Sunday, December 2, 2007

Pope Benedict' new encyclical - spe salvi


“SPE SALVI facti sumus”—in hope we were saved, says Saint Paul to the Romans, and likewise to us (Rom 8:24). According to the Christian faith, “redemption”—salvation—is not simply a given. Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey. Now the question immediately arises: what sort of hope could ever justify the statement that, on the basis of that hope and simply because it exists, we are redeemed? And what sort of certainty is involved here?...


Family Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Family Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Prayer steps to consecrating your family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
The family consecration

It is an act whereby the family devotes itself to the Sacred Heart as to its King, recognizes Him as its King, and promises to make Him reign and rule over the whole family.

Two elements
1. the head of the family recognizes the right of the Sacred Heart to rule over his family
2. an act of the will, by which he submits both himself and his family to the dominion of the Sacred Heart

Obligations of the family
1. to keep God's commandments and precepts of the Church
2. to discharge the duties of their state of life
3. to avoid whatever displeases the Sacred Heart, whatever endangers faith and morals
4. to imitate the virtues shone in the Holy Family of Nazareth: mutual charity, obedience,
5. prayer, purity and devotion to work
6. to cultivate a spirit of true piety by
* night prayers in common
* assistance in Mass
* frequent communion
* devotion to the Sacred Heart (on First Fridays and Feast day)
* Visible manifestation
* The image of the Sacred Heart must occupy a prominent place of honor.
* Members of the family must greet Him on coming in and going out of the house (through words of praise).
* They will share with Him reunions and rejoicings, making Him truly a member of the family.
* The family will best pray in common before Him especially in times of difficulties
(also on First Fridays and feast of the Sacred Heart)

Ceremony preparation
- set the consecration on a day when all members of the family can be present
- decorate the image with flowers and candles in a prominent, permanent place
- prepare the family internally by confession, Mass and communion
- obtain a diploma of consecration where members will sign their names.

Blessing of the home
- members of the family carry lighted candles
- recitation of "the Apostles' creed"
- all kneel for the solemn act
- the father of the family recites:

O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus,
You revealed to St. Margaret Mary Your desire to rule over Christian families;
behold, in order to please You, we gather before You this day,
to proclaim Your full sovereignty over our family.
We desire henceforth to live Your life; we desire that the virtues,
to which You have promised peace on earth, may flower in the bosom of our family;
we desire to keep far from us the spirit of the world, which You have condemned.
You are King of our minds by the simplicity of our faith;
you are King of our hearts by our love for You alone, with which our hearts are on fire,
and whose flame we shall keep alive by frequently receiving the Holy Eucharist.
Be pleased, O Sacred Heart, to preside over our gathering together,
to bless our spiritual and temporal affairs, to ward off all annoyance from us,
to sanctify our joys and comfort our sorrows.
If any of us has ever been so unhappy as to fall into the misery of displeasing you,
grant that we may remember, O Heart of Jesus,
that You are full of goodness and mercy toward the repentant sinner.
And when the hour of separation strikes and death enters our family circle,
whether we go or whether we stay, we shall bow humbly before Your eternal decrees.
This shall be our consolation to remember that the day will come when our entire family,
once more united in heaven, shall be able to sing of Your glory and Your goodness forever.
May the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the glorious patriarch St. Joseph
deign to offer You our act of consecration,
and to keep the memory of it alive in us all the days of our lives.
Glory to the Heart of Jesus, our King and our Father.The whole family recites in unison:We consecrate to You, O Heart of Jesus, the trials and joys,
and all the happiness of our family life,
and we beg you, to pour out Your best blessings, on all its members,
present and absent, living and dead.
And when one after the other, we shall have closed our eyes in holy death,
O Jesus, may all of us in paradise, find again our entire family, united in Your Sacred Heart. Amen.

Recitation of the Litany of the Sacred Heart

Lord, have mercy on us
Christ, have mercy on us
Lord, have mercy on us
Christ, hear us
Christ, graciously hear us,
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit, in the womb of the Virgin Mother, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, substantially united to the Word of God, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, of infinite majesty, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, sacred Temple of God, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, tabernacle of the Most High, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, house of God and Gate of Heaven, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, burning furnace of charity, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, abode of justice and love, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, abyss of all virtues, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, most worthy of all praise, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, King and center of all hearts, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, in whom dwells the fullness of divinity, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, in whom the Father was well pleased, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, desire of the everlasting hills, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, patient and most merciful, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, enriching all who invoke You, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, fountain of life and holiness, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, propitiation for our sins, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, loaded down with reproaches, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, bruised for our offenses, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, obedient unto death, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, pierced with a lance, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, our peace and reconciliation, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, victim of sin, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, salvation of those who trust in You, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, hope of those who die in You, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, delight of all the saints, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, spare us O Lord.
Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Jesus, meek and humble of Heart, make our hearts like unto Thine.

Let us pray:

O almighty and eternal God, look upon the Heart of Your dearly beloved Son, and upon the praise and sanctification He offers You in behalf of sinners, and being appeased, grant pardon to those who seek Your mercy, in the name of the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns in You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.

Prayer for the departed members of the family

Our Father...
Hail Mary...
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.


Sacred Heart of Jesus, Your Kingdom come.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, protect our families.
Heart of Jesus burning with love of us, set our hearts on fire with love of You.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in You.
Sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation.
Glory, love and thanksgiving be to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Final hymn
Signing of the consecration dimploma
Indulgence gained
plenary indulgence - confession and communionindulgence of 7 years

Renewal of the family consecration to the Sacred Heart
This done every year on the first anniversary or feast of the Sacred Heart or Christ the King or any important family occasion.

apostles' creed
act of consecration
prayer for departed members
prayer for the family

O God of goodness and mercy,
to Your fatherly protection we commend our family, our household, and all that belong to us.
We commit all to Your love and keeping.
Fill this house with Your blessing
even as You filled the holy house of Nazareth with Your presence.
Keep far from us, above all things else, the taint of sin and reign alone in our midst by Your law,
by Your most Holy Love and by the exercise of every Christian virtue.
Let each one of us obey You, love You, and set himself to imitate in his own life Your example,
that of Mary, Your Mother and our Most loving Mother,
and that of Your blameless guardian, St. Joseph.
Preserve us and our house from all evils and misfortunes,
and grant that we may always be resigned to Your divine will
even in the sorrows which it may please You to send us.
Finally, give to all of us the grace to live in perfect harmony
and in the fullness of love toward our neighbor.
Grant that every one of us may deserve, by a holy life,
the comfort of Your holy sacraments at the hour of death.
O Jesus, bless us and protect us.
O Mary, mother of grace and of mercy, defend us against the wicked spirit;
reconcile us with Your Son,
commit us to His keeping, so that we may be made worthy of His promises.
St. Joseph, foster-father of our Savior, guardian of His Holy Mother, head of the Holy Family, intercede for us, bless us and defend our home at all times.
St. Michael, defend us against all the wicked cunning of hell.
St. Gabriel, make us understand the holy will of God.
St. Raphael, keep us free from all sickness and from every danger to our lives.
Our Holy Guardian angels, keep our feet safely on the path of salvation day and night.
O Holy Patrons, pray for us before the throne of God.
Yes, bless this house, O God, the Father, who has created us.
O God the Son, who suffered for us upon the Holy Cross.
O Holy Spirit, who has sanctified us in holy baptism.
May the one God in three divine persons
preserve our bodies, purify our minds, direct our hearts and bring us all to everlasting life.
Glory be to the Father, glory be to the Son, glory be to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Final hymn
Indulgence gained
plenary indulgence - same conditionsan indulgence of three years

Making the consecration is one thing, living the consecration is another
To be made by at least one member of the family
- daily Mass and communion
- first Friday devotions
- family holy hour each month
- daily rosary
- observe the month of June with Mass and communion as often as possible
- renewal of the family consecration on the feast of the Sacred Heart

copied from prayer book by Dennis-Emmanuel CabreraJuly 25, 2005

Author's note: This consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus will help all Catholic families to be of one mind, one heart and one spirit in Christ.

First Sunday of Advent 2007

1st Advent
December 2, 2007

Isaiah 2:1-5
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:37-44

Well here we are – the first Sunday of Advent. Already! We begin a new Liturgical year this evening at the vigil mass. The church is decorated in violet and pink, the advent candles are in place, and there are sure signs in this place that Christmas is coming. The great celebration of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ is just four weeks and a couple of days away.

As if we didn’t know that Christmas is coming, the world out there has been decorating since November 1 and the stores have been trying to lure people in to buy more gifts than they can afford. Getting prepared for so many means presents and party favors. And so it goes.

But the scriptures present us with an entirely different view of preparation.

In the gospel Jesus tells the disciples that the day of the coming of the Son of Man will be like it was in the days of Noah. He describes the population as “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage.” In other words, ordinary life. They were preoccupied with the cares of ordinary life. As Jesus describes the day of the coming of the Son of Man, he describes people working in the field and at the mill when it happens. People doing the ordinary things of ordinary life.

Did you ever notice how busy ordinary life can get? How preoccupied we can get with it? Just as a test, how many people here think that you need more complexity in your life? More things to add to your schedule? No volunteers? The fact of the matter is, especially at this time of the year, the ordinary cares of life have us all quite preoccupied.

It is precisely for this reason that the Holy Spirit has carefully provided us with these readings this weekend. The message is this:

Stay Awake! You Must Be Prepared! It is at the hour that you do not expect that the Son of Man will come.

He was born in the fullness of time in Bethlehem. He comes in word and sacrament to strengthen his people in holiness. He will come again in glory with salvation for his people.

Stay Awake! Be Prepared!

St. Paul has an interesting take on being awake and prepared. Let’s check back to the 2nd reading from the 13th chapter of the letter to the Romans. Paul says first to throw off the works of darkness.

And he has quite a list about those works of darkness.
Orgies and drunkenness, promiscuity and lust, rivalry and jealousy.

Throw off the works of darkness.
Maybe that little list names some areas of darkness in your life. Or perhaps there are other areas. Perhaps you have forgotten how to do an examination of conscience. It always is interesting to me when people come to me for confession after not having been for many years and will tell me that they have not sinned or done anything bad. What that reveals to me is that this person has lost the ability to do an examination of conscience. Has lost the sense of what sin is. Listen, if Mother Theresa went to confession every two weeks – and most of the world considered here a living saint – then you and I just simply need a better sense of what holiness really is so that we can throw off the works of darkness in our lives.

You want to throw off the works of darkness? Do a good examination of conscience on a daily basis. There are pamphlets in the vestibule about this. If you have forgotten how to do a good examination of conscience, then these will teach you some of the basics.
Throw off the works of darkness. Stay Awake. Be Prepared.

Paul then says to put on the armor of light. Later on in the text he explains it this way. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.

How do you do that? Well, I have a couple of ideas for us.
We first put on the Lord Jesus in the sacrament of baptism. It is in the sacraments – those seven signs of the New Covenant – that we put on Christ. So we are encouraged to make frequent use of the sacraments of the Church. To live the sacramental life every day. The Church also provides us with sacramentals. Those are the little signs of our faith. Holy Water, crucifixes, prayers and devotions. Last week we talked about consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I have that information in the vestibule. I recommend it. I plan to use it with my family at Christmas. These sacramentals are good faith reminders of our sacramental union with Jesus. And these should always lead us to good works. Because, as St. James reminds us in his epistle, we are saved by faith and works. Faith without works is dead. So works of peace and justice are the evidence of putting on the armor of light. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ through faith and through works. Stay Awake. Be Prepared.

The third little piece that Paul mentions is this: Make no provision for the desires of the flesh.

What a great message to get during this time of endless Christmas parties. Tis the season for weight gain and Santa Clausian girth. What a great opportunity for us all to counter-balance these with some actions of private penance – reminding our flesh of who the boss is.

The Holy Spirit makes great provision for us – reminding us of what is truly important. Giving us an eternal perspective on things. Dear people – dear members of the body of Christ.

Stay Awake. Be Prepared.
For at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

Good Books

I've mentioned some good books lately in the bulletin and in homilies. Here's a few of those:

The Biblical Basis for the Catholic Faith, by John Souza
Theology of the Body for Beginners, by Christopher West


Saturday, November 17, 2007

32nd Sunday Ordinary Time

32nd Sunday Ordinary Time

2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14
2 thessalonians 2:16-3:5
Luke 20:27-38

Life is short. If you live only for 20 years or as long as 100 years, life is still very short. In fact, when you compare one human lifespan to eternity, then there is really nothing to compare. All our lives are just a brief preparation for what is to come – Eternal Life.

The scriptures are full of references to the doctrine that human beings were created as eternal beings. The flesh is mortal but the spirit is immortal. It cannot die. It will live forever. Furthermore, the Old Testament includes references to the resurrection of the body which the New Testament makes explicit.

In the gospels, Jesus is confronted by the Saducees who questioned Jesus about the resurrection. They denied the idea that the dead will rise on the Lord’s Day. And so Jesus answered their question by explaining the matter to them – that the dead will indeed rise, but that those who are raised will be like angels and will be the children of God.

There is an important line in the teaching that Jesus gives – one to which we must pay attention.
“Those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead”

The scriptures and the Church teach that after we die there are three possible places for us to go. Heaven. Purgatory. And Hell.

There has been a wrong teaching going around about the resurrection – that of universalism. This refers to an idea that everyone will be saved by Jesus. There is no possibility of hell. Or that there is no hell at all. No Satan. No demons. No condemnation.

Let me say categorically that the scriptures and the Church clearly teach that hell exists. Satan exists. Demons exist. People can be sentenced to hell because of their evil deeds and lack of repentence. Jesus taught this very clearly in the gospels. For this reason the Word became flesh, dwelt among us, died for our sins, and was raised from the dead so that we might have life. We need a savior and Jesus came to save us from the terrible fate of Hell. And what is hell? Scripture teaches that it is flames. Eternal torment. Eternal separation from God. The place where Satan and all his fallen angels have already been sentenced for all of eternity.

Let me say also that the scriptures and the Church categorically teach that Purgatory exists. It is called by other names in the bible. Hades. Sheol. The abode of the dead. It clearly is not heaven but it also is clearly not the lake of eternal fire. It is the way of purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. St. Paul describes this in 1 Cor 3:15 when he says that when we are judged, each person’s work will be tried. And what happens if a righteous man’s work fails the test? “He will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” Let the reader understand that this fire doesn’t refer to a sentence to hell. No one is saved in hell. This passage also can’t refer to heaven. There is no suffering or loss in heaven. So the doctrine of purgatory is the only sufficient explanation of this scripture, and others like it.

It is important for us to know about what happens to us after death. And our aim is Heaven. Eternal life with God. This is the will of God for us.

In the past couple of weeks we have reviewed some basic Catholic practices that each of us must do so that we may be converted and prepared for heaven.
Pray every day. Pray from the heart. Use the prayers the Church gives us like the rosary, the liturgy of the hours, the morning offering, and many other prayers. Pray!
Read your bible every day. God’s word will help you change how you think.
Go to confession – monthly if possible. There is not one person here who doesn’t need confession on a regular basis.
Fast – weekly on Fridays.
Attend mass every Sunday at the very least. Daily mass is very good.

These five simple steps: prayer, the bible, confession, fasting, and mass will help you to attain heaven. It is through these faithful practices that each of us can be made worthy of the promises of Christ. It is through opening our hearts to Christ that he can do what St. Paul described in Thessalonians. For He who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, will encourage our hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.”

31st Sunday Ordinary Time

31st Sunday Ordinary Time
November 4, 2007

“The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

Here is a short and sweet synopsis of Jesus mission. To seek and to save what was lost.

In the case of the gospel story – it was Zacchaeus. He was rich. And unhappy. But when Jesus found him and called out to him, his life was completely changed.

Notice how this happened for Zacchaeus. When Jesus called out to him he immediately received Jesus with joy. His joy in receiving Jesus took practical form through generosity. He gave half his possessions to the poor. He promised to pay back anyone he defrauded four times the loss.

And so Jesus came to stay in his house. In this, Zacchaeus and all his household were changed forever. That’s what happens when Jesus comes to stay with us.

Recently I read the draft of the strategic plan for St. John. While we are going through some final revisions, there are many fine ideas for the parish. One in particular pleased me more than all the rest. It is this: to begin reserving the blessed sacrament at St. John. Now, I think you all may recall one of the necessary items for reservation of the blessed sacrament in the tabernacle is to arrange for the church to be open for a little while every day for prayer.

I want to encourage you in this plan. I believe that you will find this to be a real turning point in the history of St. John. And to this end I want instruct you in five steps that I believe will prepare you for this.

Pray. Simple and fundamental enough. But I encourage you to pray daily. Pray by yourselves. Pray as a household. And gather here in the Church daily for prayer. Make use of the rosary, the liturgy of the hours, the divine mercy prayer, scripture reading, and many other prayer forms available to us. Use authentic Catholic prayer but do it ecumenically. Let St. John Church become a center of daily prayer for all the people of the area.
Read the bible. Every day. We need to be nourished by the Word of God so that our faith may grow. Everything necessary for salvation is found in holy scripture. Put your bible in a prominent place in your home. Read it as a family. A little every day. If you are not sure where to start, then use the references we put in the bulletin to prepare for next week’s mass. The more we put the Word of God in our heads the more that our way of thinking gets changed. Read your bible.
Fast. Now, fasting is one of those devotional practices that seems to have fallen by the wayside in the past generation. But the scriptures have never stopped telling us that we should fast. Jesus instructed his disciples to do this. The church has never stopped telling us to do what our Lord tells us to do. I invite the parish to reclaim Fridays as a day of fasting. Eat simply on Fridays and offer this sacrifice as a prayer for the parish and for the all the people of Henry County.
Go to confession. In the past generation Catholics in the United States have not made good use of this sacrament. Many go months or even years. This ought not be. There is not one person here who would not benefit from receiving the sacrament of penance at least monthly. You and I, we all need to receive the grace that comes from the sacrament of penance.
Mass. Obviously this is important for Catholics. We have always taught that Sunday mass is important because it respects the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy. The ten commandments are the main biblical points to help us understand what mortal sin is and how to avoid it. Willfully skipping out on Sunday mass is a mortal sin. It violates the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy as a day of worship. We need Sunday mass. It is sad that only about 30% of people who call themselves Catholic actually attend mass every Sunday. We have some work to do to evangelize our inactive brothers and sisters. But there is a bit more here. In the old covenant there were certain feasts that were important for Jews to observe. The gospels show the Holy Family in perfect observance of these feasts. In the new covenant these feasts have been observed as part of the Catholic system of Holy Days of Obligation. But it seems like only about 40% of Catholics who attend Sunday mass also attend Holy Days of Obligation. So let me ask. Was the Church full for the feast day of All Saints? If past experience is any indication then we still need work on this. Let’s keep up with our attendance. And I will add one more point to this. Preparation. Make time to prepare for mass prior to its beginning. Preparation begins at home with prayers and meditation on the scriptures that we proclaim in the mass. Do preparation and then the mass will open up for you as a beautiful act of worship full of meaning. God will speak to you through the readings, the prayers, and the music at mass.

So these five steps. Prayer; fasting, reading the bible, confession, and mass, will pave the way for great spiritual renewal at St. John Church. It will help you toward fulfilling your goals in the strategic plan, especially the goal of reserving the blessed sacrament in the tabernacle here at St. John.

Jesus will work through you to seek out and save those who are lost. This is what happens when Jesus is invited to come and stay in this house.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

30th Sunday Ordinary Time

30th Sunday Ordinary Time
October 30, 2007

Sirach 35:12-14,16-18
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Luke 18:9-14

In today’s gospel we get one of the more famous of Jesus’ quotes:

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
And the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

People like to use this quote either to point out somebody’s humble nature or to point out some haughty person’s future fall. Maybe not a bad way of using this quote but perhaps Jesus has a little more in mind for us when he gives this instruction.

Consider the context. This instruction comes just after his teaching on perseverance in prayer – we heard that last week, and just prior to his receiving and blessing the little children – and asking his disciples to become like them.

So prayer and humility are linked in a vital way in the scriptures for us.

Consider the two characters in today’s parable. The Pharisee entered the temple and began to pray, telling God all about personal virtues and then being grateful that he is not like all those other bad people. Jesus called the Pharisees arrogant hypocrites. In this case, unable to admit their sin and their need for God.

The second character is the tax collector who came to the temple to pray. But he came as a penitent. He asked God for forgiveness and mercy because of his sins. And Jesus says that this was the person who went home justified in the eyes of God.

It reveals an attitude that Jesus asks of all of his disciples. To have a heart that is humble and contrite.

That means having a realistic sense of our own condition and the humility to acknowledge our utter dependence on the grace of God.
We are sinners. Go ahead and admit it. We are all sinners. We need God to save us. And there is no other way.
So what can we do to cultivate a heart that is humble and contrite?

I have two practices in our Christian tradition that I think will help us all on our road to conversion

The first practice is fasting.
The gospels, the new testament, and the old testament all clearly teach that there are times when believers should fast. And as Catholics we used to have a pretty good tradition of fasting but in the past 40 years or so we’ve abandoned it in a big way. We need to reclaim this important devotion. Jesus fasted. The apostles fasted. And we also should practice fasting. Why?
A couple of reasons. The first reason is simply because God asks it of us through the teachings of the bible and the teachings of the church. So for no other reason than simple obedience it is good for us to fast. But it is good to know what we get out of it. And that brings us to a second reason for fasting. Fasting brings us self discipline. We can say to our bodies every so often that we live not by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. So it follows that a third reason to fast is that it brings us freedom. It makes us free from our bad habits and our sins through our little sacrifice offered in faith. A spiritual exchange takes place when we fast. A new clarity comes to us through fasting.

And when to fast? The Church asks Catholics to fast at least one hour prior to receiving Holy Communion, except in the case of small children or those who are ill. The Church also asks Catholics to fast during Lent in a special way leading us to Easter. Many of you here recall when all Catholics refrained from eating meat on Fridays. You know, the Church never officially said that we should no longer fast after Vatican II. We just kind of stopped doing it. But where have we gone morally in the past 40 years in this country? Perhaps it is time to fast.

Let me suggest this to the Church. Let’s reclaim Friday as a day of fasting, in preparation for the mass on Sunday. A very good way to fast on Fridays is to eat only simple bread and drink only water or other simple drinks.

Fasting will help you to cultivate a heart that is humble and contrite.

The second practice in our Christian tradition is the Sacrament of Penence.
This is another practice that many of us have chucked since Vatican II. Prior to then, the lines were long each Saturday to receive the sacrament. Admittedly, many people approached the sacrament out of habit or out of fear. So when people learned that they didn’t have to go out of pious habit or out of fear, then they simply stopped. But again, what has happened to the moral compass of this nation, and of the Catholic Church in the past 40 years? In many ways Catholics have become indistinguishable from the hedonistic culture all around us. What goes in the culture seems to go the same in our parishes. And that ought not be. We are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. But our salt has become flat and our light has been hidden. Many Catholics have been years without going to confession. And I say with certainty that there is not one single person here in this parish who would not benefit from monthly confession. Not you, not me.

It takes lots of humility to approach the sacrament of penance. We have to admit our faults to a priest who knows us.
But what do we get out of the sacrament of penance? Why go?
We go to declare our faith in Jesus who is faithful to wash us from our sins. We go to receive sanctifying grace and mercy. We go so that Jesus can convert our hearts. We go so that Jesus can make of us saints in his kingdom.

So today you receive two more steps on your road to conversion. Fasting and Confession. Practice them, and you will find justification with God. You will find humility. And God will exalt you.

29th Sunday Ordinary Time

29th Sunday Ordinary Time
October 21, 2007

Jesus asks a compelling question in Luke 18:8. When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

This is one of those challenging questions that each of us needs to consider very seriously. This has implications for us personally, as a parish, as well as us as a people in our nation.

In pondering the question, what, do you say, is the verdict at this time? Jesus came to establish a Church filled with saints who would be victorious over sin and death through conversion of heart. And so we have to ask ourselves. Are we saints? Are we deeply engaged in the process of conversion? Or do we live more like Christian pagans, hardly distinct at all from the non-Christian culture that is present all around us?

We’ve got to be aware of this question because Jesus asks us both as a people as well as individuals – will he find faith in us when he comes?

For he comes.
He comes today in sacrament to strengthen us in holiness. We gather at mass to be fed by the bread of life. And he who is the bread of life asks us to examine ourselves carefully and be reconciled with one another and with God prior to approaching the altar. But how many of us have approached this altar lackadaisically time and time again without being reconciled? How many of us have gone years and years without the sacrament of confession? How often do we fail to attend to our conversion?

He comes.
He comes at the end of our lives, when the temple that is our body is destroyed in death. And when that time comes will our lives give testimony to faith in him? Will we have been converted or not? Scripture teaches quite clearly that Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell are all very real destinations at the end of our lives? Our judgement will be based on our choosing conversion through faith in Jesus Christ. Or not.

He comes.
He comes at the end of the ages to pour judgment upon the earth. To gather his elect into the eternal kingdom. To sentence the devil and all his followers into the eternal fire. Every day we live is a day closer to this final date with destiny.

He comes, and what he asks of us is to have the faith that leads to conversion.

So be converted. We all need this message. Be converted. We are not yet holy enough. We are not yet converted enough. We are still too much of this world and not nearly enough of the kingdom of God. Be converted.

Yes. Conversion can sometimes seem to be very difficult. But the scripture gives us some very basic things we can do to speed ourselves along in our conversion. And if we are persistent in these little steps of conversion, then God will make of us the saints he intends for us to be.

Here are two little steps from today’s scriptures to help us on our road to conversion.

Pray. As simple as this is, often enough we get very lazy about our prayers and forget to do them on a daily basis. Or we get into a rote recitation that has no heart to it. Pray every day. Morning and night. Pray without becoming weary. Use the tools for prayer that the church gives us. Daily mass. The Rosary. Lectio Divina. Litanies and songs. Meditation and reflection. Quiet conversation with God. Eucharistic Adoration. Need I go on? We have many tools for prayer. Persevere in prayer according to Jesus’ instruction. Pray, and get closer to Jesus. Pray with the help of the saints in heaven and with the Church on earth. Pray always without becoming weary. Pray.

Read the bible. The bible contains everything we need for our salvation. But often enough the bible becomes a dusty book on the coffee table or a forgotten item on the shelf. Take it out and read it. St. Paul in 2nd Timothy tells us that sacred scripture gives us wisdom for salvation through faith in Jesus. The bible is necessary. Take it up and read a little bit every day. Ask the Holy Spirit for inspiration prior to reading and then you will always receive a little message to help you in your conversion. Read the bible and, as St. Paul says, you will find it useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that you who belong to God may be competent and equipped for every good work. Do you want to be equipped for every good work? Read your bible. Every day. Read your bible.

Do these things. Do them faithfully and persistently. And God will make of you a saint in his kingdom. Your light will shine brightly in a darkened world. And when he comes he will indeed find the faith that he himself gave to you when you opened the door of your heart through prayer and through his holy word.

I close using the words of St. Paul as a benediction, with a little adaptation, regarding these two little steps.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power:
Pray always without becoming weary. Let the Church say amen.
Read sacred scripture every day. Let the Church say amen.
Be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient. And be convinced and encouraged, through all patience and teaching. Let the Church say amen.
May almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

25th Sunday Ordinary Time

25th Sunday Ordinary Time
September 23, 2007

Amos 8:4-7
1 Tim 2:1-8
Luke 16:1-13

Have you ever noticed how much the gospels teach about money and possessions? If you read with this in mind you will see that a large percentage of Jesus teaching connects in one way or another to money and possessions. It is an interesting study for those who care to take it up.

Let’s get into today’s gospel and see what it teaches us.

First the steward. He was called to account for squandering property. We are not told exactly how. But the end result is that the master’s business is losing money and as a result the steward is about to get fired.

Let me fill in a couple of details stewards and ancient businesses.
these stewards often charged a commission to the customers. This became a profit for the steward.
we know from the story that the customers “owed” something to the master. It is probable that the steward was charging interest on the loans, something which was against the biblical law. This was called “usury” in the old testament.

The steward’s response to the threat of getting fired was this. He called in the customers and apparently eliminated the commission that he charged. Maybe even some of the interest on the loan. The cuts in the promissory notes were up to 50%.

By eliminating his commission he hoped to create gratitude in his customers and thus get welcomed into their homes after he was fired. He also ensured that the debtors would pay their debt to the master more quickly. The parable ends by saying that the master praised the steward for his prudence.

The second section of today’s gospel is this series of sayings.

Jesus talks about a person being judged by his trustworthiness in small matters, or lack thereof.
Then Jesus gives them the zinger at the end. He says - No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate on and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.
Mammon means material wealth or riches. In other words, mammon is your stuff and your money. You can’t be devoted to it and to God at the same time. When all is said and done, you will love one and hate the other.

This parable and these sayings help us understand the attitude that we as Christians should have towards our money and our stuff.

Here it is. Get ready.
It all belongs to God. We are only stewards of these resources.
Period. No ifs ands or buts.

Everything we have. Our houses, our bank accounts, our possessions, our stock portfolios, everything ultimately belongs to God. Everything that we count as a material possession is a gift to us from God.

And it is a gift from God with a purpose.
I will tell you first what the purpose is not.

The purpose is not so that you and I can get rich and satisfied for our own benefit.
God does not give us our time, talents, and treasure purely for ourselves. That’s just selfishness. It is a sin. If we think that we are the sole possessors of our money and our stuff and that’s all we are after, then we are in trouble. Jesus directly implies here that the person who is greedy and selfish actually hates God.

The gift of our time, talent, and treasure. That is our abilities, money, and stuff, is meant to become a blessing from God to us for everybody.
Let me restate that. Your money. Your talents. Your time. Is given to you by God so that you can be blessed by it and use it to bless other people.

God commands this in the bible. The Old Testament commands a tithe – 10% be given back to God. The new testament instructs that Christians give as an exercise in trust and in gratitude. And God promises to bless us even more when we choose to trust by being generous.

God doesn’t need our stuff. God owns it all. But we need to exercise faith filled generosity.

Consider this. If you follow God’s commands when you have small amounts of money and resources, then it is likely that God will bless you with greater and greater amounts. He will do this because he can use you to bless people. Imagine if you had a hundred million dollars. How generous would you be then? How generous are you now in giving back to God?

If we are not faithful in small things, then God cannot use us to be a blessing to others in greater ways. So here’s the question. Will you love God with the money and the stuff entrusted to you today? Will you give and trust God? When you receive more, will you trust God and become more generous?

God intends great things for you. God wants to use you and me to be instruments of his blessing in the world.

Will you love God and trust God with everything that you have and even everything that you are? With your whole self? Will God truly be Lord of your life?

Jesus said. “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

Saturday, September 8, 2007

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 9, 2007

Wisdom 9:13-18b
Philemon 9b-10,12-17
Luke 14: 25-33

“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

What is all this hate talk here? Usually, when we talk about the good news of Jesus it is about how he revealed the love of the Father for the whole world. Is this the same man who told his followers to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors? Isn’t this the same Jesus who told his disciples to love one another as he loved them? This seems bizarre.

Likewise, at the end of the teaching today Jesus says this. “Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

Well, we’re not sure about that one either. Wouldn’t the world grind down to a halt if we all gave up our possessions?

This seems disturbing.

The parabolic images that go along with this teaching are not so pleasant either. An unfinished building that becomes a joke. A defeated king. Unfortunately, the third image of this teaching is not included in the reading today but I will give it to you now.

Vs. 34-35.
“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears to hear listen.”

The third parabolic image is spoiled salt. Useless and worthy only of being thrown out.

What are we supposed to do with all this disturbing imagery?

Let me draw a parallel for you regarding this teaching. Maybe this will shed some light.

Whoever desires to marry must first renounce all former girlfriends or boyfriends. You can’t take them with you into the marriage. Not even one. Furthermore, whoever desires to marry must also renounce all possessions as being exclusively yours. All possessions become part of a common household for the sake of wife, or husband. In fact, when you have children, you really begin to understand detachment from things. Kids tend to break stuff. Don’t be too attached. Finally, whoever desires to marry but doesn’t make a firm commitment of love, respect, and fidelity in the marriage will experience its ruin. Decline of commitment to love, respect, and fidelity turns wedded bliss into a living hell. Like an unfinished building project. Like a defeated king. Like salt that loses its flavor. Useless and worthy only of being thrown out.

Make a little more sense now?

Jesus tells his disciples that it is the way with the kingdom he came to establish. For us to be partakers of the new covenant he asks us for a firm commitment. Don’t say yes, go part way, and then back out of it. Let your commitment be unshakeable.

Wouldn’t it be great if all marriages held together with an unshakeable commitment by both husband and wife? How good life would be if all were faithful.

Wouldn’t it be great if all Christians held to their faith and practiced it with an unshakeable commitment? How good the world would be if all were faithful to the call of Jesus?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you and I followed Jesus to the extent that everything about us and everything that we are would be devoted to the love of God? Imagine the transformative effect on my life? On your life? And on the whole world?

I suppose that the trickiest part of this whole challenge from Jesus for each of us is this. It means that I have to trust him with everything that I have and everything that I am. I have to trust that he has my best interests at heart. That he has a good plan for me within his kingdom. I have to trust that it is worth it to offer everything up to follow him. My family. My possessions. My own life. Everything.

If I don’t do it. Then I really am not his disciple. Gotta give it all. No holding back anymore.

Let anyone with ears to hear – listen.
forgot to post last week's homily. Here it is.

22nd Sunday Ordinary Time
September 2, 2007

Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a
Luke 14:1, 7-14

Sirach tells the reader to conduct your affair with humility.
Luke tells the reader that the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

It is one of the seven virtues. It is necessary

The word humility has its roots in a couple of interesting words. Humilis means low. Another word, humus, means earth. I like that.

A way of understanding humility is to think of it as the idea of being completely grounded in reality. Feet planted firmly on the ground. You are never higher than you actually are when you are humble.

Humility is the opposite of being proud, haughty, arrogant, or assertive.

Humility is deferential towards others.

And God asks us to be humble.

Consider the humility of Almighty God. God, omnipotent, almighty, gloriously exalted in heaven, is humble. That is, completely grounded in reality. God is reality.

God comes to us in very humble ways. When the Word became flesh God decided to grow in the womb of his mother Mary. Rather than being born in the splendor of a palace he was born in a stable and laid in a manger. He grew up just like all of us. He went through potty training when he was two and zits when he was twelve. He was a humble carpenter in Nazareth before he began his ministry at age 30. He was never flashy about his ministry but did it in realistic ways. Yes, he performed miracles. He did them to show us the reality of the kingdom of God.

Consider how he comes to us today. In baptism he gives us the gift of salvation in a simple way through water and the Holy Spirit. In the sacrament of confirmation he gives us his Holy Spirit in a more profound way to empower us for ministry. But again, it is humble and quiet. At mass he comes to us through the agents of simple bread and simple wine to become spiritual food for us. Humble. Simple. Real. That is the humility of God.

And through Jesus God gives the gift of salvation to every single human person. He allows for us to receive the gift, not just of salvation from our sins, but also to become his beloved sons and daughters, heirs of his promises through Jesus.
Everybody has the opportunity to receive this gracious gift from God. None of us deserve it. All of us have committed sin.

This is why Jesus tells his disciples to be humble. The parable of the banquet warns us against all those false social distinctions. Jesus shows us how to regard one another as God regards us. Equally. That is why he tells us that we ought to be inviting the socially outcast to our gatherings.

And that is what the mass is. Everybody is welcome at God’s party. There is no distinction among us.

Our humble God gives us his own dignity through Jesus. And by becoming like our humble Jesus, we will know his glory.

Be humble.
And blessed indeed will you be.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

21st Suday in Ordinary Time
August 26, 2007

Isaiah 66:18-21
Hebrews 12:5-7,11-13
Luke 13:22-30

My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him, for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.”

A lot of times, when people hear the word, “discipline” connected with the son of a Father, they often think of the word punishment. In other words, when a kid is going to get some discipline from his dad he may be thinking of what his mother said to him after some unfortunate childish misdeed - like "just wait till your father gets home." And we all know what that means.

I am going to concede to you that this understanding is an unfortunate misunderstanding both of the positive role of a parent and a misunderstanding of the positive role of God in our lives.

The word discipline is related to a more religious word that we often use – disciple. To disciple is understood much more like the verb “to teach.”

This captures much better the positive role of a mother or father who teaches her children how to grow up to become good human beings. In like manner this scripture describes to us the positive role of our Heavenly Father who loves us and who wants to teach us the way of holiness and perfection.

Of course, if you are going to be taught, then you have to want to learn. Nothing worse than a student who doesn’t want to learn.

Do you want to learn from God? Then strive for it.

First, you can’t really learn something unless you really want to. If you decide that you don’t want to be discipled by the Lord, then you will live without it. Lots of people do. But if you decide that you want to be discipled by Jesus in the way of perfection. And you decide to do it every day. Then you will truly become his disciple. This is why Jesus said that his disciples would have to forsake everything in order to follow him. In other words, we have to become totally open to learning from Jesus – to becoming his disciple – to being disciplined by him. But you won’t learn from him unless you decide that you want to learn. So first, you must decide that you want to learn from Jesus more than anything else.

Second, you must listen. Listening with an open heart to Jesus means that you take his teaching seriously. It means that you decide to apply it to every aspect of your life. You must listen to the teachings of the gospel and to the teachings of the Church – and be obedient to those teachings. Don’t get caught in the bind of picking and choosing what teachings you like and rejecting those you don’t like. The bible calls this "double mindedness". Jesus said it this way. "You can’t serve God and mammon at the same time." In the book of Numbers when Joshua began his leadership of the Israelites into the promised land he made this declaration. "Choose this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." You must decide to truly listen to the teachings of Jesus and take them to heart.

Third, you must expect the best. Jesus described his discipline in these words. ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Hebrews describes the results of discipleship in these words. It brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” Your drooping hands will be strengthened and your path will become clear and straight. What is lame will be healed. St. Paul described it this way when he wrote, "the Lord works everything out for good for those who love the Lord." In other words, you can expect the best, most positive results when you choose to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus. He will not lead you wrong. You can expect the very best from him.

The Lord loves you. And because he loves you he calls you to be his disciple. With all your heart, learn from him. And he will fulfill the joy of your heart.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 19, 2007

Jeremiah 38:4-6;8-10
Hebrews 12:1-4
Luke 12:49-53

“Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”

Now, what kind of words are these that come from the one whom we title the Prince of Peace. Didn’t the angels herald his birth with the acclamation – peace on earth to men of goodwill?

Setting the earth afire and causing division is very counterintuitive to what we normally think of as Jesus’ mission. And yet, here it is. Set the earth ablaze. Cause division. What are we to do with that?

Consider Jeremiah. Jeremiah was called by God to the prophetic ministry. He was to speak the Word of God as God inspired him. Jeremiah had the awful task of telling the people that they had been sinning and that they must repent. That judgment was coming in the form of an invasion by the armies of Babylon.

Poor Jeremiah. For being faithful in delivering the word of God he was despised by the king and his court. He got paid for his faithfulness by being thrown into a well and left to die. Talk about setting the earth ablaze and causing division.

This was often the case for prophetic ministry. Prophets declare to the world the signs of the times and confront the world with its need for repentance. These words aren’t often well received by people. We would rather that people tell us how good and special we are and just leave it at that. We would rather not be confronted with our sins. And yet, isn’t this necessary for healing to take place.

Consider the case of the person who has been experience various kinds of pain for a long time but won’t go to the doctor because he fears a diagnosis of cancer. He fears the possibility of bad news more than knowing the truth. So he continues in his pain without seeking help.

Our sin is often the same way. It corrodes away the human spirit and needs healing just as much as the worst form of illness. And yet so many choose to rationalize away their sinful behavior. What is really needed is a cleansing fire. Separating ourselves from that which is evil so that we may become good, and pure, and perfect.

In Hebrews we hear the Lord instruct us to “rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us.

How do you do that? Well, I am convinced that every kind of sin – and name for yourself whatever is bugging you – every kind of sin happens to us when we aren’t in union with God. When we stop listening to God and start listening to the desires of our flesh or to the temptations of the devil, then we commit sin. Stray away from God and sin has the opportunity to be conceived in our hearts. Once conceived, later on we find ourselves doing things we never thought we would ever do. Every form of anger, lust, pride, and avarice comes from being separated from God.

But the letter to the Hebrews gives the Christian the way to rid ourselves of sin. It really is so easy that it is hard to believe. It says – persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.

That in a nutshell is the key.

Remember when Peter saw Jesus walking on the water? Peter asked Jesus to let him step out of the boat and walk with him. Jesus said ok so Peter did and was walking on the water just fine until – what? Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and onto the wind and the waves. Once his eyes were off of Jesus then he was sunk. Literally. Oh you of little faith – why did you doubt?

Same with you and me. When we seek the Lord with our whole heart and desire to be in full communion with him, then the result is that we become rid of every burden and sin. When our joy is with the Lord and we seek to give ourselves fully to him in love, then there really isn’t much room in our lives for sin. Plain and simple.

How do you seek the Lord with your whole heart? Pray at all times. This is not difficult, really. While it certainly includes a regular habit of formal prayer, it is also a matter of maintaining an awareness of the presence of the Lord with you at all times. Some say that praying always is impossible. I disagree. I will tell you how.

From an opposite experience, think of a time when there was something really worrying you. It stayed present in your mind all day long. You went to work, or school, and attended to the duties of your day, but that worrisome thing gnawed at you all day long without stopping. Your mind brooded on it.

Well, in a different kind of way, our minds and hearts can be fixed on Jesus as we go through the day doing our work. But with our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus he truly becomes our leader in all we do. When our attention is on him he perfects our faith. He separates us from sin and corruption and makes us holy – God’s saints on earth. Ablaze with the fire of God’s love.

This is the message. When we are on fire with the love of God we become God’s instruments of salvation in this world. We can lead people to a saving and sacramental knowledge of the Lord. We can confront evil and oppression wherever it is and overcome it. We can literally change the world. We can become the light of the world and the salt of the earth. We could walk on water and move mountains just by keeping the eyes of our faith firmly fixed on the Lord. Oh how I wish for us to be set afire. Blazing with the love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Installation Mass for Archbishop Kurtz
August 15, 2:30 p.m.

Today the Archdiocese of Louisville, along with many guests and friends, gave a typically warm Kentucky welcome to Archbishop Kurtz. Warm, both in the sense of the effusive joy of the congregation as well as the temperature of the day - around 98* outside and something only slightly less warm and muggy inside the Louisville Gardens where the mass was held.

The procession was grand with the servers, many deacons, many more priests, and more bishops present in Louisville than I have ever seen before. The applause was strong and heartfelt as Archbishop Kurtz took his place at the cathedra. The assembly was eager in listing to the reading of the papal bull by the nuncio. And then there was another grand procession of people representing the Archdiocese and the civic community who formally greeted and welcomed Archbishop Kurtz to Louisville. All this in the opening rites.

These welcomes in the opening rites of the mass reached their climax when the congregation sang the gloria. This moment was particularly poignant to me. As we sang and acknowledged God's goodness, I felt a powerful sense of unity with and love for the people of this Archdiocese -this large and close knit family of Catholics gathered in one place. I knew so many of them and I knew for a moment in a more profound way of the love of God drawing us together. My heart was moved by the goodness of this blessing.

For a moment, I knew that heaven would be like this feeling of singing the Gloria. One voice, united in love with people who I love, giving praise to God who has been so good to us.

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord..."
The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
August 14, vigil mass

1 Chronicles 15: 3-4,15-16; 16:1-2
1 Corinthians 15:54b-57
Luke 11:27-28

“Death is swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

In the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother into heaven we gather to proclaim an important truth.

Mary is the pattern for our salvation.

Here, in this feast day, she is the pattern for the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Her body was not subject to decay at the end of her earthly life. Rather, she was taken body, soul, and spirit into heaven. She is the ecclesial pattern. As it goes with Mary, so it also goes for all the Church.

We believe in the resurrection and in life everlasting. Amen.

Just one little problem for all of us. While, Mary was the spotless virgin predestined to become the mother of God and preserved by grace from sin, and the new Eve who always said “yes” to God, and the ark of the new covenant, that hasn’t been the case with you and with me. How many of us over the age of three are completely without sin?

The human race needs a savior. Someone to overcome our sin and our death. And so we rejoice, also, in this feast because through Jesus we may receive the grace to become pure and spotless like Mary. We must become through the grace of Jesus, like her, Mary, the immaculate one.

This is why, when Jesus heard people say that his mother was blessed because she was his mother, that he offered a slight amplification of her blessing.

He said, rather, “blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Why? He wasn’t repudiating his mother. On the contrary, he was elevating the particular reason why she was truly blessed. She heard the word of God spoken to her and offered a continuous “yes” to it. Because of that, despite the sorrows she had to endure on this earth, Mary was also a woman who was full of grace, joyful, and blessed. She gave a complete “yes” to God and I believe that she is the most joyful of all God’s creatures. She is the immaculate one. The joyful one. The one who never endured the corruption of death but was rather taken up into heaven body, soul, and spirit.
Now, given a choice, would you rather experience more of the misery and suffering that results from sin? No? I didn’t think so. Don’t ask the logical question that extends from that. So why keep sinning? It only results in misery, death, and then hell.

Rather, do you prefer to be filled with love, joy, peace, kindness, and all the virtues that come from giving our complete “yes” to God and being filled with the Holy Spirit?
Yes, or yes.

Then Mary is the pattern for you. She is the model. She is the blessed one. Do not be afraid, good people, to give your “yes” to God as completely as Mary did.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

18th Sunday Ordinary Time
August 5, 2007

Be rich in what matters to God.

So the rich man had a great harvest, built bigger barns, and then he died before he could enjoy any of it. What a tragedy. What a shame.

And important for us to hear in this day and age. We are the richest country in the world. We, the people of Shelby County, are generally very well off compared to the rest of the world. Maybe not compared to our neighbor down the street, but believe you me compared to the rest of the world practically every person in this parish is in the top 2%.

Which is why Jesus’ instructions about wealth is important for us. Jesus told the rich young man that he had to sell everything, give it to the poor, and only then could he follow Jesus. Jesus told the people that it would be easier to fit a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. So in case you don’t quite get the instructions from the gospel, our wealth and possessions can be a real obstacle to our salvation.

So many folks get possessed by their possessions. They get so consumed by the stuff in their houses and their savings and stock options that they diminish the space in their lives for God. How many of us can easily get caught in that kind of cycle. We can spend lots of our energy on our stuff and our money and for what. Do you want to know what God thinks of that?
Well, this is what God said of the rich man in the parable today. He said, “you fool.” God could certainly say that to this present foolish generation. Would he say it of you? Of me?

What can we do to practice the wisdom of God in regard to our money and possessions? How do we become rich in what matters to God?

I have five little instructions for us today. They are as follows:
Acknowledge that everything belongs to God.
practice gratitude
Practice generosity
Practice tithing and giving offerings
Practice good stewardship.

Acknowledge that everything belong to God. Your stuff really isn’t yours. You are just a steward of what ultimately belongs to God. A good way to practice this acknowledgement is to have a little prayer ceremony at home where you dedicate every jot and tittle of your stuff to God. Repeat this kind of prayer as needed until the idea sinks in. All my belongings belong to you oh God.

Practice gratitude to God. Gratitude is a key to the spiritual life and it helps us to understand that God is our gracious provider. Gratitude leads us to deeper trust in God.

Practice generosity. Since none of us can out-give God, then we can trust in his provision for us. Consequently, we can feel a willingness to become generous with our money and possessions. Remember, Jesus made this promise: give and it will be given to you, pressed down, shaken together, a good measure. For what you measure out will be measured back to you. I tell you that I personally have found this principle to be true over and over again.

Practice tithing and giving offerings. Tithing is the biblical discipline of giving one tenth of our income to God – usually through one’s local parish, archdiocese, and other organizations dedicated to building up the kingdom of God. Offerings are what are given above and beyond the tithe proscribed by the bible. In fact, I will be bold enough to say this. Any lack that we have in our ministry of the parish has much to do with disobedience to God in these matters of generosity and tithing. Conversely, any abundance we have in ministry stems from those individuals who become obedient to God’s work in regard to our money and possessions.

Finally, practice good stewardship. Care of our possessions and prudent investment of our resources, coupled with a willingness to be generous with is, even to give it all away when called upon, leads to a powerful sense of spiritual freedom.

Good people, be rich in what matters to God. Acknowledge that all belongs to God. Be grateful. Be generous. Tithe and give offerings. Be a good steward of God’s gifts. And then you will become rich with the treasure that does not rust or wear out. It is the better part that will never be taken away from you.