Saturday, March 31, 2012

Homily for Palm Sunday 2012

 

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” These words that make up our responsorial psalm and said by our Lord in the proclamation of the passion remind us of something similar we might say from time to time especially during times of trial. This liturgy for Palm Sunday is a journey and because it is a journey there are several things we can take away from it.

In the very beginning of the liturgy we had the proclamation of the Gospel from John commemorating the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem. When the crowd got wind that the Lord was about to enter town they ran immediately picking up palm branches along the way to greet Him. During these next two weeks we will gather together as a family of faith celebrating the very fact that the Lord is in our midst. Jesus drew a crowd, and still draws crowds today.

Like with any journey things can begin to wear off over time. There are two ways we can look at the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ the first way as I look at it every year, “this is how much Jesus loved us.” Before we look at it in that context, I want to put ourselves in the position of the crowd. While there might be times in which we are excited to see Christ, there is also a human tendency on our part to turn ourselves away from Him. As we began our reflection with, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me,” we must understand that the Lord never abandons His people like He never abandoned Christ on the road to Calvary. However, because of our human nature we are often the ones who turn away from Him. Once we see ourselves in the shoes of those in the crowd can we grasp our need for healing and growth!

Today we mediated on the mystery of the Cross and reflected on the extent of the Lord’s love for us. As we together heard in the proclamation of the passion our Lord was scourged, they crowned Him with thorns, struck His head with a reed and spat on Him all in preparation for putting our Lord to death. Jesus endured all this for you and me and He challenges every individual to carry their own crosses and follow after Him. Who are we to attempt to throw down our crosses after all the Lord has done for us. After all many of the crosses we have to endure do not compare to what He endured for each of us. If one needs encouragement to carry a cross look to Jesus! The cross is meant to be embraced by all for all because the cross is very the means to salvation.

Brothers and sisters we are preparing to enter into Holy Week, the week which ultimately changed the world. Our challenge this week is to allow our commemoration of this week to change our own lives. I invite you to enter into these mysteries, by attending the services on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. While it is of course not a holy day of obligation these are no doubt the holiest of days of the year. Also in your homes, take some time to mediate and pray together as a family reflecting on these important mysteries. Allow yourselves time to enter into the mysteries of these next several days. On this Palm Sunday may we reflect on today’s journey reflecting on the highs and lows of this day! May we face the highs and lows head on and embrace the Lord’s divine plan which sometimes brings challenges so that we may experience true everlasting happiness.

 

Audio of this evenings Palm Sunday Homily preached at Corpus Christi Church 3/31/2012

Friday, March 30, 2012

Today March 30th…a message of the PA Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

Recognizing the efficacy of prayer and fasting as well as the challenges we face in overcoming the recent attack on our religious freedom, we, the Bishops of Pennsylvania, request that all Catholics dedicate the regular Lenten Friday practice of prayer and abstinence as well as the additional practice of fasting on Friday, March 30, to the preservation of religious liberty. On that day, offer your sacrifice for the cause of religious liberty, that the Church may be granted the basic right to practice what she preaches, and for our political leaders, that their eyes may be opened to the rights of all Americans, including those of faith.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Homily for the Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord 2012

 

Today we have some breaking news brought to us courtesy of the prophet Isaiah, “the virgin shall be with child, a bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us!” Today we celebrate with great joy the announcement of the conception of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. It is on this day God’s divine plan is begins to take shape.

Each year we celebrate this special day in which the angel Gabriel was sent from God to the Virgin Mary to inform her of the important role she had in His plan. The angel informed her that she was to become the Mother of the One who was being sent into the world to save us. Today we recall an announcement and like many announcements they often need a response. Think to a time when you received an invitation to a birthday party, graduation party, or to a wedding. Most of them surely required some kind of response from us. Well this announcement or invitation required a response from Mary and to it she responded, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word!”

On this Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord Mary was invited by God to be the Mother of our Savior. At the same time we recall that God calls each one of us to participate in some way in His divine plan. Each of us has received a particular calling from the Lord to which He calls us to follow. As we celebrate and honor this solemnity of the Lord may we take the opportunity to meditate upon the words of our responsorial psalm, “here I am Lord, I come to do your will.” May that be our response today and each day of our lives!

 

Audio of the Homily for the Annunciation of the Lord

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Homily for the Fifth Week of Lent 2012

Jeremiah the prophet proclaims, “The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” On this fifth Sunday of Lent we recall that the day of the Lord is soon at hand. His promise will be fulfilled.

We heard in today’s Gospel from John, a voice come down from heaven. Jesus said, "I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? 'Father, save me from this hour?' But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Then as the Lord finished a voice from heaven said, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” After the voice had spoken from heaven our Lord Jesus reasserted to those gathered, "This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself." It is important for us to understand that what was said by the voice from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again” happens regularly. Our Lord is glorified over and over again each time we celebrate these mysteries.

As we listen to the Gospel, what Jesus said after the voice from heaven spoke reminds us what the season of Lent is about. “Now is the time judgment.” The Lord Jesus Christ reminds us that the voice didn’t come for His sake but for yours. This voice speaks to us clearly as it did two thousand years ago. Indeed this is the time of judgment and we should be treating it as such. Lent is a time in preparation for Easter where we remove those barriers from our lives that weigh us down. The time is now to get rid of our sins so that we can experience our own Easter as we are raised up by the Lord Himself. Sin weighs us down! Bring those sins to the light place them into the Lord’s hands and feel instantly those burdens being lifted from your shoulders.

As we talked about sin and also about opportunities to follow the Lord I call you attention to this, the bishops of the Pennsylvania Conference of Catholic Bishops have invited Catholics next Friday March 30th to a day of prayer, fasting, and abstinence offering them up for the protection of religious liberty. In their statement they write,

Next Friday, offer your sacrifice for the cause of religious liberty, that the Church may be granted the basic right to practice what she preaches, and for our political leaders, that their eyes may be opened to the rights of all Americans, including those of faith.

Holy Mother Church is concerned about this serious threat to our freedom. We aren’t just talking about our community of faiths but we are also talking about the threat to your individual right to follow your conscience. Think for a moment, the purpose of laws is to bring order to a community and protect individuals from harm. For example there is a reason for curfews, noise ordinances, and speed limits. They are meant to give order to communities and protect individuals. Laws, mandates, or regulations however should never be passed that would cause an individual or religious organization to violate their core beliefs.

Once again I tie this in with the phrase “now is the time of judgment.” It is time for us to act now and recognize the real threat that is present currently. Society over the years has been becoming increasingly hostile to various communities of faith. Stop and listen to the language! For example, people of faith are rarely referred to in the media and in society as “pro-life.” People of faith have been labeled intentionally as anti-abortion, anti-contraception, and anti-gay to rally people against us. In describing various communities of faith as “anti-this” and “anti-that” in the negative they have successfully convinced many people to become hostile to religion. While the Church is against sin she is clearly at very same time pro-sinner. Our Lord still loves His sinners which is good because we all fall into that category. The Church never strives to alienate those who have had abortions, those who practice contraception, or those who live a life contrary to God’s definition of marriage but rather the Lord through His Church continuously instructs and calls them to follow His divine truth. He invites us all who are sinners to be reconciled to Him so we can experience healing and peace.

Now let’s look at the other side for a moment. Many in society however refer to themselves as “pro-choice.” Certainly when we think of “pro” we think in the positive. That’s how they have won over their argument with so many people. Here is the fact; our society has become anything but pro-choice. If they were truly “pro-choice” they would present in the open the pro-life arguments but they choose not to because they are not interested in giving people choices but rather want to force upon individuals a single option.

As I have said repeatedly over the last couple weeks the Lord Himself respects our freewill. While He desires and wishes for us to be with Him, our Lord will never force Himself upon us for that decision remains with us. That doesn’t mean the Lord will stop making Himself available. That doesn’t mean that His Church guided by the Holy Spirit is going to stop teaching right from wrong. Just the opposite, He will constantly remind us of His presence, He will constantly reveal and teach His truths through His Church presenting for us the clear road that leads to everlasting happiness. However, in the end the choice is ours.

Today our responsorial psalm for this fifth week of Lent is a prayer and it is a prayer we must say over and over again. “Create a clean heart in me, O God.” It is that simple, and I challenge all of us to pray each day this week in preparation for recalling the Lord’s love through His passion. In preparation for this most Sacred Time of year I once again invite you as we have been inviting you the last several weeks to take advantage of the opportunity to come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

We will now close our reflection by mediating on the words of the prayer after communion which we will hear towards the end of Mass. “We pray, almighty God, that we may always be counted among the members of Christ, in whose Body and Blood we have communion.” May we turn away from all those things that prevent us from entering a true communion with Him, and may we utilize the gift He has given us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation to bring healing and peace to our lives!

 

This is an audio from today’s homily…

Notes Regarding Today’s Homily

  1. You will notice that I have chosen to use the phrase “communities of faith.”  The HHS mandate is not just a Catholic issue but is also an issue for our brothers and sisters of other denominations.  Also the threat is not only for communities of faith but a clear threat to an individuals conscience.
  2. Also I use the line anti-abortion, anti-contraception, and anti-gay.  This line was added to drive home the point how society labels our communities of faith and tries to win over their argument.  It was not added to offend anyone.  Our Church communities are anti-no one.  For the Church is a refuge for all sinners.  While the Church holds these things as sins, she is as I mentioned in the homily pro-sinner!
  3. I will once again include links to Humanae Vitae and a link to the Catechism of the Catholic Church…

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P84.HTM

I would invite and encourage individuals if they are not familiar with the Catholic teaching to not only page through this section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church but also take a close look at the footnotes and scripture references.  Again, keep this in mind while the Church may hold and teach that some things are sins, the Church is PRO-SINNER!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Homily for the Solemnity of Saint Joseph 2012

Each year we celebrate this day in which we honor Saint Joseph. We hear in the first reading from the Second Book of Samuel, “I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.” Saint Joseph was also a part of God’s plan. He was chosen by God Himself to be the guardian and foster father of Jesus on earth.

Although Jesus was God, He had to grow in the very same way we all did. In order to help us grow God gave us our parents.  Our parents fed us, taught how to talk, taught us how to work, and strived each day to guide and protect us. Jesus had rules He had to live by as we see in today’s Gospel account from Luke. Joseph and Mary panicked when they released their son of twelve years of age wasn’t with them as they were journeying to Nazareth. So they turned around and retraced their steps till it led them to the temple. Finding Jesus in the temple, Mary said, “Why have you done this to us?” They were concerned, and upon seeing that love and concern Jesus went back with them to Nazareth “and was obedient to them.”

Joseph was called by God to be a father, a father to His Son, a responsibility he took seriously. God calls us all to be parents whether we have children or not because we are all responsible for each other.  We are called to help one another get to heaven.  As we honor Saint Joseph may we strive to be faithful to all the responsibilities the Lord has called us to taken on! Saint Joseph, foster father of our Lord Jesus, pray for us!

 

Audio of the Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent 2012

 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!!!

 

Brothers and sisters, today is St. Patrick’s day, a day in which many of us gather to eat our customary corn beef and cabbage. However, today more importantly we honor a man who proclaimed the Gospel to Ireland. In his years as a priest and as a bishop he brought many people to the faith.

Today in 2012 will seek his intercession for the good people of Ireland that through his intercession he may bring healing to a country that has experienced great scandals and as a result a loss of faith. Through his intercession, may the Lord raise up men and women who will courageously proclaim the Gospel striving to bring more people to faith not only in Ireland but all throughout the world. Saint Patrick was a true missionary. Let us strive to model his missionary spirit.

patrick

St. Patrick of Ireland…pray for us!!!

Some minor blog changes…

You will notice along with the text of my homilies the last couple weeks I have added a video file containing an audio version of the homily as it is preached.  The reason for this is because often times we can read things and interpret it another way than the way it was intended to come across.  Therefore, I have added this feature to my blog.  The audio for this weekends homily will be posted either later today or tomorrow afternoon.  

Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent 2012

 

“Let my tongue me silenced, if I ever forget you.” There are many times in which we find ourselves like the princes of Judah, the priests, and the people we hear about in the first reading from 2nd Chronicles. As it said, they “added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the Lord’s temple which he had consecrated to Jerusalem.” You and me, at times can be unfaithful to the commands of God and that is why we have this opportunity and are invited in this Holy Season of Lent to turn things around.

Last week, we recalled in the Gospel how Jesus purified the temple by kicking out those things that didn’t belong. The temple, our church, is to be solely places of worship, a place where we can go to bring our cares, our challenges, and our fears to the Father. They are also the place where we can give thanks to the Lord for all the many gifts and blessings He has placed in our lives. Now in last week’s Gospel our Lord was purifying the actual temple, however there is another temple that often needs purifying and that is our own personal temples. Our bodies are indeed a temple, they are a temple of the Holy Spirit and as a temple of the Holy Spirit they often need cleansed, cleansed from our sins.

It goes without saying that every Lent we focus on sin, because sin is harmful. Sin is harmful because it hurts our relationship not only with the Lord but with everyone else around us. When we sin we put up a roadblock within ourselves that prevents the Holy Spirit from being able to work to His full potential. That is why we have this special time each year to pause and reflect on those things that we have done giving us the opportunity to remove those barriers and turn our lives around. As we saw in last week’s Gospel Jesus desired to purify the temple, He has that same desire to help us purify our temples.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but may have eternal life.” God the Father bestowed the gift of His only begotten Son in the world so that we have the opportunity to be saved. I say opportunity because salvation is not a guarantee. For example, just because I am a priest doesn’t mean I am going to heaven. Just because some might be say they are faithful Christians doesn’t mean they too are going to heaven. It is something we together need to work towards each moment of the day. The Heavenly Father sent His Son into the world so that everyone who believes in Him might not die, but truly live.

Again we are reminded of the Lord’s goodness in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Saint Paul wrote to the people of Ephesus,

God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ -by grace you have been saved-, raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

On this fourth week of Lent we pause to rejoice because our Lord is indeed rich in mercy. He gives us a vehicle in which He raises us up because of our transgressions from death, to new life. That vehicle of mercy and love is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Bishop McFadden has asked us as priests to frequently mention this Sacrament all throughout the Lenten Season and invite you to take advantage of this gift the Lord provides.

Why preach confession? It is true the idea of going to confession might make some people nervous. There a many things in life that we dread from time to time. It might be a particular meeting that we have to attend for work or for a student a particular project that one has to present. Think back to those times when you might have had a similar feeling. How did you feel when it was over? I am sure you all felt relieved. The same thing is true with this sacrament. In preparation for it one might be filled with anxiety but if we were to think back to our last confession, how did we feel afterward? Most of us probably had a feeling of relief. The feeling of anxiety is replaced with joy and relief.

Now the Sacrament of Reconciliation is important not just for its ability to give us peace and joy. There is another reason. Some people in our world don’t feel the need for this sacrament. The reason for this feeling is because they hold onto the firm belief that God can forgive sins anytime and anyplace. I don’t doubt God’s power to do that in extraordinary circumstances (because He is God, He can do all things), however He gave us the Sacrament of Reconciliation as the ordinary vehicle in which our sins are forgiven. That leads me to ask, when was the last time you heard the voice of the Lord speak to you as clear as I am speaking to you right now. If we are honest, we haven’t heard the voice of the Lord that clear. We are often forced to discern the voice of the Lord over time in our lives. When I as a priest say “I absolve you from your sins,” that is the Lord Himself speaking. We can’t hear the Lord’s voice any clearer than that.

Not only is the Sacrament important so we are hearing the Lord clearly, but it is also important for us because we receive something. Every Sacrament gives us God’s grace. The more we hear the Lord say, “I absolve you from your sins,” the more our hearts are conditioned in turn to demonstrate the love and mercy we receive to others. One of the reasons why we find it often hard to forgive others is because we haven’t experienced the forgiveness of our Lord ourselves as often as we should. The sacrament of reconciliation like all the sacraments of the Church bestows God’s grace upon us. This is a free gift the Lord wishes to bestow and for that we should be joyful.

On this fourth Sunday of Lent may we reflect on the words we will hear at the end of Mass with the prayer over the people! One of the things I find beneficial with the new translation of the missal is that we find these prayers for each Sunday of Lent and as optional prayers throughout the week. They are very powerful and I would encourage all of us to listen carefully to them. For this Sunday we will hear, “Look upon those who call to you, O Lord, and sustain the weak; give life by your unfailing light to those who walk in the shadow of death, and bring those rescued by your mercy from every evil to reach the highest good.” May we be willing to accept God’s gift of forgiveness so that we can experience true everlasting life.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Homily for the Third Sunday of Lent 2012

 

Last week in the first reading we heard how Abraham was put to the test and I tied the readings in with us as Christians being put to the test today by our government with the HHS mandate. The greater underlying threat is to our freedom. If this law goes into effect we will be forced to provide something that is against our conscience as a Church. Where is the freedom in that? The choice will be taken away from us. What we are faced with today is a threat to one of the most well-known lines that we find in the Declaration of Independence, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Speaking about the importance of free will last week, this week I want look at these specific issues within the mandate in light of the commandments which were mentioned in the reading from Exodus. Abortion, contraception, and sterilization (those procedures done with the soul intent of preventing future procreation) are sins against the fifth commandment, “thou shall not kill.” Many might have an easier time grasping why abortion is against the fifth commandment but at the same time struggle to understand why contraception and sterilization fall under this commandment. What is the purpose of contraception? The purpose is to intentionally kill the possibility of procreation. It must also be said that many forms of contraception are harmful not just because of the immediate effects but also because it can have long term negative effects that may affect or prevent future procreation. Not only is there a killing of physical life as mentioned worse yet it kills us spiritually. Whenever a man and woman who are married, embrace in the marital act, it is always life giving both physically (whether or not physical life is conceived) and spiritually.

Pope Paul VI spoke to the world clearly in his encyclical latter Humanae Vitae of some of the dangers of contraception. Listen carefully to what Pope Paul VI said;

Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law.

One of the dangers of the use of contraception pointed out directly by Pope Paul VI is that it may tempt individuals to violate the sixth commandment. Contraception can and as Pope Paul VI has led to an increase of cases of marriage infidelity. There is also no doubt that there is a correlation between the use of contraception and the high divorce rates we have seen in recent years.

Some individuals are promoting the mandate as benefiting women’s health. Once again we turn what Pope Paul VI has to say about the dangers of contraception,

Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

Pope Paul VI’s words are extremely prophetic. In reality, this mandate will not be beneficial for women but would become detrimental to their emotion, physical and spiritual health. The fact is many women in our society are not being treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. This is evident in the statistics of violence against women and evident in the prominent presence of pornography industry in our society. All we have to do is look at the facts and see that there is something astray.

Many of us don’t like to hear what the Church is saying for we are content with being in a self-imposed state of ignorance because mistakenly we believe that we cannot be held accountable for what we don’t know. Perhaps it is our laziness or maybe it’s our hard headedness and pride wishing to hold onto our wrong beliefs. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. As we teach our kids, “knowledge is power,” we fear it is because we know knowledge opens us up to the truth. We cannot live irresponsibly, for when it comes to making any decision we must consider all the facts. If we don’t, then we’re not truly free. We have a moral obligation to form our conscience by seeking out all available information, so that we can make the best possible decision. Some of us not only have a responsibility to form our own consciences but have a responsibility to help form the conscience of others. As a priest I have a duty to proclaim God’s divine truth to all of you! Parents have an obligation to teach their children right from wrong. We have a moral obligation to each other to help one another in this life to prepare for what awaits us. Let’s be clear, teaching morality is not about imposing religion on anyone as some may think. Morality is about coming to an understanding of what is right and what is wrong.

God has given each of us a free will to make decisions and our Lord respects that right. We have once again addressed this issue in light of the Ten Commandments because we need to understand what the Church teaches and why she teaches it. The Ten Commandments are there to guide and give us direction. However, the choice is ours after we have made every effort to form our conscience and consider all the information. Again we as a Church oppose the HHS mandate not on the morality of these issues but we oppose it more importantly on its greater threat, the treat of the loss of freedom.

Once again this weekend I extend the invitation to those who are in need of God’s grace and forgiveness, to utilize the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Today I have used this opportunity to preach on the morality of the three issues within the HHS regulation because I have seen how sins against the dignity of human life have negatively impacted the lives of both men and women. If anyone here is weighed down by any sin especially the sins I mentioned today, please consider this great opportunity which this Sacrament provides to begin at once the process of healing. It is vital that we hold ourselves accountable and turn to the Father seeking His forgiveness. Then it is also important that we make a firm amendment to change our lives. Do not be afraid, come before the Lord and place everything into the palms of His hands. Allow His light to penetrate your hearts so that you can feel the warmth of His love and experience His mercy.

 

The quotes in this homily were taken directly from Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae.  You can read the entire document online on the Vatican’s Website…

 http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Homily for Corpus Christi’s Confirmation Retreat 3/10/2012

 

On this Saturday of the Second Week of Lent, these readings give you something to ponder as you gather here for retreat in preparation of the Sacrament of Confirmation. In the first reading taken from the prophet Micah we hear, “Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance; Who does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency, and will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt?” In this question we are reminded of the Lord’s goodness to never hold our sins against us and who is always ready to grant us His forgiveness and mercy.

Why is it important for you to seek the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy in preparation of the Sacrament of Confirmation? Keep this in mind, when Bishop confirms you, you will be making the big step of speaking up for yourselves for the very first time. You will be standing up publically not only before your family and friends but before the entire Church and the Lord Himself. After the homily, the Bishop will ask you to renew your baptismal promises and make a profession of faith. Your parents did this for you at your baptism, and now it is your turn to do it for yourselves. For the first time publically you will be stating before the entire Church your faith. When you stand before the Church it is important that there is nothing holding you back. In preparing for any sacrament it is important for us to seek God’s grace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It makes no sense for us to make a commitment before the Lord when there is a barrier keeping us from being able to make a true testament of faith. In essence we say one think publically but believe in our heart something else. That is why during this day of retreat I will make myself available for confession in my office during lunch and the Holy Hour. While my office is not an ideal place for confession I want to assure you that there will be both options of either sitting behind me or in front of me. Please consider taking advantage of this great opportunity.

People often criticized Jesus for welcoming sinners and eating with them. Today the Lord welcomes you and will be dining with you. Now if you’re sitting there scratching your heads let me explain. Look around you, Jesus is all around. While we are sinners, because we are created in His image and likeness God is in all of us.

Turning to this morning’s Gospel from Luke has several layers to it. Within the parable there are several characters that we can at some point in our lives all relate. This is a familiar story to most of us for it often finds its way in our religion text books or we hear it often here in Church. We have a Father who gives his younger son his inheritance when the young man asked for it. Going off the younger son squandered the entire inheritance. How many of us tend to be rebellious like the younger son and do our own thing? How many of us dishonor our parents at home or our teachers at school? At some point or another in our lives we were in the shoes of the younger son. The younger son however teaches us something when he came back to His senses and realized he did something terrible went back and begged for his father’s forgiveness.

What was the father’s reaction when his younger son returned? His reaction was this one of joy. He was so overjoyed that he ordered his servants to “quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.” My dear friends this is the heavenly Father. When we return and seek His forgiveness He is filled with this much joy. Now there is someone else it the picture whom we cannot ignore and that is the older brothers. When seeing all this commotion he asked one of the servants what is going on. Upon hearing of his brother’s return and all this celebration in His honor it says, “He became angry.” How many of us ever get jealous? Seeing the older son’s reaction the father went out and begged him to join the celebration. The loving father reminded his older son, “my son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.”

Dear friends when you leave here today, I ask to remember this, “the Lord is kind and merciful.” Today open your hearts and let Him in. Allow the Lord’s love and mercy to penetrate your hearts. Please don’t be afraid! “He pardons all your iniquities; he heals all your ills. He redeems your life from destruction; he crowns you with kindness and compassion.” Also remember this; everything the Lord has is ours. When you are confirmed you will be anointed and sent forth in the Spirit. The Lord’s commission “go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” applies especially to all of us and to you on your confirmation day. You have a responsibility not only to work and build up God’s kingdom but also take care of it.

I will conclude my homily with the words of the prayer over the people found in the ritual for confirmation, “God our Father, complete the work you have begun and keep the gifts of your Holy Spirit active in the hearts of your people. Make them ready to live His Gospel and eager to do His will. May they never be ashamed to proclaim to all the world Christ crucified living and reigning forever and ever.”

 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Homily for the Second Sunday of Lent 2012

 

“God put Abraham to the test.” This opening line from today’s first reading from the Book of Genesis leads me to ask a hypothetical question for us all to ponder today, “How many of us like to be tested?” Most of us if were honest with ourselves would be quick to recognize that we really don’t like being put to the test. When faced with a crisis not only do we try to dodge it, worse yet we try to avoid it.

Christians, not just Catholics are being put to the test at this very moment. Throughout the last couple weeks you have heard about the HHS mandate which if put into effect would cause us as a Church to violate our conscience by being forced to cover through our insurance abortion inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilizations. I once again bring this to your attention in light of its underling threat, the loss of freedom. My brothers and sisters this issue cannot be brushed under the carpet. The HHS mandate is dangerous and must be confronted and fought against vigorously. Why is it dangerous? It is dangerous because it threatens to take away our freedom.

Cardinal Dolan is right that this is a much bigger issue than abortion inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilizations. The bigger issue at hand is religious liberty and the freedom to practice any religion freely. If this HHS mandate were to go into effect the Church will be no longer free, but will become a slave to a government regulation. While Holy Mother Church has an obligation to proclaim the truth, guess what, you have the freedom to believe that truth. Polls show many Catholics practice contraception; it doesn’t make it right for the Church clearly teaches that it is a sin, but one is still free to choose. God doesn’t force us to follow the Ten Commandments! Every single choice we make carries with it a consequence whether for the good or the bad but in the end we are still free to make it. If this unjust law goes into effect then there will longer be a choice.

What will be the consequence for us if this law goes into effect? The Church will be forced to close our Catholic Charities, hospitals, and even our Catholic schools because we would be forced to drop our health insurance for our employees and pay a hefty fine for doing so. A few weeks ago I mentioned the narrow exception in the mandate would be if we have a Catholic institution, hire only Catholic employees, and minister to only Catholics. We could fire our non-Catholic employees and kick out our non-Catholic students, but I think that might be called discrimination. Not only would be discrimination it would be clearly going against our mission. Remember the word “Catholic” means universal. The message we have is meant for everyone who are open to receive it, not just those of us in this Church today.

This evening/morning I have spent more time talking about this issue, because you must understand what is at stake. Freedom is at stake brothers and sisters. We are indeed being put to the test much like Abraham. God asked Abraham to do something difficult. Why did He do it? The Lord did it to test Abraham’s faith. Today we are faced with a serious issue that is testing our faith. How are we going to respond? For those individuals who might be saying to themselves, what’s the big deal, my challenge is this, what’s next? Just wait to a law is passed that infringes upon your freedom to choose and requires you to do something that you think is wrong. Think about it!

All sin leads to a form of slavery and the Lord offers us a cure, of course if we are open to it. If there is someone gathered here who is in a state of sin one has a great opportunity to seek the forgiveness, love, and mercy of God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. One who seeks to walk in the land of the living must be ready to put their faith and trust in the Lord. Speaking from my experience as a priest I have seen how sins; especially sins against the dignity of human life have hurt individuals. If anyone is bogged down by any sin, I encourage and invite those individuals to utilize this great sacrament. One doesn’t have to walk in the shadow of death any longer. Bring it to the light and experience the healing the Lord wishes one to experience.

 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Homily for the First Sunday of Lent 2012

 

We just heard in today’s Gospel, “The Spirit drove Jesus into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.” Our Lenten journey has now begun and we must allow ourselves as well to enter the desert. Think for a brief moment of what a desert is like. A desert is dry, empty, with very few plants. Not much is there. Lent is a period of time, in which we divest ourselves of those things that get in the way of our spiritual life.

Now as we prepare to enter our spiritual desert there is someone there to tempt us, and that is of course Satan. As we begin to strip ourselves of those things that we perhaps enjoy a little too much, he is there saying, no we can’t do this, we can’t do that. One of the things that often hinder us in our spiritual life is sin. Lent is a time in which we must strive to remove those obstacles from our lives. The way we remove those obstacles from our lives is by utilizing the gift God has given us and that is of course the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Bishop McFadden since coming to the Diocese of Harrisburg has really encouraged and invited everyone to utilize this awesome Sacrament in which God has given us.

Brothers and sisters, because this is such an important Sacrament the devil will do whatever he can to keep us from this sacrament. A tool he most often uses is pride (I didn’t do anything wrong), procrastination (I’ve still got time), fear (God will never forgive me, what would He think), and shame (I am so embarrassed there is no way I can say that). These are some of the most common weapons the devil uses to keep us from the sacrament. Some may wonder why the devil does everything within his power to keep us from utilizing the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The reason is simple because He wants to keep us from a gift that God wishes to give. Every single time we go to confession we receive the gift of God’s love and mercy. Having received God’s love and mercy our hearts are conditioned after time to extend that love and mercy to others. Love and mercy are from God and the more we can show that gift to others the more this world will become a much better place.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a sacrament where we should experience comfort, encouragement, guidance, love, mercy, and peace. The way He demonstrates that is through the absolution of our sins. If you’re someone who might be a little apprehensive about going to confession, please don’t be. Don’t let that keep you from that beautiful gift which the Lord wishes to bestow.

This week I encourage you to enter into your own spiritual desert. Pick up the Ten Commandments and read over them. Ask yourselves honestly have I broken one of these commandments in recent days. Also ask yourselves was there a time in which I was given an opportunity to do good and failed to follow through. I would encourage us all this first week of Lent to spend some quality time with the Lord and mediate on these important questions. Disconnect the internet; turn off the radio and television. Spend some time with the Father. If after this first week one finds themselves needing God’s forgiveness and grace make every effort to go to confession. While no one can be forced to utilize the Sacrament of Reconciliation that doesn’t mean that the Lord is going to stop inviting us in these next couple weeks. Place yourselves in His hands. Strive these next couple weeks to follow His precepts. Pray and place yourselves before Him. May we allow His angels to minister to us so that during this Lent, we may stay on the right path!