Sunday, February 24, 2013

Homily for the Second Sunday of Lent 2013

 

We were invited last week into the desert as we heard proclaimed the Gospel account of Jesus being tempted. Today’s Gospel account is the one of the transfiguration and there is a similarity between last weeks Gospel with the one from today. Last week Jesus “went” off into the desert and this week it says “Jesus took Peter, John, and James and “went” up the mountain to pray. The key word is “went.”

When I hear the word “went” I also hear the word journey. Brothers and sisters the season of Lent is a journey. Many journeys have adventures and bumps in the road. Life itself is a journey and as a part of our Lenten adventure we focus on those particular bumps in the road known as sin. There is a clear reason why during Lent we focus on sin and that is because sin gets in the way. Get in the way of what we may ask ourselves. It gets in the way of the big picture. What is the big picture…well we find the answer in the Gospel…the big picture is Jesus. See sin blurs our vision and the more we tackle sin and strive to remove it from our lives the clearer the picture of Jesus is for us. The event of the transfiguration opened the eyes of Jesus’ disciples who were with Him at the time. When we remove sin we experience and see Jesus as He really is as God’s beloved Son the one who can lead us out of darkness.

In the account of the transfiguration we hear the voice say, “This is my chosen Son; listen to Him.” During the season of Lent it is important that we listen to the voice of Christ who desires and wishes to heal us from our infirmities. The more we listen to the voice of the Lord in our lives the more our vision becomes clearer and what becomes clear is that we come to an understanding of what Saint Paul told the Philippians, “Our citizenship is in heaven and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” He then goes onto say, “He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.” The Gospel speaks of the Lord’s glorification and in this season of Lent we consider the possibility of our own glorification in Christ. That is why we are asked to enter into the desert or get away on top of a mountain so that we can face our own sinfulness and turn away from it and back to God. Our citizenship is not of this earth but rather our true citizenship is awaiting each of us if we accept it back in heaven.

Today we journey! Go out journeying towards the light of Christ. May we work tirelessly this Lent to remove those sins from our lives that blur our vision that keeps us from seeing Jesus who He truly is…God’s beloved Son who has come into the world to take away our sins to lead us on the path which leads towards everlasting life!

 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Homily for the 1st Sunday of Lent 2013

 

Last week Jesus asked Simon to put into the deep, this week we follow Jesus into the desert. As I mentioned in my homily last week it is often scary for us to go into the deep and focusing on the Gospel for this week it is just as scary going into a deserted place.

What is the significance of going into a deserted place? In Luke’s Gospel Jesus finds the evil one waiting to tempt Him. Often times when we travel to a deserted place we are often faced with temptations. Sometimes we are also forced to see things about ourselves that perhaps we wanted to avoid. It is important for our spiritual growth to face these things which is why I challenge all of us this Lent to travel with Jesus into the desert. There is a tendency in all of us to want to avoid the desert out of fear of what we may find. Perhaps it might not be fear holding us back but something far more worse…pride! A pride on our part, thinking to ourselves, that we can do no wrong.

Brothers and sisters it is time we all face the difficult hard truth, each one of us gathered here today is a sinner and this Lent we are asked to face our sins. One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to avoid our problems. Avoiding our problems will only lead to greater problems down the road. Starting right now our Lord is challenging you and me to face our sins and to face them head on. We should never allow ourselves to become afraid of tackling a problem.

Now here something we must all understand and that is temptation is not a sin. See from the Gospel even Jesus was tempted by Satin. Succumbing to temptation is sinful but being tempted is not. There is probably not a single person in this Church that is not being tempted by something at this very moment. I am sure there is someone right now tempted to look at their watch and thinking; how much longer is Father Carroll going to make all of us endure his homily. When at a restaurant how many of us are enticed by the deserts in the picture on the menu. See falling into temptation is sinful but temptation itself is not and in fact avoiding temptation is really a moment of grace.

This week Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world by announcing his renunciation of the papacy effective on February 28th citing advanced age and infirmities. It was literally the announcement that rippled throughout the world. His announcement was historic for it was the first time since the year 1415 a pope has resigned from office. The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII to bring healing to the Church following the Western Schism. Pope Benedict’s announcement came on Monday February 11th the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes. This date is significant for it is in Lourdes France where many physical and spiritual healings have taken place. The Church is in so many ways is in the process of healing for many reasons throughout the different parts of the world. Pope Benedict worked tirelessly to promote healing and unity within the Church. Perhaps with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit he felt it was time for someone else to carry on this important task. In addressing the cardinals he asked, “And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff.” Pope Benedict entrusted the Church to her Supreme pastor Jesus Christ and the Blessed Mother as we await an appointment for a new Holy Father.

In closing His holiness stated, “With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.” Pope Benedict in so many ways is leading all of us by His example into the desert. As we leave here today we should leave with admiration for the work he has done and his humility in recognizing his limitations and seeing the need for someone else to carry the torch the light of Christ into the world. Yes we are heading into unchartered territory, but as I said in the beginning and I reecho now do not fear the desert…for with the help of the Holy Spirit something great will come from it!

 

 

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The above picture was taken my me at the end of the Papal Mass in Washington.

Let us continue to keep His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in our prayers!  May the Lord continue to bless him!  Also let us pray for the Cardinal electors as they prepare to gather in Rome to elect his successor.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Homily for Ash Wednesday 2013

 

Brothers and Sisters today we begin our Lenten journey as we mark Ash Wednesday. On this day we are called as it says in today’s first reading “return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord your God.”

In just a moment you and I will approach after the blessing of ashes and have them imposed on our foreheads. While this is an external action on our part which serves as a witness to the world of our Christian faith, I ask us to take a moment when standing before a mirror to say a quick prayer asking the Lord to help us. Take this external action and internalize it. Not only is ashes a witness to others, but it is serves as a reminder for ourselves that we are sinners. Lent is not about external actions but it is a time as it says in the first reading, to return to the Lord with your whole heart. Today as each of us recognize our failures…let us move forward rending to God our hearts and our lives.

 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2013

 

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘whom shall I send? Who will go for us?’ ‘Here am I Lord, I said; ‘send me.’” This exchange at the close of our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah is worth looking at for a moment. It is hard for us to imagine God not knowing whom He wants to send out for a mission. Truth is He already knows, but the exchange that the prophet hears was done with a purpose. The Lord already knew, but in allowing the prophet to hear that exchange He was allowing the prophet the opportunity to respond.

Brothers and sisters the Lord already knows what He wants and who He wants, but He leaves it up to us to respond. In today’s Gospel from Luke, our Lord Jesus gives Simon an instruction to “put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” There are two words I want to look at “deep” and “lower.” A few days ago we replaced a light pole at our football field that blew over from the hurricane that went through a couple months ago. When that pole was replaced it had to go deep enough into the ground so it could become secure. Jesus was telling Simon to put into the deep, and He is telling us the very same thing. We need to go into the deep, especially when it comes to our faith so it can find and take root. If our faith is only rooted in the surface and there is no security it could topple over with the first passing storm.

Let’s now look at the word “lower.” When I hear the word “lower” I also hear the word reach. Think about the last time you reached for something. Think of the last thing you reached for that really stretched you out. That feeling when you stretched for something, that tension is something I like to call…effort. Our faith takes effort. If we expect to grow in it we need to get serious and put a lot of effort into it. Is it enough to simply follow the precepts of the Church, to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and to confess our sins once a year? The answer is clear and it is simple…No. Yes this is what we are called to do…but more still must be done. Last week I preached on the Second Reading from Saint Paul’s first letter to the people of Corinth where he asked them “to strive for the greatest spiritual gifts.” We cannot settle for the minimum, we are asked to do much more.

It is important for us to put things out into the deep. For some it can be scary especially if you’re in deep water and can’t swim. Finding oneself in that position would instantly cause them to put their faith in the Lord. It is often difficult for us to swim through life. Being in the deep is a scary thing…but I would encourage all of us if we find ourselves in that position to reach up towards God and reach up to Him with all we got.

Wednesday is Ash Wednesday the beginning of Lent. Let me share with you what Lent is not…it is not just the Catholic version of weight watchers! Now I am not saying giving up deserts, eating between meals and other junk foods is a bad thing to give up during Lent. If you’re going to give something up…make sure what you decide to give up has a meaning for you and a purpose. For example if you give up chocolate during Lent, perhaps you could take the couple bucks you would spend on that each week and donate it a charity. Often times we focus during Lent on things we could give up, but we don’t often think about finding ways we can enrich our faith. This Lent I challenge you as I challenge myself to delve deep into our faith. Let us be like Simeon who lowered his net, and lower ourselves down. Have faith in the Lord and do as He says and you will find as Simon did…an abundant rewarding catch.

 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Homily for the 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time 2013 at the Noon Mass (Boy Scout Sunday)

 

Saint Paul challenges us in the opening line from today’s Second Reading to “strive for the greatest spiritual gifts.” Striving for the greatest spiritual gifts is not easy, in fact it can be extremely challenging. This line from Saint Paul’s first letter to the people of Corinth holds the key for our spiritual growth.

Often times many of us tend to complain that we don’t get anything out of practicing our faith. If we find ourselves doing that from time to time we have to ask ourselves honestly…what are we putting into it. From time to time I mention growing in our faith…striving for the greatest spiritual gifts as Saint Paul challenges us takes hard work. We have to put effort into it. When it comes to growing in our faith we cannot be afraid to put in a little elbow grease. We should never strive for the minimum but rather strive each day to do the maximum. God didn’t create us to be minimalist, but rather He created us for greatness and the greatness He calls each of us too is eternal life with Him.

As I shared earlier this morning when I was a student I struggled when it came to taking tests, in fact there was a point in which I myself was tempted to walk away from the Lord as a result of my struggle to make the grade. How many of us when faced with challenges wish to simply give up and walk away? One of the biggest mistakes we can make is that when faced with any type of challenge that is the attitude we take up. The other mistake we make is that we strive to simply do the minimum or even sadly at times even less then that. God calls us to strive for not just any spiritual gifts, but the greatest spiritual gifts. Striving for the greatest spiritual gifts is not meant to be easy.

At today’s liturgy we welcome members of our Boy Scout troop 360, and later in the Mass following the prayer after communion we will honor some of them for their achievements. Some of our scouts have received religious medals and three of our scouts will be honored for having obtained the rank of Eagle Scout. As an Eagle Scout myself I can attest to the dedication and sometimes hard work that is necessary for advancement. For our scouts being honored today and those who are working very hard to obtain merit badges and rank take in what Saint Paul is saying. Keep striving for the greatest spiritual gifts. Stay true to the scout oath, “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” Keep reciting the Scout Law…a scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. Never forget the scout slogan “to do a good turn daily.” Never forget the ideals that scouting teaches you for they will come in handy when it comes to striving for the greatest spiritual gift.

This afternoon as we reflect on the word of God proclaimed today may we take up Saint Paul’s challenge. Today as we honor Boy Scout Sunday let us all never forget their slogan “to do a good turn daily.” For one of the ways we can achieve the greatest spiritual gift is by loving one another as Christ loved us and if some of us need a reminder of how much God loved us look at the beautiful image above the tabernacle. That is the definition of love and true love is never easy!

 

Homily for the 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time 2013

 

“Strive eagerly, for the greatest spiritual gifts.” This opening line in today’s Second Reading from the first letter of Saint Paul to the people of Corinth holds the key to our spiritual growth. For today I am going to break it down into two key parts, first we will look at the phrase, “strive eagerly” and then look at the second part “for the greatest spiritual gifts.” This single line from Saint Paul’s letter really shows us all how we should approach our faith.

When we hear the word “strive” it often means to devote serious effort or attention. In approaching our faith we need to be serious about it. The word “strive” also means “to struggle in opposition or to contend.” As we attempt to grow in our faith we are often faced with opposition and often times that opposition comes from the world. You and I are asked to look beyond worldliness and to stay focused on our relationship with the Lord. The very next word is “eagerly.” When we hear the word “eagerly” we should think of being enthusiastic. We should be enthusiastic about our faith; we should be filled with enthusiasm as we strive to grow closer to Christ. Therefore in putting in serious effort into our faith while contending against worldliness we should approach this with excitement.

The second part of the opening line says “for the greatest spiritual gift.” Here the key word is “greatest.” We should strive eagerly not just for any spiritual gift, but we should strive for the greatest. One of the struggles modern society faces is that we have seen a cultural shift where it has become acceptable to do merely the minimal. This prevailing attitude of our modern culture has even crept into the Church. Today many people are content when it comes to the faith and the practice of it to settle for doing the minimum or sadly even less.

Never should we be content with doing the minimum, but rather strive to do our very best. Brothers and sisters we weren’t created to be minimalist, we were created by God for greatness. The greatness he destines for us is eternal life with Him! Last week I mentioned the importance of accepting Christ and His mission. The Lord invites but we must accept. The opening line from today’s first reading we hear the prophet quote something the Lord said to him, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” While God created us with a plan, he gives us a free will which allows us to decide whether we cooperate or not. Cooperation with God’s plan keeps us on the path to eternal life; resistance to His plan leads us away from that path. Yet one thing stands out even though we have a free will to choose, the truth will always be there that we were created by the Lord for greatness.

Is it easy for us “to strive eagerly, for the greatest spiritual gifts” in today’s world? No, it isn’t, like many things it takes work. Striving for the greatest spiritual gifts is in essence a test for all of us. How many of us like to be tested? How many of us like to be pushed to our limits? When I was in school I dreaded taking tests mainly because I wasn’t good at taking them, and there was even a point when I was in seminary that I was even tempted to walk away as a result from the pressure of trying to make the grades. I know the temptation that is out there and that is why I see it so clearly. We cannot simply give up when we are faced with pressure but we must persevere and keep pressing forward.

When we complain about not getting anything out of the practice of our faith we need to ask ourselves honestly…how much work are we really putting into it. Striving for the greatest spiritual gifts takes hard work and it challenges us. Do not settle for comfort, settle for the cross! Accept the cross and the mission of Jesus Christ! When we come to Church there are times we find comfort and peace, but there are many when we come here we find none of those things, but rather find waiting for us a test. Saint Paul while encouraging us to strive for the greatest spiritual gifts challenges us to love and goes on to say what love is…

“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The definition of love is found on the cross. Accepting the mission of Christ calls each of us to accept it. Allow yourselves to be tested in “striving for the greatest spiritual gifts” for “love never fails.”