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20 August 2014

The Love of God: St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Wednesday, 20th Week Ordinary Time II

I often think that you should hear from the Doctors of the Church rather than from me.  Here is what the Church gives us to meditate on today:


From a sermon by Saint Bernard, abbot
I love because I love, I love that I may love
Love is sufficient of itself, it gives pleasure by itself and because of itself. It is its own merit, its own reward. Love looks for no cause outside itself, no effect beyond itself. Its profit lies in its practice. I love because I love, I love that I may love. Love is a great thing so long as it continually returns to its fountainhead, flows back to its source, always drawing from there the water which constantly replenishes it. Of all the movements, sensations and feelings of the soul, love is the only one in which the creature can respond to the Creator and make some sort of similar return however unequal though it be. For when God loves, all he desires is to be loved in return; the sole purpose of his love is to be loved, in the knowledge that those who love him are made happy by their love of him.
The Bridegroom’s love, or rather the love which is the Bridegroom, asks in return nothing but faithful love. Let the beloved, then, love in return. Should not a bride love, and above all, Love’s bride? Could it be that Love not be loved?
Rightly then does she give up all other feelings and give herself wholly to love alone; in giving love back, all she can do is to respond to love. And when she has poured out her whole being in love, what is that in comparison with the unceasing torrent of that original source? Clearly, lover and Love, soul and Word, bride and Bridegroom, creature and Creator do not flow with the same volume; one might as well equate a thirsty man with the fountain.
What then of the bride’s hope, her aching desire, her passionate love, her confident assurance? Is all this to wilt just because she cannot match stride for stride with her giant, any more than she can vie with honey for sweetness, rival the lamb for gentleness, show herself as white as the lily, burn as bright as the sun, be equal in love with him who is Love? No. It is true that the creature loves less because she is less. But if she loves with her whole being, nothing is lacking where everything is given. To love so ardently then is to share the marriage bond; she cannot love so much and not be totally loved, and it is in the perfect union of two hearts that complete and total marriage consists. Or are we to doubt that the soul is loved by the Word first and with a greater love?
That is why he is a Doctor of the Church!

18 August 2014

Materialism and the Purpose of Education: Monday, 20th Week Ordinary Time II

Click here for actual audio homily.  Even though the rich young man had many possessions, he was still looking for something more. Th purpose of education is not to get a job but to become the person God has called you to be.

17 August 2014

Pharisee and the Publican: EF 10th Sunday after Pentecost


Click here for actual audio homily. I remember this one time when I went to Confession while I was in the seminary.  I did not feel particularly sinful, but went to see the priest and told him a few little things.  I must have said something like “These few things weren’t that bad and that I had difficulty finding sins in my life because I thought I was a fairly holy person.”  He responded that from the things I had confessed I had committed three of the seven capital sins.  My Confessor certainly put me in my place for I was acting like the Pharisee.  Do we think we are holy enough?  Notice what the Pharisee says “'O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity---greedy, dishonest, adulterous.”  How often do we behave like the Pharisee?  I don’t need to go to Confession, I don’t do anything wrong.  I am not like those people.  The Third Commandment says to “Keep Holy the Lord’s Day.”  Do we come to Mass every Sunday or just when its convenient and when nothing else to gets in the way?  Do we remember to fast for one hour before receiving Holy Communion or do we not think it is important to spiritually prepare ourselves to receive the Lord Jesus because we are holy enough?  The fifth commandment says “You shall not kill.”  I’ve never murdered any body so I guess I have not broken that commandment.  Wrong--- Jesus says that if we have anger in our heart then we have broken that commandment.  Jesus says if you say to your brother, “You fool” you will be liable to judgment.  I was reading a story on the Internet and got so annoyed I called a politician and “idiot.”  I figured I should go to confession.   The sixth commandment is “You shall not commit adultery.”  Well, I am not even married, guess I don’t have to worry about breaking that one.  Wrong --- Any sexual activity outside the confines of a marriage of one man and one woman blessed by the Catholic Church falls into this category.  This would also include the use of pornography and given the way some television shows and movies exploit God’s gift of sexuality, it does not always have to be x-rated.  Notice what the Gospel says about the Pharisee – “The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself.”  The Pharisee was not praying to God but to himself.  The Pharisee was praising himself to himself.  My mother had an expression, she would say “Self-praise stinks.  Smell yourself.”  Or to use the words of Pope John Paul II in his encyclical, Veritatis Splendor, “All people must take great care not to allow themselves to be tainted by the attitude of the Pharisee, which would seek to eliminate one’s awareness of one’s own limits and of one’s own sin.   In our own day, this attitude is expressed particularly in the attempt to adapt the moral norms of one’s own capacities and personal interests, and even in the rejection of the very idea of a norm.”  Notice also that the Pharisee asks nothing from God in his prayer.  The Pharisee is totally self-sufficient.  Why then does he even bother praying at all.  But again notice, he is not praying to God but to himself.  Only sinners need a savior.  If we fail to recognize our dependence and need for God, we are SELF-righteous.  Only those, who like the tax-collector in today’s Gospel, who recognize their inadequacy can truly gain the kingdom of heaven.  Only those who recognize their sinfulness and their need for God, go away justified.  The tax collector’s prayer is the origin of that great spiritual tradition in the Eastern Church of the “Jesus Prayer.”  The story of the “Jesus Prayer,” –that is “Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on me a sinner”—has its roots in the prayer of the tax collector and is told in the classic Orthodox tale know as “The Way of the Pilgrim.”  The story goes something like this.  A traveler wanted to be holy and sought out a spiritual advisor.  The Advisor told the traveler that if he wanted to be holy he should say the “Jesus Prayer” one hundred times.  After caring out this spiritual exercise, the traveler returned to the spiritual advisor.  The advisor then said to recite the “Jesus Prayer” one thousand times.  After completing the assignment, the traveler returned and was told to say the “Jesus Prayer,” ten thousand times.  The point of the story is not the amount of times the prayer is said but that if it is said ten thousand times, we will be constantly in prayer with the name of Jesus upon our lips and reminding ourselves that we are sinners in need of a savior.  Even if we only say the prayer mentally, we can avoid the near occasions of sin which fill our world.  When we recognize our constant need for God we will be able at the end of our life to echo the words of St. Paul in today’s reading, “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.”

16 August 2014

Entitlement, Humility, and the Eucharist: 20th Sunday Ordinary Time, A


Click here for actual audio homily. Someone once said, “God created the world out of nothing, and so long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us.”  So often in today’s society, we talk about “my rights.”  I have a right to due whatever I want.  Everything should work out and I should have it done my way, when I want it, how I want it, with no cost or inconvenience to me. Someone else said, “We seem to have come to the place where we feel entitled to the good life. We're entitled to have everything work for us. If it doesn't, someone must be to blame, and you can be sure of at least this: Whoever is at fault, it isn't us.”   Let’s take a look at the woman in today’s Gospel.  She is a Canaanite, a gentile.  She is not a Jew.  And yet she wants Jesus to heal her daughter.  Did she come up to Jesus demanding that He heal her daughter?  Jesus, prove to me your God and heal my daughter.  Jesus, if you loved me, You would heal my daughter.  I have been good all my life Jesus, so heal my daughter.  That’s entitlement.  But that is not what the Canaanite woman did.  Rather, this gentile woman was humble and called out to the Son of David.  Jesus did not respond to her request because He wanted to see how deep her faith and humility really were.  And the woman persisted, asking the Lord to help her daughter.  Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  In other words, Jesus was saying to the woman, “You don’t deserve my help.”  How often do we come before the Lord Jesus thinking that we are entitled to His love; thinking that because He loves us Jesus will give us whatever we want, because we deserve it.  We can do whatever we want because Jesus loves us and we deserve it.  Well, you know what, we deserve?  We are sinners, me, you, and each one of us.  What do sinners deserve?  Those who die in a state of mortal sin, deserve hell?  But thanks be to Jesus and His life, death, and resurrection, we don’t get what we deserve.  Notice the Canaanite woman, did not get upset with Jesus.  She did not complain to the Pharisees saying how Jesus had insulted her.  She did not say, “How dare you treat me like that.”  She did not go around saying that if Jesus really was God, He would give me what I wanted.  Rather, the woman was humble.  She accepted Jesus’ rebuff that “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” And she was humble enough and persistent enough to keep asking.  She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”  Jesus calls the people of Israel, “children.”  But the woman, humbles herself even further by calling them, “masters.”  Jesus rewards her humility, persistence, and faith and heals her daughter.  When we come to Mass, or to any of the Seven Sacraments, we can’t come with a sense of entitlement but with a profound sense of humility at the great gift we have been offered.  We should not come to Mass ready to tell God how great WE are, how many wonderful things WE have done for Him, and we certainly should not be telling each other how great WE are.  This is one of the beauties of the Roman Missal that we began using about three years ago.  The new translation is much more humble.  The new translation doesn’t tell God what to do but it humbly begs Him for His Mercy and favor.  We introduce the Mass with the Sign of the Cross to remind us that everything we have is a gift of Jesus’ great sacrifice on Calvary.  After a brief introduction, we then progress into the Penitential Rite where we ask God for the forgiveness of all the little venial sins that we commit daily.  The Penitential Rite does not forgive Mortal Sins.  To be forgiven of our Mortal sins, we need to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  In the Penitential rite, we ask the Lord for Mercy, we ask the Lord for Forgiveness, we tell the Lord that we are sinners not worthy to be in His presence.  We have to come to Holy Communion like that Canaanite woman, in humility and not out of a sense of entitlement or routine.  What a great sign of humility to allow someone to feed you.  There are not many people whom you would allow to put something on your tongue?  One of the new changes in the translation is in the words of Consecration. The priest no longers say in the consecration of the Precious Blood, “It will be shed for you and for all.”  Rather the new translation is closer to the words of Sacred Scripture, “which will be poured out for you and for many.”  Cardinal Arinze explains this change by stating that “The expression “for many,” while remaining open to the inclusion of each human person, is reflective also of the fact that this salvation is not brought about in some mechanistic way, without one's own willing or participation; rather, the believer is invited to accept in faith the gift that is being offered and to receive the supernatural life that is given to those who participate in this mystery, living it out in their lives as well so as to be numbered among the “many” to whom the text refers.” Pope Benedict has written, “Clearly, full participation in the Eucharist takes place when the faithful approach the altar in person to receive communion. Yet, true as this is, care must be taken lest they conclude that the mere fact of their being present in church during the liturgy gives them a right or even an obligation to approach the table of the Eucharist.”  We must not treat Holy Communion as a right or a routine but as a sacred privilege.  For only when we approach Jesus in humility rather than entitlement, will He say, “great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

14 August 2014

"Genie, you're free": Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, A


Click here for actual audio homily. So what is the big message that makes us obligated to come Mass to today?  After careful study of the Church’s long tradition and the Holy Scriptures, in 1950, Pope Pius XII declared infallibly that “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”  In explaining the value of this doctrine, Pope Pius XII argued that the Assumption shows us the value of human life and the importance of “what a lofty goal our bodies and souls are destined.”    Your body is holy.  Your body is important.  Your body is a sacred part of who you are. Our bodies are not just some shell in which contains our holy and immortal soul.  Our whole person, body and soul, is sacred.  So sacred that God would not allow Mary’s body in which His Son took flesh to undergo corruption.  So sacred is the human body that God the Father called Mary, body and soul, to His side.  Our bodies are sacred too.  On the Last Day, our bodies and souls will be reunited to face the divine judgment.  We must have that same sacred concern for our bodies as God does.  We must keep them pure and undefiled if we, like Mary before us, are to be assumed into heaven.  But that is very difficult in our world today, for we continue the immoral disrespect for the body that was set down in the two World Wars and the Holocaust, in the disrespect for human life, and the disrespect for human sexuality.  You may have heard that Robin Williams, the famous actor and comedian, took his own life after suffering from severe depression.  In commenting on this tragic news, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, (that is the people who give out the Oscars), tweeted a message from the film, Aladdin, in which Robin Williams supplied the voice of the genie.  With a still picture from the movie, the tweet, quoted a line from the movie, “Genie, you’re free.”  While this message has been popular with many, some (especially those involved with suicide prevention) see it as glorifying suicide and presenting suicide as an acceptable option.  While the moral culpability of the person who chooses suicide may be debated, there can be no doubt of the tremendous grief of those left behind.  The hidden problem with the statement, “Genie, your free” is that it assumes that the soul is trapped in the body and that our ultimate freedom comes from releasing the soul from the body.  This is the ancient heresy of Gnosticism, in a contemporary form.  The Gnostics believed that the soul was the real person and that the body was something that kept the person from what they were truly meant to be.  This goes against everything that God has revealed to us.  In the Book of Genesis, when God created man and woman with a body and a soul, God looked upon His creation and saw that it was very good.  For God so loved the world that He assumed a BODY and a Soul, from the Blessed Virgin Mary.  That body was so important that Jesus not only rose from the dead but took it to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father.  The body of Mary, by which Jesus became incarnate, was so important that “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”  This is what we are called to remember to day.  This is why the Church calls us to Mass today because she wants us to remember that we are precious in God’s eyes, in our body and our soul and we are called to live forever, body and soul, with God in heaven. 

Signs, Sacraments, Maximilian Kolbe: Thursday, 19th Week Ordinary Time, A

Click here for actual audio homily.  Ezekiel, and the prophets told God's message by actions.  The sacraments show God's loving by doing.  People learn by example.

13 August 2014

09 August 2014

The Small Whisper: 19th Sunday Ordinary Time A


Click here for actual audio homily. Today’s Gospel has a special meaning for me.  After I had finally decided to let God have his way and enter the seminary, I had to leave the school where I was teaching.  This was very hard for me because I was not sure that I was doing the right thing by giving up the classroom for the seminary.  I was scared.  The campus chaplain was a very kind priest by the name of Fr. Peter Horton.  When I told Fr. Peter how scared I was about this whole move, he said to me that I was like St. Peter, I had stepped out of the boat and now I was walking on the water.  Sometimes God calls us out of our comfort zone and into a place that is unknown so that He can achieve even greater things with us.  Perhaps you felt the same way I did, when you decided to get married, or when you got that new job and had to move to Hagerstown from your old home.  I know that in my travels around the country that one of the first things I did when I arrived at my new home was to find the Catholic Church because Jesus is that one sure and certain port in a storm.  There is a modern Christian song that goes “If I keep my eyes on Jesus I can walk on water.”  Sometimes, however, we may get distracted from Jesus like Peter did and begin to sink.  Notice that the disciples had been tossed about by the storm for hours, because it was the fourth watch of night and the night was nearly over.  After this long period of struggle, after their fear was increased by the image of what they thought was a ghost, they cried out and the Lord heard them.  “At once Jesus spoke to them, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."”  Notice that Jesus did not say “Hey guys it’s Jesus” He said “It is I.” How often do you knock on the door or pick up the telephone and say, “Hi, it’s me.”  But who is me?  You are hoping the person on the other end recognizes your voice.  Jesus was hoping that the disciples would recognize His voice.  But notice Jesus did not say, “It’s me” but “It is I” or it could be translated “I AM.”  “I AM” is the name which God gave to Himself when revealing Himself to Moses at the burning bush.   By saying “It is I” Jesus was not only hoping for voice recognition from the disciples but faith recognition in Him as the Son of God.  Once Peter made that recognition in faith, he stepped out of the boat and onto the water.  Peter was a fisherman.  He knew that humans could not walk on water.  He knew that it was impossible for him.  This is why “Peter said to Him in reply, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water."  There are many things that are impossible for us to do.  I knew that I did not have the confidence or the personality or the skill to be a priest.  I told the Lord, “Lord if you want me to do this you’re are going to have to help.”  There are many times when we are called to proclaim our faith in Jesus at home, at school, at work, in or leisure activities, if left on our own, it would not happen; but if we pray like Peter and command the Lord to give us that courage and that ability then it will happen.  How do I know?  Well here I am --a priest.  We often look for God in the big spectacular show but where does Elijah find God?  God was not to be found in the crushing wind, or the earthquake, or the fire. No, God was recognized in the tiny whispering breeze.  Sometimes, in our spiritual life we want God to work great wonders.  We want God to help us to walk on water.  We want the big show.  But Fr. Peter  told me when I asked about leave for seminary, he said “There are no lighting bolts.” Notice that Peter did not ask, “Lord, I want to walk on water.”  No, Peter, said “command me to come to you” it just so happened Peter would have to walk on water.  Sometimes in our spiritual life or at Mass we expect a big show, we want something spectacular to happen.  Sr. Breege Mckenna goes around giving retreats and she said people come up to here and say, “Sr. Breege, I don’t come to Mass any more.  I don’t get anything out of it.”  To which she responds, “What do you mean you don’t get anything out of it—you get salvation!”  Sometimes we think Mass should entertain us, we think Mass should rouse us out of our seats like the special effects of the latest science fiction movie.  But what did Elijah experience.  God was not in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire.  God was recognized in the tiny whispering breeze.  This is why Jesus comes to us under the simple appearances of bread and wine.  Make no mistake, after the words of consecration, they are no longer bread and wine but the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.  And if we keep our eyes on Jesus, we will not be distracted by the storms and the waves and the winds all around us in the world, but we can meet God in the simple whisperings, “Oh Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

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