Saturday, April 30, 2011

Beatification of Pope John Paul II

Pope_John_Paul_II_2005

Tomorrow morning at 10AM In Rome (live coverage starting at 2:30AM on EWTN) our late Holy Father Pope John Paul II will be beatified by his successor Pope Benedict XVI. 

As Pope John Paul II said so often quoting directly from the scriptures, “Be not afraid,” may we honor his memory by continuing what he taught us here on earth to proclaim the Gospel without fear.   

Homily for Divine Mercy Sunday

There is a line that sticks out in our first reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles. That line reads, “All who believed were together and had all things in common.” All of gathered here have something in common. We have a common baptism and we worship under one roof. There is something that unites us. However, there is something that separates us and that something is sin.

On this day in which we as a Church celebrate the beautification of Pope John Paul II on this Second Sunday of Easter a day in which our late Holy Father set a Divine Mercy Sunday we recall the Lord’s love and mercy. There is plenty of truth to our responsorial psalm “give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting.” This was a key theme of Blessed John Paul’s pontificate. He spent his entire pontificate proclaiming to the entire world the everlasting love of Jesus Christ. Yes sin separates us! It places a barrier between one another and causes division within our communities of faith. That being said, there is a way in which that barrier can be removed. The Lord has given us all the tools necessary to remove those pesky barriers. Yes I am talking about confession, prayer, and the Most Holy Eucharist.

In the Sacrament of Reconciliation we experience firsthand the Lord’s love and mercy as He forgives our sins. We must understand that sin not only separates us from God but it also causes division between ourselves. So when we confess our sins and receive the Lord’s forgiveness not only we reunited to God but also we are reunited with each other. It is so unfortunate that in many places throughout the globe the Sacrament of Reconciliation has become an underutilized sacrament. The Sacrament of Reconciliation not only benefits the individual themselves but it also benefits the entire society. If only more people would open themselves up to experience the grace that is contained in that awesome sacrament. Not only does it teach us humility by placing our complete trust in the Lord’s hands but at the same time conditions our hearts as the Lord forgives us to go forth to forgive others.

Prayer is another key that brings us together. What is prayer? To answer that I turn to the Old Baltimore Catechism which says “prayer is the lifting up of our minds and hearts to God to adore Him, to thank Him for His benefits, to ask His forgiveness, and to beg of Him all the graces we need, whether for soul or body.” The very next question asks is prayer necessary? In response it says, “Prayer is necessary to salvation, and without it no one having the use of reason can be saved. So let’s get at the real heart of what prayer is, prayer is a communication between us and God. We must remember communication isn’t just speaking it’s also entails listening. How do we build a relationship with God? Well let’s stop and think how do we build a relationship with one another? It begins with communication! How do we maintain our relationships? Relationships are maintained by communication. What happens when communication breaks down? Once communication breaks down; so does our relationships. Prayer is essential and necessary because the closer we are with God the closer we will be to one another.

Finally we mustn’t forget to mention the greatest gift that brings us together and that is of course the Most Holy Eucharist. The Most Holy Eucharist is a sacrament of unity. However for it to be truly effective one must approach the Blessed Sacrament in a state of grace meaning free from mortal sin and an open disposition to the graces that are contained in this holy sacrament. If we are not open to it then it’s simply not effective for the individual. One of the things I stress as a priest is that if someone is not in agreement with our Lord’s teachings they ought not to go to communion. For someone to receive in that mindset would be a lie and what is a lie, it is a sin. In fact it is an even graver sin because one is lying directly to the Lord Himself. Some might not like to hear that but it’s the truth! Now we can’t stop someone from receiving communion who ought not to go, however we have a moral obligation to warn someone of the dangers of doing so. My brothers and sisters on this Second Sunday of Easter we must avail ourselves to every opportunity that our Lord has given us to grow in unity, to grow not only closer to Him but also with one another. May we give thanks to the Lord, for His love is everlasting and it’s that love He shows us right here at this very moment. Let’s open our eyes to this truth so that we can grow together in faith!

Divine_Mercy

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Homily for Easter Sunday 2011

The Lord has risen, He is risen indeed, alleluia…alleluia. My brothers and sisters in Christ, on behalf of Father O’Brien, Father Palomino, Deacon Ramsey, and myself I would like to extend to each one of you and your families a very Happy and Blessed Easter. If there is anyone visiting our parish this weekend I would like to extend to you a warm welcome as we join together in celebrating the resurrection of the Lord!

Indeed this is the very day in which the Lord has made in which we all rejoice and are glad! Each one of us gathered here already knows the story. We already know what took place on that Easter morning when they discovered the empty tomb which had held the body of our Savior. No one took His body! The empty tomb is significant. It signifies that our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead. While we all will experience crosses in this lifetime and we will one day experience the death of our physical bodies, death is by no means the end. The Lord’s resurrection from the dead demonstrates that to us rather clearly. Although we will physically die there is a resurrection that will be taking place. If we are spiritually prepared our souls rise up to the heavenly kingdom.

Easter is a time of rejoicing! However, we must never forget what we learned all throughout the Lenten Season. That is why we commemorate it year after year so that we will never ever forget. In the Second Reading we were reminded from Saint Paul’s letter to the people of Corinth to clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough. In other words, we must be constantly getting rid of those things that weigh us down, meaning our sins, so that we may open ourselves to grow spiritually. Easter isn’t a time where we forget everything we recalled during Lent but it is a time where we continue to put it into to practice so that we can experience the Easter joy every single day of our lives.

Homily for Good Friday

“See, my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.” Today as we commemorate Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion we remember that hour in which our Lord was raised up on a big wooden cross. He was nailed on the cross after being mocked, spat upon, striped of His clothes, and whipped at the pillar. However, we know from experience that the cross in which our Lord embraced and died upon was not the end but rather only the beginning.

Like Jesus we all have crosses. Throughout the world the crises evolving the clergy has once again flared up. People in our communities have faith are experiencing great crosses perhaps it the loss of a loved one or maybe it’s a loss of a job which is making it difficult paying the bills and putting food on the table. Maybe there is a particular sin that one cannot overcome. Throughout all the walks of life everyone is experiencing a cross to some degree or another. Now we must honestly ask ourselves how many of us try to avoid our crosses. Avoiding our crosses is one of the biggest mistakes we can ever make. Look at what happened when one man our Lord Jesus Christ embraced His cross. Not only did He rise on the third day but He opened the gates of heaven. What good things can happen when one chooses to embrace their cross!

Today in our liturgy of Good Friday we focus clearly on that particular cross which has opened the doors of salvation to all mankind. This cross shows us clearly that the cross is the means to salvation. Each one of us gathered here is called by God to accept the crosses that have been placed upon our shoulders. As Jesus didn’t carry His cross alone, for He carried it with the help of Simon of Cyrene, he doesn’t allow us to carry our crosses alone. Our Lord Jesus Christ is right there along side of us offering a helping hand…of course that is if we allow Him. That is why we have the liturgies and sacraments of the Church to remind us constantly of the Lord’s presence. We must pray that you and I in those times of trial can place ourselves into His hands. My brothers and sisters we mustn’t forget that we are not alone!

When we survey that wondrous cross, we recall that love the Lord has for each of us. God is love, and this wondrous cross reminds us of His great love! Do not be afraid of your crosses, embrace them. Will it be easy…no. It will be quite difficult at times but our Lord’s cross wasn’t easy for Him either as we recalled in the proclamation of the passion. Crosses are never easy, but when we accept them it leads to everlasting peace. The Cross is not the end, but the means to the end. Today may we ask the Lord for the grace and the strength to embrace our crosses daily so when the time comes we may be able to run across the true finish line. At that moment we will be raised up to see the Lord in all His radiant glory!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Brief Palm Sunday Homily

The Passion reminds each one of us of the Lord’s unconditional love.  Really nothing more needs to be said for the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ speaks for itself. 

The Holy Week Schedule is as follows the Mass of the Lords Super on Holy Thursday will be at 7PM.  On Good Friday the service will be at 2PM with confessions to follow at 3:30PM.  The Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday will be at 8PM .

As we enter Holy Week let us mediate specifically on everything the Lord has done and continues to do for us.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent

Today we turn our attention to the very last corporal work of mercy, our call to bury the dead. It is fitting that we talk about this last corporal work of mercy on the very day in which our Lord reveals Himself as the resurrection and the life. In death there is sadness on a human level because we lose the physical presence of the ones we love, however in death we move from this life into the next. If we are spiritually prepared at the moment of death that movement is into the fullness of the heavenly kingdom. That is why in our funeral liturgy we have moved from black vestments to white vestments because we not only celebrate that individual’s life but we celebrate their resurrection into life.

When Lazarus came out of the tomb, he walked out tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. What does this image show us? The very image of Lazarus coming out of the tomb wrapped up demonstrates to us that particular cultures reverence for the dead. This morning I want to talk briefly about importance of the Rite of Christian Burial in the Catholic Church. Only a few years ago it was normal when someone entered into eternal life that there was a viewing, then funeral Mass followed by a burial. In some cases today none of these are happening. Why is that? Perhaps it’s the economy and people feel they can’t afford the cost. One question you might have sitting in the pews, does the Church allow cremation and the answer to that question is yes. Today you can have a funeral liturgy with the urn present. While the Church allows for cremation there is only one stipulation is that the urn be buried in the ground or placed in a columbarium like we have in our cemetery. Many people today are opting for cremation because in many cases it is more economical.

Now there is another reason why many people don’t have the funeral rites and what is sad is that many of these individuals are lifelong Catholics who were strong in their faith. That reason is because many children or members of the family don’t practice the faith so when the Lord calls the individual home they don’t see the importance of burying them in the Church. That is why I cannot stress the importance for those who want a Catholic funeral to strongly stipulate now while you’re alive your funeral plans.  I cannot stress to you enough the importance of the funeral Mass. It is in essence our last hurrah; it’s the very last celebration of our life here on earth. Not only do we celebrate our joys but as we celebrate the Holy Eucharist we recall the very sacrifices that we made while on earth. The Lord gives us the Holy Eucharist for those of us who remain the spiritual strength we need to move forward, but also helps the soul of the deceased to enter into the fullness of the heavenly kingdom. So if someone has not entered in the fullness of heaven meaning they are in purgatory the Eucharist offered on their behalf helps them to be purified so they can be prepared to see God face to face in His glory. That is why we offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the deceased. It’s the very same principal. It’s why we offer it for the living to give us strength on earth. The power of the Most Holy Eucharist is immeasurable.

With that said, it is important for us all to bury the dead because not only are the rites of the Church important for the soul of the deceased but they are also important for those who mourn the loss of those who are dear to them. Think about that today! If you need, start thinking about making plans for your very last celebration here on earth. Indeed Jesus is the resurrection and the life, therefore let us avail ourselves to every opportunity that He gives us to help us to obtain that life He offers each and every single one of us.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

Today we turn our focus to the corporal work of mercy which asks us to visit the imprisoned. Is it referring to those who are in jail? The answer to that question is yes of course. While this is certainly a most difficult ministry, at the same time it is certainly essential. Individuals in prison no matter what they have done if they have been baptized have the faith planted within them. Even if they haven’t been baptized every human being has the inclination within them to know their creator. We can tie this in with last week’s reading about the woman of the well. The faith is in them, but needs to be drawn out. You and I mustn’t forget that even the hardened of criminals can experience a conversion of heart. Just ask Saint Paul who slaughtered Christians in the end he ended up becoming one of the Lord’s disciples. For us to say that prisoners should rot in prison for what they have done is not the Catholic response. We should be praying and reaching out to them for we are all responsible in forming each other’s conscious.

I would be negligent not to mention those who have been hurt by someone who is now doing time in the prison system. Perhaps there is someone here who was physically harmed by another, or had someone they loved hurt by another. Should we be angry…the answer is yes. Should we be sad…again the answer yes but my brothers and sisters those feelings shouldn’t rule our lives. Anger and hatred only destroys our lives and if that happens then the evil one has succeeded. True healing can only take place when we learn to forgive. Is it easy to forgive, the answer is no on a human level but with the grace of God it is as all things possible. Think of Jesus as He hung upon the cross after being made fun of, spat at, beaten and whipped. Did He say Father get even with them those who are doing these horrible things to me? No…He said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.” We need to think has God does, not as we do. Go to confession experience God’s forgiveness that will condition your heart to do the same. Forgive my brothers and sisters; once you are able to forgive at once you will be released from your own prisons.

While ministry to those who are in prison is vital we can interpret this particular corporal work of mercy in another way. How many of us at this very moment feel imprisoned? Maybe there is a particular sin that we are attached to that is weighing us down. Perhaps there is something that we never confessed out of fear and shame. One might be going through a particular situation with one finding themselves where nowhere else to go. Do some of us fall into the category? My guess is that at some point or another in our lives we all find ourselves in this boat. In today’s Gospel we have an account of a man who was born blind. This particular man was trapped because of His blindness. Individuals who are blind have a greater difficulty getting around and often need assistance. There are other prisons prevalent in today’s society we need to face.

Going back to my homilies during the nine weeks of ordinary time one of the things that I stressed was this importance to take the word of God with us into the world. Many of us shy away from this mission. However because of our unwillingness to follow through with our calling many people are left bound and shackled as if they were in prison. What is it that people need to hear today? They need to hear about these key themes, forgiveness, hope, love, mercy, and redemption. People need to be told that there is hope out there and our hope is God who is always willing to demonstrate His love and mercy towards us. Also they need to be told of the other alternative if an individual chooses not to follow the will of God. In other words yes there is a heaven and there is a place called H…E…L…L. If you want to get to heaven you have to follow the will of God and if you chose not to there is another not so pleasant alternative. Have them read the Gospel where they can see God’s love put into action. The fact is my brothers and sisters is that there are many people out there in the world who are trapped in prisons of their own, trapped by their own spiritual blindness who are in need of being visited by God’s word. We are the vehicles of God’s word, however we need to sometimes take our vehicles out of park and put them into drive. The word of God needs to be out there!

Now we have reached the half way point of Lent traditionally called Laetare Sunday. The word Laetare is Latin for “rejoice.” We do have something to “rejoice” over and that is God is with us! So often during Lent we focus on the theme of penance we get to the point where we need a break. Penance is important and necessary but we need to hear something positive. Talking about personal prisons isn’t a pleasant thought I have to admit however there is a cause for rejoicing here! Something happens when we take God’s word with us into the world and that is “peace” a peace knowing that we are doing God’s will. If we ourselves are trapped by sin go to confession and experience God’s love and mercy. There you will find “freedom” a freedom away from sin and sense of peace knowing that your sins are washed away. God is good; we indeed have a lot to be thankful for!

Our responsorial psalm was the Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. This is a responsorial psalm that is probably very familiar to all of us but is one that we need to really think about those words. The Lord is our shepherd; He is the one guiding us through life. Being a country music fan, Carrie Underwood’s song “Jesus take the Wheel,” fits in perfectly with our reflection. We can do nothing on our own, but with our Lord Jesus Christ we can do anything and everything, all we have to do is let Him take control. My brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ is indeed “the light of the world.” Follow Him and He will give us “the light of life!