Archive for June, 2011

Homily for Corpus Christi

June 27, 2011

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  The focus of today’s feast is the center of the practice of our Catholic Faith: God unites Himself to us in a most intimate way each and every time we receive Him in Holy Communion.  This is not an easy teaching to wrap our minds around.  Indeed, when Our Lord told His followers that they had to eat His Body and drink His Blood they murmured at Him.

In today’s Gospel, we hear about how Jesus told the crowd that He, Himself, is the bread from Heaven.  The crowds didn’t understand Him and they quarreled among themselves.  Jesus did not back-peddle or soften His teaching; on the contrary, He repeated it: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”  Then He said it again: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.”  And He said it again: “My flesh is true food, my blood is true drink.”

The followers of Christ were struggling with His teaching and yet He didn’t change what He was saying; He reinforced His teaching by repeating it again and again.  If you were to continue reading in the Gospel of Saint John from where today’s Gospel reading left off, you would find that many of the followers of Jesus walked with Him no longer because of this teaching.  They were offended that He said that He was going to give them His flesh to eat, yet He did not correct them or help them to understand His words in a different, more figurative way.  He repeated the same teaching several times and finally the crowd could no longer bear it.  Yet Jesus didn’t stop them from walking away from Him; instead, He turned to the Twelve Apostles—the twelve men who had been the closest of Jesus’ followers, those upon whom Jesus would build His Church—and asked them if they would leave too.

Saint Peter, speaking on behalf of the others, said: “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe that you are the Holy One of God.”  The Apostles remained with Jesus, even if they didn’t understand His words about giving them Himself as food.  Then, at the Last Supper, Jesus took bread, broke the bread and gave it to the Apostles and said: “This is my Body.”  And when supper was over, He took the cup; He gave it to the Apostles and said: “This is my Blood.”

Jesus Christ is God.  When God speaks a word, things happen.  In the beginning God created.  How did He create?  He set “Let there be . . .” and it was so.  Often in the Gospel, we hear how Jesus encountered those who needed to be healed, and He spoke a word and they were healed.  He told the paralytic man on the mat to get up and the man got up; Jesus told the man with the shriveled hand to stretch out his hand and the man’s hand was restored to health.  Jesus commanded Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, to come out of his tomb and he came out.

Jesus, Who IS God, Whose words have divine power, spoke over bread and wine and transformed the bread and the wine into His own body and blood.  Then He commanded the Apostles: “Do this in memory of me.”  Jesus gave His Apostles the sacred power to change bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, and the Apostles have handed that sacred power down through the ages through their successors the bishops and the bishops share that sacred power with priests through their ordination.

When a priest is ordained, he is consecrated to God in a very special way: when the priest is ordained he lends his hands and his voice to Jesus Christ.  At Mass, the words that we hear the priest say are not: “This is the body of Jesus,” the words are “This is my body.”  Yet you do not receive the body of the priest, you receive the Body of Christ.  It is Jesus Christ Who acts through the priest at every Mass.  The priest, at the altar, stands in the very Person of Christ so that Jesus can give Himself to you in Holy Communion.

Jesus Christ gives Himself completely to you each and every time you receive Him in Holy Communion.  So much does He love you that He died for you, and feeds you with Himself.  Love desires union.  God wants to be united with you so much that He hides Himself under what looks like ordinary bread; yet what we receive in Holy Communion is no longer bread.  At the words of the priest, the bread and wine are transformed really, truly, completely, substantially transformed.  So much so, that there is no longer bread or wine left after the words of Consecration have been spoken.  What remains upon the altar looks like bread, tastes like bread, smells like wine, but we know otherwise because our God has told us it is true.  Our senses are deceived, yet Jesus Christ has told us and He does not lie.

Jesus Christ gives us Himself in Holy Communion and He calls us to imitate what we receive.  Jesus has poured Himself out for love of us and we are called to pour ourselves out for love of Him and for love of others.  Let us do our best to receive Our Lord with great reverence and love every time we come forward in the Holy Communion line.  May we have hearts that are open to all that He wants to do in our souls, that we might be transformed and come to reflect His love in our lives more and more.

Lord Jesus Christ, truly Present in the Most Blessed Sacrament, as we receive You in Holy Communion today make our hearts ever more fully conformed to Your Most Sacred Heart; fill us with your love, help us to imitate You and pour ourselves out in love for You and for others.  Amen.

Corpus Christi Bulletin Article

June 27, 2011

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ; today we celebrate the greatest gift that has ever been given: the gift of Himself that Jesus Christ gives to us.  Speaking of the Most Holy Eucharist, Saint Augustine said that although God is infinitely wise, He does not know how to give more; although He is infinitely powerful, He is unable to give us anything greater; although vastly rich, God has not more to give.

In giving us His Son, the Father gives us that which He loves most.  Jesus Christ became a man like us in all things except for sin in order to save us from sin and death.  He poured Himself out completely for us upon the Cross and through the Most Holy Eucharist Our Lord gives Himself entirely to us.

In the Eucharist Our Lord gives to us all that He is and all that He has: He holds nothing back from us.  In Holy Communion we receive Jesus Christ; in Holy Communion Our Lord is Present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.  When we receive Holy Communion we receive the One through Whom the universe was created; in Holy Communion we receive the One Whom we rightly call Our Lord and Our God.  In Holy Communion we receive the One Who died and rose that we might have abundant life and when we receive Holy Communion worthily we receive a share in that abundant life: Jesus said “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life.”  (John 6:54)

The Eucharist is often called a “foretaste of Heaven” because in the Eucharist we are united with God in a most intimate way.  Under the appearances of bread and wine our God is really, truly, substantially Present.  When the crowds that followed Our Lord first heard Him say that His flesh was true food, many of them were scandalized.  Instead of correcting their understanding of what He was saying, Our Lord again and again emphasized that He, Himself, is the Bread come down from Heaven: that He would give Himself to us as Food.  He even let many of His disciples walk away because of this teaching and then asked the Apostles if they would leave as well.  (cf. John chapter 6)  Saint Peter, speaking on behalf of the Twelve, said “Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”  Our Lord was willing to even lose the Twelve Apostles over this teaching; yet they stuck with Him even though they may not have understood His teaching.

We can pray to God anywhere, yet nowhere on earth do we encounter God in the way that we do when we encounter Him truly Present in the Most Blessed Sacrament.  We are never so close to God on this earth as when we have just received Him in Holy Communion.  Let us be mindful of the great gift that our God gives to us in the Eucharist: may we never take Our Lord’s Presence in the Most Holy Eucharist for granted.  May we always receive Him in Holy Communion worthily, and with great love and devotion.

O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine!

Homily on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

June 21, 2011

Today we celebrate the central mystery of our Faith: today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.  When we use the word “mystery” in the context of our Faith, we are not talking about something that needs to be solved; this type of mystery is a reality that is beyond our capacity to comprehend.  We can know things about the mysteries of our Faith, but we will never be able to fully understand them because these mysteries are beyond us.  The mystery of the Trinity is a reality that we are incapable of fully grasping: it is the reality of Who God IS in Himself.  From all eternity God exists as a community of Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  God has revealed Himself to us through Sacred Scripture and through Sacred Tradition.  God has revealed Himself to us as a Trinity of Persons, and because God has revealed it, we can be sure that it is true.  Our finite minds cannot fully encompass this truth, because this truth is concerned with the Who God IS.  God is infinite and therefore cannot be “figured out” by His finite creatures.  Our limited minds do not have the capacity to contain God Who IS beyond all limits.

If we study our Faith, if we study Scripture and theology, we can deepen our understanding of the mystery of the Trinity.  We can grow in our understanding of God’s self-revelation, but we will go on growing in our comprehension of Who God IS throughout all of eternity in Heaven.  The best way for us to grow in our knowledge of the Trinity is not through study, although studying our Faith is certainly important; the best way to deepen our appreciation of Who God IS in Himself is through prayer.  Through prayer we come in contact with the Most Holy Trinity; through prayer, God reveals Himself more fully to us.  In fact, studying our Faith and prayer should go hand in hand: all good theology is done on one’s knees.  That is why the Saints are the best theologians: they don’t just know things about God: they know Him.

In order for us to come to know God more deeply, we need to meet Him in prayer.  Our prayer is shaped by our beliefs and our beliefs are to influence the way that we pray.  When we pray as individuals, we oftentimes tend to focus on one Person of the Trinity or another.  We may turn to the Father seeking His forgiveness; we might address the Son asking Him to help us to bear our daily crosses; we probably turn to the Holy Spirit when we are seeking guidance on a particular matter.  The reality, of course, is that all three Persons of the Trinity are not separate from one another.  We separate Them in our minds, but the Three Persons are really inseparable.  They are three distinct Persons: the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father.  Yet the Father is God and the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God.  The Son is not less than the Father; the Father is not greater than the Son.  The Holy Spirit is not greater than nor less than the other two Persons.  All three Persons are God and yet God is perfectly One.

It is fine for us to relate to the different Persons of the Trinity at different times, yet we ought to remember that our God is Three Persons.  We can learn from the example given to us by our Mother, the Church.  Whenever the Church prays in the liturgy, she almost always prays to the Father, with the Son and in the Holy Spirit.  Most of our opening and closing prayers at Mass begin by addressing the Father and then conclude with “through Our Lord Jesus Christ Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.”  The Church is continually pointing us to the Trinity: we begin our prayers, both at Mass and in private with the Sign of the Cross: in which we call upon the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Many of the prayers that we say at Mass are done three times: “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy”; “Holy, Holy, Holy.”  This is reminiscent of the Three Persons in One God.  The entire Eucharistic prayer is directed to the Father.  Listen to the prayers that the priest prays at the altar: you will hear that the prayers are addressed to the Father and usually conclude with “Through Christ our Lord.”  Just before the bread and the wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is called down upon the gifts.  The Persons of the Trinity are invoked and referred to again and again throughout the Mass.  Through the prayers of the Mass the Church teaches and reminds us of Who God IS.  If we are attentive to the prayers, we will see very clearly how Trinitarian they are.  The prayers of the Mass help us to meditate more deeply upon this central mystery of our Faith that we celebrate in a special way today: that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit in One God.  Let us ask God for the grace to come to know Him more fully as He truly IS: O Most Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we adore You and we thank You for revealing Yourself to us: lead us into an ever deeper relationship with You.  Help us to know You, to love You and to serve You faithfully in this life, so that we can behold You Face-to-face in Heaven and there be happy with You forever and ever.  Amen.

Pentecost Homily

June 14, 2011

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost.  Pentecost is an extra special day in our Archdiocese.  It is on the vigil of Pentecost every year that the priests are ordained and then on the day of Pentecost the newly ordained priests offer their first Masses.  Today we thank God for the two newly ordained priests in our Archdiocese: let us remember to pray for them as they are offering their first Masses today and let us also pray that God will send more laborers into His vineyard.

The Solemnity of Pentecost brings the Easter season to a close: today we celebrate that day when the Holy Spirit descended upon Mary and the Apostles in the form of a rushing wind and under the appearance of tongues of fire.  Today we recall in a particular way the action of the Holy Spirit within the Church.  Pentecost is often referred to as the “birthday of the Church.”  This phrase intends to communicate the idea that after the Apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit; they went out into the world, thus manifesting the Church to the world.

During Our Lord’s public ministry, He planted the seeds of the Church.  He had many disciples and He called twelve to be Apostles: setting them up as leaders and shepherds.  After Our Lord ascended into Heaven, the Apostles were gathered together in prayer in the upper room with the doors locked for fear of the Jews.  It wasn’t until they received the Holy Spirit that they had the courage to go out and preach the Gospel.  But once they received the Holy Spirit, not only did they go out and preach, but they went out and preached boldly: the Holy Spirit gave them the courage to endure many hardships and even to laid down their lives for the sake of the Gospel.

When the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles they received certain gifts: their faith was strengthened, they received courage and fortitude, and the Holy Spirit inspired them to share the faith that they had received.  The Holy Spirit also brings His gifts to our souls.  At our Baptism, each one of us became a temple of the Holy Spirit.  By His very presence in our souls, the Holy Spirit bears certain fruit: we posses the virtues of faith, hope and love due to the Spirit’s presence within our souls.  We need to ask the Holy Spirit to increase those gifts within us; we should also do our best to cooperate with the gifts that the Holy Spirit desires to give to us.  How do we cooperate and obtain those gifts?  God freely bestows His gifts upon us: we can’t do anything to earn them; but we must do our part to avoid sin and exercise the virtues.  God wants to give us His gifts, but we have to open our hearts to receive them.  We open our hearts through prayer; we open our hearts by rooting sin out of our hearts.  By choosing sin we reject God.  God will not give His gifts to hearts that reject Him.  Sin damages and can even kill the divine life that we have in our souls.  Mortal sin is that spiritual death that comes from freely, knowingly, and gravely sinning.

If we fall into mortal sin, we should run to the Sacrament of Confession as soon as we can.  Today in the Gospel we hear Our Lord establish the Sacrament of Confession: Jesus gave the Apostles the authority to forgive sins.  Jesus says to the Apostles: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  Jesus Christ gave His Apostles the authority to forgive sins: how could the Apostles know which sins to forgive and which to retain unless those sins were confessed out loud?  We come to the Sacrament of Confession, or Reconciliation, to confess our sins and be reconciled to God.

It is sometimes asked: “Why do I have to confess to a man, why can’t I go straight to God?”  When we come to Confession we do go to God.  It is only God Who can forgive sins.  Jesus Christ is God and He forgives our sins through the ministry of the priest.  It is not the priest who forgives you in the confessional: it is Jesus Christ acting through the priest.  When the priest is ordained, he lends his voice and his hands to Jesus Christ so that Jesus Christ can use them.  Whenever a priest celebrates a Sacrament it is actually Jesus Christ Who acts.  When the priest absolves your sins, he says the words: “I absolve you . . .” and yet we know that it is not the priest who forgives your sins, but Jesus Christ Himself.  When you hear the words “I absolve you . . .” it is not the priest, on his own authority, that forgives you . . . it is Jesus Christ who forgives you.  When you come to Confession, you come not to a man, but to a man who has been consecrated, that is set apart, to stand in the very person of Christ so that you may hear with your own ears and know beyond any shadow of a doubt that your sins are forgiven by God.

The Church requires us to go to Confession at least once a year; yet we should never look at this great Sacrament as an imposition or a mere obligation: it is an amazing opportunity to receive God’s grace and experience God’s mercy.  We should be grateful to God for pouring out His mercy upon us through the Sacrament.  As Catholics, we are required to confess all mortal sins.  Again, this is the minimum requirement.  We can come to Confession more frequently, especially to obtain the grace and strength to overcome those sins that are particularly working on.  Christ pours His graces upon us through the Sacraments.  Let us make frequent use of them and receive them with faith and devotion that we may have hearts that are open to all that God wants to do in us and through us.  Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful.  Enkindle in us the fire of Your love and You will renew the face of the earth.  Amen.

June 12th Bulletin Article

June 14, 2011

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost.  On this day we commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Mary and the Apostles in the upper room.  Today’s Solemnity brings the Easter Season to a conclusion.  Today we celebrate the fulfillment of the promise that Our Lord made to send the Holy Spirit to lead the Church into all truth.

Last week, we celebrated Our Lord’s Ascension into Heaven.  Even though He returned to the right hand of the Father, Our Lord did not abandon us.  He remains with us in the Eucharist and He sent the Holy Spirit to guide us.

There are several ways in which the Holy Spirit leads us into truth.  On an individual level, the Holy Spirit is given to all the baptized: at our Baptism, each one of us became a temple of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts and fills our hearts with His gifts.  It is the Holy Spirit that inspires faith, hope and love in our hearts.  The Holy Spirit also guides us through our conscience.

The Catechism teaches us that our conscience is the place in our souls where we hear the echo of the voice of God.  (cf. CCC 1776)  We have an obligation to follow our conscience, of course our conscience must be properly formed.  Forming our conscience is a life-long task.

In order to form our conscience, we must look to the Church.  Our Lord promised that the gates of Hell would never prevail against the Church.  Jesus gave the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven to Saint Peter.  The Lord gave the Apostles the authority to teach in His name, and so we look to the Church to assist us in forming our consciences for we know that the Holy Spirit guides the Church.

The Holy Spirit also speaks to us through the Scriptures.  The Holy Spirit inspired the writers of Sacred Scripture and the Holy Spirit continues to speak to us through them.  Reading Scripture regularly is important for our spiritual lives: through Scripture God reveals Himself to us.  Through meditating upon Scripture we gain insight into Who God Is and we also receive inspiration and strength to seek and follow Him more faithfully.

Let us ask the Holy Spirit to continue to guide us and inspire us, that we might be share ever more fully the divine life that God desire to give us: “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.  Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.  And You shall renew the face of the earth.”

God bless,

Father White

Solemnity of the Ascension

June 5, 2011

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord.  Every Sunday in the Creed, we profess our faith in the fact that Our Lord Jesus Christ returned to the right hand of the Father where He reigns in glory until the day when He will come to judge the living and the dead at the end of time.

Jesus Christ has ascended to Heaven, and yet He has not abandoned us.  He continuously intercedes for us with the Father.  He is our constant companion on our journey through life and we come in contact with Him in a most intimate way each and every time we receive Him in Holy Communion.  Just before He ascended, Jesus also promised to send the Holy Spirit to be with the Church and with us so that we might be guided into all truth.

The Holy Spirit was promised, first and foremost, to the Apostles.  The Holy Spirit guides us, in a particular way, by working through the Church.  Jesus Christ gave the Apostles the authority to teach in His name: He said to the Apostles, “He who listens to you listens to Me.”  (cf. Luke 10:16ff.)  Jesus came to reveal the Father to us.  He said that He is the Way to God.  If we want to get to know God, we have to get to know Jesus Christ.  Jesus said that no one comes to the Father except through Him.  (cf. John 14:6)  Jesus revealed God to the Apostles: the Gospel today tells us that He taught the Apostles many things and then sent them out to teach the nations all that He had commanded them.  He did not tell the Apostles to write a book: He told them to go and teach.  When we say in the Creed that we believe in a Church, which is “Apostolic”, we mean that the Church is founded on the Apostles and their teaching.

Our Catholic Faith is not based on the Bible alone, as the Protestant faiths are.  We believe that Scripture is the inspired Word of God, but we also know that the Church came before the Bible.  It was, in fact, the Catholic Church that declared which Books were truly inspired by the Holy Spirit.  The Books that are in the Bible were not the only books written by Christians in that time period.  There were other books written around the same time, but the Church declared that they were not inspired.  The reason that we know which Books belong in the New Testament is because the Church has told us which Books have been inspired by the Holy Spirit.  We need the Church to know which Books are to be included in the Bible.

Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would remain with the Church always and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church.  We look to the Church that Jesus Christ established as a sure guide to help us arrive at the truth about God.  Scripture tells us that the Church is the pillar of truth in the world.  (cf. 1 Timothy 3:15)  In order to know God, He has to reveal Himself to us; and God has revealed Himself to us.  Jesus Christ has made God known and He established His Church to spread what He revealed to the ends of the earth.

In the Creed we also acknowledge our belief that the Holy Spirit speaks to us through the Scriptures.  The Holy Spirit inspired the authors of Sacred Scripture to write what they wrote.  The Holy Spirit speaks through the authors of Sacred Scripture and He also speaks to our hearts when we read Scripture.  When we read Scripture we do not read it like we read other books; when you read Scripture you are encountering a living Word inspired by God.  God desires to communicate to you through that Word.  Scripture can be studied like a textbook, but that is not its purpose.  Scripture has been handed down to us so that we can encounter God: God wants to speak to you through Scripture, but we have to be open to listening.  We have to allow God to speak to our hearts through it.  We have to spend time reading, meditating and praying with Scripture in order for it to have an effect on our lives.  Scripture doesn’t just inform our minds, it does that, but it also enflames our hearts with love for God and strengthens our wills to follow Him.  Through Scripture we learn about God, but are also inspired by it.

The Holy Spirit speaks through the Church and through the Scriptures, but the Holy Spirit also speaks to our hearts.  The Holy Spirit inspires our hearts with faith, hope and love.  The Holy Spirit gives us His gifts and we should ask Him to increase His gifts within us.  The Catechism also tells us that our conscience is the place in our hearts where we hear the echo of the voice of God.  (cf. CCC 1776)  Through our conscience the Holy Spirit inspires us to do things that we know we should do and warns us to avoid things that we know that ought not do.  We have to properly form our consciences according to Scripture and the teachings of the Church and forming our consciences is a life-long task, but we should listen to the whisperings of conscience.

Let us pray that each one of us will be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives: Come Holy Spirit, direct and guide us in all that we do.  Help us to hear Your voice as You speak to us through the Church, through the Scriptures and within our hearts.  Increase Your gifts within us, that we may be ever more faithful and come to share ever more fully in the divine life that You desire to give to our souls.  Enkindle in us the fire of Your love.  Amen.

June 5th

June 5, 2011

At this point of the liturgical year we are celebrating two mysteries of the Rosary in one week’s time.  This past week we celebrated an important Marian Feast day: the Feast of the Visitation.  As soon as the Blessed Virgin Mary heard that her elderly cousin was “in her sixth month,” Mary “went with haste” to offer her assistance and remained with her for three months.  Only after the Lord’s forerunner was born and Elizabeth’s needs were taken care of did Mary “return to her home in Nazareth.”  In this mystery, Our Lady is for us a model of true charity.  Charity does not hesitate nor does it count the cost: true charity puts the needs of others ahead of self.  Let us learn from our Mother’s example and serve others in charity.

The second mystery of the Rosary that we are celebrating this weekend is that of the Lord’s Ascension.  Before Our Lord ascended into Heaven, He told His Apostles that it was for their benefit that He was going to go to the Father.  That statement might seem counter-intuitive at first glance: wouldn’t it be better for them to have the Master with them?  Yet Our Lord told them that it is better for them (and for us) that He go, so that He can send the Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth.

In this world we walk by faith and not by sight.  We know that Our Lord has not abandoned us.  He continues to be Present to us in the Most Holy Eucharist: we continue to hear His voice when the Scriptures are proclaimed at Mass and through the Teachings of the Church (Jesus told His Apostles: “He who hears you hears Me.)  Jesus gave us the Church, the Sacraments and He has sent the Holy Spirit to guide and assist us in our journey towards Heaven.

Our Lord’s Ascension is a reminder to us of our ultimate goal: our destiny is to be forever with God in Heaven.  We live in this world only for a time; we are only here as pilgrims on a journey toward our heavenly promised land.  We can live very comfortably in this world: we can sometimes forget that this world is not our final goal.  We have to remind ourselves that we are not made to live in this world forever: we are made for more than this world offers.  We are made to live forever united with God.  Let us follow Our Lord faithfully, so that we might reach our goal: to one day be with Him forever in His Father’s House.

God bless,

Father White