Sunday, July 16, 2017

The reality is, is that we all need the fertilizer of God’s Grace to help us prepare the soil and help the seed grow in us and so bear fruit in our lives

July 16th, 2017. Fifteen Sunday in Ordinary Time. Matthew 13;1-23

Today we read a very familiar passage-a parable we have heard many times. Jesus speaks to us about the planting of seeds—about the soil, how it grows and ultimately the harvest. The soil is our souls and the seed is the Word of God. I think we would all like to imagine that our hearts are the good soil and that we do produce a good harvest. But perhaps the truth is that we are not as open to the Word of God as we should be, or that even though we try we don’t seem to producing the fruit of growing closer to Jesus and bring many others to Him as well. The reality is, is that we all need the fertilizer of God’s Grace to help us prepare the soil and help the seed grow in us and so bear fruit in our lives.

Today’s gospel points out the obstacles of the world which try to hinder us from allowing the word of God to fully take root in our hearts and minds, in the seedbed of our faith. It is a message, not of condemnation but of hope and encouragement. For the Word of God is powerful and effective and It can change the lives of those who listen to It and accept It into their hearts, even if in the past they have been rocky hard soil and have succumbed to obstacles. If they turn to Jesus and enter into His rest and allow him, He can prepare them to receive the Word, that is to receive Him, and so bear the fruit that will last for eternal life.

First, Jesus speaks of the devil who like a crow, steals away the seed before it even has a chance to grow. Our world today is full of the “spirit of the evil one”, the “father of lies.” Even though it has much good, our western culture nonetheless is one steeped in many, many lies, lies that lead to many injustices against those who are the most vulnerable. The lies are often justified with reasons such as “it’s my choice” or “it was for the good of other,” or it didn’t hurt anybody,” Or I deserved it.” And not only are great injustices done to others, there is also very little done to prevent injustices or to repair the damage once done (reparation).

In this environment the devil tries very subtly to make us question basic truths of our faith that come to us through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. It begins with a question we have about some aspect of our faith--nothing wrong with questions, questions mean our intelligence is searching for the truth; however, instead of forming our intellect and enriching our faith with and through the teachings of the Church, we choose to hear the voice of the world telling us the Church is wrong and out of date. The spirit of untruth tries to convince us that truth is not absolute but evolves and changes over time and according to individual circumstances and preferences.

To combat this obstacle to our faith, we discover that for the Word of God, which is ever constant and ever new, to take deep root in our minds and hearts, we must prepare the soil of our souls in order to make it good soil so the devil can’t snatch it away from us. We do so, by studying and meditating on the truth that comes from God, because God is Truth. This truth is from the Word of God found both in Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition. Sacred Tradition is the teachings of Jesus given to the Apostles and passed down through and by the Church in her official teachings and preaching. Sacred Scripture springs forth from Sacred Tradition as truths that have been written down through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for the sake of our salvation.

Additionally if we work the soil, the seeds of faith which are sown when we hear the Gospel proclaimed and explained each week can more and more begin to produce fruit in our lives and consequently we can begin to more fully have a living and vibrant faith. We need to humbly ask God for help in order to open ourselves more fully to the seed of God’s truth. And He will help us, if we do our part by listening more carefully to the prayers and readings, especially the Gospel, in order to understand and remember what we hear in the homily. Christ speaks to His people in and through His priest, however, limited and unworthy the priest may be. The priest may be a more or less effective homilist, his message may come through loud and clear or dull and garbled, it may seem too long, we may like him or not, but God nonetheless can and does speak to you and me through him, if we keep the soil ready. It’s the message that is important, not the messenger. And if the priest is not a good preacher then by your prayers and sacrifices you can make him better.

Other obstacles to the Word of God not taking root are similar. These obstacles stem from trials, persecutions, or from caring too much for material things or security. At the root of these obstacles is something fundamental to all humans and that is- we fear suffering, we do not like to suffer in any way. When we have trials our greatest fears are realized. In the midst of our trials we look at others who seemingly have no problems and we begin to think, “If God were really good, He would just change or remove all of my problems…maybe he doesn’t love me.”

Likewise, in persecutions, we fear being ridiculed for our faith. We don’t want to suffer being embarrassed or ashamed. We fear the loss of human respect, much more than offending our Blessed Lord. Or our fear also stems from our lack of knowledge of our faith which prevents us from being able to stand up to other’s who mock our faith and call the Church’s teaching into question. In caring too much about worldly and material security or comfort, we fear that we might have to do without or be inconvenienced.

In our efforts to overcome all of these obstacles, we discover that we have to suffer; suffering is a part of our life. Without suffering a little, we would not be able to grow in virtue and character in order to become stronger. Many suffer through great trials in order to obtain the things of this world—wealth, power and pleasure. We should be willing to sacrifice and even suffer as much or even more to grow closer to God and obtain union with Him and to lead others to Him. In our sufferings, especially in our sufferings for Christ, for His Holy Word and His Holy Church, St. Paul today encourages us not too lose heart; “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.”

Let us today, as we celebrate this Holy Mass, remember that blessed are we who hear and see. Let us enter into the rest of the Lord and ask Jesus to make our hearts the good soil for His work. He will do the work for us, He will carry our burden, if we but turn to Him in silence and lay open our souls before Him and let Him enter fully In. As we continue to hear the Word of God speak to us, let us hear with our ears; as we see the Word of God become Flesh in the Holy Eucharist, let us open our eyes and see; and as we receive the Word of God come to us—Jesus at Holy Communion, let us adore; all so that we may understand with our hearts and be converted and healed and so bear great fruit, the fruit of bringing many others into the eternal rest of the Lord. Let us ask our Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel to help us to do as she did; that is, surrender all to God and He will do the rest!!! Amen. God bless you!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Let us experience a life of leisure and enter into the Rest of the Lord!

Matthew 11; 25-30. Fourthteen Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 9th, 2017
This weekend after the Fourth of July Holiday, we find ourselves in the midst of the Summer. Summer is, of course, a time of leisure, and leisurely activities. It is time to take vacations in order to get away from work and find some rest and relaxation.

Today’s Holy Gospel is then very apropos, for it points to the true meaning of leisure. It is perhaps the most consoling gospel in all of Scripture for it contains the most reassuring invitation in all of history, one that promises us the greatest of all blessings. It is the invitation to experience a life of leisure in the Lord. It is a call to the Sabbath, which is to literally share in the rest of the Lord.

After God created the world we are told on the Seventh day, the Sabbath, He rested. But this doesn’t mean he was tired and so needed to rest; no, but that all of His work of creation was completed and so fulfilled in it’s purpose. And it’s purpose is found in man. God’s work of Creation was and is for us, the only creature that God has created for Himself. His beautiful works are for us, so that we could see the goodness of the Lord and so come to Him, in order to learn from Him to be able to rest in Him. All of creation springs from Him and all of creation is called back to Him. This is especially case with regards to man. .

Every human heart contains within it then, a restlessness which is trying to be tamed, a void which is trying to be filled. It can be a great burden for the human heart, a intense labor for the human spirit. But it is so, only to the degree that we try to do the work ourselves of finding rest. Because Man too often tries to fill the restlessness of his heart with his own effort, because Man tries to labor to find his own rest, his own leisure, his own fulfillment in this world alone, he sadly experiences an overwhelming and heavy burden, a burden that he is unable to bear and which crushes his hope and joy beneath its weight….for man will never find His rest through his own work, he will never find his rest here on this earth…here we have no everlasting home, no everlasting peace, no everlasting rest.

Jesus today gives us an answer to ease our labor and lighten our burdens to quell to the restlessness of our heart. Jesus says to us now and always, ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I myself will give you rest,’ In other words Jesus himself will do the work for us. We need to merely come to Him and open ourselves up to learn from Him, all in order to receive Him. To enter into the rest of the Lord then requires a receptivity on our part not a working.

And so we discover the true meaning of leisure. Leisure time is not just time away from work; it is this yes, but it is more. Leisure is not just a time for entertainment or pleasure as if for a distraction from the burdens and restlessness of this life. No, Leisure is really a time to come before the Lord in order to rest. But not just to rest in the sense of doing nothing, but in the sense of resting in God.

To have leisure is to come before the Lord our God and hear Him say to each one of us personally, “Be still and know that I am the Lord your God…” In other words, be silent, listen and you will learn from me and find your rest. By entering into my rest, my Sabbath, you will find your meaning, your fulfillment, not in work, not in doing something or accomplishing something or becoming something in this world, but you will find your purpose in me.

For us Catholics the sabbath is Sunday. And it is at the Sunday Mass that we can literally physically come to Jesus, to learn from Him and to receive Him so as to enter into the His Sabbath rest. The Holy Mass is the work of the Lord, not our own. And it is there that we can learn from Him in the proclamation of the Gospel and receive Him in the Holy Eucharist. In the Holy Eucharist Jesus enters into us. And if we are receptive to Him, open to Him by the repentance of our sins and seeking His mercy and forgiveness through the Sacrament of Confession; if we trust in Him by offering ourselves to Him, then we can enter into Him and experience His rest by resting in Him, being one with Him. He brings us into union with Him, we don’t bring ourselves into union with Him .

When on vacation and enjoying leisure as family, no matter where we were and sometimes even against angry opposition from extended family and friends who may have been with us, my parents made sure we made it to Sunday Mass. By their example, they taught us kids what was at the heart of a leisurely vacation. Along these same lines St John Paul II once reminded us that Vacation is not a vacation from God, but a vacation for God.

The true meaning of a vacation is to give us time away from the hustle and bustle of life and work in order to draw closer to God. In this way it is truly leisure. This is also the true meaning of Holiday. H-O-L-I-DAY comes from H-O-L-Y DAY. Certain times and days set aside and transferred to the exclusive property of God. Certain times and days to set everything aside in order to come before the Lord in order to receive all that He has to give us, and this includes His all, His whole self. It is not a time for merely for doing, but a time for being. In other words, it is a time for receptivity, to go before the Lord in order to receive the Good, the True and the Beautiful which is God Himself.

Isn’t this why so many enjoy vacation in which they spend time in the beauty and majesty of nature…because the good, true and beautiful things of this world although they are merely reflections, pale images, only shadows of the One who created them, they nonetheless point to the Creator, He Who Is Goodness, Truth and Beauty Itself. It is a profound experience to sit in silence before the majesty of God’s creation, but even more so to sit in silence before Him.

Silence is to put away the noise of the world, in order to be receptive to the Lord. Noise includes not only all that we hear, but also all that we see and read. To be receptive is to set them aside in order to come in silence before the Lord and be able to hear Him speak, to close our eyes in order to focus our gaze on the Lord, or better yet to experience His loving Gaze on us, so as to allow it to penetrate our being with His love.
Only in silence do we hear. Only in silence can we put aside the amusements of the world, its entertainments of the senses, to put aside consumption in the things of this world, not matter how good they may be, all in order to Be still with the Lord and rest in Him. “Oh Lord, I am so tired with all that I see and hear, for only in you is all that I desire, make me one in your truth…” (Thomas A Kempis). Make me one with You my God, then will I be able to truly experience leisure and to obtain rest

To contemplate God and His mystery, to meditate on Him and His goodness, reflect on Him and so to be receptive to Him and His love, these all require silence because they are acts of reception, not of doing. This idea of receptivity is hard for us, because our current age tells us that the important thing is getting something done and getting somewhere in this life. But true activity, the fullest form of activity is found not in exterior life and action but in the interior stillness and quietness of the presence of the Lord…Martha, Martha you are anxious about many things but one thing alone is needed and Mary has chosen the better part…to sit at the feet of the Master and hear Him speak and experience His loving gaze…

Cardinal Sarah, the Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship, recently wrote a book on the great need for us moderns to rediscover silence in order to have rest. The book is entitled: “The power of Silence against the Dictatorship of noise.” He writes, “When creation knows how to place itself in silence, God makes His voice heard.” The Cardinal says, “Silence not for the sake of just absence from noise but to be still before the Lord and to receive His rest. Silence is the what creates the environment which makes it possible to welcome the incarnation…to welcome the God that comes among us as one of us in order to be revived by us so that we may enter into profound communion, union with Him.

In his book, and in many of his talks, the Cardinal points out as well the great importance and necessity of times of silence in the Liturgy, silence so that we can hear the Lord speak to us and open ourselves up to God’s initiative and accept all grace which comes from Him. At Holy Mass we are not before the beauty of God’s creation found in nature but we are before the Majesty of the Lord Himself in the Holy Eucharist; how much more then we should be silent before this majesty.

This reminds us how important and necessity are times of silence in the Holy Mass, so that we can hear the Lord speak to us and teach us and open ourselves up to God’s initiative and accept all grace which comes from Him. At Holy Mass we are not before the beauty of God’s creation found in nature but we are before the Majesty of the Lord Himself in the Holy Eucharist; how much more then we should be silent before this majesty.

In so many ways, we have allow the noise of the world to enter into the Sacred Liturgy. The Holy Mass as been filled with a cacophony of unworthy music, talking, instructing, hand gestures and Hand shaking. Any times of silence during the Holy Mass are met with uneasiness and questioning, “did father forget his place…”. And Sacred Words which were in the past only said in a low voice (vox secreta) because they are so holy and sacred and directed directly to the face of the Heavenly Father, are now blared out over the loud Speaker and said while looking out over the people. We fill up every second with some type of noise, even after we have receive the Body of the Lord in Holy Communion.

And silence is particularly important after Holy Communion when we have literally received the Lord, sacred silence, so we can listen to Him, He Who is now in our own body and soul. Silence is needed in fact, whenever we are before the Eucharistic Lord in the Tabernacle so that we can hear Him and allow others to hear Him speak…this is why we were taught rightly, never to talk in Church because the Lord is there in the Tabernacle, before, during and after Holy Mass. Our sisters at the hospital know this and why they placed on the sign out side of this chapel a reminder to please keep silence in this sacred place always, because the Lord is here and it is place of silent rest. In the halls of this hospital there are signs from the sisters to keep quiet in the halls because patients are resting, so too we must keep silence in the chapel because people come here to rest in the silence of the Lord and we should not disturb them by noise.

And finally, we have made the Holy Mass into something we do—the work of the people instead of something the Lord does—the work of the Lord; it is in so many ways no longer a place of rest, of being with the Lord but instead a place of “doing” of “working”. The active or actual participation called for by the Fathers of the Vatican II has been misinterpreted as external action—the people all have to do something; we need to find an active role for as many of the people as possible. But the Holy Mass is the place of Sabbath rest; it is again, we were are called to come to the Lord, learn from Him for He is humble and gentle of heart. At the Holy He does the work for us (He died on the cross not us), we just have to be still and know that He is the Lord. Our work is one of internal participation, it is the work of receptivity; that is of opening our hearts, offering our hearts and then waiting patiently and silently on the Lord. It is He who refreshes us, not we who refresh ourself; it is He who lifts us up to the Father through His Sacrifice on the Cross and through the gift of of Himself in the Holy Eucharist, not we who lift ourselves up by our own goodness and self-righteousness.

So many in our world are so tired, so many in our world long for rest. Many unknowingly try to find rest in the all the wrong places and things. So many others have left the temple of the Lord and no longer go to Holy Mass and so no longer enter into the Sabbath rest of the Lord in order to be refreshed by Him. As more and more Catholics leave the rest of the Lord the world it self become noiser, more restless, more tired. Only we can lead it to the rest it longs for, the Holy Mass, which is the eternal Sabbath made present on earth and which leads those who come to into the eternal Rest of the Lord. True Leisure is to be found only in the Lord, Our true Rest is only in the Lord. “Our hearts are truly restless until they rest in you O Lord” (St Augustine).

Let us turn to Our Lady to help us to learn to become silent. ”Mary, Mother of God teach me to be still before the Lord. Then listening, I’ll understand God’s Holy Word, so as to receive more fully His Holy Word become flesh in the Holy Eucharist, in order to live more perfectly His Holy Word in my life, one with His Holy Word, which is Jesus, bringing His mercy and love to the world so laboring under its burden of sin. Holy Mary mother of Silence, Mother of our Rest, pray for us. Amen.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Matthew 10: 37-42Thirteen Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 2nd, 2017

Most times homilies given at Holy Mass are based on the Gospel, but today I want to base this homily on our Second reading. In today’s second reading we have heard from St. Paul from the letter to the Romans. This past week we celebrated the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul; and so, it would be good to talk about St. Paul today.

In this letter St. Paul gives us advice about common struggles in our lives of faith. The Baptized Romans in Paul’s time were struggling with living out their faith just like we do. They found themselves struggling with a culture literally immersed in sin; especially the sin of hedonism--hedonism is the enjoyment of pleasure, entertainment and comfort in a way that is in opposition to the Holy Will of God. It’s not that God never wants us to enjoy pleasure, comfort or entertainment but that we must do so in a moral way, never placing our own will before His Will; in other words, To order our loves properly, never placing pleasure, comfort or entertainment, love of self before love of God and neighbor-to love God even more than our parents, spouses ect.

Pleasure, comfort and entertainment in Paul’s time had become the peoples’ god. While God, the true God was merely paid lip service, if even that. The people of God had become weak. Excessive pleasure and comfort had actually dulled their consciences. Some so much so that they had lost even a sense of sin thinking themselves good enough; theirs became a religion without sacrifice. But even for those who were still aware of their sinfulness, those who were still struggling to leave sin behind so as to conform themselves to the Gospel, that is to Christ, the hedonism of the day had infected them as well. And so they struggled to understand why was it, that if they had received the powerful life transforming grace of baptism, they weren’t making any progress in overcoming sin so as to be more conformed to Christ. They had begun to lose faith that the real power in this world is in the Sacraments of the Church; and so that effect of that power had been weakened in their lives and so in the world in their times.

In this we discover that St. Paul’s time is much like our own time. Even though St. Paul wrote close to 2,000 years ago, his inspired writings still of course have great relevance in our lives today, maybe more than ever. The constant struggle between good and evil played out in our own lives, within our own selves, is the same as in Paul’s day. It is a struggle, better yet, a war being waged between our souls and our bodies, between the Spirit of God and the disordered desires of the flesh, that is our passions and our fallen human nature; it is a battle between selfishness and selflessnes; it is a battle within

For us who are trying to follow God faithfully, our soul or spirit desires to do good, to follow the Gospel; it desires to be kind and considerate to our neighbor, to our family and even to share with them the truth of our faith courageously and with confidence. But instead, we often are short tempered or fearful, or just plain rude because we are in a bad mood. Many of us truly do desire to repent from our sinfulness and convert to truth in order to draw closer in intimacy with Jesus. Yet, sin is so attractive that it seems we will never be able to turn away from it; it seems that following Jesus is just too hard and demanding for us, and we love our own will. Comfort is much easier. As Saint Paul himself says, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. In his letter, St. Paul addresses people who are perhaps down on themselves in their struggles and failures; perhaps he addresses me and you.

St. Paul first reminds them and us that we were baptized and so have received the Holy Spirit. He says, “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also.” St. Paul reminds us that our baptism is a baptism into Jesus own death and resurrection. Through our own baptism, we have all then died to that spirit of the world that opposes the Spirit of God. The death that works within us, that being the death of sin, is now reborn with the grace of Christ, who defeated death-sin on the cross. As Jesus was resurrected, so too are we resurrected or born again in the life of grace; and so in part, we share already in Christ’s victory of sin and death. The grace we have received in baptism has the power to give us all of the strength, courage, perseverance we need to finally win in our struggle with sin within ourselves. But first we must first have faith in this Divine Power, call upon it, trust in it and in Charity use it and cooperate with it in our lives, persevering to the end of our lives on earth no matter the effort needed.

The problem is that too often we don’t call upon and so use the grace of our baptism; instead, we can be so lazy, spiritually speaking. We too often, really don’t put up a big enough struggle to resist sin in order to practice virtue, and so we weaken or even lose our Baptismal Grace. St. Paul puts it this way, “you have not yet resisted (agains sin) to the shedding of your blood,” so in other words we need to keep trying harder with the help of God’s grace. So many times we extend so much effort in the other activities of our life, but yet when it comes to our external salvation we don’t seem to think it’s worth the effort that is needed. Many there are who work hard for a crown that withers and fades, so work harder for the crown that never perishes, the crown of eternal life... Many don’t think that an effort even needs to be made, after all everyone goes to heaven. St. Paul says instead, “Work out your Salvation with fear and trembling”. He knew that even he could have lost eternal life; if so St. Paul, what about us?

St. Paul today encourages us that we are not debtors of the flesh, to live according to the flesh and its desires. If we live according to the flesh and its desires, we will die (everlastingly); this is the truth, plain and simple. But, if by the Power of the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the body we will live; this also is the truth plain and simple. We have that Spirit available to us because we have been baptized into Christ death and resurrection; and so, what hope we possess within us.

All of this, of course, (as we know) doesn’t remove us from the struggle against sin. And Sacramental grace doesn’t make it easy, but it does make it possible for us to overcome sin, if we only but desire it and make the effort…we have to be determined. If we are not yet saints the problem isn’t with the grace of our baptism or the power of the other Sacraments; no, the problem is with us, its that we don’t desire enough to be saints; perhaps we too, as the Christians of Paul’s day, have becoming lovers of comfort and ease. However, in our struggle, Paul reminds us, we to have the Holy Spirit which is the Power and the Love of God, given to us mainly though the sacraments; it is the will power in this world, the divine Power to change our hearts, to make us Saints, that is one with God in the image of Christ Jesus. As the saying goes, “we just gotta want it”…after all we’re talking about eternity here and our eternal happiness; as well as the eternal happiness of other souls. The Holy Spirit wants to help us to want it more than anything or anyone else; and so He leads us to the Sacraments of the Church in order to accomplish His work and bring the grace of our baptism to its completion in the perfection of love.

The Sacraments are intimate encounters with Christ, where we can take the burden of our sins and our labor to resist them, and give them to Christ’s redeeming Power. If we have lost the grace of our baptism or it’s power has become weak in our lives because of our failure to cooperate with it in order to resist the temptations of our flesh; as a result, if we have given into our passions in a disordered and moral way, then all is not lost, we can turn to Christ in Confession and have the heavy burden of our guilt taken away and our weaken state healed and strengthened.

And if we need to nourish our soul because it has become thirsty for Christ’s love we can come to Holy Mass and give ourselves to Christ in order for Him to quench our thirst in Holy Communion. Feeding on His true flesh and blood nourishes our soul, increases our love and so makes us stronger to overcome the disordered desires of our flesh and blood, to overcome our in ordinate love of comfort and so to overcome our disordered loves. May we today, in receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, the fullness of Jesus Christ and His grace and power and love, beg our Lord for grace for this coming week and everyday of our remaining life to struggle and to never give up hope in our struggle against the one thing that keeps us from God’s love and union with Him—sin. Oh Mary conceived without original sin, pray for us sinners who have recourse to thee. Amen.