Thursday, April 30, 2009

"What is to prevent my being baptized?"

"Look, there is water.
What is to prevent my being baptized?"
Then he ordered the chariot to stop,
and Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water,
and he baptized him.
-- Acts 8:26-40

Since the beginning of the Church, adult Baptism is the common practice where the proclamation of the Gospel is still new. The catechumenate (preparation for Baptism) therefore occupies an important place. This initiation into Christian faith and life should dispose the catechumen to receive the gift of God in Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist.
-- CCC 1247

Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.
-- CCC 1272

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

There broke out a severe persecution of the Church

There broke out a severe persecution of the Church in Jerusalem, and all were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria, except the Apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made a loud lament over him. Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the Church; entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment.
-- Acts 8:1b-8

Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.
-- CCC 675

(Art: Bartholomeus Breenbergh, The Stoning of Stephen, Dutch, 1632. Oil on panel. J. Paul Getty Trust.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"You stiff-necked people"

"uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the Holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it."
-- Acts 7:51 - 8:1a

"Uncircumcised in heart and mind" are those who pervert the Gospel to approve in any way of the intentional taking of innocent life. Those "oppose the Holy Spirit" who give honors to leaders who advocate, legislate and promulgate the murder of the innocent in partial-birth infanticide, destruction of embryos for research and abortion. More here.


"I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst."
-- Jn 6:30-35

By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1640; 1651).
-- CCC 1413

It is Christ himself, the eternal high priest of the New Covenant who, acting through the ministry of the priests, offers the Eucharistic sacrifice. And it is the same Christ, really present under the species of bread and wine, who is the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice.
-- CCC 1410

(Photo: "Fr." Jenkins of NotreShame, a "Catholic" institution of "higher" "learning".)

Monday, April 27, 2009

"Do not work for food that perishes"

Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.

What material food produces in our bodily life, Holy Communion wonderfully achieves in our spiritual life. Communion with the flesh of the risen Christ, a flesh "given life and giving life through the Holy Spirit," preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace received at Baptism. This growth in Christian life needs the nourishment of Eucharistic Communion, the bread for our pilgrimage until the moment of death, when it will be given to us as viaticum.
-- CCC 1392

(Art: Joos van Wassenhove. The Institution of the Eucharist, c.1474 (50 Kb); Oil on panel; Gallery of the Marches, Ducal Palace, Urbino, Italia.)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Wedding Homily 2009

N. and N.: this is your wedding day. Congratulations. Here you are, in the house of God, surrounded by His people: your parents, family and friends. In just a few moments you will go a step beyond anything you have ever known before as you promise yourselves to each other in the sacrament of holy matrimony. It is only fitting that your lives, a sacred gift in God, become now a mutual gift in marriage here in this sacred house of God, Who alone is holy, and in the presence of his holy people.

You have discovered, with God’s help and within your families, that you have been created to love. But you have also learned through trial and error that love cannot be taken or possessed. No, only if love is a free gift is it truly worthy of the name. For that reason you have come today before the Lord on His Cross. Only His free act of self-giving, the only completely selfless gift the world has ever known, is perfect Love.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.” Why is this? God is love, His very essence is Love, for He is the only one who is able to love simply by being who He is, without receiving love from someone else. His love is without beginning or end because He Himself is the Eternal source of love. Jesus is God Incarnate, and therefore His love is given on the Cross in the total gift of His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in His saving death. That is why you are here today, in the Lord’s house: only here can you truly possess the One who is the source of the love you wish to share now and always. Only in and through Christ can you learn to give love and thus truly receive the love you so ardently desire from one another. Learn well this authentic love from the Lord and your married love will never fail and will not merely satisfy but bring abundant joy.

And so, in just a few moments, by the grace of your baptism, you will consent to the truth about love. You will promise one another that you will strive every day of your married life to imitate the Lord, who teaches the truth about love from the Cross. Here, before God and His people, you will promise your lives, all that you have and are, to one another. You will accept from God the privilege of cooperating with Him in His “will that life should go on”, because you will promise that your love will be fundamentally open to new life. The marital act by which you bodily become one flesh will be a true source of love because you will fearlessly give yourselves to each other as Christ gives on the Cross: completely, without holding anything of yourselves back in a way unworthy of authentic love. Your openness to God's will means that you will accept children lovingly from Him and raise them in our holy Faith. You will promise an exclusive love, because you will be one flesh and thus will belong only to one another all the days of your lives.

To promise today, and every day, to love, honor and cherish. Is this not a stupendous promise to make? Does this not sound as if it is impossible? The world often scorns the idea that man and woman can remain as one through good times and bad, in sickness and in health, until death. And it is true: man and woman cannot do such an awesome thing on their own. No, they need the constant help of the divine source of Love Himself.

And this help you will have, for beginning today you will enjoy the particular graces of the sacrament of holy matrimony. By virtue of the grace of your baptism you will exchange your vows of marriage so that you will depend no longer only upon yourselves, with your poor human love, with your weaknesses and, yes, sadly and tragically also with your sins. No, your confidence and hope will be placed totally in God. In the total gift of Christ, in His Cross and Resurrection, you will have the inexhaustible means of daily growing in grace and more deeply in love. Your covenant love will find its source in God’s covenant love through your regular celebration of the Sunday Eucharist at Mass together with His people. The Body and Blood of Christ in communion will be the means of grace by which you will ever more deeply give yourselves to one another. And the Lord’s own forgiveness in confession will be your perfect source of forgiving one another should you ever need this grace, for this too is love.

Above and beyond all of this, you have been called in Christ to eternal salvation. See in your sacramental love the means of daily praying for, working toward and serving each other’s salvation in Christ. Remain close to the Lord through this life of prayer and service of Him and His people. And never forget that true hope always finds its source in the sure and certain knowledge that we have been called to life with God forever in heaven and thus can find here no lasting city, as beautiful as is this world and all that God has made.

N. and N., you begin well today your life of married love. Continue well each day this love in Christ through His Church and in the sacramental life she offers to you and to all of God’s people. Never fail to generously share with all those around you the abundant joy of knowing God’s love that, through you, He may continue to call the world to salvation only in and through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

-- ((((..))))

"Be sober and vigilant."

Be sober and vigilant.
Your opponent the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour.
Resist him, steadfast in faith,
knowing that your brothers and sisters throughout the world
undergo the same sufferings.
-- 1 Pt 5:5b-14

In this petition, evil is not an abstraction, but refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God. The devil (dia-bolos) is the one who "throws himself across" God's plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ.
-- CCC 2851

Friday, April 24, 2009

"you may even find yourselves fighting against God."

"So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God."
-- Acts 5:34-42

"The sole Church of Christ [is that] which our Savior, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it. . . . This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him."

The Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism explains: "For it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the People of God."
-- CCC 816

"What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church." "To this Spirit of Christ, as an invisible principle, is to be ascribed the fact that all the parts of the body are joined one with the other and with their exalted head; for the whole Spirit of Christ is in the head, the whole Spirit is in the body, and the whole Spirit is in each of the members." The Holy Spirit makes the Church "the temple of the living God":

Indeed, it is to the Church herself that the "Gift of God" has been entrusted. . . . In it is in her that communion with Christ has been deposited, that is to say: the Holy Spirit, the pledge of incorruptibility, the strengthening of our faith and the ladder of our ascent to God. . . . For where the Church is, there also is God's Spirit; where God's Spirit is, there is the Church and every grace.
-- CCC 797
(Art: Benjamin West: Paul persecuting the Church. Right panel of tryptich, study for window at St. Paul's Church, Birmingham.)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"We must obey God rather than men."

"We gave you strict orders did we not, to stop teaching in that name. Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and want to bring this man's blood upon us." But Peter and the Apostles said in reply, "We must obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins. We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him."
-- Acts 5:27-33

To obey (from the Latin ob-audire, to "hear or listen to") in faith is to submit freely to the word that has been heard, because its truth is guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself. Abraham is the model of such obedience offered us by Sacred Scripture. The Virgin Mary is its most perfect embodiment.
-- CCC 144

Citizens are obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order. "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).
-- CCC 2256

(Art:Fra Angelico: St. Stephen preaching. 1447-49, Vaticano, Cappella Niccolina, Roma.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"tell the people everything about this life"

"Go and take your place in the temple area, and tell the people everything about this life."
-- Acts 5:17-26

The moral life is spiritual worship. We "present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God," within the Body of Christ that we form and in communion with the offering of his Eucharist. In the liturgy and the celebration of the sacraments, prayer and teaching are conjoined with the grace of Christ to enlighten and nourish Christian activity. As does the whole of the Christian life, the moral life finds its source and summit in the Eucharistic sacrifice.
-- CCC 2031

What material food produces in our bodily life, Holy Communion wonderfully achieves in our spiritual life. Communion with the flesh of the risen Christ, a flesh "given life and giving life through the Holy Spirit," preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace received at Baptism. This growth in Christian life needs the nourishment of Eucharistic Communion, the bread for our pilgrimage until the moment of death, when it will be given to us as viaticum.

-- CCC 1392

whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.
-- Jn 3:16-21

"Christ is the light of humanity; and it is, accordingly, the heart-felt desire of this sacred Council, being gathered together in the Holy Spirit, that, by proclaiming his Gospel to every creature, it may bring to all men that light of Christ which shines out visibly from the Church." These words open the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. By choosing this starting point, the Council demonstrates that the article of faith about the Church depends entirely on the articles concerning Christ Jesus. The Church has no other light than Christ's; according to a favorite image of the Church Fathers, the Church is like the moon, all its light reflected from the sun.
-- CCC 748

(Art: Fra Angelico, Transfiguration.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

'You must be born from above.'

'The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
-- Jn 3:7b-15

At once virgin and mother, Mary is the symbol and the most perfect realization of the Church: "the Church indeed. . . by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother. By preaching and Baptism she brings forth sons, who are conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God, to a new and immortal life. She herself is a virgin, who keeps in its entirety and purity the faith she pledged to her spouse."
-- CCC 507
The symbolism of water signifies the Holy Spirit's action in Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth: just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit. As "by one Spirit we were all baptized," so we are also "made to drink of one Spirit." Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified as its source and welling up in us to eternal life.
-- CCC 694

(Art: St Peter and Cornelius the centurion, Bernardo Cavallino, 1640s, oil on canvas, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Roma.)

Monday, April 20, 2009

"Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born from above"

Indeed they gathered in this city against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, Herod and Pontius Pilate, together with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do what your hand and your will had long ago planned to take place.
-- Acts 4:23-31

To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of "predestination", he includes in it each person's free response to his grace: "In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place." For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness.
-- CCC 600

"Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God."
-- Jn 3:1-8

In his Passover Christ opened to all men the fountain of Baptism. He had already spoken of his Passion, which he was about to suffer in Jerusalem, as a "Baptism" with which he had to be baptized. The blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus are types of Baptism and the Eucharist, the sacraments of new life. From then on, it is possible "to be born of water and the Spirit" in order to enter the Kingdom of God.
See where you are baptized, see where Baptism comes from, if not from the cross of Christ, from his death. There is the whole mystery: he died for you. In him you are redeemed, in him you are saved.
-- CCC 1225
The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.
-- CCC 1257

(Art: St Peter preaching, Masolino da Panicale, 1426-27, fresco, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"Proclaim the Gospel"

"Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature."
-- Mk 16:9-15

The transmission of the Christian faith consists primarily in proclaiming Jesus Christ in order to lead others to faith in him. From the beginning, the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Christ: "We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." And they invite people of every era to enter into the joy of their communion with Christ:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life - the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us- that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete.
-- CCC 425
(Art: Christ's appearance behind locked doors, Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1308-11, tempera on wood, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena.)

Friday, April 17, 2009

"There is no salvation through anyone else,"

They brought them into their presence and questioned them, "By what power or by what name have you done this?" Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered them, "Leaders of the people and elders: If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple, namely, by what means he was saved, then all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed. He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved."
-- Acts 4:1-12

Jesus said to them, "Come, have breakfast." And none of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?" because they realized it was the Lord. Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish. This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead.
-- Jn 21:1-14

Christ's Resurrection was not a return to earthly life, as was the case with the raisings from the dead that he had performed before Easter: Jairus' daughter, the young man of Naim, Lazarus. These actions were miraculous events, but the persons miraculously raised returned by Jesus' power to ordinary earthly life. At some particular moment they would die again. Christ's Resurrection is essentially different. In his risen body he passes from the state of death to another life beyond time and space. At Jesus' Resurrection his body is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit: he shares the divine life in his glorious state, so that St. Paul can say that Christ is "the man of heaven".
-- CCC 646

To be a witness to Christ is to be a "witness to his Resurrection," to "[have eaten and drunk] with him after he rose from the dead." Encounters with the risen Christ characterize the Christian hope of resurrection. We shall rise like Christ, with him, and through him.
-- CCC 995

(Art: Jerome Nadal, Prandet cum septem discipulis.)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Peace be with you."

Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment and send you the Christ already appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration
of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.

Conversion to Christ, the new birth of Baptism, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the Body and Blood of Christ received as food have made us "holy and without blemish," just as the Church herself, the Bride of Christ, is "holy and without blemish." Nevertheless the new life received in Christian initiation has not abolished the frailty and weakness of human nature, nor the inclination to sin that tradition calls concupiscence, which remains in the baptized such that with the help of the grace of Christ they may prove themselves in the struggle of Christian life. This is the struggle of conversion directed toward holiness and eternal life to which the Lord never ceases to call us.

-- CCC 1426

The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way, and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread. While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you."

-- Lk 24:35-48

From the beginning the Church has been faithful to the Lord's command. Of the Church of Jerusalem it is written:

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. . . . Day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts.
-- CCC 1342

In the first community of Jerusalem, believers "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and the prayers." This sequence is characteristic of the Church's prayer: founded on the apostolic faith; authenticated by charity; nourished in the Eucharist.

(Art:Supper at Emmaus, Caravaggio, 1601-02, tempera and oil on canvas, National Gallery, London.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"...what I do have I give you"

"I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk."
-- Acts 3:1-10

St. Luke in his gospel often expresses wonder and praise at the marvels of Christ and in his Acts of the Apostles stresses them as actions of the Holy Spirit: the community of Jerusalem, the invalid healed by Peter and John, the crowd that gives glory to God for that, and the pagans of Pisidia who "were glad and glorified the word of God."
-- CCC 2640

"Just as the office which the Lord confided to Peter alone, as first of the apostles, destined to be transmitted to his successors, is a permanent one, so also endures the office, which the apostles received, of shepherding the Church, a charge destined to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops." Hence the Church teaches that "the bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church, in such wise that whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and whoever despises them despises Christ and him who sent Christ."
-- CCC 862

"Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?"
-- Lk 24:13-35

The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through the putting to death of "the righteous one, my Servant" as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free men from the slavery of sin. Citing a confession of faith that he himself had "received", St. Paul professes that "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures." In particular Jesus' redemptive death fulfills Isaiah's prophecy of the suffering Servant. Indeed Jesus himself explained the meaning of his life and death in the light of God's suffering Servant. After his Resurrection he gave this interpretation of the Scriptures to the disciples at Emmaus, and then to the apostles.
-- CCC 601

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"God has made him both Lord and Christ"

God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.
-- Acts 2:36-41

Jesus accepted Peter's profession of faith, which acknowledged him to be the Messiah, by announcing the imminent Passion of the Son of Man. He unveiled the authentic content of his messianic kingship both in the transcendent identity of the Son of Man "who came down from heaven", and in his redemptive mission as the suffering Servant: "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Hence the true meaning of his kingship is revealed only when he is raised high on the cross. Only after his Resurrection will Peter be able to proclaim Jesus' messianic kingship to the People of God: "Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."
-- CCC 440

Stop holding on to me,
for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
'I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.'

The symbol of the heavens refers us back to the mystery of the covenant we are living when we pray to our Father. He is in heaven, his dwelling place; the Father's house is our homeland. Sin has exiled us from the land of the covenant, but conversion of heart enables us to return to the Father, to heaven. In Christ, then, heaven and earth are reconciled, for the Son alone "descended from heaven" and causes us to ascend there with him, by his Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension.
-- CCC 2795

(Giotto. Resurrection (Noli me tangere). 1304-1306. Fresco. Capella degli Scrovegni, Padua, Italy.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

"God raised this Jesus"

"God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses."
-- Acts 2:14, 22-33

Everything that happened during those Paschal days involves each of the apostles - and Peter in particular - in the building of the new era begun on Easter morning. As witnesses of the Risen One, they remain the foundation stones of his Church. The faith of the first community of believers is based on the witness of concrete men known to the Christians and for the most part still living among them. Peter and the Twelve are the primary "witnesses to his Resurrection", but they are not the only ones - Paul speaks clearly of more than five hundred persons to whom Jesus appeared on a single occasion and also of James and of all the apostles.
-- CCC 642

In the office of the apostles there is one aspect that cannot be transmitted: to be the chosen witnesses of the Lord's Resurrection and so the foundation stones of the Church. But their office also has a permanent aspect. Christ promised to remain with them always. The divine mission entrusted by Jesus to them "will continue to the end of time, since the Gospel they handed on is the lasting source of all life for the Church. Therefore, . . . the apostles took care to appoint successors."
-- CCC 860

"Do not be afraid.
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee,
and there they will see me."
-- Mt 28:8-15

Even when faced with the reality of the risen Jesus the disciples are still doubtful, so impossible did the thing seem: they thought they were seeing a ghost. "In their joy they were still disbelieving and still wondering." Thomas will also experience the test of doubt and St. Matthew relates that during the risen Lord's last appearance in Galilee "some doubted." Therefore the hypothesis that the Resurrection was produced by the apostles' faith (or credulity) will not hold up. On the contrary their faith in the Resurrection was born, under the action of divine grace, from their direct experience of the reality of the risen Jesus.
-- CCC 644

(Art: Christ's appearance when the Apostles are at table, Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1308-11, tempera on wood, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena.)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Resurrexit. È Risorto. He is risen, alleluia!"

Sicut dixit.
Come vi ha detto.
As he said.

The Solemnity of the Resurrection of the Lord

Acts 10, 34. 37-43; Psalm 118;
Col 3, 1-4; John 20, 1-9

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Resurrexit sicut dixit! Alleluia! He is risen as he said! Alleluia!

This day is the Sunday of Sundays. On this and every Sunday we identify ourselves as members of the one Body of the risen Lord, the Church, by worshipping as one people in the Eucharistic sacrifice.

The early Christians called this day "the Day of the Sun" as did everyone else in the Roman Empire. What they meant by that was much more than could be said for the typical Roman, for whom the day marked merely one more rising and setting of the fiery orb that coursed through the skies. For Christians this was the day on which the rising of the "Sun" ever reminded them of the glorious rising of the "Son" of God. Many today habitually profane the Lord's Day, going about their business with no thought of the Lord's Resurrection.

If we desire to live forever in light and love we must share now in the new dawn of the Lord's Resurrection. We do so when we learn to celebrate the Lord's Day in a worthy way, and according to the ancient discipline of the Christian communio, or communion, and the law of Christ.

In the Eucharistic Sacrifice we offer the perfect prayer of Christ, the perfect means of keeping the Lord's Day holy. Our indifference to the Mass condemns us as indifferent to Christ Himself. Worship with the Christian communio is not an option among options. It expresses and makes present the core reality of our identity as Christians. Without the Lord, as he manifests Himself in Word and Sacrament, it is impossible for us to look forward to heaven and eternal joy. 'Without me," he warns, "you can do nothing."

The Catechism teaches that the day of the Resurrection is the beginning of the new creation.

"Jesus rose from the dead 'on the first day of the week.' (Jn 20:1) Because it is the 'first day,' the day of Christ's Resurrection recalls the first creation. Because it is the 'eighth day' following the Sabbath, (Mk 16:1) it symbolizes the new creation ushered in by Christ's Resurrection. For Christians it has become the first of all days, the first of all feasts, the Lord's Day (he kuriaka hemera, dies dominica) - Sunday:

We all gather on the day of the sun, for it is the first day [after the Jewish Sabbath, but also the first day] when God, separating matter from darkness, made the world; on this same day Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead." (St. Justin, Apology) (CCC 2174)

I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy" -Father Cusick

(Publish with permission.)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Homily for the Easter Vigil 2009: "He is not here. He has gone before you."

“You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.”

In this place tonight, enveloped in the darkness of death and confusion, among this people, a single gleam which pierced the gloom has spread to become a profuse glow, a fire great enough to embrace every soul, here and all over the world. Because of this light what at first was confusing, an anonymous mass of humanity, has taken on a new appearance because each face, each person is revealed in this light. The Source of this light has disclosed a new truth to be embraced: each one here must be recognized, loved and affirmed in a unique and personal way. Each flame reveals a new way of seeing, for each flame embraces within its glow a face and a name and a life as good and worthy as every other life here. The Source of light invites all to a new way of being that begins with this recognition of each one present. The light leads us forward, away from the darkness of the tomb of yesterday with its broken hopes and shattered dreams.

And also here the Person who bears this new light has been proclaimed, has gone forth, in the words we have heard, the Truth which beckons to minds and hearts in the darkness of confusion. An invitation has gone forth, and all hears have heard, that there is now a path set before us by means of the light of the Word, a path that leads from darkness to light: “He goes before you.” In freedom we are now called to take a risk and step beyond the familiar, beyond our fears and into the future, by means of this light which illuminates the path before us.

But the darkness still remains, and opposes itself to the light. What are we to say of the darkness? What of the tomb, which remains even in the presence of this Light? The tombs, the places of darkness in each of our lives are the people, places and things to which we have turned again and again and again in an unholy way, whether out of ignorance or temptation or habit or compulsion, and which have always left us sad and empty and alone. We have learned that “He is not here”, that he cannot be found in the darkness of sin. In our weakness, how often have we gone back again and again to the darkness of the tomb, expecting something different, something shiny and new and comforting, and yet always finding it just as we have been told it would be, just as the Light has revealed in the proclamation of this ray of His Truth which is the Word, here tonight among us, the honest light of Truth which reveals in its glare the reality of our lives without God: “He is not here.”

This darkness threatens the addict who returns again and again in slavery to substances, and other created things, and who goes away empty and sad: “He is not here.” Or the person who labors under guilt, even for sins already forgiven in confession, and fails to live the joy of forgiveness: “He is not here”. Or the father or mother, husband or wife, whose love has grown cold and who sees the life of the home only as a source of anger or bitterness: “He is not here.” Or the one who yielded to impurity and rejected the healing of the confessional time and time again: “He is not here”. Or the woman or man who through abortion made a tomb of the womb and returns again and again in memory to the horror of death, rather than going forward as beckoned by the light of reconciling love in Christ to seek His sacred presence in the persons who surround them every day. And this darkness remains in the victim of abuse who returns in memory to the horror of degradation, reliving the disgust and humiliation of being used by another and lacking the growth in healing that comes with forgiving one's enemies: "He is not here."

In our celebration of the Lord's Passion yesterday we accompanied the Lord through His death and into His tomb. Now, tonight, words of great joy and wonder have been proclaimed to us: “He is not here.” We are called to turn away from the places in our past, in our memories and in our imagination, which have been revealed as false promises in the cold glare of His light of truth; to turn away from these tombs where we cannot find Him. And that is not all: what is more, we have been told where we are now to go, what we are now to do. We must follow Him, for “He has gone before us.”

Will each of us now go forward in this new Easter light? Will we make the choice to assent to the truth revealed by Him who is the Light of life, the One whose love can neither deceive nor be deceived? Will we then also take the courageous step of following the one who is victorious over the grave, has left the tomb empty of its power and who has gone before us? He has gone before us, with his flesh and blood and bone, this very flesh and blood and bone that is each of ours here tonight, and with that Body he has touched and healed with His Life the death that threatens us with darkness and fear. He has made what was once dark full of light, for we know that death no longer has the final word: “He is not here.”

And he has gone before us, so that our temptations to seek an escape in fantasy, or to bury our fears in the things of this world, no longer hold power over us. There is now no horror for us in going with the Risen One to the heart of darkness, for we now know and believe that no matter how long or how dark the night of temptation, there need never again be fear of sin, a dread to confront with honesty and truth the horror at the heart of the darkness we have found in our hearts and in our lives because of sin. He who has broken the bondage of the grave now suffuses all that we are and all that we know in His own light of love, the light which has conquered even the greatest darkness which is death, and has thus destroyed the fear of fears.

What does it mean that “He has gone before us”? In the gift of the Risen Jesus, in His Eucharistic Sacrifice and His Body and Blood which is our gift in every Mass, is revealed the secret of Easter joy. In each of our lives, through the grace of the glorified humanity of Christ beyond the grave, God seeks to find His way again into our world. Each of us has a light we must carry, a flame of the truth of His love crucified, by which our own flesh reveals God’s love and His Son becomes incarnate once again each day as we arise anew to say “yes” to life, “yes” to love. In the fleshly reality of family, in our work and play, in our parish of Saint Peter’s and in our world, we live by the light of Easter glory as we see and welcome Him in every human person, revealing by this grace that He is alive in each one of us.

“You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.
He has been raised; he is not here.
Behold the place where they laid him.
But go and tell his disciples and Peter,
'He is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him, as he told you.'"

"You will see Him." Jesus Christ goes to the darkest place and makes it full of light. The Lord enters into the bondage of our greatest fear, the tomb of death, breaking its power and leaving it empty, a mere shell shorn of its threat and stripped of its terror. In the grace of the Eucharist he reveals the path of hope, the path of true life, of the Love which does not disappoint. "He has gone before you." Will you follow?

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

He is truly risen! Alleluia!

Happy Easter, everyone.


(Art: Holy women at the tomb of Christ, Annibale Caracci, late 16th century, oil on canvas, State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg)

Friday, April 10, 2009

"Consummatum est" "It is finished."

The Father's will.

"I thirst."

"Into Thy hands I commend my Spirit."

"he was pierced for our offenses"

Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,
our sufferings that he endured,
while we thought of him as stricken,
as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses,
crushed for our sins;
upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,
by his stripes we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep,
each following his own way;
but the LORD laid upon him
the guilt of us all.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wednesday of Holy Week: "I am not disgraced"

The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
He is near who upholds my right;
if anyone wishes to oppose me,
let us appear together.
Who disputes my right?
Let him confront me.
See, the Lord GOD is my help;
who will prove me wrong?
-- Is 50:4-9a

The first commandment is also concerned with sins against hope, namely, despair and presumption: By despair, man ceases to hope for his personal salvation from God, for help in attaining it or for the forgiveness of his sins. Despair is contrary to God's goodness, to his justice - for the Lord is faithful to his promises - and to his mercy.
-- CCC 2091

justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.
-- CCC 1996

"What are you willing to give me
if I hand him over to you?"
-- Mt 26:14-25

It is precisely in the Passion, when the mercy of Christ is about to vanquish it, that sin most clearly manifests its violence and its many forms: unbelief, murderous hatred, shunning and mockery by the leaders and the people, Pilate's cowardice and the cruelty of the soldiers, Judas' betrayal - so bitter to Jesus, Peter's denial and the disciples' flight. However, at the very hour of darkness, the hour of the prince of this world, the sacrifice of Christ secretly becomes the source from which the forgiveness of our sins will pour forth inexhaustibly.
-- CCC 1851

(Art: Pact of Judas, Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1308-11 Tempera on wood, 50 x 53 cm,Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tuesday of Holy Week: "Hear me ... O distant peoples."

"my reward is with the Lord,
my recompense is with my God."
-- Is 49:1-6

We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere "to the end" and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God's eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for "all men to be saved." She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven:

Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.
-- CCC 1821

"Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself,
and he will glorify him at once.
-- Jn 13:21-33, 36-38

The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God's victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God's triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.
-- CCC 677

(Art: Jan and Hubert van Eyck, detail, Ghent Altarpiece, Saint Bavo Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium, 1432.)

Wednesday of Holy Week: "I am not disgraced"

The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
He is near who upholds my right;
if anyone wishes to oppose me,
let us appear together.
Who disputes my right?
Let him confront me.
See, the Lord GOD is my help;
who will prove me wrong?
-- Is 50:4-9a

The first commandment is also concerned with sins against hope, namely, despair and presumption: By despair, man ceases to hope for his personal salvation from God, for help in attaining it or for the forgiveness of his sins. Despair is contrary to God's goodness, to his justice - for the Lord is faithful to his promises - and to his mercy.
-- CCC 2091

justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.
-- CCC 1996

"What are you willing to give me
if I hand him over to you?"

Monday, April 6, 2009

"The coastlands will wait for His teaching"

"to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness."

Whoever is called "to teach Christ" must first seek "the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus"; he must suffer "the loss of all things. . ." in order to "gain Christ and be found in him", and "to know him and the power of his resurrection, and [to] share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible [he] may attain the resurrection from the dead".
-- CCC 428
Whoever is called "to teach Christ" must first seek "the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus"; he must suffer "the loss of all things. . ." in order to "gain Christ and be found in him", and "to know him and the power of his resurrection, and [to] share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible [he] may attain the resurrection from the dead".
-- CCC 428

"You always have the poor with you."
Beginning with the Old Testament, all kinds of juridical measures (the jubilee year of forgiveness of debts, prohibition of loans at interest and the keeping of collateral, the obligation to tithe, the daily payment of the day-laborer, the right to glean vines and fields) answer the exhortation of Deuteronomy: "For the poor will never cease out of the land; therefore I command you, 'You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor in the land.'" Jesus makes these words his own: "The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me." In so doing he does not soften the vehemence of former oracles against "buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals . . .," but invites us to recognize his own presence in the poor who are his brethren:

When her mother reproached her for caring for the poor and the sick at home, St. Rose of Lima said to her: "When we serve the poor and the sick, we serve Jesus. We must not fail to help our neighbors, because in them we serve Jesus.
-- CCC 2449

By treasuring His poor, do we not learn Christ and teach Christ? "The surpassing treasure of knowing Christ Jesus" begins in those who bear His image, sometimes in the "distressing disguise" of ignorance and rejection of the truth and of Jesus Christ Himself. As we find His image thus we grow to see His image in ourselves for only He, in us, can love those who do not love Him.


(Art: Hieronymus Bosch. Christ Crowned with Thorns. 1500s. Oil on panel. National Gallery, London.)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday in Roma

The Procession

"Et emisit spiritum - He sent forth His Spirit"

(Sources: The New Liturgical Movement and Daylife.)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Passion Sunday: "All who see me scoff at me; they mock me with parted lips, they wag their heads"

Procession Gospel: St. Matthew 21, 1-11

Mass: Isaiah 50, 4-7; Psalm 22, 8-9. 17-18. 19-20. 23-24; Philippians 2. 6-11; St. Matthew 26, 14-27, 66.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We prepare now with Christ to enter the holiest of weeks in which we celebrate all of the events leading up to his passion, death and burial. And in doing so we recall how by his death he has transformed our death from a curse into the door of eternal life.

Death is transformed by Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, also himself suffered the death that is part of the human condition. Yet, despite his anguish as he faced death, he accepted it in an act of complete and free submission to his Father's will. (Cf. Mk 14:33-34; Heb 5:7-8) The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing. (Cf. Rom 5:19-21) (CCC 1009)

With the procession of palms which begins today's Mass, we celebrate Christ's entrance into Jerusalem to accomplish his paschal mystery. Those who today acclaim him king, and cry "Hosannah!", will days hence demand he die as a criminal. On Holy Thursday we will take part in a re-enactment of the foot-washing of the Apostles, the twelve men chosen as foundation stones of the Church. To them Christ gave the gift of Christian priesthood and through them he has handed down to us the perfect memorial of his suffering and death in the Eucharistic sacrifice. We will honor our Lord's gift of his Body and Blood as we carry the Blessed Sacrament in procession following Thursday's solemn liturgy of "The Lord's Supper." We will remain in silent adoration until midnight.

On Good Friday we enter more fully into the death of the Lord in our celebration of the Passion.We are strengthened to face our own death as we accompany our Lord on the via crucis, the way of the cross. We join ourselves to the obedience of the Son that we may also obey the Father's will and die a truly "Christian death."

It is in regard to death that man's condition is most shrouded in doubt.'[GS 18.] In a sense bodily death is natural, but for faith it is in fact 'the wages of sin.'(Rom 6:23 ;) (cf. Gen 2:17 .) For those who die in Christ's grace it is a participation in the death of the Lord, so that they can also share his Resurrection.(Cf. Rom 6:3-9 ; Phil 3:10-11 .) (CCC 1006)

Because of Christ, Christian death has a positive meaning: 'For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.' (Phil 1:21) 'The saying is sure:" if we have died with him, we will also live with him." ' (2 Tim 2:11) What is essentially new about Christian death is this: through Baptism, the Christian has already 'died with Christ' sacramentally, in order to live a new life; and if we die in Christ's grace, physical death completes this 'dying with Christ' and so completes our incorporation into him in his redeeming act." (CCC 1010)

This day in particular is appropriate for the celebration of the sacrament of Penance. We will adore the holy cross and remain until midnight in silent contemplation of the glorious Son of God who "reigns from the wood".

Holy Saturday with its silence bespeaks the breathless waiting of a world yet held in bondage to ferocious death. The faithful are tested as they persevere in hope for the Lord of life to manifest himself and give light to all men. No liturgy is celebrated on Holy Saturday, for Christ's Church cannot pray except through the living Christ. We watch and wait at the silent tomb with our Lady and the other faithful ones who have not abandoned Jesus.

To rise with Christ, we must die with Christ: we must 'be away from the body and at home with the Lord.' (2 Cor 5:8) In that 'departure' which is death the soul is separated from the body. (Cf. Phil 1:23) It will be reunited with the body on the day of resurrection of the dead. (CCC 1005)

St. Leo the Great, pope, speaks compellingly of the mysteries of Holy Week:

"True reverence for the Lord's passion means fixing the eyes of our heart on Jesus crucified and recognizing in him our own humanity. The earth-our earthly nature- should tremble at the suffering of its Redeemer. The rocks-the hearts of unbelievers- should burst asunder. The dead, imprisoned in the tombs of their mortality, should come forth, the massive stones now ripped apart. Foreshadowings of the future resurrection should appear in the holy city, the Church of God: what is to happen to our bodies should now take place in our hearts." (Liturgy of the Hours, Thursday, Fourth Week of Lent)

I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick

(Publish with permission.)

(Art: Titian, Ecce Homo.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"I AM"

"I will maintain my covenant with you
and your descendants after you
throughout the ages as an everlasting pact,
to be your God."
-- Gn 17:3-9

The nuptial covenant between God and his people Israel had prepared the way for the new and everlasting covenant in which the Son of God, by becoming incarnate and giving his life, has united to himself in a certain way all mankind saved by him, thus preparing for "the wedding-feast of the Lamb."
--CCC 1612

"Amen, amen, I say to you,
before Abraham came to be, I AM."
-- Jn 8:51-59

God revealed himself to his people Israel by making his name known to them. A name expresses a person's essence and identity and the meaning of this person's life. God has a name; he is not an anonymous force. To disclose one's name is to make oneself known to others; in a way it is to hand oneself over by becoming accessible, capable of being known more intimately and addressed personally.
-- CCC 203

"We will not serve your god"

"If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue that you set up."
-- Dn 3:14-20, 91-92, 95

The first commandment condemns polytheism. It requires man neither to believe in, nor to venerate, other divinities than the one true God. Scripture constantly recalls this rejection of "idols, [of] silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see." These empty idols make their worshippers empty: "Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them." God, however, is the "living God" who gives life and intervenes in history.
-- CCC 2112

The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, "the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype," and "whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it." The honor paid to sacred images is a "respectful veneration," not the adoration due to God alone:

Religious worship is not directed to images in themselves, considered as mere things, but under their distinctive aspect as images leading us on to God incarnate. The movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is.
-- CCC 2132
They answered and said to him, "Our father is Abraham."
Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children,
you would be doing the works of Abraham.
But now you are trying to kill me,
a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God;
Abraham did not do this.
You are doing the works of your father!"
So they said to him, "We were not born of fornication.
We have one Father, God."
Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me,
for I came from God and am here;
I did not come on my own, but he sent me."

-- Jn 8:31-42

Before we make our own this first exclamation of the Lord's Prayer, we must humbly cleanse our hearts of certain false images drawn "from this world." Humility makes us recognize that "no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him," that is, "to little children." The purification of our hearts has to do with paternal or maternal images, stemming from our personal and cultural history, and influencing our relationship with God. God our Father transcends the categories of the created world. To impose our own ideas in this area "upon him" would be to fabricate idols to adore or pull down. To pray to the Father is to enter into his mystery as he is and as the Son has revealed him to us.

The expression God the Father had never been revealed to anyone. When Moses himself asked God who he was, he heard another name. The Father's name has been revealed to us in the Son, for the name "Son" implies the new name "Father."
-- CCC 2779
The signs worked by Jesus attest that the Father has sent him. They invite belief in him. To those who turn to him in faith, he grants what they ask. So miracles strengthen faith in the One who does his Father's works; they bear witness that he is the Son of God. But his miracles can also be occasions for "offence"; they are not intended to satisfy people's curiosity or desire for magic Despite his evident miracles some people reject Jesus; he is even accused of acting by the power of demons.

-- CCC 548

Peter could recognize the transcendent character of the Messiah's divine sonship because Jesus had clearly allowed it to be so understood. To his accusers' question before the Sanhedrin, "Are you the Son of God, then?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am." Well before this, Jesus referred to himself as "the Son" who knows the Father, as distinct from the "servants" God had earlier sent to his people; he is superior even to the angels. He distinguished his sonship from that of his disciples by never saying "our Father", except to command them: "You, then, pray like this: 'Our Father'", and he emphasized this distinction, saying "my Father and your Father".
-- CCC 443