Thursday, November 30, 2006

Readings: Feast of St Andrew

Reading 1 (Rom 10:9-18)

Brothers and sisters:
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved.
For one believes with the heart and so is justified,
and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.
The Scripture says,
No one who believes in him will be put to shame.
There is no distinction between Jew and Greek;
the same Lord is Lord of all,
enriching all who call upon him.
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed?
And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard?
And how can they hear without someone to preach?
And how can people preach unless they are sent?
As it is written,
How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!
But not everyone has heeded the good news;
for Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed what was heard from us?
Thus faith comes from what is heard,
and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.
But I ask, did they not hear?
Certainly they did; for

Their voice has gone forth to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.

Responsorial Psalm (Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11)
The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.

Gospel (Mt 4:18-22)

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,
Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
At once they left their nets and followed him.
He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.
He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father
and followed him.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"Words can't describe"

Here are some recent comments from anonymous bloggers about the Eucharist:

"It is a gift from God to be able to experience and partake in the Eucharist as it was intended. And not everyone gets it, which is something that is hard for me to understand."

"From lots of entries on this blog about the Eucharist etc, this takes some (Catholics) many years, if ever, to actually 'get.'"

"I don't get the whole real presence thing."

Thank you all for your comments. Firstly, it is very good that we are discussing this on here because we are at least trying to process one of the great mysteries of our faith. Something has registered in our minds and hearts that the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is REAL. For many people, nothing ever registers, as some of you have acknowledged.

Secondly, there is a difference between BELIEVING THAT and UNDERSTANDING HOW the Eucharist is truly Jesus' Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. When I write about people 'getting it' about the Eucharist, I am usually referring to them BELIEVING THAT it is true. I don't understand HOW it is true, but I believe THAT it is true. It comes down to four words: "This is my body". Jesus says it, and I believe it. He doesn't tell us that we need to understand the Eucharist, and he knows we never will because of our finite, limited intellects. But, he does tell us to believe and receive the Eucharist.

Thirdly, why is it that so many don't 'get it' about the Eucharist? As I've mentioned before, statistics from years ago revealed that 70% of Catholics don't believe in the Real Presence; they believe it is a symbol only of Christ's flesh and blood. I truly believe this is the case because so many Catholics don't know the teaching. Culpability about the ignorance of most Catholics about the Eucharist lies with both clergy and laity.

By and large, people don't know a) what Christ taught about the Eucharist (John 6), b) what the Church teaches (transubstantiation), and c) what really happens at Mass (Consecration). In scores of conversations with people over the years, I have found that when people hear these things, the "light" goes on, and they "get it". And when they "get it", it doesn't just stay in their minds: it leads them to a real encounter with the Real Presence. It leads them to receive the Eucharist in their heart, body, and soul.

The Mass is the greatest encounter we have with the Eucharist because we become one with the Risen flesh of our Lord (in much the same way a husband and wife become one flesh). If we open our hearts and minds to what is said and done during Mass, then we will have a deep and profound encounter with our Lord in Holy Communion. We will be inundated by his Grace - whether we feel it or not - and be one with Love, Peace, Joy, and Mercy. Whether the Grace will be fruitful in us does require our openness. Grace builds on nature; for the grace of the Eucharist to be fruitful, we have to be open to it. I would recommend attending a weekday Mass for those who are struggling with the Eucharist.

Another great way to experience Christ's presence in the Eucharist is Adoration. This generally means praying in front of the tabernacle in Church; some times, however, the Eucharist is brought out of the tabernacle and exposed in a monstrance. We do this "exposed Adoration" every Friday night here at St. A's for an hour (7-8 pm). It is a moving and awesome experience! Words can't describe what it's like to be in the presence of Christ, and to be able to see Him. Like daily Mass, I would recommend Adoration to anyone who desires to have a stronger faith and love for Jesus in the Eucharist.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"There are days"

Here is a beautiful post by "Joan" from earlier this month. Thanks, Joan!

"There are days I wish Mass lasted longer because I become so absorbed in it, and days when I feel like I may have missed the whole point (and sometime wonder if I should go again and see if it sinks in the second time). There are days I sit before our Lord Exposed and feel his presence and other days I wonder what to do with the time and why I even bothered to be there. Jesus who is God cried out for the cup to pass him by. In his crucifixion, He also asked "why have you abandoned me?"

Through faith we know God is with us in the good and bad times. I have hunted for retreats (but never gone); considered finding a spiritual advisor (but don't know where to start); sleeping in (mortal sin - really bad idea). I can only speak for me, but I have come up with a few things that help in the dry times.

(1) Remember there is always a purpose to everything, even if we never figure out what it is in this life. (I'm making my own 'can you tell me why' list for Heaven). This may be a time when we are to learn or strengthen the virtue of patience, of humility, of submission.....
(2) More time in the presence of our Lord - in the tabernacle or exposed; even if it's just to sit there and try to quiet my mind.
(3) Anticipating a particular part of the Mass and focusing on its significance and purpose(such as the elevation during consecration; placing a piece of the Eucharist in the Precious Blood; the words of the Our Father)
(4) Remembering I'm not the one in charge. The graces will come when the Lord sends them - not before. Many times, it's not until the dryness is over that I realize I am stronger for it.
(5) Reading about the saints and reflecting on their lives. Many of the saints also had dry times when they continued to pray but had no feeling of the Lord being with them. Some describe a feeling of being so alone, but above all trusting in the Lord. We are all called to be saints, but the path isn't easy.

Just some things that work for me as I continue on my journey to holiness. As for names - how many people know your confirmation name???"

Monday, November 27, 2006

Q & A time

Here are some recent questions from bloggers (sorry to some of you for taking so long to answer; there are a lot of questions on this site!):

what is the historical background of celibacy? and can you give me some defense why maintain ceibacy in priesthood?”
Priestly celibacy was instituted by the Roman Catholic Church in the 11th century A.D. Some defense for it can be found in my post on Sept. 14, “The joy of priestly celibacy”

I've never known that we Catholics are not allowed to receive bread and wine in other churches. Once, I went to a Baptist church with my Baptist friend, out of my curiosity, they distributed the bread and wine and I took it, but I didn't pray as when I receive the Holy communion at a Catholic church. Do I commit any sin then?”
Yes, it was a grave offense. But, if you didn’t have full knowledge, then it wasn’t a mortal sin.

Can Catholics be godparents to Non-Catholic children?” Yes, that is permissible.

The money that is collected during "All Soul's Day" does that go towards the upkeep of the church or salaries?”The collection from the Masses on All Souls Day goes toward paying the stipends for priests who offer Masses for all souls during November.

What is the role of a canon lawyer?”
You can read a helpful article about the role of canon lawyers at:

Father Greg, am I wrong for not giving to panhandlers on the street. I actually offered to buy one something to eat at a hot dog stand instead of giving him money. My wife and I give generously to the Cardinals appeal which supports programs to help these people. I just feel I am the victim of a shakedown when a panhandler approaches.”
I approach panhandlers on the street in the same way you did that once- offer them something (food, clothing, etc.) instead of money (because it might be used inappropriately). Mostly, though, I try and talk with them if possible. That’s one of the main things they really want – is to talk to someone. They are real people and want to be treated that way by others. Even if it’s a quick encounter, I ask them their first name, and pray for them. There are people on the street I met years ago that I still pray for every day! That is the best thing you can do for them after talking with them, if you ask me.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Christ the King

I was on the Internet the other day, looking up Forbes magazine’s list of the “Richest People in the World”, specifically the wealthiest kings, princes, queens, and rulers. It was pretty interesting. Like, the prince of Saudi Arabia – he’s worth about $ 24 billion! I had to think about that for a few minutes. That’s 24,000 million dollars!! He has a 317 room palace that cost $135 million to build. It’s 400,000 square feet (which is probably about 100 times the size of our Church). He has eight elevators and 500 television sets. I think the guy has some money!

Also, it’s interesting to study rulers over the centuries and see how they have accumulated power. They have the ability to rule, many times by force because of their large armies. They amass large followings of people in building up their earthly kingdoms. Kings, queens, prime ministers, emperors, presidents, etc. are seen as the people who have the most because of all of the wealth, power, and prestige they have.

Now, we compare all of this to our King. In earthly terms, Jesus doesn’t look much like a king. He would be at the bottom of the Forbes’ “richest” list. His throne? It’s a tree… the Cross. His crown? It’s made out thorns. His army? It’s twelve weak and uneducated men. How, then, is he “the ruler of the kings of the earth”, as we hear in the second reading, the Book of Revelation, chapter one? Christ says in the Gospel that his kingdom does not belong to this world. “His dominion is an everlasting dominion”, the Book of Daniel tells us in the first reading. Christ’s kingdom is infinite; all earthly kingdoms are finite. Christ is not just King; he is the King of Kings.

If we added up all of the money, power, and prestige of the all the kings, queens, and rulers that have ever lived, they would only be a fraction of what Christ has. Their power is limited; his is unlimited. Christ brought the everlasting kingdom of God to Earth. How many kings and rulers have risen from the dead? None. Christ has. How many of them have the power to heal a soul? Christ does. How many of them have brought about the forgiveness of sins in the name of God? Christ brings the forgiveness of sins.

The main difference is that Christ’s kingdom is a kingdom of love. We are his servants, but we are also heirs to his throne. He calls each of us to share in his kingdom of love. He calls us to share in his power over death: he calls us to share in his resurrection. He calls us to share in his healing power. He calls us to share in the forgiveness of sins. We are called to share in his kingdom! When each of us was baptized, we were anointed priest, prophet, and king, just like he was.

Let’s say we are invited to the home of one of the kings or rulers for dinner. Actually, let’s keep it a little more close to home, and say we are invited to dinner at the White House. How would we approach that experience? Would we even think about arriving late? Would we leave early? Like, as soon as we finished the meal, we are out the door. So, compare that experience to coming to the meal at the home of the King of Kings, and ask the same questions.

Christ is not just the host, he is the food. He gives us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink. In a very real way, then, we will receive his kingdom in our bodies and souls in a few minutes! As with any food, it takes 10-15 minutes for the Eucharist to digest in our bodies. We should treat that time with great respect and reverence. We have his love inside us in a very real way, then. He has such great love for each of us, and wants us to share in his kingdom of love. As you receive the Eucharist, may you know his love this day.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Radical sacrifice

When I first read the following comment from an anonymous blogger, I was impressed but didn't know who the person was or the context of her story. I have since learned who the author is, and she is a good friend of mine. Some might read what she wrote and think that she and her husband are crazy. I can testify to their saneness! They are deeply good Christian disciples, spouses, and parents. They have realized that God is calling them to make a heroic and radical sacrifice for their children, and they have generously responded. What a great witness to Christian charity, simplicity, and generosity!

"We live in a very expensive part of the country. Materialism is rampant. Materialism is insidious. It can lead families into serious debt and literally rob families of just plain old time together.It can erode marital relationships. It can cause children to lose essential closeness with parents (who are primary instructors of the faith). Materialism can cause us to worship idols, have too much pride, and lose our faith. We are so overmarketed in this country - the advertisers make a mockery of Christmas. I can see Jesus now walking into a Macy's sale and throwing all the goods around (as he did that day in the temple).

My husband and I just lived through some of consequences of putting too much emphasis on materialism. After much prayer, time in adoration, and direction from an elder Christian, he approached me with a radical idea.

Long story short, we sold our nice sized suburban home. Sold our toys - extra vehicles - among other things. We downsized in every way for the sole purpose of aligning our lives with the service of Jesus Christ. We could see the effects of living the typical American Dream. No thanks.

My husband asked me to give up a six figure business to stay home and love and support the family. We have several children.

We have never felt greater joy in many years. We can't wait to tithe more and serve more in the church. We are teaching our kids the value of money instead of teaching them that it grows on trees. We eat family dinners EVERY night again and we pray as a family every day.

I realize this radical move is not necessary or appropriate for everyone. The will of God astounds me. God's will=God's pleasure."

Friday, November 24, 2006

Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church

Spiritual and corporal works of mercy

I hope that everyone had a great day of Thanksgiving yesterday. For adults, especially, getting together with family to celebrate a holiday is usually an intense experience. It can be intensely good and loving; for some, it is intensely tough. For many mothers, especially, it's intense work (of cooking)! For devout followers of Christ, it can be an opportunity to perform a spiritual work of mercy. It's often very difficult if we engage in conversation with family members who are not devout and are not open to us as witnesses to Christ (Jesus says we are prophets in every town but our own).

When people ask me what the best way is to help lead family members who have strayed back into Christ's flock, I say that it's mainly through our actions. The way we live speaks more to them than anything that comes out of our mouths. If we are faithfully living the Gospel, then we are teaching them and others about Christ. As St. Francis told his friars, "always, always, always teach the Gospel. And, when you absolutely have to, use words".

Holiday family gatherings are some times when we have to use words. Family members might engage in discussions on faith or morals at the dinner table, or ask questions about the Church. Or, they might even be critical of the Church in some way. We might find one-on-one opportunites with some. If we have family members who are not Catholic, they may make comments or ask questions about what we believe. While our parents, siblings, and other kin may not accept us as teachers or prophets of Christ, we should see these moments as teaching moments.

Please understand that I am not advocating taking the offensive position in this, and attacking those who have drifted in their faith. I am referring to times when we need to defend Christ and his teachings. Also, it should always be done in charity. Any evangelization done without charity has no value: "If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal" (1 Cor 13:1). The whole reason any of us would defend Christ and evangelize, especially to our families, is love.

It is an act of love to teach people about Christ, even if it is difficult or uncomfortable. If we didn't love those in our families, we wouldn't care about their lives and their souls, and, thus, wouldn't try to help them in their faith. But, it is because we love them that we would take the risk, enter the danger zone, and proclaim the Gospel. It is for the sake of love that we would perform any spiritual or corporal work of mercy for them or others. I have listed them below:

The spiritual works of mercy

To instruct the ignorant
To counsel the doubtful
To admonish sinners
To bear wrongs patiently
To forgive offenses willingly
To comfort the afflicted
To pray for the living and the dead

The corporal works of mercy

To feed the hungry
To give drink to the thirsty
To clothe the naked
To give shelter to the homeless
To visit the sick
To visit the imprisoned
To bury the dead

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Here was the homily (more or less) I gave this morning at the school Mass for Thanksgiving:

Now, you all will be giving thanks tomorrow for all the things in your lives that God has given you – your families, friends, teachers, etc. But, what I want to know is what things about your Catholic Christian faith are you thankful for? For me, I am thankful for the priesthood – for all of the priests who have helped me in my life, and that I am a priest. So, what things about your Catholic faith are you all thankful for? (“The chance to get to Heaven”…“the saints”…”Jesus”) Those are all great answers! Yes, it’s important to be thankful for the great things of our faith.

Now, how many of you were listening to the Gospel (most hands go up)? That’s really good! So, how many people did God heal? (“10”). Yes. And, how many came back to say thank you? (“One”). That’s right. Jesus says, ‘where did the other nine go?’ I guess they went off somewhere else. Now, another thing that we heard in the Gospel…that God healed these men, the lepers, through priests. God continues to help people through priests.

Some of ask, ‘what do you and Fr. Mike do all day?’ As I have said before, you might think that we sit around and pray all day (going, ‘lalalalalala’…Like, the phone rings and we hear, ‘Fr Mike, Fr Greg, there’s someone on the phone…we just say, ‘can’t talk, we’re praying, ‘lalalalala’). No, we do pray but not all day and not like that. We help people all day. People come to me with their problems. They might be having problems at home or with their families. Sometimes, people have problems with their faith; their faith has gotten weak. I try to help them. It’s like I said at the basketball game the other night, priests give their lives to helping people. God helps people through his priests.

God has given us everything. Do, we say ‘thank you, God’ for all that we have? Do we say, ‘thank you, Jesus’. He has given us everything! The clothes we are wearing, the food that will be on our tables tonight, our families, parents, teachers, friends, our sense of humor – everything. Are we like the one person who comes back to say, ‘thank you, Jesus’, or are we like the nine who don’t? What is the greatest thing to thank Jesus for? (pointing to the Cross) I’ll give you a hint. (“Dying for our sins to be forgiven”). That’s right, dying on the Cross for us.

Today, we celebrate the feast day of St. Cecilia. She died for Jesus. She was a martyr. Red is the color of martyrs; that’s why I am wearing red today. Every day, St. Cecilia said, ‘thank you, Jesus’. When she came to Mass, she stayed after Mass for a few moments to make her prayer of thanksgiving. She said, ‘Jesus, thank you for speaking to us in the readings…thank you for giving us your Body and Blood in the Eucharist.’ She was so thankful for everything that she had received at Mass!

Tomorrow, we will all say, ‘thank you, Jesus’. But, today, we want to start. In a moment, I will count to three, and everyone will say, ‘thank you, Jesus’, out loud. Now, Jesus is close to us in the tabernacle, but I think that the walls and door of the tabernacle are pretty thick, so say it loud enough for him to hear it. He likes to hear ‘thank you’, just like he liked it when the one man cam back to say thanks. OK, here we go…one…two… three: (“THANK YOU, JESUS”). Wow, I think he heard you!! That was really good!!

This is what you want to do tomorrow- say, ‘thank you, Jesus’. Now, you don’t need to go around your house shouting it like you just did (your parents will say, ‘what has Fr. Greg been teaching you?!)! No, you can just say it in your heart and in your mind. You can be like the one leper, you can be like St. Cecilia, you can be like all of the saints, who said ‘thank you, Jesus’ every day. We all should say that every day- he has given us everything. Tomorrow, especially, we all say…one…two…three…THANK YOU, JESUS!!!!!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"Her ineffable beauty"

Today, the Church celebrates a memorial of the Blessed Mother (Presentation of Mary by her parents in the temple). Here is the "Meditation of the Day" written by Fr. Jacob of Serug (9th cent. A.D.) from Magnificat, a Catholic monthly publication:

"From her childhood, Mary stood firm in unblemished uprightness; she walked in the way without offenses. Her original nature was preserved with a will for good things because there were always tokens of virginity in her body and holy things in her soul. This deed which took place in her gave me power to speak these things concerning her ineffable beauty. Because she became Mother of the Son of God, I saw and firmly believed that she is the only woman in the world who is entirely pure.

From when she knew to distinguish good from evil, she stood firm in purity of heart and in integrity of thoughts. She did not turn aside from the justice which is in the Law, and neither carnal nor bodily desire distubed her. From her childhood, impulses of holiness stirred within her, and in her excellence, she increaed them with great care. The Lord was always set before her eyes; on him she was gazing, so that she mght be enlightened by him, and delighted in him.

Because he saw how pure she was and limpid her soul, he wanted to dwell in her since she was free from evils. Since a woman like her had never been seen, an amazing work was done in her which is the greatest of all. A daughter of men was sought among women; she was chosen who was the fairest of all. The holy Father wanted to make a mother for his Son, but he did not allow that she be his mother because of his choice.

Maiden, full of beauty hidden in her and around her, and pure of heart that she might see the mysteries which had come to pass in her. This is beauty, when one is beautiful of one's own accord; glorious graces of perfection are in her will. However great be the beauty of something from God, it is not acclaimed if freedom is not present. The sun is beautiful but it is not praised by spectators, because it is known that its will does not give it light.

Whoever is beautiful of his own accord and possesses beauty, on this account he is truly acclaimed if he is beautiful. Even God loves beauty which is from the will; he praises a good will whenever this has pleased him. Now this Virgin whom, behold, we speak of her story by means of her good will, she was plasing and was chosen. He was descending to become man by the daghter of man; because she was pleasing, she was chosen that he might be from her".

Monday, November 20, 2006

Witness to faith

Last month, a blogger wrote, "Today I found out the worst news of my life that both my parents have cancer. They have chosen not to have chemotherapy. I cried my little heart out because I love them both so much and what would I do without them? I recalled them after I stopped crying and they told me me they needed my strength and what was happening to them was God's Will. I will be a very strong person and be like the people during Lent suffering on the inside and not show it on the outside so I won't put any burden on anyone else. All I ask is that pray for me so I can be strong for my parents. I will be going up to Emmitsburg where there is a garden to get holy water. Maybe that will help."

Anon, I am very sorry to hear your news. I am praying for you, and ask others on here to do the same. Anon, good will come out of this! You may not see it now, but God has a Plan with all of this. A friend of mine from the seminary, Fr. Darin Didier, lost his battle to cancer shortly after being ordained a priest last year. God's Plan for Fr Darin had to do with him doing good as a priest briefly on Earth and eternally in Heaven (there have already been a few reports of ill people getting better after asking for his intercession).

The following are excerpts of a post that I wrote about Fr. Darin, "Living next to a saint":

"Darin and I were friends, classmates, and neighbors. I would hear him coughing through many a night in his last year of seminary. He rarely (if ever) complained about the cancer, and lived his simple yet joyful life as normally as ever. Darin was very athletic, intelligent, kind, enthusiastic, and loving. To me and many others, he was a saint. For nine months, I had the great honor of living next to a saint!

When he was first diagnosed with the cancer, he underwent radiation and chemotherapy, and had to leave the seminary. After a while, the doctors told him that the treatments were not working properly. Eventually, he was told by them that there was nothing more that they could do. So, Darin turned to natural supplements, a strict diet (he was already a health nut), and to priests. He had a few priests pray over him in the hopes of a healing. Basically, he put his whole life in the hands of God.

Amazingly...he was well enough to return to the seminary and resume his formation for priesthood. He continued a rigorous natural and supernatural diet... He was an heroic witness to the virtue of faith to so many people at and around the Mount, not to mention elsewhere. What courage!

The amazing gift for Fr Darin, obviously, is priesthood. He was cured long enough to be ordained. When a man is ordained a priest, it is forever. Fr Darin is a priest forever! I believe he is like John Paul II in the sense that he had a very short stay in Purgatory, and is now in Heaven. He endured the Cross in huge ways; now, he enjoys the fruits of Paradise with Almighty God and all the angels and saints."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

33rd Sunday

Here are some excerpts from homilies of the Fathers of the Church for today's readings:

St. John Chrysostom (Archbishop of Constantinople, 4th cent. A.D.): "For God always appears in a cloud, as according to Psalm 92, verse 2: Cloud and darkness are round about him. Hence also the Son of man will come in the clouds as both God and Lord, not humbly, but in the glory befitting the Godhead; accordingly, he adds: with great power and majesty".

St. Cyril of Alexandria (Bishop, 5th cent.): "Great events are to be understood in relation to each other. Just as His First Coming was in lowliness and humility, so His Second shall be in fitting majesty".

St. Gregory the Great (Pope, 6th cent.): "In power and majesty shall they behold Him, to whom when He came in lowliness they turned a deaf ear; so the more sharply will they now feel His power, the more they refused to humble their hard hearts to his clemency".

St. Ambrose (Bishop of Milan, 4th cent.) "The fig tree has a twofold meaning; either as when the hard grows tender, or when sin abounds. Either therefore when the fruit is green on all the trees, and the fig tree branch blooms also; that is, when every tongue doth confess the Lord, confessing also the people of Israel, we must hope for the coming of the Lord, in which, as in summer time, the fruits of the Resurrection shall be gathered in; or, when the son if iniquity shall have put on as a garland, vain and empty boast, the leaves of the synagogic branch, we must then see that the judgment approaches; for the Lord is hastening to reward faith, and to make an end of wrong doing".

St. Gregory: "Heaven and earth shall pass away, etc. as though He were to say: everything that seems to you enduring, shall not endure for eternity; and everything that with Me seems to pass away, will remain immovable and without change. For my speech, which passes away, utters that which shall abide without change".

St. Bede (Priest, 8th cent.): "The heaven that will pass away is not the ethereal, or sidereal, heaven, but the aerial, after which the birds of heaven are named. If, however, the earth shall pass away, how does Ecclesiastes say, the earth standeth for ever. But, it is plain that He means, that the heavens and the earth shall pas away in their present form, but that in their essence they will endure for ever".

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Victory for vocations

Result from last night's basketball game: St. A's 31, DC Hood 30. "Wait", you're saying, "you guys lost. Why are you calling it a 'victory for vocations'?" Overall, it was a victory for both St. Andrew's and DC Hood. What a great night! Thanks be to God, we had another great turnout here; the organizers were saying they were even more people there last night than last year (which was a good crowd). And, most everyone, especially the young ones, was extremely spirited and vocal.

It was the closest game the 'Hood has had- the first one that came down to the wire. DC Hood's #3 did his best to give the game to St. A's (after all, it IS his parish!), and St. A's made one free throw with one second on the clock to win the game. Both teams played good defense, but struggled on the offensive end. With the series tied at one game a piece, preparation for next year have already begun (I will try to talk single NBA players into a vocation to the priesthood over the next 12 months!).

But, one of the best parts of these games are the halftime talks by the priests and religious sisters. Last night, we were very blessed to have Sr. Regina and Sr. Mary Katherine from the Daughters of Charity. They spoke to everyone, but mainly the kids, about being a sister. They talked about their great love for Jesus in the poor, and how it came about that God called them to their lives of service. They encouraged the kids (and their parents) to be open to whatever vocation God has for them. It was really great to see some of the St. A's girls right there with them during the presentations.

Then, I spoke about priesthood. I told the story about when I was a seminarian stationed in a parish one summer, and took a trip to Tennessee to serve the poor with the parish youth group. One of our teens (a girl who was about 15 or 16) was angry at God and didn't want anything to do with faith, prayer, etc. As the week went on, she told us that it was because of a problem at home that she was angry. We talked with her about how much Jesus loves her, and that he would never do anything to hurt her.

By the end of the week, she was praying with us, and going to Mass. When we got home, she was the first one in line for Confessions, and was so happy when she came out. She wrote a letter to the parish, saying how that week changed her life! I told the crowd last night that priests and religious give their lives to helping people, like that girl. They teach people about Jesus, about staying close to Christ in the Eucharist, Confession, and prayer, how to live the Gospel, and how to get to Heaven.

I finished by saying that if God is calling them to be a priest or sister, it is a call to happiness. The DC 'Hood priests and Daughters of Charity are happy people! It is an AWESOME life!!

The scoreboard didn't indicate it, but it was truly a victory for vocations (I have to keep telling myself that as I think about the game itself). Many thanks to the efforts of all of the organizers, and for everyone who came out to support vocations.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Anointing of the Sick

1) DC 'Hood v. St Andrew's basketball game - tonight (11/17), 7:30 pm Wheaton High School (12601 Dalewood Drive, Wheaton). The SAA junior high boys and girls will play a game from 7-7:30 pm, and we'll play after them. See you there!!

2) There will still be Adoration tomorrow night (11/17), SAA Church, 7-8 pm.
Someone asked me a little while ago, "Can you explain the Annointing of the Sick?" Thanks for asking because this is one of the most misunderstood sacraments. Anointing of the Sick is for those persons who are seriously ill. When I anoint someone, I explain it is to give them spiritual strength in the midst of their suffering, first and foremost. Any kind of physical healing from the Anointing is up to God and his gracious Will. Also, it can be "preparation for the journey" for those who are dying; it brings forgiveness of sins if the sick person is not able to go to Confession.

Here is a good article I found online by Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., Th.D., about the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. To view the full text, please click on the title of this post:

"Our mission as Church is to do what Jesus did. And on nearly every page of the Gospels we read of Jesus' concern for the sick. Healing was essential to the mission of the disciples: 'He summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two.... They anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them' (see Mark 6:7-13). After Jesus ascended into heaven, the Church continued to be a sacrament of healing: 'Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven' (James 5: 14-15)...

In the course of time, the focus of the sacrament shifted from healing to forgiveness of sins and the time for receiving the sacrament was delayed to the deathbed when forgiveness of sins would also be the final preparation for heaven. 'Over the centuries the Anointing of the Sick was conferred more and more exclusively on those at the point of death. Because of this it received the name "Extreme Unction"' (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1512). The Sacrament of the Sick had become the Last Anointing, the unction in extremis...

The Anointing of the Sick is a different kind of healing than a chemical placed into our body as medicine or a surgical intervention to cut out diseased tissue. Sacraments are acts of faith; they grace the whole person—body, soul and spirit. The blessing over the oil for anointing asks God to 'send the power of your Holy Spirit, the Consoler, into this precious oil. Make this oil a remedy for all who are anointed with it; heal them in body, in soul and in spirit, and deliver them from every affliction' (Pastoral Care of the Sick, #123)...

When our attention is directed toward physical illness, it is natural to think of the effects of the sacrament in terms of physical healing. Sacraments, however, are celebrations of faith, expressions of who we are before God. This understanding of sacrament, together with the realization that we are more than our physical body, has led us to look again at the effects of the Sacrament of Anointing...

The Second Vatican Council has reminded us: 'The purpose of the sacraments is to make people holy, to build up the Body of Christ and finally to give worship to God' (Liturgy, #59). The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick accomplishes this by helping us gain insight into the religious meaning of human suffering."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thursday's Mass readings

1) DC 'Hood v. St Andrew's basketball game - Friday (11/17), 7:30 pm Wheaton High School (12601 Dalewood Drive, Wheaton).

2) There will still be Adoration tomorrow night (11/17), SAA Church, 7-8 pm.
Reading 1 (Plmn 7-20)

I have experienced much joy and encouragement from your love,
because the hearts of the holy ones
have been refreshed by you, brother.
Therefore, although I have the full right in Christ
to order you to do what is proper,
I rather urge you out of love,
being as I am, Paul, an old man,
and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus.
I urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus,
whose father I have become in my imprisonment,
who was once useless to you but is now useful to both you and me.
I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you.
I should have liked to retain him for myself,
so that he might serve me on your behalf
in my imprisonment for the Gospel,
but I did not want to do anything without your consent,
so that the good you do might not be forced but voluntary.
Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while,
that you might have him back forever,
no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother,
beloved especially to me, but even more so to you,
as a man and in the Lord.
So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.
And if he has done you any injustice
or owes you anything, charge it to me.
I, Paul, write this in my own hand: I will pay.
May I not tell you that you owe me your very self.
Yes, brother, may I profit from you in the Lord.
Refresh my heart in Christ.

Responsorial Psalm (Ps 146): Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.

Gospel (Lk 17:20-25)

Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come,
Jesus said in reply,
“The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed,
and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’
For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”

Then he said to his disciples,
“The days will come when you will long to see
one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.
There will be those who will say to you,
‘Look, there he is,’ or ‘Look, here he is.’
Do not go off, do not run in pursuit.
For just as lightning flashes
and lights up the sky from one side to the other,
so will the Son of Man be in his day.
But first he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Eucharistic miracles

DC 'Hood v. St Andrew's basketball game - Friday (11/17), 7:30 pm Wheaton High School (12601 Dalewood Drive, Wheaton). Go 'Hood (sorry, SAA)!!
Here are two stories involving Eucharistic miracles (from the Real Presence Association). Just as the Lord worked miracles 2000 years ago, he has performed several miracles in the Eucharist over the past 1300 years to help our faith in his Real Presence. I have a 30 min. video that explains four of these miracles, and will probably show it to the parish during Advent. Please let me know your thoughts...

1) In 1263 a German priest, Peter of Prague, stopped at Bolsena while on a pilgrimage to Rome. He is described as being a pious priest, but one who found it difficult to believe that Christ was actually present in the consecrated Host. While celebrating Holy Mass above the tomb of St. Christina (located in the church named for this martyr), he had barely spoken the words of Consecration when blood started to seep from the consecrated Host and trickle over his hands onto the altar and the corporal.

The priest was immediately confused. At first he attempted to hide the blood, but then he interrupted the Mass and asked to be taken to the neighboring city of Orvieto, the city where Pope Ur ban IV was then residing.

The Pope listened to the priest's account and absolved him. He then sent emissaries for an immediate investigation. When all the facts were ascertained, he ordered the Bishop of the diocese to bring to Orvieto the Host and the linen cloth bearing the stains of blood. With archbishops, cardinals and other Church dignitaries in attendance, the Pope met the procession and, amid great pomp, had the relics placed in the cathedral. The linen corporal bearing the spots of blood is still reverently enshrined and exhibited in the Cathedral of Orvieto.

2) On August 14, 1730,... thieves entered the deserted Church of St. Francis. Taking advantage of the friars' absence, they made for the chapel where the Blessed Sacrament was kept, picked the lock to the tabernacle and carried away the golden ciborium containing consecrated Hosts.

The theft went undiscovered until the next morning, when the priest opened the tabernacle at the Communion of the Mass... Two days later, on August 17, while praying in the Church of St. Mary of Provenzano, a priest's attention was directed to something white protruding from the offering box attached to his prie dieu. Realizing that it was a Host, he informed the other priests of the church, who in turn notified the Archbishop and the friars of the Church of St. Francis.

When the offering box was opened, in the presence of local priests and the representative of the Archbishop, a large number of Hosts were found, some of them suspended by cobwebs. The Hosts were compared with some unconsecrated ones used in the Church of St. Francis, and proved to be exactly the same size and to have the same mark of the irons upon which they were baked. The number of Hosts corresponded exactly to the number the Franciscan friars had estimated were in the ciborium -- 348 whole Hosts and six halves.

Since the offering box was opened but once a year, the Hosts were covered with the dust and debris that had collected there. After being carefully cleaned by the priests, they were enclosed in a ciborium and placed inside the tabernacle of the main altar of the Church of St. Mary. The following day, in the company of a great gathering of townspeople, Archbishop Alessandro Zondadari carried the Sacred Hosts in solemn procession back to the Church of St. Francis.

To the amazement of the clergy, the Hosts did not deteriorate, but remained fresh and even retained a pleasant scent. With the passage of time the Conventual Franciscans became convinced that they were witnessing a continuing miracle of preservation...

As a test to further confirm the authenticity of the miracle, the Archbishop, during this 1789 examination, ordered several unconsecrated hosts to be placed in a sealed box and kept under lock in the chancery office. Ten years later these were examined and found to be not only disfigured, but also withered. In 1850, 61 years after they were placed in a sealed box, these unconsecrated hosts were found reduced to particles of a dark yellow color, while the consecrated Hosts retained their original freshness...

By this miracle the Hosts have remained whole and shiny, and have maintained the characteristic scent of unleavened bread. Since they are in such a perfect state of conservation, maintaining the appearances of bread, the Catholic Church assures us that although they were consecrated in the year 1730, these Eucharistic Hosts are still really and truly the Body of Christ. The miraculous Hosts have been cherished and venerated in the Basilica of St. Francis in Sienna for over 250 years.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Horoscopes and magic

An anonymous blogger asked, "Isn't horoscopes just a game? Not to be taken seriously? I mean its in the Washington Post". Another blogger answered, "Horoscopes are often used to predict the future, advise people, among other things. Many people see them as 'authority' from the supernatural realm. So this would be breaking the commandment 'Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God. And have no other Gods before Him'. Even if people see it as a harmless game, it is playing with fire. THe Holy Spirit lets us know when and what we need to know. Horoscopes make me laugh -:)".

People who live by faith and reason will see horoscopes as foolishness. If it's a game, it's a dangerous game to play. But, many, many people don't see it as a game. How many define themselves according to their "sign"? The makers of horoscopes know that the majority of their followers do not see them as games only. They know that many people take them very seriously. No matter how people view horoscopes, palm readings, tarot cards, ouija boards, etc., getting involved in any of them is DANGEROUS stuff!

This is from the Catechism:

“All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and re-course to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone” (CCC, # 2116).

Also, I thought it would be interesting to show the next paragraph of the Catechism which addresses magic:

"All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity" (#2117).

Monday, November 13, 2006

"How to live chastity"

DC 'Hood vs. St Andrew's basketball game: this Friday night, I will be playing with the team of priests and seminarians (DC 'Hood) against St Andrew's. It is scheduled for 7 pm, but IT WILL NOT BE AT KENNEDY HS; Kennedy is now hosting a playoff football game that night. We are working on finding an alternate site, and I will let everyone know when we have it. Either way, it will be fun!!
Many people have left questions and comments recently about living chastity. Here are some excerpts from Rev. Thomas Morrow's leaflet, "Is Chastity Possible?" To view the full text, please click on the title of this post.

"How to live chastity"

"How does one live this? How does one develop the virtue of chastity whereby one habitually lives this way without a struggle, or, as Thomas Aquinas put it, "joyfully, easily and promptly"?

Certainly, as a fruit of the Holy Spirit chastity is not something one arrives at without considerable prayer and effort. The fruits of a tree appear last, and so it is with the Holy Spirit's fruits: they require a good deal of cultivation through God's grace. So to begin to live this in our world requires a strong spiritual life. Fifteen minutes of meditation daily (rosary or meditation on the gospels) plus frequent Mass and reception of the sacraments would seem essential to anyone hoping to arrive at this virtue.

But are there any methods one may employ to effectively use the grace received from spiritual exercises to develop chastity?

Yes there are. One must begin by observing with Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica, I, q 81 a3), that the sexual appetite listens not only to reason, but to the senses and the imagination as well. Thus, one must first be careful what he/she looks at or watches. Viewing sexually explicit movies or videocassettes, or pornography, or even focusing on provocatively dressed members of the opposite sex is poison for one seeking chastity. The worst of these is using pornographic materials, since pornography depicts sex as merely recreational and women (or men) as mere objects of enjoyment. Both are terrible lies.

The imagination is another potential danger area. When one becomes aware of an impure thought he/she should immediately try to crowd out the thought with another colorful thought, such as a ball game, or a beautiful sunset, etc. In addition, one should take the advice of St John Vianney to make a sign of the cross to drive away the temptation, and with St Catherine of Siena, say the name of Jesus repeatedly in the heart (which is how she fought off a series of foul temptations). An uninvited impure thought is not sinful, but once a person wills its continuation, sin enters in, and as Jesus pointed out, one can sin seriously in the heart.

In addition, since there are competing voices for the control of the sexual appetite, it doesn't work for reason to deal with the appetite 'despotically,' simply saying "no" to the appetite's appeal. If it does, it will repress the appetite into the unconscious where it will await a chance to explode (Pope John Paul II, in his pre-papal Love and Responsibility, henceforth LR, Ignatius Press, p. 198). At a moment of weakness the appetite will indeed explode with an outburst of sexual activity. This is seen in the person who contains himself/herself for several weeks but then goes on a spree, and repeats this cycle over and over.

The intellect must deal 'politically' with the appetite, setting forth the values which will be gained by living chastity, to make up for the value of the sexual pleasure which is sacrificed."

Sunday, November 12, 2006

32nd Sunday - Homily

If I were to ask you to think of someone who is an example of generosity – whether it’s someone in your family, or a friend, or someone you’ve read about – who would you think of? Is there a specific act of generosity that you might think of that stands out as particularly impressive or inspiring? Well, we hear of two examples of generosity in today’s readings: two poor widows. They have lost so much already –they’ve lost their husbands. And, they don’t have much in terms of money or things. And yet, the little they have, they generously give to others.

In the first reading from the first book of Kings, the poor widow and her son seem to be on the verge of death. They are running out of food, and maybe out of hope, too. Even in her poverty, the poor widow gives to the prophet Elijah the little food she has, trusting that he is a man of God. And, she is richly rewarded for her generosity, receiving far more food than she had in the first place.

In this passage from Mark’s Gospel, Jesus highlights the generosity of the poor widow. The rich are giving large amounts of money to the temple treasury, but she only gives a couple of coins…a couple of cents. But, Jesus says, ‘there! That’s generosity. She is giving all that she has’. Sure, the others give much more in terms of money, but she gives offers up more in terms of sacrifice. The others are giving from their surplus, but she gives all that she has. It is an example of giving when it hurts to give. It is a great example of generosity for us.

So, if each of us looks in the mirror, we ask, ‘am I an example of generosity? Do I generously give my time, talent, and treasure to God and to others?’ We can all be so protective of our time. Our time is very valuable to us. We spend so much time working and being busy that we want to keep the little free time we have to ourselves. But, again think of the widow from the Gospel- she only had a little bit of money, and she still gave the little that she had to others. There are so many here at St. Andrew’s who give the little free time they have to others – serving in the liturgy, as teachers, catechists, and coaches. But, there still is a need for more to give of their time. For example, we still need five coaches for basketball teams this year.

What about coming to Church: do we make coming to Mass “God’s time?” He has given us everything…He gives us 168 hours in the week, and only asks us to give Him one hour each week. Do we give Him that hour? Or, do we come late to Mass, and leave early? Do we really try to pray while we’re here, or do we talk and socialize during Mass, maybe even during Holy Communion? This is His time, not ours.

I have been extremely impressed with the amount of talent we have in our parish and school. So many people generously share their gifts with others, whether in the arts or athletics or education. They see that God has given them all of their gifts, and they give back to Him by sharing their talents with others.

A priest once said to me that if each Catholic were to give 3% of his/her income, Catholic education would be free. I guess we don’t even give 3%, because Catholic education is not free. The Bible says we should give 10%…what do we give? Again, God gives us everything. He gives us all of our income, and only asks for a fraction in return. If we are men and women of faith, we give generously to Him and His Church, and trust that ‘God will provide’. God knows we all have bills to pay, and we are to be wise in how we handle our money. But, He calls us to give generously, and to believe that He will provide for us.

Jesus uses the example of the woman from the Gospel to point to His own act of generosity. Just as she gave her whole livelihood, so Christ gave his whole life as an offering for us on the Cross. He continues to give us his life in the Eucharist. He gives us his life, his love, and his generosity. As we receive his Body and Blood in Holy Communion, may the Grace of this sacrament help us to be more generous. May it help us to be more generous in giving our time, our talent, and our treasure to others, and thus, to Almighty God.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

"who do I hurt if I get drunk?"

An anonymous blogger asked, "What about things that the Church considers sins but which I really do not genuinely feel contrite about? For example, who do I hurt if I get drunk? Who do I hurt if I have lustful thoughts -isn't that natural? I feel phony confessing these things." Thanks, Anon. Firstly, God condemned drunkenness long before He formed the Church. "Woe to those who demand strong drink as soon as they arise in the morning, and linger into the night while wine inflames them!" from Isaiah (5:11) is one of a few examples from the Old Testament; also, St Paul writes that drunkards will not inherit the Kingdom of God in 1 Cor 6:10. So, drunkeness offends God, first and foremost.

Secondly, when you (or anyone) get drunk, you hurt those around you whether you know it or not. It might be physically, but it is always personally. I was recently talking with a parent of a 12 year old boy. She got drunk one night, and then came home with her kids there. She thought that she was fine, and that it was no big deal. Days later, she found that her boy knew she was drunk, and she apologized to him. Now, this is a very good woman and mother; this was a rare occurrence. But, she knew that she hurt him just because she chose to get drunk. Not only that, but she hurt a lot of what she is trying to teach him about not giving into peer pressure, the culture, drugs and alcohol, etc. So, drunkenness hurts all of those around us in ways of which we might not be aware.

Also, it is about who you MIGHT hurt by getting drunk. There is a much greater chance that you will hurt someone while drunk than while sober. You could seriously hurt or kill someone else if you get behind the wheel of a car. You could become physically violent with friends, family members, or strangers. You could become verbally abusive with others. You can be much more mean, angry, impatient, etc. than when you're sober. The person that steps over the line into drunkenness steps away from Christ and into sin which can lead to other sins.

Drunkenness is a sin against the fifth commandment because it is a form of killing one's self. Scientists tell us that it actually kills brain cells. Lustful thoughts that one actively pursues are sins against the 6th commandment. Christ himself tells us this in Mt 5:28. Specifically, lustful thoughts offend God and neighbor, mainly because they offend the dignity of the persons involved. Each time one commits these (and all) sins, they offend God, hurt others, and hurt themselves. They are sins against our whole family, the family of believers that make up the Church (the Body of Christ).

Pope John Paul II wrote about how every sin hurts others in some way. The following is an excerpt from his exhortation, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia (Reconciliation and Penance). To view the full text, please click on the title of this post:

"To speak of social sin means in the first place to recognize that, by virtue of human solidarity which is as mysterious and intangible as it is real and concrete, each individual's sin in some way affects others. This is the other aspect of that solidarity which on the religious level is developed in the profound and magnificent mystery of the communion of saints, thanks to which it has been possible to say that 'every soul that rises above itself, raises up the world.' To this law of ascent there unfortunately corresponds the law of descent. Consequently one can speak of a communion of sin, whereby a soul that lowers itself through sin drags down with itself the church and, in some way, the whole world. In other words, there is no sin, not even the most intimate and secret one, the most strictly individual one, that exclusively concerns the person committing it. With greater or lesser violence, with greater or lesser harm, every sin has repercussions on the entire ecclesial body and the whole human family. According to this first meaning of the term, every sin can undoubtedly be considered as social sin" (16).

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Wednesday's Mass readings

Reading 1
Phil 2:12-18

My beloved, obedient as you have always been,
not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent,
work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
For God is the one who, for his good purpose,
works in you both to desire and to work.
Do everything without grumbling or questioning,
that you may be blameless and innocent,
children of God without blemish
in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,
among whom you shine like lights in the world,
as you hold on to the word of life,
so that my boast for the day of Christ may be
that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
But, even if I am poured out as a libation
upon the sacrificial service of your faith,
I rejoice and share my joy with all of you.
In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me.

Responsorial Psalm (Ps 27): The Lord is my light and my salvation.

Lk 14:25-33

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus,
and he turned and addressed them,
“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters,
and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple.
Which of you wishing to construct a tower
does not first sit down and calculate the cost
to see if there is enough for its completion?
Otherwise, after laying the foundation
and finding himself unable to finish the work
the onlookers should laugh at him and say,
‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’
Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down
and decide whether with ten thousand troops
he can successfully oppose another king
advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?
But if not, while he is still far away,
he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms.
In the same way,
everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions
cannot be my disciple.”

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Today's Mass readings

Reading 1
Phil 2:5-11

Brothers and sisters:
Have among yourselves the same attitude
that is also yours in Christ Jesus,

Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and, found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Responsorial Psalm (Ps 22)

I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.

Lk 14:15-24

One of those at table with Jesus said to him,
“Blessed is the one who will dine in the Kingdom of God.”
He replied to him,
“A man gave a great dinner to which he invited many.
When the time for the dinner came,
he dispatched his servant to say to those invited,
‘Come, everything is now ready.’
But one by one, they all began to excuse themselves.
The first said to him,
‘I have purchased a field and must go to examine it;
I ask you, consider me excused.’
And another said, ‘I have purchased five yoke of oxen
and am on my way to evaluate them;
I ask you, consider me excused.’
And another said, ‘I have just married a woman,
and therefore I cannot come.’
The servant went and reported this to his master.
Then the master of the house in a rage commanded his servant,
‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town
and bring in here the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
The servant reported, ‘Sir, your orders have been carried out
and still there is room.’
The master then ordered the servant,
‘Go out to the highways and hedgerows
and make people come in that my home may be filled.
For, I tell you, none of those men who were invited will taste my dinner.’”

Monday, November 06, 2006

I'll be out of town this week. If I have internet access, I will try to post the readings from each weekday Mass. Have a great week!
Reading 1
Phil 2:1-4

Brothers and sisters:
If there is any encouragement in Christ,
any solace in love,
any participation in the Spirit,
any compassion and mercy,
complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love,
united in heart, thinking one thing.
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory;
rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,
each looking out not for his own interests,
but also everyone for those of others.

Responsorial Psalm (Ps. 131): In you, O Lord, I have found my peace.

Lk 14:12-14

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees.
He said to the host who invited him,
“When you hold a lunch or a dinner,
do not invite your friends or your brothers or sisters
or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors,
in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.
Rather, when you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Sunday, November 05, 2006

31st Sunday - Homily

The greatest commandment is the easiest. Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to “love the lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and all your strength”. It is the easiest commandment… to pay lip service to. I think we all agree with Jesus that this is the love we are to have for God. He has given us life; He has given us everything we have. But, there is some kind of disconnect between what we know and how we live. Whatever the reason - maybe we don’t think it’s possible to love God with all whole selves, we never get around to doing it, or we’re afraid – how many of us love God in this way? Do we love things or people like we should love God? Are there other things or people that we love more than God?

I’ll give a few examples. Now, the first one I will toe the line with because I’m a huge Redskins fan! If we see how some people treat going to a NFL stadium on a Sunday in the Fall, it’s like they’re going to a cathedral! They gladly spend several hours in devotion of their team. It’s like this is their Church, and they are there to worship their god. Even I know that God comes first, especially on Sundays; everything else comes second, even the Redskins.

Some people love money and possessions with their whole beings. They spend so much of their time accumulating money and the latest gadgets or toys, and then spend the rest of their time enjoying them. They have a great devotion to the things of the world…the devotion they’re supposed to have for God. Money can be a false god, as we all know. But, what about people…can we treat people as false gods? Yes, we can put people on pedestals, and idolize them and adore them as we should adore Christ. We can love creatures with the love we should have for the Creator. God is calling us to love HIM with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strengths. But, how do we love Him in those ways?

How do love God with all our hearts? We give our hearts to Him….a conversion of our hearts. We turn away from the things of the world…we turn away from sin, and turn back to Him who made us. He becomes # 1 in our lives. Our passions and desires are for what is good and true.

How do we love God with all our minds? We open ourselves to His Truth…to the Truth. We get on board with the Truth. We acknowledge that we He has taught us about Himself, ourselves, and life is true; and it is what is best for us. We accept that everything He has revealed in Sacred Scripture and in the Tradition of our faith is true, and we follow it. We follow His teachings, and the teachings of His Church.

How do we love God with all our souls? We continually go to receive His Grace, His life. We remain in constant friendship with Him; not only staying in a state of Grace, but growing in Grace with His help. We regularly receive the Grace of the Eucharist and Confession, receiving the Blessed Sacrament at least once a week, and going to Confession at least a few times a year (ideally, once a month).

How do love God with all our strengths? We become men and women of prayer. The Mass is the greatest prayer – we come here every Sunday with our kids / our families; that is non-negotiable. Outside of Mass, we can make a visit to a chapel or Church, and spend time in prayer with Christ. We can pray at home, at work, in the car, or on a walk. God becomes our strength. He becomes our life.

When we have experienced God’s love, then we have experienced the greatest love on Earth. We realize that loving God with our whole selves makes us happiest, and brings us the most peace. No other person or thing can love us like God does. He has created us, and knows everything about us. When we have experienced this love, it naturally leads us to share with others that love. We want what’s best for them, and want them to experience His love. Thus, we love our neighbor as ourselves.

God has such a great love for each one of us. An intense, deep love. He calls each one of us to return that love to Him. Christ doesn’t say, ‘love God with your whole being’ and then leave us. He gives us the Grace to do it. He gives us the Grace to love God with all our hearts, all our minds, all our souls, all our strengths, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

War in Iraq

A blogger wrote in response to my post, 'Sin vs. mistake', "Therefore, the war in Iraq is sinful? Furthermore, you mentioned in aprevious post that Jesus said and it is written in the Bible that each of us has an angel. Where is that in the Bible? I would like to read it." Thanks for your comments - first, the Scripture verse about angels being assigned to each of us is Mt 18:10. Next, regarding your question about the war in Iraq, Pope John Paul II's comments serve as the proper authority. Here are some excerpts from his "address to the diplomatic corps on January 13, 2003 (to view the full text, click on the title of this post):

"I have been personally struck by the feeling of fear which often dwells in the hearts of our contemporaries. An insidious terrorism capable of striking at any time and anywhere; the unresolved problem of the Middle East, with the Holy Land and Iraq; the turmoil disrupting South America, particularly Argentina, Colombia and Venzuela; the conflicts preventing numerous African countries from focusing on their development; the diseases spreading contagion and death; the grave problem of famine, especially in Africa; the irresponsible behaviour contributing to the depletion of the planet’s resources: all these are so many plagues threatening the suvival of humanity, the peace of individuals and the security of societies...

Yet everything can change. It depends on each of us. Everyone can develop within himself his potential for faith, for honesty, for respect of others and for commitment to the service of others.

It also depends, quite obviously, on political leaders, who are called to serve the common good. You will not be surprised if before an assembly of diplomats I state in this regard certain requirements which I believe must be met if entire peoples, perhaps even humanity itself, are not to sink into the abyss...

First, a "YES TO LIFE"! Respect life itself and individual lives: everything starts here, for the most fundamental of human rights is certainly the right to life. Abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, for example, risk reducing the human person to a mere object: life and death to order, as it were! When all moral criteria are removed, scientific research involving the sources of life becomes a denial of the being and the dignity of the person. War itself is an attack on human life since it brings in its wake suffering and death. The battle for peace is always a battle for life!...

"NO TO WAR"! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity. International law, honest dialogue, solidarity between States, the noble exercise of diplomacy: these are methods worthy of individuals and nations in resolving their differences. I say this as I think of those who still place their trust in nuclear weapons and of the all-too-numerous conflicts which continue to hold hostage our brothers and sisters in humanity. At Christmas, Bethlehem reminded us of the unresolved crisis in the Middle East, where two peoples, Israeli and Palestinian, are called to live side-by-side, equally free and sovereign, in mutual respect. Without needing to repeat what I said to you last year on this occasion, I will simply add today, faced with the constant degeneration of the crisis in the Middle East, that the solution will never be imposed by recourse to terrorism or armed conflict, as if military victories could be the solution. And what are we to say of the threat of a war which could strike the people of Iraq, the land of the Prophets, a people already sorely tried by more than twelve years of embargo? War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations. As the Charter of the United Nations Organization and international law itself remind us, war cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military operations...

It is therefore possible to change the course of events, once good will, trust in others, fidelity to commitments and cooperation between responsible partners are allowed to prevail...

may all of us who have gathered in this place, which is a symbol of spirituality, dialogue and peace, contribute by our daily actions to the advancement of all the peoples of the earth, in justice and harmony, to their progress towards conditions of greater happiness and greater justice, far from poverty, violence and threats of war! May God pour out his abundant blessings upon you and all those whom you represent."

Friday, November 03, 2006

"The Courage to be Chaste"

Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All are invited!
A blogger asked me, "What do you think of the book 'The courage to be Chaste' by Benedict Groeschel?" Thanks for the question. Very good book! Fr. Groeschel is a Franciscan Friar of Renewal and a psychologist. He has written many spiritual books, and gives talks all over the country on spirituality and psychology. In "The Courage to be Chaste", Fr. Groeschel gives brilliant spiritual and psychological insights about the virtue of chastity, and how to live it in the modern world. I use much of his wisdom from the book in my teaching and counseling about chastity, especially the root causes for unchaste behavior (loneliness, anxiety, etc.).

Here are some excerpts from the book:

"A chaste life should gradually open a person to greater understanding and acceptance of others, especially of those who are conflicted and troubled by their own sexuality. A mature chaste person is not threatened by the sexual problems of others; he or she can be objective without being scandalized.

A chaste person shoulde experience gradual detachment from the narcissism and self-seeking which are so easily reinforced by sexual indulgence.

A single person who is at peace should have love to share and give away. We have already seen (earlier in the book) the importance of generosity in the life of the single lay person or religious. Loving friendships with peers, with the young and the old, are not a chore for the mature celibate; they develop spontaneously. Perhaps the greatest gift of a chaste life based on love is forgiveness toward those who are jealous of the freedom and spontaneity which chastity brings. Persons who have failed to reach a decision to be chaste, either in marriage or the single life, will instinctively be jealous of the chaste person's freedom and peace. They often spend a lot of time picking the chaste apart, hoping to find some chink in their armor. Sooner or later the chaste person will achieve the confidence to go beyond such conflicts" (p. 107).

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

We are all called to be saints

This is my homily, more or less, for All Saints Day:

Today we celebrate the solemn feast of All Saints. It is a celebration of all the men and women who are in Heaven, but especially those who are unknown. Our first reading from the Book of Revelation says that there are “multitudes” of them in Heaven. And yet, the number of known saints in Heaven is relatively small in comparison. The known saints have been canonized by the Church; we honor them with feasts and memorials throughout the liturgical year. But today is for all of the unknown saints in Heaven.

When we think of a saint, we usually think of someone who has their hands folded and prays all the time; this is what our school kids think that Fr Mike and I do all day! We might think the saints are perfect or that they’re superhuman. But, they are just like you and me- they have weaknesses and commit sins (the only perfect saint is Mary). We are all called to be saints! We are called to be great friends with Jesus Christ and to live the life of the Gospel. If we do, we will be where they are – the Kingdom of Heaven. The goal of life is to get to Heaven. To be a saint means that you are in the Kingdom of Heaven.

By the Grace of God, the saints have made Christ number one in their lives. They live the Beatitudes. “Blessed are the meek” - St. Joseph. “Blessed are the merciful” – St. John Vianney, who was a priest who heard confessions on average for about 14 hours every day in France. “Blessed are the clean of heart” – St. Maria Goretti, who chose to die clean for Jesus at the age of eleven rather than live one day unclean for Him. Christ tells us that if we live the Beatitudes, if we live as saints, we will be happy. Those who live in close friendship with Him in these ways will be “blessed”, or "happy".

So, the Communion of Saints is what we celebrate today. It is one of the most beautiful teachings of our Church. It occurs most especially in the Eucharist. In a few minutes, Jesus will be present on the altar. Where there is the Son, there is the Father and Spirit, and all the angels and saints. This Church, then, becomes like a chamber of Heaven. The Eucharist is where Heaven and Earth meet. All of our family members who have died and are now among the saints in Heaven will be with us, at this Mass and at every Mass. My father, who died eighteen years ago, will be with us, I believe. We can’t see them, but all the saints will be here.

Christ says that the reward for living the life of a saint is happiness, in this life and the next. Today we rejoice and are glad for the saints who have found eternal happiness. They have made it home. They are there! They are where we want to be. They are now enjoying the eternal fruits of their earthly labors, as Christ says: “your reward will be great in Heaven”.