Friday, July 30, 2010
Readings for Friday, July 30/Memorial of St. Peter Chrysologus:
I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase ‘familiarity breeds contempt.’ That little cliché phrase would be a great title for the gospel reading we hear today. Jesus returns to His hometown and goes to preach the message that elsewhere had been accepted by many. But He comes and the listeners are shocked by what He says, according to the scriptures. They start to think ‘Who does he think he is? Isn’t he the same one we’ve known for years? Where is he coming up with this?’ Because of the familiarity with Christ and His past, his relatives and daily life, they find it hard to listen to Him with open hearts. Their familiarity with Him prevents them from having faith and receiving the truth of His words.
In the course of recent years I have come to relate more with this gospel. As a young teen I was a bit rebellious, to put it nicely, and I often gave my parents and many of the people at CCD classes and youth group functions a bit of added ‘excitement’ in dealing with me and my friends. Sometimes when I go back home these things are recalled and people say “remember when you…” and it becomes clear that sometimes when people look at me they may well see in me the same Brent that a dozen years ago was finding his way into trouble frequently. I can hear echoes of the people in the gospel ‘Isn’t that Marian’s son? Aren’t his brother and sisters here…’ I can’t be sure, but I’d be willing to bet that there have been times when the Lord desired to speak through me but because of their familiarity with my past, they were prevented from hearing it.
And as I reflect on this fact, I realize that I have done this with myself sometimes. There have been times in my own life when I hear the Lord speaking to me, calling me to do things that seem too big for me. And I said to the Lord “Do you know who you’re dealing with? Do you realize where I’ve been and what I’ve done?” And I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Many of you have probably had a similar experience because we’re all sinners and yet are called by the Lord to participate in the work of spreading the good news. As we gather here today, the Lord invites us to set aside our own familiarity with ourselves and to be open to see ourselves as He sees us. Can we accept the invitation and allow Him to work in us that His truth might be brought to ourselves and through us that it might be brought to others?
"...we must by a deliberate effort exert our faith, to see his hand and His love in all that befalls us; we must exert our hope, to trust in Him for everything we need for His glory and our own sanctification; we must exert our love, to cleave to Him in that union of will and humble emptiness of self, which is the true abiding in Christ, and one union with God that matters here below. Note that we say exert, because these circumstances call for a very definite and determined decision. We must decide to believe in God; we must decide to hope in Him; we must decide to love Him; we must decide to trust Him; we must decide that Christ is our life, and God is our all." (Italics are from the author)
-Fr. Eugene Boylan in "This Tremendous Lover"
-Fr. Eugene Boylan in "This Tremendous Lover"
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Readings for Wednesday, July 28:
In the summer of 2006 I was working as a camp counselor at a boys wilderness camp in North Carolina. One day I got a package from one of my best friends back here in Louisiana. I opened it up and found a short note and a picture. As I pulled the picture out of the envelope, I was stunned at what I saw, more because of what it meant. It was an 8x11 picture of the feet of Christ nailed to the cross and at the bottom three small words: Are you ready?
The second chapter in the book of Sirach tells us: “When you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials.” These inspired words point to this fact that the Christian life necessarily involves the cross; the two are inseparable. Our gospel today shows the lengths to which we ought to in efforts to attain the Kingdom – we should be willing to sell everything, to risk everything, and to do so with joy because of the great treasure we have found.
Jeremiah stands as a reluctant witness to this. We hear him today frustrated that his mother even gave him birth. Everyone was upset with him because he prophesied that bad things were in store for the people of Judah. Despite the many curses that were cast at him, and the many struggles he had with that, he stayed faithful to the call of the Lord because he knew that the Lord would be faithful to him.
As we go through our day today and throughout the rest of this week, there will likely be some sort of cross for each of us to bear. The question for each of you is can you accept it joyfully for the kingdom? Are you ready
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Readings for Tuesday, July 27/Peace Mass:
There is a little-known text called the Didache that was written and spread throughout the early Christian Church around the end of the first century. This little document was like a mini-catechism in its description of the Christian life and sacramental life of the Church. The author is unknown, but the message it presents is very clear. It begins “There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways.”
In our gospel today we encounter a parable about these two ways. The way of life bears good fruit that is brought to storage. The way of death bears only weeds that try to choke out the good seed; because it tries to choke out what is bad and because there is no good in it, the weeds are cast into the fiery furnace. This vivid image hits home for us was we realize that each of us will be judged on that last day and set to one side or the other. With that end in mind, we can now see the importance of choosing the right way and staying on that path.
One sure way to stay safely on that path is to stay close to the Blessed Mother. Whether it be by praying the rosary or the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin or any number of pious prayers to her under one of her many titles, the point is that we must stay close to her. As Queen of Heaven and Earth, she is the most powerful intercessor we can have and to ask for her help is to be sure that we will receive the grace that we need. So today, as we come once again to celebrate this Peace Mass, let us call on Our Lady, Our Mother, that she might always lead us closer to Christ, who is the Way, Truth, and Life, that on the last day we might be welcomed into the Kingdom where we will reign with Him forever.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
Readings for Friday, July 23/Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden:
When I first entered college at LSU I wanted to be an engineering major. So, at orientation I went and signed up for the classes that they suggested. When the first day of class rolled around and I got to my calculus class, I was overwhelmed. The teacher started off using symbols, terms, and equations that I had never seen before and I was totally lost from the start. After a few weeks of struggling to understand the content, I realized that it was too much for me and I eventually dropped the class. The next semester I enrolled in a pre-calculus class and began to understand those symbols and equations, and was later able to go to calculus and get through the class. The thing was that I had to have it shown to me gradually. And the Lord does the same with us.
If He were to show us the Kingdom of Heaven, we wouldn’t be able to understand it and we’d probably have a similar reaction to me in calculus that first semester. Think about the sixth chapter of John’s gospel – Jesus tells them about the Eucharist and many, finding it hard to understand, leave Him and return home.
In the reading from Jeremiah, the Lord tells about the age to come – about a Church in Zion, shepherds leading the people, the Ark of the Covenant, and a great celebratory feast. To the people of Jeremiah’s day, this was hard to understand. They were a hard-hearted people and had begun to worship idols. To conceive of a God that would give such great blessings to them was crazy in their minds. But for us who live today, we recognize that the prophecy spoke by Jeremiah so many years ago has indeed come true for us today – we are a people united in the Church, led by our shepherds, the priests and bishops, and we come today to celebrate this great feast of the Eucharist.
But the prophecy does not just stop there. Remember the Lord shows us things gradually because we cannot fully understand, even now. The Lord foretold all of these things and they are manifested in a way today, but in the life to come, we are able to experience these things in their fullness as we behold the face of God. Grant today, Lord, that we might have the eyes to see as you unveil yourself and your will for us.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Readings for Wednesday, July 21, the Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi:
Jeremiah 1:1, 4-10
Psalm 71:1-6, 15, 17
Today the Church celebrates the feast of Saint Lawrence of Brindisi, a priest from the sixteenth century, who just 50 years ago was named a Doctor of the Church because of the profundity of his writings. As I was preparing for this homily I was struck by the fact that the readings for today are perfect for the celebration of Saint Lawrence’s feast, clearly the handiwork of the Lord.
As we begin today the book of the prophet Jeremiah, we are told immediately of his calling from the Lord. A young man, he has the word of God placed in his mouth and is told to go out and speak that word to all of those to whom the Lord sends him. The story of Saint Lawrence is much the same, though not necessarily as powerfully described as that of Jeremiah. He entered the Capuchin Franciscan order at the age of 16 and was ordained a priest at 23. Armed with a love for the scriptures and with a knack for languages, the young man of God clearly had the word of the Lord placed in his mouth and was destined by God for the work of preaching that word to the people.
Like Jeremiah, Saint Lawrence was commissioned to go out to root up and tear down, to build and to plant by the word of God. He did this effectively, bringing many to conversion through His Spirit-filled preaching and example of personal holiness. Saint Lawrence always worked to ensure that the word of the Lord would always find rich soil in his own soul and sought perpetually to help remove the ‘thorns and rocks’ in the soil of the souls that he encountered that they might be prepared as well.
Though not well-known, Saint Lawrence is a wonderful model of being that rich soil that the Lord speaks of in the gospel. May we, through his intercession, work to remove any of our own thorns or rocks that prevent the word of God from really taking root in our own hearts and so be able to receive the word and bear fruit thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold.
Saint Lawrence of Brindisi, pray for us!
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Readings for Tuesday, July 20:
Micah 7:14-15, 18-20
Couldn't find a picture of God's faithfulness, so here's one of the depths of the sea! ->
“Whoever does the will of my Heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
As we listen to those words I’m sure all of us long to be counted among that number, to be seen as brother, sister, or mother of the Lord because we do the will of His Father. But we must also recognize that this is not always the case, that there are times when we turn away from God’s will and seek to do our own and fall into sin. As much as we try, this will inevitably be the case, but this is not a cause for despair or frustration. Rather, it is an opportunity for us to rejoice at God’s faithfulness.
The reading for the book of the prophet Micah provides us with an image of a God who is faithful to His people, one who longs to have them be joined to Himself. The Lord, it says, delights not in prolonged anger but in mercy. He treads upon our guilt as a sign of His desire for us to be freed of the burden of sin and able to turn always back to Him. With each step of His journey, with each hammer of the nails, with every single one of the sufferings He endured during His passion, Christ had only one thing in mind – the will of the Father, to free us from sin so we might live with Him in eternity. Through His death and resurrection, He frees us of our sins. He takes our sins, as the prophet says, and casts them into the depths of the sea. This imagery evokes the finality of our separation from sins – they are cast into the depths of the sea, where no one could reach them. We are no longer able to be weighted down with our failings but are set free to move forward and to continue to follow after the Lord and to seek to do His will.
When we sin, we must not allow that sin and guilt to weigh us down. We must turn again to God, who is always faithful to us, and ask for His forgiveness. And knowing that He will indeed forgive us, we can find a reason to rejoice at this gift of freedom and at the opportunity to once again experience the faithfulness of God.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Readings for Friday, July 16 - Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel:
Isaiah 38:1-6, 21-22, 7-8
Psalm 38:10-12, 16
There are six words that, if we truly live our lives by them, will almost certainly lead us to our eternal salvation: God is God, I am not.
It seems overly simplified, but really, this is a central point of the spiritual life. In fact, all of the scriptures that the Church gives us today speak of this idea. We hear first the story of King Hezekiah, who is told to get his house in order because his death was imminent. Rather than trying to take control of the situation, he embodies those six words and turns to the Lord, Whom he knows controls all things, including even – as the psalm points out - his own life. In fervent prayer he places himself before the Lord admitting his own lowliness and the Lord’s greatness. In His mercy, the Lord hears the prayer of Hezekiah and extends his life.
The gospel shows us a different outlook. The Pharisees were in charge of ensuring that everyone followed the prescripts of the Law. In trying to ensure that no laws would be broken, they began to create their own laws. They began to exalt their own rules to the level as those that were divinely instituted. Forgetting the reality of those six words, they tried to lift themselves up to God’s level. Jesus, however, puts them back in their place and rightly exalts Himself, clearly announcing His own divinity as He says that He is the Lord of the Sabbath and that something greater than the temple was there; the Pharisees would have quickly connected that the only thing greater than the Temple of the Lord was the Lord of the Temple. Jesus makes it clear to them - He is God, they are not.
And as we honor the Blessed Virgin Mary today under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, it would be a major oversight not to point out that Mary embodies this six-word axiom to perfection. She never seeks her own glorification but always points toward her son Jesus. Even as she gave Saint Simon Stock the brown scapular that would inevitably increase devotion to her, her goal was not that she might be glorified but that she might be better able to lead us to Jesus Christ, doing so by bringing us to greater sanctity in this life and making that promise of our union with Him in the next.
Through her intercession, may we always be brought closer to Christ as we try to live daily those six words that she so perfectly modeled for us.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Readings for Wednesday, July 14 - Memorial of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha:
Isaiah 10:5-7, 13-16
Psalm 94:5-10, 14-15
Today we celebrate the memorial of Blessed Kateri. She was the first native American to be beatified and stands as a beautiful witness of innocence and purity for each of us. She was born in 1656 and her parents died when she was just a young child. She was taken into the family of her aunt and uncle, who were very much against the Christian faith. For the longest time she desired to be a Christian. At the time, there were many Christian missionaries coming into the territory and she saw them living their faith out and wanted to be a Christian herself. As was the custom of her tribe, her uncle had chosen a man for her to marry and it was then that she told him of her desire to consecrate her virginity to the Lord. And it was after many years of pleading with him that she eventually was allowed to be baptized and enter into the Christian faith.
She was baptized in 1676 and was then ridiculed and cursed by many in the tribe, even her own family member because of her decision to embrace the Christian faith. She died just a few years later in 1680 at the age of 23. But in those few short years she gave us an incredible witness that embodied the words of the scriptures today. Psalm 94 and our response today speak of the Lord not abandoning His people and tells of those who were persecuted and yet persevered, trusting in the Lord. We know that she endured many trials and much persecution because of her faith in those few short years, and in all of that the Lord did not abandon her.
Also, she imitates this childlike faith that Jesus calls us to in the gospel. It is said that the last words on her lips were “Jesus, Mary, I love you.” What more childlike faith can there be when all that is left is the repetition of the names of Jesus and Mary and vow of her love for them. She needed no lengthy, wordy act of faith. Just those five words – Jesus, Mary, I love you. Let us pray that we might have that faith of Blessed Kateri, that we too might have that childlike faith and that everything we do would be a simple act of love for Our Lord.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Readings for Tuesday, July 13 – Memorial of St. Henry:
***I didn't have this whole text prepared beforehand, so this is fleshed out from the notes I preached from. It's pretty true to what I said in the homily itself.***
I hope that you all caught the last line from our first reading today: “Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm!”
Those of you who came here for Mass this weekend heard me speak about how we can easily get caught up in the details of the scriptures and lose sight of the point. The passage from the book of the Prophet Isaiah today gives us a good example of how that can happen. We get to all these names and can easily get lost in the details, but in all of those details we find hidden this little sentence, a gem of wisdom for us.
The prophet Isaiah used this in reference to military battle. We today, though, are not fighting a military battle but a spiritual one. As Saint Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians, we are not battling against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers. We don’t always talk about him, but the evil one, Satan, is real and he is at work in the world. He is constantly trying to get us to turn away from God and toward ourselves, leading us to sin in a whole variety of ways. The reality is that we are in a spiritual battle.
Thus we can see the value of this phrase for us today – Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm! It’s a call from the prophet to us to be steadfast in the faith. The way that we are strengthened in faith is by our prayer; by a daily, deep prayer life and relationship with the Lord, by our prayers at home or the chapel, on our way to and from work, and here in this church. It is strengthened especially by our gathering here to celebrate the sacrifice of Mass and to receive the Lord in the Eucharist. By this we are strengthened in faith and we pray that being thus strengthened that when we do enter into that battle that we are not found weak but strong in faith.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Some of you may have noticed the web address of this blog and wondered about the 'philomenarocks' part. Well, Saint Philomena is my patroness and an incredible saint. She's a 13 year old virgin martyr from the early church who gives us a bold witness of faith, courage, chastity, and sanctity (among other virtues). You can find out more about her on the website for her shrine in Italy:
If you'd like to read a book about her, I suggest Fr. Paul O'Sullivan's "Saint Philomena, The Wonder-Worker", found here:
Sorry, I haven't figured out how to link to other sites yet, so 'copy and paste' is the best I can offer.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Readings for Sunday, July 11:
Our gospel today tells us that we ought to Love God with all of heart, with all of our being, with all of our strength, and with all of our mind. Well, what if I told you that God loves you with all of Himself? Think about that for a moment. The God Who created the universe, the God who controls all things, Who brings things into and out of existence loves you. And not with a simple fondness because we are His creatures. No, He loves us with a deep, intense love and that love that He has for us desires nothing but that we turn to Him in love. If you think about it, spending eternity in Heaven is nothing other than coming to know God more than we ever can in this life and then spending that eternity in union with Him. And so ultimately, God simply wants us to know Him and to know Him deeply.
In the spring of 2007, I had a very powerful experience of this reality. I had graduated from the college seminary and had decided to take a year off from the seminary to visit a few monasteries since I had been thinking of becoming a monk. I had travelled around and visited several places but there wasn’t anything really pulling me in. At the same time I began to question whether I had a vocation to the priesthood at all. I had reconnected with a high school sweetheart and we had begun to renew that old relationship. I often agonized over the decision of whether I should return to seminary or whether I ought to pursue the relationship with her and, naturally, the vocation of marriage. For several months this went on. One night my mom came into my room and we began to talk about how my discernment was going. As our conversation progressed, we began to talk about the priesthood. I was trying to explain something and had pulled out a paper I had written at the seminary, hoping that it would clear things up. I was reading it aloud to her but found myself unable to speak when I came across the words “I know that on the day of my ordination…” At that moment, I burst into tears because I knew for the first time in a long time the vocation that I had been created for and called to pursue. Still not 100% on board with this, I told God that I would go speak with Fr. Matt Lorrain, our vocation director, in one week and that if he wanted me to pursue another path that he would have to close the door to priesthood. Now, I must add that while I was on this year out of seminary, I kept all of the spiritual disciplines they taught at the seminary, including the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours, which clergy are required to pray. For those of you not familiar with it, it’s a compilation of psalms and scriptures readings that we pray at various points throughout the day. Well, it must have been the Easter octave or something, because for 8 straight days I prayed Psalm 110 as the first part of evening prayer and part of that psalm goes “The Lord has sworn an oath He will not change. You are a priest forever, a priest like Melchizedek of old.” Imagine what went through my head as every night for a whole week when I was giving God His last chance to lead me toward the marriage vocation I continually prayed the words “You are a priest forever.” Needless to say, I was in touch with Fr. Matt the next week and well, you can probably guess the rest of the story.
The reason I tell you that story is to illustrate the fact that God speaks to us in a very real way through the scriptures. I wanted to know the vocation that would lead me to deeper union with God; and He wanted to let me know what it was. And He let me know it through His Word.
You know, we can come to experience God in a number of ways. You can experience the awesome power and beauty of God in nature, you can experience the love and mercy of God in those around us, but those things don’t always allow us to know God in a deeper way. The scriptures, however, have this capacity. They show us the beauty of God, as well as His love and mercy, but they also tell us His story. Really, He tells us His story; and stories have the power of creating bonds between people. Give us facts and we can remain disconnected; give us a story and we are drawn into a relationship. In telling you that little story about me, all of you now know a little something more about my story and knowing that can change how you look at me or how you relate to me. In the same way, the Lord desires each one of us to come to know His story and to be changed by it.
I myself have tried to enter into His story a number of times by reading the Bible cover to cover, in sections, or by picking random books. Each time I tried. Each time I failed. I’m sure many of you have tried the same thing and experienced the same results. And for those of you who succeeded, God bless you, you’re more patient than I am! Inevitably I would be reading and then come to a part that just bored me to tears or lost me totally. Whether it was the “Blah blah blah begot so-and-so, and so-and-so begot two sons, what’s-his-name and what’s-his-face” or the seemingly endless descriptions of events, people and places that I couldn’t pronounce or find much interest in. My problem was that each time I lost sight of the big picture because of the details; I lost the story. The key is to stay focused on the story because when we do so, we understand the story. And when we understand the story, we begin to enter into that deeper relationship with God.
If you keep up with the ‘From the Pastor’ section in the bulletin, you will have noticed that over the course of the past month we have been advertising a Bible study on Thursday evenings at 7pm, starting on July 22, just a couple of weeks away. I want to invite you to join with us as we begin ‘The Great Adventure Bible Study,’ the program that we will be using during our gatherings. The beautiful thing about this program is that the creator, Jeff Cavins, suffered from the same troubles reading the Bible as the rest of us and wanted to make a way to read it that would be easier. The Great Adventure, as it is called, is nothing more than the stripping away of the extra stuff in the Bible so that we can stick to reading the story and not get caught up in all the details. It is presented this way so that we can understand the story and then begin to fill in the pieces and build up that relationship that God so desires us to have with Him.
I’ve heard some really good things about this program and look forward to learning some things myself as we go through it. I realize that not all of you will sign up for it – if everyone did at all of the Masses we’d be having to rent out the River Center downtown, which would be neat. But I hope that all of you realize that the scriptures are not just words in a book. They are the God of all creation speaking to us, inviting us to learn about Him and to enter into a relationship with Him. As the Lord spoke to me in the words of Psalm 110, he wants to speak to you as well. You have only to open the book and listen to His voice.
Friday, July 9, 2010
Here is a copy of the article that I wrote for our parish bulletin this weekend. It's not a homily, but has homiletic aspects...
On the weekend of June 26th and 27th, I had the blessing of going with around 30 youth from our parish to the Steubenville South youth conference in Alexandria. It was a wonderful experience to see and discuss the faith of so many of our youth here at Our Lady of Mercy and to experience in a different way the power and love of God. In addition to the celebration of the Mass, hours of Eucharistic adoration, and the joyful praise music, we heard talks on the value of living a life of sexual purity, the love that God has for us, and the love that we are called to have for Him. I was struck by the fact that nearly every one of the speakers walked on stage with a Bible in one hand and the microphone in the other. As they spoke, they would reference scripture and break it open in a clear, understandable way. It was beautiful to see people so immersed in the story of our salvation and who had made it such a part of their lives.
I myself have often desired to have a deeper knowledge and intimacy with the Sacred Scriptures, and have made numerous commitments over the years to read the whole Bible. I failed each time for different reasons; I didn’t have a clear plan of how to order things, I got lost in the ‘this guy begot so-and-so, and so-and-so begot what’s-his-name…’ or simply because I lost the desire to continue on. I must confess that I’ve never read the Bible cover to cover and I question whether I ever will…and if I really should.
If you’ve been keeping up with the “From the Pastor” section, you will probably recall that we will be starting up a Bible study here at Our Lady of Mercy on Thursday evenings. It will begin at 7pm, starting on July 22, and will continue for 12 weeks. By way of exciting and enlightening videos and small-group discussions, the program helps us to get past those problems of having to form a plan, having to struggle with the dry parts of the scriptures, and even with the loss of desire to continue on.
So often we get caught up in trying to read the Bible from start to finish – cover to cover - but the problem is that they books themselves are not listed chronologically but are generally grouped according to genre and length, which can make it really confusing. Jeff Cavins, the creator of the program, shows us that they key to reading the Bible is to start with the basic story of the Jewish people. He selects certain texts in the Bible and orders them to clearly illustrate the story that we often only glimpse in pieces and parts on Sunday or during the week. Once the basic story is there, then we can easily begin to understand the place of every single book in the Bible and read it with a much greater depth and understanding of its own significance in the history of the Jews and it’s fulfillment in Christ. Not a single word of the Bible is unimportant because it is inspired by God and beneficial for our sanctification and salvation (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We are reminded of St. Jerome’s famous quote “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ,” which reminds us of the importance of reading and praying with the scriptures. I hope that you will come join with me in learning more about the story of our history, the beauty of Sacred Scripture, and about Jesus Himself.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
When you first heard the response for psalm, what did you think? Did you think about anything? Did you just repeat it and move on? I have to admit that often I have to do everything in my power just to remember what it is I’m supposed to be repeating, much less focus on what is being said in the middle of it. Reflecting on that, our response today can seem to be a bit of a challenge: Seek always the face of the Lord. When we come to Mass and when we enter into prayer, are we really seeking the face of the Lord or are we on a sort of spiritual auto-pilot, simply going through the motions, saying the proper words at the proper times?
After going to Mass nearly everyday, sometimes multiple times a day, for almost 7 years, I must confess that from time to time I have kicked myself into auto-pilot mode when it comes to attending the Mass, as well as in the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours and the rosary. And I suspect some of you who attend daily Mass regularly have had a similar experience. It’s rather easy to get so caught up in the things going on at home or work, and the many errands that need to be run, and to see prayer as one more thing on the 'to do' list. That’s why I think the words of the psalm are particularly relevant to us today. They said, “Recall the wondrous deeds that he has wrought, his portents, and the judgments he has uttered.”
Recall the wondrous deeds that he has wrought. What better way is there to pull us from our complacency and coasting than to call to mind the miraculous works of God? Recall the greatness of God in the stories of Moses, Noah, and Abraham. Recall the way that He brought His people into the Promised Land and how He provided for them along the way. Recall the humility of the Son of God in humbling Himself and taking on our humanity. Recall the miracles that He worked and the great act of Love that He showed on the Cross. Recall the calling and election of those 12 ordinary men who changed the world. Recall the miracles He has done that have changed our world – our baptism, the forgiveness of our sins in confession, the healings and special graces we’ve received, and the gift of the Eucharist that we gather here to celebrate once again. In the face of such wondrous deeds, we cannot help but be shaken from our coasting and complacency. God grant that we never forget to recall these wondrous things.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Readings for Tuesday of 14th week of Ordinary Time/Memorial of Saint Maria Goretti:
A couple of weekends ago I was with the Mercy Teens Youth Group at the Steubenville South conference in Alexandria and one of the speakers asked the crowd of about 3500 people “How many of you think you’re going to be saints one day?” A few of the youth raised their hands, but it was very far from being the whole group. The speaker’s point was that so often we think that saints are extraordinary people and that most of us will never arise to such spiritual heights. In reality, though, a saint is simply a person who has entered into the eternal reward of heaven.
Today we celebrate one such person, Saint Maria Goretti, one of the younger canonized saints. Born in 1890, Maria lived with her family in a small town in Italy While her family went out to work in the fields, she would stay back to prepare meals, sew clothes, and keep the house in order. She did not have any great spiritual gifts like some saints have had. She did not work any great miracles before her death. She simply lived her life as a faithful Catholic. She prayed the rosary daily, attended Mass when able, and rooted herself in the Christian virtues.
One day when the family was out working, Alessandro, a young boy who stayed in the same house made sexual advances at Maria, who was then only 12 years old. She courageously fought him off, defending her purity and pleading for him not to fall into such a grave sin. In a rage, Alessandro stabbed her 14 times in the chest and stomach. She survived for another 20 hours before dying. In that time, she forgave her attacker and expressed a desire that he would one day join her in paradise. Present at her canonization 48 years later were Alessandro, who had been converted by a vision of Maria he had while in prison, and Maria’s own mother – marking the first time that the saint’s mother was present for the canonization ceremony.
Today honored as the patroness of purity, young women, and rape victims, she also stands for us all as a witness of the value of faithfulness in daily life. Having led a simple, faithful, and virtuous life, she passed from death to life eternal in heaven. Through her intercession, may we imitate her purity and faithfulness to Christ daily and so one day rejoice as we too enter into eternal life as saints.
Saint Maria Goretti, pray for us.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Readings for 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time:
I would like to begin by wishing you a Happy Fourth of July. I pray that as we celebrate our nation’s independence we will also remember those who have fought for our freedom in the past and those who continue to do so today. Those of you who saw the front page of The Advocate yesterday morning will have noted the fact that while many of us will be enjoying fireworks, barbecue, and time with our friends and family this weekend, for those cleaning up the oil spill there is no holiday – they just keep working. As I reflected on this, I couldn’t help but think of ourselves as Catholics and Christians. We never get a day off from Christianity. It’s not like we’re only Christians at Mass and then we can take the rest of the week off. It’s like being a parent; and every parent can attest to the fact that you’re not just a mom or dad from 9-5, Monday through Friday; it is something that characterizes your whole life. You’re always ‘on the job’ in a certain sense and the same goes with our life as Christians.
The primary vocation of all Christians is to love – to love God and to love others. The way that we live this out is dependent upon what we might call our secondary vocation – either as an ordained person or as a member of the lay community. The Second Vatican Council tells us that the vocation of the laity is to renew the temporal order (AA, 7), which simply means that the Catholic faith must be brought into the public arena so as to perfect our culture and world. Rather than thinking that our personal faith and beliefs ought to be kept separate from our work and public life, we must recognize that our faith is a necessary part of our work and public life - it must be the foundation of all else.
It is the role of bishops, priests, and deacons to assist you in carrying out that mission of bringing the faith into the world. This happens by our preaching and teaching, which we hope gives you nourishment and sustains your faith. It happens by our personal interaction with you, when we can enter into your lives in a deeper and more personal way. Sometimes it happens by organizing groups to do better outreach. But most of all it happens by our administering the sacraments by which we all receive the grace to live out our vocation. Through the sacraments, we are given an abundance of grace to go out into the world and to shine with the light of Christ and bring others to Him. And you surely don’t need me to tell you how much our world is in need of Christ’s presence. You need only look around. We see the constant arguments about immigration, same-sex unions, abortion, healthcare, or the welfare state. And don’t forget the issues not so frequently seen in the news, but which we all know are huge problems in our culture: the breakdown of the family, the pornographic nature of much of our media – even shows intended for the family or even children - and a tendency among many to see religion as opposed to freedom. Now more than ever, our country and our world are in need of a personal experience of God. And the only way that many people will be led to that experience is through us.
The gospel reading for today recounts how Jesus sent the seventy-two disciples out saying, “the harvest is abundant but the laborers are few” and to “greet no one along the way.” Why does He tell them to greet no one along the way? It seems rather rude to ignore people who call out to you as you pass by. But if we look at the whole passage we see a certain urgency in Jesus’ calling. He told them not to greet anyone on the way because they had a very specific mission to carry out – to go out to get laborers for the harvest - and to be distracted by others along the way was to lost sight of this mission. My brothers and sisters, we must not lose sight of the mission. Like the disciples two thousand years ago, we too are being commissioned to go out and labor in the work of harvesting and finding more laborers. And what else is this work of harvesting than the work of bringing souls to know Jesus Christ?
The question is how do we do this? How do we go about making more disciples? It’s easy: live the faith. Live the Catholic faith in all its beauty and people will be attracted to it. They’ll long for it. I can’t tell you how many converts I have met who were converted because they saw someone living the faith and recognized in them something that they themselves lacked and desired. Surely this was one of the most common ways for Saint Paul to make converts. He preached frequently and travelled often, hoping to bring the gospel message to as many people as possible. But more than his words, which are inspiring, it was the power of his witness that brought people to the faith. He suffered countless trials and afflictions – he was stoned, whipped, imprisoned, and many other things – but in all of this he rejoiced. He rejoiced because he was crucified to the world and the world to him; he was concerned only with following after Jesus Christ. This faithfulness and rejoicing in the face of such trials spoke louder than any words could. And the great blessing is that he lived it for all the world to see.
With Saint Paul and all the saints of ages past as examples of this lived faith, it is now our time to take courage and live the Catholic faith in view of the world. We don’t always have to use words. Rather, we need only be faithful Catholics and Christians, sustained by the grace of the sacraments and fully alive in the Holy Spirit, and our deeds and joy will be speak loud enough for us. If we do this, many souls will be converted to Christ. For, as Saint Francis of Assisi says, “Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.” Mindful of this, we set our eyes to the mission and move forward, for the harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Friday, July 2, 2010
“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
Despite how it seems, these words that we find on the lips of Jesus today are not a complete rejection of sacrifice. If we reflect on these words in the context of the gospel passage, it is evident that what Jesus is getting at is that what is truly important is not just the external, visible actions but the internal, invisible state of one’s heart. A person with a heart of stone can offer sacrifice and it would appear to be exactly the same as the sacrifice of a righteous person – the externals do not always show the reality. To be merciful is not something one simply acts out. Though it can be manifested in actions, being merciful is primarily a disposition of the heart.
The scriptures today show us several examples of men who were so caught up in the externals that they had completely lost sight of the internal. The prophet Amos shows us a people whose hard hearts were made manifest by the absolute unconcern for the things of the Lord. Rather than celebrating the Sabbath, they complained because it cut into their time to make money. Rather than be honest with one another, they cheated and lied. The Pharisees, too, were so concerned with following rules and customs that they forgot what the point of the rules and customs was – to honor God and neighbor. They followed the letter of the Law but failed to recognize the spirit of the Law.
As we come here this morning to honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I’m sure we can all find a point sometime in the past month in which we have gotten caught up in the externals and failed to live with a pure heart. And so we not only come to honor Jesus’ Sacred Heart, but we also come to make reparation for our faults and to open ourselves again to His love and mercy. As St. Margaret Mary once received the heart of Jesus in place of her own, we too come before the Lord to receive not just His Body and Blood, but also His Heart. And as we receive His heart, we are able to truly be the mercy that He so greatly desires for the world.