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.