Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Epiphany Homily - January 4, 2015

Homily for Epiphany

January 4, 2014

Herod’s Double Life


            Studying history makes me absolutely convinced that the Holy Spirit is in charge of this church of ours. The Renaissance was a rough period for the church – many of the popes were very corrupt, such as Pope Alexander the Sixth, who fathered four children as pope and ended up bankrupting the Vatican for his various projects, even though he was happy to make anyone a bishop for the right amount of money. Here was this man, who on the outside was supposed to be a man of God, but who in reality was totally corrupt. He seemed to have no regret for his evil – he famously said one day, “God gave us the papacy – let us enjoy it!” Hey, what can you expect from a Borgia. And yet, despite his corruption, the Church continued on, guided by the Holy Spirit.

            But even today, the challenge for Christians is to not live a double life. I mean, what made King Herod such a despicable character in the Gospel? I think it was because he was so duplicitous. He told the Three Kings that he was excited to worship Jesus, when in reality he wanted to kill Him. Herod wanted to be seen as a good man, a follower of God…when in reality he was a power-hungry murderer.

            On the other hand, we have these three wise men, who were genuinely interested in getting to know the Lord. Look at the sacrifices they make to come to visit Jesus – they travel hundreds of miles, and give Him these valuable gifts. These three kings were authentically interested in having a relationship with God.

            So who are we – the Wise Men, or Herod? We can be tempted to live a double life, too. We come here on Sunday, praising Jesus with our lips, but then we leave here and we curse and gossip with those same lips. We say we believe in Jesus, but then when He says something difficult like “stay faithful to your marriage vows”, we disobey Him. We say our faith is important, we say we’re spiritual people, but won’t spend ten minutes a day reading Scripture. We pray our prayers, but then are racist or prejudice against people who are different from us.

            But the goal of the Christian life is to practice in our lives what we profess to believe with our lips. I remember at one parish where I was stationed, we had a youth group night about the Mass, presented by the high schoolers to the middle schoolers. So six high school students got up and told the middle schoolers what they loved about the Mass. As I was watching this presentation, I realized that five out of the six had not been to Mass that weekend. So afterward, I said to one of those high school kids, “Wow, that was a great talk. So which Mass were you at this weekend?” He stared at me blankly, before bowing his head, ashamed, and saying, “Ok, Deacon Joe, you got me. I didn’t go.”

            As a friend of mine used to say, “I can see right through you, plastic man.” Our goal is not to be someone who lives a double life, being a Christian in one area of life but having a secret life on the side. There is a virtue we should strive for – the virtue called integrity – which means being the same person in public as you are in private. We should be a Christian in our workplaces, our schools, our families, online. If you have a double life – if you are struggling with a secret sin, addiction, or if you are professing to be a Christian today but not willing to live it tomorrow, then you need to repent of this and seek to live an authentic Christian life.

            I love what the American author Nathaniel Hawthorne said about living a double life: “No man can have two faces: one for public and one for private. He will soon forget which one is which.” We will never be at peace if we are two different people – a Christian on Sunday but a pagan on Monday. No, to have that deep peace, we need to be striving for Christian holiness every day. We may not be perfect, but so long as we are striving every day, and really giving a real effort – like the real effort the Wise Men gave – then we will find our inner peace.

            The temptation to be Herod is within all of us – to say we believe in Jesus but then live like we don’t. Don’t give in to such a temptation – be a man or woman of integrity.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Holy Family - December 28, 2014

Feast of the Holy Family

December 28, 2014

On the Family


            One of my favorite Christmas traditions is to watch The Christmas Carol, the old Charles Dickens story about Scrooge. When I was in high school I was in that play, and ever since, I have enjoyed the story. It’s an interesting contrast between Scrooge – this friendless miser who is tremendously rich but miserable – and his employee, Bob Cratchet – who is poor, and works hard, but is deeply happy. What’s the difference between Scrooge’s misery and Cratchet’s happiness? I think the difference is that Bob Cratchet has a family. He is able to endure his poverty and difficult job because he is motivated by love for his family.

Family. The word can evoke so many emotions for people. For some, it is a place of peace, security, and love. For others, it provokes anxiety and stress. But what was God’s plan for the family?

            The family was meant to be the “domestic Church”. In other words, this is the place where we grow in holiness the most. Families should be communities of faith, hope, and love – like mini-churches! Think about it – in our families, we first learn about the love of God for us through the love our parents have for us. We also learn about virtues – good character traits – in the family: virtues such as patience, forgiveness, self-sacrifice…all of these are played out in the family.

            I think sometimes a great definition of family is: “Those people, related by blood, who you would do anything for…except take out the trash!” It’s precisely in the everyday life of the family that we learn how to love with true self-sacrificing love. Yes, taking out the trash can help us grow in holiness if we do it out of love…and so our families – as crazy as they can be – are the method through which we can become saints!

            The family is the fundamental building-block of society. Society is made up of families – therefore, as the family goes, so goes society. When families are weak and divided, when they break up easily or are “redefined”, then society itself becomes weak and divided and corrupted.

            I realize that nowadays, in 2014, especially in this community, there are not a whole lot of intact families left. Many families have suffered the pain of divorce or abandonment. And I do not intend to judge anyone who lives in a family that has been broken – please understand that God has great compassion on all those whose family situations are difficult.

            But God has intended, from the beginning of time, for a family to be a husband and a wife, united in marriage, with their children. When we start breaking up the family structure through divorce, or when we try to redefine it to be a union of two persons of the same gender, we not only harm the family but society as well. If someone were to try to build a brick house but kept using bricks that were broken, or tried to use Styrofoam instead of bricks, the house wouldn’t be very sturdy, and at a certain point if enough solid bricks were missing, the whole house would collapse. In the same way, if we try to build a solid society on broken families, it won’t work. Society will be weakened, and eventually collapse.

            So how do we build a happy, holy family in the modern world? Here are three suggestions to strengthening your family life for 2015.

            First, make God your first priority. That is shown in many ways – making sure than nothing else gets in the way of Sunday Mass, praying together daily as a family, having religious articles such as crucifixes and saint statues in your home, teaching your children their religious education, and coming as a family to other spiritual opportunities such as Stations of the Cross or Eucharistic Adoration. When God is the bedrock on which your family is built, then nothing can ever shake your family.

            Second, eat dinner together every night as a family. A series of studies looked at the effect of eating meals together as a family and they found that children whose families eat together have better social adjustment, less delinquency and drug use, less psychological problems, and a better overall sense of well-being than those who do not eat together regularly. The daily dinner gives families a chance to truly communicate, to get to know each other. I’m convinced that’s why God made us with the need to eat three times a day – so that we can have three opportunities to get to know each other better. So if you want a happy, healthy family, make sure that dinner is eaten together as often as possible, at least five times per week. If you’re too busy for this daily ritual, then you’re just too busy, period.

            Finally, learn sacrifice. It has been said that “family” is an acronym which stands for “Forget About Me – I Love You.” Families only work when each member is more concerned about the others than about themselves. That means that kids have to seek to obey their parents, even when it’s difficult. That means that spouses have to put the other first. Sacrifice is the purest form of love.

            Now, I know that families are very messy, and no one’s family is perfect. But what can we do in this new year to strengthen our families? All of us have family – even if we are widowed and alone, we hopefully have extended family that we can reach out to, or neighbors who are families for us. Let’s do our part to build up happy, healthy, holy families!

Christmas Homily 2014

The Inn Thing


            All of us are so familiar with the Christmas story that I don’t need to repeat it. We know the major cast of characters: Mary and Joseph, the angels and the shepherds, the wise men and King Herod. But there’s one character who never gets any attention: the innkeeper. You know, when Mary and Joseph were looking for a place to stay in Bethlehem and there was no room for them in the inn, think about the innkeeper – who was he?

            He was just doing his job, trying to keep his business running during a very busy time. I’m sure in the hustle and bustle of trying to check in all the hundreds of guests to his modest inn, he had no idea of the great gift that would be born in his backyard that night. Which is kinda sad if you think about it – here’s a man who had the chance to be a part of the most amazing event in history – the birth of the everlasting Son of God, the Savior of the World. And he missed it because he was just too busy.

            How many of you here this evening/morning would say that your life is busy? I think that’s especially true in this holiday time. The Christmas parties, the shopping, the baking, Christmas cards, on top of everything else that’s usually going on – it tends to get crazy! If I had to take a wild guess, I would guess that 95% of people in this church who sent Christmas letters this year used the word “busy” in their letter. Modern life can get crazy at times!

            But what are we missing because we’re just too doggone busy? I think sometimes our relationship with God is a casualty of our busy lifestyles. We’re just running around all day, trying to taxi our kids from one activity to another, trying to finish all of the errands and check off our to-do list, and by the time we crash into the sack we have had no time to spend with God all day. Or our weekends are so filled with good things – sports, volunteering, community activities – that we miss out on that opportunity to nourish our relationship with God at Sunday worship?

            And that, ultimately, is why Jesus Christ was born – to bring us into a relationship with God. God is invisible, and His love is invisible – and that’s why we needed a visible, tangible Person to bring us into relationship with Him. Jesus Christ is God’s love incarnate, and He lived – and died – so that we could know of the depths of His love.

            But that love requires a response! Jesus isn’t just a historical figure who lived and died and then hasn’t been heard from since. He lives forever – and it is still possible to have a personal friendship with Him!

            For a lot of people, 2013 has been a tough year. Financial stress, maybe a health scare, a government shutdown, global crises – there’s always something that can stress us out. And I’m not going to claim that a relationship with Jesus is going to make all of our problems go away – but I am going to claim that He gives us a strength to get through the crises. Maybe even more importantly, he gives us a new perspective and a new meaning to them, because a relationship with Jesus Christ allows us to see that this world is passing and most of the things that stress us out aren’t going to matter much in eternity. We were created for God and for eternal life with Him, and this life won’t make sense at all until we have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

            I’m reminded of a young girl from our parish who was so excited last year to tell me what she wanted from Santa Claus. She was literally jumping up and down as she was in line to greet me after Mass one Sunday in December. Finally when she got to me she jumped up and down and said, “Guess what! Guess what! Guess what I want for Christmas!” So I asked her, and she exclaimed at the top of her voice, “A pink bible!” She was so excited to go deeper in her relationship with Jesus that the greatest gift she could ask for was a bible. But of course it had to be pink, otherwise it wouldn’t do.

            What a great gift, to have that relationship with God through Jesus Christ! If you’ve never begun one, today’s the perfect day to do so. Simply turn to the Lord in the quiet of your heart, and ask Him to come in. Offer your life to Him. Ask Him to forgive your sins. Invite Him to dwell in your heart. He will come.

            I just keep coming back to that innkeeper. Ya know, it has never been the “inn” thing to be a Christian. It’s demanding - it demands our entire life, given to Him. It’s not “cool” – to live for Jesus Christ and not for our selfish motives. It takes time and effort that’s in short supply in our busy, stressed-out lives. But it also offers the greatest treasure possible – a life with meaning, inner peace, and eternal life. Don’t be like the innkeeper, so busy with life that he misses out on the most important thing of all – a relationship with God.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent - December 21, 2014

Advent 4 – Level 1

December 21, 2014

On Grace


            Have you ever met someone famous? I really haven’t. I’ve gotten to within five feet of St. John Paul II, but that was it. Didn’t get to shake his hand. I did a quick survey on Facebook, to see if any of my friends had encountered a famous person. A friend of mine was telling me that she was hugged by Henry Winkler at Pepe’s Pizza…now that is an encounter to remember! Another friend got to shake Mother Teresa’s hand. That’s pretty cool!

            But what it someone famous – maybe Payton Manning or Drake or Lionel Messi or someone like that - came to you and asked to have dinner at your house? I know if it was someone that I really admired, I’d go all-out and clean the house from top-to-bottom, and fix one heck of a dinner. Even though it would be a lot of work to prepare, it would definitely be worth it.

            So King David in the first reading is equally excited to have the Lord dwell in a house. He’s all set to build a temple, when the Lord says to him through a prophet, “I don’t want a house that you build – that’s not where I desire to live.” Okay, so, Lord, if you don’t want to live in a temple, where do you desire to live?

            The answer finally comes in the Gospel. The angel Gabriel greets Mary with these mysterious words – “Hail, full of grace!” What does this mean? It means that Mary’s soul is the dwelling place of God – and her body will be as well when Jesus is conceived.

            So God’s desire is not to live in a temple, or a tabernacle, or a house – no, God’s desire is to dwell in our souls through grace. Yes, He is truly present here in the tabernacle in Church. But He dwells here only to make it easier for Him to dwell in the temple of our soul through grace.

            Grace. There’s that word again. What is grace? Here’s a very simple four-word definition of grace: grace is God’s life within us. Let that sink in for a minute. If you were chilling at home one day and you hear a knock on your door, and you open it and you find that Jesus is outside, saying, “Hey, can I come in and hang out? Maybe do dinner with you?” We’d be thrilled beyond belief. We’d probably be speechless. Hopefully we’d open up and let Him in. That’s what Mary had done – she was the dwelling place of God from her very first moment.

            We too become temples of grace – of God’s divine life – at baptism. We increase grace through prayer and the Sacraments, and the only way we can lose grace is through serious sin. So it is my prayer that all of us here are temples of grace – that God’s divine life dwells in us.

            Okay, pause for a moment. Are we excited yet about God’s grace? I know it seems like some kind of abstract idea, but it’s absolutely amazing when we consider it! Grace is what transformed us from slaves of sin to sons of God. Grace is what allows us to call upon God anywhere – because He dwells in the temple of our souls. Grace makes us, you and I, sinners – into saints!

            You know, when Jesus was about to be born, there was no room for Him in an inn. He had to be born in a stable. Jesus is still looking for a home – is your soul prepared to receive Him? Have you swept clean your soul in confession? Have you prepared it through prayer? Have you welcomed Him through a desire to live a holy life and become a saint? Or would you be embarrassed to have Jesus come into your soul because it’s dirty with sin and impurity?

            This Christmas, as we prepare to give and receive gifts from family and friends, give Jesus the gift of a pure soul – and prepare to receive the awesome, incomprehensible riches of God’s grace.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Third Sunday of Advent - December 14, 2014

Homily for December 14, 2014

Advent 3

Rejoice in the Lord Always


            At one parish where I was stationed there was a kid named Neil who was in our youth group. He was always smiling – and I do mean always. He was probably the happiest person I had ever met. Finally one day when we were tossing a football I asked him, “Neil, why are you so joyful?”

            He replied, with his customary smile, “Because that’s what Heaven is going to be like!”

            Pretty perceptive for a teen, I’d say. You know, Mother Theresa once said, “Joy is the unmistakable sign of the presence of God.” And today’s readings all encourage us to rejoice! In fact, that is what sets the third Sunday of Advent apart from all others: in the middle of what should be a season of penance and repentance, we take a Sunday apart to focus on rejoicing. That’s why the color we wear (and the color of the candle on the Advent wreath) is rose instead of purple. We even call this Sunday a different name: “Gaudete Sunday” which means “Rejoicing Sunday.”

            But I don’t know about you, but some days it seems hard for me to rejoice. The Christmas season can be a stressful one for many people – in addition to our daily busyness, we have the added pressure of shopping for Christmas gifts, planning parties, and sometimes seeing the dreaded in-laws. There are days when the stress of Christmas – and just the stress of daily life – can sap our joy. So how do we stay joyful in daily life?

            Well, the secret is that this is no ordinary joy. In all three readings that speak about joy, it says, “Rejoice in the Lord.” We’re not rejoicing because we scored a great deal on a big-screen TV. That kind of happiness fades quickly. We’re rejoicing because we have a friendship with Christ. We’re rejoicing because we know that our God is madly, passionately in love with us personally. Being happy about things that go right in our lives is fine, but ultimately it doesn’t last. But when we focus on the one thing that does last – being in love with God – this never changes and we cannot lose it!

            So often, our mood is based upon what happens to us. I know that I, myself, am a pessimist by nature. But that means that we’re kind of at the mercy of our circumstances – so we win two bucks on a scratch-off lottery ticket and we get happy, but then our boss yells at us and we get down, but then our kid gets a good grade on his test and we get happy once more, but then we find that the dog made a mess in the house again and we get frustrated. If we allow our emotions to be ruled by something as changeable as the circumstances of our daily life, then we’ll be up and down more often than a see-saw!

            But God wants for you abundant joy – joy that is deeper than just the circumstances of daily life. At the core of this joy is the realization that we are His beloved Sons and Daughters. Now, it’s a struggle to keep this joy when things are crazy or busy or stressful in life…but keep remembering that all things – even the frustrating things – are passing, and that God’s love for you never changes. Cling to this, and we will be able to rejoice always in the Lord!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Second Sunday of Advent - Dec. 7, 2014

            I was doing some research on the Internet the other day, and I came across an interesting legend about the great Saint Boniface and the origins of the Christmas tree. He was pretty much the first missionary to preach the Gospel to Germany, which at that time in the 700s was still pagan. In fact, they worshipped many pagan gods, one of whom was the powerful god of lightning, Thor. Their worship of Thor was centered around a large oak tree dedicated to him.

            So Boniface wasted no time in going head-on with this pagan god. As many of the Germans were worshipping the Oak of Thor, he walked right up and started to chop it down. Naturally, the Germans were horrified, completely expecting Thor to come down in a bolt of lightning and destroy them all. They were saying, “Uh…Boniface…maybe you don’t want to do that…uh…Boniface?”

            Well, naturally the tree fell down, and no lightning struck. So everyone was stunned. Boniface simply turned around to face them and challenged them, saying, “Where’s your god now?”

            So all of a sudden the Germans were convinced that the God of Boniface was the one true God. But old habits die hard, and they begged Boniface to still give them some tree that they could honor and dedicate to the True God. So Boniface gave them an evergreen tree and told them, “This tree stays green year-round, symbolizing Christ as your never-ending life.” And they all lived happily ever after.

            When I was reading this story though, Boniface’s words stuck in my head. Where is your God now? Maybe it’s because so often people say that in the darkest of times.

            Like what the Jews were going through at the time of Christ. They were being oppressed, completely ruled by these pagan Romans who were taxing the stuffing out of them. Sure, they had heard from their fathers about this distant God who had brought them out of Egypt, but what now? Where was their God then, hundreds of years later, amidst suffering and despair?

            He was in a manger. A completely unexpected place for the God of the universe, but that humility showed the depth of His love for humanity. It wasn’t that God had deserted us – no, He wouldn’t do that – but He was in a place that people least expect. A feeding trough for animals. That’s where we find our God. In fact, we call Jesus “Emmanuel” which means “God with us”.

            Fast-forward two thousand years. People still suffer with illnesses, fear, concerns and cares that wear upon us. This world is broken like never before. Where is our God now? Has He deserted us?

            No, on the contrary. Our God is as close as the Scriptures we read, as close as the prayers we pray. Our God is not some god who lives in a far-off Heaven, but one who wants to be involved in the messiness of our lives. When we turn to Him in our hearts, He has promised that He would hear.

            And the time is now. He has been knocking at the doors of our heart for too long – will you let Him in, and begin a real relationship with Jesus Christ? St. Paul tells us – the night is far spent, the day draws near – now is the time, because our God is not distant but drawing close, close in the manger, close in the Eucharist, waiting to be welcomed into our lives. Some of us are afraid to welcome Christ because we think our lives are too messy. We think, “Let me get my life in order, then I’ll become a faithful follower of Christ.” But Jesus isn’t afraid of the mess – He became man, entered this messy world with all of its chaos and problems, and brought hope to a broken world – the hope that God really is with us. He can do the same with your life – enter the messiness that is your life (and mine), abiding with us when we face our challenges and problems, and bringing hope by His presence. The time is now – invite Him in!

            Where is our God now? Behold, He stands at the door of your heart and knocks – our God is Emmanuel – God with us.

Monday, November 24, 2014

First Sunday in Advent Homily - November 30, 2014

Homily for Advent 1

November 30, 2014

New Year, New Spirit


            So, happy new year! Yes, you heard me right. Happy new year! As we begin Advent, we begin a new church year, a year in which God is going to do something new in our parish and in your life, if we are open to Him.

            But I’d like to start this new year off with a story about a boy named Michael Magone. He was a student at a Catholic boarding school for poor boys in Turin, Italy in the 1800s. Although he enjoyed living at the school, getting an education, and certainly enjoyed all the sports they played, he had no use for the religion classes or the mandatory time of prayer. He found it all to be rather boring.

            He hadn’t been at the school long, though, before all of the spiritual talks and prayers started to make an impression on him, and he began for the first time to think about where he was headed in life – and he realized that he had been wasting his life. He wasn’t a bad person, just one who got up, ate, went to school, had fun, and did it all over again the next day – without a single thought of God or seeking holiness.

            This realization hit him like a ton of bricks, and he began to become withdrawn and his conscience was troubled. Thankfully the head of the school was a priest named St. John Bosco – a saint who spent his entire life working with youth – and the priest urged Michael to make a good confession. Then once he was right with God, he would be filled with the joy that he lacked.

            So Michael heeded the saint’s advice and made the first honest, sincere confession of his life. All of a sudden, it was as if a light had dawned in his life – he realized what he was put on earth to do – to become a saint. He wrote of that night after his first truly honest confession, “If [only everyone could] experience for even a single minute the great joy that being in the state of grace brings, they would all go to confession to experience peace of heart!” He had made a definitive turn in his life at age 14 – and although he died a mere few months later, the rest of his life was so filled with the joy of pursuing Christ that he is now being considered for canonization (becoming a saint).

            Most of us don’t think of Advent as a time to repent. We think of Christmas trees and gifts and good cheer. But our readings today offer us a sober warning – that this is a time also of repentance, of turning away from our sin to the mercy of God.

The true joy of Christmas means coming before Christ with a pure heart, a heart that repents of our sin. Of course it is always a custom to bring someone a gift on their birthday. Well, Jesus doesn’t need a new sweater or a new toy. There is only one gift that He desires – He desires your life, cleansed of sin. You don’t want to appear before the throne of God empty-handed.

Jesus instructs us in the Gospel that we must be awake and alert, because many of us have been living life half-asleep. We get up, go to our jobs or school, come home, lounge around, watch TV or play video games, eat, and go to sleep, without any thought of God. We were made for so much more than just the routine of daily life! We were made to become a saint, which means pursuing a relationship with God and turning away from our sins!

So this is my challenge for you. Since it IS a new year, and it’s customary to make New Years’ Resolutions, let’s make a resolution to give up one of our sins for Advent. Maybe it’s giving up greed and being more generous. Maybe it’s giving up gossiping or complaining. Maybe it’s finally breaking the addiction to alcohol or pornography. Maybe it’s remaining pure and chaste with our girlfriend or boyfriend. Maybe it’s forgiving that family member who we hold a grudge against. Maybe it’s laziness. Whatever it is, pick one sin to work on overcoming this Advent. Then, we can give a gift to Jesus at Christmas – the gift of a pure conscience.

It’s a new year, and God wants to do something new in you!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Catechesis on the Mass Part 3/3 - Epic Battle

Catechesis on the Mass Part 3/3

Epic Battle

November 13, 2014


            A few weeks ago, I popped into the sixth grade religious education class at St. Benedict’s and was talking to them about the Mass and how it’s not entertainment, but it’s worship. One boy commented, “Yeah, the Mass is great and all, but I’d rather just watch the Avengers.” So I replied, “Oh, so you want to see an epic battle between good and evil with heroes and villains and with the hero saving the world from eternal destruction right in the nick of time?” He said, “Yeah, of course.” I replied, “Great. I just described the Mass.” He paused for a long minute before muttering, “Well, when you put it THAT way…”

            This is the last installment in my sermon series about how to get more out of the Mass. Today I want to focus on the epic battle that is Christianity. You see, Christianity isn’t a religion for the weak. Our faith is not about how to make us nice people and be kind to animals. No, the story of Christianity is an epic tale, and it is played out here at Mass.

            Think about the plots of the movies we love so much – things like “Avengers” or “Lord of the Rings” or “Man of Steel” or any one of those action-adventure movies. The plots are rather simple – there is a being (an alien, Loki, Sauron, etc.) who wants to take over the world and enslave or destroy it. Against such an evil, an unexpected hero arises. This hero fights a battle against the evil, often at great cost to himself. Finally, when all hope seems lost, the hero somehow manages to defeat the mortal enemy and restore peace and harmony to the world.

            I think the reason why these movies resonate with us is because they describe what is actually going on in the spiritual realm. We have an enemy – Satan – who has had a hatred for humanity from the very beginning, because we can love God and inherit Heaven as the Beloved Sons and Daughters of the Heavenly Father. This fills Satan with rage and jealousy. So he set out to enslave us and destroy us – and for a long time, we were willing participants in this slavery. We chose the corruption of sin over the life of freedom. So God knew He had to do something radical to ransom His people. So, in the dark of night, God staged an invasion – He entered enemy territory (the world, which was under the dominion of Satan), and faced our mortal enemy upon the Cross. Face-to-face with the one who hates humanity, Jesus Christ offered to pay the ransom for us, who were slaves. The ransom, of course, was His life, which He willingly laid down on the Cross. But just when Satan thought he had triumphed, when all hope seemed lost – the day that God was killed, proving that death wins, or so they thought – Jesus Christ rose up again, triumphing over death and sin once and for all, setting us captives free.

            But even after this resounding defeat, the forces of evil have not been silent. They still impact my life and yours, tempting us to fall away from Christ. So the battle between good and evil continues to be fought in your soul. That’s why we come here today – to gain the strength we need to do battle in our everyday lives.

            When a priest gets vested for Mass, it’s like he is putting on armor. For example, he wears an alb as a symbol of the purity of soul that he must have in order to make it to Heaven. He lays over his alb a stole which is a sign of the priest’s authority having come from Christ. And over it all he places a chasuble which is a symbol of the love of God which covers everything. A pure soul, authority over the spiritual realm, covered in the love of God – sounds like we’re ready to do battle here against the forces of evil.

            And we are aided and assisted by the many thousands of angels who attend and worship at every Mass. Many saints have said that there are thousands, millions even, of angels who are present to adore the Majesty of God at every Mass, and whose job it is to bring our prayers to God and God’s mercy to us. The unseen angels who are present here are filled with a holy jealousy of us, for they bow down and worship Christ’s true Body and Blood, but we ourselves are blessed to actually receive Him!

            It is this Body and Blood that gives us the strength to carry on the battle. The last Holy Communion that someone receives in their lifetime has a special name – it is called “Viaticum” which means “Food for the Journey” – the food for the journey from death to life. In a sense, every Communion we receive is food for the journey. Coming to Mass is like coming back to camp after a battle – we get healed from our battle wounds, we take food to strengthen us, we learn about how to fight more effectively – before we head back out there to take on another week of fighting against laziness, gossip, temptation, lust, all of the other evils that we must overcome if we are to win the victory.

             You know, when we look around at society, it’s easy to get discouraged by all the evil and darkness that is out there. We come here today, and every Sunday, to fight evil with love – with the love that Christ showed us on the Cross, which enters our souls in His Word and in His Holy Communion.

            There is much, much more going on here at Mass than we can see. Christ is coming to rescue His people again. Invisible angels kneel to worship the Most High. Divine grace is being poured out to hold back the tide of evil. We, His soldiers, are receiving the strength to fight against the darkness with the Light of Christ.

            What is happening here at Mass is an epic battle, the battle for the destiny of the world and for the eternal destiny of your soul.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Homily for the St. Jude's Novena - Monday, October 27, 2014

Homily for St. Jude Mission

Monday, October 27, 2014

Witness to Love


            The story goes that as St. John the Apostle was reaching his old age, he would gather his local Church together and always preach the same message: “Love one another! Love one another!”

            Finally someone asked him why his message was always the same: “Love one another.”

            He responded, “Because that is what the Master would always say.”

            It is often said that your life may be the only Gospel some people will ever read. And in today’s modern world, that may be more true than ever before. Many people have a deep hunger for God but don’t know where to begin to look. Some are afraid of Christ, distrustful of the Church, turned off by what they think religion is. But no one can deny love – it is the clearest way to show God to a cynical world.

            I love what Blessed Pope Paul VI said: “Modern man listens more easily to witnesses than it does to teachers, and if it listens to teachers, it is only because they are first witnesses.” The modern world has had enough of people who tell us what to do, who give lip service to the commands of Christ, but end up being petty, deceitful, corrupt.

            St. Paul gives us in the first reading some aspects of love – love is kind, compassionate, forgiving, pure, grateful, generous. These must be words that describe any Christian. Do they describe you? If you had to ask your family, your coworkers, your classmates to give some words to tell about you, do you think they would use these words?

            I love the story of St. Rose Duschene, a nun who served as a missionary to the Indian tribes in Missouri and Midwest states. She struggled so much with learning the Indian tongue that her superior didn’t want to send her on a mission to the Native American tribes, but her fellow nuns urged the superior to accept her for mission work because they said her example would speak louder than her words. And it was true – though she couldn’t communicate with the Indians, they all noticed her holiness, and they nicknamed her “Woman Who Prays Always”. She was able to make converts simply because of the power of her example of love.

            We have heard a lot during this past year about the four themes of our Diocesan Synod. One of the biggest concerns, for the Bishop and the wider church in Bridgeport, is our need for better evangelization in our church. How can we effectively proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to a world that both hungers for Him and rejects Him? Truthfully, the only successful evangelization begins when we ourselves are set ablaze with love for God and this becomes reflected in our radical love for our neighbor. As St. Paul tells us, “Be imitators of God!” Wow – that’s a high calling! Love like God loves!

            And this love is only credible if it is linked to sacrifice. Anyone – whether they know the love of Jesus or not – can love when it’s easy, can love when it is pleasant to do so. But if we are to imitate God, how did He show His love? The Cross. Sacrifice. Loving when it’s tough.

            So for us, that means looking at that difficult coworker as an opportunity to love radically. That means patience with our kids when they are getting on our last nerve. That means befriending the kid who no one else likes. That means forgiving our spouse when they offend us. That means obeying our parents’ difficult rules. Love doesn’t mean doing whatever you want – it means doing what’s right. Not what’s easy, not what’s fun. But sacrifice is genuine love, a love that the world can believe in.

            I was asked a very good question once that has stuck with me – if you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? If someone were to look at your life, would they wonder why you loved for nothing in return, when it was tough? A question we all ought to ask ourselves. What sacrifices have you made today for love? If you haven’t made a sacrifice for love today, then you haven’t really loved.

            Be imitators of God – a God who was so madly in love with us that He would gladly give up everything – His glory, Heaven, His very life upon the Cross – to win our hearts to Him. Imitate that example of love, and the world will know God.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Bad Case of the Mondays

* Note: From 2008-2010, I wrote an occasional blog for the Archdiocese of Baltimore's website. This is one of the blog posts. *

Title: A Bad Case of the Mondays



            So school has started again and all across the land students are rejoicing and shouting for joy, overwhelmed with happiness because they have another chance to sit in classes, do homework, and take exams.


            However, before the complaining starts (and yes, even in seminary there are complaints about school…the never-ending lectures, the insane reading assignments, the sheer volume of papers we need to write), I’ve got to back myself up and remember one important fact:

            It’s right here, in the midst of the drudgery of school, that sanctity happens.

            I mean, let’s get real, for all those who are passionate about becoming a saint, don’t we dream about some glorious or heroic act of holiness? Perhaps we want to become like Maximilian Kolbe and give our lives up for another person. Or maybe be like Mother Theresa and dedicate ourselves to serving the most forgotten of our society. Or St. Francis who started a huge religious order and lived in the most abject poverty out of love for Christ. These things fill our souls with zeal; they get us excited for holiness.

            But holiness isn’t necessarily found in the extraordinary.

            I’m called to be a saint right here, amongst the reading and the papers and the classes and the drudgery of daily life. You were called to be a saint exactly where you are, whether you work in an office, or go to school, or are a homemaker. Just by doing our daily duties with joy and love is extraordinary holiness in itself.

            So before daily life starts to get you down (and here I’m preaching to myself first and foremost too, because I always struggle with the stresses of daily life), just remember that in this moment, you are being formed and purified into the great saint that God wants you to become. So rejoice – even these small crosses of daily life are gaining for you the glory of Heaven!

A Willing Victim

* Note: From 2008-2010, I wrote an occasional blog for the Archdiocese of Baltimore's website. This is one of the blog posts. *

Title: A Willing Victim


            When I was in college I really enjoyed praise-and-worship music. I still do, really, but don’t get much of a chance to praise God with it nowadays. But I recall that many of the songs had themes such as:

-          I surrender all to You, Lord

-          Lord, I give You my life

-          You, Lord, are my everything and I want nothing apart from You

These songs were really genuine prayers for me. When I sang them, I put my

soul into these lyrics. Yet, little did I know that when I offered the Lord my life, He would take me up on the offer.

            It’s always hard to be clay in the Lord’s hands, but times like this are especially difficult. I just received word a couple of weeks ago that I will be moving on from my beloved St. Johns in Severna Park to take up a new assignment at St. Timothy’s in Walkersville. After having been at St. Johns for two years, I have truly fallen in love with the place and with the people. They really become a family to a priest or seminarian, and I am truly saddened to leave.

            And yet, how can I take back my self-gift to the Lord? Even before I ever became a seminarian, I gave my life to Christ – so if He asks me to go somewhere or do something, how can I go back on my promise to be His forever? He’s worth committing our lives to – He is pure Love Himself, the only Truth worth dying for.

            This thought helps me during those difficult moments, like leaving a beloved parish. I have given myself to Him, and I belong to Him, and not to the people, as much as I love them. He is the only unchanging reality in my life.

            The day that I found out I was leaving St. Johns, the reading in Evening Prayer was from Hebrews: “For here we have no lasting city; we are seeking one which is to come.” How true. Nothing in this world lasts – the harder we grasp after that which cannot last, the more painful the loss when it comes to an end.

            And yet there is such great peace in self-surrender. It’s odd to think that sorrow and peace can coexist within a soul, and yet in Christ, it can. I think of Mary at the foot of the Cross, completely resigned to God’s will, yet filled with more sorrow than has ever been known. We will forever have times of sorrow in this life because we were made for eternity. We have no home here – we are pilgrims longing for our Heavenly homeland.

            And that, I suppose, is why I can joyfully embrace the priesthood despite the sacrifices that I know come with it. Because we were made, not for this world, but for eternal joy. This joy only comes to those who surrender themselves to Him Who is Love.

Rejoicing in the Lord Always

* Note: From 2008-2010, I wrote an occasion blog for the Archdiocese of Baltimore's website. This is one of the blog posts. *

Title: Rejoicing in the Lord Always


            I had an interesting conversation with one of our parish eighth-graders a couple of days ago. We were talking about where he was going to high school, and it turned out that he was going to a local Catholic school. He told me that he didn’t want to go to a school that was very Catholic. I asked him why, and his reply startled me.

            “I only know one other Catholic in my school,” he said (he currently attended public school). “And he’s such a stick-in-the-mud. Always saying, ‘Aww, you just cursed, I’m telling on you.’ I don’t want to go to a school with lots of people like that.”

            One of the reasons, I think, why young people leave the Faith is because they think that fun and the Catholic Faith are incompatible. To be a saint, they think, is to be locked away in some church, reciting prayers all day, being bored so that they don’t sin. Well, gee, with a view of sanctity like that, I can certainly understand why no one would want to strive for holiness.

            But what if holiness is something different?

            I don’t fully know, because I’m not very holy yet, but I sure am having a blast striving for holiness. I mean, it’s so exciting to try to conquer myself, to try to live a radical life for Another, to strive for true charity for all others. What a cool and meaningful life it is to be a Christian.

            Plus, all the truly fun stuff in life isn’t sinful in the least. Like playing airsoft (for the uninitiated, that’s a game where you run around with mini-BB guns and shoot the people on the other team. Yes, it hurts. And yes, it is awesome), playing heavy-metal music (with clean lyrics, of course), hanging out with friends, going rock-climbing (I have had more outdoor near-death experiences ever since I developed a friendship with Christ. Perhaps I know that death holds hope for me now…), video games (though Grand Theft Auto might be a sin…). So, to be truly Christian doesn’t mean to give up fun – rather, it means to be able to enjoy true, pure fun without the guilt.

            I guess that’s one of my lifelong goals – to show that the Faith isn’t a bunch of dry doctrines but a living reality and a living relationship with the living Christ! This is both exciting and fun. Let’s live a radically joyful life – as St. Theresa of Avila said, “A sad saint is a bad saint!” I want to be truly alive, truly joyful in Christ, to show the world that we Christians have more fun than nonbelievers!

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

* Note: From 2008-2010, I wrote an occasional blog for the Archdiocese of Baltimore's website. This is one of those blog posts. *

Title: The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil


            Okay, so I’ve come up with a new theory of how the world works. Sort of.

            At the very least, I was thinking about grace, and wondering how (and why) some people seem to readily accept the Gospel message, while others really never internalize it and leave it at a very shallow level. Why is it that some people truly have a conversion, a real experience of God, and pursue Him profoundly, while others (who often have the same circumstances, upbringing, etc) seem to stay on the fence and not take their faith to that next level, living a lukewarm, Sundays-only faith?

            I think part of the key might be encountering, and profoundly understanding, evil.

            Here’s what I mean: when a soul truly encounters evil, or at least realizes the utter futility, vanity, and absurdity of this world as a nihilist would understand it, they are forced to make a choice. They could embrace the evil, embrace the chaos, or reject it all and cling to and pursue God as the One Who makes sense out of this messy world.

            This is something that I had to go through during my “conversion”, when I finally awoke to the reality of my faith. As a sixteen-year-old kid, I had a chance to go to community college and get a job, which was quite an eye-opening experience for a homeschooled kid like me. And it through me into a funk. I became, for a time, quite cynical about this world, seeing my friends and my peers only concerned about selfish gain and pursuit of money; seeing the many injustices in this world and feeling powerless to cure them; seeing how miserable I and my friends were because of an existential loneliness; understanding how many people deny that truth exists at all. I finally realized that this cynicism of mine was an invitation to seek hope, and the only hope and only truth that I could find was in the Lord.

            I thought of this experience of mine over this past weekend. I’ve been working with a young man named Matt, a freshman in public school, in a faith-formation program since this past summer began. I had known him before this, though, because he was in my Confirmation class last year. He seemed, in the Confirmation class, to be just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill kid who didn’t take his faith seriously at all.

            But since this summer, as I got to know him more and more, he started to share with me his pessimism and cynicism about the world. He is fed up with the falsity and duplicity that he sees in himself and his friends; he sees how stupid his friends are when all they care about is popularity, sex, and money. We’ve talked at length about his cynicism with the world.

            Last month, though, he threw me for a loop when he asked me for a Rosary. I gave him one, along with the instructions on how to pray it. He began to pray it daily.

            This weekend, we had a deep conversation, where I marveled at how faithful he had been in praying the Rosary daily for a whole month. He said something to me in the course of our talk that I’ll never forget. He said, “I feel like for my whole life, I’ve been living life half-asleep, and now I’m finally awake.”

            Why is it that some people, like Matt, suddenly understand what it’s all about, while others live their whole lives as Christians and never really know what it means to be alive in Christ Jesus? I think it’s because most people never have a true knowledge, a true experience, of the evil and vanity that we find in our world.

Most people don’t see this world as a fundamental dichotomy between the emptiness of the spirit of this world and the richness of the Lord. They seem to think that the world is a very nice place, a good home for eighty or so years of fun. This leaves their faith in a juvenile state because they are never forced to choose between God and Satan, between eternity and the futility of this world.

I think about some of the youth with whom I work. Some of the young people who are the holiest are precisely those who aren’t innocent but who know what evil is out there in the world, but who have chosen to follow Christ instead. Had they never considered the evil and the vanity of the world, they would never have been forced to choose the Lord.

Maybe this is going out on a limb, but I think that’s why God allows as much evil and futility as He does in the world – because without it, there would be no need to choose goodness instead.

I don’t know if this theory is all entirely one-hundred-percent accurate, but it has been helping me to understand the world a little better. God is the only cure for our hunger, the only antidote to a random and meaningless world. Let’s choose to pursue Him in the midst of an often-evil and chaotic world.

The Media Man Knows It

* Note: From 2008-2010, I wrote an occasional blog for the Archdiocese of Baltimore's website. This is one of those blog posts. *

Title: The Media Man Knows It


            So, here’s an interesting conversation that I had last weekend with one of our school kids down here at St. Johns in Severna Park (names have been changed to protect the innocent…or something like that):

            ME: So, Bobby, what’re you listening to on your iPod?

            BOBBY: Uh…nothing.

            ME: Well, let’s see, you’ve got ear buds in your ears, and it looks like something’s flickering on your iPod screen. Either you’re listening to music, or you’re being brainwashed by your little device. What’re you listening to?

            BOBBY: You wouldn’t know it.

            ME: Try me.

            BOBBY: Uh, it’s a song called “Promiscuity”.

            ME: Really? Interesting. Hmm. Do you think Jesus would listen to that song?

            BOBBY: Well, no.

            ME: And do you want to be like Jesus?

            ~ really long pause ~

            BOBBY: Well, I, uh, I want to get married. So I don’t want to be like Jesus.


            One of the strangest conversations I’ve ever had.


            Why does Satan know better than we do? Satan knows how important it is to control the media, because when he controls the media, he shapes and forms our souls. The Devil uses his media to put forth his agenda. Why are we Christians lagging behind on this little insight into human nature?

            It becomes more and more clear to me that the battle for our souls can be influenced strongly by what media we choose to indulge in. Is it wholesome, uplifting, leading us closer to Christ? Or do we like it just because it’s “funny” or has a good beat, and it’s really, subtly, destroying our soul from within?

            A weekend before this, I was speaking with another one of our young people who was telling me that he was reading these mystery novels that have graphic sex scenes. But he excused them, saying, “They’re good books anyway.” Well, sure, perhaps they’re interesting and have a good plot, but are they leading us closer to God and to a holy life? If not, are they truly good? If I give you a delicious meal, with only one drop of poison in it, is it truly a good meal? Heck no, you’d get sick. It’s not a good meal at all.

            So, with this particular young man, I’m now finding good books for him to read – this weekend I have some G.K. Chesterton to give him (the Fr. Brown Anthologies), which is uplifting AND good literature.

            So many of our young people are being so led away from Christ because of media that makes sin seem “normal” and “cool”. Christians are portrayed by much popular media as unpopular, dorks, backwards outcasts. I’m becoming more convinced that one of the keys to ministry, and to the salvation of souls, is to provide people with good media.

            My point is that we need to choose wisely what media we enjoy. Music, movies, TV, and books should all point us to the good, the beautiful, and the true – in other words, it should (at least implicitly) help us to understand the depths of our humanity and the great love of God.

            And for those in the media, realize your great dignity! You can influence souls in a way that we priests & seminarians cannot. The media is the great formator of our modern day – it shapes our souls, either for good or ill.

            The Evil One knows the power of the media. Do we have any idea of its ability to influence? If we did, I think we might be a little more selective in what we choose.

All This, and Heaven Too!

*Note - from 2008-2010, I wrote an occasional blog for the Archdiocese of Baltimore's Website. This is one of those blog posts. *

Title: All This, and Heaven Too!
            I can’t help but think of Heaven lately. Partly it’s because I have been reading an interesting book during my holy hours – a book called, “Making God the Joy of Our Soul.” This book is really a collection of homilies given by a certain Fr. McLean Cummings, who was a priest at St. Johns in Severna Park (my old pastoral assignment), many years ago. He speaks frequently about the joys of Heaven and why it’s worth looking forward to.
            Also, I’ve been thinking about Heaven partly because I see so frequently why this life is a “valley of tears”, as we sing every night here at the seminary in the Salve Regina. So many people are so broken and wounded that we really must long for a time when we will be renewed in Christ. But even for those who aren’t psychologically/spiritually wounded, seeking after the things of this world leaves us empty and hungering for deeper happiness. Something within us cries out, “There must be more than this!”
            I remember talking to a young man with a great soul in my parish this past year. I was commenting that he was always so full of joy and life, and that I was very inspired by that. He just simply responded, “Well, of course. I’m joyful because that’s what Heaven will be like.” I was at a loss for words in the sight of such wisdom from someone so young.
            And it’s so true – Heaven is worth waiting for. God has been so good to give us so many blessings in this life. I was just reflecting tonight with a brother seminarian that this is the best life ever – we get to praise God day and night, study about His love, become friends with awesome souls who are all seeking the Lord (plus play sports and eat good food!). But on top of all this – Heaven awaits! We are all just souls longing for God, and He has offered us eternity with Himself!
            So I pray, “All this, and Heaven, too!” (I really thought that was a quote from a saint, but after I googled it, I discovered it was actually a 1940s movie with Bette Davis). Oh well, no matter, it’s a great prayer anyway – sometimes all I can do is thank God for all this, and for the crowning glory of His gifts, life eternal with Him, the Desire of our hearts and souls!
            Forgive me if I ramble, but my whole point of this post is to help you (and help me) to desire Heaven more. If we only knew what awaits us, wouldn’t we want to give it all away to purchase that “pearl of great price”? Heaven – joy eternal, immersed in love, peace reigning supreme – is offered to us every day. Let’s pursue it…let’s pursue Him!
            For He has given us all this, and Heaven too!

Twelve-Step Spirituality

* Note: From 2008-2010, I wrote an occasional blog for the Archdiocese of Baltimore's website. This is one of those blog posts. *

Title: Twelve-Step Spirituality


            I must admit, I really love going to Narcotics Anonymous meetings. No, I’ve never done drugs. I just go to observe, to sit quietly in the back and listen to the words and testimonies of those who are struggling to get clean.

            I went to one this past Wednesday. I am always so inspired by these people. Their humility and dependence on God knows no bounds! All of them who are there admit that they have a problem, and that they’re powerless to resist drugs. They fully and freely own up to their imperfections and sins, while realizing that there is a God who wants them to be free of the curse of addiction and come to live a sober, clean lifestyle.

            Through listening to them, I can certainly understand the words of Jesus, “Prostitutes and tax collectors will enter the Kingdom of Heaven before you.” These men and women have, in some ways, a much deeper grasp on the essentials of the spiritual life – humility, recognition of their own sinfulness, a transforming trust in God – than I could ever hope to have. The curse of drug addiction has become, for them, the blessing of knowing God’s saving power.

            I need to go and be with them every now and then to remind myself of just how prideful and self-satisfied I can be as a Christian. Don’t we so easily think that we have it all together? I mean, sure, Jesus helps out a little bit, but if we’re truly honest with ourselves, sometimes we think we deserve Heaven because we live good lives, stay away from major sins, and pray.

            This often-underlying perception couldn’t be further from the truth. We are wretches before the holiness of God. We need more than just a little help, we need a spiritual resurrection from the dead!

            I know that as I have been preparing for the priesthood, every year (and sometimes multiple times per year) I have been evaluated by my superiors, my pastors, my teachers, and even by myself (as I write self-evaluations). It’s natural, I think, to try to put our best foot forward when we’re being evaluated, to show our strengths and our growth and how we are ready for the priesthood. This is common across the board in every profession, I think – I mean, people don’t put their weaknesses on their resume, right?

            But the danger that I have found is that all this focus on my strengths and gifts makes me start to downplay my weaknesses and my utter dependence upon God’s grace for even the air I breathe. I start to get a little bit smug about who I am and how I’ve got my life in order. The temptation to pride is very real and very appealing.

            That’s why I find it so beautiful to be around these holy addicts at Narcotics Anonymous. These are people who don’t have it all together, who have a painfully obvious weakness – and who know that they are profoundly loved by a merciful God Who they depend upon for everything.

            I can learn a lot from people like them.

Leadership With A Lion's Heart

*Note - From 2008-2010, I wrote an occasional blog for the Archdiocese of Baltimore's website. This is one of those posts!*

Title: Leadership With A Lion’s Heart


            One of my all-time favorite scenes from a movie is at the very end of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It’s that famous scene where the lion Aslan is walking along the beach away from the castle, and Lucy and Mr. Tumnas are watching him. The faun turns to the girl and says, “You know, he’s not a tame lion.”

            Lucy just looks sweetly at her beloved Aslan and replies, “No, but he is good.”

            And indeed he was. He was so good that he would lay down his life for the children, and he protected them and fought for them powerfully. But he was definitely not tame – just ask the White Witch, who found herself fighting against the good side.

            This, to me, is the essence of a good leader – good leaders fight for those who they’re responsible for, even to the point of laying down their lives for them.

            Probably the best leader I’ve ever met was the man who served as Scoutmaster when I was in my boy scout troop, Mr. Long. He was a very laid-back man, who loved all of the scouts in the troop as his sons. But what I remember most about him is that he would always fight for us – he would always be our advocate and the person we’d go to if we ever had problems. He would try everything in his power to fight for us and intercede for us in anything. If we ever thought we were being treated unfairly (which happened every now and then with those doggone merit badge counselors), we would be able to go to him and he would try to fix the problem. We always knew that he was on our side.

            Plus, he was a man who sacrificed so much for us. He often worked long hours at his job (he worked for the county and did things like plowing snow in the middle of the night) but would always be around at every Scout meeting, ready to offer his wisdom and his counseling to us.

            And this is the key to a good leader, I think: someone who’s willing to fight for and sacrifice for those under him. This is the kind of leader that people love to follow, because they know that these leaders are on their side and are truly interested only in their well-being.

            I think about the King of Kings, Jesus. While He deserves our allegiance simply because of who He is, He showed us ultimately what it means to be a good leader. He could have demanded our obedience without showing us His love. But He preferred to sacrifice everything to win over our love and obedience. We know that He is on our side! He is fighting for us! He lives forever to intercede for us! What an awesome leader He is!

            And this is what a priest must be for his people. I am excited to truly lay down my life for my flock, to sacrifice everything for them and to fight for them, so that they may go to Heaven.

            Archbishop O’Brien said something that I’ll always remember. He said that he learned in the army the principle for good leadership: “Officers eat last.” It’s that simple. If the officers eat last, after all of their subordinates have enough food, then they will have earned the respect of their men. And it’s the same with any leadership position: sacrifice for others, advocate for them, and you will be a good leader.

            It sometimes amazes me how different groups can clamor for “more leadership” in the Church, as if leadership just meant power, influence, and decision-making ability. Leadership is so much more than that – it’s a total life-sacrificing donation to ones’ constituents. We should tremble at the thought of more leadership, because those who lead others will be judged more severely!

            But it is precisely this laying-down of life for others that a priest must embody, following the leadership example of Jesus. A priest must be willing to fight for his people – to fight against sin, against the devil, against corrupt social systems which oppress them. This type of leadership is hard. This is leadership with a lion’s heart!