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!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Homily for Ordinary Time - Catechesis on the Mass Part 2/3


Catechesis on the Mass Part 2/3 – To be used with Eucharistic Prayer III


            For the next several weeks, I’ll be giving an explanation about what the Mass is all about, because I think if we don’t understand the Mass, then we’ll never understand the depths of God’s love for us.

            But let’s not talk about the Mass just yet. Let’s talk about rugby instead.

            I went to my first – and only rugby game when I was a freshman in college. My college didn’t have a football team, so rugby was our main sport. But I hadn’t gone to a game until my parents came up for Parents’ weekend. We were all pretty bored on Saturday afternoon of parents’ weekend, so we all decided to go up to the rugby field to catch the game.

            I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a rugby game, but to red-blooded Americans, this looks like a primal ritual of bloodshed. There’s a bunch of huge guys, not wearing any pads, who run in one direction or another, tackle each other, throw the ball any way they please. Sometimes they kick the ball through uprights, and other times they try to run it into an end-zone. On occasion they would all get together in a huddle that looks like a big group-hug, and the ball is rolled into the center where they dance around it.

            We spent about an hour at this weird sport, but it got really boring because we had no idea what was going on, so we left. Because we didn’t know the rules, and we didn’t know the purpose of the game, it was incredibly boring!

            Much like the Mass. If we don’t know what’s going on here, it’ll seem pretty boring. It could be the most important, dramatic event in the world, but if we don’t know what it’s all about, then it’ll seem less interesting than watching paint dry.

            So here’s what’s going on at every Mass:

            First, it makes present the one Sacrifice of Christ. Look at it this way: if someone were to discover the cure for cancer, that would be wonderful, right? Yes, but it wouldn’t make a whole lot of difference to us, personally, unless we took the medicine. In the same way, when Jesus died on the Cross, He reconciled humanity to God, He discovered the cure for everlasting death and sin. But it’s not enough just to reconcile humanity to God – John and Betty need to be reconciled to God. THEY – WE – are the ones who need that cure, not just humanity in general. The Mass is where the cure is applied to us, personally. Everything that Jesus did on the Cross is now applied to your soul and my soul at every Mass. So we say that the Sacrifice of Jesus is made present to us here in 2014 at Mass. That’s what we do when we receive the Eucharist – we are receiving His Body and Blood as the medicine that cures us from eternal death!

            Second, at every Mass, it is Jesus Who is asking God for mercy. It’s not just us who are praying to God at Mass – Jesus prays with us. In fact, St. John Vianney said that “the Mass is worth more than all of the other prayers or good works, since all other prayers and good works are still works of men, while the Mass is the work of God.” Listen to the prayers I’m going to pray later on – I am asking God to look upon Jesus, right there upon the altar, and to have mercy on us because we will be filled with Him when we receive Communion.

            Think about it – if a kid gets into a fight with another kid in school, then they both get into trouble, maybe get detention. If a kid physically hits a teacher though, he gets a worse punishment – perhaps expulsion from the school. If that same kid hit the President, he would get an even worse punishment, probably some jail time. So when we offend someone who is greater than us, then the punishment is greater. When we turn out back on the Lord, Who loves us perfectly and infinitely, then this sin creates a rift between us and God that is infinite. It’s a canyon that is infinitely wide. And even if I try to do something to cross that canyon, any bridge I try to build would fall short. So we need someone to bridge that gap for us – someone who is infinite to cross an infinite canyon. We needed someone Who was both human and God – human so He could pray for us, and God so He could pay back the infinite debt that we owed. At every Mass I offer back to the Father the very Body and Blood of Jesus, who is true God and true Man. On the Cross, Jesus paid a debt that He did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay. And at every Mass the priest offers Jesus back to the Father, asking Him to bridge that gap once again, so that you and I could cross over and be united to God.

            So what should YOU do to participate in the Mass? Well, remember, Mass isn’t supposed to be entertainment. When we go to a movie, we just sit back and enjoy. No, at Mass, we’re supposed to participate. That means paying attention to the readings, saying the responses, singing together, and really praying. When the priest is holding up the Body and Blood of Jesus, offering Him to the Father, then we should be offering our lives to the Father as well. In our minds and hearts, we should place our entire lives on that altar – our joys, our sorrows, our work, our school, our families, our friends, our emotions, our thoughts, our possessions, our talents, everything. We offer that up to the Father as well, and we ask from the Father for everything we need.

            The priest is already praying for blessings. Listen to the words of the prayer I will be praying – I will ask for several things. First, I will ask that we will share the inheritance of the saints – in other words, that we will get to Heaven. Then I’ll pray that we are united, that we will always stay close to one another and have each others’ backs. I pray a prayer of thanksgiving to God for His blessings – in fact, the word “Eucharist” means “thanksgiving” – and I pray for peace in the world and in the Church. I offer specific prayers for the Church, the Pope, and the Bishop, and the dead, that all of us may be united in love and grow in holiness.

            So during this time, listen to what I’m praying for, and add your own prayers. Bring your needs to God, thank Him for His blessings, praise Him for His wonders, and express your sorrow for your sins.

            A lot of people say, “Oh, I don’t get anything out of the Mass.” But the Mass is a lot like a bank – you only get out of it what you put into it. If you pay close attention and offer your life to the Lord, if you listen to the readings and homily – which I can tell, all of you are doing so excellently – then you will reap great benefits.

            I’ll close with these words from St. Padre Pio – “The world can exist more easily without the sun than without the Mass.” Let’s pray this Mass with more love and devotion than we’ve ever prayed it before!

Homily for Ordinary Time - Catechesis on the Mass, Part 1/3


Catechesis on the Mass Part 1/3 – For Use with Eucharistic Prayer I


            Around the year 800, in a small town in Italy called Lanciano, a priest was having doubts about his faith. He was struggling to believe that Jesus was present in the Eucharist, since it does look like ordinary bread and wine. So as he was saying Mass, he asked the Lord for a sign. And lo and behold, as he elevated the Host, it changed into visible flesh! The wine also changed into visible blood.

            For the past 1200 years, this Flesh and Blood has been preserved, and scientists have done tests on it. They found that it was heart flesh from a human male, with the same proteins that normal heart tissue has. The blood matched the heart tissue. It is one of the most remarkable miracles in the history of the Church, and I have been blessed to visit Lanciano where the miracle is preserved.

            It really is far-out to think that what happens on this altar every single day is that ordinary bread and wine become the very Body and Blood of Jesus. It’s not a symbol, it’s not that we just “remember” Jesus’ Body and Blood. It literally becomes His Flesh and Blood. That is what we believe as Catholics. But how can we believe such a thing? It seems hard to wrap our minds around! I will give you three reasons why we believe that Jesus is truly present here in Holy Communion.

            First, because Jesus said so!

  • The story of John 6
  • “Amen, amen, I say to you…”
  • Jews’ reactions
  • Also, the Last Supper
    Second, because the Church always believed it!
  • One of the main reasons for the persecutions was the rumors of cannibalism
  • St. Paul, the Didache, early Church Fathers like Justin Martyr all agreed that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Jesus
    Third, because of Eucharistic miracles
  • Lanciano
  • Others such as Orvietto, Cascia
    So the Eucharist must be truly the Body and Blood of Jesus for these three reasons! If the Eucharist were just a symbol, then I am wasting my life, and you are wasting your time, because we can eat bread and drink wine at home. What makes it worth it to get up in the morning and come to Mass? Receiving His Body and Blood.
    But how can we believe this difficult teaching? We explain it by making the distinction between what something is (substance) and what something looks like (accidents).
  • Wax apple example
  • We call this transubstantiation and it happens at every Mass during the Consecration (this is why we ring the bells)
    In sum, if this is ordinary bread and wine, then we can all just go home and never come back, because we are here worshipping bread, and that’d just plain be weird. But if this is the true Body and Blood of Jesus, then this is the Gift of Gifts, the greatest gift we could ever receive. It means that Jesus has not abandoned us, He’s not just up in Heaven, unconcerned about us poor folks here on earth. No, it means He is here – with us – present in every Catholic Church throughout the world. I am literally risking my life on the reality of His True Presence in the Eucharist. If I’m wrong about this, then I’ve wasted my life. But if it is true, then it should never cease to amaze us with the love of our God for us!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Homily for October 12, 2014 - 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for October 12, 2014

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time



            Almost a hundred years ago, three simple shepherd children – two girls and a boy – were tending their sheep in a small, humble Portuguese town when they saw something remarkable: the Blessed Mother appeared to them, standing atop of an oak tree. The Blessed Mother spoke to them and invited them to come back to the same spot on the 13th day of each month for the next six months, as She wanted to send a message to the world through these three children.

            Of course, news of this supernatural visitor spread like wildfire. Some believed, others didn’t, and the three children: Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia, were alternately hailed as living saints and also persecuted for their visions. The Blessed Mother continued to strengthen them, as She revealed to them a message of prayer, penance. Mary was trying to call the world back to the Gospel.

            Finally, on the final apparition date – October 13th – she promised that an incredible miracle would occur to help everyone believe that she really did appear to the three children. So on that day, over seventy thousand people gathered in the pouring rain just outside of the town of Fatima, hoping for the miracle. And they weren’t disappointed! As they stood there in the rain, the sun suddenly came out and began to dance around the sky. It changed color, and finally began to appear to plummet to the earth. People cried out in terror, but the sun immediately returned to its normal place in the sky – and everyone’s clothes were completely dry, even though they had been soaked moments before. Journalists were able to take pictures of this miracle, and it was reported in the newspapers of the time – one of the true miracles of the 20th century!

            One of the messages that Our Lady of Fatima gave to the children was that it was very necessary to pray for the conversion of sinners, because, in her own words, “Many souls go to Hell because there is no one to pray for them.” Today’s Gospel uses the image of the wedding feast to say something similar.

            God has prepared this remarkable feast – the feast of everlasting life, a deeper joy than we could ever know. In Scriptures, it is written of Heaven that “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, nor has the mind of man ever conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” Have you ever had an experience that you never want to end? Maybe it was a vacation with family or friends, maybe it was a view of an incredible sunset, perhaps it’s your favorite song or movie. Imagine being that captivated by God. When we see Him, we will lose all track of time, every second falling deeper and deeper in love with Him Who first loved us. We cannot even imagine the joys of what it will be like to see the Face of Pure Love.

            So in the Gospel, we have God setting this marvelous wedding feast of Heaven before us – but look at how many people reject it – and look at the lame excuses they use. “Sorry, I wish I could join you for the banquet, but I have to look after my farm, I’m too busy at work, I have to wash my hair…” Don’t we use that as well? I’d love for my life to be set ablaze with the overflowing joy of knowing Christ as a personal friend, but gosh, my favorite television show is on, so I can’t be bothered. I wish I could come and receive the Body and Blood of Jesus at every Mass in the Holy Eucharist, which was purchased at the cost of His bloody and excruciating death, but my kid has sports practice on Sunday mornings, so I just can’t make Mass.

            The same invitation is offered to us – to spend eternity at the Banquet of the Lamb in Heaven. How we live our lives is how we accept or reject that invitation. And for those who reject the invitation, there is another place to spend eternity: Hell. Yes, we Catholics still believe in Hell – it’s not a fun topic to talk about, but it IS a reality. Actually, in Scripture, the person who talked the most about Hell was…Jesus Himself. He mentioned it 19 times explicitly in the Gospels. Clearly it’s a reality, and one that we should be aware of.

            If someone were to die in the state of serious mortal sin, then Hell is the consequence, since a mortal sin is basically a rejection of God’s invitation of grace. We often think of mortal sins being things like murder and adultery, but there are other mortal sins that are far more common – things like intentionally skipping Mass on Sunday, looking at porn, or getting drunk. These destroy God’s life of grace within us, and if we do not repent of them and confess them, then we risk eternal separation from God.

            This is the meaning of that man who gets kicked out of the banquet at the end of the Gospel. He is not dressed in the “wedding garment” – in other words, he does not have God’s grace in his soul because of sin. Luckily, we can easily have our wedding garment restored through the Sacrament of Confession.

            If we die with our wedding garment on, but perhaps a bit stained – in other words, if we die with God’s grace dwelling in our souls but we are imperfect, then God has provided a way to be purified. This is called Purgatory, and this is our opportunity to be cleansed before entering the presence of the all-holy God. What a great gift it is! I would be embarrassed to show up at a dinner at the White House with a huge spaghetti stain on my shirt. Likewise, I’d be embarrassed to show up before God with even the slightest stain on my wedding garment. Thankfully we have Purgatory as an opportunity to cleanse our souls. For this reason, we should always pray for the dead, that their stay in Purgatory may be lessened.

            In all, God has prepared an amazing, abundant life for you and I, and He sent us an invitation to the banquet sealed in the Blood of His Son. The way we live our lives is our RSVP – having a living friendship with Jesus Christ, and growing in righteousness daily.