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.

From the Transfiguration to the Cross to the Resurrection

Homily for Second Sunday of Lent (Year A)
March 7-8, 2020
Sacred Heart, EGF – Saturday 5:00 PM; Sunday 8:00 am
Holy Trinity, Tabor – Sunday 10:00 AM

Focus:             From the Transfiguration to the Cross to the Resurrection
Function:       Remember what God has done so as to strengthen your hope in what God will do.


Transfiguration_Raphael

The Transfiguration
Raphael, c. 1520

[This homily was preached in front of the altar with movement.
1 – standing to the left of the altar
2 – standing in front of the altar and under the crucifix
3 – standing to the right of the altar]


1 – From dusk
2 – to darkness
3 – to dawn

1 – From sunset
2 – to night
3 – to sunrise

1 – From health
2 – to suffering/death
3 – to eternal life

1 – From the Transfiguration
2 – to the Cross
3 – to the Resurrection

1 – Two prophets, Moses and Elijah, flank him in his glory.
2 – Two criminals flank him in his humiliation.[i]
3 – Two women, Mary and the other Mary, flank him at the empty tomb.

1 – From the Transfiguration
2 – to the Cross
3 – to the Resurrection

1 – His garments glisten in the light radiating from his face.
2 – His garments torn as darkness covers the land at 3:00 in the afternoon.[ii] 
3 – His garments, the burial cloths, laid aside in the empty tomb.

1 – From the Transfiguration
2 – to the Cross
3 – to the Resurrection

The Transfiguration and the Cross are inexorably linked.[iii]  An ancient holds that the Transfiguration took place 40 days before Good Friday.

We hear the story of the Transfiguration twice each year.

The first time is today:
1 – the Second Sunday of Lent, approximately 40 days before
2 – Good Friday.

The second time is on August 6th:
1 – the Feast of the Transfiguration, which is 40 days before
2 – the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.

1 – From glory
2 – to anguish
3 – to glory

1 – From the Transfiguration
2 – to the Cross
3 – to the Resurrection

The book of Sirach, chapter 11:
The day of prosperity makes one forget adversity;
the day of adversity makes one forget prosperity.

Leo the Great:
The great reason for this transfiguration was to remove the scandal of the cross from the hearts of his disciples, and to prevent the humiliation of his voluntary suffering from disturbing the faith of those who had witnessed the surpassing glory that lay concealed.

We, as members of that same body, the Body of Christ, are to look forward to a share in that glory which first blazed out in Christ our Head.[iv] 

We often see this pattern in our own lives.

1 – We glimpse the glory before the suffering,
and the glimpsed glory helps us to
2 – bear our share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from Christ.

1 – Many of us are secure now. Things are going well.
2 – The Cross will come. We might be tempted to despair. When it comes, remember the glory you’ve glimpsed in the present,
3 – and remember that God will lead you through it.

2 – Some of us are in a period of darkness now.  You are standing at the Cross.
1 – Remember what God has done,
3 – so as to strengthen your hope in what God will do.

Lent prepares us to carry our Cross when it comes. It trains us for the sufferings that will come in life. When it comes, look for his glory to be revealed.

The glory of Christ:
in whom we live,
in whom we move,
in whom we suffer,
in whom we rise,
in whom we shine forth like the sun in the Kingdom of our Father.

The Transfiguration is given to us today to remind us of this truth:
The sufferings of the present are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed in us.
The suffering of the Cross leads to the glory of the Resurrection.

Remember times of prosperity in times of adversity.
Remember times of adversity in times of prosperity.

1 – The Transfiguration leads to
2 – Good Friday, but Good Friday
3 – leads to Easter Sunday.

We now come to the Eucharist.

His glory hidden in the form of bread and wine, now revealed to the hearts of those who believe.

For a moment we bask in his glory.

1 – May the glory of this Eucharist lead us
2 – through the sufferings of this life
3 – and into the glory of an eternal Easter.


[i] Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010), 218.
{Quoting William Davies and Dale Allison, The Gospel according to Saint Matthew (ICC.  Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988)}.

[ii] Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010), 218.
{Quoting William Davies and Dale Allison, The Gospel according to Saint Matthew (ICC.  Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988)}.

[iii] Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 305-318.

[iv] Leo the Great, Sermon 51 in the Office of Readings for Second Sunday of Lent (Liturgy of the Hours).

The Foolishness of God’s Economy

Homily for 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
February 22-23, 2020
Sacred Heart, EGF – Saturday 5 PM; Sunday 8 AM
St. Francis, Fisher – Sunday 10 AM

Focus:       The foolishness of God’s economy
Function:  Dare to give foolishly.


Leon Bonnat - The Crucifixion

The Crucifixion
Leon Bannat

There is a lot of foolishness in the readings tonight.

Offer no resistance to one who is evil.
Turn the other cheek.
If they want your tunic, give your cloak as well.
If they force you to walk a mile, walk for two.
Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.

We are confronted tonight with utter foolishness when we might expect to hear about justice and fairness.

Justice and fairness, giving another his due for his labor, these are the virtues upon which any respectable economy is built.

I do this for you, you do that for me.
Tit for tat.
Debit and credit.

So what are we to make of the foolishness with which we find ourselves confronted tonight?

Only this, I think:

God has a different kind of economy.[i]

Our economy is an economy of transactions.
God’s economy is an economy of freely giving.

Our economy keeps a record of debts.
God’s economy forgives debts.

Our economy is an economy of justice.
God’s economy is an economy of love and charity.

Our economy is an economy of filling up our bank accounts with the treasures of this world.

God’s economy is an economy of self-emptying love, of kenosis,
the self-emptying love of Christ Jesus, who
though he was in the form of God,
did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at.
Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness, and found human in appearance… (Philippians 2)

Foolishness.

In our economy, a person is expendable and replaceable.
In God’s economy, no one is expendable nor replaceable.

In God’s economy, there is no transgression, no sin, that cannot be forgiven so long as I am willing to ask for that forgiveness.

And perhaps the greatest foolishness of all:
We bring forward ordinary bread and wine, common elements, worth basically nothing.  Through the prayer of a priest, God transforms them into the Body and Blood of Christ, a priceless treasure beyond the measure of any worth, and it is freely given to us.

Foolishness.

In God’s economy, we are to become the fools, fools for Christ and fools for the sake of love.

Listen again to the words of that fool St Paul:

If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age,
let him become a fool, so as to become wise.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.

In the wisdom of the world, it makes no sense to give up on collecting what is owed to me. I hang onto that invoice and demand payment.

In the eyes of God, it makes no sense to hang on to that invoice, because whatever is owed to me by another has already been more than paid by the precious blood of Christ that paid the debt of my sins and opened for me the way to eternal life.

We owed a debt that could not be paid and in justice we deserved Hell. God sent his son to die in our place and paid the debt for us.
That is foolishness! The foolishness of God!

We’ve won the lottery through Christ’s sacrifice for us, and yet we keep track of a couple of measly dollars that someone else owes to us. Some of those dollars are physical and material, but I am talking mostly of those spiritual dollars that we carefully track: the grudges, the hurts, the wrongs done to us whether they be perceived or real. We hold on to those invoices and continue to debit and credit the accounts of others when our accounts which had been maxed out have been wiped clean.
That is foolishness!

We want to receive God’s mercy but we want to deny mercy to others.
That is foolishness!

Brothers and sisters,
We can only show mercy to others when we allow ourselves to accept the mercy that God freely offers. Some say, “I don’t deserve it.” They’re right. If we deserved it, it would be justice.  Because we don’t deserve it, it’s called mercy.

The challenge of the foolishness that surrounds us tonight is simply this:
Let us not ground our relationships in debts and demands, in rights and duties, but in the generosity of love. If we do that, the Kingdom of God will break into our midst.

We must burn all of the spiritual invoices that we hold against our brothers and sisters, we must empty ourselves of the grudges, the hurts, the resentments that we hold
if we are going to be able to accept the mercy and love of God in our own lives.[ii]

Is this foolishness? Absolutely, it is foolishness. Foolishness in the eyes of the world.

But it is love that makes us fools.

Have you ever seen a young couple in love?
Love makes us do foolish things for the sake of the beloved.
I imagine many of you have experienced that yourselves.

It is worth becoming a fool for the sake of love, because a fool in love lives a full life.


[i] One of the most inspiring homilies that I heard during my years of seminary formation at Saint Meinrad was given by Fr. Denis Robinson, OSB, our president-rector, on the occasion when my classmates and I declared our candidacy, which is a step toward priestly ordination where the Church officially recognizes that we are being considered as candidates for the priesthood. I found inspiration for this homily in his, which can be found here:
http://substancehopedfor.blogspot.com/2015/11/candidacy-homily.html

[ii] Fr. Jacques Philippe, The Eight Doors of the Kingdom: Meditations on the Beatitudes (New York: Scepter Publishers Inc, 2018), 161-164.

 

You are the Light of the World

Homily for 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
February 8/9, 2020
Sacred Heart, EGF – Saturday 5:00 PM; Sunday 8:00 AM

Focus:             You are the light of the world.
Function:         Let your light shine.


candles_table_black_dark-24664

Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

 Two extremes in Christianity, neither is the gospel.

  1. Doing good deeds SO THAT they may be seen.
    • “Look at me; look at me; look at me”
    • “Look how holy I am”
    • Impure motivation: the goal is to be seen
    • The focus is not Christ; the focus is me.
  1. Not doing good deeds so that I may remain hidden
    • Doing so in the name of humility – the opposite vice of #1. A false humility
    • “playing small”
    • Mediocrity

The Christian way: Let your light shine, so that they may see your good deeds.

Let it shine.

Christ is the light of the world.
He dwells in your soul because of your baptism.
He wants to shine within you.
He wants to break out of you and to bring light to those in darkness.

Brothers and sisters,
There’s a lot of responsibility that goes with being the light of the world.[i]
Too often we are afraid to shine.
Too often we afraid to stand out, to draw attention to ourselves.
“Let your light shine” not “force your light to shine to draw attention to yourself”

“Let it“ is passive.
Allow it, don’t force it.

Let your light shine, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

Become who you were made to be. A Saint!

Be a person who spends time with Jesus,
be a person who prays,
and then let God do with you what he will.

Don’t stand in his way. Don’t stifle the spirit. Don’t play small.
Your playing small doesn’t glorify God.

How do we play small?

When we focus on “not being darkness” instead of on “letting our light shine”.

Sometimes we sin more by “what we have failed to do” than by “what we have done”.[ii]

  • Sins of commission are easier to see.
    • The Ten Commandments.
    • “What I’ve done but shouldn’t have done”
    • The works of darkness
  • Sins of omission – “what I should have done but did not do”.
    • Corporal and spiritual works of mercy
    • The Beatitudes
    • The works of light

We are called to so much more in life than “don’t sin”. We are called to love!
We are called to so much more in life than avoiding darkness. We are called to be light!

How do we let our light shine?

Simply be a person who prays and then do your part in the situations that present themselves to you. Do that, and your light will shine.

Let your light shine.

The Christian is a candle, the flame is Christ. A candle’s purpose is to let the light shine. It doesn’t make it shine, it lets it shine.

Victor Frankl: “what is to give light must endure burning.”

The Paschal Mystery: the candle dies to itself to bring life and light to others.
So must the Christian, the light-bearer. We die to ourselves so that others may live.
Charity – dying to ourselves for the good of the other.

Brothers and sisters, is your light still shining? Is your candle burning? Or has it burnt out?

Light doesn’t fight darkness as in a back-and-forth boxing match. Light dispels darkness where it’s present, and even a small candle in a dark room dispels a lot of darkness.

Do small things, but don’t play it small.
Do small things with great love.

You have the light within you – let it shine!
Ask him what he wants you to do, then do it!
Be not afraid of the darkness, light cannot be overcome by darkness! The light always overcomes the darkness.

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.


[i] Fr. Ron Knott, Conference for Priests of the Diocese of Crookston on “The Jonah Complex: The Convenience and Selfishness of Playing Small”, June 11, 2019.

[ii] Fr. Ron Knott, Conference for Priests of the Diocese of Crookston on “The Jonah Complex: The Convenience and Selfishness of Playing Small”, June 11, 2019.

What is it about Christmas?

Homily for Christmas Eve (Year A)
December 24, 2019
Holy Trinity, Tabor – 4:30 PM
Sacred Heart, EGF – 10:00 PM

Readings:        Isaiah 9:1-6     Psalm 96         Titus 2:11-14      Luke 2:1-14

Focus:              God gave his Son for us.
Function:         Receive the gift!


nativity.jpg

What is it about Christmas?
What is there about Christmas night, in particular?

There is a spirit of joy. A spirit of love.  Of brotherhood.  Of family.
There is almost a sense of magic to this night.

It is a night of wonder and awe.
It is a night of forgiveness and tenderness, of warmth and light and grace.

What is it about Christmas?
What is it that captures our hearts?

Is it homes that are warm and lit amid the darkness and chill of winter?
Is it the aroma of Christmas Eve dinner wafting through the house?
Is it the presents wrapped and waiting under the tree while the kids wait in anticipation?

What is it about Christmas?

Perhaps it is the songs we sing.
Perhaps it is the family gathered.

Certainly, that is an important part of it.

And yet, still, there is something more.
There is something spiritual that is not easy to put into words.

What is it about Christmas?

In the beginning, before the creation of the world, there was nothing. Darkness.  Oblivion.

Then God spoke. He spoke his Word.

Let there be light.

And light shone out of the darkness. Creation sprung into being.  We know the story.  Adam and Eve were created and placed in the garden.  They walked in harmony and in friendship with God.  God loved them.  They loved God.

They walked in the light.

Then they were given a choice.

They chose darkness over the light. Sin entered the world, and with sin, death.

Down the ages, as the pages of history were written, mankind stumbled and groped in the darkness. Sin and division.  Unrest.  War.

The light within them was snuffed out. Or rather, it was all but snuffed out.  An ember of a promise remained; the promise of what God would do:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, between her offspring and yours. He will strike at your head while you strike at his heel…

The promise of a Messiah. The promise of a Savior.

Brothers and sisters:
What is it about Christmas that captures our hearts? It is this:
Tonight, God has fulfilled his promise!

The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light;
Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shown.

A star over a stable. Angels appearing to shepherds in the dark of night revealing the glory of God.

For tonight, a child is born to us, a son is given us!

Christ, the Light of the world.
Christ, the son of God and the son of Man.

Tonight the Son of God himself, the Light of the world,
pierces the darkness of our night
and gives us back what we lost through the sin of Adam and Eve;
through our own sin!

He gives us light and love!
He gives us hope and joy!
He gives us redemption – a second chance!

The glory of God enlightens our hearts tonight
even as it filled the night sky of the hill country of Bethlehem all those years ago!

The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light;
Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shown.

What is it about Christmas?

Tonight we see the light.

Tonight we glimpse the glory of God.
Tonight our hearts see it and sense it.
Tonight our hearts are captured by love:
the love of God for you and for me.

A love that would leave Heaven to be born on earth.

A love that would be born as a tiny child,
vulnerable and helpless,
so that we who are vulnerable and helpless to atone for our sins
might be reborn as children of light.

A love that would be born in order to die
so that we would not die in our sins
but would have the forgiveness of our sins
and be reborn to eternal life!

We celebrate tonight much more than the birth of a great man.
We celebrate tonight much more than the mystery of what it is to be a child.
We are celebrating that much more has happened here: 

The Word became flesh.
God has become one of us.

God is not remote, at a distance.
God is very close to us.

He seeks tonight to touch our hearts, to enter our hearts! [1]

Brothers and sisters,
let us allow the joy of this night to penetrate our souls!
Let the King of Glory in! Today is born our savior, Christ the Lord!

What is it about Christmas?
God gave his Son for us.

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her first-born son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The light has come into the world.
Christ our Savior is born.
May we make room for him in our hearts.

May the mystery of this night open our eyes to let in the Light so that we might see!

May the mystery of this night open our hearts to let in the Light so that we might love one another has he has loved us.


[1] Joseph Ratzinger, “The Blessing of Christmas”.

The Darkest Hour is Just Before the Dawn

Homily for Third Sunday of Advent (Year A) – Gaudete Sunday
December 15, 2017
Sacred Heart, EGF – 10:00 AM

Focus:             The darkest hour is just before the dawn.
Function:         Rejoice in hope.


darkest_before_dawn

A young man, weighted down by the guilt of his sin,
feels worthless, powerless, and hopeless.
He’s tried to rise and overcome his sins by his own power for so long.
He continues to fall and to fail.
He is losing hope.

The darkness is great.

It’s Easter night. He’s visiting with his family.  A Christian movie plays in the background, one of those movies that always plays on Easter night.  The acting is cheesy.  He pretends not to watch.

One line stands out to him: “All you have to do is turn to Christ…”

He thinks, “Yeah, if only it were that easy…”
A voice in his heart speaks: “Why can’t it be that easy?”

The light begins to pierce the darkness.

He begins to pray for the grace and courage to make a good confession.

Two weeks later, he enters the confessional. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.  It’s been four years since my last confession.  These are my sins…”

The priest listens while the young man speaks. The young man finishes, quite embarrassed at what he’s done.  He braces himself for what the priest will say…

The priest smiles, slaps his knee, and says, “Welcome back! Don’t wait so long next time!”

Absolution is granted. He feels the chains fall.  He’s free.  His heart is set ablaze.  Life is breathed into his soul which had been dead in sin.  He leaps for joy.  God is real.  His spirit rejoices in God his Savior.

An elderly woman sits alone at her kitchen table, wrapped in a blanket. She can’t sleep.  It’s been six months since her husband died.  Cancer.  Her heart is heavy.  It’s been heavy for a long time.

The pain of watching him suffer…
The helplessness of not being able to do anything to take away the pain.

She’s scared. She doesn’t know what to do.  He was her heart.  He did everything…paid the bills, fixed things around the house, plowed the driveway.

The driveway…

She sighs as she looks out the window. It’s early.  The light from the moon glistens off the freshly fallen snow.  The driveway is filled in.  She needs groceries but it looks like she won’t be going to the store today…

She was helpless to do anything for him in his sickness and now she feels helpless to do anything for herself.

The darkness is great.

She prays, “O God, how can I go on?”

Then, a noise. The rumbling of a motor.
Snow bursts forth from the ground into the air.

Her neighbor,
a young man with his own family to care for,
with his own driveway to plow out,
with his own job to get to,
walks down her driveway pushing his snowblower as the first streaks of dawn break on the horizon…a glimmer of hope on a cold winter day.

Brothers and sisters, today we celebrate Gaudete Sunday – “rejoice Sunday”.

In the darkest and coldest part of the year,
when the days are nearing their shortest,
the Church bids us to rejoice.

We rejoice because the Lord is near.
Ten days until Christmas.
Ten days until the Lord comes with power to save his people.

John the Baptist languishes in the darkness of his prison cell and though he cannot see the works of Christ, he hears about them:

The blind see. The deaf hear.  The lame leap.  The dead rise.  The poor have the good news preached to them.

Though we languish in the darkness of our hearts, we rejoice because of what Christ is doing…

A young man who has been blinded and paralyzed by his sin finally begins to see and is set free in the Sacrament of Reconciliation…

He had been deaf to the cries of those around him, cries like the widow next door, but now he hears. Now he hears, even in the early morning hours, and he moves, he rises, and sets to work setting her free.

And the good news is preached to her. God is near.  God loves her.  He has not forgotten about her.  He comes to her in the form of a young man whose heart has been set free, free to love with the love of Christ.

Brothers and sisters,
when you are tired,
when the outlook is bleak and you are tempted to give up,
when all hope seems lost and when the darkness is too great…
when you feel like you can’t take another step…

Wait. Wait just a little longer.
Watch. Watch with your eyes peeled for the coming of the Lord.
Remember. Remember that Jesus comes in the darkness of night.

It was in the fourth watch of the night,
between the hours of three and six AM,
when the disciples were losing hope in the storm.
It was then that Jesus came to them walking on the water.
In the darkest hour of the night, the Light of the world appeared out of nowhere, climbed into their boat, and calmed the sea.

Jesus comes in the darkness of night.

When it is the darkest,
it is then that
The dawn from on high shall break upon us
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.[i] 

It is today, on Gaudete Sunday,
when the white light of Christmas
pierces the dark violet of Advent,
transforming it into the shade of rose,
the color of a flower which brings the promise of summer,
a reminder that it is in the darkness of night
when the first streaks of dawn appear and the Morning Star rises in our hearts.[ii]

It was in the dark of night when a star, a single star,
could be seen in the distance,
shining over a simple stable in the hill country of an obscure town called Bethlehem…

It was in the dark of night when Christ was born.

Gaudete.

Rejoice, for even now, Joseph and Mary are making their way to Bethlehem for the census.

It may be dark, but the darkest hour is just before the dawn.


[i] Canticle of Zechariah.  Luke 1:78-79.

[ii] 2 Peter 1:19 (see Exultet, sung at the Easter Vigil)