Monday, July 7, 2008

for those who have been looking...

Here are the homilies from the end of Lent and the beginning of Easter. More to follow when I get the rest off of the desktop computer.

pax tecum

Easter - 4th Sunday

Easter – 4th Sunday

Acts 2:14, 36-41
1 Peter 2:20-25
John 10:1-10

Jesus said, “the shepherd calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out.”

Many have heard about the image of Jesus as the good shepherd, and have often seen a picture of Jesus with a lamb draped across his shoulders.

But here we have this image of the shepherd who calls his own sheep by name, leading them.
It connotes both a long familiarity, trust, and ongoing action.

In a similar but even better way, God chooses us, calls us by name, and wants us to learn the right way to go. Recall the sacrament of baptism. What happens there? First, the name of the person is given to the priest, who then baptizes the person by their name into the name of God. In this divine exchange God calls us by name and then also gives us His name. We are adopted into God’s family by baptism and are called to a divine inheritance.

Jesus, the divine shepherd, calls each of us by name into his family.

Jesus, the divine shepherd, leads us where we are to go.

Jesus’ main purpose in his ministry was to build the kingdom of God. Therefore his love is a constructive love.
It is a love that gives knowledge to the ignorant.
It is a love that gives freedom to those who are in bondage.
It is a love that gives healing to those who are wounded and are in pain.
It is a love that gives meaning and significance to confusion.
It is a love that gives eternal life to all who had been doomed to death.
It is a love that gives perfection to everything disfigured by sin.

The voice of Jesus the good shepherd, calls us to follow him into knowledge, freedom, healing, meaning, and the perfection of eternal life. Sounds like a good place, doesn’t it? Want to go there?

Jesus, the divine shepherd, will lead us where we need to go.

He calls us. We need to listen to him.

Well, the key to following Him is to do something we all struggle with. It is that little word – obedience. But in order to be led by Jesus we need to learn obedience to him.

Obedience is a tough sell in our culture. Because we all want to be independent. We all want to be assertive and to be leaders. And so we mistakenly believe that those qualities are contrary to the ideal of obedience. But I submit to you that the strongest and best people are those who have learned the art of obedience. Obedience to God is, in its essence, a deep listening to God. It is a receptivity to God that is unencumbered by selfishness.

In order to truly be a disciple of Jesus we need to learn to listen to His voice and then obey his commands.

Our listening to the Lord is a spiritual listening through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Rarely does the Lord speak audibly to us in his own voice, though I have heard this voice once. And I know others who have heard the audible voice of the Lord. But most often the Lord speaks to us through the chosen instruments of his kingdom. There are three interdependent voices that we need to recognize and hear. And they are all present during mass.

The first is the Word of God. The bible. If you want to hear God’s voice then listen to the readings from the bible during mass. Take note, and God will speak to you through sacred scripture.

The second is the magisterium. The magisterium is the pope and the bishops – those men who are called to continue the work of the apostles. Their instruction to us is present in the mass. Consider - the way we celebrate mass today is the fruit of the work of the bishops during the second Vatican council. And from time to time they ask us to consider different parts of the mass in order to instruct us in how we are to live as Christians.

The third is sacred tradition. This is the voice of countless men and women who have preceeded us in faith and whose voices are present in the prayers and songs that we offer, and other ways that we pray and live out our faith.

The Lord speaks to us through the bible, the magisterium, and tradition. They are interconnected and together offer us proper understanding of how the Lord leads us to the fullness of life.

This also illuminates a certain crisis that we as believers face. We don’t always like what we hear being spoken to us in the word of God, by the magisterium, and in sacred tradition. When the Church tells us to welcome the stranger - and it conflicts with our politics, we get uneasy. When the church tells us that artificial contraception is a sin – and it conflicts with our sexual practices, we prefer to discount this teaching as irrelevant. When the church tells us to be holy, and we are busy with our own lives, we tend to think of holiness as quaint and mainly for dead saints. We’re just ordinary people, we like to say.

But that’s not the way it works. Jesus calls you and me to follow him. He wants us to trust him with our lives. He has a good plan for you and for me. So the question put to us is whether or not we choose to listen to his voice and to follow him.

He truly is the good shepherd. He won’t lead you wrong. In him you’ll find freedom, healing, meaning, and life to the full. And he is calling us all. Let’s follow him into the fullness of the kingdom.

Easter 3rd Sunday

Easter – third Sunday

“Jesus drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.

Now, isn’t that an interesting scenario. Clopas and the other disciple couldn’t recognize Jesus. Before I go on, I want to speculate something about the other disciple. Here’s a clue. One of the Mary’s at the foot of the cross was the wife of Clopas. It is probable that the unnamed disciple here was Mary, the wife of Clopas. It is also possible that Mary is unnamed in this story so that you and I can identify with her. The unnamed disciple can also be the reader.

So Clopas and the other disciple don’t recognize Jesus. There he was. Resurrected from the dead. Walking with them, and they didn’t recognize him. Do you ever wonder why this is?

Well, this is what I want to talk about tonight. How to discover what prevents us from recognizing Jesus and what will help us to overcome that little problem. Actually, it is a big problem, as we are about to see.

The first issue is that Jesus is veiled supernaturally from them. They are prevented. Most of the resurrection appearances have him cloaked in mystery at first, and then only through a gradual recognition or through signs are the disciples then able to recognize him.

In Clopas and the other disciple’s case, Jesus points out a few things to them. Let’s consider the words of Jesus to them for a moment.

After they tell the resurrected Jesus the story of the death of the Jesus as they knew him, He had this to say. Listen.
Oh how foolish you are.
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke.

Here Jesus shows them two problems that they have.

How foolish. The problem here is one of ignorance. In fact, foolishness and ignorance often go hand in hand. We often consider older people wiser because – they have been educated by life. We presume they have learned life’s lessons and know how to do the right things. Whereas youth and foolishness go hand in hand because of lack of experience or ignorance. So what were Clopas and the other disciple ignorant of? Well, this is where Jesus gave them a crash course in sacred scripture. It says that Jesus explained all that refered to him in Moses and all the prophets.

Which brings up an interesting point for us today. Ask yourself this question. How educated am I in holy scripture? How educated am I in the teaching of the church? How educated am I in the sacred tradition of the Church? You know, a lot of Catholics kind of just stopped learning these things after 8th grade and the sacrament of Confirmation. As if that were enough. Or we have been rather spotty in our study of the things of God. Ask yourself another question. Would Jesus consider me wise? Or foolish if he appeared to me? Could I even recognize him?

Another problem. Slow of heart to believe.
Jesus himself predicted for them over and over that he would rise from the dead. He kept telling his disciples of the kind of kingdom he wanted to inaugurate. But they had other ideas – mostly take Jesus’ words on face value. Whatever the problem they had blocked themselves from believing Jesus words about his own resurrection. Which makes one wonder what other problems in belief that they had.
And these were two disciples who stayed pretty close to Jesus – and if it were Mary, right at the foot of the cross.
Which makes you and me wonder. What are our problems with belief in the words of Jesus? His promises in scripture. His miracles. His teachings about how we are to live?
So many catholics think they can just pick and choose what to believe and reject from the deposit of faith in sacred scripture, apostolic teaching, and sacred tradition. We can be very slow to believe – especially in the most challenging teachings of our faith. Where are you stuck?

Their foolishness and their slowness to believe, I think, blocked them from seeing Christ.

So what changed it for them?

Three things really.

The first thing that changed it for them was the very presence of Christ. Whether they recognized him or not he was walking with them and listening to their story. And so we must also recognize through faith that Jesus also walks with us, whether we recognize his presence or not. He is with us. And his presence changes everything.
The second thing that changed it for them was sacred scripture. Jesus opened the scriptures to them, explaining it to them so that they could understand. And he shows us clearly that in order for us to overcome foolishness we MUST be educated in knowledge of our faith. Therefore we must learn scripture. We must learn the teaching of the Church. We must learn the sacred tradition of the Church. It is through these means that Christ himself teaches us what we need to know so that we can recognize him.
The third things that changed it for them was the Eucharist. It was in the breaking of the bread that Jesus, in that moment, was unveiled. They could finally see him and recognize his presence. In that moment, he vanished. In that moment, their unbelief was overcome and they could see him. This leads each believer to contemplate the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Which is why Adoration is such a significant prayer. Adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist leads us to a greater belief in his true presence. And where our belief is strengthened we can perceive him more and more clearly. Both in the breaking of the bread and in so many other ways.

Which leads us to the end result of growing in knowledge of faith and in strength of belief. It leads us into the heart of Communion. Clopas and the other disciple rushed back to Jerusalem – right to the apostles. The center of the Church Jesus established. They were in communion with the apostles and with the Lord, who had appeared also to the eleven.

And isn’t that what we ultimately want? To see Jesus? Oh that we are granted the wisdom and belief to see Jesus. Are not our hearts burning within us?

Easter Vigil 2008

Easter Vigil
March 22, 2008

Romans 6:3-11
Matthew 28:1-10

We who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death.
We have been reflecting on the death of the Lord Jesus all week long.

On Palm Sunday we read the story of his passion and death according to St. Matthew.

Good Friday at 3 p.m. we read the story from the gospel of John and commemorated his death by venerating the cross. Venerating the cross is not easy. It reminds us of our mortality. That we too must take up our cross and follow him.

Good Friday at 8 p.m. we venerated the burial of Jesus by placing candles before the tomb and placing our prayer intentions within the tomb. People wrote down their sins, their weaknesses, and their pain, to bury these things with the Lord. Many people stayed, praying, even crying.

All week many people came for the sacrament of penance. In offering up our sins and our shame to the Lord, we place them on his cross to be crucified with him. And many people received, with tears running down their cheeks, the consoling and healing words of Christ – I absolve you of your sins. Our sin and our shame was nailed to the cross with him, and buried with him.
We who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death.

If we have died with Christ, we shall also live with Christ.
All through the Easter season and, really, every Sunday and every day, we as Christians reflect on the meaning of living with Christ. It is not a one time event celebrated only on Easter.

Jesus taught us that living with Him means right here and right now, as well as in eternity. He taught us to pray for the kingdom to come ON EARTH just like it exists in heaven.

Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is right here and right now. To enter into the Kingdom of God we MUST have faith in Jesus and in the Church that he established. Faith made real through practice of the sacraments of Jesus’ new covenant. Faith made real by practical application of the love of God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love of neighbor as we love ourselves. This is the work of love.
If we have died with Christ, then we must live with Christ.

To live with Christ is to see him.
After his resurrection Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Then he appeared to the disciples. Down through the ages various believers have reported seeing visions of him or of hearing his voice.
If you had the opportunity to see Jesus – I mean really see him, would you want to?
Then remember, seeing him will challenge you to the core. Consider:

For Mary Magdalene and the other Mary – He told them not to be afraid and to announce his resurrection to the other disciples. They did as he asked and became the first evangelists.
For Saint Peter – Jesus charged him to lead the apostles and asked him – do you love me? Then feed my sheep. He did as Jesus asked and became the first pope.
For Mother Theresa – Jesus spoke to her and showed her His presence in what she described as “the distressing disguise of the poor.” She did as Jesus asked and became a sign of His love to the poor of Calcutta and, subsequently, a sign of the love of Jesus to people all over the world.
To live with Christ is to see him.

Do you want to hear his voice? Then hear his voice in the Word proclaimed and in the prayers and sacraments of the Church. Put into practice what you hear. Blessed are those who have ears to hear, and really hear it.
Do you want to see him? Then see his presence in the Holy Eucharist, body and blood, soul and divinity? See his presence in his Holy Church. See his presence in the least of these his brothers and sisters who we are called to love through humble service. Blessed are those who have eyes to see, and really see Him.
Do you want to live with him? Then put to death all sin and shame that it may die with him. Take on the life he asks us to live in his kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. For his Kingdom is the Church. The Church is his bride – the one for whom he laid down his life.
For you. For us all. That we may rise to new life in Him.

Permit me now, to say a few words to our brothers and sisters who do not speak English.

Celebramos hoy en esta noche la significancia de la muerte y resurrección del Señor. El bautismo que celebramos en esta misa es nuestra incorporación en la muerte de Jesús. Es decir, que nuestros pecados muere con Jesús. Por esto el bautismo es necesario. Tambien el sacramento de penitencia. Y porque?

Que podemos realmente vivir. Vivir con Cristo. Cuando celebramos la resurrección de Cristo celebramos una realidad presente. Cristo esta resucitado que nosotros podemos vivir con el.
El viva por su Palabra que proclamamos. Y en esta misa proclamemos MUCHO. Que escuchamos a sus palabras que podemos vivir sus mensajes a nosotros.

El viva en la Eucaristía – presente a nosotros en su cuerpo y sangre, alma y divinidad. Que recibimos su presencia que podemos vivir su vida aquí en la tierra como estará en los cielos.

El viva con nosotros cuando amamos a Dios con todo corazon, alma, mente, y fuerza. El viva con nosotros cuando amamos a nuestros próximos.

El viva que podemos temer no mas pero tener el gozo de sus promesas a nosotros. Vida nueva por el bautismo. Vida eterna por la cruz y la resurrección.

Viva Jesús
Viva Cristo Rey
Viva Cristo Resucitado
Viva Cristo Glorificado.

Lent - 5th Sunday

Lent – 5th Sunday
March 9, 2008

Ezekiel 37:12-14
Romans 8:8-11
John 11:1-45

Here we are at the 5th Sunday of Lent - almost finished with our Lenten journey. Easter is almost here.

The story of the raising of Lazarus in the gospel of John is the third major miracle story presented to us during the Lenten season. In the gospel of John it is also the last sign that Jesus performs pointing to his role as messiah. Once again, we are called upon to reflect on its meaning in light of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and eucharist as celebrations of the paschal mystery.

The central question presented here for us is the one Jesus posed to Martha. He said; “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

The death and life presented to us are spiritual concepts. While Jesus raised Lazarus’ body from death in this event, at some point in time after that, he once again died. His body now sleeps in death, awaiting the final resurrection promised to us by Jesus and by the prophets.

The readings are full of the promise of resurrection. Ezekiel prophesies how the Lord will open our graves that we may rise from them. St. Paul writes about the bright promise given to us at baptism. God himself will conquer our sin and death and give life to our mortal bodies.

We also know through what scripture and the church teaches that all human beings will be raised from the dead. Some will be raised to live joyfully forever in the presence of God. Others will be raised to eternal separation from God in the punishment of hell.

The question of belief is, therefore, very practical.

Those who believe in Jesus will do as he calls them. Those who don’t believe in him will, in the long run, show themselves as children of corruption.

And what is belief in Jesus? Belief is the true essence of life. Life of the eternal sort produces fruit that goes beyond mere physicality. Belief in Jesus by truly doing what he tells us produces a radical kind of love that transcends. Consider: the greatest humanitarians have always been people of faith. Mother Theresa, St. Martin de Porres, Martin Luther King Jr., St. Katherine Drexell, Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton, are all examples of people living heroic lives of faith who left a legacy of pure love. And we believe that their spirits rest forever in God. Their works were works of the spirit. The fruit of their works was always love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
And what is the fruit of having no faith? Think of the institutions set up that deny God’s existence. The Soviet Union was established in 1917 and its official creed was that God does not exist. It set out to destroy the Church. It was a source of murder, violence, corruption, and poverty. Consider modern capitalism. The era of “greed is good” has not left us. The pursuit of money as a God devalues the dignity of all human life and always results in the creation of a culture of death. Abortion, euthanasia, and every other assault against the dignity of human life is the eventual fruit of a life in the absence of the one true God.

The great test of our day is to live within all the temptations of this world and then to choose on a daily basis whether or not we truly believe in Jesus. Will we make a radical “yes” to him and then do as he calls us? This is what it means to live out the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and Holy Eucharist.

He calls us to love God. Will we?
He calls us to love one another. Will we?
He calls us to follow his commands as handed to us through scripture and tradition. Will we?
He calls us from death to life in the spirit. Will we?

Jesus’ question to Martha is also his question to us right now.
“I am the resurrection and the life;
Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”