Saturday, June 25, 2011

Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

“I am the living bread.” How can we associate these words from our Lord Jesus Christ with the Sacred Liturgy we celebrate today? For starters we must understand that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not merely a function but rather is a participation in an actual event that is ongoing. Every single celebration of the Mass is a manifestation of the Paschal Mystery, the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we look at the Mass as functional something we do out of habit you and I will get nothing from it. On the other hand, if we allow ourselves to completely enter into the mystery the more we begin to see our worship not as a function but rather an actual participation in an ongoing event.

This morning /evening I want you to put yourselves in the actual event. We stand as witnesses today as the Lord continues to offer His Body and Blood for our sake. Indeed my brothers and sisters what we receive is truly the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How can we help place ourselves in the actual event? First we need to learn how to allow ourselves to enter into these mysteries at a deeper level. It must first begin with preparation, meaning from the beginning don’t rush in. Consider getting here five minutes early to pray and read over the scriptures. It is also possible to look over the scriptures at home for the Sunday and weekday readings are available online at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website. The readings are also in the pews at your fingertips. Utilize them! Then when the readings are proclaimed don’t read from the book but listen carefully as the readings are being proclaimed. Perhaps what you read over might not be what you take from it as it is proclaimed.

Also I would encourage everyone to mediate specifically on the very moment you physically receive Jesus Christ into your heart. Ask yourselves these questions, am I properly disposed to receive the Holy Eucharist? Am I free from mortal sin and spiritually in communion with our Lord (meaning we believe that we are actually receiving Jesus Himself and that we are in agreement with all His teachings expressed in the commandments and through His Church)? Then we need to ask ourselves how are we actually physically receiving Him? For the faithful who wish to receive Him in the hand the proper way of doing so is by taking both hands making a throne for the Lord who is our true king! Perhaps an individual may wish to receive our Eucharistic Lord in accordance with the norm of the Latin Rite which is on the tongue which has a special place in the Church because it represents externally our trust in the Lord.

As a side as we talk about appreciation and reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament I would recommend that everyone read this small book by His Excellency The Most Reverend Athanasius Schneider entitled Dominus Est, which is Latin for “It is the Lord.” Although the title of the book is in Latin the book is translated into English and it is a rather short profound read. I would strongly recommend this book for your spiritual enrichment especially to help you grow in appreciation for the Most Holy Eucharist. Having read the book myself one thing that stands out is the profound love and respect for our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

Finally as I mentioned don’t rush in, everyone can guess what is coming next “don’t rush out.” Give the Lord some more of your time and thank Him. Think about this if someone were to come to your aide perhaps let’s say you were in an accident or lost everything to a fire or flood you would be forever grateful to those individuals who extended a helping hand. This man our Lord Jesus Christ died for each one of us for that we should be eternally grateful. At the garden of Gethsemane Jesus said to Peter, “So you could you not watch with me one hour?” Today our Lord poses the same exact question to us. If we can’t give the Lord one hour, perhaps on occasion a little more, then one should examine why they are really here. Now for those who leave early because they are sick that’s another story but you can’t tell me twenty or thirty people are sick all at the same time. The most likely scenario for those who leave early on a regular basis is that they want to be the first one out of the parking lot and the first ones in line to get breakfast/brunch/dinner depending on the time of day. Leaving immediately after receiving Holy Communion for personal convenience is extremely dangerous! Look what happened to the very first person who left the first celebration of the Mass. If you are worried about getting out to avoid a crazy parking lot after Mass consider spending five minutes with the Lord to give thanks to Him and I can assure when you leave their will be a miracle waiting for you…the parking lot will be clear. Miracles do happen for those who wait!

These are just a few suggestions one could consider to help each of us enter into these mysteries. Many times our hindrance from entering deeper into these mysteries is ourselves. With that listen to these words from John’s Gospel, “truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.”

At the end of every Mass one word should stand out, the word “go.” Looking at the concluding rite of the Mass, not only does the Lord give us a commission He in fact leads us out into the world through the priest. At the beginning of Mass we should be waiting in anticipation for the Lord to enter thus the priest should normally be the last one in and at the end of Mass the first one out leading us into the world to fulfill our mission. There are many quiet examples in our liturgical celebration that conveys a meaning; however we need to be aware and open to it. Today the Spirit is asking us to abandon our comfort zone and jump into the mystery. For many people perhaps some of us live our faith only at the surface. We need to allow the Spirit not to just touch us at the surface but allow the Spirit to penetrate us to our very core. Don’t be afraid to enter into the mysteries! Jump right into them! May we today stretch out our hands and allow the Spirit to guide us perhaps into places in which we may not wish to go. Remember at every celebration of the Mass we are participating in a live event. Allow yourselves, to dive right in and experience the living mystery. Just do it and trust me…you won’t be disappointed!!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that the world may be saved through Him.” Today as we listen to those words which were taken directly from the Gospel we can apply it to what is happening today in 2011.

On the occasion of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity I want to focus on one word that best describes the Trinity and that is “communion.” There isn’t much we can say about the Trinity because it is ultimately a mystery. Although the Trinity can’t be fully explained there are aspects of the Trinity that can be understood. While each person of the Trinity is distinct they are one. Taking the illustration from the Old Baltimore Catechism, it reads, “the Father is not the Son, and the Son is not the Holy Spirit.” However it goes onto say, “the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.” This illustration demonstrates that the Most Holy Trinity is a communion of persons. No more really can be said.

What unites us as Catholics? There are many things that unite us as Catholics, a common faith, the sacraments, a common language the list could go on. In a couple months we as a Church will be preparing for the introduction of the New Roman Missal which will change some of the words we say at Mass. Many people welcome the change while there are others who question why. Why do we need to change what we have been saying for forty years? This year the Lord Himself is sending His spirit into the Church to genuinely renew it. For starters we need to understand that the Sacred Liturgy is a genuine mystery. While many of the new words might be foreign to our ears it will heighten the sense of mystery in the Sacred Liturgy. Secondly, the new translation of the Roman Missal was worked on by ICEL (International Commission on English in the Liturgy). English is not just spoken in the United States; other countries utilize the English language. This translation will be similar with the other speaking English speaking countries stressing the Churches unity.

How did this new translation come about? Back in 2000 our beloved late Holy Father Blessed John Paul II blessed the Church with the Third Edition of the Roman Missal. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued Liturgiam Authenticam, in 2001, an Instruction on the vernacular translation of the Roman Liturgy which outlines the principles and rules for translation.” This instruction stressed the importance of a liturgical translation translated faithfully from the Latin which remains the language of the Roman Rite as stressed by the document on the Sacred Liturgy from the Second Vatican Council. Now after years of discussion and hard work the new translation is ready to be introduced.

Have you ever wondered why we don’t refer to ourselves as the Body of Christ parish but use the Latin Corpus Christi? We use the Latin translation Corpus Christi because it utilizes the universal language of the Church stressing our oneness. If one says “Corpus Christi” throughout the world one should instinctively know that it is referring to the “Body of Christ, “El Cuerpo De Christo” in Spanish, “Il Corpo di Cristo” in Italian, and “Le corps du Christ” in French. With that I want to mention something about Latin. Many people fear any use of the Latin language and see the reintroduction of it in parts of the Mass as a step backwards. Utilizing the ancient language of the Church is not a step backwards but rather a clear expression of our unity as a community of faith. What is wrong with some of our beautiful Latin hymns? Do we toss them out because they are in Latin or do we utilize them preserving our Catholic tradition? I find it funny when people complain about using the principal Mass parts in Latin. Why do I find it funny? Because their principal argument is that they can’t understand it. What’s not to understand when we chant the Sanctus or the Angus Dei, we have been saying them in English the last forty years.

While the Church has made strides reaching out to various cultures by allowing the possibility of saying the Mass in the language of the people, we must maintain our tradition and a language that unites us as a people of faith. Perhaps we won’t understand every single word of a hymn that is being sung in the language of the Church or the words of the new vernacular translation of the Mass introduced later this year. Our time spent here isn’t always about understanding what is going on but rather is about allowing ourselves to enter into a mystery. The Trinity is one, so are we, for we make up the Body of Christ! May our challenge be this, rather than criticizing the liturgical developments of our time, may we put our thoughts aside and allow God to do His work. The Spirit of the Lord is at work, may we pray to be open to it!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Homily for Pentecost Sunday

“Heart’s on fire, strong desire, rages deep with.” These words taken from the song by John Cafferty which appeared on the soundtrack for Rocky VI fits perfectly with our reflection on this Pentecost Sunday.

As we recall that moment when the Spirit came upon the Apostles, we must recognize the Holy Spirit within us which entered us at the moment of our baptism. Although the Holy Spirit is within us we must do two things. The first thing which we have mentioned the last several weeks are to remove all obstacles by confessing our sins and putting our own will to the side and submitting to the divine will of God. Then we need to fuel the Spirit that is within us. Some may ask, how do you fuel the Spirit? Frequent reception of the Sacraments, reading the Sacred Scriptures, and prayer is a very good start. Think of your relationships, how does one stay close to another? You certainly don’t stay close by not contacting one another because after awhile one begins to simply drift apart from the other. The same thing applies to our relationship with God. We cannot expect to grow closer to Him without putting any effort into it. Relationships take work, so too with our relationships with the Lord. Speaking as an Eagle Scout when we would go camping, one couldn’t expect a fire to burn continuously without putting more wood onto the fire. The moment one stops putting fuel onto the fire it begins to diminish and burn out. Same thing can be said about our spiritual life.

Today is Pentecost a day in which we focus solely on the Spirit that dwells within us. Not only do we have a responsibility to fuel that Spirit but having the Spirit within us calls us to act. Act…act how? Listen again to the words of Jesus Christ in the Gospel. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” We are sent out to proclaim the Gospel through living lives of faith. Sometimes it means talking to others about God and at other times it means showing others who Jesus is by our kind actions. Don’t expect to grow stronger in our relationship with the Lord without doing as He asks.

On this Pentecost Sunday I wish to speak to you about an opportunity that will be coming up in a few months which will be an opportunity for us as a Church to enter deeper into the Sacred Mysteries of the altar. We are speaking of the New Translation of the Roman Missal where we will hear and say new words every time we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Although we are three months away before we start really looking at the new translation here at Mass those who have access to the internet can get ahead start by going online to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website and find the new translation.

Speaking for myself I am really excited about the new translation, however I know there are those out there who do not share my enthusiasm. In anticipation of the introduction of the Roman Missal people have already made arguments, saying that the New Translation uses lofty phrases and words that will make the Mass less understandable to the individual in the pew. There are some who might be thinking well I have said this for forty years there is no way I am changing now. My challenge to those who might have these feelings and thoughts is to do this allow the Spirit to do His work! Many of these arguments are flawed because they are focused on individual opinion and thought. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass isn’t centered on us and what we think but rather is centered on Him. We mustn’t forget that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is first and foremost a mystery and a mystery isn’t something that can necessarily be explained in human words. Lofty phrases and words are sometimes necessary to make us think, what are we saying, why is this being said like that. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass should never ever become routine, but rather should always engage us not just emotionally but intellectually. We need to allow ourselves to jump from our comfort zone and dive into that mystery. Be open my brothers and sisters to this opportunity, may we put our thoughts and feelings aside and let the Spirit do His work.

As we prepare to go forth listen to these words, “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.” May we have hearts on fire with the Spirit, strong in our desire to serve the Lord! Today…Let the Spirit flow!

Homily for the Seventh Sunday of Easter

“If you are insulted for the name of Jesus, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” Saint Peter in his letter reminds us of the rewards that come with following Christ. Certainly these rewards are not of this world, for often when we live our faith we experience rejection and ridicule from others even sometimes those closest to us. This Spirit to which Saint Peter is referring is the Holy Spirit which is burning within each of us gathered here this day.

The alleluia verse assigned to this liturgy says, “I will not leave you orphans, says the Lord. I will come back to you, and your hearts will rejoice.” Next Sunday we will celebrate Pentecost the day in which the Spirit descended upon the apostles in the upper room. We too are preparing not for the Spirit to come but preparing ourselves spiritually so we can allow the Spirit to flow freely from us. There are so many times when you and I block the Spirit from working effectively by our sins and our unwillingness to cooperate the God’s plan. Yes as Saint Peter suggested in the Second Reading we might be insulted and ridiculed for our faith. Going beyond what Saint Paul said, yes maybe we will experience trials and hardships, but that doesn’t mean that the Lord isn’t with us. Remember the alleluia verse, “I will not leave you orphans.” Open your eyes; the Lord is in our midst at this very moment.

Where is He? For starters He is right there in the tabernacle. Our Lord is present in His Church not only in the Holy Eucharist but also in the other sacraments. Finally He is present in you and me. The Lord is among us, however why aren’t we seeing Him? What is causing our spiritual blindness to His presence? During the last several weeks of Easter we have been hinting at it. Ourselves, yes we are the problems. In today’s society we have lost a sense of mystery and wonder and awe. What we are doing today is we try to explain everything and water it down to the point where we understand everything. That’s a mistake in fact it’s a huge mistake because there are some things we cannot fully understand and we should accept it as it is…a true genuine mystery.

Going back a few weeks to one of the options for the Second Reading on Easter Sunday taken from Saint Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he writes, “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” Using this passage from Saint Paul’s letter to the Colossians and applying it to what we are talking about today we need to look beyond ourselves and allow ourselves to enter into the mystery. It’s not easy, especially today; however with God’s grace it is most certainly possible. My brothers and sisters let’s make every effort this week to rid ourselves of those thoughts and things that get in the Spirit’s way, so next week we enter into the mystery of Pentecost .