Free Barabbas Day

Good Friday Homily
April 2, 2021
Sacred Heart, EGF – 7 PM

Ecce Homo “Behold the Man” by Antonio Ciseri, 1871

Do you know what day it is today? I thought I knew…until one of the altar servers asked me that question at our rehearsal this morning. He enlightened me.

It’s “Free Barabbas Day.”

His favorite part of the Passion, apparently, is when the whole congregation exuberantly exclaims: “Not this one, but Barabbas!” And so, to him, today is “Free Barabbas Day.”

Indeed.  Wisdom from a high schooler. Because, for all of us, today is “Free Barabbas Day.”

After all, who is Barabbas?

You are. 

I am. 

Barabbas was a revolutionary…a rebel.  Is not rebellion the sin of Adam and Eve?  Is that not the sin that each one of us has inherited?  Has committed at some point in our lives?

Barabbas was the one enslaved in a prison of his own making, of his own choices. Barabbas was one who deserved to die for what he had done. Along comes Jesus on that first Good Friday, and that Good Friday became “Free Barabbas Day.”

He was pierced for our offenses,
crushed for our sins,
upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole.

The guilty man goes free and the innocent man takes his place.

I wonder what Barabbas did with the rest of his life?

To Keep a True Lent

To Keep a True Lent
by Robert Herrick

Is this a Fast, to keep
      the larder lean?
            and clean
from fat of veals and sheep?

Is it to quit the dish
      of flesh, yet still
            to fill
the platter high with fish?

Is it to fast an hour,
      or ragged to go,
            or show
a down-cast look and sour?

No: ‘tis a Fast to dole
      thy sheaf of wheat
            and meat
unto the hungry soul.

It is to fast from strife
      and old debate,
            and hate;
to circumcise thy life.

To show a heart grief-rent;
      to starve thy sin,
            not bin;
and that’s to keep thy Lent.

There is Power in Suffering

Homily for 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
Sacred Heart, EGF – Saturday 5:00 PM; Sunday 10:00 AM, 12:00 PM
Focus: There is power in suffering.
Function: Offer your suffering to Jesus.

Job laments.

He laments because he suffers.

He cannot see the reason for his suffering. He does not understand it. He cannot see where God is in it. He begins to lose hope. “I shall not see happiness again.”

Suffering makes us feel that way.

Peter’s mother-in-law will not rise from where she lies when Jesus enters the house.
Her energy is gone.
She has begun to despair.  

Jesus enters.  They tell him about her.  He takes her hand.  The suffering leaves.

The whole town gathers at the door.

So many people suffering.
So many, like Job.
So many, like Peter’s mother-in-law.
So many, tempted to despair but now filled with hope.  Filled with hope because they have heard of Jesus.  Everyone is looking for him.

They find him.
They touch him.

Hope is restored.  The suffering leaves.  

Where does it go? Jesus takes it.

He bears it for them.  

Good for them.

What about us?

What about those who face chronic pain, 
who have gathered at the door of the house where Jesus is staying 
and have knocked with our prayers, 
only to be met by seeming silence?

What about those of us who, 
like Peter and Andrew, 
have immediately brought the suffering 
of our mother-in-law or father or uncle or cousin or child 
to the attention of Jesus 
only to wait and wonder 
if or when 
he will hear and respond?

Like Job, we lament.
Like Job, we suffer.

Last summer, I visited a man who suffers from chronic pain.  He cannot eat or drink anything.  He receives all his nourishment by a feeding tube.  He longs to receive the Eucharist, to come to Mass.  He cannot.  He longs to give of himself, to have a purpose.

Like Job, he laments.

He told me, “I want to give, but I have nothing to give.”

Of course, he does have something to give.

As a member of the Body of Christ, when he suffers, Christ suffers.  And Christ’s suffering redeemed the world.  Christ’s suffering is made present in our time through the suffering of our brothers and sisters.

I asked him if he would give his suffering to Jesus, if he would offer it to him, and ask him to give us the priests we need for the future of our diocese.  

His face lit up.  “Oh, I can do that!”

I gave him the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.  The sacrament gives one the power to bear his sufferings with the grace and strength of Christ.  

I anointed his hands, 
the hands that he used to work with, 
the hands that would now be used to carry his cross,
the hands that would be raised in prayer,
the hands that would be held out in offering, 
offering his suffering to Jesus, imploring him for the priests that we need.

We had our vocation camp 2 weeks later.  A monthly discernment group grew out of it.  Two men in the discernment group are applying for the seminary next year.

Jesus was present in his suffering.

Where Jesus is present, miracles happen.
Where Jesus is present, hope is restored.

There is power in the wounds of Christ.

You and I have been joined to him.
We are members of his Body.
Our wounds are his wounds.
When we suffer, the Body of Christ suffers.  Christ suffers and the drama of redemption continues to unfold.  

There is power in the wounds of Christ.

The blood that washed away our sins flowed from pierced, wounded hands.

His blood flows through us
and when we suffer, it flows out of us through our wounds,
our wounds which are his wounds.

Offer him your wounds.

The price for souls was paid by the suffering of Christ.
His suffering continues today.

When you suffer, Christ has not abandoned you.  
He is living in you.  
He is still suffering to redeem the world.  
He is still shouldering his Cross, through you.
You are a partner in the work of salvation.

Each person, in his/her suffering, 
can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.

Can we, like him, stretch out our hands as we endure our passion so He can break the bonds of death and manifest the resurrection?

As we celebrate the memorial of the saving Passion of the Son, can we offer in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice?

Can we say to him the words that he will soon say to us: “This is my body, given up for you?”

The Glory of the Lord Shone Around Them

Homily for Christmas Eve (Year B)
December 24, 2020
Holy Trinity, Tabor – 4:30 PM
Sacred Heart, EGF –10:00 PM

Focus:             The glory of the Lord shone around them.
Function:       Come and behold him.  Come and see his glory.

Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

He was no stranger to the darkness. No, he was used to it. He had kept the night watch many times before.

The shepherd.

Watching, keeping vigil, staying alert. 

His eyes scanned the field before him, waiting for the first sign of trouble but hoping that there wouldn’t be any.

Watching for the wolf.

Keeping an eye on the wayward sheep – the one wayward sheep who always tried to wander off, and who would bring half the herd along with him when he did.

That wayward sheep was not so unlike the people of his own nation.  They continually wandered off, wandered into idolatry, meandered into sins that soon enslaved them and brought about their captivity.

Like himself, like his sheep, they were a people who walked in darkness. They had been invaded, deported, and returned.  They were a people living in a land of gloom who longed for a glimpse of glory. They were a people who had seen despair and longed for hope.

They were not so unlike us.

The shepherd was not so unlike you or me.

We, too, long for hope.
We, too, long for light.

We long for an end to the darkness that has enshrouded us over this past year. 
We long for an end to divisions and for the Kingdom of God to break in ever brighter. 
We long for an end to the darkness of evil and for the light of goodness to prevail.
We long to know that God is near, that we are not alone, that we are loved and cared for
We long for forgiveness and for reconciliation.  We long for restoration of broken relationships.

We long for the glory days, the days of old when we never realized how good we had it. 
We long for the glory of God.

Tonight, the shepherd is changed by the glory that he has seen.

Tonight, we, too, are changed by the glory we see.

What is this glory that we see?

A child in a manger.  He is the glory of God.  Our savior is born. The prophecies of old are fulfilled. 

God is with us. Emmanuel.

He has not abandoned us. 
He has become one of us,
has become one of us to save all of us,
to save each of us,
to save me.

The glory of this night is the glory of eternity.  My sins will not be my condemnation. 
Tonight there is mercy.
Tonight there is forgiveness.
Tonight there is tenderness – the tenderness of God displayed in the radiant face of a newborn babe.
Tonight, the grace of God has appeared, and nothing will stop that grace, that glory, from breaking in.

Tonight, the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.

The people of Israel, yes.
Shepherds in the field, yes.

But also us.

We are also the people who have walked in darkness,
trudging down the darkened streets of loneliness and isolation,
feeling very much alone.

But the mystery of this night, brothers and sisters, is that we are never alone.

God is with us.  Emmanuel.  The child born for us tonight reminds us that no matter what darkness we may walk through in this world, God is with us.

God knows us.  God loves us. God acts in this world. 

God enters into our world,
into our humanity,
in the dark of night,
to bring light to those of us who have walked in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to shine a light in the midst of a land of gloom.

Tonight the glory of God gleams all around us like the glory of freshly fallen snow glistening under lampposts in the dark of night.

Tonight, a child is born for us.  A son is given us.  The Son of God takes on flesh so that our flesh might take on the glory of eternity.

Brothers and sisters, come and glimpse his glory.

Come with the shepherds to the stable.  Come and behold him.  Look into the radiance of his face.  See in this child the presence of God.

The shepherds saw his glory and they were changed forever.  How could they not be?

The glory of Christmas is that we can come and behold our God.  We can come to see him, and in seeing him, in glimpsing his glory, we too will be changed forever.  We will be filled with his peace.

Jesus is here now just as he was here then.  We just have to look for him. 

Come and behold him,
born the king of angels

O come let us adore him
O come let us adore him
O come let us adore him
Christ the Lord.

Prayer of Trust

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death,
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

– Thomas Mertin

The Holy Men and Women of Every Time and Place

Homily for All Saints Day (Year A)
November 1, 2020
Sacred Heart, EGF – Sunday 12:00 PM

The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs by Fra Angelico (ca. 1424-1424)

Today we rejoice in the holy men and women of every time and place:
those who have run the race before us,
those who made it and now cheer us on.

We hear their voices.
We sense their closeness.

They are here.
They are all around us…a great multitude.

The communion of saints – we feel the power and the presence of that communion today.

Today Holy Mother Church holds up our older brothers and sisters in the faith as an example for us.  Today she brings them for a visit.

Who are they?

They are known to us…

Mary, the handmaid of the Lord
Joseph in his gentle care
Mary in her contemplation and Martha in her work.
Benedict in his prayer and work
Francis in his abandonment of all in the pursuit of God
Dominic in his gift of eloquence in preaching
Thomas Aquinas in his intellect
Ignatius of Loyola in his discernment of spirits
Teresa of Avila in her very determined determination to never give up on prayer
Maximilian Kolbe in his love for Mary and his heroic sacrifice for Francis Gajowniczek in a concentration camp
Pier Giorgio Frassati in his love for mountain climbing, the Eucharist, and the poor
Gianna in her fierce motherly love
John Paul II in his love for young people and his philosopher’s mind
Faustina in her message of Divine Mercy

Others are known to us and to God but anonymous to the world…

Still others are lost to us in the obscurity of time but known to the heart of God and loved in the communion of Saints in Heaven…

Men and women who allowed their lives to be transformed by the saving power of Christ….

Men and women who,
little by little,
day by day,
offered simple sacrifices of love for God and for those near to them,
acts of love and kindness and compassion and service,
sacrifices that have been written in gold in the scroll of the Lamb of God

Men and women who were sanctified and transformed by the ordinary events of their lives.  There are no miracles attributed to them, except for the miracle of selfless love and surrender to the God who is Love itself.

Our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents,
our aunts and uncles,
children who died too young but are now fully alive in the glory of God.

Today we rejoice in them.

They are known
for their integrity and their courage in standing up for what is right and just,
for their ability to see the presence of God in everyday life,
for their humble faith in God in the presence of incredible suffering.

They are known
for their gentleness,
for their listening ear and wise counsel,
for their reliability,
for always being there when they are needed most.

They are known
for their faithfulness and commitment to living out their marriages,
for providing for their children.

They are here.
Today is their day.

as we remember them,
as we sense their presence,
as we benefit from their prayers and hear them cheering us on,
we are filled with a tremendous yearning…
a yearning to join them,
a longing to fulfill completely what we already are:

Children of God. 
Sons and daughters of a Father who is perfecting us in love and drawing us to himself.

The saints have made it.  They know the way.  Their example lights the way for those of us who are still on our way. 

What is the way?

Christ is the way.

The beatitudes are the way.

Rejoice and be glad, for yours is the Kingdom of Heaven.

It is the way of surrender. 
It is the way of love. 

Today we rejoice in the holy men and women of every time and place.
All you holy men and women pray for us.

You Duped Me, O Lord

Homily for 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
August 30, 2020
Sacred Heart, EGF – 8:00 AM
St. Francis, Fisher – 10:00 AM

Focus:             You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.
Function:         Embrace the Cross

You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.

Jeremiah the prophet – a story that started out so hopeful and with so much promise.

His calling:

God speaks to him:

Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. 
Before you were born, I dedicated you. 
A prophet to the nations, I appointed you.

Beautiful words.

Jeremiah responds:

Ah, Lord God!  I do not know how to speak; I am too young!

God says:

Say not, “I am too young.”
To whomever I send you, you shall go;
whatever I command you, you shall speak.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you.

Then the LORD extended his hand and touched my mouth, saying to me,
See, I place my words in your mouth!

Today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to uproot and to tear down,
to destroy and to demolish,
to build and to plant.[1]


Jeremiah is then sent to preach the coming captivity of Jerusalem.  He is a prophet of doom.  No one wanted to hear his message.  He was rejected and branded as a traitor.  He started out with so much promise, now he finds himself suffering greatly.

And so, in his anguish, he cries out to God:

You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.

Here is the couple, young and in love, infatuated with each other, as their wedding day approaches.  The image of family life begins at the altar with the beautiful white dress, hair perfectly in place (the groom’s and hers…), corsages bursting with color, everyone is all smiles as they exchange their “I do’s”.

Five years later, here is that same couple.  The honeymoon is over.  Dirty clothes are on the bedroom floor instead of in the hamper, kids are crying, bills are unpaid.  This one wet the bed, that one threw his orange juice on the floor, and the third one just gave his sister a haircut.

I just want a nap and some peace and quiet.

You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.

Here is the young man approaching his ordination day.  Six years of seminary have prepared him for this moment.  Soon he will be celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, anointing the sick, acting in the person of Christ to bring the sacraments to the people of God to aid them on their journey toward heaven.  He’s ordained, it’s glorious, everyone wants to hug him and receive a priestly blessing.

Here is that same man 3 years later.  Priesthood in the time of corona.  Unable to visit the hospital to anoint the sick.  Preaching the Mass of the Lord’s supper without the people of God present.  An early Sunday morning is in order as it was a busy week and the homily is not ready for the 8 AM Mass.  No more handshakes, it might spread the virus.  He visits his nieces and nephews and family life starts to look pretty good in the time of corona.

You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.

Here is the teacher preparing her lesson plans during the first year.  She is not much older than her students.  They think she’s cool.  They look up to her.  She is making a difference in their lives.

Here is that same teacher 7 years later.  Teaching to a computer screen in March, wearing a mask in front of her classroom in September.  She’s no longer that cool.

You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.

Here is the parishioner praying to be open to God’s will…drawn to a neighbor they don’t get along with or don’t know all that well.  There’s a whisper in the heart:

“Do an act of kindness.  Stop and visit with them.”

“Really, Lord, are you sure?”

They are convicted.  Fire in the chest, a nagging thought that won’t go away. 

They do it.

The neighbor goes on and on, complaining about the world in which we live.  On the other side of the political divide.  The parishioner can’t get away.

Or the neighbor gives them a quizzical look when they stop to visit because the parishioner has never done this before.  The conversation is awkward and the parishioner leaves wondering why they even bothered.

You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.

A heresy of our time: “the prosperity Gospel.”

“Become a disciple and you’ll be happy.”
It’s a half-truth.
You’ll be happy, yes, but that happiness comes at a cost.
The cost, the price, is the cross.

Christianity has the cross at its center.
A crossless Christianity is no Christianity at all.

The Gospel – the Good news – is that Christ suffered for us so that we could be redeemed and forgiven of our sins.

The Gospel – the Good news – is NOT that there will be no suffering.  It is that Christ suffers WITH US and FOR US.

The Gospel – the Good news – is that the Suffering of the Cross leads to the Glory of the Resurrection.

The suffering is not the end.  It is part of the path.

Jesus says, “Take up your cross and follow me.”
St. Paul says, “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.”

Lose yourselves to gain eternity.
Lose yourselves for the sake of love.

It is through the Cross that grace rushes in.

The blood of Christ that bought our redemption flows from wounded, suffering hands and feet and a pierced heart.

Throw out the cross and we throw out the means of our salvation.

Peter – denies the cross today.  Denies it 3 times during the Passion.  He will be filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, and will be given the grace and strength needed for him to embrace his cross in Nero’s Circus in Rome, when he is crucified upside down for his witness to Christ.

Brothers and sisters, you too have the Holy Spirit.
You also have your cross.
Pray for the strength to carry it.

Maybe it’s not not what you expected.
It’s probably not what you’d have chosen.

But it is your call.
And there’s grace in it. 
There’s goodness in it. 
There’s beauty and life in it. 
There’s pain and suffering in it, yes, but there is also surrender and sanctification.

You duped me, O Lord, and praise God, I let myself be duped.

[1] Jeremiah, chapter 1

The Link Between the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption

Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary
August 15, 2020
Sacred Heart, EGF – 9:00 AM

The Immaculate Conception and the Assumption are closely linked. 

In the Immaculate Conception, Mary is conceived in her mother’s womb, and she is conceived free from original sin.  She is preserved from original sin so that she can bear Jesus into the world.  The gift of the redemption goes back in time and preserves Mary from sin before Christ comes into the world.

In the Assumption, Mary is assumed, body and soul, into heaven.

“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). 

In the Immaculate Conception, Mary is preserved from original sin,
and so, it follows that:
In the Assumption, Mary is preserved from bodily decay.

Preserved from sin’s corruption in the womb,
she is also
preserved from death’s corruption in the tomb.

From the 5th century, the Church has celebrate the “dormition”, or the “falling asleep” of Mary.

From a 9th century sacramentary which was used in the celebration of the Eucharist on the feast of the Dormition of Mary:

Venerable to us, O Lord,
is the festivity of this day
on which the holy Mother of God
suffered temporal death,
but still could not be kept down
by the bonds of death, [she who has]
begotten your Son our Lord
incarnate from herself.

Christ passed from this life.
Mary passed from this life.
Her body did not see corruption.

Mary’s obedience undoes Eve’s disobedience. 
Eve’s disobedience led to four curses in Genesis:

  1. Loss of innocence
  2. Pain of Childbirth
  3. Urge for her husband who will rule over her
  4. Death

There are four events in the life of Mary where these curses become blessings:

  1. In the Immaculate Conception, Mary preserves her innocence where Eve lost it.  Mary is preserved from original sin.
  2. In the Annunciation, Mary remains a virgin while becoming a mother.  She is a Virgin Mother.  Theologians speculate that Mary brings forth Christ into the world without the pain of childbirth (which was a consequence of original sin).
  3. On Good Friday, Mary stands by her Son at the foot of the Cross.  Since the fall, to differing degrees, there has been strife in the relationship between men and women, between husbands and wives.  The relationship between Mary and Jesus is preserved rom this.  She is a companion of Christ.  She is with her son in the work of redemption.  The graces that he won for us pass through her hands on their way to us.  She intercedes for us to her son as she interceded at the wedding feast of Cana.  “They have no wine…Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:3,5)  
  4. In the Assumption, Mary is preserved from the bodily corruption resulting from death, where Even experience the corruption of death.
Eve’s Curse (from sin)Mary’s Blessing
Loss of Innocence (“their eyes were opened” (Genesis 3:7))Immaculate Conception: Preserved from Original Sin
Pain of Childbirth (Genesis 3:16)Annunciation: Virgin Mother
“Urge for your husband who will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)Good Friday: Companion of Christ
Death (Genesis 2:17)Assumption: Preserved from Corruption of the Tomb

The dogma of the Annunciation was declared in 1950.  Many of these reflections are taken from the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius XII called “Munificentissimus Deus” (“The Most Bountiful God”) which declared the Assumption of Mary as a dogma of the Catholic Faith.

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception had been declared in 1854 (just 96 years earlier) by Pope Pius IX.  Once that was declared, the Assumption naturally followed.  If Mary was preserved from original sin in her conception, it follows that she was preserved from the consequences of sin (death). 

Munificentissimus Deus!  The Most Bountiful God, indeed!  A God who, out of love for us, would provide a remedy for our fall – the woman who would crush the serpent!

We received the Son through her womb and her “yes”.
Now, we receive graces through her hands and her intercession.

Next Saturday, we celebrate the Queenship of Mary.

Raised to glory in Heaven,
may she be raised to glory in our hearts:
Our Mother
Our Lady
Our Queen

Pray for us,
O Holy Mother of God,
that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

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.