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.