Friday, August 31, 2007

Homily: 21st Sunday of the Year

Isaiah 66:18-21
Psalms 117:1, 2
Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13
Luke 13:22-30

Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever. Amen.

Jesus passed through towns and villages…making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him,“Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them,“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.

1. I find it very providential that this Gospel comes after last weeks Gospel in which Jesus very frankly and honestly says talks about how His teachings will bring division; that it will cause people to disagree. This disagreement has been seen throughout History as we as Catholics try to bring all people to the truth and the joy which is found in being Catholic. This disagreement and tension naturally comes to a point where the question asked in today’s gospel must be asked. “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”

2. I know that after last week’s homily many in our Parish Family have been discussing and pondering a very similar version of the same question. Is it this: Is it only Catholics who can be saved? Does the Church rally believe that a person must be Catholic to go to heaven? It’s a good topic of discussion, something that Christians have been grappling with ever since the first division within the Church so many centuries ago. So for us to grapple with the same question is normal and even healthy. It makes us think. It makes us examine our beliefs, and it makes us ask another very important question, which I suspect is what the questioner in our gospel was really asking. I don’t think he really wanted to know how many people would be saved. I think what he really wanted to ask was “Lord, will I be saved?” This question too is a very important question; in some senses it is an even more important question than the first, because before we begin speculating about whether others will be saved we should take a good look at ourselves, and ask ourselves if we are doing everything we can do to make sure that we will be saved. What a pity it would be if we were so concerned about condemning others for their sins that we forget to work on our own sins. What a pity it would be if on judgment day the Lord did not recognize us, as he did not recognize the man in the Gospel parable.

3. The question about whether or not someone who is not Catholic can be saved is a very delicate question; one that can cause a lot of tension within communities and within families, but even so it is one that must be addressed. Sometimes we need to confront these difficult questions head on and without fear, trusting in God and knowing that ultimately He is guiding the Church.

4. So, is there salvation outside of the Church? Can someone who is not Catholic go to heaven? The teaching of the Church is very clear. As a wonderful article from a magazine entitled This Rock says in explaining the Church’s teaching “Extra ecclesiam, nulla salus (Latin for “Outside the Church there is no salvation) does not mean that only faithful Roman Catholics can be saved. The Church has never taught that.” In fact, the Church has taught quite the contrary.

5. The Church, from the very early centuries of the Church has believed what we find in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. The Catechism states that “Every man who is ignorant of the gospel of Christ and of his Church but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it can be saved.” So clearly, someone who does not know and understand that the Catholic Church is the path that God has willed for our Salvation cannot be held accountable for not choosing that path. They can be saved. This certainly applies to our protestant brothers and sisters who, through no fault of their own, do not understand and know that Jesus founded the Catholic Church specifically to be the door to eternal life. They can be saved. It would be unreasonable to say anything otherwise, and God, by His very nature is reasonable.

6. At the same time, however, the Church also teaches that one who knows and understands that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ to be the path to heaven, and having that knowledge, still chooses to reject the Church cannot be saved, because they are consciously and deliberately choosing something they know to be contrary to God’s will. The Second Vatican Council affirms this when she says “They cannot be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or remain in it.”

7. So, can someone who is not Catholic be saved and go to heaven. Absolutely! Do we still want them to become Catholic? Absolutely! Even though it is possible find Salvation outside the Church, why not find it within the Church? Why not find Salvation in the best way possible, with the assistance and aid of the Holy Eucharist, The Sacrament of Penance, and the other Sacraments? As I said last week, we have a great gift in the Catholic Church, we have an assurance of grace and forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance, we have the real presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, we have the assurance from Christ Himself that the gates of hell will not prevail against us. Why would we not want others to have what we have? Why not do what we can to help our friends and family members to experience what we experience?

8. My brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus desires all men to be saved, from the most ardent atheist to the most devout Catholic. Today as we gather as one family in Christ, let us ask our Eucharist Lord to give us the grace and strength to do everything in our power to achieve our own salvation and to bring others to know that same salvation so that one day, as one body in Christ, we will stand before the throne of God in Heaven and forever sing His praises.

Heart of Jesus, house of God and gate of heaven, have mercy on us.
Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us.
St. Rose, faithful daughter of the Church, pray for us. Amen.

N.B. Since this homily has the potential for rude and uncharitable comments I have decided to close comments for this post. If you have a constructive comment to make please e-mail it to and if appropriate I will post it.

Homily: 20th Sunday of the Year

Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10
Psalms 40:2, 3, 4, 18
Hebrews 12:1-4
Luke 12:49-53

Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever. Amen.

“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!”

1. My brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus has come to set the world on fire. He has come to set you and me on fire with His love and His truth, and not only you and me, but each and every person who walks the face of the earth. He wants the whole world to be set ablaze with Love for Him. It is clear through the gospel reading that this is the greatest desire of Jesus “Oh” he says “how I wish it were already blazing!” Those are passionate words from a passionate man. His passion, His desire is that all – not just some - would come to Love Him. But in order to love Him, we must know Him and know His teachings. But those teachings, as we know, can be a cause great division. All we have to do is look at the History of the Church or at the current religious atmosphere throughout the world and we will see division – division caused a failure by some to accept the teachings of Christ.

2. In today’s gospel Jesus is very realistic about the division that will come about as a result of His teachings. “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?” He says. “No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

3. These words seem contrary to what many people think about Jesus and about Christianity. There are many in our world that hold the belief that Jesus came to bring peace and harmony, to help everyone get along, to make everyone happy. Surely, if – and that’s a pretty big if - everyone embraced the teachings of Jesus there would be peace and harmony, everyone would get along, and certainly everyone would be happy, but Jesus lives in reality. He knows that this peace and harmony can not fully happen in this life, but only in the next. We can move toward it, but it will never be fully achieved here on earth. Jesus knew that because of sin many would chose not to follow Him and His teachings, and thus there would be division. From the time of Jesus to our own time there has been one division after another. The most prominent division being the division between the Church Christ founded, the Catholic Church, and our Protestant brothers and sisters.

4. For a number of years now there has been a strong movement toward Ecumenism, towards unity among Christians. It is a movement encouraged by the Church, but commonly misunderstood.

5. The goal of authentic ecumenism is not that the Catholic Church changes Her teachings and practice in order to make non-Catholics more comfortable. Rather, according to the Second Vatican Council, true Ecumenism is to restore unity by helping non-Catholics to come to understand the truths of the faith and to bring them into unity with the one and only Catholic Church (UR 24). In more simple and straightforward terms, we are called to help them come home to the one true Church. Pope John Paul II, one of the greatest promoters of Ecumenism, assured the world in many of his documents that full communion between Catholics and non-Catholics “will have to come about through the acceptance of the whole truth into which the Holy Spirit guides Christ’s disciples” (UUS 36). And where is that truth to be found? The Second Vatican Council’s answer is this: “It is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone…that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained” (UR 3).

6. We, as Catholics must be clear. There is a difference between Catholics and Protestants. Yes, we have many things in common. Yes, we both are Christians. But the Catholic Church and she alone, is the Church founded by Christ. The Catholic Church and she alone has the fullness of truth and speaks with the authority of Christ himself. The Catholic Church, and she alone has the fullness of Sacramental life. It is only through acknowledging these truths, and living them fully in our lives that we will be set on fire, and draw others into that same fire of Love.

7. At this point many of us may be thinking that the Church seems kind of full of herself, kind of prideful in saying that She has the fullness of truth, in saying that She is the Church founded by Christ, and that everyone should unite themselves to the Catholic Church. Yes, sometimes it may come across this way, but that is not the Church’s intention. The Church teaches these things out of humility, realizing that She has been given a great gift.

8. My brothers and sisters, we are greatly privileged to be Catholic. We have been given a great gift. We, unlike our protestant brothers and sisters, are able to receive the very body of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. We are able to visit Jesus day and night in our tabernacles. We are able to know the forgiveness of sins in the Sacrament of Penance. We don’t want our non-catholic brothers and sisters to join us merely out of pride, but out of a desire for them to be able to experience the joy we experience in being Catholic. We want them to be Catholic because it is an awesome privilege to be Catholic, not because it will build up our ego.

9. Today we come before our Eucharistic Lord grateful for the gift of our Catholic faith. So grateful in fact, that we desire everyone to have what we have. In the midst of that gratefulness, however, our hearts are heavy because we realize that not everyone has what we have; that there is division, because, sadly, some choose to divide themselves from the one true flock– the Church. Let us pray for them that they may be set on fire with love for Christ and His Church and will one day join us. Let us also pray for ourselves, that our Love for Christ and His Church may increase. That we will never take for granted the great gift which has been given to us in the Church, the Sacraments, and the teachings of Christ.

Heart of Jesus, burning furnace of charity, have mercy on us.
Mary, mother of the Church, pray for us.
St. Rose, ardently zealous for the salvation of souls, pray for us. Amen.

N.B. Since this homily has the potential for rude and uncharitable comments I have decided to close comments for this post. If you have a constructive comment to make please e-mail it to and if appropriate I will post it.

Slow Posting...

Sorry things have been a bit slow around here lately...I haven't even been keeping up with homily postings as of late, but before the end of the day I hope to have a few up.