Monthly Archives: June 2016

Homily for June 26 2016

 

HOMILY – JUNE 26

We’ve been getting lots of lessons during this liturgical year about our prophetic ministry as disciples of Christ – our call to teach the world the things that we are always being taught by Christ himself.  The Scriptures today are pretty dramatic, literally showing, in the case of Elijah and Elisha, the passing on of the prophetic mantle.  That mantle, and even more importantly, the mantle of Christ, is passed down to us today as members of his Body and Bride, the Church.

“Wait!” you say.  “I didn’t sign up for this!  It’s the job of the Pope and the bishops and the preachers to pass on the faith.  THEY are the Magisterium, the teaching authority, not me!”  And that’s true, to a point.  They are responsible for keeping the teaching of Christ clean and authentic, neither adding nor subtracting essentials.  But why teach if the content is not going to be used and passed on even further?  How many times have you heard people complain, “All those hours I spent studying trigonometry, or French literature, or Oriental history in school, and I’VE NEVER USED IT!!”  Well, if you listen to the Scriptures, if you pay some attention to homilies and sermons, if you listen to Catholic radio and watch Catholic TV, if you read some good instructive Catholic literature during the week, you will find PLENTY to use, every day, and PLENTY to pass on.  That’s how you figure into the prophetic ministry of Christ and his Church.  The Pope and the bishops and the priests are not at your workplace, at your school, or living in your neighborhood.  YOU are, and it’s your job to take what you’ve gained from Christ and pass it on in the most effective way.

Most of us LIVE our prophecy, our teaching, even more than passing it on by speaking and writing.  What people see us doing will often make a far bigger impression on them than anything we say.  But we should not rule out the very real possibility that we might well be called on to explain our faith and the teachings of Christ and the Church at any moment.  We need to call on the Holy Spirit in our daily prayer and ask for the grace to be prepared to witness, however that might come about.  You might be playing cards or out bowling when you hear someone come out with some untruth about the Scriptures, or about Catholic teaching.  You don’t have to go into fighting mode.  And don’t begin by saying, “I’m sorry, but . . .”  You should never be sorry about speaking the truth.  You’re not there to attack.  You’re there by God’s grace to calmly explain THE TRUTH in the midst of people who need to hear it.

A few years ago, I was stunned when I mentioned to a friend that I had had a tough baby funeral, but that the couple had been prepared for the baby’s death because the ultrasound had picked up some potentially fatal problems.  “Why didn’t they abort?” my CATHOLIC friend asked.  I was stunned, but I remember just continuing, “Why, you can’t abort the child!  That’s a precious human being, a unique creation of God.  Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s moral.  They love their daughter very much, and she will always be their first and oldest child.”  It was my friend’s turn to be stunned.  He sat there with a look on his face that said, “Wow!  He really BELIEVES this, he’s not just saying it because the Church tells him to!”  We’re still friends.  He knows where I stand, and I hope that since that brief conversation it’s a little easier for him to stand there, too.

Jesus in the Gospel shows that there is a sense of urgency about our prophetic mission:  “Anyone who puts his hand to the plow and keeps looking back isn’t worthy of me!”  We are sinners, imperfect prophets.  I think of the many chances I’ve passed up to boldly but gently proclaim the truth of Christ when I very easily COULD have.  I can only rely on the mercy of God to magnify the benefit of the times that perhaps I HAVE been of some use as his prophet.  We really can waste no time.  We do not have a prophetic mission in order to benefit ourselves.  It’s to help save the souls of the people in whose midst we live.  God has placed them in our care, if even for a moment.  For them, it may well be a matter of eternal life or eternal death.  Wouldn’t it be a joy, my friends, to be welcomed to our heavenly home by many other members of the Communion of Saints who can greet us with, “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you?”  Let’s pray that with God’s grace, we may always live as the very best version of ourselves, and thus help pave the way home for many others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEARNING ABOUT THE MASS – JUNE 12

READERS:  THIS PARAGRAPH IS TO BE DELIVERED TO THE CONGREGATION RIGHT AFTER YOUR GREETING, BUT BEFORE THE INTRODUCTION TO TODAY’S MASS.

 

After the priest, the lector, and the servers pay their reverence to the reserved Sacrament, they go up to the altar.  The priest kisses the altar, showing reverence on several different levels.  There is the obvious gesture toward the altar itself, the mensa or table on which Christ’s Saving Sacrifice will be re-presented for us in this time and place.  Gone are the bloody animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant.  We who have been baptized into Christ are both privileged and obliged to participate in the one Sacrifice in his Paschal Mystery, expressed at the Last Supper AND on the Cross AND in his rising from the grave.  We could not be present for those events in history; so Christ makes our participation in them possible for us here and now, in a very graphic way.  The solid rock of our altar here at SS. Peter & Paul speaks to us of the Rock which is Christ, on whom we can always rely as an anchor and a point of reference in our lives.

The priest is also showing affection to the altar because for us, it represents Christ himself.  So this greeting is given to Christ on behalf of all the believers present, and of all who through our prayers take part in this celebration of our Covenant with God.  As one of our Easter prefaces notes, Christ reveals himself here as the priest, the altar, and the Lamb of sacrifice.

Finally, the priest kisses the altar because it contains the relics of great members of the Communion of Saints, who truly gather with us here; as in the Eucharist earth meets heaven for a few moments of earthly time.  In the early days of Christianity, the Mass was frequently offered in the catacombs on the tombs of martyrs.  Here, we honor these relics embedded in the altar – in CHRIST –, which remind us that the liturgy truly connects us in time and in space with the whole Church in every place and time.

Homily for June 12 2016

HOMILY – JUNE 12

How can it happen, that we who are sinners can be made “just” or righteous?  St. Paul writes to the Galatians in the second reading that if justification comes through the Law of Moses, then Christ died for nothing.  Pretty strong words!  But just as we, God’s people, have received a New Covenant in the Blood of Christ, so the Law of Moses has given way to Christ’s supreme law of love.  Love has become the immeasurable measure by which all our actions must be measured.  Unlike the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law, the demands of love are inexhaustible.  There’s always room for more.  And our freedom from the Law of Moses gives us the freedom to do the more.

Now, some people severely misinterpret this newfound freedom of the people of God to mean that there is nothing I can do that will separate me from God.  “Love, and do what you will,” said St. Augustine; but he was starting from the premise that to love means TO DO THE WILL OF GOD, conforming our weak human wills to his all-powerful divine will.  It does not mean that we can give in to all the promptings of the flesh and call it love.  God’s will for us is expressed very clearly in the Scriptures.  We know what it means to behave in a “godly” manner, and it certainly does not include chasing after every temptation that comes along.  God wills that we seek The Good, as HE has designed it, not as we would wish it or crave it.

Old Testament example:  In his idle moments, the great King David lusted for the wife of Uriah (pron. yer-EYE-uh), a foreigner of good will who was one of his very best military officers.  David set Uriah up to be killed in battle.  The Godfather might have said, “Make it look like an accident!”  How atrociously evil!  And yet, as soon as he is confronted with his sin by Nathan the prophet, as we heard in the first reading, David confesses his sin.  He makes no excuses for his wretched behavior, he humbles himself before God.  David has failed and fallen, but God holds out forgiveness for him so that he can continue his kingly service.  And he did not engage in a coverup.  His wicked choice is documented right there in the Scriptures, for everyone to see for all ages to come.

New Testament example:  The sinful woman who comes to Jesus while he is at dinner in the home of Simon the Pharisee is a well-known tramp.  The only resemblance between her and God is that she, too, has been EVERYWHERE.  But something, Someone, has loved her and led her from her life of public sin to make a very public act of repentance.  Jesus announces her forgiveness and tells her that it is responding with faith to God’s invitation that has brought her salvation.  Simon the Pharisee has entertained thoughts about Jesus and the woman in his head.  She, however, has given Jesus her heart.  She speaks no words.  The only language she uses is the sensual and tactile language she has employed to seduce others.  But here the tables are turned.  SHE has been seduced by the fountain of mercy itself.  She surrenders completely to God’s loving advances, responding with a sincerity that those at table find only a little less amazing than the declaration of the Savior that she is forgiven because she has shown great love.  There is no mistaking his meaning.  He is not speaking of the false loves in which she has indulged herself and others.  Her genuine repentance, this great act of faith, frees her from the slavery of her past and the bondage of her sins.  The Trinity is at work here in the forgiveness of Christ:  she has become a new creation, she is redeemed, and she is sanctified with a peace that she could never find in the world.

What power of forgiveness and freedom is held out to those who accept the call to repentance!  First, King David;  then, this woman from the streets;  then, the Apostle St. Paul;  all give testimony to the beauty of surrender to God, dropping all the disguises and defenses and allowing Truth Himself to set us free.  If we ever fear the thought of going to confession, perhaps after many years or many sins, re-reading these Scriptures should allow the Holy Spirit to help us hear Jesus’ own words:  “Be not afraid!”  The freedom that awaits us is infinitely more life-giving than confining ourselves to the ever-shrinking world of our sins and self-concern.  Come to the sacrament of penance, and hear the Good News of your absolution!

Homily for June 5 2016

HOMILY – JUNE 5

Listen again, if you will, to the first lines of that second reading from St. Paul to the Galatians:  “The gospel preached by me is not of human origin. . .  It came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”  This is really good news for us, my friends.  It means we’re not responsible for the message we’ve been given to pass on to the world!  We’re off the hook.  Kind of.  Oh, we’re responsible for PREACHING it, for LIVING it, for MAKING IT CLEAR in the midst of the circumstances in which God finds us and calls us.  But the message is HIS.  We have a revealed religion.  When people get angry at what we have to say, when they call our moral teachings hate speech, when they call our doctrine nonsense, when they claim that we made it all up and there’s no historical basis for it, we can say, “Why would we do that when it just buys us trouble?”

Our Christian faith is a REVEALED RELIGION.  Of course the Church has many human elements, as you would expect of any organization made up primarily of humans.  But it has its origin with God himself.  The human elements have been guided by the ongoing presence and work of the Holy Spirit.  We earthen vessels carry on the work of God, and the work of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, in bringing his people to life.  God did that very graphically through the prophet Elijah for the widow’s son in the Old Testament reading, and Christ accomplishes the work of God very graphically in calling the widow’s son to life in the Gospel.  But in both cases, there was an even greater reality at work than just bringing someone back to life here on earth.

How these stories should remind us of Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in John, chapter 3:  “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be SAVED through him”!  And then in John, chapter 10, he says, “I came that they might have LIFE, and have it to the full.”  So Jesus makes it clear that he hasn’t come just to call people out of the grave and back to earthly life.  He HAS that power, yes, but it’s to get our attention so that we can recognize the far more IMPORTANT power of calling people to ETERNAL life.  How unfortunate that the world often associates us Christians only with condemnation and death!  Maybe it’s the way we look!!  Maybe it’s the way we ACT!!  At any rate, it certainly seems that we haven’t always made the message of Christ and the message of life clear in the world’s mind.

And then, of course, it’s quite possible that many in the world resent the Church, as they resented Christ, precisely BECAUSE the Church speaks with authority.  The proud and self-centered of this world, and that includes our own stubborn hearts, don’t want ANYONE inviting them somewhere they don’t want to go, much less showing and telling them what to do to get there.  So they make fun of the ideas of heaven and eternal life, and loudly proclaim that THIS IS ALL THERE IS!  They look around and see in creation no playfulness or whimsy on the part of God, but only the cold, hard facts of science.  How dull is life without the poetry, music, and art of faith!  See why Christ wants us to LIVE that faith in a believable way?

To be sure, we’re not going to convince nor convert everyone.  Christ sends us out to FISH, not to drain the lake and scoop ‘em up off the bottom!  The centuries of patience that it’s taken the Church to work at accomplishing its task reflects the timelessness of God himself.  He demonstrates infinite and eternal patience in making our work his own.  He has entrusted to us the revelation of eternal truths, expressed in beautifully and utterly simple ways by Christ in his teachings and parables.  He has made his purpose clear from the first words of the revelation, in Genesis:  we are made in his image, to enjoy stewardship of his creation here in preparation for sharing his life forever in his Kingdom.  Human words are insufficient to express the whole truth of this mystery, and so God has finally spoken in the Word made flesh, in the Person of his Son.  Our task, by word and example, is simply to help others gain some familiarity with Jesus Christ, and then get to know him even more intimately in his Church, in his Scriptures, and in his sacraments.  We are calling them to have life, and to have it to the full.