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.”