Sunday, November 27, 2016

A New Beginning - Homily for November 27

Readings for Sunday, November 30 / 1st Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 2:1-5  |  Psalm 122  |  Romans 13:11-14  |  Matthew 24:37-44

Happy Advent! We not used to "Happy Advent" necessarily, but it is good that we are here and it is
good that it is Advent. 

"Advent" means "to come to" - In the whole course of the season we hear in the prayers of the Mass of that preparation of the Lord to come to us, as well as for us on the last day to come to Him. Each year we celebrate Advent, we start the new liturgical year, we begin that old familiar cycle as we go through the seasons. And it can seem as if we are kind of on a merry-go-round that we just keep going in circles over and over and over - doing the same prayers, the same rituals, we hear the same readings - and it can seem rather mundane. But rather than a simple merry-go-round, I invite you to think of our liturgical year and our celebration of the liturgy as basically a corkscrew for a good bottle of wine. Rather than simply going in circles, it digs deeper into the cork to go down and down. It goes in the same circle but always deeper. I pray that can be our experience of our relationship with the Lord Jesus - that as we go through the course of our years, each year we find we are a little bit deeper, a little bit closer to Christ than where we were at the same spot last year. It's an opportunity and invitation for us to continue to go deeper and deeper into the heart of God. 

In the Gospel, the Lord Jesus makes no bones about the fact that we ought to be prepared. He says that we must be prepared, "stay awake." In the days of Noah, people were not expecting a flood. There were out in the field, they were in the grain, taking care of things as normal. And out of nowhere, Noah (the fool) becomes a smart man. When no one was expecting anything, Noah is saved and they are washed away. In the same manner, the Lord Jesus says it will be when He comes again in glory. People will be at their normal work, will be out at the fields, be at the store, the house, at church, we'll be wherever, and one of us will be taken and the other will be left He says. It will catch us by surprise, so be prepared. 

But it's hard to be prepared for that, because for 2,000 years we've been here. For 2,000 years the Lord Jesus hasn't come back yet. For 2,000 generation after generation has lived thinking maybe we are the last ones and they were wrong. And because we have such a long track record of being wrong, thinking that maybe this is the time that the Lord Jesus is going to come back, it's easy for us to think that maybe it's next generation. And so we become comfortable. We stay “ok” to be where we are and don't really prepare. Because we've presumed for 2,000 years things have gone as normal. Surely it can't happen in our time now. It's been 2,000 years, what's special about our age. But the Lord says, "Prepare. Stay awake." Those words were spoken for every single generation. 

For the last couple of years my homilies, the focus and push of my homilies, has basically been to try and encourage you (but more often than not, me, because I preach to myself) to encourage us to love the Lord Jesus more deeply, whether it's in love of God, love of the Eucharist, love of the Liturgy, Our Lady, the saints, love of one another, love of virtue, and love of the things of our faith - the scriptures - in love of all of these things, ultimately to come and love Jesus more deeply. But there has been something on my heart that for a while now to make a little bit of a change. A little bit of a tweak in my celebration of the liturgy, particular in the preaching of the homily. And I've been kind of wrestling with it for several months now, but as I was praying with the scriptures in preparation for this homily, it seemed that all of that was confirmed by the Lord and said, "Just do it. Stop fighting. Quit overthinking it. Just do it." And it came from the words of Isaiah the prophet, "Come let us climb to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the Lord, that He might instruct us in His ways and may walk in His paths." Ultimately what I have been trying to do is encourage you to walk in the paths of the Lord. What the Lord Jesus, rather bluntly, showed me was "Brent, you need to also instruct them in the ways." Instruct them in the ways then we walk in the paths. And so what I would like to do is take my homilies and go back to the basics. Not to have every single week a separate homily on some random spiritual topic according to what the scripture says, but rather to have a sort of systematic series of addressing the essentials of our faith. The basics. Not to get caught up in all the big lofty things, which are good and holy and necessary for us, but just to start with the simple things of what it means to be a Christian, what it is to be Catholic, what is the gift of our faith. So many questions that are asked routinely, or at least pondered if not asked directly to the priests, I would like to respond to throughout the course of this year. One of the things I would also like to do in conjunction with that is most of my homilies are stand alone homilies; you come and this weekend you get one message and next weekend you get a different message; sometimes they connect, sometimes not. But I would like to do series of homilies beginning more or less next week, rather than just to come and get one dot here, one dot here and one dot here, but to have two, maybe three or four weeks at a time, where we will have a system where we will address one particular aspect of our life of faith in the Church so that we can go deeper. One thing that may actually happen is the homilies might be a little bit shorter, as I don't have to jam everything into one one single homily. But if I permit myself to stretch it over two, three, four weeks ... so I'm not promising you shorter homilies, but they could be a by-product. 

But all of that is essentially to say that I want to get back to the basics for you, but also for me. I recognize that my love for the Lord is not where it should be either. And as Isaiah simply says, let us go to the house of the Lord, so that He might instruct us in His ways. So I need to learn from my God for myself, and we need to learn from Him as well as He speaks with us, and then we may walk in His paths. 

Anyone who is married, I'm pretty sure you know a little bit more about your spouse today than on the day of your wedding. Hopefully you like them a little bit more now. For those of you with children, much the same. You knew them, but as they grow and develop you learn more and more about them. In any relationship, you come to know more about a particular person, and in doing so, hopefully we learn to love them more. I've experienced that in my experience of the priesthood just on a practical level, a personal level, getting to know so many of you in a more personal way by various means. But one of the ways it has struck me is in the confessional. I've heard a thousand times, and I know I've thought and presumed similar things myself ... "When I go to confession, surely the priest is going to know who I am, especially if face to face, and next time he sees me, he's going to be thinking of my sins. I know it. Next time I see him at the market, the ball field or wherever, he's going to be looking at me thinking 'Uhuh ... it's one of those sinners over there.'" And it's this presumption that the priest looks upon on us with our sins in mind. I'm guilty of it myself, even as a priest. But what I have discovered personally for myself, I've never heard it from another priest, but I presume much could be said the same, is that in the sacrament of Reconciliation, in Confession, there's something strange that happens. I can only gather that it is the grace of the Lord Jesus conforming my heart to be more like a good priest like a should be, and it's whenever you come in and sit before me - I know you and love you on that level for what I see in the normal world - but as you open your heart, I am able to love you not only in your goodness but also in your brokenness, to love more of you. And that's the thing that has struck me, as a priest I learn to love people more on account of their sins, not less. Not to be more judgmental, but to be more compassionate, to be more joyful in the presence of others. That's our desire for the Lord Jesus with this - to be able to come to the Lord and learn more about Him, learn about the richness of our faith, that in the course of it, our love might increase. I can stand up here all day and tell you to love Jesus, but if I don't give you any fuel for the fire, it doesn't really help. And too many times I feel I've been just standing here saying love Jesus, but haven't given fuel haven't helped you to love Jesus as you should. Nor have I given myself the same. So it's my intention for us to enter into this year as an opportunity for catechesis, formation - being formed and shaped by our faith. 

A couple of weeks ago or maybe last week, I mentioned the online program. I know a handful of you have already made use of it and I am delighted at that. But I really want to encourage each and everyone of you, if you have internet access at all, go to and check it out. I saw that because there are audio, books, videos, movie programs, Bible study, small groups, prayer groups, everything under the sun is there. But there are two special things that I think would be helpful for us immediately today: one of them is that they have a scripture reflection on the main page so that you can go and listen to reflections breaking open the word of God in the scriptures each week but they also have an Advent video program on reflections for the Advent season. I am mentioning that as a way of kind of holding myself accountable, that if I am saying I'm going to do it and telling you to do it, I have to actually do it. I've been wanting to do it, but need an extra push. So, I'm going to ask you to hold me accountable to make sure I'm actually keeping up with it myself. 

Again, we are called to enter into the season, to begin again. To look forward to the coming of the Lord Jesus, to look forward to the day where He comes to us at Christmas, on the Last Day as well as each day in the encounter of our Christian life. I encourage myself and each of you with the words of Isaiah, "O house of Jacob, [Church of God,] come let us walk in the light of the Lord." Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

My King - Homily for November 20

Readings for Sunday, November 20 / Solemnity of Christ the King: 2 Samuel 5:1-3  |  Psalm 122  |  Colossians 1:12-20  |  Luke 23:35-43

“Trump is not my president.” Anybody heard that in the last week or so? It's an interesting response - a rejection of the President-elect, but it doesn't change the fact that come January he will in fact be the President of the United States. It does change the disposition of one's heart so there is a sense of an unwillingness to hear his words and to presume on good - to have an open heart to see what happens. It's a true statement in a sense, but even more true is that Jesus Christ is King of the universe. Maybe four years from now, or eight years from now, one can truly say Donald Trump is not the president, he's not my president - and say it in truth because he will be replaced by someone else. But there will never be a time or a place where one can say Jesus Christ is not the King. Never. For all of history, Christ reigns. 

Yesterday I had the privilege of going to Zion Travelers Baptist Church to be able to assist with a double funeral of Clayton Guidry and Christopher Armister. And in preparation for that, obviously not being a Catholic ceremony, we were trying to get our ducks in a row - myself and the other pastor - to try and see who was doing what and in what order. And so we were talking on the phone a couple days prior, and after we had sorted out some of the details regarding the service, we just started talking about being ministers of the Gospel. We began to talk about some of those things and one thing Rev. Tircuit said struck me; it’s something that I think applies to us this weekend. He said, "You know Father, our job isn't, nor are we able to, drag people into Heaven. We can't tie a rope to them and drag them behind us kicking and screaming just to get them to the pearly gates. Our job is basically we go, we proclaim the good news of Jesus, and if they accept it, good, and if not, it's not our fault." It was that recognition of the personal reality that indeed, just as one needs to accept the president as their president and have an openness to him, even more so it's the same with Christ - to have an openness to Christ, an openness to hearing His voice, seeking His choice for us. What is the will of God for me? To be willing to follow it. To have Him speak on my behalf. To have Him make decision for me. Are we willing to let Christ be that kind of King? Where we step back and let Him rule not just a portion of our lives, not just Sunday morning during the 9:30 am - 10:30 am slot, or the time in prayer throughout the day that we have those little spots here in there, but to rule every single moment, every single second, to let Jesus Christ be our King. 

The Old Testament says, "I set before you today two choices, two paths: life and death. Choose life." Choose life. Choose Christ. Choose eternity. Choose heaven. Anything you want to say - that's all the same. They are the same reality. To place ourselves in the care of Christ our God - that's the end point. 

As we come to this last Sunday in the liturgical year, we come with an opportunity to start fresh. Today is the last day of the Year of Mercy, but it doesn't have to be the end of the time of mercy, in fact, God's mercy is endless. So every day, we have the privilege of celebrating the mercy of God. Next weekend we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent, the new liturgical year, and it's an opportunity for us to start again. Just the same as we like to make our New Year's resolutions for January 1 - and usually fall off by January 2 - but with God, we can do even greater things. With God we can come and begin in Advent, to commit ourselves once more to allowing Christ to be truly our King, to let Him reign in hearts, but also in our daily lives. It's an opportunity, again, to start fresh, to recommit. And so if you haven't been attending Sunday Mass regularly, been a little spotty here and there, commit again today, right now, to coming every Sunday. Or if you've been coming to daily Mass every now and then, but have been slacking off on it, commit again today to be here with the Lord. If you have permitted yourself a time of prayer but sometimes other things take a little more importance and the prayer falls to the back seat, commit again today to letting Christ be first. If there are times in the course of our day that we don't really allow mercy to shine through in our hearts, commit again today to being a person of mercy. All of these things are invitations for us - graces that the Lord holds out and says, "Come. Come to Me." He says it directly in the Gospel, "Come to Me all you who are burdened and I will give You rest. My yoke is sweet and My burden is light." Come to me. Join yourself to Me. To the extent that we join our self to Jesus Christ things become easier, even if they become harder. Even if the weight of the cross becomes a little more heavy on our shoulders, it also becomes lighter in a sense because we bear it in union with Christ. Who among us would choose a king whose throne looked like a cross? And yet, that's what the Lord calls us to, to let Him lead us in ways that sometimes seem foolish, in ways that seem worthy of mockery to those around us. To give everything to Christ, and to the extent that we do it, He does the work for us. I need not worry of taking care of things myself, as Christ would on it on my behalf. My King will lead me, and that's good. 

At the end of the liturgical year on Christ the King Sunday, there is a prayer of consecration to the heart of Jesus that the Church has given us as an indulgenced prayer. Again it's a prayer of consecration of ourselves in our world to the Most Sacred Heart of the Lord and to prayer that our hearts will become like His. Indeed that's always the invitation, to let our hearts, representing our whole person, be placed within His. His heart that burns for others, that burns with love for us, and longs to receive us into heaven. He can't drag us either, as much as He would like to I'm sure. So it's for us to place ourselves in His care. To place our heart in His heart, that we might love like He loves. And so we offer this prayer, and again the Church offers a plenary indulgence to those that offer this prayer on this feast. It's a wonderful grace to offer this prayer. And so I offer it with you and on your behalf and encourage you to allow the words that are spoken to truly resonate within your hearts. 
Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before you. We are yours, and yours we wish to be; but to be more surely united with you, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to your Most Sacred Heart. Many indeed have never known you; many, too, despising your precepts, have rejected you. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to your Sacred Heart.  
Be King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken you, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned you; grant that they may quickly return to their Father's house, lest they die of wretchedness and hunger.  
Be King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of truth and the unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd.  
Grant, O Lord, to your Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give tranquility of order to all nations; make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to it be glory and honor for ever. Amen.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Prophetic Word - Homily for November 13

The election is over ... thanks be to God! And I have to say, it was a bit disheartening to go and vote this past Tuesday, to go into the little poll booth and look down a rather lengthy list of presidential candidates and to see not one who really embodied a full Catholic approach. Not to find one, single person on the list that I could really put my trust into really leading our country in accordance with the ways that Christ teaches us through our faith. And thinking about that and praying with that throughout the course of the day and then sense, it continues to remind me that we're not made to be here, we're made to be elsewhere - in Heaven. It's the reminder that we try and make Earth what it's not supposed to be.

In response to so many of the political ads and such, it was interesting to see various people's responses as I was watching them on Facebook. Facebook is the wonderful thing to be able to see people's true opinions, quite often, and it was funny to see people's responses to the two primary candidates - Hillary and Donald - to be able to see the two of them and that nachos or tacos were more often preferred as an option to either the other presidential candidates on other fake ballots. But the one that caught me most of all, that got a chuckle out of me but also spoke to the same reality, is one of them had a fake political sign that said "Big meteor from the sky 2016!" They were essentially saying that it would be better for a meteor to fall from the sky and end it all, then to have our political candidates leading us, which is a rather dramatic statement. But it's something that actually jives really well with the scriptures this weekend because that statement, as well as what the Lord Jesus speaks to us, is essentially the same - that this world will end and we need to stop trying to make it what it isn't. 

In the Gospel, we have the disciples looking and marveling at the temple. The temple is said to be one of the most beautiful things that anyone had ever seen - it was one of the Great Wonders of the World. People would see it and just be in awe. The beautiful whitewashed stones and the jewels, adornments and decoration - that whenever you saw the temple far of, it glistened and radiated with sunlight. A beautiful thing to behold. And the disciples are marveling at it, and rightly so, rejoicing in the beauty of this building. And in the midst of that, the Lord Jesus says that all this you see, all this beauty, all this goodness, everything you are marveling at - there will come a day when not one stone will be on top of the other. It rattles, as so often Jesus does. It shakes them and they wonder, "Lord ... When? Why? What are the signs? How can we know?" And He gives a prophetic response. He tells them that there will be some who come and claim to be "myself" claim to be Jesus, that they will claim to be Christs, Saviors ... If you follow me I can make everything better; If you follow me, everything will be well. "Do not follow them," He says. He says there will be wars and insurrections, famines and plagues, earthquakes and sights in the sky - these will be signs that it will come soon. And then last, the temple will fall. But before all these things, they will persecute you. They will lead you before governors and kings, lead you into prisoners - your brothers and your sisters, fathers and mothers, your friends - they will lead you before them, they will renounce you because of My name and some of you will die. Frightening words. Quite a bit more to chew on then the disciples desired as they were simply marveling at the beauty of this building. And yet it is the word of Christ coming to them to warn them of what was coming - a prophetic message. And indeed it came to pass. 

Immediately following the death of Christ, we know the disciples began to endure much persecution. Ten of the eleven, other than Judas, were martyred for the faith. John died in exile. After the time of Jesus, there were some major events around the world; there were earthquakes and storms, events in the skies, wars and insurrections. And in the year 70 A.D., the Roman army came into Jerusalem and crushed the temple - destroyed it - pulled every stone off of the other one, just as Jesus had said. Everything He said came to pass, in exactly the manner He described it. But it would be wrong for us to think that the Lord Jesus was describing one particular event and it's already happened, so we don't need to worry anymore. Because what happens whenever the prophets speaks - and Jesus is a prophet, the greatest of the prophets - they prophesy almost in two ways: 1) an immediate manner and 2) something farther off in the distance that God alone knows, but they have a glimpse of. 

So often in the Old Testament, the Old Testament prophets would prophesy about one who would come and save the people, and so often it would be that there would be an immediate person - a new king would be raised up, a new prophet, new judge, would come and help the people of God. And they would be saved from their current crisis, but all of those ultimately pointed toward the coming of the Christ Himself, Jesus. In much the same way, Christ speaks to this temple. He says they will come and will destroy it, there will be persecutions of the people, there will be wars and insurrections, one who claim to be the Christ, there will be so many sights in the sky and then the temple will fall. 

We don't have to look around too far to find much of the same scenario is still taking place 2000 years later. There is still persecution of the Church, as I mentioned last weekend. Persecution of the members of Christ, abandoned by their brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, and friends. And some of them die. There is still some who come and say, "If you put your trust in me, I can make it all better." If you click the right button in the voting poll booth, all will be saved, all will be good again. Secular Christs who invite us to trust in them rather than our Lord. Ones who come and we recognize, point out, in the world around us that there are earthquakes and storms and sights in the sky. All of this is simply to point out the fact that we are still waiting for another temple to fall, and it's the temple of this world as we understand it. This world that we live in today, again, it will end, and the day of judgment will come. Malachi prophesied. So we listen to that call, and we have to respond the same way as the disciples did in those first days. Of course, we never know when the end will come. It could be ten minutes from now. It could be ten thousand years from now. Our response right now for every single one of us should be exactly the same regardless. How do we respond? How do we respond to the reality that the Lord will come again in glory at some point? 

The Lord Jesus gives us a hint at the answer. He says don't prepare your defense ahead of time, but trust Me that I will give you the words. A lot of times whenever we hear the end of the world is going to come soon, I am always intrigued by the ones who start gathering cans, as if gathering cans of green beans is going to save anything when the end of the world comes. A lot of times that is our approach, whether physically or spiritually speaking. We try to store up our goods, so that when the Lord comes, we already have everything planned out. I got it fixed Lord, don't worry! I've got my system down. Rather, He invites us to a radical trust. Not to pre-plan for the last day, but to trust that He will lead us whenever it comes - if it comes in our lifetime. 

I want to invite you to a few specific things - how to prepare: 

1) Go to confession! I've said it a thousand times, but so often I still sit in the confessional and pray. I pray my breviary, I pray my rosary, my Divine Mercy chaplet and various other prayers. And I pray, hoping that someday, I won't have time to pray in the confessional because I'll be hearing confessions. Go to confession. It is THE BEST way to prepare for the Lord. It cleanses all of our sins. What better way to prepare?

2) Charity - Love the person in front of you - whoever it is - love them. Love them as if they were Christ Jesus themselves. So many of the lives of the saints, they show us that we can love the other as Christ - they show us how to do it. There are various saint who would go and serve in the hospitals. There was one in particular, I forget his name, but he would go from bed to bed asking for forgiveness for his sins from the people he was serving. Some of them weren't even Christian and he was begging them as if they were Christ, to show him mercy, because he loved them so much, he treated them as Christ. So much the same for us. In the world where there is an opportunity every ten seconds, to find a lack of charity, impatience with others, judgmental-ism, and so much worse - to love the other as if they were Christ because indeed, in a sense, they are. Whatever you do to the least of these, You do to me. And who knows who the least among us is. 

3) Pray daily and to pray intensely. A lot of times we content ourselves to offer up just our road prayers, the memorized prayers - Our Fathers', Hail Mary's, Glory Be's, etc. - which are good and holy, and we should pray them. But we can't content ourselves to pray only them. We must have a living relationship with Christ, so that when He comes, He knows us and we know Him. He knows the sound of our voice and we know the sound of His. To spend that time regularly in prayer, certainly at Mass, but even in your own homes, places that you find yourself through the course of the day. To speak to the Lord - there. There doesn't have to happen exclusively in the chapel - to find ourselves with the Lord often and to know that He is with us. 

Confession. Charity. Prayer. It's the basic elements to prepare our hearts. 

As we come to reflect upon the end of times, and reflect upon the Lord Jesus coming again in glory, we know too that there is one who comes with an army who does not want us to draw close to Christ - Satan. He wants to pull us away from the Lord, wants to pull us even the smallest bits away from the grace of Christ. St. Peter describes in the scriptures as "prowling around like a roaring lion waiting for someone to devour." A roaring lion waiting to pounce upon us and consume our soul. And so we renounce him and rebuke him. Today we choose Christ. 

So I want to invite you to pray with me the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, a prayer composed by Pope Leo XIII a little over a century ago. It's a prayer that calls upon St. Michael whose name means "Who is Like God." It's a mockery of Satan. Satan who thinks himself like God, and St. Michael comes and says, "Who is like God? Not you." So we call upon St. Michael to be with us as we go forth in battle today. To be able to allow our hearts to be filled with the charity and love of Christ which comes forth from the Holy Eucharist. And to be able to go forth and to love Christ as He loves us.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What Can I Do? - Homily for November 6

This weekend's set of readings begins with readings from the second book of Maccabees which is a
noteworthy book for us. It's one of the latest written, was only about 150 years before the life of Christ whereas some of the other books date back to more than 1000 years before the life of Christ. And so it shows to us how the Jewish faith had experienced some growth, change and development as well as cultural experiences. We see what was taking place was a persecution - the people were being persecuted on account of their faith. What the seven brothers show us today, in the abbreviated account of their martyrdom, is that if we hold to our faith, it will cost us something. These were the martyrs of the Old Testament, but the same is said of the martyrs of the New Testament - that if we hold fast to Jesus Christ, it will cost us. 

Jose was a young boy - you may have heard his story before as I have preached about it. He was one who wasn't really alive in his faith, just like most of the boys in his town. They had a town priest and from time to time they would pick on him, throw things at him, make jokes - wasn't very serious about it. Jose began to experience a conversion of his own heart and began to draw close to the priest as the priest began to take Jose under his wing to teach him the things of the faith. Jose was still a little far away from the Lord though, he didn't have that dramatic, living gift of faith, but he was getting there. The time began when the Church where Jose lived began to be persecuted. To be a priest in your clerics meant that you could be shot on the spot. If you celebrated Mass, you could be shot. If you attended Mass, you could be shot. There was no catechism, no sacraments, n -o faith in the public forum according to the law of the land. A number of people began to rebel against this, desiring to live, express and practice their faith. Jose was among their number. As he began to understand the importance of faith and what the lack of it meant for him and his people. He joined a group of "rebels" - Catholics who wanted to remain Catholic and live their faith, to have the freedom to practice it in the public square. Jose was ultimately captured and tortured. The soles of his feet were cut off, and he was marched across town ... to a grave that was dug. It had all the dirt and the hole ready to go, and at the head of the grave were his parents and his godfather. And they said, "Jose, all you have to do is deny Jesus. You don't even have to mean it, you just have to say it. Just deny Jesus and you can go home. This will end, the suffering will stop, you can go be with your parents, your godfather, your family and your friends again." And Jose looked at them, and then his executors, and said "Viva Cristo Rey! Long live Christ the King!" and he was killed on the spot. With his last bit of energy, in the dirt on the ground ahead of him, he drew a small cross as a testament to his faith. Jose was 14 years old when he died, and it was less than 100 years ago in Mexico. Not in a land far, far away in a time long, long ago. A lot of times we think that the martyrs of the Church were way back, but as Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis have also proclaimed and try to draw our attention to is that in the last 100 years, the Church has seen more people martyred for the faith the previous 1800 years combined. To be a Christian and cling to Jesus Christ is to know that it will cost us something. 

For many people today it costs blood. We pray not that it will be the same for us. But even if it doesn't cost us blood, it costs us something else. The story of Jose is one that I love, I'm fascinated by the gift of faith that was bestowed upon that man especially at such a tender age. but what strikes me even more is the reading from Maccabees this weekend. Jose had a dramatic experience; it was something that he had to deny Jesus, verbally at least. Even if he didn't believe it in his heart, he had to verbally say, "I renounce Jesus." That's a big thing for a Christian. What the Maccabee brothers experienced was something much smaller. It was the desire of God that the Jewish people not partake of pork, and the only thing that was asked of them, seven brother martyrs in front of their mother (whom they saved for last to watch them all die - shows you the wickedness of it all); all they had to do was eat a little pork. They didn't have to renounce their God. They didn't have to worship other gods. They just had to eat a little bit of pork. And it got me thinking as I was praying with that vision, that understanding of just how much they were willing to go just to uphold the smallest of laws of their faith. 

Who among us on a Good Friday - one of the two days of the year that the Church invites us to fast or abstain from meat - who of us when presented with a gun to our head and a steak in front of us would not take a bite. Think about it. Who among us? I'd be willing to pick up a fork and a knife and start cutting. There's always confession, right? But seriously. We laugh, but that's exactly what the Maccabean brothers did, and their mother .... We get the abbreviated form of the story. There was seven brothers and all seven of them all said something. And you would think the mother would say, "Just eat the pork!" But instead the mother said, "Honor us. Lay down your life." Imagine watching all seven of your children die, and you encouraging them on account of faith, for pork. How seriously do we take our faith these days? How quickly we are willing to fall away and abandon anything and everything that our faith teaches us to say a little hair on our hide. How quick we can be to cast off Jesus even in the small ways for the sake of a little comfort. 

I would like to think that whenever the big times come that I could persevere and follow Jesus - that if someone came to me, put that gun to my head and said choose Christ or Jesus, I would like to be able to say that I would choose Jesus. But I'm not really sure, and the reason I'm not sure is because in the last several months, I think I've made 7 a.m. Mass at the Church on time once. Once. Seven o'clock Mass. I prefer the comfort of my bed and a few more minutes of sleep than to get up for the love of Christ, for His people and be at Mass on time. And that's my job, it's my vocation ... I literally laid down on the cathedral floor for that - to offer Mass. I can sit in front of the TV and watch the World Series until midnight and be perfectly in tune, but you put me in front of the Blessed Sacrament after 9 p.m. and I'm gone in three minutes. Where is my love for Jesus? Am I willing to suffer for Him? Am I willing to be inconvenienced for Him? And are you? It's the simple things: to have another drinks or not, to have a little more food or not. Sunday Mass .. meh. Holy days of obligation ... the Lord understands, I'm busy. I have things going on. And those are big things. What about the little things? The course of prayer throughout our day, to be with Jesus Christ even for a few moments of prayer, and how often I, myself, am busy about the other things than about the things of the Lord. It's easier to play on the computer or play with a cat than it is to visit with Christ. 

There is a little sign above my desk that I put there on purpose that I try to remember, but too often I forget. It's a quote from Sirach that says, "When you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials." It's the reminder that when I come to serve Jesus, it's supposed to cost me something; it's supposed to be uncomfortable. It's supposed to be difficult sometimes; it's supposed to feel like a cross because it means we are in union with Jesus. Jesus taking on flesh wasn't a pleasant thing for Him - it was a cross, it was humiliation, suffering, sorrow, ultimately was pain, rejection and loneliness at the last hour, and He did it for love of us. The question is: What can I do for love for Him? And what can you?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Papal Intentions for November 2016

Papal Intentions for November 2016

Universal Intention: That the countries which take in a great number of displaced persons and refugees may find support for their efforts which show solidarity.
Mission Intention: That within parishes, priests and lay people may collaborate in service to the community without giving in to the temptation of discouragement.

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.