Monday, August 22, 2016

Knowing and Being Known - Homily for August 21

Heart speaks to Heart
Readings for Sunday, August 21 / 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time:
Isaiah 66:18-21 | Psalm 117 | Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13 | Luke 13:22-30

I’d like to begin by saying thank you for your prayers. Many of you have gone to serve as well as the many donations which have been received in our parish from those who are suffering from the floods. It was a great joy to be able to see the generosity and the love of our parish. It made me really proud to be your pastor. Whenever we went to Denham Springs on Friday to drop off all the donations, we had collected one twelve-foot trailer that was jam-packed, another one was probably a sixteen foot trailer that was at least half full, and other cash donations. It was interesting because we went to the shelter to drop everything off, and they were short-handed because most of their volunteers were trying to clean their own homes. They asked if we could stay to help sort some of the donations onto the tables. As soon as we were unpacking things, there were people already standing at the table waiting to pick them up. You’d put a bottle of bleach on the table, bend down to pick another one up, and the other one you just put was gone already. It was greatly needed and greatly appreciated. I know many of them there expressed their gratitude to us who were there, and through us to you. So thank you, as your pastor, but also as one who calls Denham Springs home.

The past couple of days I’ve been at my parents’ house working, and have been reminded of the many mission trips I’ve been involved in throughout my time in the seminary. We went to Guatemala and Nicaragua multiple times, as well as doing local mission trips where we can serve in our own communities - going to Vacherie at the southern end of our diocese. One year we went to a youth group mission trip in Bayou La Batre, over in Alabama; and it was that one that stuck out most to me as I was reflecting and praying with the scriptures as we were taking care of things at the house. It was an ecumenical gathering, so it wasn’t just Catholic, it was a variety of Christian churches that had come together for this mission work after one of the storms that hit them. Each night, one of the ministers would have a little time of prayer or reflection. One of the evenings they sat us all down and the minister asked us to close our eyes. He began to describe a scene where we passed from this life, where we died, and then we ‘woke up’, and before our eyes was Jesus in heaven. The minister said, “If you could ask Jesus one question, what would it be?” and he then opened up the floor for people to respond. The profound thoughts and reflections from the hearts of 13, 14, 15-year-olds was edifying to me at that time and still today.

But it was that question of “If you could ask one thing what would it be?” - in a sense that’s what we get in the Gospel today. The Lord Jesus is going from town to town on His way to Jerusalem. As you maybe remember from a few weeks ago, Jesus sets His eyes on Jerusalem. He’s resolved to go there. He’s not coming back. As He’s going from place to place, there are many times where people will see Him for the first and the last time. I think one of those people is the one who cries out the question today. As Jesus passes by, he has that burning thing in his heart - the one thing that he wants to know from the Lord - “Lord, will only a few be saved?” “What are my odds Jesus, am I going to make it, or will only a few saved?” It’s an important question because salvation is everything. If we have it, we have eternal joy; if we don’t we have eternal sorrow and suffering. It’s an important question. What side of the line am I on Jesus? Can I make it?

It’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t give a numerical response. He doesn’t say, “O yeah, probably just a hand full.”  He doesn’t say, “No. Many people will make it. All will make it. Nobody will make it.” He doesn’t say any physical number or general idea, and that’s important for us. Because if Jesus says that “Yeah everybody is in,” we don’t really worry about showing our love for the Lord and others in this life. Our natural inclination is to take the easiest pathway possible, right? So, if the Lord says most people will make it, then it’s easy to presume “Yea, I’m generally a good person. I’ll probably make it. I’ll be in the number of the most.” If the Lord says only a few people will make it, then we begin to question whether I can make it or whether I should even try. No matter what the Lord would’ve said, the question would have have arisen in our hearts  “Should I try?” either because I’m already in or I don’t have a shot.

The Lord gives the proper response: It doesn’t matter how many get in; that’s not the point. Strive to enter the narrow gate. Strive. The Greek word is something to the effect of “agonize” - give everything you can to enter through the narrow gate. Give your best effort. That’s what the Lord calls us to - to give our best effort - to enter through the narrow gate. He says that some won’t be strong enough, some won’t know the way, they won’t know Me. Then He gives that agonizing story of the ones who come, and they are standing outside saying, “Jesus, open the door for us. We are here. We’re ready to come to the feast, Lord.” He says, “I don’t know where you’re from.” “Lord you ate and drank, you taught in our streets.” “I don’t know where you’re from. Depart from me you evildoers.”

Many hours I’ve spent praying with those passages. Put yourself in that situation. Spend some time reflecting on that response. If that’s not a motivation … Every time I pray with that scripture and place myself in that place where the Lord was speaking that to me, I get this really sick feeling in my stomach. I immediately realize that I need to strive a little more I need to try a little harder for myself. And so the Lord invites, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.”

“I don’t know where you are from” would be a hard thing to hear. So how do we fix that? How do we make it so that the Lord knows where we are from. Obviously, He’s God - He knows. He knows the number of hairs on our head, or maybe the lack thereof sometimes. He knows everything about us. He knows all the things in our heart - even if we don’t know it. You think He wouldn’t know where we are from? Certainly He does. But He needs even more than that. He wants to know us - to know us personally. And the way we do that is prayer. We have to pray, to be a people of prayer - profound prayer; not surface level prayer, but prayer that actually speaks to Christ and is able to listen. To have that time where we hear the word of God and we respond to it - a conversation with Him. We can offer up the rosary and allow our meditation to become an encounter with Christ Jesus. Other spontaneous prayers, chaplets and these sorts of things, can be beautiful ways to encounter the living God. But one of the ways that I think is most important for us is the Mass.

Today is the feast of Pope St. Pius X. He was a pope in the early 20th century, and he was part of the early days of the liturgical renewal in the Church and one of the things he desired for us as a Church was to pray the Mass. One of his famous quotes was, “Don’t pray at the Holy Mass. Pray the Holy Mass.” Again, don’t pray at Holy Mass. Don’t just come in here, and father does his thing, we say the words, but I’m kind of doing my thing over there, just kind of doing my own personal deal. No, he says pray the Holy Mass - pray the words, pray the actions. Let the things that we say and the things that we do be things that are not just on that exterior, but they are manifestations of the reality of what our heart is actually speaking to Christ. And that’s hard. It’s hard because we are easily distracted and easily caught up in the routine of things.

Being a priest, I’ve celebrated Mass every single day, sometimes multiple times a day. It’s easy - impressively easy - to become like a robot and go through the words, go through the actions. Just this week at one of the daily Masses, I remember concluding the Eucharistic Prayer and we started the Our Father - I presume - and I woke up, I ‘clicked in’ two pages later as I was offering people the sign of peace. I had to ask someone after Mass, “Did I actually pray the prayers or did I skip over them?” “No, Father, you prayed them.”

How easy it is to happen like that, that we can allow our minds to kick into autopilot, allow our lips say what needs to be said as our mind goes ten thousand other places. That’s not what we are supposed to do. It is to enter into the mystery and pray the Mass, to reflect on the words we say and to mean them: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy... Glory to God in the highest … Thanks be to God …Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ … Lord hear our prayer … Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts …. Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us … Lord I’m not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed … Amen … Thanks be to God …. These things that you say and that I say every Mass - if we really prayed them, they have a way of changing our hearts. If we allow the bodily postures that we do to form our spirit, it can change us. It teaches us to pray. It allows us to know the Lord, but even more importantly, to be known by Him.

As we come here, it would be easy to come and simply say the words, do the things, to show up at Mass every Sunday, to do all the right stuff, to check off our lists of Catholic obligations, is to come and say to the Lord, “Lord, you ate and drank among us, and you taught in our streets.” The Lord says, “But you never spoke to me. Yes I was there, but you never spoke to me. You were at the other table. You weren’t listening or responding. You were somewhere else. You should’ve been with me, listening to me, speaking with me.” And that’s what He desires for us. Prayer - heart speaking to heart. To allow our heart to speak to Christ, and not just with the words of the Mass, but to allow even the other things of our heart to speak. And the other silent moments of prayer, to allow our heart to pour out to the Lord Jesus and to really speak to Him, to talk to Him, because He is here. He’s passing by right now in this Mass right before our eyes, into our very flesh. There are many things we want to ask Him, many things we want to say, but it’s to make sure to say them, and to make sure that we mean them.

The Lord Jesus calls us to Himself.  He wants to know us, He longs to know us. I think we want to know Him as well. I invite you, as we enter into the continuation of this Mass, to respond to the Lord, to let the words really mean something, let our actions really mean something for us. I’m not preaching to you; I’m preaching to me today because I need it, because so often I forget it. How easy it is, again, to go through the motions, but to forget the Lord behind it all. Let us come together today in this Mass and to offer ourselves in love, to love and be loved, to know the Lord Jesus, and to be known by Him. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Everything is Meaningless! Praying with the 'vanity of vanities'

Readings for Sunday, July 31/ 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time:
Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23
Psalm 90
Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11
Luke 12:13-21

This week the Holy Father has been in Poland for the celebration of World Youth Day. 2 Million youth and young adults from around the world have gathered for Mass, prayer, catechesis, and to share in the joy of being a universal Church. What intrigued me in watching the various celebrations was the face of Pope Francis. In the majority of the encounters with people he was his usual jovial self - smiles illuminating his eyes and the joy of the Gospel written on his face. When he went to the concentration camp at Auschwitz it was different though. His face as he walked around the grounds and prayed at the various sites was one of a solemn and somber nature. You could see in his face and body posture the weight of a profound mystery, the great sufferings endured by so many people.

Some of the survivors of the Holocaust have written and spoken of the horrors that took place within those gates. Many recall how some of the most faithful people among them lost all faith as they endured and witnessed the suffering and death of their friends, families, neighbors, and their own selves. Many, it is said, were the ones who cried out in search of the meaning of it all – What is the point of this?! Why is this happening?! What is the meaning of it all?!

Viktor Frankl was a man who himself endured great suffering in Auschwitz. He lost most of his family there and was subjected to the inhumane conditions that claimed the lives of so many. But as he endured it all, he also reflected on it. Victor Frankl was a psychologist and he continued his labor as such even in the camp. He tells of how the Nazi guards would intentionally starve the prisoners for long periods of time and then throw a small bit of bread into the middle of the yard so they could watch the prisoners tear at each other in hopes of getting a few scraps. Many did so, seeking to feed themselves before others who were more in need. But Frankl also noticed that in the face of these attempts at dehumanization, there were many who kept their dignity and some who were able to attain a piece of bread that immediately brought it to others more in need of it than themselves. This made him think about the differences between people in the camp, particularly in how they viewed their future. He came to realize that if one had lost hope and had nothing to look forward to, they often died in the camp. On the opposite end, many who were subjected to great trials endured them on account of their desire to fulfill some hope they still clung to. Ultimately Frankl survived his time in Auschwitz and was freed, after which he wrote a book called “Man’s Search for Meaning” in which he provided an axiom that described his experience: if we have a why to live, we can endure almost any how. Or in Christian terms, if we have hope, we can carry any cross.

The readings this weekend help us to grapple with this mystery a bit too, particularly in regards to the reading from Ecclesiastes, which is rather jolting. This is the one and only time we hear from Ecclesiastes in the three-year Sunday readings, so I encourage you to go read through it yourself. What you will likely experience as you start to read through it is a sense that it is quite different than the rest of the books of the Bible. While many have historical or a more positive theological tone, Ecclesiastes is the gut-wrenching cry of an anguished heart: Vanity of vanities! Everything is vanity! The Hebrew word for ‘vanity’ is ‘hevel’ and is also translated as a waste, a breath, vapor, useless, meaningless, and the like. Qoheleth cried out in frustration as he sees that he works and labors with skill and all he works to attain will be left behind to another person who has done nothing to deserve it. He goes through an contemplates how he can have all wealth, power, honor, health, and worldly wisdom, and in the end he will die the same as someone who has none of it. What is the point of this life? he challenges the invisible God. Vanity of vanities! Like chasing after the wind. This litany of frustrations is not the end of the book, however. In response to all of these things and the vanity of being consumed with the things of the world, the writer concludes that we ought simply to enjoy the things that come our way and to follow the way of the Lord. So if you have wealth, health, wisdom, power, honor, and the like, enjoy it and use it well. But don’t make that your goal. These are not what matters to God and this is what he New Testament passages clearly remind us.

St. Paul tells the Colossians to set their eyes on the things that are above, not the things that are on earth, and the same applies to use. Do you not know, brothers and sisters, that you have died in Christ? Then think of heavenly things – the Blessed Trinity, the glory of the saints, the joy of the angels, the beauty of heaven. Set your hearts there and store up those riches. The earthly riches are nothing in comparison. The wealthy man in the Gospel who stores up great quantities to permit himself years of rest and relaxation is met with the voice of the Lord telling him he won’t even survive the night. Be rich, then, in the things that actually matter to God. And what is it that matters to God? What’s most important to God? You might rephrase it with that of another Gospel narrative: What is the greatest commandment? You know the answer. Love God, love neighbor. So what is it that matters to God? Love God, love neighbor.

St. Maximilian Kolbe was a Franciscan priest who himself endured suffering and death within the gates of Auschwitz. One of the norms at the camp was that if someone tried to escape or actually escaped, 10 or so men would be killed as a sort of penalty. The purpose was to dissuade trying to get out of the camp, using the possible death of family and friends as a deterrent. One day someone did escape and so a group of men were chosen to be killed. One of them began to weep and cry ‘My wife! My children!’ He had a ‘why’ to endure the ‘how’ of life there. Hearing this plea, Maximilian stepped forward and volunteered himself to take that man’s place. The guards, unconcerned about who was killed, agreed and Maximilian went to his death and the martyrs crown. Love God, love neighbor. The man survived and was later reunited with his family because St. Maximilian had a purpose and it ended in a heavenly union.

Viktor Frankl himself chose on many occasions to love God and love neighbor instead of caving to his own desires and giving up hope. When he could have tried to rest and care for himself, he instead spent many nights talking to the men who surrounded him in the bunks. As they would begin to despair he would simply begin asking questions to them one by one. Do you have an family left? And if they said yes, he would encourage them to think about being reunited. Do you have friends somewhere? Again, wouldn’t it be great to be reunited. Is there some place you’d love to travel to or some activity you’d love to do? What joy to be able to do so! Over and over and over again, by loving God and his neighbor Frankl gave hope to countless men in the camp and encouraged them to find meaning in the life they lived. As those men began to love God and love neighbor – whether outside or inside the camp – they grew in the health, wealth and wisdom that matters to God: love.

All of those is simply a shadow and reminder of the great love shown to humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, who loved God and neighbor even unto His death on the Cross.

So the end point is this: if you have worldly riches and blessings, enjoy them. But remember that out goal is not earthly pleasure but heavenly joy. Every human heart must face that reality at some point. Whether in the past, present, or future. Whether it is us personally or someone we know or even someone we don’t know. All of us are faced with those questions at times that make us want to cry out Vanity of Vanities! What is the meaning of all of this?! In those moments, when hope seems to be waning and despair increasing, when confusion seems to triumph over reason, remember your purpose. Remember the ‘why’ of life that can help you get through any ‘how’. Love God, love neighbor.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Papal Intentions for August 2016

Papal Intentions for August 2016

Universal Intention: That sports may be an opportunity for friendly encounters between peoples and may contribute to peace in the world.
Mission Intention: That Christians may live the Gospel, giving witness to faith, honesty, and love of neighbor.

Prayer for the Pope

V. Let us pray for Francis, our Pope.
R. May the Lord preserve him, give him life, 
and make him blessed upon the earth, 
and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies.
Our Father... Hail Mary...
O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look mercifully upon Thy servant Francis, whom Thou hast chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life. 
Through Christ our Lord. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Signs of the Times - Homily for July 24 (Feast of St. Ann)

Readings from July 24 (Feast of St. Ann)
Genesis 18:20-32
Psalm 138
Colossians 2:12-14
Luke 11:1-13

Announcement: St. Ann Parish has a website now: - check us out!

The Lord often uses physical, relatable examples in his teaching to his disciples. Today He uses a clear one of someone coming at midnight to ask for food. Every one of us knows that even if we don't want to get up, their persistence will lead us to give them whatever they want...even if we do it less than gracefully and kindly. He also uses physical things to teach in numerous other examples so as to help the people understand. He does this because He knows that we are good at understanding physical realities, but the more important for us is to understand the spiritual realities. Speaking to the disciples, Jesus told them that they know well the 'signs of the times' physically; how to read the skies and understand that when the wind blows this way rain is coming, or when plants change that seasons are changing, and so forth. They rightly read those things, but the greater gift is to be able to read the signs of the times in the Spirit. To know that when things are happening around us what is the work of God and what is the work of the evil one. 

Reflecting these past few weeks on the Sunday scriptures, as well as the saints' feast days that we've remembered through the course of the week and the recent events around our country, it seems rather clear to me that the signs of the times are all pointing toward a common refrain: pray, pray, pray. 

It is good for us to pray, but if we don't know how to pray or how to pray well, our efforts may be less fruitful than otherwise may be the case. The disciples recognize this and wisely ask Jesus for help: "Jesus us how to pray just as John taught his disciples." In response the Lord gives them a little catechism lesson on prayer. In it He gives us what we can discern as three main points today.

The first point is the fact that we need to pray. When the request is made the Lord doesn't shrug it off as something inconsequential, but rather immediately responds. Unlike many places where He asks questions or invites them to reflect, He acknowledges the importance of prayer and feeds them with the proper manner of prayer. The prayer He gives, an abbreviate form of the Our Father is what is given by St. Luke, even reminds us that we cannot provide our own daily bread - our legitimate needs and other desires - but that it comes from God. We can forget this sometimes and go through the course of our day forgetful that the gifts we have and exercise are there only because of God's goodness and we can implicitly take them as our personal traits or skills we've honed and developed. But it is the Lord who does these things and it is He to whom we turn for help. 

The second point on prayer is that we must begin with the Lord first and our petitions second. St. Peter Julian Eymard, known often as an Apostle of the Eucharist and one who wrote and preached extensively on the Most Blessed Sacrament, said that when we go to prayer before Our Lord, we ought to begin by loving the Lord and pouring out our love for Him. This is modeled by Jesus as He begins the prayer with "Father, hallowed be your name...". Honored be Your name, holy be Your name. Saturday was the feast of St. Bridget of Sweden and the Office of Readings for her feast was a beautiful reflection on the Passion of Christ. What is different than most narratives is that preceding each portion of the Passion reflection is a line to the effect of 'Glory be to You, Lord', 'Honor be to You', 'Eternal praise be to You', and the like. She poured out her love and then would reflect on the petition or need. So, how often do you begin your prayer with "In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. Lord, I need your help right now with...." or something to that effect? I know that I do it often because the time when we our to prayer most quickly and fervently is when we are in need. But the Lord reminds us to praise Him first, pouring out our love, and then after having done so being able to bring forward our petitions and needs which now have a new strength and power because they are purified by our praise and adoration. 

The third point is the need for persistence in prayer. How many souls have been lost for the lack of persistence! How frequently have I seen in other and myself the struggle of faith when a petition is prayer about for week, month, or years and right when it seems like the Lord is about to move, the prayer is given up for lack of faith and persistence. Right at the threshold when the gift was to be given! Persistence in prayer is everything because it shapes our heart to become more like loving nature that is the Lord God's. The problem with persistence is that we often treat it like a great haggling match with God. When we hear the reading from Genesis today we can think that Abraham is talking God into not destroying the city, almost as if God is really angry and Abraham is the merciful one. Jesus' description of God as a good father helps us to reorient things. Abraham thinks he's going out on a limb asking God to preserve the city if there are 50 righteous ones there. Abraham sees bargaining but the Lord sees the call as way too little to ask - our Good Father wants to much more for us! As Abraham goes from 50 to 45, 40, 30, 20 & 10, it's as if the Lord is saying in response, "Abraham, I will go much farther than you think. I love you and these people so much more than you realize! To what depths I would not go to prove this!" It is not Abraham who is haggling for souls, it is the Lord haggling with Abraham in an attempt for Him to realize the Love that is within the heart of our Heavenly Father. Persistence was not so much about changing God's mind as changing Abraham's heart. In the end, there were not even 10 righteous people found and the city was lost (a testament to the wickedness of the people and not the vengefulness of God) but Abraham learned a valuable lesson that day about the Lord and His goodness toward us. We must persist in prayer. We must ask, seek, and knock continuously on the Heart of Christ. He is all-loving and wants to give us good things, more than we even want to receive them.

So we pray. This week we were asked by our bishop to pray and fast for peace. Join me in persisting in that prayer; let's keep it going. And let us pray that the prayers we have offered, the fasting we have taken up, and the acts of charity that we've shown may be taken up into the hands of St. Ann, where they can be purified, sanctified, and made fruitful in the sight of our good and loving Father and bring forth peace. Good Saint Ann, pray for us!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

It's Time to Pray

Sorry I couldn't get to the typing of the actual text. The last minute crunch on our parish website and the preparations for the feast of St. Ann this weekend have been quite the time consumers.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Listening to Heartbeats

Deuteronomy 30:10-14
Psalm 69
Colossians 1:15-20
Luke 10:25-37

It’s nice to be home. I want to begin by thanking you all for your prayers for me while I was on retreat. It was a week of many blessings and much peace, I believe on account of your prayers and love. I have to admit that it was disheartening to come back from such a profound experience of joy and peace into the social climate so full of unrest, injustices, violence, and divisions, coming now even to our area in Baton Rouge. Moving from one experience to the next really gave me something to reflect on as I drove home – the need of the human heart for peace. We were created for it, we long for it when it isn’t there, and even those who war against others and commit violence ultimately still seek peace as the final goal. The world offers us many ways to have peace. We can simply be without violence. We can work to gain the things that make us happy, the worldly possessions that make us content in some way. We can have a peace that comes by way of simply giving up our own (often religious) beliefs on ‘hot topics’ and thus smoothing things out. But none of these aspects of peace are lasting. There is only one place that gives lasting peace and it is the Heart of Jesus Christ.

The familiar story of the Good Samaritan is one that provides a great variety of options to pray with it. Certainly it is prescriptive in how we ought to live the Christian faith – the clarification of ‘who is my neighbor’ and ‘go and do likewise’ compel us to action for the spread of the Kingdom of Mercy. Too, we can reflect upon the individuals of the story and see in them aspects of our own life – the time that I have been the Samaritan, innkeeper, priest or Levite, wounded man, or the robbers. These are fruitful and help us to become more understanding of the mercy to which we are called.

As I’ve done mentioned in other homilies, the story is also that of the Lord Jesus. The wounded man on the roadside is us, humanity; all of us. The priest & Levite are those who do what is expected of them in the culture of the day; it was actually proper for them to avoid a person who was bloodied or dead, as it would make them ritually unclean and unable to perform some of the services expected of them. The Lord is the Samaritan who breaks the rule of what ought to be done and instead shows mercy to the one in need, at great personal cost. He pours out his wine and oil – signs of the Sacraments – and binds the man up and then brings him to the Inn for continued care. He stays for a short time and then departs, assuring that he will return and pay back everything given. The early Church Fathers saw in this the reality that Christ came to bring humanity to the ‘inn’ that is the Catholic Church, where we are to be continuously cared for until the Lord returns. What I spent time praying with this week was that while the oil and wine – symbolic of the Sacraments – was necessary for the healing of the man, it was not all that was provided at the inn. The innkeeper would surely have had to continue the work of the dressing and cleansing of wounds, but would have also to give food, shelter, clothing, conversation, and more to the man in the time of healing. This latter part, it seems to me, while not part of the sacramental order of things is of vital importance. And so to the Church provides for us the Sacraments and to compliment them, various devotions to feed and clothe us in the grace and peace of God.

The more I try to hear the voice of the Lord in prayer and try to read the signs of the times, the more and more I am convinced that right now all of our problems can be solved, all of our questions answered if we but simply have recourse to one particular devotion in the Church and that is the devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The devotion to the Sacred Heart is, in a sense, hidden within this parable of the Good Samaritan because the parable is one of a love that seeks to show mercy. This is the merciful and Sacred Heart of Christ. In the 1600’s Our Lord appeared in a vision to St. Margaret Mary and stood before her, His Heart visible to her eyes. She marveled at it because it was ablaze with fire – a furnace of love. Another time He appeared and the same thing happened, except this time she gazed even deeper at the Heart and noticed that the brightness was far beyond that of the Sun, and yet it was also clear as crystal. Purity and passionate love. Seeing this, He reached out and took her own heart and placed it within His. As a log catches fire in the fireplace and gradually becomes indistinguishable from the rest of the flames, so too her heart began to catch flame and to burn with that same love in the Heart of Jesus. He then took her heart and gave it back.

In these days we must seek to do the same. We must rest in prayer and allow the Lord to set our hearts on fire with His love. We must turn to prayer first and foremost and there learn what to do. This, of course, has won me the ridicule of friends and others who see prayer as the ‘easy way out’. It seems that when things get too tough, the best thing is to simply say ‘pray about it!’ and all is better. While it could easily become the easy way out, I’m convinced it’s really not. One retreat I came across a timely quote by Catherine Doherty that affirmed this insistence upon prayer: “We must trust, resting peacefully on God’s breast, listening to His heartbeats, and realizing that in listening, we will find the answer to our questions.” It is in resting upon the breast of God, spiritually speaking, that we are able to truly discern what it is that God desires of us. Prayer is vital because it purifies us and allows us to seek the Will of God and not simply go with our own response. Every homily that you get from me is version 2.0 because the first homily in my heart is what I want to say, then that homily has to be purified before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer, where it is filled with the Love of God and given in a new way that I pray is fruitful.

Again, the parable calls us to action and mercy, but how do we show it? What do we do? What do we say? Where do we go? How Who is our neighbor? The answer to these and every question can be found in the quiet heartbeats of God. So I want to invite you to take up once again the devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Read a book about it. Find the prayers. Read one of the 4 papal documents written on it in the last 125 years. We have the statue here in church and many of you have images or statues in your homes. Take a minute this week and sit with that Sacred Heart. You don’t have to say anything, you need not ask a single question if you don’t want to. But know that if you take the time and listen, the Lord God will soon speak.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Thine.