Friday, July 30, 2010

Homily for Sunday of the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time

“Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity!” Like a warning label contained on many of today’s items our readings for this Sunday warn us on the dangers of greed and materialism. Jesus says in the Gospel in response to a member of the crowd, “take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Many of us struggle with this concept because we bank our success in life with having more of everything.

The danger with banking our life with having more of everything is that materialism can consume us and draw us away from our responsibility as Christians to follow the example of Jesus Christ in our lives. It’s really a hard balance for us to keep today. In many ways it is not a bad thing to be well off. However, it is what we do with our success that makes the world of difference. There are some in our society who are really blest not having to worry about finances. They have enough money to pay all the bills and then some. These people don’t flaunt their success but rather do everything within their power to help others in need. Then there are those who continue to build up their empire without sharing it with anyone. It is these individuals who struggle through life. Many of them while they may appear through the eyes of the world to be blessed with success find themselves consumed by greed and alone. Greed truly hardens ones heart!

One of the things I have personally learned and witnessed over the years is that the more I give the more I receive. That wasn’t always the case for me. As I was growing up my father was in and out of work because the companies he worked for were either disbanded or laid off workers left and right. My father suffered a massive heart attack when I was little which made it even harder for him to find work. Believe it or not as a little boy I was little miser saving up every single penny, nickel, dime and quarter and found myself with one goal in mind and that was to have more money than I would know what to do with! I didn’t want to be in the boat my parents were in. A problem I found with that goal was that it was causing me to become more miserable and self-centered. Let me tell you the more greedy one becomes the more alone they are. Over the years I got involved in Church and Scouting which helped me revaluate the goals I set out for myself. Also I remember as I was growing up while although my parents struggled to pay the bills, no matter how hard things got they still found enough to sacrifice to send my brother and me to Catholic Schools. The more I learned about God and His generosity through my time in Catholic School, through my parent’s example and the examples of the generosity of others the more my heart started to be moved! My parents never asked for financial assistance; however people saw our need and contributed out of their generosity. I saw firsthand in those moments God at work.

If one finds that they are struggling with greed and we must remember greed isn’t necessary associated just with money or possessions, we can become greedy too with our talents and time as well, we are encouraged to simply let it all go. Let those things go that prevent us from listing to the Lord’s voice.  Be attentive to the Lord’s voice in the world and do not harden ones heart! The Lord is at work, let go, do not put trust in worldly aspirations and possessions that only isolate us from God and others. Allow the Lord’s example through His words and through His example demonstrated by the generosity of others to change and move your hearts.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Reflection of the Memorial of Saint Joachim and Anne the Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This morning we celebrate the memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne the parents of Mary who would become the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. Upon reading the responsorial psalm which says, “you have forgotten God who gave you birth,” this thought came to mind. How many of us not only take God for granted but how many of us take our parents for granted as well? If it wasn’t for our parents we wouldn’t be here today.

Santi_gioacchino_e_anna

As children, especially when we are younger in our teenager years, it is natural that we may tend to balk and try to flap our wings a little bit. We must always remember however that they are our parents and only want what is best for us. My parents always reminded me….long as I lived under their roof I was to abide by their rules. Even when we leave the nest we should listen to our parent’s guidance. It is important for us to absorb their wisdom while we can. Finally we as children have a moral obligation although many have families and other obligations to care for our parents in their old age. We too often forget that it was our parents who cared and nurtured us when we younger. It is only fitting that we do everything within our power to see that they are cared for as they age. Even if a situation warrants where we can’t physically take care of them at home and it is necessary for them to be placed in nursing care facilities, one has a moral obligation to visit and keep contact with them on a regular basis.

Parents play a vital role in our upbringing! That is something we must never forget. It was our parents cooperating with God’s plan who gave us life. If it wasn’t for my parents saying “yes” to life the Church would have one less priest today. Others who leave the nest and get married and have families of their own…that would not be possible if it wasn’t for one’s parents. We should always be grateful for the many gifts our parents bestowed upon us over the years. Saint’s Joachim and Anne played an important role in the Lord’s plan. They said “yes” to life and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who was destined to become the mother of God.

Today as we honor these two great saints the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary as children I would suggest we do something throughout the day to honor our own parents. For those whose parents have gone to be with the Lord we ought to continue praying for and to them. We always need their guidance. For those of us whose parents are still present here among us, I would encourage us to reach out to them in some way. Even if they are miles away, give them a call and tell them that you love them and say “thank you” to them for saying “yes” and giving us a chance at life. Our parents have so much to offer us. Don’t take what they have to offer us for granted. Listen and be open to their wisdom…before it’s too late!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Homily for Sunday of the 17th Week of Ordinary Time

“For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Sometimes this can be a hard passage for us to accept because there are many times we feel abandoned. We ask the Lord for something and it appears the Lord doesn’t answer our prayers. However, this couldn’t be furthest from the truth!

One of the common mistakes we make is that we limit the works of the Lord with our sense of time. God always answers our prayers, perhaps not always the way we want, but He always answers them. Also, He can send us an answer to our prayers immediately, within a few hours, days, or even years. The Heavenly Father transcends all time and is not limited to what we think the time frame should be. We must never forget that the Lord is always working in our lives; perhaps we miss out on it because we are distracted with many other things. I would encourage us all to stop and take a moment to reflect on the many blessings and gifts the Lord bestowed upon us.

A few moments ago we sang together the responsorial psalm which for this Sunday says, “Lord on the day I called for help, you answered me.” Stop and reflect for a moment on these words. Another reason we might miss out on the Lord workings is because we are so busy looking for the miraculous that we fail to see Him at work in the ordinary ways of everyday life. There is a story I remember hearing a few years back, and I knew if I plugged it into the internet I would find it. So here it is:

There was a man whose farm was located on the banks of a flood-swollen river. As the water rose, a neighbor drove up in a Jeep, urging him to leave before the farm was flooded. "Oh, no," said the man confidently, "God will save me." The water rose higher, and the man was forced to move into the second story of the farmhouse. A police boat soon came, and the officers called for the man to hurry and get into their boat. "Oh, no, that won't be necessary," the man insisted. "God will save me." Finally the house was completely engulfed in water, and a Coast Guard helicopter swooped in to rescue the man, now perched on the roof. Again he refused. Just then, a huge wave of water swept over the house, and the man drowned. When he got to heaven, he stormed at the Lord, asking WHY God had let him die when his faith had been so strong. "What do you mean?" asked the heavenly Father. "I sent a Jeep, a boat, and a helicopter ... and you wouldn't budge!"[i]

Is this us? Would we look for the Lord to save us through extraordinary means rather than simple ones?

God is at work! He is at work today at this very minute! Do we recognize it? A miracle happens each and every Sunday…for starters we are all here. We are all here in the presence of our living God listening to Him speak to us and basking in His awesome presence. It is so unfortunate that many of us are missing that because we are so busy rushing through life. Even when we come here to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass many would rather get it over and done with than spend time in thanksgiving with our risen Lord. For us as priest it is easy for us to let the words of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass be taken for granted and rush through it as they were just simply mere words read from a book. Today we the members of the Church need to renew ourselves in the faith. We need to learn why we are here and make every effort to slow down and recognize the Lord at work within our midst.

As we together approach these Sacred Mysteries may we strive to open our hearts and minds to His presence and how He works in our lives! All we have to do is ask and we shall receive.



[i] http://www.pennyparker2.com/saveme.html

Friday, July 23, 2010

Homily for Friday of the 16th Week of Ordinary Time

Once again we are reminded this morning of the Lord’s promise to protect His sheep. As we heard in the first reading, “I will appoint shepherds after my own heart, who will shepherd you wisely and prudently.” Indeed the Lord appoints shepherds and in fact we are some of the ones He appoints to be His shepherds. We are called by God to go out into the world and bring the good news and to plant the seed of faith.

In today’s society more than ever does that seed need to be planted and nurtured. A few days ago we heard from the prophet Isaiah that the Lord knew us even before the womb and that He has appointed us to be prophet to the nations. It is our responsibility to plant and nurture the seed of faith. We are called to look out for one another making sure we each keep on the narrow path. This morning as the Lord promised that He would always guard us my we ask His guidance in helping us to guide and protect one another.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Homily for Thursday of the 16th Week of Ordinary Time the Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene

At the end of the first reading the Lord issued a warning through the prophet Jeremiah, “two evils have my people done: they have forsaken me, the source of living waters; they have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water.” Many times we need a reminder that the Lord Himself is the fountain of life. He is the one to whom we turn whenever we are in need.

Unfortunately at times we forget that and rely on no one else but ourselves and when we do that is often a recipe for disaster. We are often quick to turn away from Him, because we find ourselves enticed by worldly allurements. One thing we must learn is to open our eyes of faith and place our trust in the Lord. “Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” Each morning we have an opportunity to listen to the Lord’s words and to receive Him in our hearts, how truly blest we are! Today in our prayers we ask the intercession of Saint Mary Magdalene as we listen and read his word that may we allow it to flow through us like a fountain and to remember He is the fountain of all life!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Homily for Wednesday of the 16th Week of Ordinary Time

The last few days we have focused on the importance of our responsibility as Christians to reach out to others. In the first reading we heard from the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appoint you.” We have been placed here on this earth for a specific mission and this is something we can never forget.

Listen to the exchange between Jeremiah and the Lord. Jeremiah says to the Lord, “I know not how to speak; I am too young.” The Lord responded, “Say not ‘I am too young.’ To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak.” Many people have this same interaction with the Lord regularly in prayer. Some say to Him, “Lord I am too young. I don’t know how to serve you.” Others will say “Lord I am too old, look at my condition how can I possibly serve you.” For many of us gathered here it is a conversation we have with the Lord regularly. Each of us has a responsibility to plant the seed and tend to it. We can tend to it by extending ourselves generously to help others with our time and treasure. Others nurture the faith and the water the seed through prayer. When we find things that are difficult offer it up for others. All of us benefited from His passion and death on the cross and when we suffer and offer it up many people benefit from it as well.

As we continue through the day may we strive to be conscience of our duty as Christians and look for ways we can contribute to nourishing the seed of faith!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Homily for Tuesday of the 16th Week of Ordinary Time

“Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward His disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” The last line from the Gospel is worth repeating because this short passage reminds us of how expansive God’s family really is! Many times we associate our families with our parents, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, etc. However, look around this Church we are all part of God’s family and while we may not be related by blood we are related in spirit.

As we listened to this passage this morning we are reminded not only of how expansive God’s family really is but also indirectly of our responsibility towards one another. Yesterday in the homily we spoke of love of neighbor. One thing we never can forget is that when we show love towards our neighbor we are demonstrating our love for God. Also we must remember when we show our love for one another we also build up our Lord’s family. Today as we asked only a few moments ago for the Lord, to show us His mercy and love may we share that mercy and love with everyone we meet today.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Homily for Monday of the 16th Week of Ordinary Time

Listen carefully to these words once again brothers and sisters from the book of the prophet Micah. “You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” This last line from the first reading really simplifies for us our responsibility as Christians.

Think about the Ten Commandments for a moment. There are many people who like to take the Ten Commandments and interpret them the way they like it. This is what they tried to do in Jesus’ time and it backfired. Our Lord Jesus Christ was quick to realize their intentions. So often we tend to complicate matters rather than simplify them. When Jesus was asked which of the commandments is the greatest rather than giving a long theological discourse He simplified them by saying that they can be summarized in two points, by loving God and by loving ones neighbor. Do we love God enough that we take His words at face value or do we try to complicate matters by twisting them to meet our own needs? Are we reaching out to our neighbors in need to the extent that we are able? This could be by extending a helping hand when needed, donating clothing, food, and in some cases monetary donations. More importantly however, are we showing a love for one another by keeping each other in prayer?

In closing I want to focus on one particular word, “humility.” It’s a word we often hear said, but many times don’t truly grasp. The word humble means as defined one way in the Webster Dictionary as “reflecting, expressing, or offered in spirit of deference or submission.” For us as Christians it means letting go of our desires and wants and focusing more importantly on what the Lord’s desire from each of us. If we let go completely of our desires and focus solely on what the Lord desires from us, He will show us the way by showing us His saving power and in doing will allow us to work together with Him helping us to reach out to others in turn showing them His divine love and mercy. May we today and every day strive to walk humbly with our God!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Homily for the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

This weekend’s readings speak of a need for having a balance. In the Gospel we have the familiar account of Martha and her sister Mary. As we know from the story Martha was working to make sure everything was prepared for the Lord while her sister Mary sat at the feet of Jesus. Just stop for a moment, and imagine ourselves being in Martha’s shoes. Would we be upset if we found ourselves doing all the work?

After complaining directly to the Lord, He responded, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” What is our Lord saying? Is He telling us that work is not important? On the contrary the point our Lord Jesus Christ is trying to get across to Martha is that along with work there also needs to be a certain amount of reflection. Now we can also take it to the other extreme we can spend so much time in reflection that we fail to act. The third commandment asks us to remember to keep Holy the Lord’s day. On Sunday we are expected to go to Mass and avoid unnecessary work. We too can take this to an extreme. Some would suggest that one not lift a finger at all on Sunday. However, this would be a wrong interpretation of the third commandment. Yes, Sunday is to be first and foremost a day of prayer and rest, but it is also meant to be a day of service and a time for one to spend with their families.

Even in the Church’s liturgy we have become too focused on who does what that we have lost a true sense of why we are here. Beginning with Pope John Paul II and continuing with Pope Benedict XVI we have seen a great renewal in the way we celebrate these Sacred Mysteries. Some will unfortunately see this great renewal as a step backwards, where in reality it is giant leap forwards reclaiming some of the wonder and awe that has been lost. The Sacred Liturgy isn’t about our participation (meaning it’s not about you and it’s not about me) rather is to be centered completely on the Lord. Whenever the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated something truly special happens here, our Lord God speaks to us in word and manifests Himself in the true presence of the Most Holy Eucharist. It is unfortunate that many people truly don’t understand the reason of why they are here. One of the things I often hear as a priest either directly or indirectly is that people say they don’t come to Mass because they don’t get anything out of it. Many of our people are even leaving the Catholic Church for other denominations because their services are more upbeat. The Mass must always be understood first and foremost as a sacrifice not as a form of entertainment. Every time we come here we recall each time the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We don’t come here to be entertained but rather we come here to offer sacrifice to God in thanksgiving for all that He has done. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass must be celebrated with dignity and reverence. If we can come to truly understand why we are here, then it would be to our spiritual benefit and we will get more out of the Sunday Liturgy.

In the Second Reading we heard the line “the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past” now has been manifested to his holy ones.” We truly experience something sacred and special every time we gather here each weekend. May we pray for the ability to strike a healthy balance between service and prayer! In doing so we will find balance, and we will be able to grow in our spiritual life.

Sacred Heart of Jesus in Cornwall

This evening I will have an opportunity to celebrate the 5PM Saturday Night Mass at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Cornwall.  I was assigned and lived at this parish the summer of my third theology year.  Tonight I am looking forward to returning there for the first time as a priest to this beautiful parish community dedicated to the heart of Jesus.  In a couple weeks I will be looking forward to returning there again to celebrate the Saturday Night Mass on Saturday July 31st.  I would like to extend a word of thanks to my brother priest Father Rodrigo Arrazola for allowing me the opportunity to return to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass there while he is away. 

Church

Friday, July 16, 2010

Homily for Friday of the 15th Week of Ordinary Time…the Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

V_Carmen_de_Beniajan-general

Today we honor the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Using the readings for this week however we see a theme that resonates all throughout the Blessed Virgin’s life and that is in everything we do should be directed towards Jesus. How many of us have a mistaken notion of the Sunday Sabbath? Many take it to mean we should do absolutely no work on Sunday. While Sunday must and should be a day of prayer and relaxation it is also to be a day of Christian service.

At the wedding Feast of Cana, Mary said to the servants, “do whatever He tells you.” That is her instruction for us today. Indeed the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath and while He directs us on this day to spend time with Him prayer, He is also directing us to act. There is so much that needs to be done. I love the Lord’s question He posed to the Pharisee’s, “have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate the Sabbath and are innocent?” Imagine if we took the scripture literally. The priest wouldn’t be able to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. A doctor or nurse wouldn’t be able to treat patients who are sick and dying and firemen wouldn’t be able to put out fires. These are things that would happen if we took what is written in this book literally. As Jesus said to the Pharisee’s, “I say to you something greater than the temple is here.” How true!

Now there is another extreme, we could be tempted to ignore completely what is said in Sacred Scripture. Some may want to say if we can’t take what is written literally than why follow it at all. We must remember that there are two ways to look at scripture. One of the ways is indeed to look at literally, but the other and way to look at it is spiritually. What is this passage truly saying? Again listen to the words the Blessed Mother said, “Do whatever He tells you.” Jesus shows us how to live our faith, listen to His words, look to His life, He shows us the way! As we honor our Lady under the title of our Lady of Mount Carmel we seek her motherly intercession and ask her to help in pointing us in the right direction to her Beloved Son.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Homily for Thursday of the 15th Week of Ordinary Time…the Memorial of Saint Bonaventure

Yesterday’s Gospel our Lord Jesus Christ said to the Father, “I give praise to you, Father Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” Most of the time our Lord doesn’t reveal Himself to the rich and the headstrong but rather He reveals Himself to the lowly, poor, and the weak. Today He says, “come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

The key to growing in and living effectively a good spiritual life is to practice humility. If we followed the readings the past few days there has been a focus on faith. Life has its ups and downs and many times because we are stubborn when things don’t go the way we want it to, we try to fix it ourselves. If we listened to yesterdays Gospel, Jesus isn’t suggesting we all act like children but rather to think as a child. Do they overanalyze things the way we can tend to do? No rather if something is foreign to them their natural reaction is to run to mom and dad. When something is foreign to us or when we struggle with something hard, to whom do we run towards?

Jesus says “come to me.” We have to learn to humbly place our concerns and needs before Him. One of the blessings from the New Order of the Liturgy promulgated by Pope Paul VI was the placement of the General Intercessions before the preparation of the altar and the offertory procession. This not only serves as a perfect transition between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist but also helps give us an opportunity to grasp the true nature of the Liturgy as a Sacrifice. Not only do we bring forward the gifts of bread and wine but we also bring and place before the Lord’s altar the many blessing and challenges that have been placed before us. Just a few moments ago we said together, “from heaven the Lord looks down on the earth. He is there ready and willing to help us in our hour of need.  Indeed He does and may we pray that we never forget that.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Reflection on the readings for Wednesday of the 15th Week of Ordinary Time

“I give you praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” Have we ever taken the time to stop and look in the Sacred Scriptures to see who the Lord reveals Himself to? Does He reveal Himself to those who put their trust in worldly things and to those who are headstrong? No, rather He reveals His healing power to the lowly, the poor, and the weak.

Many times we miss God’s grace at work in our lives because we don’t think like children. When we get older we tend to overanalyze things. Children while they may have a basic rationalization they don’t complicate matters like we tend to do from time to time. Young children also need their parents for guidance. When they don’t know what to do they instinctively run to their mother or father for help. Who do we turn to when we need help? Do we turn to God or as was mentioned in yesterday’s homily do we try to handle things on our own. If we want to experience God’s healing presence than we need to be open to it. We must be like little children who extend their hands to their parents to help them walk across a crowed street and extend our hands to the Lord and allow Him to guide us in life.

How true, “the Lord will not abandon his people!” He is there carrying us during the most difficult times in our lives. All we have to do is open our eyes and extend our arms in faith and allow Him to take the wheel.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Homily for Tuesday of the 15th Week of Ordinary Time

“Unless your faith is firm, you shall not be firm.” This last line from the book of the prophet Isaiah reminds us of the importance of faith. It is important for us to have faith in God an in all the things He promises us. The word faith can be defined as belief and trust in and loyalty to God. There are three points in this definition: belief, trust, and loyalty.

Question number one, do we believe in God and in everything that He tells us through His Church? Then the second question we must ask, can we place our total trust in Him? This is the challenging question to ponder because many times while we believe in God and in everything He tells us we have trouble placing our trust in Him because we are afraid to let go. How many times do we find ourselves in predicaments that weigh us down and rather than letting go and placing them in the hands of the one who can handle anything do we hold on and try to fix it ourselves. Yes there are some things that we have to do ultimately ourselves. However, where do we find the answer on how to proceed, is it from God or do we rely on ourselves only. Finally, the last question, are we staying loyal to God? Now as I always say we will fail because we are human, but if we are true to Him and firm in our faith how quick we are to turn back to Him every time we fall into sin.

Thus, we can conclude that faith in God is essential for our spiritual growth. Yes we can rely on ourselves all the time, but ultimately we will end up lost. Today as we continue to struggle with some of the things we encounter every day may we pray for the strength to stay firm with a steadfast faith in God. As we said together in the responsorial psalm, “God upholds his city forever.” Indeed He does! He sustains and upholds us each and every single day.

Homily for Monday of the 15th Week of Ordinary Time

“Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, and defend the widow.” These words taken from end of the first reading from the prophet Isaiah remind us of our Christian duty to turn away from sin and to seek the good.

While it is easy for us to say…it takes a little bit of work because conversion is truly a lifelong process. It doesn’t happen overnight. As we know from experience we are in a constant struggle to stay on the right path because we are just constantly inundated with negativity from the various forms of media. That is why we need to pray to the Lord and ask Him for His help and guidance. There are many people who are also in need of our help and there are various ways we support them in their need. Some we help by donating clothing and food to provide for their basic necessities. Others we help through monetary contributions to help them get back on their feet. However, we can’t forget the most important help we can give someone and that is through our prayers. May we pray for the strength to always avoid evil and do what is right not only for the betterment of ourselves but more importantly for the betterment of others!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Homily for the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Listen closely to these words, “it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.” What is this “it” being referred to in the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy? If we listened carefully or read over the reading beforehand closely we could easily pick it up and that which is being referred is the Word of God. The word of God is in each one of us.

Yes the Word of God is in each one of us and it was instilled in us when we were baptized. In order to understand this listen the instruction given to the parents and godparents after the presentation of the lighted candle. “Parents and godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. These children of yours have been enlightened by Christ. They are to walk always as children of the light. May they keep the flame of faith alive in their hearts.” At the moment of baptism divine life was instilled in us. The word of the Lord is alive in our hearts. Yet just because it’s there doesn’t mean that we stop fueling the flame. When we were younger it was our parents and godparents responsibility to do that and now that many of us are older only we can make decisions for ourselves, it becomes our responsibility to fan the fire.

A question that will often come to mind is how one can fuel the flame of faith. This time listen to the opening words that Moses says to the people in the first reading. “If only you would keep his commandments and statues that are written in this book of the law, when you return to the Lord, your God with all your heart and all your soul.” So step one follow the commandments of the Lord. It is important for each of us to take these commandments to heart and follow them closely. Now in the Gospel there was a scholar of the law who stood up and asked the Lord to test him what one must do to inherit eternal life. How many of us like at times to think of ourselves as our own experts making assertions to challenge the authority. We all have done this at some point in our lives and perhaps we still do it from time to time, but yet again as I mentioned in a homily a couple weeks ago true freedom is found when we can humbly submit to the will of God and keep His commandments.

Next step two we need to be a people of prayer, asking the Lord for the strength to accept those things that are throw our way. It’s easy for us to fall into sin when we are not praying. However, if we take the time each day to spend in prayer it becomes harder to fall into sin…that doesn’t mean we won’t fall into sin because we are human, but it becomes harder. The reason for this is because if we fail while being faithful to our prayer life we are quick to recognize how we offended God and then just as quick to seek His forgiveness. Finally we need to publically live the faith. We are not living the faith sitting back staying idle while everyone else to doing all the work. No…no we need to live the faith showing others who Jesus is by reaching out to them by doing good works. Sometimes to keep the Word of God alive in our hearts does not happen through words but rather our actions. How could we forget the old saying, “actions speak louder than words!”

Ah yes the Lord’s words are spirit and life! Listen to them carefully and may we allow them to transform our hearts and minds so that we can keep the flame of faith fueled and burning within us.

Archbishop Robert Carlson takes a strong stand on life…"You cannot be ‘pro-choice’ (pro-abortion) and remain a Catholic in good standing.”

 

His Excellency the Most Reverend Robert Carlson the Archbishop of St Louis Missouri addressed the pro-life issue in an article that appeared in the St. Louis review titled, “Before the Cross | Good Catholics cannot be pro-choice; The Fifth Commandment demands respect for life as God's most precious gift.”

(Archbishop Robert Carlson the Archbishop of St. Louis Missouri)

This is a wonderful article and it begins with the Archbishop saying the following, “

God's law in the Old Testament is clear and unambiguous: You shall not kill. Jesus is even more demanding: Every one who is angry is liable to judgment.

Sins against the Fifth Commandment are easy to commit. Any time we think, speak or act out of anger or hatred or jealousy or revenge, we abuse God's commandment that we respect His most precious gift, the gift of life — especially human life.

The archbishop makes two points that first in the Old Testament it is clear that on is never to take the life of another.  Secondly every time we say hurtful things directed towards another human being we are killing them, while not physically but spiritually.

Next the Archbishop reminds us;

Human life is sacred because, from its beginning until its natural end, it involves the creative action of God. The Fifth Commandment forbids direct and intentional killing as gravely sinful. God alone is the Lord of life. No one has the right to end arbitrarily what God has begun, and sustained, through the gift of His love.

Once again we are reminded that life begins at the moment of conception till natural death.  As Archbishop says, “God alone is the Lord of life.”  He is the only one who decides when life begins and when it ends.  That is not up for us to decide.  All human life from the moment of conception to natural death is SACRED!  Life is a GIFT, not a CHOICE!

Below is the text of the homily that I preached on the Nativity of St. John the Baptist a few weeks ago.

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist, the one who was destined to pave the way for the Lord. Listen closely to these words from the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” Like every child, St. John had a mission and his mission is also our mission and that is pave the way for the Lord.

Let’s briefly break apart the words from the prophet Jeremiah, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Indeed even before our parents even met, God knew who we were. God planned for us to be born. “Before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” The Father created us for a specific mission. Stop and think for a moment how many children were not allowed to born because of the selfishness of society through the sins of abortion and contraception. If everyone listened to the words of the prophet Jeremiah, listened to the Gospel account this morning of the angel appearing before Zechariah in the temple, or the Gospel account of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary one would clearly see when life truly begins.

My dear brothers and sisters we must preach the Gospel of Life. Notice I didn’t say we need, or we should I said without skipping a beat, WE MUST. The Lord really wants to work in the world but many times we get in the way. If we as Christians truly believe that the Sacred Scripture is the word of God than there can be no doubt about when life begins. It is sad to say that there are many people who consider themselves good faithful Christians who outright reject this essential truth of our faith and it must be clearly stated that one cannot consider themselves to be a Christian and be opposed to the Gospel of Life. We who gather here each morning have a mission and that mission is to pray for life. This is an issue that cannot be placed on the back burner but rather must be the forefront of our Christian Mission. We must preach the truth with charity and be willing to welcome those who have bought into as John Paul II put it, the culture of death, back with open arms. As John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord by preaching the truth we must do the same by preaching the Gospel of Life.

The text of the homily reminds us that even before we were formed in the womb the Lord knew us.  “Before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.”  Here we are reminded that we were created for a specific mission.  Just image how many things could have been accomplished if we allowed God’s divine plan to work in the world.  Next a question, who was the first person to truly recognize the presence of Christ?  Reflect on these words from Luke’s Gospel, “when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb.”  If one truly believed the Scriptures to be the word of God indeed there can be no doubt when life begins.  For it was John the Baptist who was still forming in his mothers womb who was first to recognize the presence of Christ. 

Before I conclude I would like to comment on this quote of the Archbishop,

You cannot be "pro-choice" (pro-abortion) and remain a Catholic in good standing. That's why the Church asks those who maintain this position not to receive holy Communion. We are not being mean or judgmental, we are simply acknowledging the fact that such a stance is objectively and seriously sinful and is radically inconsistent with the Christian way of life.

One of my focuses of this blog is respect for the Most Holy Eucharist.  In previous homilies I have said numerous times if one holds a position that is contrary to the Church’s teaching especially in regards to the Sanctity of Life one ought not to receive communion.  Now there is a difference between those who hold these views privately and those who pontificate them publically.   The reception of Holy Communion should never be a political issue and one ought not to deny communion except for a grave reason.  The person in the pew who hold these positions in their heart ought to be formed in such a way that they themselves know that they should not approach the Holy Eucharist.  As I said in my homily on the feast of Corpus Christi, when we say “Amen” when the priest or minister says “the Body of Christ,” we are saying that we believe that this is truly the Lord Himself and that we believe that everything He teaches especially through His Church is true.  To receive communion and at the same time to harbor thoughts that contradict the Church then we are saying to the Lord one thing to His face and turning around and doing another.  Thus we are literally lying directly to the Lord our God!

Now we come to those Catholics who publically speak out against the Church’s teaching through the media and other outlets.  These individuals open themselves  to canon 915: “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”  Some may wish to expound upon this canon further.  The Church’s teaching in regards to the sanctity of human life is NOT OPEN FOR DISCUSSION!  One cannot call themselves a good and faithful Catholic and oppose the Church’s teaching in regards to life.  Also one cannot take the cowardly approach and say well why I am personally opposed to abortion, contraception, euthanasia and other issues that are contrary to the Church’s teachings but I vote for it anyway because its what the majority wants…does not wash.  Where is the principle in that?  For if one truly believed something is wrong there is no way that individual could argue for it.  One who publically argues or votes for something that is contrary to the life in essence excommunicates themselves from the Church.

In regards to canon 915 here is where our spiritual fathers the bishops come in.  When someone publically argues or votes for something that contradicts with the sanctity of human life everything must be done to address that issue with the individual privately.  After several attempts are made to reconcile that individual with the Church and fail then for the sake of the individuals soul and to ensure the utmost respect for the Most Holy Eucharist, the bishop should send a letter informing them that they ought not to go to communion.  We should reflect on the subject of excommunication not so much as a punishment but rather a medicinal treatment to eventually bring the individual back into communion with the Church.  Indeed many times “absence makes the heart grow founder.”

In both cases the individuals themselves ought to know that they should not go to communion.  It should not be something that the Church publically decides for them, unless it is absolutely necessary.  That doesn’t mean that these individuals are unwelcome in the Catholic Church.  On the contrary, these individuals are the ones who are in need of hearing the beautiful words of God.  Those who find themselves in this position please know that you are always welcome in the Catholic Church and that we look forward to working with you to help you come to a clear appreciation and understanding of God’s divine plan for all human life.

God is love and God is merciful!  May we all work together to open our hearts and minds in the sanctity of all human life from the moment of conception till natural death.

The link to Archbishop’s Carlson’s article:

http://stlouisreview.com/article/2010-07-06/cross-good-catholics

Friday, July 9, 2010

Addressing today’s moral issues…from FOXNEWS.COM…Professor Fired Over Catholic Beliefs

I just read a couple articles in regards to the firing of a professor of the University of Illinois because a student accused the professor of engaging in hate speech by saying he agrees with the Church’s teaching regarding homosexuality. If this is the sole reason for his firing than this is extremely unfortunate.

Many people have mistaken notions of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. In regards to homosexuality this is the Church’s teaching. Being a homosexual is in itself not sinful. However the Church clearly teaches that engaging in homosexual activity is. The Church also teaches the marital act expressed outside marriage is sinful. It is unfortunate that we are quick to label something as hate speech just because we disagree on a particular topic. First off we must understand when we address sinful behavior we are addressing the behavior not the individual. As I have said over and over again our responsibility as Christians is to help one another get to heaven. We are not going to get there by standing idle and letting one another do what we want. If we do that then all we are doing is simply contributing to the decay of our society. Sometimes it is necessary to explain to others why a particular is sinful but that in NO WAY SHAPE OR FORM is to be seen as condemning the individual but rather is addressing the sin itself.

Holy Mother Church teaches that the marital act expressed between husband and wife within marriage is always procreative and unitive. Without getting into graphic detail when love is expressed between husband and wife their two bodies become one. They are joined together. The female body and the male body complement one another. Secondly, the love expressed between husband and wife within the context of the marital act is ALWAYS procreative. Now we must understand that there are two types of procreation that go hand in hand and that is you have physical procreation and spiritual procreation. A marital act expressed between a male and female who are not married may have the ability to procreate physically but it is not procreative spiritually. When a bride and groom on their wedding day promise to be true to one another in sickness and in health till death do us part they are promising themselves to one another. Individuals who engage in the marital act outside the Sacrament of Marriage do so freely without consequence. One guy or girl can act and say one thing to one particular individual and then go out and act and say the very same thing to another.

Another thing in regards to the Church’s sexual teaching is the use of contraception. The Church teaches that the use of contraception is sinful and here’s why. We have already said that the marital act expressed between husband and wife is always procreative and unitive. If one uses contraception they are intentionally taking away the procreative aspect of the martial act but they are also taking away at the same time the unitive aspect. When a husband and wife express their love within the marital act they give each other to themselves completely. Introducing contraception into the marital act one or both parties are withholding part of themselves from one another. Thus, not only is it not procreative it also at the same time is not unitive. Both contraception and the martial act outside of marriage are very dangerous and can lead to a lot of pain for individuals.

Back to the issue at hand why is homosexual activity wrong? This type of relationship while others will try to say otherwise can never express unity. God created us male and female. Studying the creation account from the book of Genesis we get an understanding of this. God created Eve out of Adam’s rib to express a unity between the two. The male and female bodies are made for one another. Secondly, this type of relationship can never be procreative. If this type of relationship cannot be physically procreative, then there is no possible way for it to be spiritually procreative. Now I anticipate an argument here…what happens if a married couple (male and female) are unable to have children through no fault of their own, does that mean their love expressed in the marital act is never procreative even spiritually? The answer to that question is that although they struggle to conceive physically when they give themselves over to each other completely it is always spiritually procreative. Even though it might seem medically impossible their love always has the potential of physical procreativity. Miracles happen each and every day!

Looking at the statistics we see a problem with same-sex unions. Most of these relationships never last and these individuals are constantly in and out of relationships. People who struggle with same-sex attraction are called to lifelong chastity. One will find happiness only when they embrace God’s divine plan.

Now there are several points that I want to make. First, there could be other reasons why the professor was fired from his job that have not been reported by the media.  There can be two sides to every story.  Now I am not saying that this is the case in this situation.  We all have to keep an open mind.  What I am saying is if he was fired just because of this position then that it is extremely unfortunate. If professors with leftwing tendencies can promulgate their lies in front of a classroom why cannot one brave professor standup for the truth and what he believes in especially when he is teaching a course about Catholicism. Secondly, I want to make it a point to say that I personally know many wonderful individuals who have same-sex attractions. These individuals are not bad people and in fact many of them would go the extra mile to help others. While I stand in firm agreement with the Roman Catholic Church in regards to her teachings on this matter, I must stress my profound love and respect for all of God’s children. While I disagree with all forms of the expression of the marital act outside the context of the Sacrament of Marriage, I must stress that everyone must be treated with dignity and respect as children of God. We are all human and we all make mistakes in life, but it’s with God’s grace that we are able to get back up again and move forward.

May we pray for the grace to be open to God’s divine plan and ask him for the grace to reach to one another that way we may help each other reach our final destination…the Heavenly Kingdom!

Below is the link to the Fox News article…

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/07/09/university-illinois-instructor-fired-catholic-beliefs/

The Role of Godparents…

I just wanted to point out an article that I read by Bishop Tobin on the role of godparents. It is important for us all to understand the very special role these individuals have in our spiritual lives Bishop writes;

First, a word about what godparents should not be. The role of godparent is not an honor given to a favorite aunt, uncle or lifetime friend. (“I’ve known John forever, he’s a really great guy and I want him to be the godfather of my child.”) Nor is it a reward in exchange for another favor. (“I was the maid-of-honor at her wedding and I want to thank her by asking her to be my baby’s godmother.”) Nor does it entail the bestowal of a legal right or duty to raise the child to adulthood should “something happen” to the parents.

Bishop_Tobin

(Bishop Tobin of Providence Rhode Island)

A godparent is certainly not a title of honor given to someone or a reward, to be a godparent in today’s world carries with it some serious spiritual responsibility. In the Catholic Church the role of the godparent is responsible to accompany that child or individual in their journey of faith. As the bishop points out in his response that just because you are the child’s godparent doesn’t give you legal right to raise the child if something were to happen to the parents. The role of the godparent is strictly spiritual.

Sadly today we have seen the role of the godparent become more and more as just a title of honor rather than one that carries with it a serious spiritual responsibility. Many times I experience resistance from parents when I am forced to tell them that the person they chose for one reason or another can’t serve as a godparent. While I can understand that individuals may want someone who has a special connection to the family to serve in this beautiful role one must understand that are a few basic requirements.

Canon 874 of the Code of Canon Law stipulates the prerequisites for sponsors as the following

To be permitted to take on the function of sponsor a person must:

1. Be designated by the one to be baptized, by the parents or the person who takes their place, or in their absence by the pastor or minister and have the aptitude and intention of fulfilling that function;

2. Have completed the sixtieth year of age, unless the diocesan bishop has established another age, or the pastor or minister has granted an exception for a just cause;

3. Be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist and who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on.

4. Not to be bound by any canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared;

5. Not to be the father or the mother of the one to be baptized.

These are the requirements of a godparent or sponsor in the Catholic Church. Section 3 of the code might need to be spelled out. One they need to have received all the Sacraments of Initiation: baptism, confirmation, and Holy Eucharist. The second part “who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on,” is clear that one needs to be a practicing Catholic who follows the precepts of the Church. One must also be married according to the laws of the Church. If one does not practice the faith or is married outside the Church one cannot serve in the role of godparent.

Parents of children are often quick to lash out “does that mean father you won’t baptize my child.” No of course not because as a priest I am not inclined to deny a sacrament to child. Now I may ask the parents why they want to have their child baptized if they not practicing the faith. If the response is “I just want it done,” then I have to pastorally explain to them that baptism is not simply a rite of passage but is rather a personal encounter with Christ. With the Sacrament of Baptism comes responsibility and parents are reminded of that in the beginning of the Rite of Baptism for children. “You have asked to have your children baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training them in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring them up to keep God commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor.”

As I mentioned before I can understand parents wanting to choose someone they know to be a godparent, but again they must have all the prerequisites necessary to fulfill this special spiritual role. If they don’t…than they can’t be a godparent. If someone comes to me and says “father I really want my child baptized but I don’t know anyone in my family who can fulfill this role,” never fear I know many good people who can assume that role. When faced with this difficult situation I will ask them if they know someone from their family from another Christian community who is practicing their faith if they want to stand in as a Christian witness. Then I will appoint a godparent from our community. While I haven’t had to do this yet I would turn to organizations such as members of the Knights of Columbus who promote the family and defend the sanctity of marriage, or the Legion of Mary, or members of other parish organizations to stand in.

We must come to understand that baptism is not simply a rite of passage, but is a Sacrament in which we first encounter God and become members of His family. Baptism is a beautiful sacrament and when come to understand our responsibility we will help one another in this journey of faith.

gabi's baptism

The Link to Bishop Tobin’s article:

http://thericatholic.com/news/detail.html?sub_id=3280

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Homily for Wednesday of the 14th Week of Ordinary Time

“For it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain down justice upon you.” The very first part of this quote taken from this morning’s first reading taken from the prophet Hosea resonates today. There are many in society who thinks I can do what I want now and seek the Lord later. While that may not be our intention that is what is sometimes communicated by our actions. Let’s face it…we all like to be rebels every once in a while.

The Latin phrase “Carpe Diem”, seize the day, reminds us that today is the day to act and we have a mission and that mission is this to go find the lost sheep. As was mentioned yesterday there are many lost sheep looking for a shepherd. “The harvest is abundant and the laborers are few.” Indeed that is why we need to step up to the plate now because there is so much work that needs to be done. Please take note to the word “we.” There are many who are content with leaving the shepherding to members of the clergy and religious. While we can speak to over a thousand people a weekend here at Mass think of the possibilities if everyone truly went worth “to love and serve the Lord,” by reaching out to others. Think of the possibilities!

Right now the “Kingdom of God is at hand.” It’s not a thing of the past or a thing of the future but rather it is present among us here and now. Now is the time to seek the Lord, don’t wait until it’s too late!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Homily for Tuesday of the 14th Week of Ordinary Time the Memorial of Saint Maria Goretti

“At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” Today look around there are many people who would fall into this category. There are many people out there who have no shepherd to guide them in the right direction.

Browsing the internet, paging through the headlines of the newspaper, and flipping through the channels, we see firsthand the lack of guidance there is in the world. At times the question pops out in our minds when we see names individuals in the news that have done really terrible things and we wonder how they could turn out that way. The root of society’s problems comes from a lack of shepherding. What does it mean to be a true shepherd in today’s society? To be a true shepherd means being willing to lay down one’s life for ones sheep. It also means being willing to challenge and give direction. The later is today’s problem, we live in a world that is afraid to challenge and give direction. I don’t doubt that today there are members of the clergy who lay down their life for their flock; I don’t doubt there are parents who love their children to the point of laying down their life for them. However, I do believe we live in a society where we need to learn the value of challenging and giving direction to one another. We are too busy trying to be everyone’s buddy or pal rather than being their boss, their parents and pastors. The Church has a structure, the family has a structure, and the workplace as a structure and they are important. If we want to make a difference than we need to follow the example the Lord Himself has given us.

As we speak of giving direction and guidance to one another we have a perfect example to look up to in the life of young Saint Maria Goretti. This young Saint can teach us a lot about living our faith. Young Maria lost her life as a result of rejecting one young man’s advances. That man Allessandro Serenelli was convicted and later imprisoned soon after the attack. At first he was unrepentant. However, that didn’t stop the young Saint from working a miracle, for one night Alessandro had a dream of the young Maria where she formally extended to him as she did prior to her death forgiveness. As a result, Alessandro’s heart experienced a great conversion and his life was changed forever. After leaving prison he went to beg forgiveness of Maria’s mother Assunta in which she said, “that if Maria had forgiven him on her deathbed then she couldn't do less.” Then the very next day both Maria’s mother and Alessandro attended Mass and received communion side by side.

A little direction and guidance whether it is through our own intervention or heavenly intervention can work miracles. May we continue to pray that the Lord will continue to send us good shepherds to lead us and we also pray that the Lord will help all of us to be good shepherds to those entrusted to our care!

 

Maria_Goretti

Monday, July 5, 2010

Homily for Monday of the 14th Week of Ordinary Time

A simple act of faith can go a long way. In Matthew’s Gospel we are first introduced to an official who knelt down before the Lord informing Him of the death of his daughter. He said, “My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.” As our Lord was following the official back to his place, we encounter a woman who has been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years. She wasn’t expecting the Lord to pray over her for an extended period of time all she wanted was to touch the tassel of His cloak saying, “if only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.”

In both scenarios what do we see? Both individuals in this morning’s Gospel demonstrate to each of us how a simple act of faith can indeed go along way. Unfortunately on television there are these so called charismatic healing services in which these ministers pray over the people and they are supposedly healed. God does not work usually through elaborate ways but rather He operates in the ordinary means in the exercise of the Sacraments. Charismatic doesn’t mean we jump up and down and holler to the top of our lungs but to be a charismatic in the true sense one must be open to the spirit and how He communicates to us in the ordinary means in which He has established through His Church.

The official and the woman got it right; they had a faith that knew that the Lord had the power to heal. “Lay your hand on her, and she will live. If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.” May we pray for the faith and humility that has been demonstrated by these two individuals in the Gospel! How blest we are to experience some kind of healing each and every day when we receive in our mouths the risen Lord. May we allow our faith to be simple and centered on the Lord, so that He can save and raise us up!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy FOURTH OF JULY!!!

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your families and HAPPY AND SAFE Fourth of July weekend. Once again tomorrow is another opportunity to say a BIG THANK YOU to all those men and women who have served our nation faithfully and those who have gone before us that have helped established our nation’s independence.

dc-fireworks

Also tomorrow we cannot forget that as we celebrate our Lord’s Day that great act of love that has freed us from the bonds of sin and has opened the door for us the opportunity to experience the true freedom in the Heavenly Kingdom!

Wed-1-restoration

Approaching the Sacred…and fostering devotion and respect to the Most Blessed Sacrament

IMG_0280 (The Sanctuary of Corpus Christi Church Chambersburg Pa)

Who can minister in the sanctuary? Who should approach the altar and the tabernacle? These are questions that are often pondered. To find a clear answer to this question one must ponder several factors. In my parish it is normal to see extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion every Sunday approach the tabernacle before Mass and to see a line of extraordinary ministers after Mass at the tabernacle to take communion to the sick. Should extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion approach the tabernacle regularly?

First we must understand what is the role of the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion is? The role of the extraordinary minister in the Sacred Liturgy is to assist in the distribution of Holy Communion when there is not enough Ordinary Ministers (bishops, priests and deacons) present. Their only true function is to distribute Holy Communion. In the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the instruction that governs every celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass it clearly demonstrates a distinction between the functions of the ordained and those of the non-ordained. First it says, “The priest may be assisted in the distribution of Communion by other priests who happen to be present. If such priests (or deacons) are not present and there are a very large number of communicants, the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him.” It is clearly an abuse for extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to be distributing Holy Communion when there are a sufficient number of priests available. The issue was addressed in Redemptionis Sacramentum, the instruction on the Eucharist in paragraph 157. It says,

“If there is usually present a sufficient number of Sacred Ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it. The practice of those priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function to laypersons.”

This section from the General Instruction continues to say that, “these ministers should not approach the altar before the priest has received Communion, and they are always to receive from the hands of the priest celebrant the vessel containing either species of the Most Holy Eucharist for distribution to the faithful.” What can we take from paragraph 162 of the GIRM? First, we get a clear understanding that all priests (and I include deacons since they are ordinary ministers of Holy Communion) are ordered to the Eucharist and it is their sacred responsibility to distribute the Body and Blood of Christ. In the event there are not other priests available extraordinary ministers MAY BE (this is a key word) called upon to help distribute Holy Communion. However, it is clear that they are not to take anything from the altar and that the Sacred Vessels are to be handed to them by the priest celebrant.

IMG_0276

(A Close up of the altar at Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church Chambersburg Pa)

Paragraph 163 says, “when the distribution of Communion is finished, the priest himself immediately consumes at the altar any consecrated wine that happens to remain; as for any consecrated hosts that are left, he either consumes them at the altar or carries them to the place designated for the reservation of the Holy Eucharist.” Note that nowhere in this paragraph does it envision extraordinary ministers approaching the tabernacle. It says clearly “he” in reference to the priest. Why is it that the Church makes a clear distinction between the role of the priest and the role of extraordinary ministers? The answer is because the priest stands in Persona Christi (the person of Christ) at every celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Jesus did not simply hand things over to His disciples, but rather He commissioned them. Every time the priest hands the Sacred Vessel to the extraordinary minister it as if Christ Himself was commissioning them to go forth.

Quoting once again from Redemptionis Sacramentum paragraph 154 in regards to the priests ministry as the ordinary minister of Holy Communion it says,

As has already been recalled, ‘the only minister who can confect the Sacrament of the Eucharist in persona Christi is a validly ordained Priest.’ Hence the name ‘minister of the Eucharist’ belongs properly to the Priest alone. Moreover, also by reason of their Ordination, the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion are the Bishop, the priest, and the Deacon, to whom it belongs therefore to administer Holy Communion to the lay members of Christ’s faithful during the celebration of Mass. In this way their ministerial office in the Church is fully and accurately brought to life, and the sign value of the Sacrament is made complete.

Many will complain that the Church is moving backwards and that these rules will lead to greater clericalism. I respectfully disagree because I believe that this practice really highlights the importance of this Sacrament and the extraordinary minister’s ministry. In giving the extraordinary minister the Sacred Vessel their ministry is not lessened but rather is elevated in the sense that it is truly an honor and a privilege to handle the Body of the Lord. It is also truly a privilege not a right to serve at the Lord’s altar. Yes, serving in the Sanctuary is truly a privilege not a right. Even for us priests it is a privilege for us to celebrate each and every day the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. As Pope John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Letter, Dominicae Cenae, “To touch the sacred species and to distribute them with their own hands is a privilege of the ordained, one which indicates an active participation in the ministry of the Eucharist.”

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(Bishop Odoki celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass after administering the Sacrament of Confirmation)

As a whole we have lost the concept of the Sacred and because of this we must do all in our power with the help of God’s grace to reclaim it. Now we can conclude that if during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass extraordinary ministers should not approach the altar then we should conclude that as a norm they should not approach the tabernacle. That is not to say there might come a time when it is necessary for an extraordinary minister to approach the tabernacle when there are no ordained ministers present. This would be a rare occurrence. However, when a priest or deacon is present He should be the one to approach the tabernacle. When I celebrate Mass I have begun keeping the tabernacle key in my pocket in between Masses not because I want to hinder the extraordinary ministers who take our Lord to the sick but to ensure reverence towards the tabernacle which contains the Body of our Lord. One cannot make the argument just because I am greeting the faithful outside that I am not present. Yes as a priest I might be greeting the people at that moment, but that does not make me unavailable because ordinarily I am back in the Sacristy two minutes after the Mass lets out. As a rule the extraordinary minister should turn to one of the ordained ministers present to approach the tabernacle.

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(The tabernacle:  The place of reservation of the Body of Christ)

All priests’ have a most grave obligation to ensure the protection of the Most Blessed Sacrament. We are also entrusted with making sure that the Sacred Liturgy is celebrated and that the Sacred Vessels are cared for with great reverence. It is unfortunate that I hear so often that these rules are made by Rome and it doesn’t apply to us. Although Redemptionis Sacramentum was prepared by the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Disciple of the Sacraments it says,

By mandate of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II in collaboration with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith, was approved by the same pontiff on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, March 19, 2004, and he ordered it to be published and to be observed immediately by all concerned.

In other words, Peter has spoken through the congregation and all members of the Church are to observe it. I would encourage everyone to take advantage of reading not only the General Instruction of the Roman Missal but also the document Redemptionis Sacramentum. It is important to understand that this direction from the Church was not meant to hold one vocation over another but rather was issued to give a renewed sense of reverence towards the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Extraordinary Ministers to the sick should either present their pyx to the priest before Mass so He Himself can fill them to be consecrated at that Mass or place the consecrated host in them to be given to the minister either before the dismissal or at the end of Mass. However, the practice of extraordinary ministers approaching the tabernacle and taking the Eucharistic Lord themselves should be avoided much as possible. By restricting (or at least much as possible) the approach of the tabernacle to only members of the clergy really fosters the devotion and respect our Eucharistic Lord deserves. It is not unusual for some of the faithful in the pews to comment to me about the number of people who approach the tabernacle before and after Mass to get Holy Communion for the sick. What really bothers them is the casualness in which individuals approach the Sacred. When the faithful in the pews witness individuals approaching the tabernacle on a regular consistent basis it is easy to see how can lose sight subconsciously of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Thus, by restricting the approach to the tabernacle on the most part to the ordained not only does it protect the extraordinary minister from developing this mindset which will affect their ministry but it also helps members of the faithful who sit in the pew each day keep focused on the real presence.

While as a priest I truly appreciate the help our extraordinary ministers to the sick provide in taking our Eucharistic Lord to the faithful who are homebound, my brother priests and I cannot forget that this is our primary duty as pastors to visit the sick. Yes, it is great individuals are being visited on a regular basis, but we cannot become lacks in our pastoral obligation. It is our moral obligation to fulfill our priestly commitment. How easy it is for us to become simply administrators of parishes and not true pastors! Thus, it is my suggestion that every parish have a list of people to visit and have a rotation between the ministers and the priest that way individuals are getting visited by the priest every couple months or so. People have a right to be visited by the priest so they can have the opportunity to receive the other Sacraments.

The above paragraph highlights another point why it is important that extraordinary ministers receive the pyx from the ordained. Visiting the sick is one of the primary duties of the clergy and when a member of the clergy hands the pyx to the extraordinary minister he is giving them a charge to fulfill that ministry. It is almost like the same charge Christ gave His disciples. Every time an extraordinary minister goes out to visit the sick they go out with the authority of the Church. When an individual becomes sick and is unable to attend Mass on Sunday it is important for them to contact the Church so someone can be assigned to go see them. In cases where extraordinary ministers become aware of individuals who are sick and wish to take our Lord to them they must notify the pastor or his delegate for their permission. Extraordinary ministers only minister with the permission of the Church. Again by restricting the approach of the tabernacle to the ordained or requiring extraordinary ministers to ask permission or be given permission by the Church should in no way be seen as demeaning the role of the extraordinary minister but rather put it into greater perspective. Therefore, it is important that one understand their ministry in light of ministry the Church.

How did we get to this point? After the New Liturgy was promulgated by Pope Paul VI many individuals within the Church decided to become creative in regards to their own interpretation of how things are to be done. The Liturgy introduced by Pope Paul VI is a beautiful liturgy when it is celebrated according to the rubrics set forth in the General Instruction. As I have said many times before the Documents of the Second Vatican Council did not remove Latin entirely from the Sacred Liturgy. It also did not promulgate a change in the manner of receiving Holy Communion. Finally the new liturgy did not promulgate the destruction of high altars which has led to the practice of the priest facing the people focusing more on the actions of the priest and the removal of altar rails which has turned the sanctuary into just another space where people enter and walk around as if it was just another working space.

Today we have a moral obligation to reintroduce a beauty and a reverence according to the tradition of the Church which has been lacking in so many places around the world. As Pope Benedict wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis in paragraph 65 “a convincing indication of the effectiveness of Eucharistic catechesis is surely an increased sense of the mystery of God.” More than ever today do we need to grow in knowledge towards the Eucharist which will help us grow in love each time even more with our Eucharistic Lord! Another thing we can do is once again redefine our sacred spaces. This could mean by restoring our altar rails which were sadly removed in many of our churches. Another practice that should be introduced is the chalice veil and burse which adds dignity and respect towards the Sacred Vessel.

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(Picture of the chalice covered by the chalice veil)

We also need to follow our current Holy Father’s example in fostering reverence to the Eucharist by encouraging the faithful to receive our Eucharistic Lord on the tongue and if they are able on their knees. As it says in scripture that at the name of Jesus every knee must bend, shouldn’t both our knees bow in the true presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist!

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Finally another practice that should be introduced after much catechesis is the reintroduction of the priest facing Ad Orientem (towards God). It can be commonly referred to as the priest and people facing the same direction. Unfortunately, it has been referred to by those who truly do not understand the symbolism as the priest with his back to the people or as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) refers to it at one point in his book Spirit of the Liturgy as the priest facing the wall. With the changing of the direction this has led as our Holy Father as Cardinal Ratzinger wrote,

“In reality what happened was that an unprecedented clericalization came on the scene. Now the priest – “the presider”, as they now prefer to call him – becomes the real point of reverence for the whole liturgy. Everything depends on him. We have to see him, to respond to him, to be involved in what he is doing. His creativity sustains the whole thing. Not surprisingly, people try to reduce this newly created role by assigning all kinds of liturgical functions to different individuals and entrusting the “creative” planning of the liturgy to groups of people who like to, and are supposed to, “Make their own contribution.” Less and less is God in the picture. More and more important is what is done by human beings who meet here and do not like to subject themselves to a “pre-determined” pattern. The turning of the priest toward the people has turned the community into a self-enclosed circle. In its outward form, it no longer opens out on what lies ahead and above, but is closed on itself. The common turning toward the east was not a “celebration toward the wall”; it did not mean that the priest “had his back to the people”: the priest himself was not regarded as so important. For just as the congregation of the synagogue looked toward Jerusalem, so in the Christian liturgy the congregation looked together “toward the Lord.”

While it may not be very practical to rearrange the sanctuary at this point in the Church’s History, it is important for all of us to understand that the liturgy is focused only on Christ and not on the particular ministry one particular individual.

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That is why in a previous article I explained the dropping of the priests name in the introduction. Yes it is important for us as a Christian Community to welcome one another and for people to hear the name of a loved one whom the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is being offered for, but to name the priest celebrant is not important. As I highlighted before, it puts the priest on an unnecessary pedestal and it makes a presumption that He is the celebrant when in fact He is not. It is Jesus who celebrates the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the right hand of the Father. The priest is only the vehicle. Like everyone else the priest is a participant in the liturgy according to the office He holds. Yes, with that office comes a responsibility that is unique only to him, but that in no way shape or form means he is more of a participant or less of participant than the faithful. If one were to be insistent on naming the priest at every celebration than one must be prepared to introduce every minister in the Sanctuary and every member of the congregation because each person gathered is an equal participant. However, by doing so the liturgy loses it focus. It becomes more about us and our roles rather than focusing on Christ.

In this article I have focused a lot on roles of specific ministers and the reason for that is to help one understand ones true ministry in light of the Church. At every celebration of the Mass and outside the Mass we all have specific duties and roles to fulfill. That is not to say one is better than the other. As a priest my responsibility not only is to care for the spiritual formation and wellbeing of all my parishioners but it is also to ensure proper care and understanding of the Most Holy Eucharist. Please allow me to conclude with the famous words of John the Baptist, “He must increase: but I must decrease.” Everything we do and say has one purpose and one purpose only. It is all done for the greater GLORY OF GOD!!!

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Important reads:

General Instruction of the Roman Missal

Instruction on the Eucharist…Redemptionis Sacramentum

Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)

“The more we grow in knowledge the deeper appreciation we have in our understanding for what we celebrate week after week”

Friday, July 2, 2010

Dropping the Priests name from the introduction from the Mass

Some people in my parish will notice a small change coming in the weeks ahead and that is the dropping of the priests name from the beginning of Mass. Prior to this change the following announcement was made prior to Mass. “Father (name) celebrates the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which will be offered for (Mass intention).” The introduction has been written to say “the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is being offered for (intention)” and the priests name will be dropped. Some may say to themselves, we have been doing this for years…Why now the change?

There are two main reasons for this change and another practical one. First, the priest Himself does not offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; it is Jesus Christ Himself who presides at every single liturgy from the right hand of the Father. He works through the ministry of the priests. Secondly, the mentioning of the priests name puts him on an unnecessary pedestal for he himself is a participant in the Sacred Liturgy. Yes he is set apart by the grace of ordination and has a very special unique obligation to offer the Holy Sacrifice but that does not make him more of a participant than the faithful. Like the faithful he participates according to his office. The priest represents in the liturgy Christ head and shepherd of the Church and the faithful represents the body. Both are equally important…the body can’t operate without a head and a head can’t operate without a body. As I mentioned there is another practical reason for not mentioning the name, one can easily say the wrong name, or there is a visiting priest and one would have to unnecessarily be spending their time worrying about getting his name prior to the start of the Liturgy.

This by no means is meant to diminish the ministry of our Lord’s priesthood but rather to help the faithful understand who the true celebrant is, our Lord Jesus Christ, who must and should be at the center of our worship!

Homily for Friday of the 13th Week of Ordinary Time…Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

As we celebrate a Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart of Jesus this morning’s Gospel is a very important one for us to hear. The very last line of this morning’s Gospel is an important reminder that the Lord did not come to call the righteous but sinners. It’s unfortunate that many members of our Churches are unwelcoming to those individuals who struggle with living the commandments of the Lord. That does not mean they are unwelcome in the Lord’s house for the Lord Himself would say everyone is welcome in this house.

Although there might be some individuals who for at the moment cannot receive Holy Communion because of some issue that prevents them does not mean they are unwelcome to attend Church on Sunday or everyday they choose. In fact, we should be inviting them to worship with us so they can truly absorb the word of God and also lean on us for support. Now some may consider the denial of Holy Communion as a punishment, however it is to be considered more medicinal than a punishment. There is plenty of truth to the old saying, “absence makes the heart grow stronger.” If we accept with faith the guidance of the Church and trust in her maternal wisdom, we will become stronger in the faith than we were before.

Indeed, those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Our Lord has a challenge for all of us this morning and that is to open the doors of our hearts and our Churches to those who need to hear clearly the merciful words of the Lord.

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May we always strive to have a Christ like heart reaching out to those who do not know Him intimately so that they can experience firsthand His love and mercy!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Homily for Thursday of the 13th Week of Ordinary Time…the Memorial of Blessed Junipero Serra

This afternoon we reflect on our Lord’s actions in today’s Gospel. What is it that the Lord does first? Does He heal the paralytic right away? No…He first says, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” The Lord isn’t resorting to first a physical healing but rather He begins with what He thinks is more important for the sake of the paralytic and that is by offering him spiritual healing with the forgiveness of sins.

Our Lord healed the paralytic not because He asked but in order to show others that God could do anything He wills. Many of those gathered stood in disbelieve when He said to the man lying on the ground that his sins had been forgiven. How did the Lord respond when He knew their thoughts, He said, which is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Rise and Walk?” Dear friends in the Lord, our Lord has the power to do all things but how often do we lose sight of the little things He does for us each and every single day. May we pray for the grace to stay vigilant for the good things He does for us.

Corpus Christi Chambersburg bulletin announcement…regarding an establishment of a Young Adult Ministry Program

Inviting all Young Adults ages 18 to 35

We as a parish are looking to start a Young Adult Ministry program to reach out to young adults 18 to 35. It is our hope that this ministry will bring the young adults of our parish closer to Christ and to encourage them to get involved in the life of the parish and in the apostolic ministry of the Church. If you are interested in joining this new and exciting ministry please contact, Father Carroll at 264-6317 or by email kcarroll@corpuschristichbg.org.

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