Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Great Vigil of Easter 2012: "“Why do you seek the Living One among the dead?"

"He is not here, but he has been raised."

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 ears 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.

Click here for full text of homily for Easter Vigil.

Art: Annibale Caracci, The Empty Tomb.

Easter Sunday: "This man God raised"

"... everyone who believes in him
will receive forgiveness of sins through his name."

After his Resurrection, Christ sent his apostles "so that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations." The apostles and their successors carry out this "ministry of reconciliation," not only by announcing to men God's forgiveness merited for us by Christ, and calling them to conversion and faith; but also by communicating to them the forgiveness of sins in Baptism, and reconciling them with God and with the Church through the power of the keys, received from Christ:

[The Church] has received the keys of the Kingdom of heaven so that, in her, sins may be forgiven through Christ's blood and the Holy Spirit's action. In this Church, the soul dead through sin comes back to life in order to live with Christ, whose grace has saved us.
-- CCC 981

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday: "It is finished"

"When the hour had come for him to fulfill the Father's plan of love, Jesus allows a glimpse of the boundless depth of his filial prayer, not only before he freely delivered himself up ("Abba . . . not my will, but yours."), but even in his last words on the Cross, where prayer and the gift of self are but one: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"; "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise", "Woman, behold your son" - "Behold your mother"; "I thirst."; "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"; "It is finished"; "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" until the "loud cry" as he expires, giving up his spirit." (CCC 2605)

"All the troubles, for all time, of humanity enslaved by sin and death, all the petitions and intercessions of salvation history are summed up in this cry of the incarnate Word. Here the Father accepts them and, beyond all hope, answers them by raising his Son. Thus is fulfilled and brought to completion the drama of prayer in the economy of creation and salvation. The Psalter gives us the key to prayer in Christ. In the "today" of the Resurrection the Father says: "You are my Son, today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession."
The Letter to the Hebrews expresses in dramatic terms how the prayer of Jesus accomplished the victory of salvation: "In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered, and being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him."
(CCC 2606)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Holy Thursday: "his hour had come"

to pass from this world to the Father.
He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end

By embracing in his human heart the Father's love for men, Jesus "loved them to the end", for "greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." In suffering and death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the salvation of men. Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men, whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted his Passion and death: "No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord." Hence the sovereign freedom of God's Son as he went out to his death.
-- CCC 609

Art: Jacopo Bassano, Last Supper.

Monday, March 25, 2013

"Here is my servant"

Upon whom I have put my Spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
Not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
The Messiah's characteristics are revealed above all in the "Servant songs." These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus' Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our "form as slave." Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life.
-- CCC 713 

Monday of Holy Wekk

Saturday, March 23, 2013

"It's real, it's not Memorex!": the inconvenience of loving God is the Cross, the treasure of heaven on earth

Do you have friends or family that bought the unlimited texting plan?  Sometimes they no longer answer the phone when you call and will instead take more time and energy texting back a return message.  Unfortunately, such a method of responding sometimes comes across more as a convenience for them rather than a real desire to hear the voice of another human being who cared enough to call.

Recently, Pope Francis talked about two kinds of poverty: material and spiritual poverty:

"But there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the "tyranny of relativism", which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples. And that brings me to a second reason for my name. Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth."

Remember "It's not live, it's memorex!"? The substitute for reality was considered as good as reality itself. Today unlimited texting is attractive: no surprises at the end of the month in our bill! God, however, does not want our unlimited texts, He wants us. There are some things more important than control over how much something will cost us, over how much we must invest in the things we want, over unpleasant surprises in our bill at the end of the month. How about avoiding a permanently unpleasant surprise at the end of our lives when God respects our choice to give Him something less than ourselves which is the cost of loving? 

When each of us judges and acts purely on our own criteria relationships suffer and with them, so do we.  Unlimited texting is good for avoiding surprises in our bill at the end of the month, but isn't there someone or something more important than control over things, over money, over this world which  will end?  People are more important than things.  And God who gives His own life in Christ on the Cross is the most important Person of all.

The fear of material poverty can drive us to the point where we are spiritually impoverished: we can even become an accessory to the crime of being robbed of heaven if work or things or earthly realities of any kind choke out the spiritual life, the life of God in each one of us.

The way to heaven is the royal road of the Cross, a road that we must really and truly walk with the One who truly died on the Cross and who now offers to accompany us as we carry our crosses in union with Him.

The liturgies of the Triduum, Latin for "three days", are the most important days of faith for us all year, an opportunity to live together with the Church the events of Christ's Passion and death, burial and Resurrection for our salvation.  When each of us celebrates these events by participating in the liturgies which we will hold on those three days here in our church, we will truly live and experience them with Christ our Savior.  Is this not a very important opportunity for us to act on our love for Him, to more deeply accept the graces of salvation?  Please plan to join us for these most important days.

The riches of the Cross, the treasure of our salvation, is ours when we are truly present to His truly present self-giving, so simply and beautifully ours, in every holy Mass.

God love you.

Friday, March 22, 2013

"I hear the whisperings of many:"

“Terror on every side!
Denounce! let us denounce him!”
All those who were my friends
are on the watch for any misstep of mine.
“Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail,
and take our vengeance on him.”

Kidnapping and hostage taking bring on a reign of terror; by means of threats they subject their victims to intolerable pressures. They are morally wrong. Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity. Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.
-- CCC 2297

Thursday, March 21, 2013

"... you are to become the father of a host of nations."

“On your part, you and your descendants after you
must keep my covenant throughout the ages."

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28:19-20).
-- CCC 1276 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"now you are trying to kill me"

“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."

The One whom the Father has sent into our hearts, the Spirit of his Son, is truly God. Consubstantial with the Father and the Son, the Spirit is inseparable from them, in both the inner life of the Trinity and his gift of love for the world. In adoring the Holy Trinity, life-giving, consubstantial, and indivisible, the Church's faith also professes the distinction of persons. When the Father sends his Word, he always sends his Breath. In their joint mission, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct but inseparable. To be sure, it is Christ who is seen, the visible image of the invisible God, but it is the Spirit who reveals him.
-- CCC 689

Wednesday, Fifth Week of Lent

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Solemnity of S Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church: "I have made you father"

I will raise up your heir after you, ...
and I will make his kingdom firm.
It is he who shall build a house for my name.
And I will make his royal throne firm forever.
I will be a father to him,
and he shall be a son to me.
-- 2 Samuel 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16

To the shepherds, the angel announced the birth of Jesus as the Messiah promised to Israel: "To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." From the beginning he was "the one whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world", conceived as "holy" in Mary's virginal womb. God called Joseph to "take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit", so that Jesus, "who is called Christ", should be born of Joseph's spouse into the messianic lineage of David.
-- CCC 437

The Church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the hour of our death. In the ancient litany of the saints, for instance, she has us pray: "From a sudden and unforeseen death, deliver us, O Lord"; to ask the Mother of God to intercede for us "at the hour of our death" in the Hail Mary; and to entrust ourselves to St. Joseph, the patron of a happy death.

Every action of yours, every thought, should be those of one who expects to die before the day is out. Death would have no great terrors for you if you had a quiet conscience. . . . Then why not keep clear of sin instead of running away from death? If you aren't fit to face death today, it's very unlikely you will be tomorrow. . . .
Praised are you, my Lord, for our sister bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.
Woe on those who will die in mortal sin!
Blessed are they who will be found
in your most holy will,
for the second death will not harm them.
-- CCC 1014
To pray the Litany of Saint Joseph, click here.

Art: Gerrit Van Honthorst, Saint Joseph, 1620.

Monday, March 18, 2013

S Cyril of Jerusalem: "Where is your father?

“You know neither me nor my Father.
If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

Through his grace, the Holy Spirit is the first to awaken faith in us and to communicate to us the new life, which is to "know the Father and the one whom he has sent, Jesus Christ." But the Spirit is the last of the persons of the Holy Trinity to be revealed. St. Gregory of Nazianzus, the Theologian, explains this progression in terms of the pedagogy of divine "condescension":
The Old Testament proclaimed the Father clearly, but the Son more obscurely. The New Testament revealed the Son and gave us a glimpse of the divinity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit dwells among us and grants us a clearer vision of himself. It was not prudent, when the divinity of the Father had not yet been confessed, to proclaim the Son openly and, when the divinity of the Son was not yet admitted, to add the Holy Spirit as an extra burden, to speak somewhat daringly. . . . By advancing and progressing "from glory to glory," the light of the Trinity will shine in ever more brilliant rays.
-- CCC 684

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"Go, and sin no more": Forgiveness is a Person and Being Forgiven is a Relationship

What is love?  What is compassion?  There are many answers to this question especially today when so many people value re-defining the world in ever expanding ways.  Even the love unique to the family born of the union between one man and one woman has been subjected by so many to attempted re-definition.

Here in this place we do something unlike the many who define the world as an extension of themselves and of their own ideas: here, in this place which is the house of God and where God is in charge, we let God define Himself, His gifts, His love.  God gives life and has something to say about that beautiful gift and the way in which it is to be lived which He has given to all of us.

In today’s Gospel we learn that God’s love is expressed in such a way as to reach all of us.  Because all of us are sinners His love must be given as forgiveness.  And this love and forgiveness has a name, the name of Jesus Christ.
So forgiveness is a Person.

Jesus does not simply tell the woman caught in adultery that her sin no longer has power over her, a dreaded power experienced as fear, or self-loathing, or dire results which perhaps may even include final death.  He says “Your sins are forgiven you” but then He also adds something else which reveals the way in which He invites this woman to live without the weight of the power of shame, self-loathing or condemnation by God or others.  First He refers to Himself, saying, "Neither do I condemn you" and then he adds, “sin no more”.

Are these merely parting words, as if the Lord says, “Have a good day", or “Goodbye”.  For the man or woman who discovers in forgiveness the person of Jesus Christ these are, in fact, words of invitation: “in Me, the One who has the power to forgive, discover the way to sin no more.”  God gives Himself as the way of living in holiness which is the absence of evil or sin.

Forgiveness is not a thing but a Divine Person, who calls us and invites us into a relationship with Himself.

When we fall in the most serious ways and need to get up again, He gives Himself as perfect, compassionate love through forgiveness in the confessional.  For sustainment in the graced relationship built up and growing day by day He offers Himself in the Holy Eucharist.  He expresses His Eucharistic Presence in us through a life of prayer and service, the embrace of our families and others in mutual servanthood, in humble acceptance of the other.

Jesus Christ is the Divine Person who both has the power to forgive sins and restore our freedom and to grant in Himself the way of life which is "sinning no more".  We cannot accept His forgiveness without also accepting He who forgives.  Forgiveness is a Person so being forgiven is a relationship.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

"they were hatching plots against me"

“Let us destroy the tree in its vigor;
let us cut him off from the land of the living,
so that his name will be spoken no more.”

Christ's death was a real death in that it put an end to his earthly human existence. But because of the union which the person of the Son retained with his body, his was not a mortal corpse like others, for "it was not possible for death to hold him" and therefore "divine power preserved Christ's body from corruption." Both of these statements can be said of Christ: "He was cut off out of the land of the living", and "My flesh will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let your Holy One see corruption." Jesus' Resurrection "on the third day" was the sign of this, also because bodily decay was held to begin on the fourth day after death.
-- CCC 627

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"For the Father loves the Son"

" ... and shows him everything that he himself does"

"O blessed light, O Trinity and first Unity!" God is eternal blessedness, undying life, unfading light. God is love: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God freely wills to communicate the glory of his blessed life. Such is the "plan of his loving kindness", conceived by the Father before the foundation of the world, in his beloved Son: "He destined us in love to be his sons" and "to be conformed to the image of his Son", through "the spirit of sonship". This plan is a "grace [which] was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began", stemming immediately from Trinitarian love. It unfolds in the work of creation, the whole history of salvation after the fall, and the missions of the Son and the Spirit, which are continued in the mission of the Church.
-- CCC 257

Wednesday, Fourth Week of Lent 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"I saw water flowing"

“Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”
(Jn 5:1-16 )

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)

Monday, March 11, 2013

"... you will not believe"

“Unless you people see signs and wonders..."

-- Jn 4:43-54

Jesus accompanies his words with many "mighty works and wonders and signs", which manifest that the kingdom is present in him and attest that he was the promised Messiah.

(CCC 547)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Fourth Sunday of Lent: Prodigal Son, Prodigal Father

Prodigal Son, Prodigal Father

This famous and beautiful parable of Jesus is popularly known as "The Parable of the Prodigal Son".  If you look up the word prodigal you will find it has at least two different sense, one negative and the other positive.

: characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure : lavish prodigal
feast> <prodigal outlays for her clothes>
: recklessly spendthrift prodigal
: yielding abundantly : luxuriant —often used with of prodigal
of her bounty — H. T. Buckle>
Now, the reason that the son is described as prodigal is, clearly, not in a positive sense, as I am sure we all know:

"... the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation."

The prodigal son measures the value of his life in terms of things and not people.  He takes all his possessions, all gifts from the father, gathers them up and leaves home in order to use those things in evil ways, among them to lure other people into sinning with him by offering them a share in his worldly riches.  Evil compounds itself when things that are good, gifts given in love from the Father, are used in a utilitarian sense: people are not seen as ends in themselves but as means to an end whether personal pleasure or power.

The prodigal selfishness of the son finds a response in the prodigal love of the Father which cures by the power of witness because based not upon a calculus of what the Father wants but upon what the son needs. The son was not loving others and experienced a kind of slavery or bondage within himself because he used others for himself, just like things, rather than loving others for their own sake.  He encounters the real love, the love that he lacked, in the Father who loves not for his own sake but for the one loved.

".. everything I have is yours."

Real love converts, inviting others also to the freedom of loving others simply in order to love, not in order to get something for oneself.

What have we done to falsify or to cheapen love of God and others, giving less than a sincere gift of self, substituting the virtual for the real, giving what is convenient or easy instead of what is truly needed?  For example, when did you last spend cell phone-free time with a spouse or children?  When did you last attend Mass not because you had to but because it is a privilege?

"let us return"

to the LORD,
it is he who has rent, but he will heal us;
he has struck us, but he will bind our wounds.
He will revive us after two days;
on the third day he will raise us up

Christ will raise us up "on the last day"; but it is also true that, in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ. For, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, Christian life is already now on earth a participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ:
And you were buried with him in Baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. . . . If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
-- CCC 1002 
Saturday, Third Week of Lent

Friday, March 8, 2013


Take with you words,
and return to the LORD;
Say to him, “Forgive all iniquity..."

Through his Word, God speaks to man. By words, mental or vocal, our prayer takes flesh. Yet it is most important that the heart should be present to him to whom we are speaking in prayer: "Whether or not our prayer is heard depends not on the number of words, but on the fervor of our souls."
-- CCC 2700 

Friday, Third Week of Lent 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets"

I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.

Jesus, Israel's Messiah and therefore the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, was to fulfill the Law by keeping it in its all embracing detail - according to his own words, down to "the least of these commandments". He is in fact the only one who could keep it perfectly. On their own admission the Jews were never able to observe the Law in its entirety without violating the least of its precepts. This is why every year on the Day of Atonement the children of Israel ask God's forgiveness for their transgressions of the Law. The Law indeed makes up one inseparable whole, and St. James recalls, "Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it."
-- CCC 578

Wednesday, Third Week of Lent

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"Do not take away your mercy from us"

“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”

Only God forgives sins. Since he is the Son of God, Jesus says of himself, "The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" and exercises this divine power: "Your sins are forgiven." Further, by virtue of his divine authority he gives this power to men to exercise in his name.
-- CCC 1441
Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

Monday, March 4, 2013

"Wash and be clean"

there were many lepers in Israel
during the time of Elisha the prophet;
yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
This sacrament is also called "the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit," for it signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one "can enter the kingdom of God."
--CCC 1215
Monday of the Third Week of Lent

Saturday, March 2, 2013

“This man welcomes sinners"

Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt
and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance...

To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself." Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion.
-- CCC 1385 

Friday, March 1, 2013

"This is the heir"

The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes

The New Law is called a law of love because it makes us act out of the love infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than from fear; a law of grace, because it confers the strength of grace to act, by means of faith and the sacraments; a law of freedom, because it sets us free from the ritual and juridical observances of the Old Law, inclines us to act spontaneously by the prompting of charity and, finally, lets us pass from the condition of a servant who "does not know what his master is doing" to that of a friend of Christ - "For all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you" - or even to the status of son and heir.
-- CCC 1972