Saturday, January 30, 2016

In today's Gospel, have some the saddest words in all of scripture, “He went away.”

Luke 4;21-30. Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. January 31st, 2016

Today we read the conclusion to the Gospel we read last week. Last week we heard that Jesus was highly praised in the surrounding villages because of the great deeds He performed, like the changing of the water into wine at Cana. We read too that the people in Nazareth were astonished by His claim that He was the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies concerning the Messiah. This is where we pick up the account today. But today we hear of the rejection of Jesus from the same people who at first accepted Him.

Acceptance then rejection, so what happened? It would seem that the people of His own town would be proud of Jesus and accept Him as a favored Son. This is not the case. They had heard of Jesus’ miracles and were intrigued by His wisdom; however they were very superficial and narrow-minded. In their pride they felt hurt that Jesus, one their own townsmen, had not performed miracles in Nazareth as He did elsewhere. They presumed that they should receive special “favor” and so they insolently demand that He perform miracles, not to change their heart and lead them to deeper faith, but merely to satisfy their vanity. And so Jesus, knowing their hearts, performs no miracles; instead He reproaches them and uses examples from the Old Testament in order to show that one needs to be well-disposed if miracles are going to lead to faith. His attitude so wounds their pride that they are ready to kill him by throwing Him off a cliff. Then we have some the saddest words in all of scripture, “He went away.”

Jesus proclaimed the truth His whole life, He came bring us the Truth. For this, Jesus was rejected and crucified. The beginning of the rejection of Jesus as Truth itself, began here in His native Nazareth. This whole episode is a good lesson about understanding Jesus and His teachings, which He gives to us through His Catholic Church, the Church He founded. We can only understand Him and His teachings if we are humble and are genuinely resolved to make ourselves available fully to Him.

The problem is that the teachings of Jesus, the teachings of the Church are sometimes very tough. So tough in fact that many times there can be a false belief that the teachings of the Church are somehow different or other than the teachings of the Jesus. The Church however, carries on these teachings, which she receives from Christ through the Apostles, prophetically preaching them in all ages, without change, whether acceptable or unacceptable. And she calls all her children, especially her bishops and priests to preach and teach the doctrines of the Church, which are the Gospel—the very word of Christ, without apology and without compromise. If we are to live the type of Love which St. Paul speaks about in our second reading we need to hear the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, not water down, but in its fullness and splendor.

A few years back, when he was still the archbishop of Milwaukee, Cardinal Archbishop, Timothy Dolan, in and article printed in the Observer--our diocesan newspaper, said this:

Catholics need solid preaching about Jesus, the cross and the Church, and not “feel-good” spiritual advice that demands no sacrifice.
Preaching well means challenging people’s complacency and, like Christ, occasionally “shaking things up.” This cannot happen if preachers soft-pedal the cross.
He went on, “Maybe the greatest threat to the Church is not heresy, not dissent, not secularism, not even moral relativism, but this sanitized, feel-good, boutique, therapeutic spirituality that makes not demands, calls for no sacrifice, asks for no conversion, entails no battle against sin, but only soothes and affirms,” Speaking to future priests he said, “Our preaching can then become cotton candyish: a lot of fluff, air and sugar, but no substance.

Even though he was focusing on priests, Bishop Dolan reminded that preaching the Gospel is a mandate shared by ALL Christians, not just priests.

The problem is of course, no one likes to be a prophet; no one wants to get thrown off a cliff; no one wants to be crucified. And too often a priest or deacon who teaches something clearly and forthrightly will catch flak for it. Sadly, in our age where everyone is an expert and all truth is subjective, many people don’t want to hear uncomfortable teachings expounded. And so it becomes very easy for a preacher, to fall back on a feel-good approach to the homily, light on content, long on uplifting anecdotes and the power of positive thinking.

I think this fear of preaching the truth, prophetically is especially so in regards to the Church’s teaching on marriage, sexuality and life. Many Catholics have never even heard some of the teachings of the Church in these areas, or if they have, only heard them in a negative light, with regards to how the Church is out of step with the times and needs to get with. Well, of course Jesus is not out of step with the times, He owns time and all in it, and His teachings are always with it, because He is Truth itself.

Let me give you an example of such a teaching. And know that I bring this one up not to condemn anyone, but because if I love you and need to give you the truth, the truth that will not only make you happy, but prevent you from being hurt. I could not talk about this, but then that wouldn’t be true love, but only the selfishness that St. Paul speaks about. The teaching is the Church’s position on In Vitro Fertilization or IVF, better known as test tube babies.

I would guess that most Catholics are only vaguely aware of the Church’s position on making test tube babies. How many have used IVF without knowing that it is wrong or why? When asked why IVF might be immoral, people will usually mention the extra embryos that are frozen or discarded. Such embryos are certainly a serious concern--they are after all truly children, but they are not the primary reason the Church insists the procedure is immoral. Even if IVF were done without making any extra embryos at all, this way of making babies would still be morally objectionable, because the procedure strikes at the very core and meaning of the marital act.

When a couple comes before the altar to profess the vows of love, the Church prays that nothing should come between them- “what God has joined, let no man separate. In our world, sadly, separation in marriage does not happen at the time of a divorce, but much earlier- something is allowed to separate the spouses. The separation starts with withholding all of the love for the spouse- it often starts with artificial birth control. But any act that would separation the full gift of the spouses to each other is for our faith an evil. In IVF, the marital act is substituted by an act of laboratory manipulation for the loving act of bodily union between spouses. It turns procreation into production. Instead of the two become one flesh, IVF divides and puts a Lab technician in between; this can only hurt the union. IVF is really the flip-side of contraception: rather than trying to have sex without babies, we try to have babies without sex. There is a separation of love from the act of procreation.

That being said it is very important that we understand, that the wrongness of IVF does not in any way reflect upon the child, who is innocent. It is not the baby’s fault in any way. The child has no control over how he or she got here. Regardless of how a baby comes into the world, whether by IVF, whether by adultery, by pre-marital sex, by rape or incest or even by cloning, that baby is always a gift and blessing from God. Let me emphasize this point- each and every child is a gift from God. The problem with IVF is not with the child, but with a decision made by the parents, many times not through but ill will but through ignorance, concerning how to pursue the satisfaction of their own desire for a child. In other words, babies, even when very much desired, should not be brought into the world by making use of disordered means such as adultery, pre-marital sex, IVF, or cloning. They should be brought into the world only within that intimate love-giving moment of the marital embrace, where the two become one flesh. Children are entitled, have the right to come into being as the fruit of a singular parental love that is uniquely manifested in the spousal moment of bodily surrender to each other.

Through the incredibly rich language of the parents’ bodies, through their body to body contact, the new body of the child is engendered. In their one-flesh union, they en-flesh new life. The intimate bodily embrace is a sacred action that only spouses may share, and it represents the unique and privileged locus, by God’s design, in which human love is translated into new life. IVF violates this design by replacing that love-giving act with an act of production, whereby we manufacture our own children in Petri dishes and test tubes, as if they were products or objects to be manhandled at will. When we take this immoral step, others quickly follow, including the freezing or even the discarding of our own children, as if they were a form of medical waste. By making test tube babies, we first violate the sacred human act by which we hand on life. It is then but a short step to go further and violate the very life itself that we produce in the laboratory.

Is it not reasonable and right to insist, as the Church does, that new human life should be the fruit of married love, carried out through bodily self-giving between spouses, this act which allows each partner to enrich the other with the total gift of himself or herself? The marital act embodies spousal love directly, exclusively and authentically. Can we say the same for IVF, where the woman upsets her normal cycles and subjects herself to repetitive injections with powerful drugs to make her body produce unnaturally large numbers of eggs, not to mention what the man must do? Can we really say that IVF embodies spousal love in an authentic and exclusive way when a lab technician ends up being the causal agent of the pregnancy, instead of the spouses themselves through a sacred act proper to their married love? By any stretch, can we honestly believe that IVF is faithful to God's design for marriage?

Last week we spoke of pro-life. This week again we are speaking of pro-life. If we are pro-life we must protect not only life, but the way in which God intended life to come into being. If we do not, well we have already seen first results of if we do not, at least 54 million babies killed. Worse is yet to come, if we don’t accept the truth. I tell you this difficult teaching of the Church because I love you and don’t want any of you to be hurt and IVF definitely hurts individuals and couples. I also challenge all of you to learn more about the Churches true teachings in regard to IVF as well as other tough issues. These are teachings we just can not live without.

As we continue to celebrate this year of Mercy as proclaimed by Pope Francis let us realize that mercy only makes sense if we realize our need for God’s Mercy. And We need God’s mercy for our failure to not only accept fully but to live fully the truth that comes from God…this failure is of course known as our sin. God forgives our sins, if we acknowledge them and confess them and make a firm purpose of amendment to sin no more and live our live according to the teachings of the Church.

God loves and wants only what is best for us, this is why He sent his only Son Jesus to give us the truth that sets us free, to give us the truth that gives us life. And has hard as it can sometimes be, let us embrace His truth, the teachings of His Church, humbly and with open minds and hearts. Let us pray for those who need reconciliation and healing in the delicate matters regarding the Church’s unchanging teachings, for Christ’s healing truth is the remedy for this, because Jesus Is Truth and an so His truth which comes to us through His One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, will never let us down.

NOTE: The material on IVF in this homily was taken from a priest who writes for the National Catholic Bioethics Center on Health Care and Life Sciences

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

This is why we must do more than just show up for Holy Mass. We must participate actively, fully, consciously, and fruitfully at the Holy Mass.

John 2;1-11 Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. January 17th, 2016

In today’s Gospel we hear of the Mystery of the Second Luminous
mystery of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary—the Wedding Feast of Cana. Every mystery of the Holy Rosary has a grace assigned to it. And so, the grace we ask for while contemplating of this new mystery of the Holy Rosary, is the grace to more fully offer ourselves—all that have, do, think and are, to Jesus through Mary. We entrust ourselves to Jesus Mother so that she can help us to offer ourselves in Faith, Hope and Love to the God who has given us everything, even to our very existence, all in order that we can become One with God-the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and for all eternity. This is the purpose for which each of us as been created—to be one with God in a union of love.

You may not have thought about this before, but what is that God really wants from you? What He really wants from you is simply “you.” In other words, we can say that God desires to wed you soul, to bring you to Himself and make you one with Him in the ultimate of all weddings…and the two shall become one. A Sacramental marriage between a man and woman symbolizes and points to this Wedding of all weddings.

And so, one of most used imagery God uses throughout the bible to describe what sort of relationship He wants with each of us is wedding imagery. We hear it in our first reading from the book of Isaiah: As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder (capital B) shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you. In other words, “Your Creator God shall marry you!” So it is no coincidence that Jesus begins His public ministry, His ministry to heal and save souls bring them to union with God, at a wedding feast.

Now for the men listening to this, the ideal of God wedding your soul may seem somewhat foreign. But we mustn’t think of this in a carnal way, but in a spiritual way. The purpose and end of all love is union—to be close and even one with the one we love and who loves us. And there is no one who loves us more than God Himself; in fact it is His love that keeps us in existence; His love has given us everything we have, including those we love. And in His love for us, He wishes us to love Him in return, and so to be close to Him; and in fact, One with Him.
How and where does this union with God begin to take place? Well it begins with our baptism. In our baptism our soul was given the capacity to become One with God. And then through the other Sacraments, if we receive them with a proper disposition, this union is nourished, grows and becomes perfected. That is, as long as we continue to give our yes and cooperate with this plan of God by keeping His Commandments with the help of His grace and offering our hearts to Him more and more completely.

And the primary place where we come to give our yes and cooperate with this plan of God and offer ourselves to Him is at the Holy Mass, each and every week. This is why the Holy Mass is called the “wedding feast of the Lamb.” It is the place were Jesus, the Bridegroom, literally comes down from Heaven anew in the flesh, in the Holy Eucharist and gives His yes, His “I Do” to His bride the Church, that is to each one of us when He says, “This is my Body, given up for you.” “This is my blood given up for you.” Jesus is here saying, I love you so much that not only do I give you my “I do” but I offer you my total self, all that I am and have, the fullness of my love, my complete self-Body, Blood, and Soul. And because Jesus is God, this means He is saying as well, I give you even the fullness of my Divinity.

But in order for this union of our soul to God to take placed at the Wedding Feast of all wedding feast, which is the Holy Mass, we--you and I must give our “I do” in response to Jesus’ “I do.” Think about it this way, what happens if at wedding between a man and woman, one or more of them refuses to say “I do,” or says “I do,” and really doesn’t mean it. In this case, does a wedding occur, is the marriage real or valid? Or is it a wedding if one of the two doesn’t show up or shows up but doesn’t participate? Of course not. Both man and the woman must freely, in love, give their “I Do” to each other, which means offer their complete self to one another. In other words, each one must say in a sense, “This is my body given up for you; in love, I give myself to you forever in order to become one with you in union of unending love.”

A man and wife, if they say these most beautiful of words, and if they mean these words, then the two of them will become one in love. And then these beautiful wedding vows are consummated; which means they become one forever until death do them part, not only in words but also in the flesh, during the marital act the night of the wedding. The fruit of this union is life and joy, not only for the couple themselves, but also for another person who is conceived and born as a fruit of this union of love.

So too, and even in more perfect way at the Holy Mass. If we give our “I do” to God, offering to Him at the Altar our complete “yes” our complete self in love we to can become one with God, not only until death do us part but for ever. In fact, at the Holy Mass our “I do” our wedding vows with God also become consummated at the martial act of the Holy Mass. And the Marital act of the Holy Mass is Holy Communion where we become “one flesh” with Jesus when we consume His Body into ours, His blood into ours. The fruit of this union is eternal life and joy, not only for ourselves, but also for other souls who will through our living communion and union with God, come to be born again in the spirit and so share in this eternal union of love with God as well.

This is why we must do more than just show up for Holy Mass. We must participate actively, fully, consciously, and fruitfully at the Holy Mass. For the marriage of our souls to God to occur at Holy Mass, we too, like a husband and wife must more and more completely give ourselves to God, Who comes again and gives himself to Us. In fact, our Holy Communion with God at Holy Communion only bears fruit in our lives, in our families and in our world to the extent we give our selves to God in love—In other words, communion only turns to union with the two say “I do” and mean it. And in our cause, live out our “I do” faithfully in our daily lives for Love of God and for love of neighbor for love of God.

And,this is why we need the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She was the one who most perfectly gave her yes, her “I do,” the gift of our complete self to God. She will help us at each and every Holy Mass we attend to more and more trustingly give ourselves to God. She will obtain for us the grace to live our life, like she did, faithful to our yes to God by doing whatever He tells us and giving our self to Him completely at Holy Mass thus bearing great fruit in our life—the fruit of holiness—oneness with God. She will then use us to lead others to the “Wedding Feast of the Lamb” and so come to share in the consummation of love for all of eternity.



Tuesday, January 5, 2016

This is the true meaning of Christmas and its gift giving, to loving give the gift of our heart, to the One, Jesus who first gives us the gift of His.

As we continue in our great Celebration of Christmas, we come to today’s feast. Today we celebrate the feast of Epiphany. Epiphany, the day the three wise men came from a far to Bethlehem to adore the newborn King. Epiphany, which means manifestation, was the day that through the Wisemen, Christ was made Manifest to all the world, not just to the Jews, but the gentiles as well.

We know the Wisemen or Magi were probably astrologers, philosophers or maybe even Magicians before they were converted to the Christ Child. Their gifts are symbols to tell-reveal to the whole world both who this newborn Child really is and what is His mission. But the gifts also reveal to us who we are and what we are to do before this newborn king as well, that is how we are to act and what we, you and me, are to offer to Him.

With regards to who Jesus is; the Gold they offered signifies their tribute to Him as King of all kings. The incense shows us their faith that this seemingly ordinary child was indeed the true God Himself in the flesh, and thus worthy of our worship and adoration...incense is only offered to God. And the Myrrh, which was used to embalm dead bodies reveals to us Jesus' mission. It reveals to us that now God, the second person of the Blessed Trinity has become Man. Jesus, the God-Man born into this world not to live but to die, so that each of us might have life as beloved sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father; this is His mission.

And so in faith, the Magi come to adore the God King become man, who was before them in silence and poverty as a little child. In silence and poverty as well, they not only kneel down in adoration but they prostrate, on their faces in adoration before their King and their God. They offer God in Person their finest gifts. But these exterior gifts were “manifestations” if you will, of a much greater gift, the gift of their hearts, the gift of all that they had, and all that they were, the complete offering of themselves in love.

The three Wisemen are led to their God by a star. We discover that the star of the epiphany over the crib is Bethlehem is an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the star of the east who always points the way to Christmas, to Christ’s Mass; and so, to the true presence there of God still in the flesh in the Holy Eucharist. In this we can say Mary Christ Mass.

Here, at Holy Mass, at Christ’s Mass, in the modern stable of the Church we, as sons and daughters of the Most High, are to imitate the Wisemen and come before the newborn king reborn in the flesh on the crib of the altar of sacrifice though the miracle of Transubstantion. And so the actions of the Wisemen reveal to us as well, what we are to do before the newborn King born a new on the sacred altar at every sacrifice of the Mass and always present in the tabernacle for us to come and adore.

Before the Eucharistic newborn King, we just like the Wisemen, are to adore the newborn King in great reverence, poverty and silence. We too should kneel; and dare I say, even prostrate before the Lord our God. And there with great faith, we too are to bring our finest gifts before the God-King but not just gold, incense, and Myrrh.

In our case, the gold we are to give to the Person of Jesus is the treasure of all of our heart, all of our love offered to Jesus' Sacred Heart which is made truly present in the flesh and alive and beating for love of us in the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Incense we are to offer is the sweat fragrance of our good works, of our little acts of love done each day to show our Love of God and those acts done to others for love of God...all that we think, say and do for love of God first, and then for love of neighbor for love of God. Of course, the best way to offer the incense of our daily good works is to offer them, to Jesus through Mary.

And what of the Myrrh? The myrrh is the very sacrifice of our will, of our life, of our complete self, on this altar of sacrifice in loving response to the God who sacrifices Himself anew for us; to intend to live from this day on, more perfectly within the Holy Will of God.

But the sacrifice of our gifts, of ourselves isn’t the end. When we leave our gifts before Jesus newly born on the altar, He, never being outdone in generosity or love, repays the sacrifice of our gift of self with something not even the Wisemen were able to experience. Jesus leaves the crib and offers us the True Gift of Christmas, the gift Himself in the flesh, body, blood, soul and divinity…His complete gift of self in Holy Communion.

And through our Holy Communion with Him, He will possess our hearts and consume us in His love, staying within us through His Spirit even after we return home. But he can only remain within our hearts, if we leave all our earthly treasures behind and open our hearts, offer our hearts as the true gifts of Christmas to the Christ Child, just as did the three Wisemen, which is why they were wise.

This is the true meaning of Christmas and its gift giving, to loving give the gift of our heart, to the One, Jesus who first gives us the gift of His.

As result as our encounter at Holy Mass, with His true presence, with His once and for all sacrifice for us, and with our Communion with the God-King, newly born at every Holy Mass, how can we not allow ourselves to be changed by Jesus when we receive Him? We are told that after the three kings experienced Jesus they left and return to their country by another way. This "other way signifies" that once we have an encounter with the incarnate God in the Eucharist we too must leave by another way…that is we must leave this Church changed by the encounter, we must leave the old behind and begin to live anew in Christ and with Christ.

Now that we have been lead to Him and found Him, we must, absolutely must allow ourselves to be changed by this real encounter with the Christ Child, truly, personally and physically present in the Holy Eucharist. We must live another way than we have in the past. By our lives we ourselves must now manifest, reveal Jesus to the world around us—Our lives must be an epiphany of Christ and His love to others.

But before we can be transformed into the living Image of Jesus in order to manifest Him to our world, so steeped in the darkness of sin, we must offer God true worship—not just correct exterior worship as important and necessary as this is, but even more importantly correct interior worship. In other words, the Wisemen’s gifts were not just an exterior worship of God in the flesh before them. Their gifts corresponded with their interior worship which was the offering of their hearts, their complete selves to God, present in the flesh in the Christ Child. So to with us at Holy Mass. We can not just offer Jesus exterior worship, we must do this yes, and very well, but more importantly, our exterior must correspond with our interior worship, the offering of the gift of our hearts, all that we have and are for love of Jesus…this is adoration and true worship of God and this is what the gift of the Wisemen ultimately signify.

We like the Wisemen need to turn to the Star of the East, Mary, Our Blessed Mother, and ask her to help deepen our own faith, hope and love for the Christ Child-God in still present in the flesh on earth in the Holy Eucharist. The Mother of God is present at every Holy Mass in order to help us to adore her Son. By offering our hearts to Him through her hands, she will present them to her Child as if they were her own. He hands will be the living paten on which we place our heart to offer them to Jesus. She will them help us to trust in Jesus and cut any strings which prevent us from giving them totally to Him, in strings which are holding our hearts to this earth preventing us from becoming One with God. Jesus will accept our hearts from Her, She will obtain for us the grace to live out our self-offering in our daily lives, so that we can bring Christ to others and so lead them to union with God as well.

Holy Mary, stella Maris, stella orientis—Holy Mary, star of the sea, star of the east pray for us, lead us safely to Jesus; to Jesus born anew on our Altars and who awaits night and day, and so many times alone, for adorers to come and adore Him in all the tabernacles of the world, so that He can fill them with His Divine Love, with the gift of His very self, He who is love itself. Dear Mother, help us to become those true adorers for whom the Father is searching, those who will adore Him in Spirit and in Truth, that is, in the truth of the Person of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and through the power of the Holy Spirit, and live that true adoration of God out in our daily lives, doing all we do for love of God and love of neighbor for love of God manifesting and bringing the light, love and mercy of Jesus, bringing Jesus Himself to the world. Amen.