Saturday, November 26, 2011

Homily for the First Sunday of Advent 2011

“Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” The words from today’s Gospel remind us that we are always to be on guard, to always be prepared. Each year this period of time is set aside for us to take this opportunity to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord.

The opening words from our Lord Jesus Christ might make some of us feel a little uncomfortable because of its reference to the Second Coming. Why does this make us uncomfortable? Perhaps it is a fear of the unknown, or maybe because it makes us think of our own mortality. There is nothing comfortable about the word of God for if it is truly preached to its fullness there will be times in which it will make us truly feel uncomfortable. God’s love is expressed in many ways as we see in Sacred Scripture through His miracles, how He often related with others but there were certain times where His Words could pierce any heart. No one should ever become comfortable with their faith because the very moment they do is the moment we start slipping away from our Lord.

Our Lord will come again in glory but in the meantime we celebrate year after year His triumphant entrance into the world at Christmas as…a baby. Often times when we talk about the love of God we are quick to point out as we should the image of Christ crucified. However, we mustn’t forget this example of humility of our Lord and Savior entering the world as one of us. It is this coming of Christ we are preparing to celebrate in a few short weeks.

That leads us to ponder how we are preparing our hearts to celebrate the birth of our Savior. To prepare means to look ahead.  Advent is a time of preparation a time in which we should always be on guard. One of the ways we prepare our hearts is by utilizing the Sacrament that often makes a lot of people feel uncomfortable, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is such a great sacrament it is sad that it is often underutilized. The cause of its underutilization stems from several things but two I like to focus on a lack of an understanding of what sin is and the other is pride. These are the two ways in which the evil one attempts to drive us away from experiencing God’s love and mercy. First, everyone is afraid to address sin in our society out of fear of what others may think thus, leading each other down the wrong road. Our Lord calls us each to testify to the fullness of the truth, not half-truths! Then the last thing mentioned was pride. No one wants to admit today that they made a mistake and are wrong. Pride is so dangerous not only because it is one of the seven deadly sins but also because it causes us not to recognize the other sins in our lives.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, whatever you do…don’t let the devil win! Prepare your hearts for the coming of our Savior. Yes we do not know the day or the hour, for the Lord said at the end of Gospel, “What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’” Advent is a time for prayerful preparation with that said may we utilize the words of our responsorial psalm for our meditation for the week, “Lord make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.” Keep those words and the message of Jesus Christ close in your hearts and minds.

Introducing…the New Translation of the Roman Missal

After many weeks of preparation this evening in Roman Catholic Church’s in the United States we will begin using the New Translation of the Roman Missal. As I said at the end of yesterday’s weekday Mass, “as one door closes, another one opens.” One of the biggest change Catholics will expect to hear is at the very beginning and throughout the liturgy when the priest says, “the Lord be with you,” the faithful will respond, “and with your Spirit.” While this is one of several changes in the language of the Mass, I choose this one to mention because it reminds us all, priest and faithful alike, that is the Spirit guiding the Church.

As the Spirit guided the Church forty plus years ago, the Spirit continues to be in the driver’s seat. We give thanks to almighty God for the many blessings that the older translation brought to the life of the Church and we look ahead to the many blessings that will stem from the New Translation.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Homily for the Closing of Forty Hours on Tuesday 11/15/2011 at St. Andrews in Waynesboro

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever! My brothers and sister before I begin, once again I would like to thank you pastor Father Bateman for giving this opportunity to preach the good news of Jesus Christ. It is always a great joy for me to be with all of you who played an integral part of my formation as a priest. For that I will always be grateful! Thank you for your prayers and support and be assured of mine in return.

On Sunday night we mediated on the mystery of the Sacrifice of the Cross and on the mystery of the Sacrifice of the Eucharist. Every time we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass we should see the intimate connection between the two sacrifices as we look at the image of Christ crucified and the image of our Eucharistic Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist. We were also reminded that as we gather for these Eucharistic devotions we gaze upon our Eucharistic Lord we are gazing upon the one because He loves us so much who continues to offer Himself for our sake.

Then last night we talked about the Blessed Mother and her connection to the Most Holy Eucharist. Every time we celebrate the Most Holy Eucharist we are recalling His passion and death. We briefly mentioned the devotion of the way of the cross in which we are given the powerful encounter of the Blessed Mother and her Son Jesus as He was carrying the heavy wooden cross. Some of the most powerful encounters of the events of the Lord’s passion are characterized not by words but with silence. Quoting from Bishop Connelly as wrote in His column on the new translation, “Because silence amplifies the magnitude of what we are watching.” The Blessed Mother entered into the mystery of the Lord’s passion something you and I should do every time we come to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and here for Eucharistic adoration. One of the ways we do this is my learning the importance and meaning behind being silent, something we often tend to forget.

Finally tonight as we come to a close of our special time basking in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord, I want to focus on the theme, “Receiving our Eucharistic Lord into our Hearts.” Yesterday I mentioned that as a Church not only do we have a crises in the understanding of what it means to be still in the presence of the Lord but more recently we are faced with a crises of belief in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist. Most of us gathered here already has a belief that this is Jesus on our altar for that is what has been drawling us here each evening but that doesn’t mean we all have room to grow in our appreciation and understanding of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Tonight I want to talk about our physical reception of the Most Holy Eucharist. There is a normative way of receiving Holy Communion in the Church and that is reception of the tongue. Before I talk about the indult that allows for communion to be received in the hand, I want to focus on the great spiritual benefit of the traditional way of receiving communion in this manner. Again a year or two after being elected to lead the Catholic Church, His holiness Pope Benedict XVI invited people who received from him at papal Masses, to kneel and receive communion on the tongue. Primarily this was done to protect the Lord from ending up in places where He shouldn’t be such as eBay. While standing for communion is the norm here there is something to be said about the posture of kneeling. What does the posture signify? Kneeling signifies humility and let’s face it sometimes we all need to learn how to be more humble especially in today’s world.

The second action is the symbolism of receiving on the tongue. To illustrate what receiving on tongue signifies I want to ask how many of you have ever had the privilege of feeding a baby a bottle. If you have ever had that awesome experience, take a moment and think back to it. Then imagine yourself as the baby. A baby relies on us to feed him or her much like we relied on our parents to feed us. It’s a matter of trust. When individuals receive on the tongue it represents a willingness on the part of the communicant to trust the Lord to feed them. Combing the two postures they represent together an act of humility before the Lord and a willingness to trust Him to feed and nourish us.

Now I would like to say something about receiving communion in the hand. The posture of receiving communion in the hand is approved here in the United States and in various places throughout the world where conferences of bishops have asked for it. Memoriale Domine a document released in regards to the proper reception of Holy Communion had some concerns about allowing communion in the hand. The concern was about a loss of respect towards the Most Holy Eucharist and the loss of a belief in the real presence. Sadly in places around the world and even here at home this is what we are faced with today. The truth be told, there was a well-founded hope that allowing communion in the hand would help the faithful grow in their relationship with Christ. Unfortunately, in many places this never occurred. True story I once witnessed someone receive communion, step to the side where they preceded to throw the host in the air in order to catch it with their mouths. I have also seen many variations of receiving communion in the hand, I have seen some place the host in their mouth as if they were taking a pill, and then on other times I have had individuals take communion out of my hand. There is only one way we should receive communion in the hand and that is my placing one hand over the other making a throne for the Lord who is our true king and then proceed to place Him in our mouths reverently in front of the minister of communion.

I do not want to continue without saying that many people receive communion in the hand very reverently, however unfortunately we cannot deny at the same time that there are abuses that are taking place in our midst. Now Jesus did say, “take and eat,” and “take and drink” but this means so much more than a physical reception of communion. A deeper understanding of the Lord’s words should be understood as taking what we have received into our hearts into the world. God has given us a gift in the Most Holy Eucharist and it’s a gift that He wishes would be shared.

This evening we have been focusing more on externals. We must understand that externals are extremely important. Externals help convey an interior reality. In some cases where we have lost the external actions we have also seen the loss of interior belief. Take away the exterior posture slowly the interior reality begins to erode. What we say and do conveys what we truly believe. As a Church we have many externals. Take a close look at the Lord present in the monstrance. Many monstrances are very decorative. Also many of the vessels we use Mass are very elaborate and they should be for again what we say and do conveys what we as Catholics believe. Our Lord Jesus Christ using the common elements of bread and wine chose these common items to become the Bread of Life and the Cup of Eternal Salvation. Jesus chose a humble piece of bread to become the bread of life and what we see in the monstrance is that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is glorified in His humility.

Tonight I want to conclude by returning our focus to tonight’s theme “Receiving our Eucharistic Lord into our Hearts.” While we have focused a lot on the physical reception of Holy Communion we must always remember that receiving our Eucharistic Lord is much more than a physical reception but that it’s a true spiritual reception. We must ask ourselves are we receiving our Lord worthily into our hearts. Today we were given some food for thought in looking at the reasons and meaning behind what we do. Now as we come to the end of our time in the presence of the Eucharistic Lord for this evening may we humbly place ourselves at His feet and seek His help to help us grow in a deeper appreciation of the gift of His body, blood, soul and divinity contained in the Eucharist. Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and forever!

Homily for the Closing of Forty Hours on Monday 11/14/2011 at St. Andrews in Waynesboro

To recap yesterday we mediated on the theme “the sacrifice of the past, and the sacrifice of the present” taking a closer look at the sacrifice of the cross and the sacrifice of the Eucharist. Tonight I would like to focus on the Blessed Mother and the Most Holy Eucharist. In order for us to grasp her connection to the Most Holy Eucharist we must travel back in time to that day in which our Lord sacrificed His very life on the cross.

When we together pray the way of the cross there is one powerful station that stands out and that is when our Lord Jesus Christ while carrying the wait of the cross meets His mother on the road to Calvary. One cannot even fathom Mary’s anguish as she encounters her son in that condition. At that moment, Mary was not just a mere spectator but rather a participant in the passion of her Son. Then a little later as her Son hung upon the cross there she was His feet staring up at Him in anguish with love. At that very hour her heart was also pierced. The Blessed Mother stayed by her son’s side to the very end. She never left Him even for a very second. Mary has a special role in the Church because she has only one single goal in mind and that is to lead us to her beloved Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Mary’s participation to her Son’s passion is an example for us to follow when it comes to celebrating these Sacred Mysteries. How did the Blessed Mother participate in her Son’s passion? When we read the accounts of the Lord’s passion one thing stands out, and that is no words are exchanged. There is silence. Now perhaps words were exchanged but what makes the accounts of the Lord’s passion more powerful are the periods of silence. Every time we gather to adore our Eucharistic Lord this is what we experience, prolonged periods of silence. My dear friends in Christ, I believe this is another reason why in many places we are having trouble filling slots for adoration chapels and even for a period of time for forty hours. In the Catholic Church today we are faced with a crisis of belief, which I will allude more tomorrow but today that there is also this fear of silence. You see we do not what to do when there is nothing to do. We live in a world where we must be doing something. Unfortunately, what we have lost is the appreciation of just being able to stand still.

Bishop Connelly the auxiliary bishop of Denver Colorado wrote a good article in preparation for the new translation of the Roman Missal on the importance of silence in the liturgy. In the article written by Bishop Connelly he used the example of the horrific events of 9/11. He shared his experience of watching the events unfold on television over in Rome. One of the things he said stood out was the events of that day brought many throughout the world to complete silence. Many of us perhaps looking back at that day had a similar experience. The bishop said, the one thing he learned that day was by power of silence. He wrote, “A silent moment, in a loud, chaotic, confusing world, amplifies reality. In silence, without distraction, we see what is real—what is truly before us. We are given the time to better comprehend the true meaning of things.”

We cannot be afraid of letting ourselves come to a standstill and allowing ourselves to spend some quit time with the Lord. Periods of adoration like forty hours teaches us something if we will allow it, and that is the importance of being silent in presence of God. Like Mary standing at the foot of the cross which held her Son, we come kneel and sit at the feet of our Eucharistic Lord. If someone is struggling to spend periods of silence before the Blessed Sacrament I would invite them to seek the intercession of the Blessed Mother. For example pray the rosary because as we pray it we are given the opportunity to mediate ever so closely on the importance events on the Lord’s life.

I began my talk with stating the theme “The Blessed Mother and the Most Holy Eucharist.” Our blessed mother is ever so related to the Sacred Mysteries we come here this evening to celebrate and adore. We should follow her example and allow ourselves to enter into the mystery of the Lord’s passion. If we struggle with doing that from time to time, seek her help and guidance remembering that she has one goal in mind and that is to bring us here to the feet of her beloved Son!

Homily for the Closing of Forty Hours on Sunday 11/13/2011 at St. Andrews in Waynesboro

My brothers and sisters in Christ I want to begin by thanking your pastor Father Bateman for inviting me to be the homilist these next three nights for your parish celebration of forty hours in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord. For those of you who might not know me, my name is Father Keith Carroll and I am currently the parochial vicar of Corpus Christi Church in Chambersburg. Also I am no stranger to this great parish for I had the pleasure of being assigned here twice as a seminarian once in the school and then in the parish religious education program.

Tonight I want to focus on the theme “the sacrifice of the past and the sacrifice of the present.” Every time we gather to celebrate these sacred mysteries we should see an intimate connection between the two sacrifices. I am speaking of the sacrifice of the cross and the sacrifice of the Most Holy Eucharist. Pope Benedict XVI not to long after becoming the Holy Father went back to the venerable tradition of placing the crucifix back in the center of the altar. This gesture helps one see the connection between the cross and the Eucharist. However, today one often hears the complaint when the crucifix is placed on the altar that one cannot what is going on at the altar. These common complaints suggest a lack of catechesis of what the Mass is about. It’s not about always seeing, but about believing. Looking towards the cross reminds everyone that the focus should be on God. Every celebration of the Mass is Ad Orientum…celebrated towards God.

Right now I would like for you to listen to the words of consecration and since we are two weeks from the introduction the new translation the Roman Missal we will use the words that will soon become familiar to us all. “Take this all of you and eat of it, for this is my Body which will be given up for you.” After saying those words the priest elevates the Sacred Host. When the Sacred Host is elevated and the crucifix is placed on the center of the altar the priest and the faithful should be gazing at the image of Christ crucified. Looking to the crucifix we should see the symbol of the very body that the Lord sacrificed for us. Then as we see the Sacred Host we should see the real presence of the one who continuously offers Himself day in and day out.

Turning to the words over the consecration of the precious blood, “Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of My Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.” Let us focus on the words, “Do this in memory of me.” The Lord sacrificed Himself once and for all on the cross, however He continuously offers Himself on the altar and He asks us to offer back to Him the sacrifice of our very lives. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ asks us to continuously celebrate these Sacred Mysteries so that we can follow His command to do this in memory of him.

Tonight as we gather in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord we have the opportunity to adore Him who continuously sacrifices Himself for our sake so that we can be nourished and strengthened in the faith. Eucharistic Adoration is an extension of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which gives us the opportunity to adore Sacred Body of the Lord. As we come to adore Him we also have the opportunity to offer the sacrifice of our lives much like we do at every celebration of the Mass. Continue to take advantage of this great opportunity. Our Lord Jesus Christ offers Himself for us continuously; we should always be ready to do the same offering ourselves back to Him. As you leave here tonight reflect on connection between the cross and Eucharist. The more we strive to see the connection between the two sacrifices the more we appreciate and grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ.