Christmas Homily 2011

December 26, 2011

Christmas is probably most widely known in our culture as a time for giving and receiving gifts. The stores and the media have placed the importance of Christmas shopping before our eyes non-stop since before Thanksgiving. Christmas advertising seems to begin earlier and earlier. It is important for us to remember the reason that we give gifts to one another on Christmas: as Christians we must keep our eyes fixed on the reason for the gift giving.

Why do we give gifts to each other on Christmas? Part of the reason we give gifts is to let other people know how much we care about them. That is the reason we give a gift to a person on their birthday, for example. We give gifts to our family members and loved ones on the day that they were born in order to show our love and affection for them, to show them that we are glad that they are a part of our lives and we are a part of theirs. Why do we give gifts to each other on the day when we celebrate the Nativity of Jesus Christ? On Christmas, we celebrate the Birth of Our Lord and Savior in time: we celebrate the fact that God became man. Why do we exchange gifts when we celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ? We give gifts to one another on this day in order to imitate the generosity of Almighty God, Who on this day over two-thousand years ago, gave the world the greatest gift ever given: the gift of His Only Begotten Son. It is said of the gift that God gave in giving us His Son that “Although God is all-powerful, He is unable to give more; though supremely wise, He knows not how to give more; though vastly rich, He has not more to give.”

To help us appreciate the greatness of the gift that God has given to us, let us reflect on this gift from two different aspects: first we will consider it from what God has given to us; second, we will consider it from the point of view of our need. God gave us the greatest gift because He gave to us what He most loves: His own most-beloved Son. From all eternity, the Eternal Son of God existed with the Father in Glory. The Father and the Son live in perfect union and in perfect love together with the Holy Spirit. From all eternity God has existed as a community of divine Persons. Within God there is perfect joy, perfect happiness, and perfect glory. When God gave to us the gift of His Son, He gave that which He loves most and He gave Him freely to us as a gift. When the Eternal Son of God became a man, He came to earth freely in order to reveal God to us and to give Himself completely to us in Holy Communion. God sent His Son, freely; Christ became one of us, freely; and this gift that is freely given to us shows us how much God loves us. In Christ the fullness of divinity is made manifest: God became a man, like us in all things except for sin, so that we could know God and have access to Him. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and He has been sent, He has willingly come to earth so that we might have life and have it in abundance: and the kind of life that He came to bring is not merely the earthly life that we have now but will one day lose; He came to bring abundant life to our souls: to give us a share in His divine life, and that kind of life is life that will never end.

That is the gift from the point of view of what God has given to us; now let us look at the gift from the perspective of our need. As members of the human race, we stand in absolute need of a Savior. That is the reality of our condition: we are fallen; we possess a corrupted human nature. We need a Savior and we cannot save ourselves. Our current state is not the way that God created us. We were created by God to know Him and love Him and to be united with Him: that is the purpose of our existence. Our first parents disobeyed God and thereby lost God’s friendship for the entire human race. Because of sin, suffering and death are a part of our lot in this world: no one can escape suffering and no one can escape death, they are part and parcel of our lives as human beings. Because of original sin, human beings are, by nature, estranged from God. Had God Himself not become one of us to save us from sin and eternal death, we would be forever lost; had Christ not been born for us, we would never have been freed from our sins; we would not have the access to God that we have as Christians, had Christ not been born, suffered, died and rose again from the dead for us. Had God not assumed our fallen human nature in order to redeem it, we would have no hope of ever seeing the joy of Heaven. Jesus, Himself, said that no one comes to the Father except through Him; through Jesus Christ, and through Him alone, we have access to God, through Him and through Him alone we have hope of attaining the union with God in Heaven for which we were created. If God had not become one of us in order to redeem us, the purpose of our very existence would be forever frustrated. That is the reason that God so willingly sent His Son; that is the reason that Christ so willingly shed His Precious Blood: so that we would not be lost in sin, and despair and death, but through Him we might have hope and through Him we have access to divine life.

Jesus Christ is the greatest gift ever given to the world because He is Himself God and nothing greater than God can ever be given as a gift because nothing is greater than God. We should appreciate the gift all the more because apart from Him we would be lost; without His coming among us we would have no hope of attaining the eternal union with God in Heaven that we were created for. Let us be truly grateful for this gift that God has given to the world this day: the gift of His Only Son. “Although He is all-powerful, He is unable to give more; though supremely wise, He knows not how to give more; though vastly rich, He has not more to give.” May our hearts be filled with gratitude and awe that such a wondrous gift has been given to us!

Merry Christmas!

December 26, 2011

A Blessed Christmas and Happy New Year to all! May Our Lord abundantly bless you and your families and fill your hearts with joy during this grace-filled celebration of Our Lord’s Nativity!

Remember that the celebration of Christmas does not end the day after Christmas; the Church celebrates Christmas time all the way up until the Feast of the Epiphany. The Mystery of the Incarnation cannot be adequately celebrated (or contemplated) in one day, so the Church gives us several.

The Solemnity of Christmas is one of those important Feasts within the Church that has an octave attached to it: eight days that are celebrated as one day. Even after the octave of Christmas, Christmas time continues until January 6th.

The fact that Christmas continues to be celebrated after Christmas day can be easily overlooked because the day after Christmas the secular world has already stowed away the decorations until next year. In the stores, the Christmas decorations go up at the beginning of November and come down the day after Christmas. (I assume that the reason for this is to get people thinking about Christmas shopping.) In the Church we do the opposite. We celebrate four weeks of Advent, the time leading up to Christmas in which we prepare our hearts for the Birth of Our Savior, and during that time the Church is relatively unadorned. Then, the Church puts up Christmas decorations the day before Christmas, so that the Church will be ready for Christmas vigil Masses, and the decorations stay up all the way until “Little Christmas,” Epiphany, the day we celebrate the adoration of the Magi.

May the joy of Our Lord fill your heart every day of Christmas time and may He bless you throughout the New Year.

God bless,
Father White

4th Sunday of Advent 2011

December 24, 2011

When a Gospel text is very familiar, we have to put forth extra effort to be attentive and not tune it out. How well we all know the account of the Angel delivering God’s message to the Virgin Mary. How many times have we all used the Angel’s words in our own prayer: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” Precisely because we are so familiar with this Gospel, we need to stop ourselves from glazing over it and really meditate upon it with attention and devotion; the Church gives us this Gospel on this, the last Sunday of Advent, in order to stir up in our hearts joyful longing for the coming of Our Savior. The Church puts Our Blessed Mother before us in the Gospel today as a model of that joyful expectation that we are all to have.

It is easy for us to take for granted the way that the account goes: Mary says “May it be done to me according to your word” and the Eternal Son of God became one of us, in order to redeem us by His death and Resurrection. We know the way that the Gospel ends, and therefore we don’t always pay much attention to the details. Let us take a few minutes to really reflect upon this Gospel passage.

The Angel Gabrielle was sent by Almighty God to a town of Galilee named Nazareth. The word “Angel” means: “messenger”. Angels are pure spirits: they do not have material bodies: they can appear in a material form in order for them to convey their message to human beings, but Angels are purely spiritual beings. Gabrielle is known as an “Archangel”: an Archangel simply means an Angel (a “messenger”) with a very important message. Gabrielle is known as an “Archangel” because of the importance of the message delivered: in fact this is the most important of all messages for the human race: the Redeemer of the entire world, the Savior promised from the very beginning is about to come to earth. To us, this message is old news; that was not the case with Mary. When the Angel Gabrielle brought this message to Mary, she had no idea she was to be the Mother of the Eternal Son of God. All of the Old Testament looked for the coming of the Savior; all of the people awaited the One Who would come and set us free from sin and death. We can at times take His coming for granted, up until the time that the Angel spoke the words of today’s Gospel to her, Mary waited and longed for and prayed for the coming of the Redeemer, not knowing that her prayer and her desire would be fulfilled in her Holy Child. What must have been going on in Mary’s mind and in her heart while the Angel was delivering his message? Imagine the joy that Mary must have felt: at long last the Savior was to be born into the world; at long last the slavery to sin that had been the lot of the human race since Adam, was about to come to an end. The One Who would crush the head of the ancient serpent was coming into the world. Imagine the great hope that must have filled Mary’s heart as the Angel placed God’s message before her.

The message itself reveals much about Our Blessed Mother: remember that this Archangel is not bringing his own message: Angels deliver messages from Almighty God. God greeted Mary through the voice of the Angel Gabrielle and greeted her as “Full of Grace.” The original Greek word for “fullness” used there implies that Mary is already full of grace when the Angel greets her, and the tense of the Greek verb implies a constant and on going state or condition. The Angel also tells Mary that the Lord is with her; even before Mary conceived the Eternal Son of God made Man in her womb, the Lord is with her; and she has found favor with God. These lines of the Angel’s message speak to us of Mary’s holiness even before she conceived. Earlier this month we celebrated the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception: this Solemnity celebrates the fact that God preserved Mary from all stain of sin right from the very moment of her conception. The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is one of the official Teachings of the Catholic Church that many non-Catholic Christians have a hard time with, yet it only makes sense if we stop and think about it. If you were all-powerful, and all-knowing (as God is) and you had the opportunity to create your own mother . . . would you not make her perfect in every way? Would you not make your mother beautiful and virtuous and free of all imperfection? If we, who are so limited and imperfect, would give such gifts to our mothers if we could, why wouldn’t the Eternal Son of God make His earthly Mother free from all sin right from the first instant of her existence? The Church Teaches that He did and this Teaching is in continuity with the earliest writers in Christianity.

Another aspect of this Gospel that we can easily take for granted is Mary’s response: her “Let it be done to me according to your word.” Mary was free from sin from the first moment of her existence, which is to say right from her conception in the womb of her mother, but she still had a free will. Sometimes people ask: if Mary was without sin, could she really have chosen differently than she did? The answer to that question is: yes. She was created without sin, just as Adam and Eve were and although they were also created sinless, they abused their free will and turned away from God in sin. Mary received extraordinary graces and gifts from the Lord, but she really and truly cooperated with Him in bringing about our redemption. St. Bernard of Clairvaux has a beautiful passage in which he meditates upon the Angel awaiting Mary’s reply to the message he had just delivered. I would like to conclude by sharing part of Saint Bernard’s meditation with you. He writes: “You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us. The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life. Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race. Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word. Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive . . . Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.”

3rd Sunday of Advent 2011

December 17, 2011

Today marks the halfway point through Advent. The theme of today’s Mass is summed up in the traditional title given to the third Sunday of Advent: Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is a Latin word which means: “Rejoice!” “Rejoice” was the first word of the antiphon sung at the beginning of today’s Mass. The liturgical color of the day is rose: today the rose colored Advent candle is lit, today is one of two days of the year on which the priest may wear rose color vestments. The Church, through the prayers and readings of today’s Mass, encourages us to rejoice: the celebration of the Birth of Our Lord quickly draws near.

The Antiphon of today’s Mass tells us to “rejoice in the Lord.” We, Christians, have a very specific reason for rejoicing: we are to rejoice in the Lord. Saint Paul, in the second reading today, tells us to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. He goes on to say that this is God’s will for us. It is God’s will that we rejoice in Him. God created us to know Him, to love Him and to be happy with Him: not the kind of passing happiness that comes from the things of this world, but real, lasting, true happiness; that is what God created us for.

If that is why God made us, why do we have so many worries, fears, disappointments, and anxieties? The answer is simple: because of sin. Suffering and death were not a part of God’s plan from the beginning. Suffering and death entered the world as a result of sin. The purpose of our existence hasn’t changed (the purpose of our existence is still to know and love God; we are still destined to be happy with Him forever), but ever since the first sin suffering and death have been an inescapable part of human existence on this earth.

Even in our fallen human nature, we are still called to rejoice always. The only way that we can always find cause for rejoicing in this fallen world is by keeping our eyes fixed on God and all that He has done for us. Everything that we have that is good, comes to us from the hand of the Lord. Our life, our faith, our next breath, all of the material and spiritual goods that we have been blessed with are gifts from God and they tell us of His love for us. God has given us so many good things; there are many reasons to rejoice, if we only have eyes that are open to see.

As a result of all of the good things that God has given to us, we owe God a debt of praise. The new words that we say at the preface to the Eucharistic Prayer clearly tell us of that debt. The new translation of the response to “Let us give thanks to the Lord” is “It is right and just.” The priest then goes on to say “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation always and everywhere” to give God thanks. Because of all that God has given to us and done for us it is right, it is a matter of justice, we have a duty to give Him thanks. How offended can we get sometimes when someone does not show gratitude for the little things that we have done for them. How do we feel when a gift that we give to another is not appreciated? God has given us everything and He has given it to us freely: out of pure love. He was not compelled to create us; He did not have to send His Son to die for us; Our Lord did shed His Precious Blood for us against His will. God created us out of love; He sent His Son to die because He loves us and desires to pour out His mercy upon us. Jesus Christ poured out every last drop of His Precious Blood willingly. He freely laid down His life so that we might share in eternal, divine life.

How could we fail to thank God? How could we be so ungrateful as to not have heats filled with thanksgiving to God for all that He has done? When Saint Paul tells us to rejoice always, he says that even though he knew what it was like to go through difficulties in this world. In Second Corinthians Saint Paul says that he forty lashes on five different occasions because he preached the Gospel; he was beaten with a rod on three different occasions; he was shipwrecked three times; he was frequently in danger, and often had to endure hardship that we cannot even imagine in this day in this country. Saint Paul was put in chains for his faith in Jesus Christ and ultimately was beheaded. This same Saint, who knew well what it means to suffer, was able to say “Rejoice in the Lord always.” How could he say that when he suffered so much? Because Saint Paul knew that the sufferings in this life are as nothing compared to the glory that awaits those who love and serve the Lord. Saint Paul knew that as long as he was faithful to the Lord, there wasn’t anything in this world that could separate him from the love of Christ: and that was cause for rejoicing. Saint Paul asks: What can separate us from the love of Christ, anguish or distress, or persecution or famine or peril or the sword? None of those things could take away the joy that Saint Paul had, because none of those things could separate him from the Lord Whom he loved.

If God is in the center of our hearts, we have nothing to fear. Let us keep our eyes fixed on the Lord. Let us use this remaining part of Advent to prepare our hearts and focus on Christ. Let us bring our cares and concerns to Him and entrust them to Him; then let us give Him thanks for all the many things that He has done for us, and with hearts full of gratitude let us rejoice in the Lord always and give Him thanks.

2nd Sunday of Advent 2011

December 4, 2011

This is the second Sunday of Advent; Advent is a period of four weeks that has been set apart for us to prepare our hearts to celebrate the Birth of Our Lord. Advent is a time for us to be shaken awake. As we journey through life, we can easily fall into daily routine and slowly lose focus on the things that are truly important. Advent is a time of the year in which we are called again and again in the readings and in the prayers at Mass to be alert, attentive, awake and watching.

Advent is a time for us to be shaken out of complacency, it is a time for us to examine our hearts and honestly ask ourselves: have we fallen asleep in our spiritual lives? Have we turned on the “auto-pilot,” have we allowed our faith to become a mere routine? Our Catholic Christian Faith demands something from us: our Faith is to be lived; we have to profess our faith both with our lives and with our lips. Being an authentic Christian takes more than just saying: “I was Baptized when I was an infant, therefore I am a Christian.” Christianity is not merely a social club and it is not a cultural label. Being a Christian means following Jesus Christ. What does it mean to follow Jesus Christ? It means to be in a relationship with Him; it means modeling my life on Him and on His teaching.

How do we deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ? First, we have to know Him. We have to know things about Him, but more than that: we have to know Him. We know about Him by studying Sacred Scripture and by studying our Faith. We come to know Him by spending time with Him in prayer, by praying with Scripture and not merely studying it. We cannot be in a relationship with someone we never spend time with. And the most important relationship that we will ever have is our relationship with God. We deepen our faith by putting it into practice. Our Lord said that when we do or fail to do something for someone else, we have done or not done it for Him.

Advent commemorates the historical reality that from the time of the fall of our first parents, God has promised the human race a Savior. Christmas is the celebration of the promised Savior’s birth. But this time of year is also more than a recalling of history. It reminds us also of our current situation. Just as the Old Testament people looked for the coming of the Redeemer into the world, we are called to watch and wait for Christ to come. We are to do all we can to help build of the Kingdom of God on earth; we are to spread the Gospel; we are to allow God’s love to flow through us to those around us: by what we say and by what we do we are to help others to see God in us and come to know and love Him.

In Advent we also call to mind the fact that we are still waiting for Christ to come. In the Preface that we will pray in just a few minutes, we hear that at His first coming Christ assumed the lowliness of human flesh, but when He comes again, He will come in glory and majesty. In the Creed that we pray together each Sunday, we confess our faith that Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. Our culture’s favorite Scripture verse is: “judge not.” It is true: we cannot judge the heart of another, yet we can judge actions. Our Lord says that if someone sins, we should correct them. We can judge actions, but we cannot judge hearts. The reason that we cannot judge hearts is because God alone knows what is in the heart of someone else. The thing that our culture seems to forget is: we cannot judge others because all judgment is reserved to Jesus Christ. “Judge not” does not mean that there will not be a judgment, it means that judgment is not ours to make: Christ alone will judge the hearts of all.

Advent looks back to the historical first coming of Christ, and looks forward to the Second Coming which will be the end of all history. Christ’s first coming and His promised Second Coming both call for a personal response from each one of us. Advent is a time to be shaken awake: it is a time for us to reflect on His first coming, and to remember that He will come again. When He came to earth the first time, He came as Savior: He came to reconcile fallen human beings with God, and to show us the way to the Father. When He comes again, in glory, He will come as Just Judge. That thought should help us all to be shaken into alertness. We will each be called to render an account of how we have lived our lives. Each one of us will be judged one day on how we have followed Jesus Christ, how we have cooperated with His grace, and what we have done with the gifts that He has given to us. Let us be awake and watchful, let us use the gifts that we have received to build up the Kingdom of God so that when we go before Christ we will worthy to hear the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant; come and enter into your master’s joy.”

Solemnity of Christ the King

November 22, 2011

This weekend brings to a close the liturgical year, and next weekend starts Advent, the beginning of the Church’s liturgical calendar. This is also the last weekend/Sunday in which we will use the current translation of the Mass. Next Saturday evening we will begin to use the new translation of the prayers at Mass. Today, being the end of the liturgical year, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King: in the new translation, by the way, it will be called the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. (It has always had that name in Latin, as well as in other languages.)

Today’s Solemnity is relatively new on the calendar: Pope Pius XI established it in 1925. Pope Pius gave us this liturgical celebration as an antidote to secularism, which he already saw creeping into the lives of many in his day. He saw that people were beginning to think and live as if God did not exist. This feast was intended to remind people that Jesus Christ wants to reign over us as individuals, He wants to reign in our families, over society, over the world. As we shall see Christ is, in fact, Lord of everything, but He wants us to freely choose to allow Him to reign in our hearts in order to build up His Kingdom.

Although the feast of Christ the King is new, the idea that Jesus Christ reigns as King is not foreign to the liturgy. It is mentioned all of the time and in prayers that are ancient. Christ’s reign is brought up so often in the liturgy, that we can easily not even notice it. Many, many of our prayers at Mass end by invoking Our Lord and then adding the ancient conclusion: “Who lives and reigns . . . forever and ever.” Who lives, and reigns. Christ reigns at the right hand of the Father. He is Master and Lord of the universe.

Let’s look at the various ways that Jesus Christ is King of the universe. Jesus Christ is God; Saint Paul says that all things were created through Him, all things were created for Him. Together with the Father and the Holy Spirit Jesus Christ created everything that is. Without Him nothing was made that was made. He reigns, first and foremost, because He created us: He is our Creator, we are His creation. As Creator of the universe He holds supreme power over all things. In Him all things live and move and have their being. We are dependent upon God for our existence and everything that we have that is good comes to us from the hand of God; as a result we owe Him our thanks and praise.

Besides reigning by virtue of His Divine nature, Christ is also our Redeemer: He purchased us by His Precious Blood. The Eternal Son of God set aside the glory that He had from all eternity, emptied Himself and took the form of a slave, Saint Paul says. The One Whom the Angels adore, humbled Himself to be born of a Virgin in a cave because there was no room for Him in the inn: He came to His own and His own received Him not. He became a man, like us in all things except for sin, to fully reveal God to us and we, His creatures, put Him to death for it: He was Crucified to save us from our sins. He willingly laid down His life for you, and for me. He died so that we might have eternal life. By pouring out His Precious Blood on the Cross, He purchased us for God. Jesus Christ has purchased you back from the devil and the price that He paid for you was His own life. The life that you live is not your own: you have been purchased by the Blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ laid down His life for us and gives Himself to us in the Holy Eucharist; He wants something in return: our heart. God desires that we love Him, that we allow His will to reign in our hearts. Jesus Christ is King of the universe by divine right, be He wants your permission to reign in your heart and in your life.

Faith is an individual matter, it is my choice, it is up to me to faithfully follow Christ, or not; but we must also remember that faith is not merely a private matter. There are many in our society today that would hold that it is ok to worship in whatever way that I want so long as I don’t bring my faith into the public sphere. That reduces faith to something which is pointless. We are not just to be Christians in Church on Sunday and then park our religion at the door until next week. If I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, if I know that He has purchased me with His Blood, it has to make a difference in the way that I live my life everyday. Being a Christian means more than simply showing up at Mass on Sunday: being a Christian means being a follower of Jesus Christ all the time, always everywhere. All time belongs to Christ. Following Jesus Christ means living, thinking, making choices in accord with what Jesus Christ has revealed to us about God. If we believe that our faith is true, it has to have an effect on us. We don’t have to stand on soapbox on the street, but we do have the right and the duty to defend our faith, and to share our faith with others. Faith is a gift, and it is a gift that has been given to us, for ourselves but also for others. If Christ is to really reign in my heart, He has to reign in every part of my heart: He wants all of your heart. We are to love God with all of our heart, with all of mind, with all of our strength. That is the greatest commandment, and that commandment cannot be lived out in one hour a week, one day a week.

Let us renew our commitment to Christ that we will strive to follow Him ever more faithfully: Loving Lord Jesus, Redeemer of the entire human race, and King of the universe, look down upon us humbly present before You. We are Yours and we desire to belong ever more completely to You. We consecrate ourselves to Your Most Sacred Heart this day. Give us the grace to faithfully follow You, that we may be with You forever in Your Kingdom, where You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit: One God forever and ever. Amen

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 12, 2011

The Parable in today’s Gospel is focused on a topic that can be difficult to hear about: judgment. The point of Our Lord’s Parable is that we will all be judged by God based on what we have done (or not done) with the graces that He has given to us. Our culture doesn’t like the idea of judgment because judgment is generally perceived only as a negative. Judgment is often thought to be a harsh concept. In reality, we have to make judgments everyday; judgments are not always easy to make, but they are necessary.

We have to keep in mind that judgments are not only negative; we also make positive judgments. When we choose something or some course of action above another, we are saying that it is better than the other possibilities. When we give an award to someone, we are saying that we judge them to have done well. In the Parable today, Our Lord gives two examples of positive judgments before the negative one. Sometimes we can forget the positive judgments and focus solely on the negative, but if we forget focus only on the third servant and forget the first two, we will have a distorted notion of judgment. The first servant, who had received five talents, and the second servant, who had received two talents, both came to their master and said: you gave me these talents, see what I have done with them: I have doubled them. Those servants knew that they used the talents given to them well and they were proud of their accomplishment. They did not fear having to make a report to their master; they did not fear his judgment because they knew that their master would be pleased by their actions. And the master praised them: well done, good and faithful servants, share in your master’s joy.

When we do well, we like being praised for it. When a student gets a good report card, or when a sports team brings home the trophy, that is a judgment: it is a judgment that that person, or that team has done well what they set out to do. They excelled: they exhibited excellence. Only when we know that we have done poorly do we dread judgment. The servant who did not use his talent well, knew that he did not make good use of what his master gave to him: and as a result, he feared his master’s judgment.

Notice that all three servants were judged based on what they had been given. Each of the three freely received the talents according to his ability, and each was expected to do something based on what was received. Each servant was given what he needed to succeed; even the servant who only received one talent could have been successful, if he had been a faithful servant. Everything that we have that is good has come to us from the hand of the Lord. God has given us all the gifts that we have for our own enjoyment, but also so that we can build up His Kingdom. Each one of us has freely received and we will all be judged based on what we have done or not done with the gifts that we have received. We all have what we need to labor faithfully in the vineyard of the Lord: the question is whether we will use the gifts we have received wisely, or will we squander them.

It is good to examine our hearts: to ask ourselves what we have done with the gifts that God has entrusted to us. God has given us the gift of life: every breath is a gift from God. We can ask ourselves: What have we done with our lives? Have we lived good lives? Do we strive to put God first? Do I try to love our neighbor, or do I always put myself first? Have I tried to imitate Christ? As a Christian, I am supposed to be a follower of Christ: to follow Christ means to imitate Him. Have I tried to develop the virtues?
Besides the gift of life, we have also received many spiritual and material blessings. I have to ask myself: am I attached to material things? In other words: do material things hold the first place in my heart: are they more important to me than other people; are they more important to me than my relationship with God?
God has given each one of us many spiritual blessings: we have been given the gift of faith: we are able to know and love God because He has revealed Himself to us through Sacred Scripture and through His Church. Have we studied Scripture? How well do we know our Catholic Faith? Do we try to learn about our faith/do we study and pray with Scripture? Are we able to share our faith with others/are we able to defend our Catholic Faith? Our Lord said that we are to be light in the world: we are to help others come to know and love God and His Church.

God has given us access to His grace: He shares His divine life with us through the Sacraments. Do we appreciate these gifts and receive them with reverence and devotion? Do we do what we can to prepare our hearts to receive the Sacraments worthily? Do we thank God after we have received Him in Holy Communion; do we thank God after we have received Absolution in the Sacrament of Confession?

These are some of the talents (some of the gifts) that we have received from God. It is good for us to remember that one day we will be called upon to give an account of how we have used those gifts. Let us use well the gifts that God has given to us: if we do, we will have no fear of God’s judgment. Let use the gifts that we have received in a way that deserves praise: may we live our lives in such a way that when we come to the end of our journey, we may hear Our Lord say to us: well done, good and faithful servant: share in your Master’s joy.

Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 6, 2011

In the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass there is a line addressed to God which says: “We do well always and everywhere to give You thanks”. Each and every week at Mass the priest says to you: “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” And you respond each week: “It is right to give Him thanks and praise.” “It is right” . . . in other words, you are saying that it is a matter of justice: it is the right thing to do to offer God our thanks and our praise. Then the priest says that we do well always and everywhere to give God thanks: always and everywhere.

Our hearts were made for God. Many things in this world can easily come between us and Our Lord, but that is not the way that we were made: we were made for union with God. He is the source of our life: He shares His divine life with us; and He is our ultimate goal. We were created to be with God forever in Heaven. In order to attain our goal, we have to follow God faithfully. We are commanded to love God above all things. God does not take away our free will, we are perfectly free to choose God or choose to turn away from God, but when we turn away from God by sin we turn away from the very purpose of our existence and if we turn our backs on God, we turn our backs on true happiness, peace and joy.

In today’s Gospel, Saint Peter walked on the water. When we meditate on this Gospel passage we might be tempted to only think about the fact that Our Lord saved Saint Peter from drowning, but we should also think about the fact that before he turned his attention away from the Lord, Saint Peter walked on the water. Saint Peter did what is humanly impossible, so long as he kept his trust fixed on Jesus. Only when he wavered and lost that trust did he begin to sink.

Walking with Our Lord, putting all of our trust and hope in Him, does not mean that there will not be storms in our lives. Yet the strength to weather the storms comes from the Lord. While Saint Peter was walking on the water there was a strong wind, there were probably waves and he was outside of the boat. When he shifted his attention away from the Lord and became fearful, he began to sink. Of course as soon as he called out to the Lord, the Lord immediately stretched out His hand to save Saint Peter. We should learn from Saint Peter and try to put all of our confidence in God. When we begin to fall, we should call out to Our Lord immediately.
Those words of the Preface teach us an important lesson: we do well always and everywhere to give God thanks and praise. We need to keep God at the center of our lives. When we fail to keep God in mind, we tend to sink into our difficulties. The storms of our lives can overwhelm us if we forget to seek the Lord’s assistance. When we focus on the storm, instead of on God, we lose hope and become fearful. We need to learn to trust God. We should get into the habit of recalling God’s presence to our minds often throughout the day. God is always present to us, we are just rarely aware of it. If we could get into the habit of turning our attention to Him, thanking Him, praising Him, calling upon His assistance throughout the day, focusing on Him during the storms would come that much more naturally to us.

Recognizing God’s presence in our lives takes practice. God does not usually communicate to us in loud, dramatic ways. Our first reading today illustrates this point: Elijah was in a cave on mount Horeb and was told that the Lord would be passing by. There was a strong and heavy wind, which was crushing rocks; there was an earthquake and a fire; yet the Lord was not in those things. The Lord appeared to Elijah in a gentle, whispering breeze. Many times we do not recognize God’s presence in our lives because we are too busy to notice. God speaks in the silence: He does not usually force His way into our chaos: He waits for us to quiet ourselves down before He speaks to our hearts. Often, we can recognize God at work in our lives when we look back on various things that have happened to us. If we practice being mindful of God, if we practice living in His presence, we will begin to recognize Him more and more. He is always with us: let us try to be more aware of Him.

Lord Jesus Christ, we know that you are with us always. Help us, Lord, to be more mindful of You throughout the day. Give us the grace to remember to call upon You often and give you thanks always and everywhere. Amen.

Homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 1, 2011

In today’s Gospel we hear of the miraculous feeding of the five thousand from five loaves of bread and a two fish. This miracle performed by Our Lord teaches us a few things: it reminds us of God’s loving Providence. God provides all that we need: physically, as well as spiritually. We may not receive everything that we want, we may not receive everything in the way that we want, but God does provide for us: He pours out His blessings upon us in great abundance and we owe Him our gratitude. Saint Paul reminds us that everything that we have that is good comes to us from the hand of God: and if we stop and reflect upon it, we have many good things in our lives. Indeed God provides for us in abundance. God wants us to have abundant life: here and in the life of the world to come. This super-abundant generosity of God is symbolized in today’s Gospel by the amount of food left over after the multitude had been fed: all ate and were satisfied and there were twelve baskets of fragments left over.

The multiplication of the loaves was also a prefigurment of the greatest of all gifts that Our Lord has ever given to us: the gift of the Holy Eucharist. Just as Our Lord provided physical food for the people in the wilderness, Our Lord He gives Himself to us as spiritual Food for our journey to our heavenly homeland. God does not abandon us to walk alone in this valley of tears, but He provides spiritual sustenance for us: He walks with us. We receive from the altar the Author of all grace: and Our Lord desires to pour out abundant graces into our souls each time we receive Him in Holy Communion. Grace is our share in God’s own divine life: grace gives us the strength, the courage, and the wisdom to be able to love as we were created to love. The graces that we actually receive from Holy Communion are only limited by our openness to receive His grace. The more we free our hearts from sin and open ourselves to receive grace, the more grace we will receive. The thing that keeps us back from becoming Saints is our unwillingness to surrender ourselves completely to God.

We are, at times, tempted to think that if we lived in other circumstances that we would become holy. Sanctity is not achieved by doing great things, we become holy by doing the little, day-to-day things in a great way: with great love. Do not wish that your circumstances were different so that you could become a Saint, become a Saint in the midst of your circumstances. By faithfully fulfilling our daily duties in life, out of love for God and love for others, we will grow in holiness. It is not a question of how much we are able to give Our Lord, it is a question of giving to Our Lord all that we have and all that we are and all that we do: however great or insignificant we think that offering is. The disciples in today’s Gospel gave Our Lord five loaves of bread and two fish. That little amount of food was next to nothing compared with the size of the crowd that needed to be fed. Yet they gave Our Lord all that they had and He was able to use it. When we do all the little things that we do out of love for God, our lives will become very pleasing to Him and He will make great use of all that we offer to Him for our own good and for the good of others.

There are many discouraging things in our culture around us these days. Perhaps you have family members or loved ones who are suffering. Perhaps you are carrying a heavy cross. Whenever we are faced with trials, especially trials or sufferings that are borne for many years, we might be tempted to become discouraged. Do not give in to despair: do not waste time worrying, and worry is a waste of time: it does not achieve anything. Do you want to see things around you changed? Pray, root sin out of your life, offer yourself completely to God, Who gave His Son for you. Be leaven in the world. It only takes a small amount of yeast to leaven an entire loaf of bread: it only took twelve un-educated men from Galilee to change the entire world. Perhaps you are thinking that you are not called to be an Apostle to the nations. That is probably true, but you are called by God to fulfill your place in the mystical Body of Christ. Sin is not merely a personal reality: sin has a negative effect on the entire mystical body; the same is true of holiness. Your personal sin or holiness has an effect that goes well beyond you: whether you are aware of that fact or not. We are all called to holiness; we are all called to give everything (all that we are and all that we have) to Jesus Christ. He will do the rest. Let us offer ourselves wholly and completely to Him: not holding anything back and let us put all of our hope and all of our trust in Him.

Lord Jesus Christ, You completely poured Yourself out upon the Cross for us and You give us Yourself to us in Holy Communion. Give us hearts that are open to receive all the graces that you desire to give us in Holy Communion today. Help us to imitate You and pour ourselves out for You and for others. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, on fire with love, enkindle our hearts with love. Amen.

Back from retreat

July 25, 2011

A retreat is a great opportunity to get away and spend time with the Lord. I was on retreat last week and just returned to the parish yesterday. The retreat was a very prayerful time and I was able to catch up on some needed rest.