Saturday, December 3, 2016

Sunday II, Advent A "Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance."

“Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.” Matthew 3, 1-12

Repentance

Repentance (also called contrition) must be inspired by motives that arise from faith. If repentance arises from love of charity for God, it is called "perfect" contrition; if it is founded on other motives, it is called ‘imperfect.’" (CCC 1492)

Fruit

Jesus says: "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." The fruit referred to in this saying is the holiness of a life made fruitful by union with Christ. When we believe in Jesus Christ, partake of his mysteries, and keep his commandments, the Savior himself comes to love, in us, his Father and his brethren, our Father and our brethren. His person becomes, through the Spirit, the living and interior rule of our activity. "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." CCC 2074

“Fruit that will last.”

Jesus says: "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."33 

The fruit referred to in this saying is the holiness of a life made fruitful by union with Christ. When we believe in Jesus Christ, partake of his mysteries, and keep his commandments, the Savior himself comes to love, in us, his Father and his brethren, our Father and our brethren. His person becomes, through the Spirit, the living and interior rule of our activity. "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."3 CCC 2074

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Sunday 33C: The end of the world is here and now

“See that you not be deceived,
for many will come in my name, saying,
‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’
Do not follow them!
When you hear of wars and insurrections,
do not be terrified; for such things must happen first,
but it will not immediately be the end.”

Some use death, fear of the unknown future to manipulate,  mislead,  deceive

In fact entire religious belief systems are built around fear inducing threats such as the superstition that the end of the world is always imminent

But it is not that way for us

Yes: the world will end for us one day, whether through death or the judgment of the second coming 
But in the meantime this is not our concern?

What are we to do?

Turn always back to the sure sources of Faith
What are these?

Scripture and Tradition

Through which Revelation comes according to God’s will and plan in Christ Jesus

How?

For example: Christ teaches “it is not for you to know the day or the hour” for the end of the world.

Each of us has a responsibility to seek the answers through Scripture and Church teaching about it: the Magisterium

This takes time, effort, attention and love.

But that is one reason why we are here, together, every week: to dedicate ourselves to the breaking of bread, the Eucharist, the Scripture and prayers.

On Sundays we celebrate His Resurrection and make it more fully our own expectation and hope.

This is what we build our lives on: not fear but hope in Jesus Christ, alive here with us in the grace of the sacraments, above all the Eucharist, so that we may be with Him one day at the right hand of the Father.

In the Church we live the will of God so that we might come to know the Lord Jesus more intimately and follow Him more closely in love each day.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Feast of All Saints by Fr. Sean Connolly

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Feast of All Saints

Fr. Seán Connolly
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Signum Crucis

When the Pagan, and pre-Christian Roman Empire had completed its conquest of the ancient world, she dedicated to all the gods in token of her gratitude, the glorious structure of the Pantheon, that most durable monument of her power, which still stands today. But when she herself had been conquered by Christ, that upstart religion begun by a meager carpenter from the Galilee, Rome withdrew her homage from the vain idols of all the gods and rededicated the Pantheon to all the martyrs who had been killed for professing faith in the One True God and whom He sent, the Lord Jesus Christ.

For centuries, the catacombs on the outskirts of Rome had been the resting-place of these martyrs-Our Lords athletes who died in the arena of the Coliseum and Circus Maximus. But these valiant warriors for the Lord were deserving of the honors of a triumph far more than the Roman centurions who had slain them. And so, after the conversion of the Empire to the Christian faith, the city of Romes bishop, Pope Boniface IV, in the year 609 presented himself at the entrance to the catacombs surrounded by an immense crowd. The successor of the martyr and first pope, Saint Peter, was there in all apostolic majesty to take in procession the many relics contained of the early Christian martyrs to their new home of the Pantheon.

The Pope was attended by 28 chariots magnificently adorned to carry the relics through the City from the catacombs to the Pantheon. Before the relics were loaded to the chariots and the ritual procession began, the Holy Father exclaimed: Arise, ye saints of God, come forth from your hiding places; enter into Rome, which is now the holy city; bless the Roman people following you to the temple of the false gods, which is now dedicated as your own church, there to adore together with you the majesty of the Lord.

Thus, after centuries of persecution, the martyrs finally had the last word. The City of Rome, once the capital of the world drunk with the blood of Christians, now burned the sameincense before the martyrs of Christ the martyrs themselves, had refused to offer to the false gods. The Temple which had been built by Marcus Agrippa and dedicated to all the pagan gods, was now consecrated a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and all the Christian Martyrs.

The dedication of this now Christian Basilica, became a feast day celebrated in various areas throughout the Church at this time, but by the mid-ninth century was extended by Pope Gregory IV to the entire Catholic world and modified to include not just the holy martyrs, but all saints. 
These are the origins of the feast we celebrate today, when Holy Church commemorates all the saints in heaven, without exception, and thus honors also those who are unknown to us, those who have not been formally canonized and have no public recognition in the liturgy.

This holy tradition as we heard, was begun by our ancestors in the Christian faith of ancient Rome, who took such a holy pride in the saints-those whose love for God transformed their lives and even made them willing to go to their deaths proclaiming their faith in the Lord Christ.

These ancestors of ours lived in a brutal pre-Christian world where life was cheap and the Lord Jesus rejected. During these trying times our ancestors in the faith instituted the feast we celebrate today, to look to the saints and martyrs for inspiration and to ask for their prayers from heaven so they themselves may persevere in the faith like the saints had done before them.

Our ancestors in the faith were so fervently devoted to the saints in immensely difficult times...and we have their example for our own benefit. It wouldnt be an exaggeration to say we are living in similar times than our Catholic ancestors in the ancient Roman world. While theirs was a pre-Christian paganism, our world today can be described as a post-Christian paganism. While we in this country are not being physically persecuted against, our Christian brothers and sisters in Nigeria, Syria and throughout practically the whole Middles East are being dreadfully persecuted against-torched churches, crucifixions, slavery.

In our own country, we are materially comfortable, we are safe bodily, but in our society today though we have comforts previous generations lacked, we have many more spiritual perils to endure where it is not easy for us to get out of this life loving God and in His friendship.

Our society is not terrorized by the sword of Nero or Diocletian, but rather by the pen of men like Marx and Freud. We live in a world that no longer exults the Beatitudes taught by Christ our Savior in His Sermon on the Mount, but a world that sees His beautiful teachings on poverty, meekness, justice, mercy, peace and purity of heart as impractical and silly. We live in a world whose belief in that most supreme virtue of holy charity---of love, is thwarted, into being a love not directed towards the other, but to the self. 

Yet, in the midst of it all, there is still in this world, apparently sunk and immersed in the worship of the individual, our Holy Church, from the time of the institution of todays feast till today, which in response to the idols of celebrity, counters with exulting the lives of the saints-the band of chosen souls who have received the crown of eternal glory-whose lives were lived not for themselves but for God and their fellow man, whose words and deeds were so permeated by their thirst for heaven and its pure air-that their examples exercise an irresistible and reassuring fascination to us.

Why do we Catholics venerate them so greatly? Why is it that the stories of their lives can move us even to tears? Why do they, so quickly conquer our hearts and take first place in our affections? This is so, because we inherently sense in them, the presence of God at work in our world. We sense that the love present in a saints heart is the nearest thing to the sight of God we know. For the saints throughout the ages never lived by any other ideal, than the Beatitudes taught by Our Lord. The stories of their lives throughout the ages have been but one prolonged echo of Christs teachings in the Gospels.

And so like our ancestors who lived in dreadful times of persecution under the Roman Empire, who with such zeal venerated the saints and made constant recourse to them, so must we today. We must use the saints, as lighthouses, which serve to guide and cheer us on in the midst of the darknesss and dangers of this life.

Remember that this life is short. The whole reason God created us is to know and love Him in this world, but also to be happy with him in the next! The saints are our connection to the next world. They stand before the Throne of God praying for us. Never fail to make recourse to them and to ponder the profound realties that the Church sets before us on this feast. Grow in your devotion to the saints, pray to them, name your children after them, read their lives...and know that above the unhealthy marshes and filth of the world, stretches an immense heaven of beauty where they intercede for us. It is the heaven which fascinated the saints; the heaven to which they longed to ascend by the only road that leads there, for there is only one road, which is, the Catholic religion, the love of Christ, and the heroic observance of His Beatitudes.

We greet you, O beautiful and lovable Saints! Look down from your glory on this people, which loves you, which venerates, glorifies and exalts you. To you, therefore, powerful intercessors with the Lamb of God, we entrust ourselves. We are desirous of imitating your strength of faith and your inviolate purity of conduct. In your intercession, we find a safe refuge, trusting that we shall be protected from every contamination, and be able to walk in the way of the Master, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Mary, Queen of all Saints, pray for us.
Signum Crucis
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Sunday, October 9, 2016

28th Sunday C: We are lepers all, God's image in us marred by sin

In the Rosellini film “The Flowers of Saint Francis” a series of black and white vignettes drawn from the saint’s life are strung together. In one of them Saint Francis encounters a leper.

Francis the man is repulsed by the leper's disfigurement, a natural reaction we share with him, but having come to love the Lord Jesus passionately knows that he cannot claim to love Christ if he cannot love his brother. This being an Italian film about an Italian there is no hesitation in the realization that love expressed must somehow be tangible, physical.

The warning tinkle of the bell the leper rings to warn others upon his approach to keep their distance summons the conscience of Francis to do the opposite, the unthinkable: to rather draw near this suffering and repulsive icon of Christ in distressing disguise. His effort to overcome himself takes on the aspect of a physical drama as he repeatedly reaches out and then shrinks back again in horror at the prospect of an embrace.

Finally, grace instructs nature and the two find momentary solace: Francis wraps the suffering leper tightly in his arms, the eyes of faith encountering Christ in repugnant disguise.

People are sounding very Catholic in their justified condemnation of the very sinful remarks released on a video of a prominent candidate for election as the president of the US.

His words may even amount to sexual assault they are so offensive and reprehensible.
His disrespect of women and objectification of them is a grave sin which we must all renounce.

What he said was wrong and should never under any circumstances ever be considered acceptable. But let us make no mistake: the greatest moral battle of outrage is against legalized abortion.

Respect for everyone, including women at risk of sexual assault, begins with defending the weakest among us: the preborn woman. #DefendLife

The candidate in the video is wrong because what he did violated the virtue of chastity long taught by the Church as necessary for all of us.
But the Church teaches us that chastity is necessity for all of us and it was his human weakness of life without grace and repentance and lack of the virtue of chastity that led to his downfall.

His repentance and forgiveness by God are a personal matter and we can only pray for him as we pray for all.

This man’s leprosy is now on view to all
But we are all lepers because “we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

God’s first concern is not that we have sinned; he knows that.
And we cannot justify ourselves by a prudish or obsessive concern with the weakness or sins of others.

As a matter of fact, although we must always shun repeating falsehoods about others, even to discuss their sins is detraction and a sin.
No, the Lord asks only that we seek forgiveness and that in faith we return to give thanks for his merciful love.

And that is what we are doing tonight; we have returned in the faith hich saves to thank the Lord for his many mercies.

In this wired and internet 24/7 news culture politicians with a past may always worry that the other shoe may drop. Sin unfortunately sometimes follows a pattern for those who are dishonest about their weaknesses.

We, however, are called to more because we are given more: God’s mercy, a grace for the strength or virtue of chastity and the humble living of daily repentance as we avoid the near occasions of sin which we know will play on our weaknesses.  And this for the most grave of sins necessarily in sacramental confession.

Approaching the altar to receive the Lord in holy Communion while suffering the hideous leprosy of mortal is both useless and a sacrilege: adding sin upon sin.

All of us must regularly admit to our wrongdoing, and always in the confessional for grave sins such as breaking the Commandments. And we must continue to walk humbly with God, recognizing that without His grace we would be dying of the most hideous leprosy: that of sin which can cast both body and soul into hell forever.

All of us are lepers because of sin; returning in faith to give the Lord thanks for His merciful love saves us” 28th Sunday #homilytweet @MCITLFrAphorism

Yes, we’re all lepers but God hugs us anyway.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Sunday 25C: We run a race in faith for a crown of unfading glory

Perhaps more now than ever we see politics is a dirty business.

Lying, betrayal, name-calling, underhanded tactics, vote buying and making false promises to the poor and downtrodden of this world:

“We will buy the lowly for silver,
and the poor for a pair of sandals;”

These and so much more are at play in the race to win the most powerful job in the world: president of the USA.

What are we to do? Do we stay away and refuse to vote in order to avoid dirtying our hands? Do we hold our nose and vote for the one least offensive to Catholic Faith and morals?

Archbishop Chaput says one is impulsive and the other a liar. My response is that impulses can be checked by surrounding oneself with the right people but that fundamental dishonesty is dangerous for us all.

Human beings are always flawed. It’s a fact of life for all of us. Sometimes those who ask to be our leaders seem to be deeply flawed. 

I will be making a choice in November because I believe that Catholics should always remain deeply and passionately involved in the social sphere and should fully exercise their say in our democratic self-governance.

But perspective is needed in this as in every other aspect of life. We are called to pray for and work to assist those who serve us in public office:

“I ask that supplications, prayers,
petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone,
for kings and for all in authority”

While never forgetting or forsaking the priorities that faith teaches us:

“that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life
in all devotion and dignity”

What is the reason for the hope  that is in us and our focus?

“This is good and pleasing to God our savior,
who wills everyone to be saved
and to come to knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God.
There is also one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus”

This is the perspective of the Kingdom, made possible by faith. We know the glory that awaits us but which we already now experience through life in Christ. It is much greater than anything we can imagine because it cannot be lost, stolen or taken away from us as can an Olympic record, worldly power, popularity or riches.

So we see that some who are in love with worldly glory and acclaim run a race for a crown that perishes: power, riches or acclaim which mean nothing and which may betray us without virtue and holiness of life to guide us along the way of life's path.

We instead run so as to win a crown of imperishable glory prepared for us by Christ Jesus, already victorious in the battle against sin and death and who has prepared a place for us
We run so as to win, not against one another, but together in charity, reaching out to help each other in prayer and active charity.
We know there is judgment but we leave that to the Lord, just judge that He is.
“The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Never will I forget a thing they have done!”
We live in love so as to receive His love. This is the victory of our Faith. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Homily Sunday 24C: "Everything I have is yours."

Have you ever noticed how precious even a very simple thing can seem once we believe we no longer possess it?

Something in our possession may go unnoticed, unused, unneeded for a long time but, once we become aware it is lost, we suddenly value it more than anything else because we believe it's suddenly beyond our reach.

All of us know this experience very well. We might say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. When you have ten coins, one does not seem in comparison to count for much among the rest until you become aware it’s lost.

“Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it?"

God uses this insight from our human experience to help us understand His thirst to embrace everyone in His love, the only thing which saves lost souls.
Leaving the 99 in search of the one only makes sense from this perspective: that when it comes to souls God does not wait until we are lost to love us but, when we are, knows the truly desperate situation we are in.

The prodigal son treated his father as if he was dead when he demanded his inheritance but in fact, as the father makes clear, it was the son who was dead.

Then let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.”

All of us at some time are the prodigal son, and we return to the Father who clothes us in grace again for the feast of the Eucharist through the sacrament of Confession. But any of us at any time can also experience the life of the Church family as did the elder son and, we must always remember, to us the Father says,

‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours. “

He invites us also to feast and celebrate because at many Masses and on many Sundays the prodigal sons and daughters return to Him, present among us here, and we cannot but always share in the joy of the Father rich in mercy for each of us.

The sign of true conversion is living every day with the "everything" of the Father rather than wandering off into the false freedom of the prodigal which, in truth, is death.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Sunday 22C: "take the lowest place ."

A woman departs alone from a convent in Calcutta with only her religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience intact and  5 rupees in her pocket.

What is she doing?  Why is she, an Albanian who knows next to nothing about surviving in the grinding poverty of India, leaving the only life she has known as an adult religious woman after already abandoning her native country to first learn English and Hindi as well as Bengali?

She is following her vocation, or call from God, to take the lowest place among the poor, within what had been a very happy vocation as a beloved religious woman in community teaching young women.

In some countries like India the lowest place does not mean defaulting on a mortgage as devastating as that can be; it can mean living in a cardboard box or washing in and drinking dirty water.

This woman, later to become world famous as Mother Teresa, heard a call from God to live among the poorest of the poor as the poorest of the poor live.
She started literally with nothing, begging for her every need as do the poorest of the poor. Ttoday her inspiration and holy charism have moved so many women to join her that the Missionaries of Charity, founded in 1950, now “boast”:

4,000 members
697 foundations
131 countries

The Missionaries of Charity is a religious family that now also includes fathers and brothers.

Mother Teresa's sisters became well known for their presence in some of the most dangerous and hostile places in the world. I remember as a young man in Berlin in 1990, shortly after the wall fell, seeing two of her religious daughters crossing over the border from the West to return to their house on the East side of the city which had been in place witnessing to Christ and His Church long before the wall fell.

In one famous story, Mother Teresa was confronted by a general in war-torn Lebanon as she sought to enter and begin her mission there to the poorest of the poor. He forbid her to go forward, telling her it was too dangerous while the city was being bombed. She dismissed his warnings and fearlessly pushed on, without the protection required for the soldiers aournd her, into the city that had become a deadly battle zone.

Mother Teresa took the lowest place, knowing she had been invited by the Lord personally to His eternal wedding banquet of heaven and she responded with a generous “yes”.

And how has the Lord rewarded Mother for her radical yes to His invitation to take the lowest place? I hope, God willing, to be among  those present next Sunday in Rome as the pope canonizes her "Saint Teresa of Calcutta".

You and I must do the same if we are to be lifted up by God to where we cannot go on our own: to the highest place of the wedding banquet of the Lamb in heaven.

Where in your home, your work, the circumstances of your daily life wherever you find yourself, do you take the lowest place, putting confidence at each moment in the Lord’s promise to invite you up higher as you imitate the Lord Himself as He died on the Cross to save each of us?

This is the key to joy: configuring oneself to the Lord by serving and loving others for His sake as Mother Teresa so faithfully did and whose example a gift from the Lord to help each of us to do the same.

“The last shall be first and the first shall be last.”