with Jesus and His love fully alive in our souls; May we then share with others our Jesus our Joy, whom we already possess and who already possesses us.

Holy Mary, Cause of our Joy; Our Lady of the New Advent pray for us who have recourse to thee. Amen.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sunday, December 8, 2013

You alone were preserved from every shadow of sin, in order to be the all holy dwelling place of the Word Incarnate, You always entrusted yourself wholly to the Lord. Please obtain for us to do the same.

Second Sunday in Advent December 8th, 2013

Our readings last week for the first week of Advent reminded us that we need to stay awake. Many of us driving home from a long journey or trip late at night have had the experience of how long the last few miles before home can be. We turn up the radio, crank down the window and maybe even slap ourselves across the face in our struggling to stay away. The only thing that keeps us awake is thinking about making it home and crawling in bed safely and soundly. As we drive on, if we are not careful, it would be so easy to dose off, dreaming we had already made it to our goal-home, only to be jarred awake, all too late however, as we leave the path of the roadway facing disastrous results.

Advent is time to make sure we have not fallen asleep at the wheel of life, veering off the path of holiness as we dream that we have already achieved our goal, which is our salvation, only to be awakened too late to disastrous consequences. In our spiritual life, we must pray always to stay awake and watch, so we don’t live in a dream world; we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling, always staying awake, always keeping our eyes on our prize—Jesus, who is coming soon, even though he seems as if he is delayed; He is not delayed but he is being patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.

Last week the opening prayer at Mass reminded us that we must run to Jesus by our righteous deeds. Run is of course an active verb. Jesus runs to us but we for our part must arise and wake from our slumber and run to meet Him by our righteous deeds. So too the message for this week: "To stay awake, to watch, does not mean to just sit back and do nothing as we wait for Jesus to come we must be active. Pope Benedict once said, “to watch means to follow the Lord, to choose what he has chosen, to love what he has loved, to conform one's own life to his; to watch means to spend every moment of our time on the horizon of his love without letting ourselves be overcome by the inevitable daily difficulties and problems.” What Benedict is describe is what Holiness really is; it is how we watch, how we stay awake, how we rise up in order to meet the Lord who in His great Love, has already come to meet us and who continually beckon us to Himself.”

This call to watch and so meet the Lord through daily holiness of life is the message for all of our Advent, both the Liturgical season of Advent and the Advent that is our life. Our reading from Isaiah for tells the coming of John the Baptist who will be that voice crying out in the desert, prepare the way of the Lord! John’s voice is still crying out in the desert and in the darkness of our present times, summoning souls to repentance and to holiness of life; and holiness of life never goes out of style.

St. John at the beginning of His gospel, describes John as the man sent from God. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light. The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world; this light that John came to bear witness to was of course Jesus Himself. Jesus is the Word become flesh who dwelt and continues to dwell us among us full of grace and truth…John bore witness to him, and cried, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.”

Our world today is full of Darkness but Jesus is still the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome It. There is undeniably, a great battle taking place in our world today, a battle between darkness and light, between truth and error, between good and evil and between death and life. But the greatest of all battles is taking place with each of us, between the light of Christ and the darkness of our sin or put another way between the Holy Will of God and our own dark selfish self will. This what Vatican II meant when it said, “peace is more the just the absent of conflict or war;” for peace begins within the hearts of men. The renewal of the world begins in each individual heart. Society is not transformed by tearing down unjust social structures but by the conversion of individual hearts to the Lord and to His ways, to His Holy Will.

And so, the more the will of God loses this battle in the hearts of man, the more visible and earthly battles begin to break out in the world and so the more darkness begins to cover the world and the less peace we have. In God there is no darkness, only light; all the darkness in this world comes from us putting our self-will before God’s Holy Will. The greatest enemy we have is our own wills. In fact, doing our own will over the Will of God is another name for hell, for that is what those in hell do, they do their own thing.

The good news is that Jesus is the light and the darkness has not overcome Him. In Him and only in Him can the battle between our will and God’s will be won. In Him our victory is assured, but in Him alone. Advent is then a time of Hope; Jesus has the power to save us from ourselves if we but turn to him in our struggle, in our battle. Jesus alone has the power to save our world, which is on the brink of utter collapse; He alone is Savior of the World. But we must arise and run to meet Him halfway. In other words, the renewal of the world begins with individual hearts, with our heart. We have to repent from those times we have lived our put our will before God’s, better known as sins, and turn to him more deeply. The world is changed, not by politics, but instead by individuals changing and turning more fully in love and obedience to Christ and to His Commandments, and so to His Holy Church and to Her teachings.

As we prepare and watch this Advent for the coming of Christ, let us, with the help of the Holy Spirit, do an examination of conscious. Have we put other “things” before God, which have prevented Him from coming intimately into our souls? Have we sought the easy way out, seeking comfort and pleasure before out faithfulness to God and to His Holy Will? Have we tried to make our worship of God more about our entertainment and emotions, than about our love and adoration of Him? Have we been greedy and sought only to lay our hands on the temporary things of this world, placing more value in them than on our relationship with Jesus--our ultimate and true end? Have we made ourselves the center of the universe, becoming filled with love of self, and thus turning our back on God’s love and on our love of neighbor? Have we been faithful to our daily duties according to our state in life, especially have we been faithful to our daily spiritual duties of prayer-the rosary and intimate conversation with God, along with spiritual reading and offering all our words, thoughts and actions to Jesus through Mary in union with St. Joseph-this begins with a morning offering and ends beside our bed with an examination of conscience followed by an act of contrition.

This time of Advent recalls the Lord's first coming, his final return, and most importantly it reminds us of His true abiding presence among us now in the Sacramental Life of the Church. Again quoting our Holy Father, "Celebrating the Eucharist we proclaim in fact that (Jesus) has not withdrawn from the world and has not left us alone and, though we cannot see or touch him, as is the case with material and sensible realities, he is with all of us and among us; what is more, he is in us, because in this way he can attract to himself and communicate his life to every believer who opens his heart to him."."

Following our Holy Father’s advice, our cry this Advent and every day of the Advent of our life should be, “Ven Domine, Iesus! …Come Lord Jesus, Do not delay! We need you to come now, for by ourselves we are in darkness and the darkness will overcome us; only in you is there light, only in you, with you and through you can we win the battle raging within us between our will and the will of God and so live in the freedom of Sons and Daughters of God; only in you can we become instruments of hope for our ever darkening world. So come Jesus, through Holy Communion, come now more deeply in our souls made worthy through the sacrament of confession, fill them with your life and your light, help us to conform our lives to yours, make us living tabernacles of your dwelling among men, so that we may scatter the darkness of our world with your light and your life shining within us. Use us as your chosen instruments to bring peace to all men of Good will.

Let us pray. “Blessed Mother you are the Immaculate Conception. This feast day reminds
us of your singular adherence to God’s saving plan. You alone were preserved from every shadow of sin, in order to be the all holy dwelling place of the Word Incarnate, You always entrusted yourself wholly to the Lord. Please obtain for us to do the same. Our Lady of the New Advent, pray for us; obtain for us a deeper faith, hope and love for Jesus who is truly among us in the Holy Eucharist, so that we may, like you, conceive Him in our heart in order to birth Him to the world. Amen.”

Sunday, December 1, 2013

This is the source of our advent Hope…This is source of our Advent Joy!

First Sunday of Advent. December 1st, 2013

Today we begin the Advent season- our time of preparation for Christmas. Of course, with regards to the “feast days” of the shopping season, we have just passed “black Friday,” and “cyber Monday” is tomorrow. Yet, our time of Advent should not be just about running to and fro in order to buy presents; it should not be just about getting the Christmas tree and lights up or having parties. Advent most especially should be a sacred time for preparing ourselves spiritually for Christmas and for the Lord’s coming.

Advent is for us a sacred time for devout and joyful preparation in expectation of Jesus coming personally and more fully to each of us. It is a time to arise and run toward and greet the Lord who runs to us. Our opening prayer of today’s Mass says it so well. Let us “resolve to RUN forth to MEET Christ with righteous deeds. Our time of advent is this- to RUN to meet Christ. It is a great way to look at our advent preparations. Think of how much running around you will do from now and till Christmas. But the verb run is one that is active. This holiday season, we don’t want to just run to the store, but run to meet Christ.

The Fact is, is that Jesus has come down from heaven in order to run to meet us. God runs to embrace us through Jesus. But we for our part must run to meet him. We can all picture two lovers running toward each other to embrace. This is what we must do with Jesus, Run to embrace the God who runs to embrace us. How do we run to meet Christ? Again, the opening prayer tells us how…We must run to meet Christ with Righteous Deeds. How do we do this?

One way is by beginning this Advent to be more faithful to our daily Prayer. And one of the best daily prayers is the prayer of the most Holy Rosary. By praying the rosary we can ask Mary, Our Mother, to assist us in growing in intimacy with Jesus. She then reveals to us through her Spouse, the Holy Spirit, the meaning of the mysterious of the life of her Son and how they relate to our own daily life. Intimate Prayer is one of the main ways we can run to embrace Christ who comes to us.

Secondly we can run to meet Christ by studying more our Catholic faith this advent, learning more about our God who loves us so much He runs to us from heaven in order to embrace us on earth. He comes in order to takes us back with Him to be one with the Father as He is one with the Father.

To know God more is to be able to love God more. To know God more is to discover His great love for us and to learn how to return that love by forming our intellect in the beautiful truths of our faith. By doing this we can inform our will to chose God in all things in order to do His holy will and not our own; in this we serve God and our neighbor for love of Him. Let us resolve this Advent then to read Scripture daily, to read at least one good book about our Beautiful Catholic Faith or to choose a book about the lives of one of the Saints. We can also listen to some of the fine Catholic C.Ds that Father Parker as made available at the side entrance of the Church.

Another way we can run to meet Christ is through the Sacraments especially Confession and the Holy Eucharist. First confession. The truth is, is that our sins weigh us down and actually inhibit us from running to Christ who runs to us; our sins make us tumble and fall, and not to mention get seriously hurt. Advent itself, is a joyful penitential season, a time to look at ourselves and with the help of God’s grace to pick ourselves back up, better yet to allow Him to pick us back up. We allow this through the active repentance and confession of our sins, along with a firm purpose of intention to sin no more and to amend our lives for the Better. In this sacrament of God’s mercy we are healed more and more from the hurt of our sins, we are lifted up by God as a Father lifts up His child who has fallen. We can then begin again with even more fervor to run to meet Christ.

And finally the best way to run to meet Christ through righteous deeds is through the Sacred Liturgy. Yes, in this liturgical time of Advent we prepare to celebrate the memory of that Most Holy night two thousand years ago when Jesus-God, first came in the flesh, and secondly we prepare as well for His second coming at the end of the world, or at the end of our lives which ever comes first; but even more importantly, as we have been saying, advent is a liturgical time in which we prepare for that fact that Jesus the God-Man desires to come to each of us again right now—He has already come that first Christmas night He is already here on earth in His Resurrected Body through and in the Sacraments of His Holy Church. As the ancient doxology of the Church states, To the God who is, who was and who is to come…

In Jesus, God has come to us and He will come again, yes this is true, but in Jesus God comes to us now! In fact, here at Holy Mass is where God literally comes again from heaven and runs to meet us again in the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist is literally the Lord running to embrace you…He is coming….He is running to meet us at this and every Holy Mass. The First part of every Mass is a type of Advent in which we listen to God’s Word and prepare for His coming again on the Sacred Altar at the words of Consecration. At Holy Communion He then runs to meet us to embrace us in a communion of love.

And so, we can’t just sit here at Holy Mass passively, we must lift up our hearts and run to embrace Him who is coming at this Mass and at every Holy Mass...I don’t mean of course that at communion time you jump up from your pews and run up the isle to meet and receive Jesus in Holy Communion, but that you in the interior of your heart, with the help of the Holy Spirit, you offer yourself fully to Father through, in and with Jesus own offering on the Altar. Placing your heart, better yet asking the blessed Virgin Mary to place your heart, as a living oblation of love on the paten next to the Host so that your heart, along with the Host, can be transformed by the Holy Spirit in order to become one with the Heart of Jesus which becomes truly present in the Holy Eucharist. Again, this is really what it means to take an active and full part in the Holy Mass.

And so, let us use this time of Advent well, in order to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ, let us not be caught unaware. The time is short, we have just a few weeks to repent and prepare ourselves for the celebration of Jesus’ first coming. And in our preparation let us always remember that at Christmas, we do not however just celebrate something that happened two thousand years ago, but we celebrate what continues to happen in our own day. Jesus still comes to earth and is born in littleness on the altar at the Holy Mass; and so, He wants us to prepare ourselves to receive Him right NOW at this Christ-Mass, to receive Him more deeply and more intimately into our hearts, to draw closer to Him than we ever thought possible. This is the source of our advent Hope…This is source of our Advent Joy

Let us pray. “Our Lady of the New Advent, pray for us; obtain for us a deeper faith, hope and love for Jesus who is truly among us in the Holy Eucharist, so that we may, like you, conceive Him in our heart in order to birth Him to the world. Amen.”

Sunday, November 24, 2013

“SERVIUM, I will serve you my Lord and my King to my last dying breath! “Viva Cristo Rey!” “Long live Christ the King!” Amen!

Solemnity of Christ the King. November 24th, 2013

We have been hearing about the end times the past few weeks in the Gospels; the ultimate end of all the readings we’ve heard is the sovereign lordship of Jesus Christ. Over the past year of the Church’s liturgical year, we have celebrated the great mysteries of the life of the Lord; and so now, the Church brings its liturgical year to an end with the Solemnity of Christ the King. The Church does this in order to remind us that our life too, will come to an end before this King of all Kings. So just as the entire Church year is a type of preparation for this great solemnity, so too our entire life should be a preparation to be ready to stand before Christ the King when we die. Our late beloved Holy Father Blessed John Paul II, taught that,

“While the feast of the Epiphany, Easter, and the Ascension all relate to Christ as King and Lord of the Universe, the Church has desired to have this great feast to be a special remembrance to modern man, modern man who seems somewhat indifferent to truth and his supernatural destiny, that his earthly life and all earthly kingdoms will end in front of the Kings of kings.”

So on this special feast day, we now contemplate Christ in his glorified state as King of all creation and as King of our bodies & souls.

This feast day serves as a reminder to us then that the Lord should truly reign in all aspects of our lives. The Lord Jesus needs to be sovereign over our hearts, minds and our bodies, by our allowing Him to be present in our families, among our friends, neighbors, and even with our colleagues at work and school. Christ’s kingship in our daily lives should be a witness against those who would either reduce religion to a set of negative “thou shall nots”, or to some kind of “pick and choose” cafeteria Catholicism.

Sadly, there are many who would like to limit Christ’s sovereignty to just a corner of their lives and make their faith solely a private affair, claiming that they can’t or shouldn’t take their faith in Christ into their personal relationships or out into the public sphere. Some would like to impose this same limitation on all Catholics, especially on us priest. Oh yes, they will say we can talk about faith from the pulpit but we should not speak out against moral evils occurring in the political arena. Against this type of mentality, this feast day is a call to all Catholics and to each one of us that we must affirm to the world, both with our words and by our deeds, that we aspire with our full heart, mind and strength of our will to make Christ the King reign indeed, over all hearts beginning with our own.

Now it’s true that in our democratic way of thinking, the ideal of a sovereign King can easily seem foreign to us. We can think of a sovereign king, even Jesus as a sovereign King, as an absolute monarch or dictator, who commands without question and so takes away our freedom our liberty. We can think about all the crimes against humanity, the many injustices that tyrant kings have committed and as a result we can wrongly conclude that any sovereignty is a bad thing. Certainly, the foundation of our own country was against a sovereign. We celebrate this in just a few days as give thanks for the blessings of freedom in our country.

Jesus is a sovereign, it is true, but not in the way of earthly tyrants. Jesus established a kingdom of divine love and truth, whose demands go much farther than mere justice. Jesus does not take over hearts by force but by the power of His divine love. And so, King Jesus’ demands are demands of love because love demands that we give our all to the one we love, without ever counting the cost. This is of course difficult for us, because it means that we must give up our own self-importance, opinions and self will and conformed ourselves to the way things really are, to reality, to the truths of God. And so, Jesus’ Kingdom is kingdom of truth because only when we accept God’s truth by freely conforming our lives in obedience to it are we truly free, free to open our hearts in order to receive more fully His love. This is know as the obedience of faith—By accepting the fullness of God’s truth with our minds we are given the freedom to choose with our wills to live rightly, in order to receive God’s love more fully.

Because so often we wrongly think we lose our freedom if we give ourselves fully to God, the call to make Jesus our sovereign King can make us hesitate. This call goes against the modern mentality, which is so steeped in error and which for all practical purposes has dethroned God. Our world really no longer sees God as Almighty, for an almighty God has a claim on our lives, a claim that demands absolute obedience to His Will and to His truth which comes to us through the teachings of the Church.

And so, our world has all but abandoned God as almighty, and has especially abandoned Jesus Christ as King, maybe not in word, but in deed. If anything at all, it pays Jesus lip service. It is a world that for the most part not only no longer searches for the truth, but also has abandoned any notion of absolute unchanging truth. For our modern society, which is based on radical individualism, truth has now been replaced with feelings and opinions; it is all about one’s personal “feelings” or one’s personal opinions. Where once people would say they think this way or that way, now they say, “I feel this way or that way”. Deep within our modern society is a current of hatred for the very notion of the kingship of Christ and serving Him in love through obedience to His truth and to His Church. The cry of our age of disobedience is “I want to be king; I want to be served, I want to define truth.” It is no longer about obedience to the Will of God, it is now about the “will of the people,” about our own will over and above the Will of God and others—“non-servium, I will not serve Christ the King!” is too often the cry of our age.

Jesus, through his life on this earth, gives us the cure for our modern culture of opposition to God’s Holy Will, which only leads to our unhappiness. The mysteries of Jesus’ life manifest the will of His Father by Jesus’ total obedience to the Father’s Will even to the point of accepting death, death on the cross. In fact, the cross is Jesus throne, the crown of thorns his royal diadem. While all those at the foot of the cross expected Christ to show a spectacular demonstration of His Royal claims by coming down off the cross, Jesus instead shows forth his obedience to the Father’s will by commanding the forgiveness of sins, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. While Jesus in his sacrifice atones for all of the sins committed by mankind, he chooses to manifest the greatest act of sovereignty the world as ever seen by being concerned with just one man, and a criminal at that. “Jesus, remember me when you come into Your Kingdom.” And Jesus says to him, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

I would propose to each one of us that the most important question each one of us must ask on this great feast of Christ the King, is not whether Christ does or does not reign in the world, but does he or does he not reign in me?; we should ask not if his royalty is recognized by states and governments, but is it recognized and lived by me? In other words, is Jesus Christ truly King and Lord of my life? Who reigns in me, who sets the objectives and establishes the priorities in my life: Christ or another? Is it really Jesus that I serve? Since Jesus gave His life so that we might live, life is no longer about living or dying, but about either living for our selves, or living for the Lord! And to live "for the Lord," means to live in view of him, solely for Him, for His glory, and for the spreading of His Kingdom on earth, in the minds and hearts of men and His Kingdom on earth subsist fully in the Catholic Church.

The reign of Christ extends then, only in the hearts and souls, minds and bodies of men, where there are men and women who understand themselves to be children of God, who are nourished by Him through His Church and her Great Sacraments, children who live only for Him and want others to share in this Family of God under the Kingship of Christ. It must be clear then, that the reign of Christ extends only as far as there are those who realize that it is only in being obedient and loyal to Christ’s Church, to her leaders and to her teachings that one is truly obedient to Christ the King and so serves Christ the King.

To serve Christ and His Catholic Church through obedience to His Truth is the only path to true freedom and life; it is what it means to have faith and live it. The martyrs and all the saints have taught us that the truest act and so the freest act is to give one’s life totally for Christ, not just in death but in life…living one’s life totally for Him in love; and then out of love for Him, living one’s life in service to neighbor out of Love for Christ. Only in this is true and authentic happiness found.

It’s interesting that this solemnity of Christ the King was instituted only recently. It was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in response to the atheistic and totalitarian political regimes that denied the rights of God and of His One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. The climate in which the feast was born was, for example, that of the Mexican Masonic Marxist revolution, when many Christians went to their deaths crying out to their last breath, “Long live Christ the King!” One of these Christians was a priest named Fr. Miguel Pro, who risked his life to bring Christ in confession and in the Holy Eucharist to his parishioners so that Jesus could reign in them.

St. Miguel Pro, actually became an expert in disguises in order to go undetected by the communist. Eventually, he was arrested. As He was led before the firing squad he held out his arms in the form of a cross, clutched the rosary in his hand and shouted his last words, “Viva Cristo Rey”…Long live Christ the King. As the shots rang out, he fell to the ground and his soul entered into paradise. A picture was snapped as the shots rang out and we still have that picture today.

As the Church gives us this feast at the end of the Church year, this end of the year should be a type of spiritual death for all of us, and a rising to a new beginning, to a new life, a life of greater holiness. And just as natural death brings with it the prospect of seeing and standing before Jesus Christ our Sovereign King, the end of the Church year brings us this opportunity to stand before Christ the King who is truly, physically, substantially present in the Holy Eucharist and allow Him to renew His divine Kingship over us. Let us offer our heart, mind and bodies fully to Him, so that at the end of our life we will be prepared to stand before this same Eucharist unveiled who is Jesus Christ our Lord and our King and hear Him say to us, “This day you will be with me in paradise.”

Let us turn to Our Lady for Help: Holy Mary, Mother of my King, obtain for me the grace to give my Fiat, my total Yes to Jesus and so serve Him fully in truth in order to be truly free to love Him and serve Him. As we receive your Son at this Mass and return to our pews, help us in the silence of our hearts to cry out to Him, “SERVIUM, I will serve you my Lord and my King to my last dying breath! “Viva Cristo Rey!” “Long live Christ the King!” Amen!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Mary hope of the hopeless, pray for us!

Luke 21; 5-19 Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary time. November 17th, 2013

Today in our modern age, there is an almost palpable current of fear running through our society. There are many who say they feel something big is about to happen; “things just can’t keep going the way they are, something has to give.” It seems the events that Jesus predicts in today’s Gospel are again coming true in our own day.

Many people are trying their best to ignore these signs of our times. Many are tying to busy their lives as a way of burying their heads in the sand; they are preoccupying themselves too much with the things of this world. Others are taking an almost morbid interest in trying to discover if we are indeed in the last times of an age. Others believe it is for sure the beginning of the end of the world. So many are losing hope.

And so, in these times, today Jesus speaks to each one of our hearts. Within the framework of the end of the age, Jesus speaks of the future coming trials of his followers and encourages them and us to patient endurance. He doesn’t want to instill fear; but He points out that we must come to the full realization of our weakness and depend utterly and completely on the strength of God’s grace to fortify us if we are to be saved.

And so, Jesus makes it clear that we could not persevere in the end times or to the end of our time, without the help of His grace and so we need to cling to Him. But this is not only true of the end of the world, but also in our everyday life. We may not live to see the unfolding in our day of these predictions of Jesus.

And so today with great hope, trust and love, we need to abandoned ourselves completely as little children into the hands of God, leaving all fear behind. In fact, last week, our Holy Father, Francis gave a very hopeful homily, which may help us; for Francis called on the faithful to do this very thing, “to entrust themselves into the hands of God, like a child does with their father.”

In the Homily, Francis said that He likes to hear the following: “We have always been in the hand of God from the very beginning.” He went on to say that, “The bible explains to us the creation, using a beautiful image: God who with his hands makes us from mud, from the earth in His image and likeness. It was the hands of God that created us: the craftsman God! Like a craftsman he made us. These hands of the Lord…the hands of God, who has not abandoned us.”

It was the hands of God that continued to guide and protect us even after we had lost the likeness of God through Sin—Death enter into the world by the envy of devil, but nevertheless God never abandoned us. The Holy Father stressed that, “while all must pass through death, it is one thing to pass through this experience with an affiliation with the devil and it is another thing to pass through this experience from the hand of God.”

The Holy Father went on to explain that the hands of God, like a father holding his child’s hand, teaches us how to walk on the path of salvation. It is God’s hands that comforts us and caresses us in our darkest moments. These hands, he continued, are the same hands of Christ that were crucified for our sins. “Jesus--God, carries his wounds: he shows them to the Father. This is the price: the hands of God are wounded hands out of love! And this consoles us very much,” the Pope said. To place oneself in the hands of God, he stressed, is to place ourselves in the most secure place, in the hands of One who loves us very much.

“Let us think of the hands of Jesus, when he touched the sick and healed them,” the Pope said. “They are the hands of God: they heal us! I don’t envision God giving us a slap! I don’t envision it. Reproaching us, yes I can envision that, because He does that. But never, never does He hurt us. Never! He caresses us. Even when he must reproach us, he does it with a caress, because He is a Father.”

Francis’ words remind us that it was in His great love for man that God made visible in the world, His own loving hands. God did this in the hands of Jesus—in Jesus is the invisible God became visible in the flesh. And it is Jesus hands that now bear the wounds of His saving act for all of us. But these hands, bearing the marks of His passion of love still care for us today…God’s love is not a thing of the past…God still bears us in His Hands, still caresses us with His hands.

The Hands of God because of His love for us are in fact still present on earth with their wounds, reaching out for us in the Holy Eucharist—the Holy Eucharist is the God whose hands bear the wounds of love—these hands are truly present in the Holy Eucharist. From these wounded hands and His wounded heart flow the saving and healing grace that comes to us in all of the Sacraments of the Church.

And so the healing hands of God come to caress us and enfold us in love through the blessing by the one who brings us the Sacraments, the hands of the priest; hands which save us in the waters of baptism, which forgive our sins in confession, which feed us at the Holy Mass with God’s own body, which heal and strengthen us in the Anointing of Sick, which united us in Holy Marriage, and hands which provide that God’s hands remain with us till the end of time through the laying on of the hands at Holy Orders. I hope you will allow me to share with you a very personal story, which came to my mind with Pope Francis’ Homily, a story which I think shows all of this very clearly. It’s a personal experience I had in which I experienced very profoundly how, as the Pope said, “It is God’s hands that comforts us and caresses us in our darkest moments.”

I remember when my dear 24-year-old wife was dying of cancer. Early in her illness a very holy priest, named Father Kolfenbach came to give my wife the anointing of the sick. From that moment on my late wife went from someone who was filled with so much fear, to a strong woman filled with faith, hope and trust in the Lord and great love for Him. As father continued to visit her throughout her illness he would stand by her bedside and she would grab and hold on tightly to his hand. And whenever it came time for him to leave, as He would almost have to tear his hand away in order give her the very blessing of the hand of Christ—of God, she would smile at him and say, “Father I know you have to go, but could you just leave me your hand!” Oh how much comfort she received in the hands of that holy priest!!!

Father Kolfenbach would later offer the funeral Mass for my wife and I can remember one part of the homily, which brought home to me that it was the hand of God that was brought to my wife, through the hands of the priest. Toward the end of the homily, father mentioned my wife never wanting to let go of his hand whenever he visited her and her telling him to just leave his hand with her. Father said, I tell you most assuredly, “It was not my hand Kathy wanted to hang on to…No, I tell you it was the very hand of Jesus Himself!” And now I know that Father was right. It was Jesus hand brought to my dear wife in her darkest hours through the hands of this holy priest…God held her in His hands and caressed her throughout her illness and through her death, which was indeed a holy death, surrounded with much hope and love!

In just a short while through the hands of the priest, Jesus-God will again bless us and come down from heaven again and be reborn on this altar in his human body with His human hands. And again through the hands of the priest, He will anew offer His body, along with His Blood, Soul and Divinity to the Father for our salvation-at this Holy Mass and every Holy Mass, Jesus again shows His wounded hands to His Father for our sakes. Let us then with great trust, and as little children offer ourselves, better yet, abandon ourselves completely to the Father along with Jesus’ own offering. When we receive Him at Holy Communion from the hands of the priest let us allow Jesus—God!, to hold us in the palm of His hand and embrace us, caress us with His love.

If we receive Him worthily in the state of grace, with open hearts, and with faith, we will be transformed in His love, our love will become more and more perfected, we will become His intimate friends who face life, even death without fear, for perfect love cast out fear, for we shall become one with God and He will hold us in His hands while we walk on this earth, even in our darkest moments, and hold us in His hands and caress us forever in the life to come

Let’s us end with a prayer to Our Lady of Hope, please join me in kneeling:
Prayer to Our Lady of Hope

O Mary, my Mother, I kneel before you with heavy heart. The burden of my sins oppresses me. The knowledge of my weakness discourages me. I am beset by fears and temptations of every sort. Yet I am so attached to the things of this world that instead of longing for Heaven I am filled with dread at the thought of death.
O Mother of Mercy, have pity on me in my distress. You are all-powerful with your Divine Son. He can refuse no request of your Immaculate Heart. Show yourself a true Mother to me by being my advocate before His throne. O Refuge of Sinners and Hope of the Hopeless, to whom shall I turn if not you?
Obtain for me, then, O Mother of Hope, the grace of true sorrow for my sins, the gift of perfect resignation to God's Holy Will, and the courage to take up my cross and follow Jesus. Beg of His Sacred Heart the special favor that I ask in this prayer…..

(in your heart Make your request.)

But above all I pray, O dearest Mother, that through your most powerful intercession my heart may be filled with Holy Hope, so that in life's darkest hour I may never fail to trust in God my Savior, but by walking in the way of His commandments I may merit to be united with Him, and with you in the eternal joys of Heaven. Amen.

Mary, our Hope, have pity on us.

Hope of the Hopeless, pray for us.

Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee,
Blessed art thou amongst woman
And blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus!
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and especially at the hour of our death. Amen.

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time. November 10th, 2013

We can always tell when the seasons are changing- the weather is colder and we are beginning to see advertising for Christmas already. As we approach the end of our liturgical year, the readings are changing too. We have heard Jesus talk about prayer over the last few months and all of a sudden now Jesus is teaching about the resurrection of the dead. This past week we celebrated All Saints Day-the Church triumph in heaven, and All Souls Day-the Church suffering in purgatory. All of these feasts and readings from the Sacred Scriptures remind us of the serious topic of death.
Death is a hard topic to talk about; as it makes us feel fearful- we are all naturally afraid of dying. But we all need to face the fact that one day each and every one of us is going to die.

In light of this perennial truth, it seems there was priest who was giving to his parish a stirring homily on the four last things, death, judgment, heaven and hell. He wanted to the end the homily in strong way to get the people to think about the fact that they were all going to die one day. And so he took a deep breath…looked out over the people and said… “One day every man woman and child in this parish is going to die.” And He banged the pulpit for added emphasis. But it seems immediately a gentleman in the second row began to laugh out loud. The priest thought to himself, “didn’t this guy hear what I just said?” And so the priest again took a deep breath and this time looking right at the man said, “One day EVERY MAN woman and child in this parish is going to die.” And he banged the pulpit even harder! But the man began to laugh even harder. Not being able to contain his frustration any longer the priest leaned over the pulpit and said to the man…”Excuse me sir didn’t you hear what I just said!?” And the man said: “Sure father! But I’m not from this parish!!! Now, I don’t think it is going to work like that. Well even though this was of course a joke, the reality of death is not.

Unfortunately, we live in society that for the most part ignores the reality of death. Our age really has the attitude of Woody Allen, the famous movie star, who when asked about his legacy after his death- responded by saying that he was simply not planning on dying. I wonder how that’s going to work out for him! While many may not have such an outright denial of death, I think it could be agued that the modern practice is to live as if death, or better yet, judgment is never going to come. As a result, our world today has many wrong ideas about what is death and many myths about it have “resurface.”
One of the most ancient myths and errors about death that as resurfaced is reincarnation. This is the idea that when we die we will just come back again as someone or something else over and over again until we get it right. I don’t know about you, but for me, once is enough. And God’s Word is clear…we get one chance to get it right and then death comes for us all; and then immediately, divine judgment before the face of Jesus, the Divine judge.

There are many other popular myths currently circulating around about death. In the end, all of these myths are just that, myths; and they end up in at least a practical denial of the reality of death and the immediate judgment that comes afterwards. All of them try to either avoid the fact that we die once, or that when we die we will meet God face to face in order to be judged by Him and receive our just reward for good or for bad.

The many false notions about death can lead one to mistakenly believe that death is merely biological and when we die nothing happens because we do not have an immortal soul. Our body simply returns to the earth, or our life source is somehow absorbed into the impersonal power of the universe. Some even sadly and hopelessly believe that this life is all there is, after death we just cease to exist at all…annihilation…how utterly dismal and hopeless. In order to escape the hopeless of their position they take on the attitude of, “eat, drink, get drunk and be merry, and do whatever, because this life is all there is, we don’t have too worry about any divine judgment Won’t the adherents of this lie be surprised!

The denial of the immortal soul as certainly led to many of the current crimes against the dignity of the human person. For example cultures that believe in reincarnation also believe that people who are in poverty or who suffer do so because of some sin in their past life. And as result we don’t reach out to help them because they have to suffer in order to “make up” for their past mistakes. This is a practice of many of the Eastern religions. This leads to the cast system in which it believed that those in poverty deserve poverty and those who have more have so because they were better in previous life. Again we don’t help the poor because they have too “work” out the sins and failures of their previous life.

Another example of the denial of the immortal soul and its eternal judgment by God is seen in the reality that there are many today who believe that one-day medicine will eventually conquer death through technology. This, by the way is what is really behind the embryonic stem cell and cloning issue. The goal of embryonic stem cell research is really to be able to clone human beings in order to harvest organs that could be used without any possibility of rejection by the body because the organs would be taken from the own person’s clone. Being able to create human beings to be used for spare body parts—the next horrible step in the abortion tragedy.

In our Gospel today, like throughout the Gospels, Jesus confronts the errors of his day, which were the same as in ours with just different wrapping paper. Jesus confronts the myths about death held by the Sadducees. The Sadducees for their part believed in the soul, but denied the bodily resurrection of the dead; in other words they denied that someday God will raise our bodies from the grave in order to be reunited with our souls; and in these resurrected bodies, we will be present body and soul at the final judgment before Jesus, who will come then not as merciful redeemer but as Just Judge. And he will do so in order that we will all be judged in the same bodies we had on earth, judged for those things we did or didn’t do while in our bodies while we were alive on earth. The Sadducees denied that we would spend eternity for better or worse in our bodies.

For the Sadducees death consisted of just the soul returning to the bosom of Abraham- the body simply was ignored. The practical error that this lead to was that the body just wasn’t important; and if the body wasn’t important, then it didn’t matter what you did or didn’t do in or with your body. Yet, Jesus points out that they were wrong. And as we read in the book of Maccabees, the Scriptures do point out clearly the bodily resurrection of the dead and an eternity spent again in our bodies.

Our faith tells us with certainty that our body is created as good and will be reunited to our souls after our death, at the end of the world. Jesus confirms this through answering the questions concerning marriage after the resurrection. Death is not only the passage of our souls back to God, but one day our bodies will reunite with our souls. So those who have already died are awaiting the resurrection of their bodies. Even the souls of the just that are now with God are not totally complete; they await the last day when their bodies will be reunited with their souls. Denial of this truth of our Catholic faith, leads to another error in our day, that of not respecting the body both before death and after death.

Before death we see this error in everything from extreme body piercing, tattooing, to all form of immodest dress, sometimes even while in church. We see it in all forms of promiscuity, fornication and debauchery all carried out in the body… But St. Paul reminds us, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.” We are to use our bodies to adore God both here at Mass, keeping them pure and undefiled by, with the grace of the Sacraments, living according to His Commandments and the teachings of His Holy Catholic Church.

After death, we see a lack of respect of the body as a former temple of the Holy Spirit, by not burying the ashes of one cremated, placing them instead on the mantel of the fireplace or spreading them on the ocean or even making them into jewelry. I even heard once of the death of one of three duck hunting buddies who died of a heart attack. The other two buddies placed his ashes within shotgun shells, which they used only while hunting at their favorite spot. Every time they shot at a duck their buddies ashes were scattered over the water. St. Augustine, said that after their death we are so careful with the personal effects of our loved ones so that they are not loss, we should have the same care with regards to their body. The body should be buried with respect…its one of the seven corporal works of mercy by which we will be judged…to bury the dead (by the way when the body is cremated what is left should never be called cremains, but merely a cremated body).

The truth is, is that on that last day we will be judged according to the works we performed while in the body. And this last judgment will be given to us after our souls are reunited again with our bodies—at the Last Judgment all souls will be united to their body. For those who have done evil their bodies will be horrible disfigured and they will suffer in those bodies eternally separated from God in hell.

But for those who have used their bodies to glorify God, they will receive a renewed body, a glorified beautiful body—the unimaginable beauty of their soul will shine through their body. This glorified body will have no need for food or drink or even marriage. Instead of the pleasures of food and drink and earthly marriage, there will be much, much greater pleasure. Earthly pleasures in the body are only a small hint to what pleasures God has in store for us. St. Paul tells us of this pleasure, “Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love Him, they will see God face to face.

At the end of our life, God will judge all of our deeds, all that we have done and all that we have failed to do. It is easy for us then to be afraid of death and especially in the judgment that follows our death. However, St. Paul gives us encouragement in today’s second reading. He tells us that Grace is given to us in order to “encourage our hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.”

With faith and confidence in God’s grace, we can face our sins and ask God to help us each day to live this life on earth using our bodies and souls in a way that we will be ready to die and meet him. But we must use our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. We must not only treat our bodies as holy and sacred temples, but we must also use them assisted by God’s grace (again which comes to us through the Sacraments) to live holy lives, holy lives lived out in the body. Then we will be able to share in the joy of the resurrection, and live out eternity in heaven not only in our souls but in our bodies as well. If we are ready, meaning if we are holy, if we have taken care of our souls by confessing our sins and amending our lives, if we have been striving to by God grace live out God’s Holy Will in our body on earth, then far from fearing death, we will long for it so we can be with God forever and see Him face to face.

Holy Mass gives us some idea of the difference between earth and heaven. In a few moments we will offer earthly bread and wine to the heavenly Father. A few moments later, through His priest and the divine power of the Holy Spirit working through the priest, the Heavenly Father will offer to you and me those earthly things, now changed into heavenly ones, namely, the true resurrected Body and the true Blood of His Son united with His human soul for us to adore and to receive in Holy Communion. What a difference! What a greater gift Communion is than mere bread and wine; what a shame it is for those who don’t believe it. It is Holy Communion, if we have faith that it is Jesus in His Resurrected body, that gives us the grace to transform our earthly bodies into glorified bodies like Jesus in order to share in the happiness of all the angels and saints in the resurrection of the body in heaven. Even now, are bodies are being transformed into glory.

Let us at this Mass, ask Jesus to help us examine our conscience so that we can have open hearts in order to receive the grace to live this life in our bodies to the fullest each day. We live and move and have our being in Christ, and through the Sacraments we are members of His Mystical Body, the Church and children of Our Heavenly Father. Let us ask Him to help us deepen our faith, hope and charity and so be prepared to meet him face to face one day not with fear but with hearts full of joy. For there is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)

Let us also continue to pray for our dead, all of the Holy Souls in purgatory. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and especially at the hour of our death. Holy Mary we know you will honor all of the Hail Mary's we say in our life and you will be there for us at the hour of our death. Amen.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Holy Mary, mother of priests, pray for us! Amen.

I don’t know how many of you caught the very touching event that occurred last week in Rome. Last Saturday evening a small group of children was invited to sit on the pope’s platform off to the side in order to listen to speakers from across the world speak about their faith and families. While representatives from more than eighty countries addressed the pope, a little boy sitting with the children got up and walked right up to the seated Holy Father.

The Pope at first didn’t see the boy. But the boy leaned out in front of the papal chair and looked the Holy Father in the eye making sure the pope knew that he was there. The pope was visibly pleased when the boy, instead of returning to his seat, remained standing next to the pope like a miniature member of the Swiss Guard. The little boy, standing as if in “guard” over the pope, refused to leave the pope’s side, even though several cardinals did their best to try to cajole him to return back to his seat.

When it was time for the representative from the countries to come forward to greet the pope the boy at first was not amused. The boy tried to turn away the first representative that came forward to shake the pope’s hand, the boy tried to pull their hands apart…this was his pope and the boy wasn’t going to share him with any one. But later the boy, seeming to understand what was going one, retreated from his “Swiss guard” role of “protecting” the pope and took on the role of the Prefect for the Papal Household and begin to assist the pope, even to the point of escorting the representatives to the pope.

When the pope walked to the microphone to begin his personal address to the representatives gathered, the little boy followed and then stood by the pope’s side. At one point one of the cardinals again tried to pull the boy from the pope side. Not to be deterred, and the battle finally won the boy hugged the pope and held on to him tightly. Francis didn’t mind at all and when the boy got tired; in fact, Pope Francis simply sat the boy in the papal chair for the rest of the papal address. Who knows, maybe this boy will be a future pope. Only God knows; but it was nonetheless, a very beautiful, very touching and moving event. And it points to the fact that something beautiful is happening in the Catholic Church even amidst so many problems and evils.

This loving encounter of this little boy with Pope Francis, the personal representative on earth of the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, as I said, occurred last weekend. I think this is very significant because it also occurred during a weekend in which we in the United States celebrate what is known as “Priesthood Sunday.” It is a weekend in which we not only honor the priests who have helped us in our own life by bringing to us Jesus Christ in the Sacraments, but also a time when we thank God for His great gift of the priesthood, in which we all depend on in order to received the Heart of Christ so that we can become one with God in love.

When I think of the Father’s great gift of the priesthood I look back in my own life to those faithful priests that have revealed to me the Father’s love. I wish I had time to share them with you. I can’t help but be filled with incredible admiration and thankfulness to the Father for these spiritual fathers that offered their entire lives to Jesus Christ in order that Jesus could form them into His “other selves.” All in order that they could be His “living sacraments” to the world and lead you (and me), to He who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Today then, I wish to publically honor all the priests that have had an impact on my life. I would not be here in front of you today if it wasn’t for their incredible lives of sacrifice. And I can only hope that I can be half the priest that they were and are. I am sure many of you have your own stories of how priests have touched your lives.

Thinking about the Father’s great gift of the priesthood, I also think about all the priest friends that I have today. I am humbled when I see their dedication and love for Christ, his Church and the People of God. I hear their joys and their pains. Even though one might think that the past scandals of a few have caused them much pain, more pain I tell you is caused by the indifference and the lack of understanding and love of some of the souls that they care for. My priest friends know that all priests are not perfect, much less holy, and they pray to God that they themselves may be always both faithful and holy. We too should pray for them that they always be holy and faithful priests of Jesus.

The holy priests that I am friends with love the priesthood, not just because they are priests, but because they too, like me, have themselves been given the love of the Father through the many faithful and dedicated “fathers” that have been there when they needed them. They know the great gift of the priesthood by priests they have come in contact with and also by the many incredible miraculous works that they see Jesus perform through their own priesthood. It hurts them when people don’t love or understand the priesthood, not because they are personally slighted, but because the office of the priesthood is slighted. They are hurt when people don’t see that there is a difference, not only in degree, but in essence between the royal priesthood of the laity received at baptism and the ordained priesthood.

The power of the priest does not come from the people, his authority is not given to him by a delegation of the community; no, the priest's power and authority comes from none other than God himself, given through the laying on of the hands by the bishop as successor of the apostles. In his great Encyclical, Mediator Dei, literally the “Mediator of God,” Pius XII speaking of the person of the priest, wrote the following:

Prior to acting as representative of the community before the throne of God, the priest is the ambassador of the divine Redeemer. He is God's vice-regent in the midst of his flock precisely because Jesus Christ is Head of that body of which Christians are the members. The power entrusted to the priest, therefore, bears no natural resemblance to anything human. It is entirely supernatural. It comes from God himself.

And the Pius the XII quotes Jesus Himself speaking to the twelve apostles who were the first priests:

"As the Father hath sent me, I also send you [40]. . . he that heareth you heareth me [41]. . . go ye into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (from Mediator Dei. Pius XII)

At the Holy Mass only, only a validly ordained Catholic priest can act in the name and in the person of Christ, or I should say, can Jesus act in the very person of the priest, in persona Christi et capitis (in the person of Christ, the Head). Because of ordination, there is an ontological change in their being and an indelible mark placed on their souls. This ontological change means that the priest is given a new capacity so that when the priest acts, it is literally Jesus Himself who is now able to act in person in and through the priest in a way that He can not act through a member of the non-ordained baptized. When the words of consecration at Holy Mass are spoken by the priest it is actually Christ Himself who speaks these words through the priest. Or as Blessed John Paul the Second put it, the priest says these words; or rather “he puts his voice at the disposal of the One who spoke these words in the Upper Room.”

So the priest, and he alone, possesses Christ’s divine power, the power of the Holy Spirit, to consecrate bread and wine changing them into the true body and blood of Christ (into God Himself); and he alone then possesses the power then to offer Jesus sacrificially to the Eternal Father on behalf of the whole Christian people, in order that the redemptive power of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection would be made available to those same Christian People. And so, No priest--no Holy Mass, no Holy Mass--No Holy Eucharist, no Holy Eucharist--no heaven for anyone.

As Vatican II taught, the same is also true with all the sacraments as Vatican II taught. So that when the priest gives absolution, the anointing, or marries, it is Christ Himself who does so through the person of the priest. But this "in persona Christi et capitis," is not just limited to the Sacraments. Even when the priest blesses, when he prays, teaches, when he visits the sick or even when he visits your home, it is Christ himself who actually does these things through, with and in the priest; and they could not be done with the same efficacy (the very efficacy of Christ), without the priest.

It is a strong sign of the great loss of faith in our age, when this correct understanding of what a great gift the priesthood is to all of us is not held and practiced by the very people to whom God has given the priest. This loss of faith results in people not honoring or even opposing and attacking the priest who literally brings the Light, Life and Love of Christ to them; it is literally, "biting the hand of the one who feeds you." In this case, the one who feeds you the Bread of Life--Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

As we all honor those priests that have made an impact on our lives let us look for some ways to show them our love. I speak to myself as well as to you, because I too need to honor priests in my life that I depend on for the sacraments, especially that of confession. The priesthood doesn’t belong to me, because I am a priest, it is great gift for me as well as for you, so I too need to have great love and respect for it. Let us recognize that if not for the priesthood, there would be no sacraments and thus no possibility of us receiving the Father’s love and forgiveness and no possibility for us to reach heaven. This is why St. John Vianney said that the priesthood is the very love of the Heart of Jesus.

Back to the last weeks encounter of the little boy and the pope. I would hold up to you that there was in this very moving encounter something going on that goes far beyond the human eye. You see, above all the Pope is a priest. And as such, as I just mentioned, he operates, as does every Catholic priest, in persona Christi et capitis…In other words, it is Jesus Himself that operates through this man we know as Pope Francis, who is one of Jesus’ Great High Priests on earth. And so, it is clear that this little boy was attached not so much to Pope Francis the man, but Pope Francis the Priest! And when this little boy leaned around to look Francis in the eyes, this little boy saw in the pope’s eyes, not Francis, but instead the eyes and so the love of Jesus Christ Himself-God Himself. This is why the little boy would not leave the Pope’s side…it was all about Jesus!!!

I remember just before I was ordained, I spoke to a very wise and holy older priest. And this priest warned me about something that would happen to me as a priest, something very beautiful but very, very mysterious. He said, to me; “Father when you are a priest, you are going to have an encounter with child that will profoundly affect you. It will probably occur after Mass as your greeting the people. A little child is going to walk up to you, hug you and look you in the eyes and call you Jesus! Father don’t you for one moment consider correcting him. It is not about you, so get over yourself!…it is about Jesus and His priesthood within you. For this little child because he is little and pure, will demonstrate to you in a real way the truth of in persona Christi et capitis…for this little child will see in your eyes, the eyes and the love of Jesus Christ himself, of God Himself. Far from making you prideful this should humble you at the very core of your being, that Jesus Christ would operate in such a man as you, sinful and unworthy but nonetheless mysteriously, personally called by Christ to be His priest, His personal representative on earth, called to be one with Him as His personal mediator between God and men. If you make it about you, then Jesus will be hidden from the child and so from your people.”

This did in fact happen to me when I first became a pastor of a parish. My knees began to shake and my heart began to well up…no it wasn’t and isn’t about me, it is about Jesus…thank God for the gift to his people of the Sacred Priesthood of Jesus Christ which bring Jesus literally even in the flesh in their midst…Dominus Vobiscum! Et cum Spirit tuo! The Lord be with you. And with your Spirit, in other words, "your Spirit," which is none other than the Holy Spirit given to you at your ordination and Who brings us literally the Lord in our midst through you working through the gift of your Sacred Priesthood.”

So let us today and every day pray and offer up sacrifices for all priests that they may be holy and faithful priests. We all have a great responsibility to do so, and if we do not pray and offer our sufferings for them, then we all share in the responsibility when they fall, to the extent we don’t pray and suffer for them. So let us indeed pray for them and thank God for them and for the great gift of the priesthood.

Let us forgive those priests that may have failed us through their human weaknesses. Let us endeavor to obey the priest as our spiritual father in Christ; the priest is more deeply a father to us than our biological father; our biological father gives us physical life, but our spiritual father gives us spiritual life and so offer us eternal life. Let us pray that all people might see clearly the incredible gift of the priesthood of Jesus Christ that he shares with imperfect and sinful men like me and through which He continues His great work of the salvation of souls.

If we pray for the priest, and don't condemn him or oppose him when he is trying to do nothing else than to be faithful to the dictates and teachings of the Church and of Holy Father—of Christ, then he will have the strength and holiness to literally spend himself bringing you the graces, helps, blessings and love of God without which you cannot, cannot get to heaven.

If we pray for him and support him, then he, the priest, will have only one aim and ambition in his life, to ensure that the great marriage feast of heaven will be full and that you and I and our families will be present there forever. With your prayers and sacrifices offered to the Father on the priest’s behalf, he will be able to be a man apart, yet belonging to everyone. He will then receive your respect, your cooperation, your love, and your devotion. Please, have a place for him always in your prayers and in your heart, just as every one of you has a place in his prayers, in his heart, and so in mine as well. God bless you! Holy Mary, mother of priests, pray for us! Amen.