Monday, August 27, 2012

Homily for the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

Today I wish to focus on the Most Holy Eucharist as the Sacrament of Unity. In the first reading from Joshua, it says, “Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem, summoning their elders, their leaders, their judges, and their officers.” Joshua was bringing a group of individuals together in that opening line of the first reading; much like the Lord draws us together today.

Brothers and sisters the Most Holy Eucharist is the sacrament of unity for He unites us as a family of faith and He has the ability to unite us with Himself. The Eucharist is also a sacrament of love. It is Jesus who calls and invites us here. Going back to what I said last week we should become more like Christ whom we have received. That is why we are here…ultimately to receive Him into our hearts in order to become more like Him.

As we heard in opening line of the Gospel many of the Lord’s disciples were gathered with Him and said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it.” Speaking of hard sayings how about today’s Second Reading taken from Ephesians 5 which is often one of the most understood readings in all of scripture and sadly is often cut short. The second reading from Paul’s letter to the people of Ephesus reflects upon the mystery of marriage. All too often all people hear is “wives should be subordinate to their husbands” and that’s it their hearts are closed. Yet it goes on to say, “Husbands, love your wives.” Then what about the first line in today’s second reading which is often lost? “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Speaking of marriage St. Paul is saying husbands and wives should be subordinate towards one another out of love as Christ did for us. They should be living for each other not living for themselves. It is fitting that we have this Second Reading in regards to the subject of marriage intertwined with the readings which have been focusing on the Eucharist because I would like to purpose that the Eucharist is like a marriage.

Think about it…Christ submitted Himself to us for us! He submitted Himself once and for all on the cross and He submits Himself for us again and again on every single Altar in Church’s throughout the world. What should our response to this be to this? Our response should be a willingness to submit ourselves back to Him. Just like a marriage. “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.” As husbands and wives submit themselves to each other out of love, out of love we should submit ourselves back to God.

Brothers and sisters, when I or an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion says “the Body of Christ” your response is “Amen.” The word “Amen” simple means “so be it” or “I believe.” A few weeks back I preached on the perquisites for receiving Communion. Those perquisites were the one hour fast before receiving Holy Communion, one must be in a state of grace meaning free from mortal sins, and finally must receive Him with great attention and devotion. However, we should add in order for us as Catholics to receive Holy Communion we must first believe that the Eucharist is truly the Christ, the living God. To receive Holy Communion and to say “Amen” or “yes” to something one does not believe in would be a lie. What makes that particular lie more complex is that one would be lying directly into the face of God. Also, if someone would be in a state of mortal sin, one commits an even greater sin by receiving our Lord in that particular state. A mortal sin totally separates an individual from God and for one to receive Him one must be in communion with Him. Now if someone finds themselves in a state of mortal sin and has not been to confession and is thinking well I don’t care what Father C. says I going to communion anyway, let me issue this warning…your soul is at risk. Go to confession; be reconciled with Christ and His Church. Do not dig the hole any deeper than it might be but rather accept the Lord’s invitation to climb out of that hole into His own marvelous light before it’s too late.

Pope Pius X encouraged frequent reception of Holy Communion because the Eucharist is our source of strength. However, there might be things in our lives for a period of time that should cause us to reframe from physically receiving Him in Holy Communion. Remember while frequent reception of Holy Communion is encouraged, Church law states in the precept of the Church that we are required only “to receive Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist at least once a year during Easter Season.” Often times we need to step back for a moment. All too often we miss the things that are before our very eyes, but when we take the opportunity to step back we see things ever so clearly. If one is unable to receive Holy Communion that does not excuse those individuals from coming to Church because there is more than one way receive the Lord other than physically receiving Him in the Eucharist. We receive Him in His Word, and as we receive His Word we should allow it to melt our hearts. Also we receive Him in our interactions with one another. People should be encountering Christ through us and combined with His proclaimed word should then draw those individuals once their hearts are open to it to receiving Him physically.

My point is brothers and sisters the Eucharist is not a sign of disunity but rather is an expression of unity. The reception of Holy Communion is an expression of love. In order to receive the true spiritual benefit of the Most Holy Eucharist one must be willing and ready to submit oneself to Christ as Christ without hesitation submits Himself to us. The Eucharist is like a marriage between husband and wife for when a husband and wife openly submit to one another that expression of love is always life giving physically and spiritually. Same thing holds true for the Eucharist. Our Lord is not only our source of strength, but He is the very source of our life if we open ourselves up to it.

 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Homily for the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

“Do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.” Saint Paul in writing to the people of Ephesus implores them to grow in knowledge of their faith. How does one go about growing in the knowledge of their faith? There are really two ways: by living it and by studying it.

It is important for us to study our faith. Studying our faith can be done in various ways. One way is through Bible studies…it always great to see parishes that has groups meet regularly, but it also can be done within small groups within our homes and there are plenty of resources that can help individuals do just that. It is also good just to have an adult catechesis program that studies various aspects of the faith. As individuals it is important for us to read up on the Church’s teaching by paging through the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other documents issued. Keeping up with the teachings of the Church and striving to understand them takes work, but it is essential that we as individuals keep up with them.

We must never neglect our intellectual growth especially when it comes to our faith. There must be a balance between emotion and the intellect. Basing our faith on emotion alone will not work. Our faith will waver easily if we base it on just emotion because emotions come and go like the wind, but knowledge is powerful because it can last a lifetime. Knowledge is the key that opens the doors to our understanding of some of the many mysteries before us. Brothers and sisters do not neglect your intellectual preparation. However, keep this in mind while there are some things we can fully understand there are other things in which we must come to understanding that what is before us is a mystery that cannot be fully understood with our human logic.

Intellectual preparation takes time and effort. One thing that is noticeable in today’s society is that we are tending towards not putting as much effort into things as we should. Example: More people today are going for higher education expecting soon as they graduate to get the top level positions. It doesn’t work that way or at least it shouldn’t. We need to climb the latter in order to get to the top and not expect to get there by floating on a cloud. This expectation has even crept into our practice of the faith. We expect to come here and get something out of our experience without putting much of ourselves into it. Like growing in relationships with people takes work, so does growing in our relationship with the Lord.

Our Lord Jesus said in today’s Gospel, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever.” The past several weeks we have been focusing on the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel which is known as the bread of life discourse. Last week I preached on the Eucharist as a sacrifice, that God out of His unconditional love for us continuously lays down His life on every altar throughout the world. Continuing this week on the topic of the Eucharist as we continue to inform our intellect I want to discuss becoming what we receive as a part of living our faith.

What does it mean to say becoming what we receive? Perhaps it would be better for us to say in receiving our Lord Jesus Christ we should strive to become more like Him. As Jesus laid down His life for us we should be ready and willing to lay down our lives for Him by serving our neighbors. Most of us know from Catechism Class that the word “Eucharist” means “thanksgiving.” There is no better way we can give thanks to God than by being faithful to living our faith in our daily lives. I have said it once and I will say it again we should be Christ for one another. When others encounter us they should be encountering the person of Jesus Christ who is in us. By living our faith we condition ourselves to live the faith well. Keep that in mind. Good Habits can be formed just as easily as bad habits are formed. Strive to become more like Him whom you have received.

Jesus is the Bread of Life, our source of strength. He is our food, our nourishment throughout our journey through life. My brothers and sisters, while Jesus gives us Himself to strengthen us, He does expect us to pull some weight. He expects a little effort on our part. We can only come away from these Sacred Mysteries with something only if we allow ourselves put something into them. Growing in our spiritual life takes effort. One cannot expect to run a marathon without first conditioning oneself. Father Carroll cannot stand here and do fifty push up without some work…just look at me I’m out of shape. Same goes for our spiritual life, we need to condition ourselves. Studying up on our faith keeps us in the loop and it also helps come to an understanding of some of the mysteries we celebrate before our very eyes.

I would invite you to begin this journey today. A practical suggestion for everyone before every Mass, get here a couple minutes early and page through the missalettes and review the readings for the day. Read them, pray upon them, study them, then relax and listen to how the Word of God is speaking to you. It’s always good to be prepared and as they are being proclaimed listen to them. Finally at the end of every Mass take a moment after the ministers walk out and the music stops to kneel or sit down and offer a prayer of thanksgiving remembering that God is in our midst. Take that moment to thank God for His willingness to come to us and seek His help in helping us become more like Him. In order to facilitate this brothers and sisters we should do our best to reserve our conversations to either the gathering space in the back of Church or if it’s a nice day outside out of respect for those who wish to remain and pray in this sacred place either before or after Mass. For those who wish peace and quiet during those times in which there is a lot movement in the Church in preparation for other things we are blessed to have the chapel where our Eucharistic Lord is reserved.

With that brothers and sisters, may we never allow ourselves to continue in ignorance going back to what St. Paul said in today’s Second Reading! Keep up with the faith by studying and living it. May we put some elbow grease into our faith! May we always keep working at it never allowing ourselves to become discouraged! You will be amazed at how much by putting a little effort into our faith how our spiritual life will grow leaps and bounds!

 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Homily for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary 2012

 

“God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.” The reading from the Book of Revelation also goes onto to say, “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” This woman seen clothed with the sun is the woman whom we honor today…the Blessed Virgin Mary.

God’s temple in heaven was opened up to the Blessed Virgin Mary because she said yes. Elizabeth said, “Blessed are you who believed that was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Mary not only demonstrates how we are to say yes to the Lord, giving Him glory, but she also shows us how to live. Here is young Mary with a child, and she leaves to serve her cousin Elizabeth who was also with child. Keep in mind, there were no air conditioned vehicles back them. This would have been a long difficult journey, yet she didn’t let that stop her from doing what needed to be done. Mary shows us that by saying yes to God and by serving others lead us to life everlasting.

Saint Paul reminds us that Christ that Christ has indeed raised from the dead, “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” We too will be raised up on the last day. God will call us to Himself, may we always prepare ourselves for that day by saying yes to His will and by living our faith by serving Him through our service to our brothers and sisters. Let us conclude our reflection this morning by praying once again the beautiful recited by our Blessed Mother…

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

and has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

the promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children forever."

May we make this her prayer, our prayer, each day of our lives!

 

Homily for the Vigil of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary 2012

 

“Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” This short statement from a woman gathered in the crowd in today’s Gospel reinforces to each of us why we are here tonight. We are here to honor the one who carried the Lord to term and physically brought Him into the world.

Mary’s assumption into heaven stands as a testament that death is not the end of our early journey but rather the beginning of an even greater journey that leads us to life everlasting. Saint Paul wrote to the people of Corinth quoting from scripture, “Death is swallowed up in victory” and then he continued to say, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Mary was honored because she said yes, and that is why the Father honored her with assuming her into heaven. Her assumption into heaven is a pre-figuration of what will happen on the last day when the Lord will raise us up.

Our Lord goes onto to say in the Gospel, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Jesus is pointing out that the most important thing for us to do is to observe the word of God, something in which His mother always pointed out. We honor Mary today because she is one individual who is always striving to lead us to her beloved Son. That is why we honor her today in this liturgy and we see clearly what good things can happen when we make the Lord a priority in our life.

Today we celebrate our Blessed Mother’s Assumption into heaven and as we honor her we also honor her Son. May we honor them both by always doing the will of the Father!

 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Homily for the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.” There is a connection between this weeks reading with last week readings and that is we are still talking about food. However, as I pointed out last week His thinking of food is much different then what we would thing of food. Our Lord isn’t talking about physical food that we eat but rather is speaking about true spiritual nourishment that lasts forever.

Even the food we eat comes and goes. Yet the food in which the Lord promises us will not. What is this food that He promises us? For starters we have His word which was just proclaimed to you. The word of God does not change. While some people who have provided good scholarly commentary on the Word of God, there are others who have attempted to add their own spin in a deliberate attempt to alter His Divine Word. Despite their attempts the Word of God itself has remained constant over time. The Eucharist is another constant. While we may have changed the language and structure of the Liturgy, the Eucharist has remained another constant, for at every single celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. Finally while there are people who are making a lot of noise trying to persuade the Church to alter her stances on certain issues, the Church has always remained constant in her fundamental teachings. We will continue our reflection on the Eucharist momentarily.

Since her foundation the Church has endured many trials. In 1798, Napoleon’s army seized Rome and he was quoted as saying, “I will destroy the Church in a year.” Reportedly a cardinal present responded to Napoleon by answering, “Sir, we have been trying to destroy the Church for 1800 years I doubt that you will be able to destroy it in one.” No matter how many scandals arise because of grave human error, no matter how many times individuals attempt to speak out against her teachings, “the gates of Hell shall never prevail against it.” The Roman Catholic Church stands today as a testament to this truth and stands as a beacon of hope in the midst of changing world where everything comes and goes in a whim.

Think how things rapidly change. It was only a sort time ago when the I-Phone 4S was the thing to have and I will admit I have one and also admit that it does a lot of cool things. However, right now there is anticipation in the air for the release of the I-Phone 5. Things of this world come and go, yet God and His Church has remained and will remain a constant presence in a fast pace constantly changing world. Jesus invites us to work for the food that will endure. He gives us the very tools to do just that through His Church.

Last week in the homily I focused on our external reception of the most Blessed Sacrament. Externals as I said are important because they often reflect an interior reality. This week in light of our Second Reading from Saint Paul to the people of Ephesus I wish to speak about our interior preparation for receiving Holy Communion. There are three prerequisites for receiving Holy Communion. First we must be in a state of grace, free from mortal sins those sins that separate ourselves from God. For a sin -to be mortal it must meet three criteria. We hear these three criteria in the definition from the Catechism of the Catholic Church for “Mortal sin is a sin whose object is grace matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate intent.” For example stubbing your big toe and letting out a few choice words would not in itself keep you from receiving our Lord because most of us don’t deliberately intend to do that. It just simply happens. However, there are other things that we do in which we know is grave having full knowledge of it and do it with deliberate intent in spite of knowing that it is wrong. Saint Paul reminds us that we are to rid ourselves of these sins. He writes, “You should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God's way in righteousness and holiness of truth.”

The second prerequisite is that we are to fast for one hour before receiving our Lord. Canon 919 from the Code of Canon law paragraph one states, “One who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception only of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion. Fasting before communion has been part of our tradition for a very long time. Before Pope Pius XII the Eucharistic Fast was from Midnight, but during his pontificate he reduced the fast from midnight to three hours. During the pontificate of Pope Paul VI the Eucharistic Fast was reduced down to one. Medicine and water do not break the fast and for those who are sick and infirmed are not bound by the fast.

Finally the very last prerequisite is devotion and attention. Every time we receive our Eucharistic Lord we are called to make an act of devotion. Here in the United States that act of devotion since most individuals receive standing is a bow, however in most areas of the world the act of reverence is done by genuflection. If one chooses to kneel for the reception of Holy Communion no other act of reverence is necessary since kneeling in itself is an act of devotion. Also last week I mentioned for those who wish to receive in the hand that it is preferable for the communicant to receive in front of the minister taking our Lord from the hand placing Him directly into the mouth. For those who did that last week you might of noticed something significant. It slowed things down a little bit. That’s a very good thing. Our society has adopted and has become accustomed to what I call the fast food mentality. We need to slow down. As we rush through life we miss out on things that are so precious. People often remark in reference to their children, where has the time gone. It feels like yesterday we were feeding them, teaching them how to talk, walk, and ride a bike. Those moments are precious, but what we have before us is just as precious. Right here in this Sacred Space we encounter the true Bread of Life our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Last week I invited you to consider your exterior reception of Holy Communion, this week as you leave I invite you to think about specifically your interior preparations. Are we ridding ourselves of those sins that separate and hold us back from God? Are we taking the opportunity if we are physically able to fast in preparation for receiving our Lord? Finally connecting from last weeks message with this weeks are we attentive to how we are receiving Him? I leave you with our Lord words for your reflection, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst."