The Ascension of the Lord

Homily for the Feast of the Ascension (Year C)
June 1-2, 2019
Sacred Heart, EGF:                  Saturday, 5:30 PM
Holy Trinity, Tabor:                 Sunday, 8:00 AM
St. Francis of Assisi, Fisher:   Sunday, 10:00 AM


ascension

40 days ago, at Easter, the joy of the Resurrection filled our hearts.

Today, the cause of our joy is the Ascension,
the day when our human nature was carried up, in Christ,
above the hosts of heaven.

Our fallen humanity was restored to its original glory, actually beyond its original glory, and raised up to the heights of heaven.

We just finished celebrating the month of May. May is the month of Mary.  We have the tradition of crowning the statue of Mary.  We crown her, acknowledging that she is queen of heaven but also queen of our hearts.

We crown her as queen because her humble “yes” to the announcement of the angel on the day of Annunciation led to the Incarnation of the Son of God. Divinity descends and is joined to humanity in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  She humbled herself and God exalted her.

Divinity descends and is joined to humanity. Jesus is fully God and fully man.  He is not half God and half man.  In him, divinity and humanity are joined together.  They cannot be separated and yet they are not mixed together.  It is a mystery that confounds the human mind.

It is a mystery proclaimed at every mass as the altar is prepared. The bread and wine are brought forward, and the priest or deacon pours a small amount of water into the wine and says:water and wine

By the mystery of this water and wine,
may we come to share in the divinity of Christ,
who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

God humbled himself on that day of the Annunciation by taking on our humanity, and today he is glorified as he is raised up to Heaven.

The mystery of Christmas is the mystery of the Incarnation.
Divinity is joined to humanity.

Today is the fulfillment of that mystery.
Our humanity is now taken up with his divinity.

In our opening prayer for this Mass, we prayed to the Father with these words:

the Ascension of Christ your Son is our exaltation,
and, where the Head has gone before in glory,
the Body is called to follow in hope. 

The Church is the Body of Christ.
The Body has a head, and that head is Christ.
That Body also has members, and we are the members.

May we come to share in the divinity of Christ
who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

the Ascension of Christ your Son is our exaltation,
and, where the Head has gone before in glory,
the Body is called to follow in hope.

He joined himself to our humanity so that we might be joined to his divinity.

Brothers and sisters,
ours is a high calling,
a sublime calling,
a call to the heights of divinity itself.

On Christmas Day, St. Leo the Great says these words to his congregation:

Christian, remember your dignity,
and now that you share in God’s own nature,
do not return by sin to your former base condition.
Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member.
Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom.

Brothers and sisters,

You are made to climb to the heights of Heaven!

You are made for an eternal weight of glory!

You are made to rise above the ashes of a mediocre life
that the world holds out to you
and to make your life an offering of fragrant incense
ascending to the throne of God
by striving to root out sin
and to live a life of heroic virtue,
a life lived for God in the midst of a world stinking from the smells of selfishness and individualism.

You are made to live as if you believe that you who are Jesus says you are:
a son,
a daughter,
of the Living God,
redeemed by the precious Blood of Christ beyond all price:

the blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel which cried out from the ground after Cain had slain him,

the blood of Christ that, today, as he ascends into Heaven,
now appears before God on our behalf,
interceding for us even as this same blood appears on this altar
and is raised up to God on our behalf with these words:

Through him and with him and in him,
O God Almighty Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory and honor is yours forever and ever.
Amen!

Mary humbled herself and God exalted her.

Jesus humbled himself and was exalted.

We, too, must humble ourselves
if we are to be exalted,
if we are to be raised,
to the heights of Heaven.

We must submit ourselves to him by allowing him to be the Lord of every aspect of our lives.

Pope Benedict XVI said this:

Jesus himself is what we call “Heaven.” Heaven is not a place.  Heaven is a person – the person of Him in whom God and Man are inseparably one.  And we go to Heaven to the extent that we go to Jesus Christ and enter into Him.  In this sense, “ascension into Heaven” can be something that happens in our every day lives.

And that is a reason for rejoicing today!

Love One Another

Homily for 5th Sunday of Easter (Year C)
May 18-19, 2019
Sacred Heart, EGF:     Saturday 5:30 PM; Sunday 10:00 AM (Baccalaureate); 5:30 PM

Focus:               Love One Another
Function:         Love One Another


A few years back, in a nearby school district, there was a student who just didn’t quite fit in. Joel, the custodian, always made time to talk and joke with her, to ask her how things were going. This fall, she was involved in a car accident and died. The day after the accident, her dad called and asked Joel if he would be a pall bearer at her funeral.

Her dad recounted that she had once told him, “Dad, if anything ever happens to you, I’d want Joel to be my dad.”

Joel was floored. He never knew that. It took her dying for him to find that out. He didn’t think he was doing anything special. He treated all of the other students the same way. But to her, it meant the world.

My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
I give you a new commandment: Love one another.
By this will all know that you are my disciples:
If you have love for one another.

Love one another.

See one another through my eyes.
See one another as I see you.

Love one another.

Love those who are easy to love.
Love those who are hard to love.

Love one another as I have loved you.

Brothers and sisters, if we are going to love one another as Christ loved us, then the love of Christ must dwell in us.

St. Teresa of Calcutta:
Intense love does not measure; it just gives.
To be an apostle of the Sacred Heart, one must be burning with love, intense love for your neighbor…
This love must come from within, from our union with Christ.

Is your heart afire with love? Does your heart wish to suffer for the good of another? Are you an apostle of the Sacred Heart?

Have you allowed your heart to be replaced with the Sacred Heart of Jesus?

A heart of flesh

A heart of tenderness and compassion

A heart that listens to another,
that listens to the voice of God
and then listens for what the voice of God has to say to the Other

Do you give from your heart and not merely from your hands?

Do you offer a sacrifice of love or merely a sacrifice of obligation?

Do you give without counting the cost because whatever our love costs us pales in comparison to what it cost him? Where do you find yourself counting the cost?

Brothers and sisters,
He gave himself entirely for us on the Cross.
We now must give ourselves entirely to him and to each other.

He gives himself entirely to us in the Eucharist

This is my body, which will be given up for you.

Can we love one another like that? Can we make those sacred words our own?

This is my body, given up for you? This is my blood, poured out for you?

If we are not willing to do that,
if we are not willing to try to do that,
how can we approach this altar with any integrity?

His love saves us from ourselves.
Our ego
Our selfishness
Our navel-gazing
The endless selfishness of the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I.

His love calls us out of ourselves and into mission.
His love makes life worth living.

St. John Paul II:
Man will not fully find himself until he learns to make a sincere gift of himself.

Jesus:
He who loses his life for my sake will find it.

At the end of your life, when you have lost your life, what will others say about you?

The measure of life for the Christian is the measure of love.

My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
I give you a new commandment: love one another.
By this will all know that you are my disciples:
If you have love for one another.

Seniors:
Transitions stir up a lot within us. They bring to the forefront what is important.
Jesus in transition – says these words before he leaves his disciples.
You are in transition – “I will be with you only a little while longer”

Sometimes when we feel this, we try to avoid it. Challenge: live in the moment. Don’t avoid it. End well. Begin well. Don’t miss the transition. Love in the midst of the transition:

3 things to say to transition well: Thank you. I’m sorry. I love you.

Say that to your family, your teachers, your classmates. To do this is to love one another.

The Resurrection Changes Everything. Run to the Tomb!

Homily for Easter Sunday (Year C)
April 21, 2019
Holy Trinity, Tabor – 8 AM
St. Francis of Assisi, Fisher – 10 AM

Focus:              The Resurrection changes everything
Function:         Run to the tomb.


empty-tomb.jpg

Happy Easter!

The early Christians had a greeting that they shared with each other.
One would say: Alleluia!  The Lord is Risen!
And the others would reply: Alleluia!  He is risen, indeed!

Alleluia!  The Lord is Risen!
R:\ Alleluia!  He is risen, indeed!

Resurrection: rise again; raising up

Resurgence: increasing or reviving after a period of little activity.
re – again
surgere – to rise

Resuscitate – to breathe new life into a body that was dead.

Resurrection – not just life but “new life” – “changed life” – “restored life”

The Resurrection changes everything!

Jesus had new life but so did those disciples who ran to the tomb.
How could anything ever be the same again?
How could they not speak of what they had seen?

For them, Resurrection led to mission. So too for us.

They were witnesses to the Resurrection.
So are we.
Their story is our story – it has been passed down to us.

What have you seen and heard?
What have you looked upon?

Perhaps we need a resuscitation of our belief in the Resurrection.

Perhaps we need to come again and see the tomb,
to go to that place where we think we know what we will see…

Death
Finality
No change since the last time I was here
That same unmovable stone blocking the entrance

Brothers and sisters, come to the tomb.

Come and see the place where he was laid

Come like Mary Magdalen,
Mary who went to the tomb expecting one thing but finding another,
finding that it all had been true.

Come to the tomb and you will be astounded at what you find, or rather at what you don’t find.

Run to the tomb

Run like Peter and run like John
Run at the news that Mary brings,
Run at the news that seems too good to be true,
at the news that strikes fear into your heart,
fear at first that someone has stolen his body,
but also fear that it could all be true;
not a servile fear but a fear that is wonder in awe in the presence of the living, indeed the LIVING God.

Run to the tomb.

Run to the tomb and see for yourself.

See the stone rolled back.
See the burial cloths there.
See the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.

Run to the tomb and you will find that Jesus is not the only One to be resurrected,
to be given new life,
to be raised to new life.

Run to the tomb and you will find new life…
Run to the tomb and you will find new hope…

Last week we watched the burning of the 800 year old Notre Dame Cathedral.  I visited there three years ago.  The Cathedral contains a reliquary, and inside the reliquary is the Crown of Thorns.  THE Crown of Thorns that Christ wore on Good Friday.

We have all of these relics, these remains from the crucifixion, that remind us of the promise of the empty tomb.

When the fire was discovered, the chaplain of the Cathedral ran inside and rescued the Crown of Thorns and the Blessed Sacrament.

Even in the midst of that Cathedral that became a fiery tomb, there is the promise of rebuilding, or new life, of resurrection.

Run to the tomb.

Run to the tomb and you will become a witness of these things…
Run to the tomb; see and believe.

Run to the tomb and then run from the tomb
Run to Peter and to John and tell them what you have seen

My brothers and sisters, the Resurrection changes everything.
And we are the witnesses.

Come to the tomb.
Run to the tomb.
See for yourself.
Then run back to the others.
Tell them what you have seen.

Alleluia!  The Lord is Risen!
R:\ Alleluia!  He is risen, indeed!

Christ Exchanged His Life for Our Death

Good Friday Homily
April 19, 2019
Sacred Heart, EGF – 3 PM

Focus:              Christ exchanged his life for death so that we might exchange our death for life.
Function:        Receive the gift.


Giotto_Crucifixion

Christ Crucified
Artist: Giotto
ca. 1310

O wondrous exchange!

The One deserves salvation while the many deserve condemnation,
and yet
The One is condemned so that the many might be saved.

Christ exchanges his life for our death
so that we might exchange our death for his life.

For:
It was our infirmities he bore,
Our sufferings he endured,
Our sins for which he was crushed,
Our death that he died.

O glorious exchange!

What is an exchange?
An act of reciprocal giving and receiving.
Not merely giving, but giving and receiving.

It has been said that “a gift is not a gift until it has been given.” That is true.
But it also true that “a gift is not a gift until it has been received.”

If we give a gift to someone and they decline the gift, where does that leave us?

We have just been given an immense gift.
Will we receive it?

Christ just emptied himself and gave his life for us.
Let us receive that gift into our hearts.

And, with hearts overflowing with love and gratitude,
let us give him our love and gratitude.

Brothers and sisters, come to the cross.

Come to the place, to the intersection, where the exchange takes place.
Come to the place from which the sacraments receive their power.
Come and receive the gift.

Come to the cross.
Come to venerate the cross.
Come to behold the wood of the cross on which hung the salvation of the world.

When we come with our love and gratitude,
He receives our love and gratitude,
and gives his body once again in the Eucharist.

Christ exchanges his life for your death
so that you might exchange your death for his life.

Exchange your death for his life.

O marvelous exchange!

And it happens at the Cross.

Come Home

Homily for 4th Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday), Year C
March 30-31, 2019
Sacred Heart, EGF – Saturday, 5:30 PM
Holy Trinity, Tabor – Sunday, 10:00 AM

Focus:       You don’t have to earn the right to come home.
Function: Come home.


Robert Frost death of the hired man

Home…

Home is the place of our origin, our growing up.
It is our place of residence.
It is a place of comfort and familiarity.
It is the place where we feel attached.
Home is where we belong.

Recently I read Robert Frost’s poem entitled “The Death of the Hired Man”. The poem is about the homecoming of a hired farmhand named Silas who has been less than reliable and has left the farmer high and dry in the past.

I’d like to share part of the poem with you:

Mary sat musing on the lamp-flame at the table
Waiting for Warren. When she heard his step,
She ran on tip-toe down the darkened passage
To meet him in the doorway with the news
And put him on his guard.  

“Silas is back.”        

She pushed [Warren] outward with her through the door
And shut it after her.

“Be kind,” she said.

She took the market things from Warren’s arms
And set them on the porch, then drew him down
To sit beside her on the wooden steps.

“When was I ever anything but kind to him?
But I’ll not have the fellow back,” he said.
“I told him so last haying, didn’t I?
‘If he left then,’ I said, ‘that ended it.’
What good is he? Who else will harbour him
At his age for the little he can do?
What help he is there’s no depending on.
Off he goes always when I need him most…
…In haying time, when any help is scarce.
In winter he comes back to us. I’m done.”

“Sh! not so loud: he’ll hear you,” Mary said.

“I want him to: he’ll have to soon or late.”

“He’s worn out. He’s asleep beside the stove.
When [I got home] I found him here,
Huddled against the barn-door fast asleep,
A miserable sight, and frightening, too—
You needn’t smile—I didn’t recognise him—
I wasn’t looking for him—and he’s changed.
Wait till you see.”

“Warren,” she said, “he has come home to die:
You needn’t be afraid he’ll leave you this time.”

  “Home,” he mocked gently.

Yes, what else but home?
It all depends on what you mean by home. …,” [Mary said.]

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.”

“I should have called it
Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.”[I]


Brothers and sisters, during this Lenten season, I have had several conversations with people that have revolved around repentance, conversion, and one’s relationship with God.

In more than a few of these conversations, the dialogue has gone something like this:

“I know I need to go to confession, but I’m not ready.”
“What’s holding you back?”
“I need to fix myself before confess my sins otherwise I’ll lying and it won’t be sincere.”

In other words, I’m not yet ready to come home.

I’m not yet ready to come home, because I believe that

Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
they have to take you in.

And I don’t want that.  I don’t want pity.  I want to have my act together.  I want to earn the Father’s love.  I want to be worthy of the Father’s love.

The parable of the prodigal son overturns this logic. We may view home as the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. But that is not how the Father views it.

The Father views it like Mary:
I should have called it
Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.

The Father stands on his doorstep,
watching,
waiting,
longing for his lost child to return home;
to return to where he belongs, near the Father’s heart,
to return, not with everything fixed and put nicely together,
but to return as we are,
reeking like the dung from the pigpen of our sins,
and it is there, it is then,
when we stink to high heaven,
that the Father throws his arms around us and weeps with joy that his son, his daughter, has returned.

And it is there, it is then,
when we experience the mercy and tenderness of the Father’s love for us,
that we are able to work on growing in those areas where we struggle with sin.

We work on them after we have been washed clean in the shower of his tears for us.
We work on them with his grace when we are in his grace.
We work on them together with him, not apart from him.

My brothers and sisters, we don’t fix ourselves before we come home.
No, first we come home, we are embraced,
and it is there,
it is then,
in the Father’s house,
where we work on getting our house in order,
on making things right.

Until the day we stop trying to earn the Father’s love for us,
until we are able to experience his love for us in the muck of our sins,
we will not truly appreciate what it means to be home.

Home is not the place where, when we have to go there, He has to take us in.
No, home is rather something we somehow haven’t to deserve.

Some of you may find yourselves resisting the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It has been years since you’ve been reconciled.  The Lord is calling you there, but you don’t think you’re ready.  You want to fix yourself before you return. You feel the weight of your sins.  They are crushing you.  They are killing you.

I offer to you tonight the words of St. Paul:
Be reconciled to God!

Come home!

The Father is waiting, watching and waiting with longing in his heart and with open arms to welcome home his son or daughter who is lost.

Come home.

Make the Father’s heart rejoice.

He doesn’t care what you’ve done. He just wants you home.
He doesn’t want you to earn your way home. He just wants you home.

You are enough as you are.
Come as you are.

Come home.


[i] Robert Frost, “The Death of the Hired Man”

Chaplain’s Conference – Into the Desert (Lent)

Chaplain’s Conference
Sacred Heart School – High School
Thursday, February 28, 2019
Pre-Lenten Conference


lent

Let us pray.

Clothe us, Lord God,
with the virtues of the heart of your Son,
and set us aflame with his love,
that, conformed to his image,
we may merit a share in his eternal redemption.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.  
Amen.[I]

Lent begins next week with Ash Wednesday.

In the Old Testament, we read the story of the Israelite people in slavery in Egypt.  God raised up Moses who led them out of slavery in Egypt and into the freedom of the Promised Land. But in order to get from slavery to freedom, they had to go through the desert.  They were in the desert for 40 years…hence the 40 days of Lent.

Lent is the time of the desert. But the desert is not an end in itself.  We don’t go through the desert for the sake of going through the desert.  We don’t do penance for the sake of doing penance.  No, we go through the desert in order to reach the freedom of the Promised Land.  We direct our penances toward the purpose of growing in the area where God wants us to grow.

Lent is about the conversion of our hearts. It is about becoming the saint that God calls us to be.  One of the Benedictine Values is conversion of life – we always try to become more like Christ.  It never ends.  It’s lifelong.  Sometimes we strive forward and at other times we fall back.  Lent is a time to take stock of where we are and to strive forward.

And so, I ask you:

From what do you need to be set free this Lent?

Where have you grown lazy?

Where have you allowed habits of sin to creep in?

Where have you allowed bad habits to take hold – habits that keep you from becoming the saint that God calls you to be?

Think of the 7 deadly sins.  Generally, we have one that we struggle with more than the others.

  • Pride is a puffed up view of yourself.  “I’m the ultimate authority on everything and no one is going to tell me what to do.”
  • Anger.  Do I find myself losing my temper easily or do I struggle to be patient with others?
  • Greed.  Do I always need to have the next best thing?  Am I content with what I have?
  • Envy.  Do I find myself jealous of others?
  • Sloth.  Have I grown lazy in an area of my life or in general?
  • Lust.  Have I fallen into pornography or other sexual sins?
  • Gluttony.  Am I consuming more food or drink than is healthy for me?

In the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent. They gave into the temptation.  They sinned.  Before the Fall, Adam and Eve walked in harmony with God, with each other, and they experienced harmony within themselves.

After the Fall, those 3 relationships experienced a rupture.

Sin causes a rupture in these three relationships: in our relationship with God, with others, and within ourselves. Lent provides three remedies to heal the rupture in these three relationships.  The remedies are: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving.

Prayer strengthens our relationship with God. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.

How is your prayer life?  Are you determined to keep your prayer time each day?  Or have you grown slack?  Have you stopped praying altogether?

Lent provides you the time to be renewed in your prayer life. Seize it.  How could you take a small step each day to grow?  Pick something and be consistent.  Practice it every day.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Learn a new prayer – lots of them in your planner
  • Rosary or decade of the Rosary each day
  • Pick a day of the week to spend some time sitting before the Tabernacle. Before/after school, during study hall.
  • Pray Evening Prayer or Night prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours
  • Commit to going to confession once/week during Lent
  • Set up a prayer corner in your room and use it every day

Whatever you do, focus your prayer.  Ask God to strengthen you in the area in which you are trying to grow.

Fasting heals the rupture that we experience within ourselves. The human person has an intellect, a will, and desires (head, heart, appetites).  Before the Fall, these three were in harmony.  I desired what I knew was good for me.  With the Fall, these were ruptured.  Now I want to do what I know I should not do.

Fasting is when we deny ourselves something that we want. Fasting strengthens our will.  As human beings, we have one will.  If we strengthen our will in one area, it carries over to other areas.

As an example: Do you struggle with lust or anger or laziness? Fasting from desserts will strengthen your will, which will in turn make it easier to resist temptations of lust, anger, and laziness.  By controlling your desire for food, you increase the control that you have over your desires of lust, anger, and laziness.  You strengthen your will.

What could you give up in order to grow in the area where you struggle?

  • Social media?
  • Eating between meals?
  • Desserts?
  • The snooze button?
  • A limit to your time in the shower?

This is hard.  You’ll want to give up.  Stay consistent.  Choose something small that you will be able to do but then stick to it every day.  Focus your fast.  Direct it to a purpose. “Jesus, I offer this to you. Help me to grow in…”

Almsgiving is giving something for others, especially for others in need. Almsgiving heals the rupture that sin causes in our relationship with others.  It draws us out of ourselves and helps us to focus on others.  It changes our hearts from being selfish to being generous.

How can you make a gift of yourself to others during this Lent?

  • What if you wrote a classmate’s name on every day of your calendar for Lent, and did an act of kindness for that person on their day?  Or offered a word of encouragement to that person on their day?
  • What if you wrote a kind note to someone every Wednesday and Friday during Lent, affirming a gift that they have or expressing gratitude for something that goes unnoticed?
  • Could you volunteer at the food bank, at the Northland Rescue Mission, the Women’s Pregnancy Center, or another organization sometime during Lent?
  • Could you give some money to a charity each week?
  • How could you show generosity this Lent?

Lent is a time of repentance. The word “repentance” means “to turn around” – to change our ways.

Repentance is at the heart of the Gospel. Jesus goes into the desert himself for 40 days and 40 nights, just like we are about to go into the desert of Lent.  He is tempted by Satan but he overcomes his temptations, undoing the sin of Adam and Eve.  He then comes out of the desert and begins the preaching of the Gospel with these words: Repent and believe in the Gospel. Repent – turn around, turn away from sin, change your ways, and believe in the good news.

You hold in your hands a purple form entitled “The Good Works of Lent”.  Take this home tonight and pray over it.  Ask the Lord where he desires to lead you out of slavery and into freedom.  Then commit to acts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving with the purpose of attaining the freedom that He desires for you.  Keep this form as a reminder of what you’ve committed to.  Keep it where you can see it.

During tomorrow’s prayer period, you’ll be given another copy of this form, and you’ll be given the time to fill it out again in class.  Fill it out again and hang it up in your locker where you will see it often throughout the day.

The good news is that Jesus has redeemed us, he does not leave us in our sins, he will lead us out of them. But we have to cooperate.  He does not leave us in our sins so let’s not stay there ourselves.  Let’s repent and believe that Jesus can lead us out of the slavery of our sins, through the desert of Lent, and into a newfound freedom on Easter Sunday.

Let us pray.

Father,
As we go through this life, we often wander.  We sin.
Enflame our hearts with the desire to repent, to turn around, and to draw closer to you.
Enlighten our hearts to show us where You desire for us to grow in freedom this Lent.
Fill us with courage and firm resolve in our Lenten practices this year.
You suffered greatly out of love for us, help us to endure our Lenten penances gladly out of love for you.
Help us to become the saints that you call us to be.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Lord be with you…


[i] Collect for the Votive Mass for the Sacred Heart of Jesus

See the Star. Follow the Star. Encounter the Lord. Give a Gift.

Homily for Epiphany (Year C)
January 6, 2019
Sacred Heart, EGF: Sat 5:30 PM; Sun 8:00 AM

Focus:              He saw the star.  He followed the star.  He encountered the Lord.
He gave a gift.

Function:        See the star.  Follow the star.  Encounter the Lord.  Give a gift.


'ADORATION OF THE MAGI'

They saw the star.
They followed the star.
They encountered the Lord.
They gave gifts.

Today we celebrate the Feast of Epiphany.  Epiphany – an “Aha!” moment.  The light bulb comes on.  A revelation.  A manifestation.  I see something that I did not see before.  I see something that was hidden.  The God who is hidden is revealed.  The infant lying in a manger is revealed as the newborn King.

Tonight we remember the story of the magi following the star to the Christ child lying in the manger.

They saw the star.
They followed the star.
They encountered God.
They gave him gifts.

About 5 years ago, Sean a 26 year old husband and father of a two-year old son, a wrestling coach, was coaching a wrestling tournament in Fargo in January. A blizzard was brewing.  It was 20 degrees below zero.  The tournament ends.  He wants to get home to his family.  As he is leaving Fargo, the storm is getting bad.  Visibility is poor; he can hardly see.  He drives past a man walking along the road in the frigid temperatures.

He saw the star.

At least, he thought he saw the star. He wasn’t entirely sure that it was a man walking, but it looked like a man.  It looked like he had no hat or gloves.  “Maybe the next car will stop…but I didn’t see him until I had already driven past…it’s -20 degrees…but I really want to get home before I get stranded here…but if I don’t stop, he could die…”

Sean turned the car around.

He followed the star.

He approached the man and invited him into his vehicle. The man climbed in.  The first words out of his mouth were, “There is a God!  I have been praying that someone would stop!”

He, too, saw the star.
He, too, followed the star.

It turned out that the man was about Sean’s age. He was homeless.  He had been working at the Fargo Dome and was on his way to a soup kitchen for a meal that evening, but he was so disoriented from the cold that he was walking in the wrong direction.  In fact, he was walking out of town.  Sean turned up the heater, and they talked as the man warmed his hands.  It turned out the man had a wife and a two-year-old son – about the same age as Sean’s son.

When they reached the soup kitchen, Sean gave the man his pair of gloves.

He saw the star.
He followed the star.
He encountered the Lord.
He gave a gift.

They said their goodbyes and Sean continued on his way. The blizzard got worse.  Sean stopped at a gas station in a small town along the interstate and asked if there was a motel nearby.

There was no room at the inn.

In fact, there wasn’t even an inn.  But there was a Church – a small country church.  The gas station worker called someone in town to open it up.  Sean spent the night in the church basement by himself.

It was his stable. It was his manger.

He saw the star.
He followed the star.
He encountered the Lord.
He gave a gift.

While he waited in the basement of that Church, he was haunted by the question. “What if I had kept going?  What if I hadn’t stopped?  What would have happened to him if I had passed by?”

Brothers and sisters, the Holy Spirit invites us to encounter the Lord so many times throughout the ordinary events of everyday life. So often we get a sense that we should do something.  We see the star.  But we come up with excuses for why we shouldn’t follow the star.

“It’s cold out there.”
“I’m not sure that I really saw a man there anyway – visibility is so poor.”
“I need to get home to my family.”
“The next car will stop.”

And yet, it’s in following the star that we encounter the Lord, and in encountering the Lord, we are moved to give a gift. And when we give the gift, we find that so much more has been given to us.  We have an incredible encounter that leaves its mark on us, that changes us, that reminds us of God’s mysterious workings in the world through us and through those around us.

Sean saw the star.
Sean followed the star.
Sean gave a gift.

And he received a gift in return –
an epiphany,
an encounter with Jesus in disguise,
Jesus disguised as a brother in Christ – someone like himself in need of a savior.

He received another gift in that night that he spent alone in the church basement:
that night at the stable,
a gift that forced him to reflect on the encounter he had just experienced in order to cement it into his memory,
a great story to be shared with his family,
a story of encounter that would be made all the more memorable by his silent night at the manger.

What about the homeless man?

He, too, saw the star – he prayed to God, perhaps for the first time in years. He looked up into the stars he could not see and made known his need for a savior.

He followed the star – he climbed inside the vehicle that pulled over.

He encountered the Lord. He encountered the Lord present within Sean, the Lord whose Spirit it was that urged Sean to pull over and to help someone in need.

He received a gift – the gift of the gloves.

And I’m sure he gave a gift:
the gift of his presence to his family,
the sharing of a story of a prayer answered,
the sharing of his faith, perhaps his newfound faith, in God who hears and answers prayers.

He gave the gift of his encounter.

Brothers and sisters,
God led the magi to Jesus. He leads us too, through so many ordinary events within our lives, if we just pay attention.  See the star.  Have faith and follow the star, and then see what happens.  Go on a great adventure.  You may just encounter the Lord in an unexpected place, an unexpected place like a manger on a cold winter night that was so deep.

Prayer Honoring the Name of Jesus by Alphonsus Liguori

O my Jesus,

Write your Name on my heart and on my tongue,
in order that when I am tempted to sin,
     I may resist by invoking you;
so that if I am tempted to despair,
     I may trust in your merits;
and that if I feel myself tepid in loving you,
     your Name may inflame my heart at the
recollection of how much you have loved me.

Your Name, then, will always be
my defense,
my comfort,
and the fire that shall keep me always Inflamed with your love.

Make me, therefore, always to call your Name, my Jesus,
and to live and die with your Holy Name on my lips,
saying even with my last breath,
I love Thee, My Jesus,
My Jesus, I love Thee.

– Alphonsus Liguori

Let There Be Light

Homily for Christmas Eve (Year C)
December 24, 2018
4:30 PM – Holy Trinity, Tabor
10:00 PM – Sacred Heart, EGF

Readings from “Mass During the Night”


manger

In the beginning, God said “Let there be light”
The light shone
We walked in the light – in friendship with God.

We had the fire of love in our hearts – love for God and for each other.

And then something happened…The original sin – we were plunged into the darkness – we had to leave the Garden of Eden, that place of light and life…

And darkness enveloped us…
the darkness of sin that separated us from God.

The weight of sin – the yoke of sin – we took upon our shoulders – a weight so heavy that it was sure to crush us.

And, already at that time,
God had a plan…

A plan to set things right
A plan to undo what had been done
A plan to restore what had been lost
A plan which the prophets spoke of throughout the ages

God had a plan to save us.

Tonight, in a stable in Bethlehem, this plan is fulfilled.
The fullness of time has come.

Tonight, God sends forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom us from the law.

Tonight, the grace of God appears, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires. The angel of the Lord appears to shepherds who are keeping watch over their flocks as the darkness of night surrounds them.

Tonight, the prophecy is fulfilled:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light! Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shown!

Brothers and sisters, behold the significance of this night.

Tonight, God speaks his word again, he speaks again that same word that he spoke in the beginning: “Let there be light!”

God recreates his wounded creation. Time is reset to the year 0 because we have a new beginning.

“Let there be light!”

Let there be light to scatter the darkness of sin!
Let there be light to lead them along the path to salvation!

Tonight is indeed a momentous occasion.

Tonight, the yoke that burdened us has been smashed!
The weight of our sin has been removed!
The rod of our taskmaster has been smashed!

Our chains have been broken, and we have escaped. The shackles of sin can hold us no longer because tonight,
A child is born for us!
A son is given us!
Upon his shoulder dominion rests!

God, in his love for each of us, gives us not only a Son but HIS OWN SON.

My brothers and sisters, if you ever doubt that God could love you, look to the manger. Look to the manger and see what He gave for you.  He gave the best gift he could give – he gave the gift of His Son.

And, in 33 years, he will exchange the wood of the crib for the wood of the cross. So great, so immense, is God’s love for you.

God, in his love for us, chooses to share in our humanity so that we can share in his divinity.

“He who clothes the whole world with its varied beauty, is wrapped up in common linen, that we might be able to receive the best robe.”[1]

“He is confined to the narrow space of a manger – He whose seat is in the Heavens, so that He might give us ample room in the Heavenly Kingdom. He who is the Bread of Angels is laid in a manger, that He might feast us with the Bread of his flesh.”[2]

How appropriate that this manger, this feeding trough, lies in Bethlehem – the town whose very name means “the House of Bread”.

Tonight, we like those shepherds, see the glory of God. We see the light shining in the darkness, and we follow the light.

We come to Bethlehem.
We come to the manger.

We come and bend the knee in adoration at a mystery so great – that God would take on our flesh to save us.

Every Sunday, we say the Creed. We make a profound bow at the words that speak of the mystery held out for us to adore tonight.  We bow at the words “and by the Holy Spirit, was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”

Tonight, because this mystery is made present to us, we pause and genuflect at these words. As we do so tonight, I invite you to genuflect with not only your knees, but with your heart as well.  Bring your heart to its knees and point it toward the manger as you join the shepherds in bending your knee in love and in worship of the newborn King.

“No one, whether shepherd or wise man, can approach God here below except by kneeling before the manger at Bethlehem and adoring him hidden in the weakness of a newborn child.”[3]

“In the very act of reverencing the birth of our Savior, we are also celebrating our own new birth.”[4]

How can it be otherwise? How can I kneel before a mystery of love so great and remain unchanged?

May I arise tonight as a new man or new woman. May my life, like His, be a total gift of self from this night onward.


[1] St. Bede
[2] St. Bede
[3] CCC 563
[4] St. Leo the Great

The Immaculate Conception Finds Its Fulfillment in the Annunciation

Homily for Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
Friday, December 7, 2018 (Vigil Mass)
5:30 PM – Sacred Heart, EGF

Focus:               The Immaculate Conception finds its fulfillment in the Annunciation.
Function:         Stay close to Mary so you too can say “yes!”


immaculate conception

Concupiscence: a disordered tendency which comes from sin and inclines us to sin. “I do what I do not want to do and I do not do what I want to do”

“Return with me to the Garden of Eden…”

Imagine! Harmony of Intellect, Will, and Desires.

A Fallen Angel appears – Satan – the serpent in the garden, whose deception led to the conception of a lie in Eve’s heart, a lie that would be passed on to all of her children, and their children, and their children, down through the centuries. A lie that the Creator could not be trusted.

Eve ate from the tree of which God had forbidden them to eat. And we fell.  We fell hard, and far.

All of creation fell. Humanity fell.

The intellect was darkened. The will was weakened.  Desires became disordered.

Human beings were enslaved to sin. Created free, they were no longer truly free as they were in the beginning.  True freedom is perfect virtue – the ability to desire and to choose the good: easily, without struggle, and promptly.

Yet, already at the very beginning, when all seems lost, God has a plan. The “proto-evangelion” – the first Gospel…

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers…

You: Satan, a Fallen Angel
Woman: an illusion to Mary
His Offspring – the fallen angels and the principalities and powers of sin, death, and Hell
Her Offspring – Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Mary, and those joined to him. Christ the Head and also we who are members of His Body.

All of this brings us to tonight’s Feast: The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. A New Beginning.

A New Eve who would truly become the Mother of all the Living, the Mother of those alive in Christ.

Believed through the centuries and formally declared by the Church when in danger of being challenged, the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was formally declared by Pope Pius IX in 1854 as an infallible dogma to be held definitively by the faithful:

The doctrine “that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin.”

She was immaculate. She was immaculately conceived.

Humanity had a second chance.

Eve was free from the stain of original sin in the beginning. A fallen angel appeared to her, she allowed the trust in her Creator to die in her heart, and she sinned.  Creation fell.

Mary was free from the stain of original sin from the beginning of her existence. Like Eve, she was fully free to give her “yes” to God.  And angel appeared by her, she allowed the trust in her Creator to flourish in her heart, and she conceived Life itself in her womb…Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life…Jesus Christ, the one who would rescue us from sin and death and restore us to Eternal Life!

Tonight’s Gospel is the fulfillment of tonight’s feast!

The Immaculate Conception finds its fulfillment in the Annunciation!

Mary was conceived without sin so that she would be free to give her “yes” at the Annunciation.

St. Anselm: “He who could create all things from nothing would not remake his ruined creation without Mary.”

Mary is the new Eve.

In Mary, God is solving the problem of sin that entered the world through Eve. Mary’s “yes”, her “fiat”, gives us Christ who came to set us free!

St. Irenaeus: “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience. What the Virgin Eve had bound through her disbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed by her faith.”

And so, she is truly “Full of Grace” as the Angel Gabriel declares. Grace abounds in the one who was given the grace of original innocence – an Immaculate Conception.

A spotless, clean vessel was prepared in order to be filled with the best of wine – the Blood of Christ himself.

Let us indeed “sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds!”

One last thought for we who consider ourselves disciples of the Lord:

On the day of salvation, when Christ hung on the Cross, of those who were the closest disciples of Jesus, of his Twelve Apostles:
One had betrayed him.
One had denied him.
Nine had fled.

Only one remained.

John, the Beloved Disciple remained. He remained near the side of Mary at the foot of the cross.

Was it accidental that the disciple closest to Mary was the One who had the courage to stand under the cross?  I think not…

John shows us that the disciple who takes Mary by the hand is able to follow our Lord all the way to Calvary.

Let us beseech Mary that she will inflame our hearts with the same love and courage that John had on Good Friday,[1] so that, in the face of our own trials and temptations, when we like John who have not been conceived without sin feel the weight of concupiscence crushing us…we may, like John, and like Mary, give our “yes”.


[1] Tim Gray.  “Mary as the New Eve” in Chapter IV of Catholic for a Reason II: Scripture and the Mystery of the Mother of God, page 55.