Monthly Archives: January 2018

Homily for January 21, 2018


The Scriptures this morning have a chant recurring like a drumbeat:  “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed. . .  This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel. . .  I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out. . .  For the world in its present form is passing away”  Whether from Jonah, Jesus, or Paul, these are prophetic words.  They are words spoken by God through the prophetic voices of an Old Testament prophet, of God’s own Son and Anointed One, and of the Apostle to the Gentiles.  They are words spoken from eternity to every age and time.  We are tempted to look at 2,000 years of Christian history and say, “Oh, there’s no hurry, the Lord is clearly taking his time.”

That’s NOT what the Lord Jesus says, nor the attitude he conveys.  Throughout his public ministry, and particularly as recorded by Mark and Matthew, there is a stark urgency about the gospel.  Jesus is on the move, preaching, healing, instructing, bringing the established religious order to its fulfillment in a New and Eternal Covenant.  He doesn’t just call a small band of followers away by themselves so he can instruct them quietly and tell them the secrets of eternal life.  He passes on his mission to THEM!  “Fishermen, eh?” he says, in effect.  “Come, follow me.  I’ll have you fishing FOR PEOPLE!  We don’t have much time.”

How sad that we don’t take Jesus at his word, or catch the urgency in his voice and manner.  In many ages of the Church’s history, people DID sense the urgency, and readily volunteered their services — no, their LIVES — to bring the message and love of Christ to people everywhere.  Think of the great St. Francis Xavier, whose right arm remains enshrined in Rome because of the countless thousands he baptized and absolved with it in India in a few short years of missionary work.  Think of the Venerable Father Frederic Baraga, the first priest to reside here in our river valley, just a couple miles south of us, patiently learning the difficult Ottawa and Chippewa languages so he could fish for people whose descendants carry on the faith today.  Think of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, cradling the dying poor in her arms to bring them the consolation of Christ Jesus as she introduced them to him and commended their souls to his care.

If the work were not urgent, I submit that the lives of Francis Xavier, Frederic Baraga, and Mother Teresa would have been spent foolishly.  What’s the rush, after all?  Jesus loves everybody!  What’s there to worry about?

It’s not a worry, but what’s to be CONCERNED about is the fact that billions of people, and an increasing number of people in our own country, even in our own families, have never EFFECTIVELY heard of that love of Christ for them, nor of what Christ demands.  Or, having heard of Christ, have given him up and cast him aside in favor of the here and now of earthly pursuits.  It’s why we have to convince people that the message of Christ is FOR here and now.  It’s not just other-worldly, pie-in-the-sky.  But first, WE have to be convinced!  We must hear Christ’s call to repentance ALL THE TIME, because we are apt to be SINNERS all the time.  With St. Paul, we have to learn to say, “I discipline my body and make it my servant, lest having preached to others, I myself be lost” (I Corinthians 9:27).  The Apostle to the Gentiles did not fear an arbitrary judgment on God’s part; he feared an arbitrary decision on his OWN part to throw away the gift of faith which he cherished as a gift from God.

Those who are prone to think that nothing matters, that God will forgive everything and everyone, that Divine Mercy translates into universal salvation, simply do not follow the teaching of Christ.  If sin does not put our salvation in jeopardy IN SPITE OF the Cross of Christ, why did Christ and his Apostles bother teaching anything, especially instructing people in the moral life?  “Life is worth living,” as Bishop Sheen used to say, because it MEANS something!  Our choices, virtuous or sinful, help to determine our eternal destiny.  You and I are designated by Christ through baptism to be cooperators in our own salvation and that of others.  It’s a great mission and a life’s adventure.  Oh, and it’s urgent.  It can never wait till tomorrow.  Too many souls are dependent on your daily response.  Go FISH!

Homily for January 7, 2018


“Epiphany” means “manifestation,” or in common language, “going public.”  Divine intervention brought the star-gazing Wise Men from the East to find the newborn King of the Jews in a humble home, from which he would soon be evicted by Herod’s jealous cruelty.  The One whom the Jews had been awaiting as God’s Anointed, their Messiah, was made known to foreigners early on.  God’s chosen people were beloved by God, and were critically important for providing the worship, the literature, and the society into which the Savior would be born.  But the One of whom the Jews often thought as their private preserve, their own national hero, the One who would kick the behinds of the Romans and anyone else who subjugated them — for that ONE, God had far more generous plans.  It took a great change in their way of thinking to realize that the Messiah was coming for EVERYBODY:  Jews, Greeks, Egyptians, Chaldeans, Persians, Arabs, Romans, you name it.  And many couldn’t make that change.  Many couldn’t expand the boundaries of their idea of the Messiah to imagine that he also would come for OTHER people.  Many still can’t.

Through the Infant King whom the Magi came from afar to honor, Israel’s boundaries would not collapse.  They would GROW, to potentially include all the peoples of the earth.  EVERYONE could become part of the New Israel.  This dawned upon the Apostles especially on and after Pentecost, by the power of the Holy Spirit falling afresh upon them.  St. Paul makes much of it in his writings.  The Book of Revelation speaks in Chapter 15 of how “All the nations will come and worship before you, Lord God almighty!”  Chapter 18 of that great book tells of the fall of Babylon, which represents the spirit of the world in ANY nation.  The old ways of fallen human nature and narrow and perverse human thinking will have met defeat in the victory of the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Lamb of God.  At the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, the Epiphany is complete!  As we shall hear just before Holy Communion, truly blessed are those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb!

Being part of God’s People, being part of the Church, being part of Christ’s Mystical Body means that Epiphany has a great meaning for all of us, the baptized.  There are those who are very comfortable with Christ as an infant in the crib.  But they want to keep him there.  Don’t let him grow up.  Restrict him so he can be no threat, so he can do no harm, so he can’t upset the established order.  That’s the spirit of Herod, isn’t it?  And that’s our spirit, too, when we shy away from the conversion to which we are called by Christ on a daily basis.  Every day means turning my life over to Jesus Christ, again and again.  Every time I fail, he’s there, patiently waiting for me, ready to get me fit for duty and to take on the world again for the spread of his Kingdom.

As far as the Magi are concerned, the word is out.  Herod has told them to come back and report the details to him, so he too can go and “worship.”  But after seeing Jesus and offering him their gifts, a dream tells them why Herod has wanted things to be just “between them.”  Keep it small, and you can control it.  Once you lose control, you don’t know what will happen.  Precisely.  And that’s why the ACLU and the Freedom from Religion folks are so often so rabid even today about any public display of the faith.  “That belongs in church,” they shout.  “Do what you want within the walls of your building, but don’t you dare bring it into the public square.”  They speak on behalf of the old, defeated spirit of the world.  They’re not just worried about who’s going to pay for the security.  They just don’t want the Gospel mentioned, nor any trace of it seen.  Keep the Infant in the crib.  Make him a museum piece.  Treat the Church like a quaint curiosity.  Mock.  Ridicule.  Ignore.  And in spite of all their best efforts for over 2,000 years now, the Church is still here, manifesting Jesus in as many different ways as there are believers, making his presence known and felt to the farthest reaches of the world.  Our work is never complete.  Nations which were converted long ago are in need of the “New Evangelization,” to speak the Gospel to people in THIS day and THIS age and THIS place.  And the Incarnation, and the Epiphany, go on.  And on.  And on.  And we’re a part of it!  Blessed be God!