Monthly Archives: April 2015

Homily for April 26


In order to better understand what’s going on in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we need to situate it in context.  In speaking to the Jewish leaders and elders, Peter makes reference to “a good deed done to a cripple.”  This wasn’t just any cripple.  This was a man who was well known by everyone who went to the Temple.  We learn from chapter 3 that he had been crippled from birth.  Every day, he was carried–by relatives or neighbors, we don’t know–to the so-called “Beautiful Gate” of the Temple and was positioned there to beg.  He was even more familiar to everybody than some of our street corner beggars along the freeway are to us.  Over many years, people had grown up knowing whom you meant if you spoke of “the beggar at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple.”  When he was cured through the ministry of Peter and John, it was a spectacular demonstration of the power of the name of Jesus.  He not only stood up and walked, he leaped!  He jumped!  He bounced around like he was on a pogo stick!  All the while, he was praising God.  It was clearly an act of divine intervention, God responding to the invocation of his Son’s holy Name.  And when people saw it, they were amazed.  They knew this to be the very same crippled man whom they had encountered, Sabbath after Sabbath, as they went to Temple.

And that all gave rise to Peter’s speech, the one we heard in the first reading.  This, he says, is a sign performed so that people may believe in the power of the name of Jesus, and thus in Jesus’ mission of redemption and salvation.  He connects them to their whole history in the Old Testament, making references to the prophets, to Moses, to Abraham.  This is not a BREAK with the past, this is the FULFILLMENT.  A butterfly is not a different genus and species than the caterpillar; it’s the fulfillment!  The caterpillar does not die, it’s not replaced by the butterfly.  Similarly, the Old Covenant does not come to an end, but finds its true meaning and completion in the New.

Jesus himself speaks in the Gospel of his New Covenant mission as the Good Shepherd.  Here he speaks of his sheep knowing his voice and following him.  In Luke’s Gospel, chapter 15, we hear a parable of a good shepherd who goes out in search of the stray.  Jesus shows himself to be a true Son of David, the most famous king of Israel, who had his humble beginnings as a shepherd for his father Jesse.  And Peter and John go on to show that God is glorified when the name of Jesus is invoked on behalf of the lowliest and most forgotten of his sheep.  The man who was crippled from birth is bouncing off the walls of the Temple!  And this has been done in the name of the One who has the power to make all things new.  Not a single sheep is forgotten.

Some might ask, “Well, there were many other beggars and many other cripples.  Why didn’t the Apostles go around curing them ALL?  That would have been a useful thing to do.”  We have to remember that miracles are never performed just to heal the sick and infirm.  There are worse things than physical illness and suffering, no matter how severe; and the Lord who shows us that he has the power to heal and to raise from the dead ALSO has complete power over the spiritual realm, and can forgive sins.  Much more important, because now we’re talking about ETERNAL life and ETERNAL happiness, not just a temporary remedy for an earthly problem.  The fact is, as St. John reminds us in the second reading, we can be called children of God because of the love the Father has bestowed on us.  We, the people of God, we’ve already died with Christ in the waters of baptism.  We’re already living the new, risen life.  Physical death has no more hold over us.  Hence the martyrs, the ones centuries ago, and the ones suffering martyrdom today in Syria and Iraq and Pakistan and Nigeria and Kenya, they are just entering the new phase of that life which they already received at baptism.  If that doesn’t excite you, if your life as a Christian just seems humdrum and ordinary, if you routinely find other things more important than your Christian faith, well, my friend, you’ve given in to the temptation which the wolves of this world are always setting before us, to say, “No big deal!” to Christ and his Church.  And that’s a pretty sad state of affairs for someone who received a mission at baptism to set the world on fire with God’s love.

The good news is that our Good Shepherd is always seeking you out.  The renewal of your mind and heart is just as possible through the power of Jesus’ name as it was for that crippled man to be healed, the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple.  You ARE a child of God, how you’ve neglected that fact up to this point is irrelevant.  God wants to breathe his Spirit upon you and within you and call you to LIFE.  He wants your renewed and resurrected heart to be leaping around inside your chest, he wants you to be amazed and say, “Wow!  Where is THIS coming from?”  He wants you to be the new creation that Christ died for you to be.  He wants you to start living on earth with the knowledge that there’s a party being thrown in heaven over one more sinner who has repented.  That sinner is YOU, my friend.  It’s ME.  It’s EACH of us.  And the Lord Jesus is not about to give up on any one of us as long as we’re drawing breath, and maybe even some after that, knowing his mercy as we do.  Don’t be afraid to proclaim the power of Jesus’ name, in your own way, in your own circumstances.  Sometimes just saying to a co-worker, “Hey, God is good!” is a more powerful witness than hours of sermons or a boatload of encyclicals.  Every day, you are writing your chapter in the Lives of the Saints.  God intends it.  The world is waiting for it.  Make it inspiring.  Make it classy.  You’ve got all the help you need, right here in the Eucharist.


Homily for April 19


Back in 1970, the rock band Three Dog Night came out with their version of a song titled Mama Told Me Not to Come, referring to a party to which a naïve young man and his girl friend have been invited.  He finds himself being asked unnerving questions by the partygoers, and is mystified by the oppressive atmosphere and the smoke, the loud music, his girl friend passing out on the floor, and so many other things he’s never seen before.  He laments, “Mama told me not to come!”  She said, “That ain’t the way to have fun, son, that ain’t the way to have fun!”

In the second reading, from his first letter, the Apostle John sounds a little like Mama in the song:  “I’m writing this to you so that you may not commit sin.”  But John is no pollyanna.  He’s a realist.  He knows what fallen human nature is capable of.  He’s seen how strong temptation can be.  He goes on, “But if anyone DOES sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.”  What a consolation, especially when in the first reading we’ve heard the Apostle Peter proclaim to the gathered people of God the enormity of their sin in rejecting and crucifying Christ.  “You handed over and denied God’s servant Jesus. . .  You denied the Holy and Righteous One. . .  The author of life you put to death.”  Pow, pow, pow.  “You blew it!!”  You’ve been waiting and waiting centuries for the Messiah, and when the time came, you missed it!

But then Peter goes on:  “I know that you acted out of ignorance.”  How many sins would we avoid if we could see and know and understand their consequences!  God knows our weakness.  He insists on our repentance, and on our intention to improve–not because HE needs our repentance and improvement, but because WE do.  God wants us, more than anything else, to come home to the Kingdom for which we were made, the Kingdom whose gates we nailed shut by our sins, the Kingdom whose gates Christ was nailed to the cross to open for us again.  In his saving action, Christ wants to show us that there are no limits to God’s love.  But there are, of course, limits to our steadfastness, our perseverance, our virtue, our willingness to surrender to God’s loving advances.  It’s those limits that the apostolic preaching attempts to break down for us, to help us realize the foolishness of our sins and the better, life-giving way that the author of life teaches by word and example.

Jesus himself, in the Gospel, appearing to the Apostles after the Resurrection, tells them “that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations.”  The Church continues the apostolic preaching of repentance, according to the specific direction of Christ, in all of its moral teaching.  The Church is sometimes caricatured to sound like Mama in the song by Three Dog Night:  “That ain’t no way to have fun, son.”   But sin, repentance, and forgiveness are serious matters.  Our culture tends to treat them very lightly, or to trivialize them.  Chocolate is described in ads as “sinfully delicious,” yet abortion on demand is practically held up as a sacrament by the pro-choice crowd.  Well-educated federal judges cannot figure out why same-sex unions should not be held up as worthy of recognition on a par with marriage, while the government subsidizes a crucifix immersed in a jar of urine as “art.”  Yes, the world often seems turned upside down; but only because it continues to fail to recognize Christ our Savior as worthy of belief.

We are unapologetic in our proclamation and preaching of repentance in the name of Christ to all the nations.  Woe to us, in fact, as St. Paul says, if we do NOT preach the gospel.  Christ’s message is salvation for all of us, for Jews, for Muslims, for atheists, for agnostics, for Hindus, for Buddhists.  Christianity began with a carpenter and his motley crew of eleven fishermen and a tax collector–hardly an assortment that would make headlines in any place and time.  From those humble beginnings, we have gone on to become one of the world’s great religions.  Yet the clear direction of Christ is that ALL NATIONS must hear the Word.  Make no mistake about it:  our goal is to become the world’s ONLY religion.  But we don’t go about it in the same way that others do, or that others fear WE will.  We don’t do it by suppression or oppression of others, we don’t do it by shrieking “DEATH” to unbelievers, we don’t do it by persecuting or punishing those who disagree with our doctrines or moral teaching.  We do it by being living examples of what we teach.  We do it by persuasion and invitation.  We do it by introducing others to Love Himself, personified in our words and actions.  And we continue to proclaim repentance, and resurrection, because that’s what he told us to do.  Oh sure, it’s the Pope’s job to preach it.  It’s the Bishop’s job to preach it.  It’s Father’s job to preach it.  But it’s also YOUR job to preach it, and your preaching of it will land on many ears and hearts that will never hear the Pope or the Bishop or the pastor.

Homily April 12, 2015


There is not much hope that Muslims who live in Muslim countries will any time soon be heavily influenced by Christianity.  In many of those countries, like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, Christians are not free to practice their religion.  No churches can be built, Mass cannot be celebrated, and it’s illegal to be caught with a copy of the Bible.  Other Muslim countries might not be quite so strict, but in most of them, Christians are at best tolerated, and at worst persecuted.

There are many Muslims in our own country.  Some of you might go to school or work with people who follow the religion called Islam.  Here in our country, every Muslim is surrounded by people, co-workers, fellow students, neighbors, business and professional people, who claim to know Christ.  We have an opportunity that many Christians in the world do not have, to be in a position to share our faith with Muslims.  Our religions are very different.  We ought to be well aware of what the differences are and of what makes our Christian beliefs so life-giving.  Only in that way can we provide the very best witness to Christ to Muslims and to others who do not believe in him.  Today’s Scriptures can help us in that.

Don’t think that you will have to do a lot of talking to be an effective witness to Christ.  First, you have to know Christ, and let him introduce you to the Father and the Holy Spirit.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus appears to the Apostles after his resurrection.  He gives them his peace, and tells them that he’s sending THEM as the Father sent HIM.  Jesus is the Prince and Messenger of Peace from the Father.  Clearly, God our Father does not have violent intentions toward us.  In his desire to show us how much he loves us in spite of our sins, God has not spared his only Son.  Jesus breathes on the Apostles and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  Then he speaks to them about forgiveness, giving to his Church the power to forgive sins as he himself has forgiven them.  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit:  here is God at work, perfect unity and perfect COMM-unity.  He acts in complete peace and love toward his beloved creatures who have spurned his love by our sins.  And when we are forgiven, he expects us only to be forgive-ERS, to pass on what we have received.  We become agents of Divine Mercy!

Thinking of yourself as an agent of Divine Mercy will help you understand how you are to be with others, with your brothers and sisters, your neighbors, your enemies, your employer and employees, with the stranger at the door or on the street, with fellow Christians, with Jews, with Muslims, and with people of no religion at all.  When Muslims, for instance, see you living and walking with Christ in dependence on God, that’s a much stronger witness that getting into doctrinal discussions.  Our first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, shows the early Christians caring for one another, being concerned about one another.  It’s not that difficult to do, to get our minds off ourselves and to train ourselves to think of others’ needs before our own.  And that’s a universal language that can be understood by everyone, no matter what their belief.  Some will see that as weakness, and mock us and take advantage of us.  No matter.  We are sent to TEACH all nations in the name of Christ, and one of the things we can teach is the great strength that lies in love and sacrifice.  Jesus did that in the flesh, on the cross.  Even doubting Thomas knew about that fact.  Everyone knew that Jesus had been crucified.  For Thomas, the only thing that would prove that it was really Jesus whom the others had seen would be probing his wounds.  Yes, that would really be Jesus.  But he didn’t believe it could happen.  And the others didn’t know what to say to convince him.  Kind of like the Muslims and us.  Ultimately, only Christ himself can reach inside Muslim hearts and the hearts of unbelievers.  But he relies on us to prepare the way.

St. John in the second reading shows us another aspect of the dynamic work of the Trinity within us.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God calls us to be his children.  That is something that is very hard for Muslims and others to understand.  For them, God is so distant that no relationship is possible.  For us, God chooses to be so intertwined with us that OUR relationships are modeled on his own inner divine dynamism.  We are made in his image, individually AND as a community of persons.  And it is a life’s work trying to perfect that, to “be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.”

We have already been reborn in the water of baptism and have become part of the family of God.  Now, in Holy Communion, we are constantly renewed and strengthened by the Body and Blood of Christ for the sacred work that he gives us.  Extending the knowledge and love of God to everyone we meet is a great privilege.  It’s at the heart of our mission and our life’s work, no matter what our “occupation” might be.  And whenever we gather for Mass, the Lord Jesus always makes sure we are well fed before he sends us out the door.  With Thomas, we joyfully cry out, “My Lord and my God!”

Homily – April 4-5


Some years ago, a famous theologian made a statement that helped him officially lose the title of “Catholic theologian.”  Commenting on the Resurrection, he stated, “If there had been TV cameras present at the tomb, they wouldn’t have seen a thing.”  What he didn’t say was what, indeed, HAPPENED to the body of Christ?  What he didn’t explain was, if the disciples had stolen the body as the Jewish elders wanted people to think, how could so many people keep such a secret for so long?  What he could never explain was how so many martyrs could shed their blood and suffer being put to death just to perpetuate a fraud?  What was in it for them if it was all a big lie?

Some people, including some theologians, just can’t seem to believe anything that can’t be explained in sensory or scientific terms.  They try to explain away miracles, they deny anything supernatural.  What they don’t seem to understand is that if there’s nothing to believe in, what’s the purpose of faith?  And if we have no faith, what differentiates us from unbelievers?  Faith helps us to see beyond mere appearances.

Jesus never lets us keep our faith only in the realm of pie-in-the-sky.  He spoke of love of neighbor; and when asked, “Who IS my neighbor?” he told the story of the Good Samaritan, a graphic story of gory brutality and healing compassion if ever there was one.  When he wanted to show us how much God loves us, he allowed himself to be crucified, giving us a most haunting picture of torture of the innocent beyond anything the human mind could conceive.  When he raised the daughter of Jairus the synagogue leader from the dead, he reminded her parents to give her something to eat.  When he raised Lazarus from the dead, he had to tell the astounded assembly at the tomb, “Well, don’t let him grunt and groan.  Untie him, let him go free!”  Very hands-on, very practical, that’s our Savior.

To illustrate his teachings, Jesus used the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.  He spoke of wedding banquets and fruit trees and sheep.  He used concrete, vivid images with which people were familiar.  How could it be that when it came to his rising from the dead, the world would have to be satisfied with just a very heady, intellectual understanding of his ongoing presence with us when we just get together and do good?  We would be very correct in proclaiming, “THAT’S not the Jesus we know!!  That’s not the Father’s Anointed One!!”  Just as in the Eucharist, Jesus leaves no doubt about the reality of the mystery of which he speaks:  “This is my Body, this is my Blood!”  And the Resurrection?  This is not a hurried body snatching carried out by disciples fearful of getting caught.  The burial cloths have been neatly rolled and folded.  The tomb is empty.  The soldiers have to be paid off to make up a story instead of being disciplined because they failed in their duty.  As Archbishop Sheen put it, as at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, guards are often put at tombs to make sure no one gets in.  There’s been only one tomb in history where guards were stationed to make sure no one got OUT.  And the guards did not succeed.

You and I are witnesses of the Resurrection because these accounts have been passed down to us from those who were there, who saw him, who talked with him, who walked with him after he rose from the dead.  His body has never been found because it’s not there.  But in a divinely marvelous way, he not only reigns gloriously in heaven, he remains with us on earth — here in the Eucharist, and here in the Church, his Body, where he counts you and me as his members, baptized into his death and risen with him in new life.  Yes, your eternal life has already begun.  It began on the day of your baptism.  For Rebecca and Aleaha (uh-LEE-uh), it begins tonight.  When we feel the waters of baptism flow over us or sprinkled upon us to remind us of how we got here, may our senses remind us that Christ is not just an idea, not just a distant memory.  He is here to walk with you every day.  Keep your hand in his, and you’ve already reached your destination.  Find the reason and meaning for your life by living his Kingdom in the midst of a world so desperately in need of his loving rule.