Be a Contemplative in Action

Homily for 5th Sunday of Easter (Year B)
April 29, 2018
Sacred Heart, EGF – 9:00 AM, 10:30 AM

Focus:              Without Me, You Can Do Nothing
Function:         Be a Contemplative in Action


frassati 1.jpgPier Giorgio Frassati was born in 1901 in Turin, Italy. He was born in an affluent family.  His father owned a national newspaper, was first a senator and later the ambassador to Berlin.

The family was not a religious one, but Pier Giorgio was homeschooled, and a priest was brought in to teach him Latin. Pier Giorgio asked this priest to tell him the story of Jesus, and his love for the Lord grew.  Soon, he was sneaking out of the house in the early hours of the morning to run to the Church, pray before the Blessed Sacrament, attend daily Mass, and then run home again and be in bed before his family awoke.

frassatiAs he grew, he had many friends. He loved to go mountain climbing and play sports.  He was competitive in playing games with his friends.  He’d say: “If you win, I’ll give you money, but if I win, you come to a holy hour with me.”  He’d win and they’d head to the church, laughing and pushing each other on the way.  Then they’d enter the Church.  Pier Giorgio would go up front, near the altar, and kneel before the Blessed Sacrament, fixing his gaze on the Lord, lost in prayer.  His friends would fall asleep in the back of the church.  After an hour, Pier Giorgio would rise, wake his friends, and they’d head for home.

His love for Jesus soon led to a love for the poor. He was often late for dinner because he would give the money that his parents had given him for the train to a poor person.  He would run all the way home, head upstairs, change out of his sweaty shirt, and then slide down the banister, stopping just outside of the dining room to pray his meal grace so as to not embarrass his family, and then enter the dining room to join his family for dinner.

He would take food from his family’s table and bring it into the homes of the poor. When he was 18, his father bought him a car.  He sold the car and gave half of the money to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and the other half he used over time to buy day-old bread from the bakery which he personally delivered to the homes of the poor that he had met.

He would take flowers from the drawing room of his family’s home and put them on the coffins of the poor.

Fridays were to be a day of penance, so on Fridays he visited not only the poor but also the sick. One day a friend asked him, “Pier Giorgio, how can you stand going into those houses?  They are so gross and they smell bad.”

Pier Giorgio responded by saying, “Jesus visits me every day in Holy Communion, and I repay him in my own small way by visiting him in the poor.”

Eventually, he contacted polio from one of the sick people that he visited. It would claim his life at age 24.  His last dying act, hours before he died, was to scribble out a note to a friend, stating that the medications in his coat pocket were for a poor man named Converso.  He asked his friend to deliver the medication and to renew the prescription and charge it to his account.

Jesus said to his disciples,
Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me…Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.

Pier Giorgio’s long nights before the tabernacle led to long days serving the poor.

In receiving Holy Communion, he received the energy to face the day…

Pier Giorgio was a contemplative in action, as we are called to be. By remaining in Jesus, by contemplating the life of Jesus, by spending time in prayer and by doing penance to stir up his zeal, Pier Giorgio found the strength and love to accomplish much in his short life.

A life of contemplation leads to a life of meaning.
A life of contemplation leads to a life lived to the full.
A life of contemplation leads to a life of action.

Remain in me, as I remain in you. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me, you can do nothing.

Brothers and sisters, we are called to be contemplatives in action. We must cultivate the interior life.  Contemplation is the soul of our action.  It gives meaning to our action.

There are two extremes to be avoided. Contemplation without action leads to a quietism, a timidity that does not bear fruit.  On the other hand, action without contemplation leads to workaholism and a frenzy for the exterior life – the love of action for action’s sake.

When contemplation is strangled by activity, we lose our sense of direction, our sense of purpose. We lose sight of why we are doing what we are doing.

The supernatural life offered to each of us, the interior life which we are called to have, is nothing other than the life of Jesus Christ himself in my soul. By this life, Jesus imparts to me His very Spirit.  Then my outward acts become the manifestations of the life of Jesus in me.[i]

Remain in me, as I remain in you. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me, you can do nothing.

How are you cultivating your interior life throughout the week? Are you cultivating it?

We cultivate the interior life by spending time in contemplation,
by spending time in prayer, in silence and solitude so that we can hear Jesus’ voice speaking to us,
by receiving the sacraments through which Jesus gives us His grace in our souls.

We remain in him by spending time in prayer, by performing acts of penance for the sake of others and by partaking of the sacraments, and then we go out and perform our daily duties with the mind of Christ who remains in us as we remain in him.

When we remain in him, he remains in us, and the works that we perform are not our own but the works of Jesus himself…works that will bear abundant fruit.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

Remain in him.
Be a contemplative in action, and your life will bear much fruit.
Be a contemplative in action, and your life will be a life full of meaning and joy.
Be a contemplative in action, and you will reap a harvest worthy of Heaven.


man of the beatitudes
Pier Giorgio’s sister, Luciana, wrote a biography of him, entitled “A Man of the Beatitudes: Pier Giorgio Frassati“.  It’s a great read.

 

 

 


[i] Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O, The Soul of the Apostolate (Charlotte, NC: TAN Books, 2012), p. 13.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd

Homily for 4th Sunday of Easter
April 21-22, 2018
Sacred Heart, EGF: 5:00 PM
Holy Trinity, Tabor: 8:00 AM; St. Francis of Assisi, Fisher: 10:00 AM

Focus:              Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
Function:        Let him shepherd you.


Fr. Peter the Good Shepherd

Some friends at Mom and Dad’s farm on the weekend of my diaconate ordination in 2016.  Fr. Peter is a veteran priest, 3 of us are rookie priests, and 1 will be ordained this summer.

Thank God that Jesus is a Good Shepherd, because I know how much I am prone to wander…

 

As the Good Shepherd, Jesus leads me to green pastures, he shows me where to drink from the waters of salvation, he feeds me with the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation…

And as the sheep, I walk away, focused more on myself than on him. I choose to wallow in the muck of my sins, I wander away, off on my own path, rather than walking in the way he has pointed out to me.

And when I do that, when I sin, he calls me back. He never abandons me.  He comes looking for me.  He beckons.  He calls out to me.  He invites me to “turn around” and to repent, to call out to him even as he calls out to me so that he can find me, pick me up, put me on his shoulders, and bring me back.  He reminds me that I can’t do it without him, that I am dependent on him, that I need him.  But he also reminds me that that’s OK, because he is there for me.  He is my Shepherd.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. I am the sheep.  To be a good disciple is to be a good sheep – a sheep who gets distracted and wander from time to time, certainly; but also a sheep who knows the One to whom he belongs.  I am to be a sheep who knows the heart of His Shepherd.

The heart of my Shepherd is a heart of love, a heart that listens, a heart that calls me, that protects me, that leads me, that feeds me. The heart of my Shepherd knows the heart of his sheep.  The heart of my Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.

And, brothers and sisters, he invites us to do the same.

The Good Shepherd first invites us to follow him as his sheep, then as we mature he invites us to become shepherds for others.

He calls us to do this as husbands and fathers, and wives and mothers, who introduce their children to the Good Shepherd.

He calls us to do this as priests who stand in the person of Christ, who make Christ present in a parish through the celebration of the sacraments and in the preaching of His Word…

He calls us to do this as monks and nuns, as brothers and sisters, who by the radical yet joyful laying down of their lives give us an example of faith and sacrifice to imitate as they devote their lives to leading others to the Good Shepherd.

Today is World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

Today, the Church asks us to pray particularly for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. Pope Francis has asked every Christian in the world to spend some time today praying for vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.

The Good Shepherd speaks into the hearts of the children and young adults in our midst. Today is a day to remember that as they grow and mature, their vocation will be revealed to them, if they learn to listen for it, if we pray for them, and if we promote an environment where that vocation is encouraged to grow and flourish, an environment where it will not suffocate from fear or lack of encouragement.

Our diocese needs priests. When was the last time you told a young man that you think he’d be a good priest and why?  Our future shepherds are among us.  Christ does not leave his Church without shepherds.  They just need us to shepherd them as they grow and discover this call.

We can shepherd others only if we ourselves know and strive to follow the Good Shepherd. If we don’t know the voice of the Good Shepherd in our own lives, if we don’t try to listen and to follow the voice of the Good Shepherd in our own lives, then we become a hireling and not a shepherd.

St. Gregory the Great said this:
Whether a man be a shepherd or a hireling, cannot be told for certain, except in a time of trial. In tranquil times, the hireling generally stands watch like the shepherd.  But when the wolf comes, then everyone shows with what spirit he stood watch over the flock.

The shepherd is the one who has learned to lay down his life for the sheep…

The shepherd is the one who loves with a sacrificial type of love…

Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd precisely because he is also the Lamb of God, the Lamb of God who offered himself upon the altar of the Cross in order to take away the sins of the world.

Blessed indeed are we who are called to the supper of the Lamb.

 

Office of Readings: The Cross of Christ Gives Life to the Human Race

The following is from the Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours – Friday of the Third Week of Easter.  St. Ephrem was a deacon who lived in the 4th century.  He left us many hymns, poems, and sermons.  I found this one particularly good.


From a sermon by Saint Ephrem, deacon
The cross of Christ gives life to the human race

Death trampled our Lord underfoot, but he in his turn treated death as a highroad for his own feet. He submitted to it, enduring it willingly, because by this means he would be able to destroy death in spite of itself. Death had its own way when our Lord went out from Jerusalem carrying his cross; but when by a loud cry from that cross he summoned the dead from the underworld, death was powerless to prevent it.

Death slew him by means of the body which he had assumed, but that same body proved to be the weapon with which he conquered death. Concealed beneath the cloak of his manhood, his godhead engaged death in combat; but in slaying our Lord, death itself was slain. It was able to kill natural human life, but was itself killed by the life that is above the nature of man.

Death could not devour our Lord unless he possessed a body, neither could hell swallow him up unless he bore our flesh; and so he came in search of a chariot in which to ride to the underworld. This chariot was the body which he received from the Virgin; in it he invaded death’s fortress, broke open its strongroom and scattered all its treasure.

At length he came upon Eve, the mother of all the living. She was that vineyard whose enclosure her own hands had enabled death to violate, so that she could taste its fruit; thus the mother of all the living became the source of death for every living creature. But in her stead Mary grew up, a new vine in place of the old. Christ, the new life, dwelt within her. When death, with its customary impudence, came foraging for her mortal fruit, it encountered its own destruction in the hidden life that fruit contained. All unsuspecting, it swallowed him up, and in so doing released life itself and set free a multitude of men.

He who was also the carpenter’s glorious son set up his cross above death’s all-consuming jaws, and led the human race into the dwelling place of life. Since a tree had brought about the downfall of mankind, it was upon a tree that mankind crossed over to the realm of life. Bitter was the branch that had once been grafted upon that ancient tree, but sweet the young shoot that has now been grafted in, the shoot in which we are meant to recognize the Lord whom no creature can resist.

We give glory to you, Lord, who raised up your cross to span the jaws of death like a bridge by which souls might pass from the region of the dead to the land of the living. We give glory to you who put on the body of a single mortal man and made it the source of life for every other mortal man. You are incontestably alive. Your murderers sowed your living body in the earth as farmers sow grain, but it sprang up and yielded an abundant harvest of men raised from the dead.

Come then, my brothers and sisters, let us offer our Lord the great and all-embracing sacrifice of our love, pouring out our treasury of hymns and prayers before him who offered his cross in sacrifice to God for the enrichment of us all.

The Wounds of Christ are what God uses to Heal our Wounds

Homily for Divine Mercy Sunday (B)
April 8, 2018
Sacred Heart, EGF – 7:30, 9:00, 10:30

Focus:              The wounds of Christ are what God uses to heal our wounds.
Function:        Show him your wounds.


DivineMercyPostcardHe showed them his hands and his side.

He showed them his wounds.

His body, risen and glorified, still bore the scars, the gashes, and the holes from the nails that held him to the cross. It still bore the mark of the soldier’s spear that was thrust through his most Sacred Heart.

Thomas, put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side.

You need to see my wounds? I not only show them to you, I let you experience them.

He showed them his wounds.

The wounds of Christ are what God uses to heal our wounds.

The wounds of Christ remind us of the price he paid for our redemption.

The wounds of his hands, which bled…his hands, through which the blood of Christ pours over your baptized soul, when a priest, acting in the very person of Christ, raises the same wounded hand of Christ over your head and pronounces those sacred words: I absolve you…

The wounds of Christ, especially the wound in his side, the wound of his Sacred Heart, pierced for our offenses so that his Precious Blood could gush forth like a raging torrent, washing over our sins, forgiving and healing them, restoring the life we had lost. It was through the wound in his side that his Precious Blood poured forth, the blood that prefigures the Eucharist, the same Blood from his Sacred Heart that pours forth from his side and into the Chalice in this celebration of the Eucharist.

The wounds of his side, through which the water which prefigures baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit surges forth, the true stream that flows out of the Temple of his Body onto a dry and weary land, giving new birth, new life, to those who drink from this living stream in the fountain of baptism…

He showed them his wounds…

The wounds of Christ are what God uses to heal the wounds of sin.

The wounds of Christ are what God uses to heal our wounds.

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday.

Today we celebrate the mercy of God. The mercy of God is manifested in the wounds of his Son, in the wounds He bore for us.

This is a special feast day for our parish in particular. We are the community of Sacred Heart, and today we are reminded that His Sacred Heart was pierced.  Blood and water flowed forth, as we see in the image that Sr. Faustina left us.

I am speaking, of course, of the image of Divine Mercy.

This image is in our church, it is in the most appropriate place in our church. It is in the confessional.

The image shows Jesus looking at you, one hand raised in blessing, the other pointing to the wound in his side…his wounded heart, through which 2 rays shine forth onto you…2 rays representing the water and the blood that flowed from his side. Jesus Christ came in water and in blood.

He came in water to give you new birth.

He came in blood to nourish you with his flesh for the life of the world.

He came to manifest the mercy of God. He came to give us an image of Divine Mercy.

Mercy. Misericordia.  The Latin word means “a suffering heart”.  A heart that is wounded by the suffering of another.

My brothers and sisters, if you ever doubt the words of Christ, you need only to look to and to experience his wounds. If you doubt his words, believe his wounds.  The caption under the image of divine mercy reads, “Jesus, I trust in you.”  Look at the crucifix and see what he endured for you, for love of you.  His heart suffered for your sins.  His heart was wounded by your sins in order to absolve you of your sins.  Look at the mark on his side, see that his heart was pierced for you, and believe in the Mercy of God.  Trust in the mercy of God.  Look at the wound of his side, and cry out in faith with Thomas: My Lord and My God! Jesus, I trust in you!

The wounds of Christ are what God uses to heal our wounds.

He shows us his wounds so that we will show him our wounds.

He shows us his wounds so that we will trust him with our wounds.

The place where we trust him with our wounds is in the confessional. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them. Whose sins you retain are retained.

God takes away our sins, but he doesn’t take away our wounds. They still remain, just like Christ’s wounds remain.  But he heals them.  He glorifies them, just as Christ’s wounds were glorified.  He leaves the scars to remind us of what he has done for us.

The scars remind us of his Divine Mercy.

His glorified wounds remind us that his mercy continues to gush forth from them, even today. They remind us that his mercy endures forever.