After recieving a stern talking to by a number of my readers for not posting my homilies regularly I have finally gotten around to posting a few. You can see them below.
Also, please keep me in your prayers as I will be doing a fair amount of traveling around in the next couple of weeks. Tomorrow I am taking four high school students to visit the Seminary in Fargo. On Sunday night I will be at our Diocesan Retreat Center for a newer clergy gathering. On Monday I leave for Denver to pay a visit to our seminarians studying there, and then on May 11th, I leave for a the first week in a series of nine weeks of study in giving Spiritual Direction. So please pray for my sanity (which is always a concern), for my parish as I will be away from it alot in the next couple of weeks, for the men discerning a vocation, and for safe travel.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
“You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises’ of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. This has been a significant week for us as Catholics in the United States. Our Shepherd, Pope Benedict XVI, has come to our country to bring to us the message of Christ, who as today’s Gospel says, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; the only way for us to reach the Father and His kingdom in Heaven. Truly, as the Holy Father has repeated over and over this week, Christ is our Hope, it is He who can give us the hope of eternal life.
2. The Holy Father has also, on a number of occasions during his time in the United States, called upon all Catholics, and especially the laity, to be a “leaven in society.” In speaking to the Bishops of the United States the Holy Father called upon the Bishops to work toward “the gradual opening of the minds and hearts of the wider community to moral truth.” He went on to say that “Crucial in this regard is the role of the lay faithful to act as a ‘leaven’ in society.” This call is based in part upon the fact that all members of the Church are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own.” Because of this status we are called to “announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Flowing from our status as God’s Children, as His people, as sharers in His Holy Priesthood we are given the mission and the mandate of “announcing the praises” of Jesus among our fellow people; to be a “leaven in society.”
3. Many of us have had the experience of making bread from scratch and so we naturally understand what leaven, or yeast, does to the dough. It causes it to rise, it causes it to grow and spread. This is what we are called to do in society, we are called to spread the faith among those around us so that faith and hope in Jesus will cause society to rise toward heaven, it will cause the faith to spread and grow throughout the world. As the Second Vatican Council pointed out, it is the duty of all of the faithful, not just priests or religious, to carry this out. In fact, the spreading of the gospel throughout society is primarily the duty of the laity, because you can do it in a way that I as a priest could never do. The fact of the matter is that when a priest walks into a room it gets quiet, when a priest sits down at a table it puts a damper on the conversation – something that probably wouldn’t happen when most of you do these same things. You, as laity, are in a better position to evangelize your friends and coworkers than I am. As Pope John Paul said when he visited our country in 1987 “Primarily through her laity, the Church is in a position to exercise great influence upon American Culture.”
4. In the mind of the Church, it is the duty of priests to form the faithful, to teach the people entrusted to his care the truths of the faith so that they in turn can share it with those around them – to evangelize their family, their friends, their co-workers, and thus be a “leaven in society.” For too long society has been changing the Church, when if fact it should be the other way around. The Church is called to change society, to be a leaven within it, causing it to rise heavenward.
5. But lets be honest, the fact of the matter is that most Catholics are hesitant to speak up and share their faith, even with some of their closest friends. As Bishop Robert Carlson, the Bishop of Saginaw and our former Bishop, recently said in his Pastoral Letter on Evangelization “When we find a good restaurant we want to share it with our friends, and we do. When we hear a good song we want to share it with our friends, and we do. When we see a good movie or read a good book or find a good recipe we want to share it with our friends, and we do. The good diffuses itself. The good wants to be shared, and anyone who resists the desire to share it is rightly called selfish.” He goes on to say “It’s a curious fact about many Catholics, however, that there is one good thing what we are reluctant to share: the good news of faith in Jesus Christ. For one reason or another, our culture tells us that it is selfish to keep good things to ourselves, but rude to share the good news of Jesus Christ. And, for one reason or another, we have grown comfortable with this double standard. We have believed what our culture has told us.”
6. My dear parish family, it is time for us to step up to the plate and begin to play ball. It’s time for us to be a “leaven in society.” It is time for us to change society instead of it changing us.
7. But how? That is a good question. The first and most important step is for us to become friends with Christ our hope. We, if we want to change society, must begin by changing ourselves. We cannot share a faith that we do not have. So we must begin by deepening our relationship with Jesus. We do this primarily through prayer. Prayer, especially prayer in the presence of Jesus present in the tabernacle, is where we meet the risen Lord and grow in our friendship with Him. “Oh, but Father, I don’t have time to pray,” you might be thinking. Horse feathers! Every Catholic has time to pray. We have time to watch sports on TV, we have time to drive all over the country side to go hunting or fishing, we have time to go to sporting events and to go shopping, we have time to sit at the bar and shoot the breeze, but we don’t have time to pray? Yes, we have a lot of very good things to do, but we have nothing better to do than to spend time with Jesus in prayer.
8. I think a great way to move closer to our Lord would be to commit ourselves to a few things, that even with our busy schedules, we should be able to fit into our day. First, we need to come to Mass every Sunday without fail, and maybe even try to get to daily Mass once in a while too. Daily Mass can be a great help in our growth in holiness because the more we feed on the body and blood of Jesus the more strength we will have to fight against sin. Second, we should frequent the Sacrament of Penance. When people ask me how often they should confess I tell them that if they are serious about growing in holiness, and I assume all of us are, that they should go to confession at least once a month. The more frequently we are able to receive the forgiveness and strength that comes from the Sacrament the easier it will be to grow. As Pope Benedict said in his homily on Thursday “to a great extent, the renewal of the Church in America and throughout the world depends on the renewal of the practice of Penance and the growth in holiness which that sacrament both inspires and accomplishes.” Third, we should spend a few minutes every day slowly reading the New Testament, particularly the Gospels. This will help us to know Jesus through reading and interiorizing what he did and said. Fourth, we should pray the Holy Rosary or at least part of it every day. Our Blessed Mother always leads us to her Divine Son, and spending time with her will certainly help us to grow in friendship with Jesus. A perfect time for this devotion is while we are driving. I know that many of us commute to work every day and that can be a perfect opportunity to pray the rosary.
9. These few things, if we make the effort to do them consistently can change our lives and help us to know Jesus, to become so close to Him that we could honestly say that He is our best friend. By knowing Christ, by being His best friend, by possessing this great good we will want to share it with others, we will want to share the good we have with those around us. When we do this we will truly be living out our vocation to “announce the praises” of God; to be a “leaven in society” and thus change it from within into a civilization of love and peace where all people live in hope, for all will know and love Christ who is our only hope.
Jesus, risen from the tomb, have mercy on us.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, star of the new evangelization, pray for us.
St. Rose, pray for us.
The Shepherd “walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
1. On my recent trip to the Holy Land one of the things that was a common sight as we were traveling through the rolling hills surrounding Jerusalem was the sight of shepherds and their sheep. To a large extent the shepherds of Israel that live in the hill country still lead the same life they did at the time of Jesus. They literally live with the sheep, they lead them through the hills to verdant pastures, they lead them to water, they protect them from predators, and they lead them to shelter when night falls.
2. I find it amazing that in today’s Gospel reading our Blessed Lord was able to draw on something so familiar and so common with those who were listening to Him in order to explain them His relationship with the Church He would found, and the role of the leaders of that Church in relation to the members of the Church.
3. There is one particular image that Jesus uses in this Gospel that I would like to expound on and relate to our current situation in the Church and in the world.
4. During the time of Jesus, and indeed still today, when night falls in the fields the shepherds gather their individual flocks in to one large sheepfold and then the shepherds take turns keeping guard while the rest would sleep. In the morning all the shepherds return and enter the sheepfold and call out to their sheep, and the sheep recognize the voice of their particular shepherd and they follow him out to green pastures. Jesus draws upon this image in order to teach us the importance of being able to recognize the voice of the Shepherd, the voice of Christ among all the various voices that we hear every day.
Mary 5. We all know from experience that there are so many voices out there telling us what to do and how to think. All we have to do is turn on the TV and the talking heads and spin doctors are blabbering on about this and that. Interspersed with them there are an endless stream of commercials trying to convince us to buy this or go to that or to vote for this person. When we turn on the radio, we hear even more voices. We drive down the highway and there are billboards inviting us to visit various places of business or to go to some event. Everywhere we turn there are voices, all trying to lead us somewhere, but not all are the voice of the Good Shepherd, not all are the voice of Christ, and sometime it is hard to tell which one is which.
6. Even within the Christian community there are many voices all claiming to be the voice of Christ. Take for instance the issue of Abortion. There are many church communities that will say abortion is morally acceptable, there are some who will say it acceptable is certain situations, there are some who even actively promote its use, and then there are those who say it is wrong in each and every circumstance no matter what. Now lets be honest; they can’t all be right. Either it is Christian to be apposed to abortion, or it is not…it can’t be both. So, which one is the voice of Christ? How do we distinguish His voice from all the others? It’s a tough question, but believe it or not, it has an easy answer.
7. Jesus, being reasonable and realistic, knew that at times it would be hard for us to know His voice and so He provided for us sure guides. He provided us with living, breathing shepherds to guide His flock on His behalf. He also provided that those shepherds would be given the constant and never failing guidance of the Holy Spirit so that they would always speak the voice of Christ to us in matters of faith and morals. Who are these shepherds? Who are these people who have the gift of speaking with the very voice and words of the Good Shepherd? They are the Pope and the Bishops who are united to him. The Pope and Bishops, and only the Pope and Bishops have been entrusted with the unique gift of speaking with the very words and authority of Christ. The buck stops with them. They have the final word on all matters of faith and morals, and we know from Sacred Scripture that the final word spoken by the Pope and the Bishops in union with Him are inspired by the Holy Spirit and because of that, their final word on matters of faith and morals cannot be wrong.
8. So there you have it, a sure guide for distinguishing one voice from another. We know that the voices that speak words that match the voice of our Shepherd, the Pope, are from the Lord, and those that do not, are from the evil one. As Jesus Himself said, they are “thieves and robbers.” As St. Josemaria Escriva said “Christ has given His Church sureness in doctrine and a fountain of grace in the sacraments. He has arranged things so that there will always be people to guide and lead us, to remind us constantly of our way.”
9. You know, some will say that this sort of belief is oppressive, and that it is a way that the Church uses to keep tight control over people, a way that keeps Catholics from thinking for themselves, but if we look at it honestly, we see that it is a great act of Love from Christ. He loved us so much that He didn’t want to leave us without a guide; He didn’t want to leave us without someone to keep us on the straight and narrow way that leads to life.
10. The other evening I was watching a little TV and I came across a program about a man who is dying of cancer. This man has three small children, and as became abundantly clear, are the apple of his eye. He said that his greatest suffering is not the pain of the cancer or the knowledge that he is going to die, but rather, that he will not be around to keep his children on the straight and narrow, that he won’t be able to be a guide for them. I think that would be on the mind of any father who has young children and is nearing death.
11. Wouldn’t it be great if this father could somehow give someone his thoughts and his voice to speak to his children, to guide them, to keep them on the straight and narrow? Well Jesus, in his love for us actually provided for this in the person of the Pope and the Bishops united to Him. They, as the shepherds of the Church guide us and keeps us on the straight and narrow way that leads to life.
12. We, as citizens of the United States are being given a great gift this coming week. Our Shepherd, the man who speaks with the voice and authority of Jesus the Good Shepherd, is coming to speak to us, to teach us, to guide us on the path of life. Our Shepherd is coming. I hope we are listening. I hope we have ears to hear His message, a message in which he will bring us “Christ our Hope.” The Holy Father, in a video message to the United States earlier this week, said that he “…shall come to United States of America as Pope for the first time, to proclaim this great truth: Jesus Christ is hope for men and women of every language, race, culture and social condition. Yes, Christ is the face of God present among us. Through him, our lives reach fullness, and together, both as individuals and peoples, we can become a family united by fraternal love, according to the eternal plan of God the Father.”
13. I encourage all of us to watch as much coverage of his visit as we can. But beware… there are many wolves in sheep’s clothing. We all know the media is rather anti-Catholic, and many will take every opportunity to distort the words of the Holy Father. I recommend watching EWTN’s coverage which certainly will provide good coverage and commentary that is faithful to the Holy Father and the message he seeks to bring us.
14. I encourage all of us to listen to his homilies and speeches as well as watch his actions. Pope Benedict, in a particular way, has a great gift for teaching not only with his words, but also with his actions, by how he celebrates the Holy Mass, by what kind of vestments he wears, by his very demeanor. So we need to open our eyes as well as our ears so that we can learn from our shepherd the way that Christ marks out for us. With our shepherd, Pope Benedict in the lead, let us all turn toward the Lord and make our way to heaven our eternal destiny: the eternal verdant pasture where there are restful waters and joy beyond compare.
Acts of the Apostles 2:14, 22-33 (46A)
Psalms 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
1 Peter 1:17-21
Psalms 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
1 Peter 1:17-21
Jesus asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?”
1. Our gospel today is one that we have certainly heard many times and almost always we associate it with the Holy Eucharist, and certainly that is very fitting. As the gospel relates, they were not able to see that this stranger was Jesus until they recognized Him in the breaking of the bread, in the Holy Eucharist. This gospel is a clear reminder for us of our belief that Jesus is truly and substantially present in the Holy Eucharist. He lives, day and night, in the tabernacle waiting for us to share our time with Him, the very time that He has given to us as a gift.
2. But today, I am not going to give my homily on the Eucharist. Instead, we will focus on how important it is for us to encounter Christ, to meet this Man and come to know Him, and to grow in friendship with Him so that we can truly be people of hope.
3. In our gospel we see two disciples of Jesus leaving Jerusalem on the evening of Easter Sunday totally disillusioned by what has happened. As the scriptures say they were “downcast.” These two men had nearly lost all hope, they were beginning to feel as though their life has no meaning anymore, and that all they had hoped for had not happened. In many ways, I think we could say that these two men were us; the emotions they felt at that moment are feelings that we have felt at times during our lives.
4. As they are walking along in this sad condition a stranger joins them, someone they did not recognize, and this man asks them what they are discussing along the way. When they heard this question, the men stop in their tracks, look at this stranger and say “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” The disciples are bewildered that there is anyone who doesn’t know what’s going on in the world. Their very posture shows their absolute bewilderment – how many times have we done the same thing while walking and talking with someone when the person we are with says something that doesn’t make sense. We stop in our track, look at them, and say “What are you talking about.” This is exactly the experience that these men had on that road.
5. Then Jesus, in His compassion and love says to them “What sort of things? He invites them to open their hearts to Him. He invites them to express what is in their hearts; all the raw emotions, all the anger, all the pain and sorrow, and all the confusion. The disciples respond in kind…they open up their hearts and let it all out… “…..”
6. After these men honestly and openly reveal their hearts to Jesus He begins the process of bringing them healing; He begins to explain everything that had happened and why it had to be this way. He brings them peace and He brings them hope.
7. So many of us struggle, we struggle with the bad things that happen in our lives. At one time or another in our lives we, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, have had our hopes dashed. The words they say we could say ourselves. How many times have we said “I had hoped it would have been different…I had hoped that my children would have been faithful to the church, I had hoped my kids would have stayed out of trouble, I had hoped my spouse would not have cheated, I had hoped I wouldn’t have gotten sick, I had hoped he wouldn’t have died…I had hoped…I had hoped…I had hoped…
8. In the midst of those hurts and pains Jesus says to us, like He said the disciples, tell me what’s going on in your lives. And if we open up as did the disciples, if we lay it all out on the table, Jesus will begin to heal us. He will, in deep prayer, begin to help us to deal with the pain in our lives, and like the disciples soon our hearts will begin to burn within us, they will begin to burn with love for our friend, Jesus Christ. All friendship requires that we open ourselves up to the other, and the same is true of Jesus. He wants us to open our hearts to Him, to share our joys and sorrows, our hopes and our fears. Only when we allow ourselves to do this, when we open our hearts and whatever is in there, both good and bad, will we be able to grow in friendship with Christ.
9. Many times people come to priests to talk about their sorrows, about how their hopes have been dashed, and I always try to ask them if they have shared these things with our Lord in prayer. Many times they then say they are angry with the Lord, and they are surprised to hear me tell them that they should tell the Lord they are angry. I think so many of us have been taught that we shouldn’t be angry with God, and we certainly shouldn’t express that anger to God, but you know what. We should. The disciples on the road to Emmaus did, and they found hope and peace through that sort of prayerful honesty with God.
10. Jesus doesn’t want us to pretend things are just hunky dory when they are not. He wants us to open our heart to Him with all the anger and fear and pain that might be there…so don’t be afraid to let Him have it if that’s what’s on your mind. Jesus is a true friend who wants you to express your true feelings to Him in prayer, He wants you to cry on his shoulder. He is like the little boy whose friend, Tommy, died in a horrible tragedy. A few days after the funeral the little boy decided to visit his Tommy’s house and say hello to Tommy’s mom. The little boy came home a long time later and his mother asked him where he had been all this time and what he had been doing. The little boy responded “All afternoon I sat on Tommy’s moms lap and helped her cry.” Jesus, our friend, can help us cry, He can help us deal with all the tough things that happen in our lives, but we have to open our hearts to him in prayer… so go for it…tell Him what’s on your mind…I promise He will respond with healing and peace.
Heart of Jesus, our peace and reconciliation, have mercy on us.
Our Lady of Mercy, pray for us.
St. Rose, pray for us. Amen.