God Speaks in the Silence

Homily for 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) (Father’s Day)
June 20-21, 2020
Sacred Heart, EGF – Saturday 5:00 PM
Holy Trinity, Tabor – 8:00 AM
St. Francis, Fisher – 10:00 AM

Focus:             God speaks in the silence.
Function:        Spend time listening in silence.


A Father who is a calming force has a powerful impact on his children.

In chaos, He is calm so they are calm.  “Dad can handle this.  He’ll take care of me in this, he’ll be there for me, so I’ll be OK.”

He might get angry, but he doesn’t seem to worry.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that he is worry free.  It just means his inner peace, his inner calm, isn’t easily shaken. 

What could be the source of such inner strength?

His faith in God.  He knows where his true identity is found.  He knows what determines his true value.  It is not determined by whether he succeeds or fails at this or that task.  It is found in “who he is”, not “what he does.”

Who is he?

He is not God. 
He is not in control of every situation. 
No, he is a son.  He is a son of his Heavenly Father. 
He doesn’t need to be in complete control because God is in control. 

He works hard, does his best, realizes some things are out of his control, and leaves those things to God. 

When things go wrong, he doesn’t say, “I failed”.

When things seem to be spinning out of control, he knows that the one thing that he can control is how he reacts. 

His identity is found, not in “what he does” but in “who he is”. 

Who is he?

He is a son. 

He is also a father – a father of his own children. 
They have faith in him, and their faith give him strength. 
They need him to be strong and so their need provides his strength. 
He doesn’t have the luxury of coming unglued. 

They need a protector, a provider, a teacher, so he does his best to be these things for them.  His guidance and presence is a source of strength for them.  Their love gives him strength even as his love gives them strength.

Our Heavenly Father is the perfect Father.  Nothing shakes him. 

He is calm, never frantic. 
He is silent, always listening. 
He is in control.

He doesn’t worry about our temper tantrums or minor sins. 
He calls us out of them.  He calls us to repent. 
He calls us to reach our full potential. 
He corrects us and disciplines us in the depths of our conscience, if we will only listen.

He loves us.

He created us out of nothing, for a purpose, to share his love and goodness with us.

When the world seems to be falling apart…
When we, like Jeremiah the prophet, can hear the whisperings of many: “Terror on every side!”…Let us remember who we are.

Jesus reminds us today who we are.

What does he say about the two sparrows?

“Not one of them falls to the ground without my Father’s knowledge.”

That’s not what he says.

“Not one of them falls to the ground without YOUR Father’s knowledge.”

We have the care of the Father who created the universe.  Our Heavenly Father is a calming force, and he can have a powerful impact on us, his children, if we listen.

Jesus says:

“Fear no one…What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light.  “What you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops”

Darkness indicates the early morning or late evening, the time of silence and solitude when a father can be alone because the children are sleeping. 

It is then that the voice of God can be heard,
that tiny whispering sound that speaks
in the depths of a heart
that makes time to pray in silence and solitude,
the voice that whispers:
“You are my son. I love you. It is enough. I will see you through this.”

We need silence today more than ever. 
We need this silence because we need to hear God’s voice.

We need to be reminded who we are so that we can become who we are called to be. 

We need to hear what God has to say so that we know what to say. 

In the silence, we sense God’s care for us.  In the silence, we hear God speak.  God is in the silence. 

Are we?

Next week, I will be on a silent retreat.  I’ve been preparing for it by reading a book called “The Power of Silence” by Cardinal Robert Sarah.  Prior to becoming a cardinal, Sarah served for twenty years an Archbishop in Guinea, Africa, under a violent, authoritarian Marxist regime, where the dictator had his name on a death list.  

He is a man who has seen dark times.

I found his words on silence particularly appropriate for us at this time, when many are fearful and are asking, “what is happening to our country?”:

God is fashioning hearts, and evil never has the last word.  In the darkest night, God works in silence.[i]

Silence and prayer are not a form of defection.  They are the strongest weapons against evil.  Man wants to “do”, but above all else he must “be”.  In silent prayer, man is fully human.  He resembles David before Goliath.[ii]


[i] Robert Cardinal Sarah, “The Power of Silence”, #287.

[ii] Ibid., #291.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus bleeds, binds, burns, blazes, and beats

Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
June 19, 2020
Sacred Heart, EGF – 8:00 AM

Focus: The Sacred Heart of Jesus bleeds, binds, burns, blazes, and beats.
Function: So must ours.


Sacred Heart of Jesus statue

Statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Sacred Heart Catholic Church
East Grand Forks, MN

The Lord has set his heart on you, on us.

He has set his heart.

We hear way back in the book of Deuteronomy, Moses telling the people: “The Lord has set his heart on you.”

We celebrate today the feast of that heart, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The image of the Sacred Heart, of course, we know well. And I think the image itself tells us a lot about God’s love for us.

I think, in particular, there are five things that we see in that image.

The heart bleeds, because it was pierced.
The heart binds, and it is bound, by the crown of thorns.
The heart burns: the cross and fire that are on top of the heart.
The heart blazes: the rays of light that shine forth from it.
And it beats: it is alive. It beats with a living heartbeat because Christ is alive.

So, each those in their turn:

First, it is a heart that bleeds,
a heart that bleeds because it offered itself in sacrifice,
a heart that was willing to be pierced for us,
that desired to be pierced for us,
in order to save us.

It is a heart that suffers, and suffers gladly, for love of us. It is the heart of the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep.

Pierced and bleeding,
a blood of bleach flows forth which washes away every stain of sin.
The heart bleeds because it is open,
open for you and open for me,
a fountain of life from which we drink,
the wellspring of the Church’s sacraments,
the very stream, the blood that flows from that Sacred Heart is what gives power to the sacraments.

It is a heart that bleeds.

Secondly, it is a heart that binds.

The crown of thorns around the heart is like a wedding band around the finger of Christ’s Heart, uniting his heart to our heart, Bridegroom united to his Bride.

It is a heart that binds in a Holy Communion by offering his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity to us. And in receiving that Communion, we are, in turn, bound to him. And in being bound to him, we are set free: set free from our sins, set free to truly live and to love as he calls us to love. Every morning, when we pray morning prayer, we are reminded that “God has come to his people and set them free.”

A love that binds with a bond of love so tight that it can never be broken.

Thirdly, it is a heart that burns.

The flame on top of that heart, with the cross above that flame, providing the wood for the sacrifice. A heart that is consumed with love for us. A heart that burns within him, that pines, that yearns, that longs and aches for us. A stirring, a burning in the Heart of Christ. He says: “I have come to cast a fire upon the earth, and how I long to see the flames leap up!”

It’s a love that burns,
that purifies,
that burns away the selfishness of every sin.

And for hearts that cannot or will not open themselves to receive that love,
the burning of that love can be experienced as the fires of Hell,
a rejection of Christ’s love.
But his love is meant to be a love that moves us to repentance and stirs us to love of God and neighbor, a love that draws us to himself.

It is a heart that burns.

Fourthly, it is a love that blazes.

The rays of light that blaze forth from the heart light the way for us.

This love is attractive. Just like the light of a bonfire draws everyone in toward the fire and toward one another, so the love of Christ draws everyone to his Sacred Heart. The brightness of his mercy shines forth. He leads us to himself with the love of his heart, the love of the Good Shepherd. And in his light, we see light.

And, brothers and sisters, when we can be filled with the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, they see it within us, and we glow, we radiate, we shine, and we help others to see.

It is a love that radiates.

It is a love that blazes.

Finally, it is a heart that beats.

It is a love that is alive. With you is the source of life. Dead in sin, we were brought to life by the love of his Sacred Heart.

So, the love of the Sacred Heart:
It bleeds to justify us.
It binds to unify us.
It burns to purify us.
It blazes to glorify us.
It beats to enliven us.

Can these qualities be said of our hearts?

Can these qualities be said of the love in our hearts?

Do they bleed?
Do they bind?
Do they burn?
Do they blaze?
Do they beat?

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto yours.

 

What’s Your Motivation?

Homily for Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time (Year I)
June 17, 2020
Sacred Heart, EGF – 8:00 AM

Focus: Motivated by Love


Crucifixion

The Crucifixion
Leon Bonnat
What was Jesus’ motivation?

What’s your motivation? What’s your “why”?

Whenever we see the actions of another person, it’s very rare that we can actually see the motivation. We can sometimes guess at what the motivation might be. We can sometimes, through investigation, discover it, but we can’t always know…

So, what’s your motivation?

What was Jesus’ motivation?

“I have come to do, not my own will, but the will of the one who sent me.”

The motivation of Jesus, everything that he did, was to do the will of the Father.

Jesus’ motivation was love.

Love is the only motivation for our actions that is truly pure.

So, a good motto, perhaps, to live our lives by, or by which to judge our actions, is this:
Am I doing this because I am motivated by love?

Truly great deeds are not done in order to “wow” or amaze others. No, truly great deeds are accomplished by the driving force of love, and THAT “wows” others.

There’s a saying that “you’ll never make a good impression if you’re trying to make a good impression.” Instead, when we focus on the other, when we love the other, when listen to the other, when we anticipate the needs of the other, when we lose ourselves…that’s when we make a good impression.

So, what’s your motivation?

Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving.
All good things.
All necessary things.

And yet, the Lord reminds us this morning that the wrong motivation will spoil them.

What’s your motivation?

Why do you fast?
To punish yourself?
To prove your own inner strength?
Or to strengthen your will so that you’re able to love others as God calls you to love?

Why do you pray?

Do you pray to justify yourself in God’s eyes?
Do you pray to try to earn Heaven?
To avoid Hell?
Or do you pray because you love God and are grateful for all that He’s done for you?

What’s your motivation?

Why do you give alms?
Your time, talent, and treasure. Why do you volunteer?

Because your friends are there?
Because it looks good to others?
Or do you do it because you love God and you see him in others in need?

What’s your motivation?

Brothers and sisters,
All actions, in order to make of them a pure offering to God, must be motivated by love. Motivated by love of God, motivated by love of neighbor, not motivated by love of self.

The Eucharist is Jesus’ sacrifice of love.
Love of the Father.
Love of us.

A love that made him forget himself.

May this Eucharist strengthen us and purify our motivations, that we, like him, may be motivated by nothing other than love.

Silence

Homily for Friday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time (Year I)
June 12, 2020
Sacred Heart, EGF – 8:00 am


Listen. Did you hear that?

Silence.

Silence.

Silence is so much more than the mere absence of noise. Silence is a presence. Silence is the presence of an attentive heart: a heart that is listening for that tiny whispering sound that is the voice of God.

A heart in silence is a heart that is at peace. And a heart that is not at peace is a heart that is full of noise, even if there are no sound waves present around it.

Silence of the heart.

The presence of an attentive heart.

The ears of our hearts opened so that we can hear that tiny whispering sound of the voice of God.

A small voice.

A quiet voice.

Small, like the host we receive from this altar.

Silent, like the host we receive from this altar.

About a year ago, someone came to see me to talk about their prayer life. They were struggling to hear the voice of God. I said, “Tell me about your prayer.”

“Well, I go to adoration but I can’t hear the voice of God.”

“Tell me what you do in adoration?”

“Well, first I pray the rosary. Then evening prayer. Then I walk around and I pray the stations of the cross, and finally the divine mercy chaplet.”

Stop! Silence.

Ears open to hear what God has to say, not just filling up time with what I have to say.

When the voice of God speaks in our hearts, we know it, don’t we? That’s why we’re here today. We’ve heard that still, small voice at some point.

I remember the first couple that I prepared for marriage when I first came to Sacred Heart. I met with them in my office at 7:00 in the evening. They are in their early twenties, young and in love. We finish the meeting. I go back over to the rectory. It’s just after 8:00 and all of the lights are off. All of my housemates are in bed. I walked into the house and my heart was heavy and it just hurt. I thought, “What did I do? I could have had what they have!”

So, I went into the chapel and knelt before the. Blessed Sacrament, and I said, “Jesus, this hurts.” And there was a great peace. And I heard a still, small voice. Not an audible voice, but a voice nonetheless, speaking in the depths of my heart. It spoke my name.

“Matthew, you are thriving in the vocation that I have called you to.”

And there was peace.

The gospel today speaks of the importance of purity of heart. “Whoever looks at another lustfully commits adulterous in the heart.” That’s so dangerous because when our hearts are not pure, our hearts are not silent.

Purity of heart leads to peace of heart. Peace of heart leads to silence in the heart. Silence in the heart allows us to hear the voice of God.

That’s what we all long for. The psalm: “I long to look upon your face, O Lord.”

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.

So, my brothers and sisters, as we approach the altar today, we pray that the Lord might silence any noise in our hearts and give us the grace to hear his voice more clearly.

God Gave His Son For Us

Homily for Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (Year A)
June 7, 2020
Sacred Heart, EGF –Sunday 10:00 AM (Baccalaureate), 12:00 PM

Focus: God gave his Son for us.
Function: Receive him and give yourself to him.


Trinity

The Trinity: Pandora’s box for the preacher. It is the central mystery of the Christian Faith because it is the mystery of God in himself. The challenge is to say something substantial but to not say something incorrectly.

What can we say about the Most Holy Trinity?

We believe in one God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Each person is God.
The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God.

Each person is distinct.
The Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is not the Father.

They are One. There is unity in the Trinity.

[1. Creed]

We can turn to the Creed – the statement of belief that was hammered out by the early Christians in the first few centuries of the Church.

“I believe in One God” – not three Gods. Unity.

“the Father Almighty” – creator of Heaven and Earth

“I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages…”

The Son has always existed along with the Father. Yet he is begotten. Like a human son is begotten by an earthly father, so the Son of God is begotten by God the Father, yet from all eternity. He had no beginning. As the creed goes on to say “begotten, not made”.

“Through him all things were made” – the Father made all things through the Son. Creation sprang into being when the Father spoke the Word. The Word is the Son.

“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.”

The Holy Spirit existed from the beginning.
The first words of the Book of Genesis, telling of Creation:
“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters…”
The Spirit was there when God spoke his Word…

The Most Holy Trinity:

The Father: creates and begets
The Son: is begotten, is sent, is the Word through whom all things were created
The Holy Spirit: proceeds from the Father and the Son

What else can we say?

[2. Gospel]

Let us turn to the Gospel. John 3:16. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…”

The Trinity is present in those few words:
God: the Father
So loved: The Holy Spirit is the bond of love between the Father and the Son
That he gave his only Son:

God is love. An eternal exchange of love. The Trinity is a communion of persons.

God gave his Son in the act of Creation when he spoke his Word and creation sprang into being. Creation is a gift. Love always seeks to go outside of itself. To make a gift of itself to another.

We abused the gift. We sinned. God sent his Son again, sent his son to be born in time, in our human likeness and appearance, to take on our sins, to die for us and to rise again to new life.

The Son returned to the Father. He ascended into Heaven. He went back to the Father. Before he left, he gave the great commission: “Go, therefore, and preach the Gospel to all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.

The Son was sent into the world to draw us into the inner life of the Trinity – to draw us into communion with the Trinity. He was sent out to draw us in. He returns to the Father. “It is better for you that I go, if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you.” He returns to the Father, and the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit.

All who are baptized are born of water and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in them. And where the Holy Spirit is, there is the Father and the Son. We who are baptized share in the life of the Trinity here, so that when we die, we are drawn into the inner life of the Trinity for all eternity. That is Heaven.

[3. The Implications]

What does this mean for us?

We are made in the image and likeness of God.

We came from the heart of the Trinity.
We are to return to the heart of the Trinity.

We have a mission. We who have been baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ are now sent out like he was sent out – sent to draw others into the mystery. Sent to proclaim the good news that:

We are not alone.

We are not abandoned.

We are loved.

We are loved by the God who is love itself – loved by a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.

We are loved with a love so strong that He would not leave us dead in our sins but would send His own Son to die in our place so that we could be reconciled.

[4. Graduates]

Dear graduates, remember this truth.

You come to the end of your high school years.
You are now sent out. You are to be sent out like the Son was sent out from the Father. You are sent out into the world with a mission.

Remember your mission.

“Go, make disciples…”

Go, but come back.

Remember that the Son returned to the Father

Go, but come back to back to be strengthened by the Eucharist.

Go, but remember why you go. You have a mission from God.

Go, to lead others home, to lead others back, to lead others into the Heart of the Trinity. You can only do that if you yourself are immersed in the heart of the Trinity…if you live in communion with the Trinity.

God is Trinity – an eternal exchange of love.

God so loved the world that he gave us His only Son.
Do you so love God that you will give him yourself?

He gives us his Son again in this Eucharist.
Will you give yourself to him?

“Jesus, come into my heart. Keep me close to your heart. Draw me into the life of the Trinity. Never let me be separated from you.”

God Calls Us to be Faithful

Homily for Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter (Year I)
May 20, 2020 – 8:30 AM
High School Mass – final for 2019-20 school year (Live-stream during COVID-19)

Focus:              God calls us to be faithful.
Function:         Be faithful.


Raphael - Paul Preaching in Athens

Saint Paul delivering the Areopagus Sermon in Athens, by Raphael, 1515.

Paul goes to Athens.

He goes, commissioned by the Holy Spirit, to tell everyone there about the Lord Jesus.

And it was a dismal failure.

Some scoffed.

Most left with hearts untouched and simply said, “We would like to hear you on this matter some other time, but not today.”

But some joined.

Some joined.
Some recognized the truth in what they heard.
Some became followers.

And so, in that respect, it was not a dismal failure. It was a success.

It was a success because Paul was faithful.
Paul was faithful to what God asked him to do.

Brothers and sisters, what about us?

Paul came to the end of his time in Athens.
We come to the end of this school year.

In many ways, it may feel like this school year was a dismal failure.
Ending early. Goodbyes not said.

And yet, in many other ways, it was a resounding success.

Look at what God has brought about because people were faithful.

Look at what God has brought about through teachers and staff who were faithful to their calling to educate our youth, to teach them the skills that they need for life, to proclaim the Gospel to them.

Look at what was done simply because we were faithful.

Look at what God has done in you simply by your faithfulness:
your showing up to attend Mass, increasing a hunger for the Eucharist…
your tuning into your live sessions…
your completing your school work…

God is bringing good out of it.

Some of you might have scoffed.
Some of you, perhaps, were indifferent.

And others were faithful.

Brothers and sisters, in the end, what’s important for all of us is that we’re faithful.

As we come to the end of this school year…
As we prepare to begin summer…
Take care to be faithful to what it is that God calls you to do.

Be faithful to pursue him in all things, to seek his face in all things.

The God who created heaven and earth has created you. He knows you and he loves you. He desires you to know and to love him.

At times, you and I have not chosen him. We have not reached out to him. We’ve rejected him by our sins and yet he never rejects us! God reaches out to us. God sent his Son, who died to take away our sins: Jesus.

Jesus rose from the dead.
Jesus appeared to his disciples.
Jesus sent the Holy Spirit upon them, upon us.

As we approach the Feast of Pentecost, in a little over a week’s time, God prepares to send the Holy Spirit new upon the earth.

He gives you everything you need to become a saint, and he calls you to become one!

How do we become one?
Brothers and sisters, be faithful!

You are his masterpiece.

Do you believe that?
Do you really believe that?

Then join him.

Say not, “We would like to hear about this some other time.”

Now is the time.
Now is the day of salvation.

Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled

Homily for 5th Sunday of Easter (Year A)
May 10, 2020 (Mother’s Day)
Sacred Heart, EGF – Sunday 9:30 AM (Live-stream during COVID-19)

Focus:       Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Function: Turn to Jesus.


How could their hearts not be troubled?

John 13:
Jesus himself was troubled.
“One of you will betray me”
“I will be with you only a little while longer”
“[Simon Peter], before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”

It was dark. Indeed, as the gospel tells us, “it was night.”

How could their hearts not be troubled? And yet, there is it. John 14 has Jesus telling his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

Yes, it is night.
Yes, my hour has come – the hour of darkness – the hour when Evil will seemingly have its way.

And yet…I have overcome the world. My mission is being fulfilled.

This is the way to conquer sin and death.
I am the way, the truth, the life.
First the gibbet, then the glory.

So, do not let your hearts be troubled.

Do not let your hearts be troubled because:
I go to prepare a place for you.
I will come and take you to myself.
I will not leave you orphans.
I will come to you. I will come to you with my Spirit, that where I am, you also may be.

How could their hearts not be troubled?
Certainly.
Yet, in another sense:
How COULD their hearts be troubled?

Jesus had already done the impossible. In the chapters of John’s gospel leading up today, the disciples have seen Jesus feed the 5,000. He has healed the man born blind. He has raised Lazarus from the dead.

Jesus was in control.
Jesus was God.
He knew what was going to happen.

Today, Jesus tells the disciples that there will be suffering.
He also tells them that they, and he, will come through it.

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

You need not know how we will get through this. Simply believe in me. I did not come to show you a way. I am the way.

I will do it.
I will lead you.
Just believe in me. I will come to you.

And he does.

And today, where he is, they are.

How could our hearts not be troubled?
We are weary. We are anxious.
We do not know the timeline. The uncertainty is perhaps the worst part. When will it end? No one knows.
We are presented with conflicting information and conflicting advice.
What are we to make of it? Who are we to trust? We may not know.

But we do know one thing.

We know that the words which Jesus spoke to the apostles then are the same words that he speaks to us today:

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in me. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Believe in me. Remain in me.
I will lead you through this.
You need not have all the answers. I am the answer.

Brothers and sisters, these are dark days. It is night.

It is night but we have the promise:
We have the promise that the Dawn from on high will break upon us.
The sun will rise in the East to scatter the darkness
because the Son has risen from the grave.

He has come back.
He has not left us orphans.
He has sent us his Spirit.
His Spirit lives within us.
His Love has conquered death.

He is faithful.
He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

He is with us, and he will lead us through this.
And that is enough. It is more than enough.

A mother’s love and presence has the power to calm the troubled heart of her child. A mother’s embrace soothes the pain of stubbed toes and scraped knees, leading her child through the pain.

How much more does the promise and presence of Jesus’ love and lordship
conquer and cast out our fear and fretfulness?
Today we celebrate Mother’s Day.
As we honor our own mothers, we remember Christ’s mother.

We remember that humble handmaid who faced uncertainty and the unknown.
The appearance of an angel with a message.
The boy Jesus disappearing.
The cross.

How can this be?

Her trust in God was unfailing.

Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to your word.

May she who was his mother
and who is our mother,
embrace us with her maternal care
and calm our troubled hearts
so that we might have the strength to endure the pains of growing up,
as Christ leads us through the dark of night and into the dawning of eternal day.

We are Never without Hope because We are Never without Christ

Ferverino for Holy Hour
Thursday, April 30, 2020 – 6:30 PM
Sacred Heart (live streamed holy hour during COVID-19)


Eucharist

Photo credit: Steven & Francois LeMire

It is good that we are here.

Lately – a lot of anxiety, fear, discouragement
• The unknown
o “when will it end?”
o Uncharted territory – “we’ve never experienced anything like this before”
• Isolation
• Grieving Losses
o Graduations, weddings, ordinations
o Unable to gather in community
o Missing family – parents, grandparents, grandchildren
o Eucharist/Masses
• Loss of control

Uncharted territory/new circumstances; but a familiar pattern:
1. Status quo: Things are good / OK
2. Trials: things are not so good
3. Heaven – things are good again, and even better

Scripture:
o Adam and Eve
1. Eden: Walking in the garden with God
 2. The Fall and the promise
 3. Heaven: Restored to Paradise (Christ’s descent to the dead)

o Noah
 1. Before the flood
 2. The Flood
 3. After the flood (be fruitful and multiply – the rainbow and the covenant)

o Abraham
 1. Has his own land
 2. Leave your land
 3. Promised Land

1. Promise of a Son; Promise of a great nation
 2. Asked to Sacrifice Isaac
 3. Isaac restored

o Jacob and sons
 1. Prosperity in the Promised Land
 2. Famine – go to Egypt
 3. Reunited with Joseph who is powerful in Egypt

o People of Israel
 1. Favor in Egypt – family of Joseph (esteem)
 2. Slavery in Egypt
 3. Led out of slavery by mighty deeds of God done at Moses’ hand
(led through the Red sea

 1. Egypt – at least they had food
 2. Desert – worry of starvation
 3. Promised Land

o Jesus and the disciples
 1. Preaching a way of life that brings true life; working miracles
 2. Suffering and Death
 3. Resurrection and glory

We’ve never been here before (COVID-19), and yet we have been here before (the familiar pattern).
1. Things were going well, or at least OK
2. COVID-19 hit – we are still in the midst of it.
3. What is to come? We say that we don’t know, and to some extent we don’t. But to another extent, we do. We do know what will come because we know the old familiar pattern. We know what God has done in the past, and we know that God is faithful.

What will keep us going?
What kept them going?

Hope.

Hope keeps us from discouragement.
Hope sustains us in times of abandonment.
Hope opens our heart to expect beatitude.

Hope is the virtue by which we desire the Kingdom of Heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help and grace of the Holy Spirit.

God is the One who restored Adam and Eve to the new Paradise.

God is the One who saved Noah from the flood.

God is the One who fulfilled the Promise to Abraham.

God is the One who gave Isaac back to Abraham.

God is the One who guided Joseph when he was sold into slavery in Egypt.

God is the One who guided the reunion of Joseph and his brothers.

God is the One who raised up Moses through whose hands mighty deeds were wrought in Egypt.

God is the One who, through Moses, led the people out of slavery in Egypt and into the freedom of the promised land.

And, brothers and sisters, it is God who will lead us through these times.

The Letter to the Hebrews says that “hope is the sure and steadfast anchor of the soul which reaches into the interior behind the veil, where Jesus has entered on our behalf as forerunner…” (Hebrews 6:19-20)

The old temple – 3 parts. Outer court, Inner court, Holy of Holies.

Holy of Holies
• Veil separating the inner court from the Holy of Holies
• Ark of the Covenant containing the Ten Commandments
• Where the presence of God dwelt in the midst of his people
• No one could enter, not even the priests
• Only the High Priest – one day/year, on the day of Atonement.
• Lev 16: “Tell…Aaron that he is not to come whenever he pleases into the sanctuary, inside the veil, in front of the [mercy seat] on the ark; otherwise, when I reveal myself…he will die”
• He would enter the Holy of Holies with the blood of a sacrifice, and sprinkle it on the Mercy Seat above the Ark that contained the Ten Commandments.
• In fear that he might be struck down, a rope is tied to foot of the High Priest so they can drag him out if is struck down. It was his anchor to this side of the veil.

Christ
• His death on the Cross

o The veil of the temple is torn in two from top to bottom. (MT 27:51). As Fulton Sheen points out, torn in two from top to bottom, not from bottom to top; because God is the one who tore open the veil. We could not do that.

• His Ascension

o His body pierces the veil of the Heavens. Christ the High Priest goes there where his body stands before the Father’s throne to intercede for us.
o Christ, the High Priest, has the rope tied to his foot as well, not so that we can pull him down to us, but so that he can pull us up to him.
o He is our anchor. And this is our hope. As long as we cling to him, we are never lost.

Listen again to the definition of hope from the Letter to the Hebrews:

Hope is the sure and steadfast anchor of the soul which reaches into the interior behind the veil, where Jesus has entered on our behalf as forerunner…(Hebrews 6:19-20)

Brothers and sisters, Christ is our hope.

We are reminded of this in Easter – the season of hope.

Christ is our anchor in the storm that rages around us. No matter where we may be blown, no matter where we may be tossed about by the winds and waves that pound us, we are never lost so long as we cling to him.

Hope looks to the future beyond the present moment.

For the sake of the joy that lay before him, Christ endured the cross. (Hebrews 12:12)

Remember what God has done in the past
so as to strengthen your hope in the present
of what God will do in the future.

Remember what God has done, not what we have done.
It is God who will see us through this storm, it is not all up to us.

We have our part to play, but it is God who works through us to bring us through this. It’s not all up to us, it’s up to God, and that is a great inspiration to hope. God has done it before and God will do it again!

Hope looks to the future, but it impacts the present.

Hope looks to the past and to the future to give us the strength to endure the present when the present is painful.

Hope is nourished in prayer. And so, tonight we come before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

Tonight we come before our High Priest who has passed beyond the veil of this valley of tears, and we hold on.

We hold on to the anchor that is Christ.
We hold on to our hope.

The Eucharist reminds us that we are never without hope, because we are never without Christ.

Jesus, we trust in you. Cast out all fear, anxiety, and discouragement. Strengthen our hope.

I leave you with a prayer by St. Teresa of Avila:

Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing frighten you.
All things pass away.
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever possesses God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

Mercy Came for Thomas. Mercy Comes for You.

Homily for Divine Mercy Sunday (Year A)
April 19, 2020
Sacred Heart, EGF – Sunday, 9:30 AM (Livestream due to COVID-19)

Focus: Mercy came for Thomas; Mercy comes for you.
Function: Come back to the upper room.


Caravaggio St. Thomas

Caravaggio, The Incredulity of St. Thomas

Where did he go?

Perhaps he needed some air…

Perhaps he couldn’t continue to keep cooped up in that room for another minute…

Perhaps the disciples needed some groceries and he was the man…

Where did he go?

Perhaps he went to the tomb. The Master had said he was going to prepare a place for him. He had said that “where I am going, you know the way.”

Where did he go?

We don’t know. We don’t know where Thomas went.

What we do know is that he was suffering. He was in pain.

His heart had been wounded.
He had placed all his hope in Christ, and Christ had died. With Christ’s death, Thomas’s heart and hope died as well.
He felt an unrest.
He couldn’t take it anymore.

So he left.

Where was he?

We don’t know.
All we know is that He wasn’t there.

He wasn’t there on the first day.

He wasn’t there when the risen Jesus stood in their midst.

He wasn’t there when Jesus cast out their fear.

He wasn’t there when the peace of Christ, the peace that surpasses all understanding, descended upon the disciples, healing their broken hearts.

He wasn’t there when the Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit onto the disciples.

He wasn’t there. Then he came back.

The others had seen. He had not. He had missed out. And so his heart hardened.

“Until I see for myself, until I place my finger in the nail marks of his hands and feet, until I place my hand in his wounded side, I will not believe!”

Where had he gone?
Jesus.

He knew everything.
He knew that Thomas was suffering.
He knew Thomas wasn’t there.
He also knew that Thomas would be coming back.
Couldn’t he have waited?

Where had he gone?
Jesus.

We don’t know.
What we do know is that He came back.

Jesus came back.

He came back for Thomas.
And, brothers and sisters, he comes back for you.

Today we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday.

What is mercy? It is love’s second name (St. John Paul II).

God is love.
Mercy is love in the presence of suffering.
The word “mercy” comes from the Latin word “misericordia”, which means “a pitied heart”.

Mercy is love coming to stand in the presence of someone who is suffering, and by that presence, alleviating the suffering, taking the suffering upon itself.

God is love.
God is rich in mercy.

God’s greatest mercy was to send his Son to undergo his suffering, death, and resurrection so that we who were dead in our sins could be raised to new life.

God’s mercy came for Thomas.
Mercy came today – on the Eighth Day.

Thomas had come back. So, Jesus came back.

Thomas had a second chance.
He was shown mercy.
He encountered the risen Jesus.

Thomas himself rose. He was resurrected.
He experienced a resurrection of his faith and his hope. He was stronger than ever. He, like the others, was now a witness.

My Lord and My God!

Brothers and sisters, perhaps you are like Thomas.

Perhaps your hope has been shattered.

Perhaps you are filled with fear and doubt.

Perhaps you can’t bring yourself to believe that the God who is Love is Alive.

Perhaps you are locked in the upper room of your sins,
quarantined in an isolated prison of your own making,
afraid to come out because of what it will mean…

Jesus came back for Thomas.
And Jesus comes back for you.

Today is the Eighth day.
Today was Thomas’s day.
Today is your day.

Thomas wasn’t beyond the reach of God’s mercy.  He just needed to return to the upper room where the community was gathered so that he could experience it.

You are not beyond the reach of God’s mercy.
You just need to return to the place where mercy is found.

Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them. Whose sins you retain are retained.

I am speaking, of course, of “the upper room” of the confessional.

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. Special graces flow out of the wounds of Christ. These graces allow him to enter the locked room of your heart and to bring with him the peace that you long for. Ask him for the grace to return. Ask him for the courage and grace to make a good confession if it’s been a long time.

Say, “Jesus I believe, help my unbelief!”
Say, “Jesus, I trust in you!”

Do that today, and very soon, you will be exclaiming with Thomas:
“My Lord and My God!”

The Eucharist Matters. The Priesthood Matters.

Homily for Holy Thursday – Mass of the Lord’s Supper
April 9, 2020
Sacred Heart, EGF – Thursday, 7:00 PM

[Due to COVID-19, parishioners are unable to join us in person for Mass.  They are watching via livestream in their homes.]


Jesus Eucharist

In the years surrounding and following World War II, an Iron Curtain descended across the continent of Europe, dividing the East from the West. Countries to the West of the Iron Curtain enjoyed more freedom, while countries to the East of the Iron Curtain found themselves under the influence of the Soviet Union and communism.

As the Soviets invaded, they lowered the Iron Curtain,
which served to keep information and the influence of the outside world out
and to keep people who might flee to freedom in the West in.
These countries were referred to as being “behind the Iron Curtain.” The Iron Curtain allowed war crimes to be committed without being observed and controlled by the outside world.

The Iron Curtain got its name from the iron curtain that was common in the theaters of the day. Events behind the theater curtain were not visible to the audience and were cut off from outside observation.

Karol Woityla was a young man who grew up behind the Iron Curtain during this time. In 1978, he was elected Pope and took the name John Paul II. That year, on Holy Thursday, he wrote a letter to priests, in which he tells of a custom that developed in many places behind the Iron Curtain, where persecution left no priests.

The custom is this:

People would go to an abandoned church, or if one no longer existed, to a cemetery where a priest was buried. They would take a stole, the garment worn by a priest when he celebrates the sacraments, when he acts in persona Christi, in the person of Christ, and they would place it on the altar or on the priest’s tombstone, and together they would recite the prayers of the Mass.

At the place where the consecration would occur,
at the words that only the lips of the priest could utter,
a deep silence would ensue,
a deep silence interrupted only by weeping.

My brothers and sisters, this year perhaps more than ever, we can understand their anguish.

What does it mean tonight for the priests to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper when the People cannot come to the church to receive the Eucharist?

What does it mean for you to tune in online to watch this Mass,
to unite yourself to this Mass,
when you cannot receive communion?

This is what it means:

It means that the Eucharist is real.
It means that the Eucharist matters.
It means that the reality of the Eucharist is bigger than me and it is bigger than you.

It means that the priesthood matters.
It means that the power Christ has given to his priests is real. He has vested them with his authority and power to continue to re-present these sacred mysteries for our salvation and for the salvation of the world until the end of time.

It means that the sacred mysteries that we celebrate,
here,
tonight and throughout the rest of the Triduum,
and indeed, every time we gather at the altar…
it means that these sacred mysteries continue the saving action of Christ in the world whether I am able to receive the Eucharist or not. The suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ made all the difference in the world, even though you and I did not find ourselves standing under the Cross outside of Jerusalem in the year 33 AD.

Brothers and sisters, in these days, on this night in particular,
when you desire with all of your being to be united with the Lord Jesus in his passion by receiving the Eucharist, know that you ARE spiritually very close to him even as he is close to you.

Tonight, you are offering a sacrifice and a service of love for the good of your brothers and sisters. Tonight you wash their feet by your absence.

Tonight, you are united to Christ in your suffering even as he prepares to experience his suffering.

Tonight, we are in good company. We are in communion with each other and with all of those saints who lived behind the Iron Curtain – saints who, in their desire to receive the Eucharist when they were not able to do so, were shining witnesses to the reality of the Eucharist and the power of the Priesthood.

United with them in your desire to be united to the Lord, your souls cry out:
The Eucharist is real and the Eucharist matters!
The Priesthood is real and the Priesthood matters!

They matter because the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus matters.
They matter because Jesus instituted them on this night…and he instituted them for you.
They matter because you matter.

You matter to Jesus. You are loved by Jesus. He is about remind you again of this love over these holy days.

It is a love that led him to give his life for us.
And it is a love that leads us give our lives for him and for one another.