Sunday, December 31, 2006

Feast of the Holy Family - homily

We can obviously apply this Gospel to today’s feast of the Holy Family. But, we can also look at one aspect of it in relation to tonight’s celebration of New Year’s Eve. Mary and Joseph were worried sick about Jesus – he was gone for 3 days! It’s not like Jesus was off partying or up to no good, he wasn’t. But, the point is that parents and loved ones worry about us if they don’t know where we are. Coming from someone who made his own mother sick with worry on many nights, not just New Year’s Eve, I can tell you it was not good. So, as we make our plans for tonight and carry them out, let us be thoughtful and considerate of our parents, spouses, and loved ones. Also, God wants us to enjoy life. There is nothing wrong with drinking alcohol if we are of legal drinking age. But, drunkenness is a sin. It is a serious sin. So, just be cool tonight. Be good and be safe.

The Holy Family is the ideal human family. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph mirror the Most Holy Family- God Himself: Father, Son, and Spirit. God is a family. He is a communion of love. The Holy Family is a family of love, faith, and joy. If we look more closely at what happened in their home, we see that they are all about love and forgiveness. But, we think, ‘poor St. Joseph’. With Mary being perfect and Jesus being perfect, when problems arose, guess who got blamed! If they had ‘reconciliation nights’ or something, I can see it now…’ok, Dad, it’s your turn again’. It must have gotten a little tiresome for him...

Love starts in the home. We first learn about love from our parents. We see the love they have for each other and for us. Then, we see the love our brothers and sisters have for us (hopefully!).

It was a home of faith. We know that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph prayed together. They prayed the psalms at different times of the day, etc. As the old saying goes, “the family that prays together stays together”. It is my hope that all of our families here at St. Andrew’s pray together. Mary and Joseph taught Jesus the Jewish faith. They taught him the customs and laws. We hear in the Gospel that Jesus grew in wisdom and understanding. It is also my hope that our parents are teaching their kids about Jesus and our faith in Him. The Church says that parents are the first teachers of the Gospel.

Parents have come up to me and said, “Father, I need to learn more myself about the faith in order to teach my kids. And, they are starting to ask questions”. As I am helping them with specific questions, I also remind them that the most significant way to teach is by example. It is a serious responsibility to teach by example. Hopefully, we are all giving a good example to our young ones of living the faith.

It was a home of joy. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph enjoyed life together, and they enjoyed each other. Mary and Jesus are fully human! They fully knew how to enjoy this life. And, for you young ones out there, we hear in today’s Gospel that Jesus was 12 years old. He was your age at one point! He played with his friends, and probably played sports (I'm sure he dominated!). He and his parents had fun, prayed together, and loved each other.

We all make up the human family. We are a universal family of God’s children. We hear in the second reading (from the first letter of St. John) that we are all God’s children. Locally, we are a parish family. We come together each week for our family meal. We gather around a table and hear God’s Word and receive the Eucharist, Jesus’ Body and Blood. We come because each of us needs to receive the Eucharist, but we do it as a community, as a family.

If there are family members who are not with us at Mass, our family is not complete. It is like when we sit down at our kitchen table and there are family members missing – the family is not complete. If our brothers and sisters are sitting at home saying that they worshipping God on their own, then that is not Christian. To worship as Christians means to worship as a family. So, we extend an explicit invitation to those family members who are not here to come back and join us at Mass.

We experience God’s love through our family, whether it’s the universal family, the parish family, or our own family. May each of us know the love God has for us – his powerful and intense love. May we know His love this day and in the New Year.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Seeing saints at Mass?

Here are a few questions from bloggers and a very interesting story written by "Linda". Cool stuff!

Anon: "How was it coming back to the good old USA (from Calcutta)- especially Mont. Co.. ???????Have friends who spent time in Medjugorje. They are also from Montgomery County. They found the materialism in this country apalling upon return.
Awesome story - THanks for sharing."

It was culture shock both going over there and coming back here. It was too much to process when I returned. For starters, I enjoyed clean air like I never had before! The biggest impression it has made on me, believe it or not, is how much food we waste in this country. The little kids there would give so much to have a mere portion of what we eat each day - probably the very portion we throw away. I know have a better understanding of why Mother Teresa was so careful to not waste food - "she never left even a morsel of food on her plate", her longtime friend told us - and I have tried to do the same ever since that trip. The staggering stat is that 20% of the world's population uses 80% of its resources. Whoa!

Anon: "A question that has nothing to do with the topic. I have been thinking about something lately. If your pastor leaves the church to go to a new one, does that mean he no longer is your pastor and the new one is?"


Linda:"2 weeks ago my family was priviledged to house 2 young ladies who were part of a group of young adults who travel the country putting on retreats for middle school age kids. They stayed with us for 1 night. As we chatted with them about their experiences and their testimonies (which I love to hear from the young people of the church), one of them told of a young couple they stayed with a couple months earlier who had a beautiful experience. the wife, who wasn't Catholic, had attended a mass with her husband. During the Eucharist Liturgy part of the mass the wife noticed many people dressed in white robes walking back and forth from the altar. Surrounding the altar. She thought it strange since she had never seen that before. she couldn't even see the priest anymore because of all these people surrounding him in white robes. She mentioned this to her husband after mass, asking why there were all those people there this time, going back and forth to and from the altar? His reply was...... WHAT People? What are you talking about. She has since converted to Catholisism. So per Fr. Greg's mention of all the saints being with us at mass..... well there you go. Someone actually saw them!!!"

Friday, December 29, 2006

"Why do bad things happen to good people?"

Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All Catholics and non-Catholics are invited!!
"Sunshine" recently wrote, "I have one question and that is 'Why do bad things always happen to good people.' I see that with my friends, people I work with and people on this blog. It just doesn't seem right." Thanks for the question, Sunshine. The following are excerpts from an excellent article written by Peter Kreeft, a prominent, lay Catholic theologian who teaches at Boston College. To view the full text, please click on the title of this post.

"... Why do bad things happen to good people? The question makes three questionable assumptions.

First, who's to say we are good people? The question should be not 'Why do bad things happen to good people?' but 'Why do good things happen to bad people?' If the fairy godmother tells Cinderella that she can wear her magic gown until midnight, the question should be not 'Why not after midnight?' but 'Why did I get to wear it at all?' The question is not why the glass of water is half empty but why it is half full, for all goodness is gift. The best people are the ones who are most reluctant to call themselves good people. Sinners think they are saints, but saints know they are sinners. The best man who ever lived once said, 'No one is good but God alone.'

Second, who's to say suffering is all bad? Life without it would produce spoiled brats and tyrants, not joyful saints. Rabbi Abraham Heschel says simply, 'The man who has not suffered, what can he possibly know, anyway?' Suffering can work for the greater good of wisdom. It is not true that all things are good, but it is true that 'all things work together for good to those who love God.'

Third, who's to say we have to know all God's reasons? Who ever promised us all the answers? Animals can't understand much about us; why should we be able to understand everything about God? The obvious point of the Book of Job, the world's greatest exploration of the problem of evil, is that we just don't know what God is up to. What a hard lesson to learn: Lesson One, that we are ignorant, that we are infants! No wonder Socrates was declared by the Delphic Oracle to be the wisest man in the world. He interpreted that declaration to mean that he alone knew that he did not have wisdom, and that was true wisdom for man.

A child on the tenth story of a burning building cannot see the firefighters with their safety net on the street. They call up, 'Jump! We'll catch you. Trust us.' The child objects, 'But I can't see you.' The firefighter replies, 'That's all right. I can see you. We are like that child, evil is like the fire, our ignorance is like the smoke, God is like the firefighter, and Christ is like the safety net. If there are situations like this where we must trust even fallible human beings with our lives, where we must trust what we hear, not what we see, then it is reasonable that we must trust the infallible, all-seeing God when we hear from his word but do not see from our reason or experience. We cannot know all God's reasons, but we can know why we cannot know."

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Feast of the Holy Innocents

Reading 1 (1 Jn 1:5—2:2)

This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ
and proclaim to you:
God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.
If we say, “We have fellowship with him,”
while we continue to walk in darkness,
we lie and do not act in truth.
But if we walk in the light as he is in the light,
then we have fellowship with one another,
and the Blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.
If we say, “We are without sin,”
we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just
and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.
If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar,
and his word is not in us.

My children, I am writing this to you
so that you may not commit sin.
But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous one.
He is expiation for our sins,
and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.

Responsorial Psalm (Ps 124:2-3, 4-5, 7cd-8)
Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.

Gospel (Mt 2:13-18)

When the magi had departed, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
“Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt,
and stay there until I tell you.
Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night
and departed for Egypt.
He stayed there until the death of Herod,
that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled,
Out of Egypt I called my son.

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi,
he became furious.
He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity
two years old and under,
in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.
Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Satan in the modern world

A blogger recently asked, "Is there really a Hell"? As I wrote in my August 11 and 14 posts, Jesus tells us explicitly there really is a Hell. But, the question is the same as asking if there really is a Devil. I am reading an intriguing book, "Evidence of Satan in the Modern World" (1961) by Leon Cristiani. The following excerpts from the section, "Lies and Contradictions" (p.162), argue against the greatest of Satan's lies - that God does not exist - while showing that many in our modern world have bought into this deception:

"The negation of God is the first, most serious of falsehoods in our present world. But it is not the only one. We are deep in falsehood, immersed in lies, so that we practically breathe falsehoods without being aware of it.

The emblem of this falsehood is contradiction. If God does not exist, who then is God? We do not say, the Devil, since in his passion to secure the denial of God the Devil prefers to deny, rather than to reveal, his own existence. A modern atheist, whilst denying the existence of God, is also prepared to deny the existence of the Devil. Only man remains. We therefore, are gods. Our science, our technics, our intelligence have sovereignty over everything. We are gods! But we have no souls, since matter alone exists. Or if we have souls, an expression meaning simply that we live and think, there is no question of these being immortal. When a man dies, everything dies. If God is dead, every time a man dies, it is a god who dies.

To deny the existence of God, of Satan, of an immortal soul, to deny any distinction between Good and Evil, to deny the existence of Sin, of Virtue, of Heaven and Hell; these are some of our lies by negation.

And if, after that, we glorify ourselves, if we transform ourselves into the only gods that exist, it is pure contradiction. Being and Nothing are confused. By suppressing all religion we make nihilism the only religion possible. And since that does not suppress the great speeches, the grand promises, and especially the grand illusions, once again everything, whether politics or philosophy or present-day agitation, is reduced to an immense contradiction...

Falsehood and contradiction, such are the first indications of the presence of Satan in the modern world."

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Papal Christmas homily

The following is Pope Benedict XVI's homily at Midnight Mass on Christmas:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have just heard in the Gospel the message given by the angels to the shepherds during that Holy Night, a message which the Church now proclaims to us: "To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger" (Lk 2:11-12). Nothing miraculous, nothing extraordinary, nothing magnificent is given to the shepherds as a sign. All they will see is a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, one who, like all children, needs a mother’s care; a child born in a stable, who therefore lies not in a cradle but in a manger. God ’s sign is the baby in need of help and in poverty. Only in their hearts will the shepherds be able to see that this baby fulfils the promise of the prophet Isaiah, which we heard in the first reading: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder" (Is 9:5). Exactly the same sign has been given to us. We too are invited by the angel of God, through the message of the Gospel, to set out in our hearts to see the child lying in the manger.

God’s sign is simplicity. God’s sign is the baby. God’s sign is that he makes himself small for us. This is how he reigns. He does not come with power and outward splendour. He comes as a baby – defenceless and in need of our help. He does not want to overwhelm us with his strength. He takes away our fear of his greatness. He asks for our love: so he makes himself a child. He wants nothing other from us than our love, through which we spontaneously learn to enter into his feelings, his thoughts and his will – we learn to live with him and to practise with him that humility of renunciation that belongs to the very essence of love. God made himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him, and love him. The Fathers of the Church, in their Greek translation of the Old Testament, found a passage from the prophet Isaiah that Paul also quotes in order to show how God’s new ways had already been foretold in the Old Testament. There we read: "God made his Word short, he abbreviated it" (Is 10:23; Rom 9:28). The Fathers interpreted this in two ways. The Son himself is the Word, the Logos; the eternal Word became small – small enough to fit into a manger. He became a child, so that the Word could be grasped by us. In this way God teaches us to love the little ones. In this way he teaches us to love the weak. In this way he teaches us respect for children. The child of Bethlehem directs our gaze towards all children who suffer and are abused in the world, the born and the unborn. Towards children who are placed as soldiers in a violent world; towards children who have to beg; towards children who suffer deprivation and hunger; towards children who are unloved. In all of these it is the Child of Bethlehem who is crying out to us; it is the God who has become small who appeals to us. Let us pray this night that the brightness of God’s love may enfold all these children. Let us ask God to help us do our part so that the dignity of children may be respected. May they all experience the light of l ove, which mankind needs so much more than the material necessities of life.

And so we come to the second meaning that the Fathers saw in the phrase: "God made his Word short". The Word which God speaks to us in Sacred Scripture had become long in the course of the centuries. It became long and complex, not just for the simple and unlettered, but even more so for those versed in Sacred Scripture, for the experts who evidently became entangled in details and in particular problems, almost to the extent of losing an overall perspective. Jesus "abbreviated" the Word – he showed us once more its deeper simplicity and unity. Everything taught by the Law and the Prophets is summed up – he says – in the command: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind… You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Mt 22:37-40). This is everything – the whole faith is contained in this one act of love which embraces God and humanity. Yet now further questions arise: how are we to love God with all our mind, when our intellect can barely reach him? How are we to love him with all our heart and soul, when our heart can only catch a glimpse of him from afar, when there are so many contradictions in the world that would hide his face from us? This is where the two ways in which God has "abbreviated" his Word come together. He is no longer distant. He is no longer unknown. He is no longer beyond the reach of our heart. He has become a child for us, and in so doing he has dispelled all doubt. He has become our neighbour, restoring in this way the image of man, whom we often find so hard to love. For us, God has become a gift. He has given himself. He has entered time for us. He who is the Eternal One, above time, he has assumed our time and raised it to himself on high. Christmas has become the Feast of gifts in imitation of God who has given himself to us. Let us allow our heart, our soul and our mind to be touched by this fact! Among the many gifts that we buy and receive, let us not forget the true gift: to give each other something of ourselves, to give each other something of our time, to open our time to God. In this way anxiety disappears, joy is born, and the feast is created. During the festive meals of these days let us remember the Lord’s words: "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite those who will invite you in return, but invite those whom no one invites and who are not able to invite you" (cf. Lk 14:12-14). This also means: when you give gifts for Christmas, do not give only to those who will give to you in return, but give to those who receive from no one and who cannot give you anything back. This is what God has done: he invites us to his wedding feast, something which we cannot reciprocate, but can only receive with joy. Let us imitate him! Let us love God and, starting from him, let us also love man, so that, starting from man, we can then rediscover God in a new way!

And so, finally, we find yet a third meaning in the saying that the Word became "brief" and "small". The shepherds were told that they would find the child in a manger for animals, who were the rightful occupants of the stable. Reading Isaiah (1:3), the Fathers concluded that beside the manger of Bethlehem there stood an ox and an ass. At the same time they interpreted the text as symbolizing the Jews and the pagans – and thus all humanity – who each in their own way have need of a Saviour: the God who became a child. Man, in order to live, needs bread, the fruit of the earth and of his labour. But he does not live by bread alone. He needs nourishment for his soul: he needs meaning that can fill his life. Thus, for the Fathers, the manger of the animals became the symbol of the altar, on which lies the Bread which is Christ himself: the true food for our hearts. Once again we see how he became small: in the humble appearance of the host, in a small piece of bread, he gives us himself.

All this is conveyed by the sign that was given to the shepherds and is given also to us: the child born for us, the child in whom God became small for us. Let us ask the Lord to grant us the grace of looking upon the crib this night with the simplicity of the shepherds, so as to receive the joy with which they returned home (cf. Lk 2:20). Let us ask him to give us the humility and the faith with which Saint Joseph looked upon the child that Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit. Let us ask the Lord to let us look upon him with that same love with which Mary saw him. And let us pray that in this way the light that the shepherds saw will shine upon us too, and that what the angels sang that night will be accomplished throughout the world: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased." Amen!

Monday, December 25, 2006

"And the Word became flesh"

God is big. He is very big. He is so huge we can’t even fathom it. He is infinite, so our finite minds really can’t even approach his vastness. But, we can get some kind of a scale of the hugeness of his creation. We can use measures and distances like light years and miles to start to understand how immense is the world God has created. Light travels at over 180,000 miles a second. A “light year”, then, is over 6 trillion miles! It is less than 2 light years from here to the moon –about 240,000 miles. Whoa. The star closest to the sun is 4 light years away. If astronauts were to travel in the most sophisticated spacecraft, it would take them about 80,000 years to get there. And, that’s just one star out of about 100 billion stars in our galaxy. Our galaxy is just one of about 100 billion! Now, this is pretty heady stuff, especially this early in the morning. I’m surprised I was able to get through all of that! But, the immense universe God has created shows us how big God is.

We hear in today’s Gospel that Christ was there at the beginning of the world. He was there at Creation. “In the beginning was the Word”. Christ is the Word. All things have been created through Him. It was through Christ that our huge universe was created…all the galaxies and stars and planets. . “The Word was with God. And the Word was God”. Christ is God. He is the Son of God who is infinite. “And the Word became flesh”. God who is so big became one of us! We realize how small each one of us in relation to the universe; and, God became one of us! God who is do big became so small. The God who created the universe became a little baby. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”.

Now, this is all pretty deep stuff. We could spend our whole lives meditating on that line from John’s Gospel, and some of us do. But, we can use more practical, mundane examples of how the Word becomes flesh. When you are kind to someone or generous, the Word becomes flesh, and dwells among us. When you forgive someone, the Word becomes flesh and dwells among us. When you serve the poor, the Word becomes flesh and dwells among us. A few weeks ago at youth group, we were talking about serving the poor. Several of our teens told stories of how they have served those in need. It was really like example after example of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. It was examples of God’s love becoming real in them.

When we pray for someone or offer a sacrifice for them, the Word becomes flesh and dwells among us. When you lead someone to a sacrament, the Word becomes flesh and dwells among us. Recently, a small group of parishioners has been talking to me about Confession. At first, they were very much not in favor of going. But, then, they finally came and loved it! They then encouraged the others in the group to go. Again, examples of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us.

The greatest example for us of the Word becoming flesh is the Eucharist. What is the difference between God’s presence in the world and his presence in the manger as a baby? He is invisibly present in the world and through us; he is visible in the manger. The Word becomes flesh for us to see him as a baby. The actual feast of the Word becoming flesh, the Incarnation, is on March 25, when Christ is conceived in Mary. Today, we celebrate him becoming flesh for us to see.

It is the same thing with the Eucharist. In a few minutes at the Consecration, when I hold the bread and say, “this is my body”, the Word becomes flesh and dwells among us. When we receive Him in Holy Communion, He not only dwells among us, He dwells within us! We are just like Mary in that we have God dwelling within us, in our bellies. Who are we that God should dwell within us!

As we receive the Word today…as the Word dwells within us, let us be open to Him. For when the Word dwells within us, God’s love dwells within us. Let us be open so that His love penetrates our hearts on a very deep level. May you know His love for you this day, and all the days of your lives.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!!

Here was my homily from the Chidren's Christmas Eve Mass:

I ask all of the children to come forward and sit in the sanctuary…welcome to all of you. On behalf of Fr. Mike and the whole staff here at St. Andrew’s, Merry Christmas!! What I want to know is what kind of gifts you kids have asked for this Christmas. But, it’s not the usual, humdrum gifts…what kind of different or crazy or wacky gifts have you asked for? You know, ones that are a little off-the-wall, and made your parents kind of scratch their heads, and think, ‘what is this?’ Ok, yes, what wacky stuff have you asked for? (answers ranged from MP3 players to Batman Forever dolls to empty boxes filled with nothing…also, a few comments were made by yours truly about these gift ideas).

Ok, now, let me tell you some of the ideas from my list (I pull out a very large book of paper that is thicker than most dictionaries!). “Fr Greg’s Christmas Gift List 2006” (oohs, aahs, laughs, and wows from the congregation). That’s the reaction Fr. Mike had when he saw this. Anyway, I’ve got charts and graphs here, even directions for the big trucks and helicopters bringing presents on how to get to St Andrew’s. Let’s see, there is a section here in the middle that is called “wacky gifts”. Oh yes, here it is. “One year supply of Golden Grahams cereal”. Yes, it is a bit odd. I know. And, I don’t even need to ask for it because Fr. Mike is very good to me. He buys Golden Grahams all the time…but he doesn’t eat them. He eats cereals like “All Bran” or “All Fiber” or something…cereals that men his age have to eat! (I hope Fr. Mike isn’t here in the back).

Anyway…ok, one last gift from my list. It’s in the back of the list under the section, “Miracle gifts”. It won’t happen this year, but maybe another year, this miracle will happen: “The Redskins win the Super Bowl” (mostly cheers, but some late boos are heard). Oh ho, booing in Church! I know, it will take a miracle…especially after they lost today.

So, we’ve talked about what’s on your list, and we’ve talked about what’s on my list. Now, what do you think is on Jesus’ list? By the way, what kind of list does Jesus make? We make Christmas lists, and Jesus makes a what list? A birthday list, that’s right. So, what is on Jesus’ birthday list? (“love”, “peace”, “forgiveness” are most of the answers). Those are all very good answers. Yes, you’re right. Now, Jesus’ list is even bigger than mine, and he doesn’t even ask for materialistic stuff like Fr. Greg does! He asks something of every person in the world…it’s what God wants from us.

You just heard the Gospel where Joseph did what God wanted. What did God want Joseph to do? He wanted Joseph to take Mary as his wife and be Jesus’ father on earth, that’s right. And, Joseph did it. God wanted Mary to be Jesus’ mother. And, Mary did it. In fact, Mary always did what God wanted her to do. Of course, Jesus always did what God the Father wanted him to do.

Now, it is hard to do what Jesus wants, isn’t it? It’s hard to be loving to your brothers and sisters all the time, isn’t it? That’s why Jesus helps us to do it. How doe she help us? Specifically, he will come to us in the next few minutes and help us in a major way. What is that? The Eucharist, that’s right. Can you all tell the “big kids” who are here tonight what we mean when we say the Eucharist? What is the Eucharist? The Body and Blood of Jesus, that’s right. It is really Jesus. Is it the same Jesus who was a baby in the manger 2000 years ago? Yes, it is. He just looks a little different, huh? He looked like a baby then, and he looks like what now? Bread, that’s right. But, it’s the same Jesus.

Ok, we are going to finish tonight with a chance for you all to show the “big kids” how well you can tell us what Christmas is all about. I’m going to ask you a question, and your answer will be, “because He loves us”. Now, be sure to say it loud enough for the people in the back to hear you. Also, I will give the adults here a chance to answer a question as well. You all are a big group, but they are a much bigger crowd. But, I have confidence that you all will show them how to do this.

Here’s the question: why did God send Jesus into world as a baby in the manger 2000 years ago? “BECAUSE HE LOVES US” (echoes very loudly throughout the Church)!! Wow, great job! Now, congregation, let’s see how you do. Pretend you’re at a Redskins game or something. Why does God give us Jesus in the Eucharist? “BECAUSE HE LOVES US” (again, very loudly). Kids, how did they do (half of the kids give thumbs up, half of the kids give thumbs down signs). I don’t know…of course, the adults are not happy with Fr. Greg because I didn’t give them the proper lead-in… Ok, last question, and then you all can return to your seats. Why did God send Jesus into world?
BECAUSE HE LOVES US (the loudest one yet)!!!! Great job! Thank you all very much, and Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Believing in what you can't see

More than one person has asked, "If I go to Church this Sunday, will it count for both Sunday and Christmas?" My response has been, "good try, but no. We have to go twice - the 4th Sunday of Advent (12/24) and Christmas". Christmas is a Holy Day of Obligation.
Christine Regan wrote, "I was talking about the Eurcharist with Elizabeth after Confirmation and I told her my personal way of believing in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I know it's a little sacrilegious, but I always liked to compare the concept of believing in the Eucharist to a scene from 'The Santa Clause' with Tim Allen. It's the scene when a psychologist is trying to convince the little boy, Nick, that Santa Claus isn't real, when Nick truly believes that he is. Nick challenges the psychologist, asking, 'have you ever seen a million dollars?' The psychologist answers 'no'. Nick responds 'Seeing is not believing. Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not real.' I always thought that was a perfect explanation for belief in the Eucharist, and in God in general."

Thanks, Christine, for your comment. As you said, it's not a perfect example but the main point is a good one. Also, it is very good that you have your Christian "radar" up when viewing movies or any kind of media. In other words, you are applying what you see and hear from the world in relation to Christ. To have your "Eucharist radar" up when seeing this movie is an even better sign!

At Thanksgiving, I had a very profound conversation with my 12 year old niece about seeing and believing. She is an intelligent girl who has a passionate heart. We were talking specifically about the Eucharist, and she made it clear that she struggles to believe in what she can't see, like so many people do. I offered a few examples to her that would show that she does believes in things every day that she can't see.

I brought up the example of drinking soda out of a can. I asked her if she can see the soda inside the can before she opens it. She said that she doesn't drink soda. Oh. So, we went to the example of soup which she does eat. Ok. So, you have an unopened can of soup. Let's say it's labeled as tomato soup on the outside of the can. How does she know that it's tomato soup? She can't see what's inside. She doesn't know; she BELIEVES that it's tomato soup. Before we open a can of tomato soup or a can of Coke, we can't see what's inside, but we do believe (it's tomato soup or Coke). The can says it is and that is the evidence we use to believe that it is true.

After a few other mundane examples, I asked her if she believes in love? In other words, does love exist? "Yes". Can you see it? "No". Then, why do you believe it exists if you can't see it? We agreed that it's because she has had an experience of love, or at least that she has experienced something that many, many people have experienced, and we call it love. We can't see it but there is overwhelming evidence that it exists. So, we believe that it is real.

These examples are usually employed to help people believe in God, as you suggested, Christine, because we cannot see God. But they can be applied specifically to the Eucharist or to any of the sacraments (which are all signs of the Presence of God on Earth). We don't see a change in the bread and wine but there is overwhelming evidence from Sacred Scripture and Tradition that it becomes the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. The first and most compelling piece of evidence is that Jesus says it: "this is my body". We can't see that it's his Body, but because He has told us, we believe it.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Adoration of Jesus

Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church
Someone recently posted the following question: "Fr Greg, are you planning on increasing adoration at St. Andrews?" Thanks for the question, Anon, and for your interest in adoration. For now, we are aiming to increase participation in adoration. Thanks be to God, we are off to a good start here at St Andrew's, with a faithful crowd of adorers who attend just about every Friday night. Ultimately, yes, we would like to expand the hours of Adoration but we need more adorers. Please help by inviting family, friends, and parishioners to spend time with Jesus on Friday nights.

The following is a Christmas message given by Pope John Paul II in 2004. As we approach the celebration of the birth of our Savior, let us keep in mind the connection between the Adoration of the baby Jesus by those at the Nativity scene and Adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist.

"'Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore.' On this Night, the opening words of this celebrated Eucharistic hymn echo in my heart. These words accompany me daily in this year dedicated to the Eucharist.

In the Son of the Virgin, 'wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger' (Lk 2:12), we acknowledge and adore 'the Bread which came down from heaven' (Jn 6:41, 51), the Redeemer who came among us in order to bring life to the world.

Bethlehem! The city where Jesus was born in fulfilment of the Scriptures, in Hebrew means 'house of bread.' It was there that the Messiah was to be born, the One who would say of himself: 'I am the bread of life' (Jn 6:35, 48).

In Bethehem was born the One who, under the sign of broken bread, would leave us the memorial of his Pasch. On this Holy Night, adoration of the Child Jesus becomes Eucharistic adoration.

We adore you, Lord, truly present in the Sacrament of the Altar, the living Bread which gives life to humanity. We acknowledge you as our one God, a little Child lying helpless in the manger! 'In the fullness of time, you became a man among men, to unite the end to the beginning, that is, man to God' (cf. Saint Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, IV, 20, 4).

You are born on this Night, our divine Redeemer, and, in our journey along the paths of time, you become for us the food of eternal life.

Look upon us, eternal Son of God, who took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary! All humanity, with its burden of trials and troubles, stands in need of you.

Stay with us, living Bread which came down from heaven for our salvation! Stay with us forever! Amen!"

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

"The Son"

The following is a modern day parable (I don't know whether it's true or not). When a good friend of mine read this in his parish bulletin years ago, he was so moved that he attached a copy of it to each of his employees' Christmas bonuses:

"A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art. When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.

About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands. He said, 'Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you, and your love for art.' The young man held out this package. 'I know this isn't much. I'm not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this.' The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting.

The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. 'Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It's a gift.' The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.

The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection. On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. 'We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?' There was silence. Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, 'We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one.' But the auctioneer persisted. 'Will somebody bid for this painting. Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?' Another voice angrily. 'We didn't come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!' But still the auctioneer continued. 'The son! The son! Who'll take the son?'

Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. 'I'll give $10 for the painting.' Being a poor man, it was all he could afford. 'We have $10, who will bid $20?' 'Give it to him for $10. Let's see the masters.'

'$10 is the bid, won't someone bid $20?' The crowd was becoming angry. They didn't want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections. The auctioneer pounded the gavel. 'Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!' A man sitting on the second row shouted, 'Now let's get on with the collection!' The auctioneer laid down his gavel. 'I'm sorry, the auction is over.' 'What about the paintings?' 'I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!'

God gave His son 2,000 years ago to die on the cross. Much like the auctioneer, His message today is: 'The son, the son, who'll take the son?' Because, you see, whoever takes the Son gets everything."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"Reconciliation and Penance"

Penance Service tonight, 7:30 p.m., SAA Church.
Here are some excerpts from Pope John Paul II's beautiful apostolic exhortation, "Reconciliation and Penance" (1984), # 29-31:

"In the fullness of time the Son of God, coming as the lamb who takes away and bears upon himself the sin of the world appears as the one who has the power both to judge and to forgive sins, and who has come not to condemn but to forgive and save.

Now this power to 'forgive sins' Jesus confers through the Holy Spirit upon ordinary men, themselves subject to the snare of sin, namely his apostles: "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven; whose sins you shall retain, they are retained" (John 20:22-23). This is one of the most awe-inspiring innovations of the Gospel! He confers this power on the apostles also as something which they can transmit-as the church has understood it from the beginning-to their successors, charged by the same apostles with the mission and responsibility of continuing their work as proclaimers of the Gospel and ministers of Christ's redemptive work.

Here there is seen in all its grandeur the figure of the minister of the sacrament of penance who by very ancient custom is called the confessor.

Just as at the altar where he celebrates the eucharist and just as in each one of the sacraments, so the priest, as the minister of penance, acts 'in persona Christi' The Christ whom he makes present and who accomplishes the mystery of the forgiveness of sins is the Christ who appears as the brother of man, the merciful high priest, faithful and compassionate, the shepherd intent on finding the lost sheep, the physician who heals and comforts, the one master who teaches the truth and reveals the ways of God, the judge of the living and the dead, who judges according to the truth and not according to appearances...

The truths mentioned above, powerfully and clearly confirmed by the synod and contained in the propositions, can be summarized in the following convictions of faith, to which are connected all the other affirmations of the Catholic doctrine on the sacrament of penance.

The first conviction is that for a Christian the sacrament of penance is the primary way of obtaining forgiveness and the remission of serious sin committed after baptism. Certainly the Savior and his salvific action are not so bound to a sacramental sign as to be unable in any period or area of the history of salvation to work outside and above the sacraments. But in the school of faith we learn that the same Savior desired and provided that the simple and precious sacraments of faith would ordinarily be the effective means through which his redemptive power passes and operates.

It would therefore be foolish, as well as presumptuous, to wish arbitrarily to disregard the means of grace and salvation which the Lord has provided and, in the specific case, to claim to receive forgiveness while doing without the sacrament which was instituted by Christ precisely for forgiveness. The renewal of the rites carried out after the council does not sanction any illusion or alteration in this direction. According to the church's intention, it was and is meant to stir up in each one of us a new impulse toward the renewal of our interior attitude; toward a deeper understanding of the nature of the sacrament of penance; toward a reception of the sacrament which is more filled with faith, not anxious but trusting; toward a more frequent celebration of the sacrament which is seen to be completely filled with the Lord's merciful love."

Monday, December 18, 2006

Penance Service, tomorrow night (12/18), 7:30, SAA Church. There will be several priests to hear Confessions.

Reconciliation with God and the Church is one of the greatest birthday gifts you can give to Jesus.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Advent, 3rd Sunday - Homily

Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again. Rejoice”.

Every year on January 22 before the March for Life, there is a youth rally and Mass at the Verizon Center in the morning. Over 20,000 teens from all over the country are there; in the past few years, they have had overflow crowds. This year, they will use both the Verizon Center and Constitution Hall. There will be about 30,000 kids there! We'll send down our group of teens, and also house a couple of groups from other states.

It is really a great celebration. There is music, singing, and dancing, as the youth celebrate and get pumped up for life. A couple of years ago, one of the workers at the Verizon Center, after seeing the huge crowd so excited for a couple of hours, asked one of my friends: “all the people that were here…they were Catholic?” We are not usually known for our rejoicing and excitement.

This Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, is a day that we rejoice. “Gaudete” literally means “rejoice”. We hear it throughout the readings. In the second reading is St. Paul’s line which I have already said: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again. Rejoice”. And, the first reading: “Shout for joy”…“sing joyfully”…“be glad”…“exult”. In the Gospel, we hear that John the Baptist preached the “good news” that the Savior is near. We know the word “gospel” means “good news”.

But, how often do we individuals, as a parish, and as a Church truly rejoice in our faith? How often do we sing for joy and exult in the Lord? In thinking about this question, an analogy came to mind. It might work for some and not for others because it involves the Redskins. And, it might not be hard to imagine based on the season that they’ve had. But, imagine if the Redskins had many, many losing seasons in a row…like 3,000! 3,000 years when they couldn’t do much right at all, had losing records, and didn’t make the playoffs. Year after year, there didn’t seem to be much hope at all, and it was a very dark time.

Then, an announcement was made…news came out that the Redskins had made a draft pick who was an amazing college player! All the scouts agreed, this guy would turn around the Redskins. He would be the “savior” of the franchise. We know that Redskins fans would rejoice in just the news of this draft pick! This is similar to John the Baptist’s announcement that the real Savior is coming, that the Lord is near.

Then, let’s say that the draft pick starts playing in games, and he does, in fact, turn around the Redskins. They start winning games, make it to the playoffs, and then the Super Bowl. How much would Redskins fans rejoice? We know that we would be going nuts! There would be much rejoicing and exulting, and we would indeed be glad. Now, dare I say, this is just football.

In Jesus, we’re talking about the Savior of the world! We’re talking about life, and eternal life. People waited for thousands of years for the Savior…they waited for a chance to get to Heaven. They waited for the forgiveness of their sins. This is what Jesus brings when he comes.

How much more should we as Catholics rejoice in all that we have in the Lord’s coming. Do we rejoice in the forgiveness of our sins? Will we rejoice at the Penance Service on Tuesday night as we receive reconciliation with God and one another? Do we realize and appreciate this awesome gift Christ has given us in this sacrament? When we come to Mass, do we rejoice that God speaks to us in the Liturgy of the Word? Do we rejoice when we see with the eyes of faith the bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood of Christ? Do our hearts rejoice when Christ’s flesh comes into our bodies and souls?

Let us rejoice and be glad as we receive our Lord. He is near. For us, he is as near as the tabernacle. Let us rejoice in God’s coming among us. Let us rejoice in God’s love and mercy in the person of Jesus Christ.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again. Rejoice”.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Reflection at Adoration last night

Penance Service, Tues, Dec. 19, 7:30 p.m., SAA Church
I have had many interesting conversations with people over the years who are in different situations in life with different vocations. Speaking with single, young adults who are discerning their vocations, and might be getting frustrated and impatient. Most don't feel called to the single life, and want God to reveal to them if they're supposed to be married or religious. They express feelings of loneliness, and desire true intimacy.

But, it's not just single adults who have indicated that they can be lonely. I remember talking with a married man, a good friend of mine, years ago. He loved his wife, and they had a good marriage and family. But, he admitted to being lonely. We talked more about it, and found that he really wasn't as close to God as he should be. He hadn't gone deeper in his friendship with Christ. Even married persons can experience loneliness if they are away from God.

Each one of us has a place in our hearts that is reserved for God alone. It is the deepest part of our heart, and it desires true intimacy with Him. Christ has made our hearts, and our hearts desire to be intimate with Him. We desire to be close to Him, to be with Him who is Love. No other person, place, or thing can fill this desire except for Christ. If there is a void there, we experience loneliness. It is not until we experience true intimacy with Christ that we experience intimacy.

I was talking with friends of mine this week about the Gospel from Wednesday's Mass. Jesus says, "Come to me all you labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest" (Mt 11:28). 'Come to me, all you who are anxious and stressed out from the busy-ness of this season...all you who are lonely...sad...been rejected...carrying a serious cross...suffering for my sake. Come to me, and I will give you rest. I will give you peace. I will give you happiness. I will give you intimacy'.

We come to Jesus tonight to be with Him, and to find his rest. We come to be close to be intimate with Him. No one else can love us as Christ loves us. He is always there for us, and He will never leave us or let us down. If we have experienced the imperfect love of others, how much more do we experience the perfect love of Christ?

And, so, Lord Jesus, we come to you tonight to be with you as we prepare to celebrate your birth. Please fill our hearts with your love. Fill our hearts with your rest and your peace. Lord, give us your rest. Give us your peace.

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Christian approach to dating

Adoration tonight, 7-8 p.m., SAA Church. Like Kelly is doing, please bring your friends!
A blogger has asked, "Can you discuss a moral and catholic approch to dating." Another blogger responded, "Excellent topic!... I think that topic is really important, and I hope it becomes a topic for discussion." The best current Catholic resource for dating that I have found is the book, "Christian Courtship in an Oversexed World" by T.G. Morrow. Here are some excerpts from Fr. Morrow's very popular book:

"From what I have seen and what young adults are telling me, it seems that there is far too much pressure on young men and women when they go out. It’s too 'clingy.' They are in effect, expected to commit to dating each other exclusively from the second or third date. It’s crazy. Far better to get together as friends for various activities for a time, without the pressure that dating usually brings.

This means you see each other and do things together, but you are free to go with others if you wish at first, and there’s no kissing goodnight, or holding hands. Nice, warm, chaste hugs are fine, since good friends often hug, but everything is low key, low pressure. There’s no 'I love you,' or 'I want to marry you,' just words like, 'You’re an awesome friend.' You might just get together once a week and talk on the phone twice a week at most.

If the friendship gets deeper you can move into a more exclusive arrangement. Agree to not date others, and get together twice a week and speak on the phone a bit more. But until you both agree to move into courtship, it’s still a friendship, even if an exclusive one.

What if one or the other starts to have strong feelings? That’s fine, but, until you agree on a courtship, you don’t express those strong feelings in words, just in kindness and consideration. You continue as close friends...

One of the benefits of a 'friendship first' approach is that it provides something quite positive for couples to aim at, before the courtship begins. When I was young, we used to think in terms of getting through the first three dates, so we could have a goodnight kiss. As time went on, it got reduced to two dates, and then there was no waiting. A goodnight kiss was expected on the first date. This was all rather utilitarian, rather calculated. And, it was really not very personal.

Friendship dating is not biding time until the first kiss and the implied commitment to exclusiveness on the third or fourth date. It’s a wonderful, gentle way to lay a good foundation for a chaste courtship.

One of the key elements of a Christian life is living by reason. That’s what prudence is. It is not reasonable to court if you can’t see marrying in the near future. More and more young men and women are examining their own dating behavior and realizing that some major changes are needed. 'Would not my spiritual life be better and my life as a med student be simpler if I just developed some good friendships for a while, and didn’t rush into an intense relationship, when I’m a few years away from being able to marry?' It is a delight, although admittedly a limited one, to have a good, strong friendship with a person of the opposite sex. It is a joy to have someone you can discuss your life with and feel confident you won’t be exploited by that person. It is so sweet to be able to chastely hug a person you really like and trust. More and more young people are seeing the value of slowing down, and 'smelling the roses' in the garden of friendship...

Regardless of your situation, I strongly recommend trying to simply develop a nice, low-key friendship with someone, without any kissing or romance for two or three months (at least) before getting into a more romantic sort of courtship. Some of the best marriages have begun with a beautiful friendship."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

"Come home for Christmas"

Penance Service, next Tuesday (12/19), 7:30 pm, SAA Church. We'll have seven priests here to hear Confessions. Please join us!
Below is a column that the late Msgr. Thomas Wells wrote to his parish, Our Lady of Lourdes in Bethesda, on December 4, 1994:

"I had time over Thanksgiving to spend some time with a family with whom I have been close since the early years of my priesthood. One of their older sons has gotten a pretty good job in Atlanta and was visiting for the holiday. We had the opportunity to talk, and shy though I am, I nailed him about his spiritual life, especially since the early glow of being away from home and making pretty big money has begun to fade. 'Do you get to Mass every Sunday?' I asked, only to receive the not surprising, 'Probably not as often as I should.'

However, to my next question, 'When was the last time you went to confession?' I was happily surprised to hear that he had been to the Shrine that weekend and that he usually goes when he is in the area. I assured him that he is allowed to go to confession even when he is in Atlanta, but I have to admit that his answer reassured me. I am not saying that Penance is as important as the Eucharist, of course, but I do believe that, very often, it is the foundation on which God builds a solid spiritual life. The person who will face his sinfulness and who recognizes God as the source of forgiveness and growth eventually will experience the increasing spiritual strength.

I know people have hang-ups about confession and that each of them must be dealt with individually. Theological questions can be answered, usually fairly easily, but it is tough to answer a question that is never asked. I have said and written this before but, since I still believe it, I will write it again: the saddest aspect of contemporary Catholicism is the abandonment by so many, and with so little apparent thought, of the Sacrament of Penance. That God would say, in so many words, 'I know that your biggest problem is sin; I know you cannot overcome it by yourself; but I will give you a special gift that, in a personal way, allows you to overcome this problem,' and that we, in turn, say, 'I do not need it' is not only arrogant, but unspeakably sad. The good Lord is in the business of giving mercy, strength and forgiveness, but He will not force us out of mediocrity and vague unhappiness that comes from sin. He offers the grace in Penance. We must accept it.

Lourdes is participating in the 'Come Home for Christmas' program with a number of other parishes near metro stations. It seeks, primarily, to invite those who have been away from the sacraments to come home to the Church. Believe me, though, when I tell you that there are many whose spirituality is incomplete because they are not dealing regularly with the realities of sin and reconciliation and they may be at Mass every week. They too are encouraged, during this wonderful season of homecomings, to be renewed and reconciled through the Sacrament of Penance."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. On Dec. 12, 1531, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego in Guadalupe, Mexico. She urged Juan to go to the bishop an ask him to build a Church on the site (Tepeyac). The bishop demanded a sign; the Virgin Mary miraculously appeared on the tilma that Juan was wearing in the presence of the bishop. The next day, the tilma was carried in procession to the cathedral, with many people flocking to see it. Between 1532-1538, 8 million Mexican natives were baptized! Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!
Here are so more questions from bloggers:

"On one side we say that we are children of God and that He loves us all, but then we say that only those who are baptized go to heaven. I do not get this one."

Jesus says in Jn 3:5, "no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit". We refer to this as baptism by water. There are two other ways that a person can be baptized: by blood and by desire. Baptism by blood refers to martyrs. Baptism by desire refers to those who haven't heard of Christ and his Gospel, but desire to live good lives and do God's Will. God is the one who has told us that we need to be baptized in order to go to Heaven; by doing so in one of these three ways, we participate in his covenant, in the forgiveness of sins, and thus in his Kingdom.

"How do we show God we are very thankful to Him in a consistent way?"

Mainly through prayer and service. The best way to give thanks is through the Mass. Eucharist means "thanksgiving". When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he showed us the best way to worship God and give thanks to Him who has given us everything. Making a regular effort to attend Mass daily is an awesome way to consistently be thankful to Him. Outside of Mass, we can make time to pray in the presence of Christ in a Church or chapel regularly, if even for a few minutes. Coming to Adoration at St. A's on Friday nights (7-8 pm) is a great way to give thanks! Also, a simple daily prayer from our hearts - like "thank you, Jesus" - is a beautiful way to be thankful. Lastly, we can consistently show God our gratitude by being women and men of service - volunteering, serving the poor, donating time or treasure to charity, etc.

"By the way, the other day I saw something at Church that really bothered me (not St.Stephen's Church). The priest changed the holy water that they put at the entrance of the Church, I suppose it was dirty. Well, he just went to the kitchen and filled the vesicle with tap water. Did I miss something? When does the Holy come along?"

When he blesses it (there is a Rite of Blessing that makes tap water Holy Water).

"Question about Adam and Eve eating the fruit of the tree: Is that symbolic for something? I ask because eating a piece of fruit is not an inherently bad thing to do. I realize that God forbade them to do it, but why that? I have always figured that eating the fruit is symbolic for either some other bad act or having a sinful quality."

The fruit of the tree in the Garden is good because God created it. But, to eat it was inherently bad mainly because God said not to do it. There are other things that are inherently good - sex, e.g. - but in some situations, are bad because God says so (sex outside of marriage, e.g.). Fruit is seen as "God's sowing", and in that sense very good. When we are open to God's Grace, we share in God's sowing, bearing good fruit in our lives (the fruits of the Holy Spirit, e.g.). But, when we reject Grace (like Adam and Eve), we bear bad fruit (see Mt 7:17), or the "fruit of sin". We all bear fruit in our lives- the question is, is it good fruit or bad fruit? "So by their fruits you will know them" (Mt 7:20).

Monday, December 11, 2006

"Do not worry about your life"

Some time ago, SFH asked, "How does worry play into our love of God? IE: worrying about things in our lives that happen, our crosses, is that not loving God with all our hearts minds, souls and strengths?" Thanks, SFH; let's first look at some things our Lord said about worry. "Do not worry about your life...Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life-span? your Father knows (the things) that you need" (Lk 12:22,30).

Also, in last Sunday's Gospel, he warned against our hearts getting wrapped up in the anxiety of everyday living: "Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap" (Lk 21:34).

Now, these passages might not speak exactly to what you're asking because Christ is referring more to mundane things about which we worry. You are asking about more serious matters, ones that involve human suffering. But, the fundamental point from God is that He does not want us to worry. One way to put it may be to say that worry is natural, but trust is supernatural.

Christ calls us to live lives of faith, hope, and love. In some situations, He calls us to have extraordinary, or even heroic, virtue in these areas. In the early Church, Christians had all kinds of things to worry about, all kinds of crosses; death was certainly one of them. Even if it death itself that is the fear or worry, they (and all martyrs) give us the example to continue to love God, believe that He is with them, and hope for eternal life. Did they live it perfectly? No. I would imagine that worry crept in from time to time. Worry is a sign of imperfect love for and faith in God. It's not until we reach the Kingdom that we will love God perfectly. But, we are on the path of perfection, especially in regards to faith, hope, and love.

Romans 8 would be a good chapter to read on this subject. In particular, vs. 38-39:
"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord".

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Advent, 2nd Sunday - Homily

In the past two weeks, I have had two tremendous priestly experiences. I have gone to two local high schools – one an all-boys school and the other is all-girls – to hear Confessions. At each place, it was about two straight hours of non-stop Confessions with the students choosing to come on their own – it was during the lunch hours. As you know, teens are dealing with so much serious stuff – they get so much pressure from so many sides. To hear them discuss this serious stuff, and show a real desire to want to do good…it was very inspiring and humbling. They are good, and want to do good. Especially if you talk to them one-on-one, you see that they really desire holiness. At least a few of them specifically said that they wanted to get away from doing the stuff that is seriously wrong, and to get back into living for God.

The idea of changing our ways, of changing our hearts, is the idea of metanoia. It is a Greek word that literally means “change of heart”. It means that we look at the things we have done wrong in our lives and truly regret these sins. It means repentance which is being sorry. This kind of change of heart and repentance usually leads to conversion where the person really tries to change his ways. He embarks on a new life with God and lives according to God’s ways. This whole process of repentance and conversion is, of course, under the heading of God’s Grace which is what moves a person to change his or her heart.

John the Baptist preached metanoia…he preached repentance. Today’s Gospel says that he “preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. As the herald of Christ, John’s mission in life was to prepare people for the coming of Christ. He did this by telling them to repent and change their lives. Just as repentance is necessary to receive forgiveness, so repentance is necessary to receive Christ. John had to tell people that Christ is coming, and that they should be ready when he comes. Repentance and an openness to conversion are the ways to prepare for Christ.

Many of us might be afraid to go deeper in our friendship with Christ because we know that we will have to change our ways. But, just like with the high school students, our hearts really want to change. God made our hearts; our hearts desire goodness, and to be good. We do want to change our ways and follow Christ, but might not know where to start. It might be too overwhelming and scary for us. Again, though, we look at the example of those teens: get specific, and start with the big stuff first, and then work our way down from there. It takes a lot of courage and humility to do this, but it is also extremely rewarding. From what I’ve heard, those teens were extremely happy when they came out of Confession.

God doesn’t just call us to change, and then leave us on our own to do it. He gives us all the help in the world to do it. When we receive the grace of the sacraments, we receive God's help. Next Tuesday night, he will offer his help to us in the Penance Service. Many of his priests will be here to offer Reconciliation. In a few minutes, He will come to us in the Eucharist. God will actually be in us, giving us strength and courage to change. It is really his Grace that moves us to change our hearts.

The call, then, is to be open to his Grace…to be open to his love…to be open to his life. While it is a demanding life, it is an awesome life! It is an awesome love! It is for his love that any of us would change so that we live for Him and others instead of living for ourselves. May we be open to his Grace this Advent, and be open to his awesome love. May we know his awesome love as we prepare to receive his Son.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Feast of the Immaculate Conception - homily

1)Today is a Holy Day of Obligation. Mass at 7:30 pm, SAA Church.
2)Adoration tonight, 6-7 pm, SAA Church
First of all, let’s be sure we know whose conception we are celebrating today. It is Mary’s immaculate conception that we celebrate, not Jesus’s. Many people come to Church today thinking that it is the feast of Jesus’s immaculate conception, but it is Mary’s. This feast celebrates that Mary was freed from sin from the first moment of her existence, from the first moment of her conception. Our liturgical calendar is consistent with our theology. Today, December 8 is Mary’s conception; nine months from today we will celebrate her birthday, September 8. Likewise, we celebrate Jesus’s conception on March 25, with the feast of the Annunciation which we just heard in the Gospel; and, then, we celebrate his birthday nine months later, December 25.

So, Mary is “full of grace” from the first moment of her conception. She is full of God’s life, full of His love, her entire life. Her perfection begins in the womb of her mother, St. Ann. God preserved her goodness so that she would have no stain of sin from the start. She has no stain of Original Sin, and thus no imperfections. Mary is perfect. She always said ‘yes’ to God, ‘yes’ to Christ. She was conceived and raised in order to be ready for when the angel Gabriel appeared to her with a most profound message. He reveals God’s Plan that she will be the mother of the Savior of the world.

When Gabriel appeared to Mary, she was a teenager…about 14 or 16 years old. When I ask our teenage girls here what would have been their reaction if an angel came to their bedroom one night to ask them to be the mother of the Savior, they might say, ‘um, I think you have the wrong house. It’s a few houses down with the lights on’. What a tremendous request God makes of Mary through the angel! And, Mary said ‘yes’! “May it be done to me according to your word”.

God could have chosen any way for his Son to come into the world. And yet, He chose a woman…He chose Mary to be the instrument of Salvation. He chose her to be the perfect vessel through whom Christ would come to us. On this feast, we see God’s Wisdom because He began her perfection from the very beginning. Mary had to be perfect, her womb had to be the perfectly pure vessel for Christ. How blessed is she to be the Ark of the Covenant! Scripture confirms this by saying that Mary “is most blessed among women”.

Mary is the perfect model for us. She is the example because she always said ‘yes’ to Christ. It is because of her ‘yes’ to God’s Plan that Salvation entered the world. Everything we have in Christ, everything we have in our faith, comes to us through Mary. We thank God for her. We thank God in a special way for her today, in honoring her Immaculate Conception. The best way for us to say thank you is in this Eucharist. In a few minutes, we will have union with God through Mary. Thanks be to God, we have the Eucharist... through Mary.

Just as Christ comes to us through Mary, so we are to go to Him through Mary. It would be especially appropriate for us today to give her some kind of honor and veneration. We could pray a ‘Hail Mary’ or Memorare or a decade of the rosary, or even a full rosary. In so doing, we are not praising Mary; we praise God alone and Mary is not God. Rather, we praise God for her and honor her. We thank God that she said ‘yes’ her whole life to Christ. We thank God for her, and ask her to pray for us. “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, sinners, now and at the hour of our death”.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Today's Mass readings

Tomorrow (12/8): Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary
Masses- Thurs: 7:30 pm (Vigil)
Friday: 8:30 am, 10:00 am, 7:30 pm
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament - Friday: 6-7 pm
Here are today's readings from Mass:

Reading 1 (Is 26:1-6)
On that day they will sing this song in the land of Judah:

"A strong city have we;
he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
Open up the gates
to let in a nation that is just,
one that keeps faith.
A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace;
in peace, for its trust in you."

Trust in the LORD forever!
For the LORD is an eternal Rock.
He humbles those in high places,
and the lofty city he brings down;
He tumbles it to the ground,
levels it with the dust.
It is trampled underfoot by the needy,
by the footsteps of the poor.

Responsorial Psalm (Ps 118:1 and 8-9, 19-21, 25-27a)
- Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Mt 7:21, 24-27

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Adoration, 6-7 p.m., Friday (12/8), SAA Church

"More young women are entering convents"

The following are excerpts from an article from the Nov. 13, 2006 Time Magazine issue, titled, "Today's Nun Has A Veil--And A Blog -more young women are entering convents. How they are changing the sisterhood", by TRACY SCHMIDT, LISA TAKEUCHI CULLEN:

"...Over the past five years, Roman Catholic communities around the country have experienced a curious phenomenon: more women, most in their 20s and 30s, are trying on that veil. Convents in Nashville, Tenn.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and New York City all admitted at least 15 entrants over the past year and fielded hundreds of inquiries. One convent is hurriedly raising funds for a new building to house the inflow, and at another a rush of new blood has lowered the median age of its 225 sisters to 36. Catholic centers at universities, including Illinois and Texas A&M, report growing numbers of women entering discernment, or the official period of considering a vocation. Career women seeking more meaning in their lives and empty-nest moms are also finding their way to convent doors...

This is a welcome turnabout for the church. As opportunities opened for women in the 1960s and '70s, fewer of them viewed the asceticism and confinements of religious life as a tempting career choice. Since 1965, the number of Catholic nuns in the U.S. has declined from 179,954 to just 67,773, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. The average age of nuns today is 69. But over the past decade or so, expressing their religious beliefs openly has become hip for many young people, a trend intensified among Catholic women by the charismatic appeal of Pope John Paul II's youth rallies and his interpretation of modern feminism as a way for women to express Christian values...

As this so-called JP2 generation has come of age, religious orders have begun to reach out again to young people--and to do so in the language that young people speak. Convents conduct e-mail correspondence with interested women, blogs written by sisters give a peek into the habited life and websites offer online personality questionnaires to test vocations. One site, frames the choice much like a dating service, with Christ as the ultimate match. 'For a long time, we neglected to invite people to see what we are about,' says Sister Doris Gottemoeller of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of America, a national order. 'I think we're more ready to do that now.'

And although the extreme conservatism of a nun's life may seem wholly countercultural for young American women today, that is exactly what attracts many of them, say experts and the women themselves. 'Religious life itself is a radical choice,' says Brother Paul Bednarczyk, executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference in Chicago. 'In an age where our primary secular values are sex, power and money, for someone to choose chastity, obedience and poverty is a radical statement.'

At the Sisters of Life Formation House in the Bronx, N.Y., 16 young women are making their way through that journey. They include a former Marine, a professional opera singer, a United Nations aide and a recent Yale grad. They have left behind paychecks, apartments, even boyfriends. Sister Thérèse Saglimbeni, 27, a novice who joined the convent in 2005, recalls watching the sisters playing volleyball while she was a student at the nearby State University of New York Maritime College. 'I was with my boyfriend and had said how fun the sisters looked,' she says. 'He said, "Well, why don't you join them?" And I replied, "Well, maybe I will!"'

The other sisters chuckle when Saglimbeni recounts her saucy retort. But many of their loved ones feel less jovial about the women's decision to take the veil. 'For those who are called, there is a real falling in love. You are filled with a joy and desire to be with God,' says Sister Mary Gabriel Devlin, 32, vocation director at Sisters of Life. 'Their families are not experiencing this, so it can be hard for them to understand.' The sense of alienation can be even greater when women choose an order that isolates them from their families and others so that they can devote themselves to strict schedules of regimented prayer. Convents like Sisters of Life that combine contemplation with active ministry to the public are the most popular among young women...

Nuns of all ages at convents in the U.S. say modern technology is helping them give the world--and prospective applicants--a more realistic picture of their lives. 'There are people out there who wonder what being a nun is like,' says Sister Julie Vieira, 36. 'These are people who were exposed to stereotypes of nuns and don't understand how we really live.' So last summer Vieira began a blog titled A Nun's Life, in which she has chronicled her days as a sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and also a conventional-dressing, apartment-dwelling, master's degree--holding production coordinator at the Loyola Press, a Catholic publisher in Chicago. 'Being a nun has not always been my lifelong goal,' she writes in one entry. 'The whole "nun" thing kind of snuck up on me when I wasn't paying much attention ... I can't tell you how many times I've been called "Sister Julie" that it doesn't jolt me or make me look around and wonder who they are talking about.'

Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, vocation director at the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, credits e-mail to some extent with what can only be described as her order's astonishing growth. Founded in 1997 as an offshoot of a large convent, the Sisters now have 73 members with an average age of 24. In 2006, 15 women entered as postulants. Next August, more than 20 women are scheduled to join them. The order is fund raising for a new convent for them to live in. 'We cannot build fast enough. It's incredible,' says Bogdanowicz, 50..."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Hearing God's callings

An anonymous blogger posed these questions: "Why does God have to be so elusive about communicating our callings? His silence can really be deafening. Why do we have to search and search and wait and wait? Please don't tell me that God speaks to some people and not others." Thanks for the questions, Anon, and I'm sorry if you've experienced some frustration in hearing God speak to you. But, He is communicating to you His callings. It is a matter of being able to discern his communication properly.

I have found in my own experience that discerning God's Will can be the hardest thing in life, if it's not obvious to us. I say this because I experienced much frustration in the past discerning my Call to priesthood. God can make it more obvious for some people, especially those who are called to marriage. He will often just bring two people together who clearly are meant for each other for the rest of their lives. And, I will remind engaged or married couples who are in love how blessed they are to see God's Will visibly in front of them (in the person of the other). It can be much different for those who are called to religious or single life because it is not so obvious or visible.

I'm not trying to equivocate my past frustration with yours, Anon, because I don't know what you've been dealing with or for how long, in terms of discernment. But, I have found that God can communicate differently to each one of us. In Scripture, He speaks to some (prophets, e.g.) directly and not to others. But, He still communicates to all (indirectly through the prophets). Mary and Joseph each received a communication from our Lord (through an angel) about His plan to bring Jesus into the world. It is easier for some to know God's Will, but I truly believe that God ultimately communicates His Plan to anyone who is listening.

How do we listen? How can we hear God speaking to us? In my experience of discernment of God's Will, I have learned that God speaks to us primarily through four ways:

1) Sacred Scripture
2) Prayer
3) Other people
4) Our experiences

Just last night, I had a conversation with a young woman who realized that Christ is speaking to her directly right now in her life through Sunday's Gospel: "Beware that your hearts do not become drousy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life" (particularly the 'anxieties of daily life'). If we are actively listening to God speak to us through His Word, it is amazing what we hear! The same can be said about hearing God speak to our hearts in prayer. St. Theresa of Avila once said that "Jesus is always speaking to us. The question is, 'are we listening?'"

I sometimes had a tough time hearing God speak to me through other people about my vocation because some faithful Catholics told me they thought I was called to be a priest, and others thought I should be married. However, there were some conversations with family members and friends that I do feel were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Finally, we should not overlook our experiences as ways that God speaks to us loudly and clearly. A good friend of mine felt strongly that God was calling him to be a monk. It wasn't until he went to the monastery and experienced life there for several weeks that he realized it clearly wasn't for him. He is now very happy as a parish priest in another diocese.

It is always wise to meet with a priest to better understand how God is speaking to us. Many Catholics have a "spiritual director" with whom they meet regularly. A spiritual director can help read the signs in a person's life, and how God is speaking to him or her. I know I would be pretty much lost without mine!!

Monday, December 04, 2006

"This holy season"

Here are some excerpts from the Office of Readings for the Monday of the first week of Advent (a pastoral letter by St. Charles Borromeo, bishop):

"Beloved, now is the acceptable time spoken of by the Spirit, the day of salvation, peace and reconciliation: the great season of Advent. This is the time eagerly awaited by the patriarchs and prophets, the time that holy Simeon rejoiced at last to see. This is the season that the Church has always celebrated with special solemnity.

We too should always observe it with faith and love, offering praise and thanksgiving to the Father for the mercy and love he has shown us in this mystery. In his infinite love for us, though we were sinners, he sent his only Son to free us from the tyranny of Satan, to summon us to heaven, to welcome us into his innermost recesses, to show us truth itself, to train us in right conduct, to plant within us the seeds of virtue, to enrich us with the treasures of his grace, and to make us children of God and heirs of eternal life.

Each year, as the Church recalls this mystery, she urges us to renew the memory of the great love God has shown us. This holy season teaches us that Christ's coming was not only for the benefit of his contemporaries; his power has still to be communicated to us all. We shall share his power, if through holy faith and the sacraments, we willingly accept the grace Christ earned for us, and live by that grace in obedience to Christ...

In her concern for our salvation, our loving mother the Church uses this holy season to teach us through hymns, canticles, and other forms of expression, of voice or ritual, used by the Holy Spirit. She shows us how grateful we should be for so great a blessing, and how to gain its benefit: our hearts should be as much prepared for the coming of Christ as if he were still to come into this world. The same lesson is given us for our imitation by the words and example of the holy men of the Old Testament."

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Advent, 1st Sunday

On this first Sunday of Advent, we begin this season that focuses on preparation for the coming of Christ. Much of our focus is on Christ’s First Coming, as we re-visit what it must have been like for Mary, Joseph and all those 2000 years ago who prepared for Jesus’s birth. And, that is all very good and significant. It is important for us to know the Christmas story and how our Savior was born. But, we also hear much about how we, in 2006, are to prepare for Christ’s coming. This preparation is for Christ’s Second Coming. His first coming was as Savior; his Second Coming will be as judge. And, to make it a bit more confusing, there is one more coming of Christ: he comes to us now in the Eucharist.

Jesus says in the Gospel we are to “be vigilant at all times” in preparing for his Coming. We understand what it means to be vigilant much more since 9/11. It means to be on the look-out, to keep watch for those who wish to do us harm. We are vigilant in protecting our bodies from harm, and keeping our loved ones safe. And, it’s not just with terrorists; it’s with robbers as well. How many of us make sure every night that the doors to our homes are locked? If we forget one night to do it, we gasp, and make sure it never happens again.

But, are we vigilant with our souls, and with the souls of our loved ones? How are we to be vigilant spiritually? St. Paul says in the second reading that we are to be “blameless in holiness”. Now, many of us hear the word ‘holiness’, and think that it’s only for priests or nuns or saints. But, we are all called to be holy. Christ calls each one of us to be vigilant. He calls us to keep watch and be faithful to Him.

We have given you three ways to spiritually be vigilant this Advent, as you see on the insert in the bulletin. The first is Confession. We will have a Penance Service on December 19, when a bunch of priests from other parishes will be here to hear Confessions. I have been talking to several of you recently about Confession. When we start talking, it’s, “Father, I don’t need to go to Confession. I just take my sins to God directly”. Then, as we talk more, it becomes, “Ok, so I know that I need to go”. Then, “but, Father, if I tell you or Fr. Mike my sins, you will look at me differently”, or “it’s so embarrassing”.

For me, personally, I don’t focus on your sins. That’s between you and God. I simply give His absolution of those sins. But, what I focus on is the humility and courage of each person who comes to Confession. In my short time as a priest, I have heard Confessions of people who haven’t been for 10, 20, and over 30 years. My first reaction is, “Welcome back! This is awesome!” It’s sort of like, who cares about your sins. God absolves them. I look at the humility and courage that it takes to confess sins.

The other two ways have to do with the Eucharist. We have Adoration every Friday night from 7-8 pm, when we bring the Eucharist out of the tabernacle onto the altar. It is a great opportunity for parents and kids to spend time with Jesus. It is very peaceful and quiet. Our theme is “keeping watch with Christ”, with the quote being from Jesus in the garden with his Apostles the night before he died: “Could you not keep watch with me for one hour?”

Also, we have suggested attending a daily Mass, in addition to Sunday. We have Mass every morning here at 8:30. If that doesn’t work for you, we have provided a web site,, which gives you all of the times that Mass is celebrated during the week throughout the area. Many people prefer the weekday Mass to Sunday (not in lieu of it!) because it is more personal and less distracting. There something to it when we choose to come to Mass. Also, it’s shorter (and no collection)!

These are all ways for each of us to grow in holiness which means to grow in friendship with Christ. It means to be vigilant for His Coming. Again, his First Coming was as Savior, his Second Coming will be as Judge. But also, he comes to us in a few minutes in the Eucharist. He comes to us as the Lamb of God…the Bread of Life…the Bread that’s come down from Heaven…the Kingdom of God…Eternal Life…the source of our joy…the source of our happiness. It is truly with joy that we keep watch with Christ in the Eucharist. It is true that “we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ”.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

"Has the devil been successful in his schemes?"

This is an interesting post (which I have seen before) that an anonymous blogger made in October:

"SATAN'S MEETING: (Read even if you're busy)
Satan called a worldwide convention of demons.

In his opening address he said, "We can't keep Christians from going to church."
"We can't keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth. We can't even keep them from forming an intimate relationship with their savior. Once they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken."

"So let them go to their churches; BUT steal their time, so they don't have time to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ..This is what I want you to do," said the devil: "Distract them from gaining hold of their Savior and maintaining
that vital connection throughout their day!"

"How shall we do this?" his demons shouted.

"Keep them busy in the non-essentials of life and invent innumerable
schemes to occupy their minds," he answered. "Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow. Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6-7 days each week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford their
empty lifestyles."

"Keep them from spending time with their children. As their families fragment, soon, their homes will offer no escape from the pressures of work! Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still, small voice...That will fragment their families quickly!"

"Give them Santa Claus to distract them from teaching their children
the real meaning of Christmas. Give them an Easter bunny so they won't talk about his resurrection and power over sin and death. Keep them busy, busy, busy! And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences. It will work! It will work!"

It was quite a plan!

The demons went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busier and more rushed, going here and there. Having little time for their God or their families and having no time to tell others about the power of Jesus to change

I guess the question is, has the devil been successful in his

Friday, December 01, 2006

"Ready for God's Will"

Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All are invited!
The following is an extraordinary sermon by St. Cyprian (Bishop, 3rd cent.) from today's Office of Readings (Liturgy of the Hours):

"Our obligation is to do God's will, and not our own. We must remember this if the prayer that our Lord commanded us to say daily is to have any meaning on our lips. How unreasonable it is to pray that God's Will be done, and then not promptly obey it when he calls us from this world! Instead we struggle and resist like self-willed slaves and are brought into the Lord's presence with sorrow and lamentation, not freely consenting to our departure, but constrained by necessity. And yet we expect to be rewarded with heavenly honors by him to whom we come against our will! Why then do we pray for the kingdom of heaven to come if this earthly bondage pleases us? What is the point of praying so often for its early arrival if we would rather serve the devil here than reign with Christ.

The world hates Christians, so why give your love to it instead of following Christ, who loves you and has redeemed you? John is most urgent in his epistle when he tells us not to love the world by yielding to sensual desires. Never give your love to the world, he warns, or to anything in it. A man cannot love the Father and love the world at the same time. All that the world offers is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and earthly ambition. The world and all its allurements will pass away, but the man who has done the will of God shall live for ever. Our part, my dear brothers, is to be single-minded, firm in faith, and steadfast in courage, ready for God's will, whatever it may be. Banish the fear of death and think of the eternal life that follows it. That will show people that we really live our faith.

We ought never to forget, beloved, that we have renounced the world. We are living here now as aliens and only for a time. When the day of our homecoming puts an end to our exile, frees us from the bonds of the world, and restores us to paradise and to a kingdom, we should welcome it. What man, stationed in a foreign land, would not want to return to his home as soon as possible? Well, we look upon paradise as our country, and a great crowd of our loved ones awaits us there, a countless throng of parents, brothers and children longs for us to join them. Assured though they are of their own salvation, they are still concerned about ours. What joy both for them and for us to see one another and embrace! O the delight of that heavenly kingdom where there is no fear of death! O the supreme and endliss bliss of everlasting life!

There, is the glorious band of apostles, there, the exultant assembly of prophets, there, the innumerable host of martyrs, crowned for their glorious victory in combat and in death. There, in triumph, are the virgins who subdued their passions by the strength of continence. There, the merciful are rewarded, those who fulfilled the demands of justice by providing for the poor. In obedience to the Lord's command, they turned their earthly patrimony into heavenly treasure.

My dear brothers, let all our longing be to join them as soon as we may. May God see our desire, may Christ see this resolve that spring from faith, for he will give the rewards of his love more abundantly to those who have longed for him more fervently."