17 December 2005

Homily - 18 December 2005

Many may be surprised today to hear the Gospel account of the Annunciation. It is the story that we have heard frequently in the past few weeks and rightly so. While Advent calls us to anticipate and to prepare for the second coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King when he will gather the nations to himself and judge all peoples, Advent also calls us to look back to Bethlehem and to see the birth of Christ the Lord. How fitting it is, then, that today, just one week before we celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord that we hear the Archangel Gabriel say to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

In this last week of Advent, the Scripture readings invite us to be more passive with the Lord, to allow the Lord to prepare our hearts for his coming, to allow him to shape us and mold us and fashion us. Such passivity, though, is very difficult because it requires that we abandon ourselves and surrender to the workings of the Holy Spirit. We can longer seek to control and direct our lives, but must humbly turn to the Lord and follow his lead.

David, in the reading from the Second Book of Samuel, and Mary, from the Gospel of Luke, represent for us two possible ways to approach this last week of Advent, one beneficial and the other not.

King David, the second of the kings of Israel and the greatest of the kings, as well, looks around at his surroundings and sees how very far he has come through the will of the Lord. David was anointed by Samuel to be the King while he was just a lowly shepherd, a handsome young man, but otherwise seemingly lacking in any qualities or characteristics that would suit him as King. But there was one quality that David possessed that was not readily apparent: he had a deep love of the Lord.

It was this love of the Lord that helped David to write a great many of the Psalms. It was this love that allowed David to put his trust in the Lord and this same love allowed him to repent and to ask the Lord for forgiveness and mercy when he sinned, and he sinned greatly. David was a great sinner, but he was also a holy King, because he always tried to do as the Lord asked of him and he always repented of his sins. We would all do well to follow his example.

As David surveyed his kingdom he cried out to the prophet Nathan, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!” (II Samuel 7:2). Believing this to be a disgrace to the Lord, David decided to build a worthy and fitting temple for him in which to dwell and to house the Ark of the Covenant. But the Lord had other plans and sent Nathan to him, saying, “Should you build me a house to dwell in?” (II Samuel 7:5). It is as if the Lord shows David how ridiculous his idea is. The Lord goes on to say:

It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance” (II Samuel 7:8-10).

When David begins to think that he has accomplished all of his great victories and feats through his own talent and accord, the Lord reminds him that the Lord himself has done all of these things for him; David has done nothing, the Lord has done it all. How, then, could David possibly hope to build a house for the Holy One of Israel?

Like, David, Mary, too, wanted to prepare a house for the Lord, but unlike David, Mary sought to prepare a dwelling for the Lord not physically and externally, but spiritually and internally. Whereas David desired to build a house for the Lord out of wood and stones, Mary desired to build a house for the Lord out of her heart and soul.

Even when Gabriel announced to her the startling and bizarre message, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus,” Mary still wished to carry out her desire (Luke 1:31). But through Mary, the word of the Lord spoken through Nathan would be fulfilled, “I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me” (II Samuel 7:14). Mary would come to realize that when she wanted to allow the Lord to dwell within her spiritually, the Lord would now come to dwell within her physically. What greater marvel could there be? The Creator of all things would be born of his humble creature. At this great message, Mary humbly said to the angel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Mary allowed herself to be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and submitted entirely to the will of God and allowed God to prepare within her a most worthy and fitting temple in which he would dwell. May this be the desire and longing of each of our hearts in this last week of Advent. May we take Mary as our model and follow her loving example.

With her fiat, her yes, to the will of the Lord, Mary abandoned her own will and embraced the will of God for her life and by doing so she gave birth to the Savior and Redeemer of all Creation. Mary allowed the Lord to build his house within her, just as he wishes to do with of us.

The Lord desires to fill each of us with his presence, with his love, with his peace, and with his joy. He will never force us to welcome him but always invites us to welcome his presence, just as he invited Mary, through the words of Gabriel, to take a central place in the history of salvation.

When we, like David, attempt to prepare a dwelling for the Lord through our own initiative and through our own desires, the Lord will correct us as well. He calls us, like Mary, to be passive cooperators with him as he prepares us to receive him into our souls at Christmas and, indeed, every time we receive Holy Communion.

The Lord frequently comes to us and invites us to receive him; he asks us to be molded, shaped, and formed by him. He speaks to us in the depths of our hearts and invites us to cooperate with his grace to conform our lives more and more to that of his Divine Son, who was born of the Virgin Mary for our salvation.

In this last week of our preparations and waiting in joyful hope, may we be open to the workings and urgings of the Spirit and allow him to build a dwelling for the Most High within us. Let us rely entirely upon his love and mercy as we welcome him with great joy and happiness.

“To him who can strengthen you, according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages but now manifested through the prophetic writings and, according to the command of the eternal God, make known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith, to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Romans 16:25-27).

11 December 2005

Homily - 11 December 2005

The Third Sunday of Advent (B)

Gaudéte in Dómino semper: íterum dico gaudéte. Dóminus enim prope est. That is, perhaps better in English: “Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.”

Today is often called “Gaudéte Sunday;” gaudéte simply meaning, “rejoice.” Today is the day for great rejoicing. Today is the day to rejoice because the Lord is near indeed. With his coming so very near, we cannot – if we have faithfully kept watch for him these past two weeks – help but be filled with great joy.

We now begin our third week of waiting and watching with yearning hearts for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ the King because of the promise he has given to us; he will return in his glory for “the one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it” (I Thessalonians 5:24). Our time of preparation is at hand and is now half-completed; we have just two weeks more to wait for him who is near. With Isaiah we all can say,

I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels (Isaiah 61:10).

We have indeed been given the robe of salvation and the mantle of justice; for we, at our baptism, have been clothed with Christ Jesus have become a new creation. Now we wait and yearn for the coming of Christ, the Bridegroom, and long for the day that he will gather his Bride, the Church, into his kingdom when all things will be made new at the great wedding of heaven and earth.

They say, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Very often the common phrases that we throw around when we do not know what else to say do not make a great deal of sense or, in many cases, simply are not true. This cliché, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is not too different from those others; it is true in a certain sense for those who desire to be united again with the one from whom they are separated, but for those who wanted the separation to occur the cliché is false. It is only an unwanted absence that makes the heart grow fonder; a desired absence makes the heart grow cold and cruel.

We know this in our own lives. This is part of what makes the holiday season so very special and meaningful for us. This is the time of year when we visit with our relatives and friends with whom we have not spoken and whom we have not visited in some time. The early winter months are the time of year that we give to others and seek to reconnect with those whom we love. Each year we say we will be better at keeping in touch but rarely do we keep true to this promise. And between those with whom a deep emotional bond is shared, such an absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. The longer we are separated the greater our hope and desire of seeing each other becomes and when finally we are reunited, how great is our joy, because we are now with the one whom we love.

The same should be true of the Lord; his absence should make our hearts grow fonder. And from our experience with those around us, as our love grows and we long to be with someone, we grow tired and weary and exhausted as we wait and wait and wait to be with them. And so, today Holy Mother Church recognizes this fact and sees how tired our waiting for the Lord has made us and she gives this Sunday to rejoice heartily because the Lord for whom we wait is near. Because of this, Paul says to us, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say rejoice.”

Why does he say it twice? Says St. Anthony of Padua,
Note that he says ‘rejoice’ twice, because of the two-fold blessing of the first and second Advents. We should rejoice, because in his first coming he bestowed riches and glory on us. We should rejoice again, because in his second coming he will give us length of days (Third Sunday of Advent, 3).

But how do we rejoice in the Lord? St. Paul answers this question for us rather simply. He says to us:

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil (I Thessalonians 5:16-22).

We rejoice always whenever we keep our attention focused not on ourselves or on the things of this world, but on the Blessed Trinity and our heavenly homeland.

If we have faithfully kept the Advent watch and looked intently and prayerfully for the coming of Christ; if we have followed the counsel of John the Baptist, then today truly will be a day of great joy. If we have kept the Advent watch our hearts will have begun to ache within us as we continually have called out, “Come, Lord Jesus! Do not delay!” For us, today is truly a day to rest and to remember that the Lord Jesus is very near.

But if somehow our hearts do not ache with great fondness and love for Jesus Christ and a sincere desiring for his coming; if we have been distracted by the busy-ness of this time of year and have not properly focused on the coming of Christ, there still is cause here for joy today. John the Baptist was sent among us

to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God(Isaiah 61:1-2).

There is no reason for us to still be held captive by the bonds of sadness and despair; the chains of gloom and sin and death have been broken forever by Christ the Lord! Rejoice in the Lord always! He is victorious! The war is already won! Christ has conquered! Rejoice in the Lord!

John said to the Pharisees, “there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal I am not worthy to untie” (John 1:26-27). Jesus still is present among us even if we also do not recognize him. He comes to us each day through the Scriptures and through the Sacraments. He has already come among us in the proclamation of the Gospel and he will come us again in a most profound way in the Blessed Eucharist. In the presence of our Eucharistic King we should always rejoice and call to mind the prayer of St. Paul: “May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it” (I Thessalonians 5:23-24).

Come, Lord Jesus!

03 December 2005

Homily - 4 December 2005

The Second Sunday of Advent (B)

The last of the prophets has come. The Lord God sent the prophets one by one throughout the history of Israel to direct their minds and hearts to the coming of the Messiah, to the Anointed One of God who would redeem his people. Thus, Isaiah proclaimed to the people just as he proclaims to us today these many years later:

prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley (Isaiah 40:3-4).

The message is clear: our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Heaven and Earth, is coming, and we must be prepared to welcome him upon his arrival.

We know that his coming will be most unexpected and that we “do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning” (Mark 13:35). Therefore we must seek to always be “ready to greet him when he comes again,” as all good servants and friends are. Every parent stays awake, watches, and waits until their child returns in for the night. It should be no different with us, for our Lord commands us to “Watch!” (Mark 13:37).

The last of the prophets has come, the one of whom Isaiah foretold:

Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Mark 1:2-3).

The last of the prophets is, of course, John the Baptist, for unlike the prophets who came before him, John saw and gave undeniable witness to him of whom he spoke. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the other prophets all told of the coming of the Messiah, but never did they see him. The prophets yearned for the coming of the Anointed One of Israel but their mission was not to point to him directly, but to prepare the hearts of the people for his coming. Of these prophets Jesus said to his Apostles,

Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it (Luke 10:23-24).

John the Baptist, the Forerunner of the Lord, is unlike the other prophets in this regard and because of this is also the greatest of the prophets. While Isaiah and the others told the people of the coming Messiah, John pointed to him physically. Him whom the other prophets longed to see and hear, John saw with his own eyes and heard with his own ears and pointed to with his own hand. The Messiah has come! Our King has come to us and walked among us!

The all-powerful God abandoned the glory of heaven to be born of the Virgin Mary. He lived our life, he walked our walk and talked our talk, he died our death, and rose again to the glory of Father, destroying forever the power of sin and death. We know that the Son of God will come again to raise our mortal bodies from the earth to enjoy with him forever the vision of eternal Beauty. He promised he would come to us in “a little while;” why, then, has he not yet returned in the course of these two thousand years? (John 16:16).

St. Peter addresses this very question for us today, a question that is just as real and important today as it was some two thousand years ago. The Prince of the Apostles reminds us,

Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (II Peter 3:8-9).

In his unfathomable wisdom and mercy, Christ the Lord has not yet returned in order to allow us more time to turn toward him, to confess our faults, to implore his forgiveness, and to know the immense power and peaceful gentleness of his love. Jesus has not yet returned so that we might more fully heed the words of the Baptist: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2).

Our first Pope encourages us to seek the tender mercy of the Lord pleading with us saying, “Therefore, beloved, since you await [new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells], be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him” (II Peter 3:14). We must, then, level the mountains of our pride and fill in the valleys of our greed with humility and trust. Let us make straight the wasteland of our self-centeredness; let us, through his grace, construct a highway of faith, hope, and love that he may find us eagerly awaiting his return, for

the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out” (II Peter 3:10).

After having prepared our souls to receive the Lord and to welcome him with cries of great joy and jubilation, let us then climb the high mountain and “cry out at the top of [our] voice” (Isaiah 40:9). Let us join in the mission of John the Baptist and point out to the world the Messiah, the one for whom every soul truly longs. Let us cry out to a world desperate for the Savior,

Here is your God! Here comes with power the LORD God, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him. Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care (Isaiah 40:9-11).

Like John the Baptist, we must give witness to the Messiah who is coming again.

Do not say, “I have time yet to prepare. I will get ready for the Lord after I do this or that.” No! The return of the King is near! We must be prepared, and the more we prepare ourselves the sooner he will come, for as Peter tells us,

Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God (II Peter 3:11-12).

Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths. Come, Lord Jesus!

28 November 2005

Homily 27 November 2005

Advent is the season in which we call to mind the coming of the Lord. This season

has a twofold character: as a season to prepare for Christmas when Christ’s first coming to us is remembered; as a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. Advent is thus a period for devout and joyful expectation (General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, 39).

More often than not we spend much more of our time and prayer during the weeks of Advent reflecting upon and calling to mind the first coming of Christ nearly two thousand years ago at Bethlehem. It is certainly appropriate to do so and a very fruitful activity for the spiritual life, but if we only reflect upon the coming of the Christ-child we do ourselves a great disservice and we place ourselves in danger, for we then ignore the second character of Advent.

We know that Jesus Christ was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary so that he might embrace the cross and so die for our sins. We know that Jesus died for our sins so that he might be raised from the dead by the power of the Father and so wipe away our sins in the blood of the Lamb. We know that Jesus was raised from the dead so that he might come again to us and raise our mortal bodies from the dead to be like him forever in glory. Jesus, then, came to us in the Incarnation so that he might come to us also in the Second Coming at the Resurrection of the Dead. His first coming and his second coming must be seen together. St. Cyril of Jerusalem says,

At the first coming he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. At his second coming he will be clothed in light as in a garment. In the first coming he endured the cross, despising the shame; in the second coming he will be in glory, escorted by an army of angels. We look then beyond the first coming and await the second. At the first coming we said: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. At the second we shall say it again; we shall go out with the angels to meet the Lord and cry out in adoration: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord (Cat. 15:1-3).

It is the coming of Christ the King in glory for which we prepare during the season of Advent; we await, in joyful hope and expectation, for the coming of the King of Heaven and Earth when his kingdom will at long last be fully established and we will – God willing – be ushered into his kingdom for ever.

But Christ comes to us at other times, as well; his birth in Bethlehem and his Second Coming are not the only times he comes to meet us. If these we were the only times that he came to us, we could not know him as we do here and now. St. Anthony of Padua says to us,

Note that there are four Comings of Jesus Christ. The first was in the flesh, of which is said: Behold the great Prophet comes, and he will renew Jerusalem. The second coming is in the soul: We will come to him and will make our abode with him. The third is at death: Blessed is that servant, who when the Lord comes, etc. The fourth will be in majesty, whence it says in the [Book of Revelation]: Behold he comes with the clouds, and every eye shall see him (First Sunday of Advent, 3).

Last Sunday we celebrated the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King; this celebration has not ended, but rather has been extended throughout the next four weeks. For as we journey through the four weeks of Advent we journey toward Christ the King and we await his coming to judge the nations and set all things right, when he “will wipe away the tears from all faces” (Isaiah 25:8). On that day it will finally be said, “Behold our God, for whom we looked to save us! This is the LORD for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us” (Isaiah 25:9).

But until that time we cannot simply wait around twiddling our thumbs as we look for the magnificent and wondrous procession of angels and saints preceding our majestic King. We must prepare for the arrival of the King, for Jesus says to us, “May [I] not come suddenly and find you sleeping” (Mark 13:36). Our King gives us a very simple command to follow and to carry out: “Watch!” (Mark 13:37).

As we look for the coming of the Lord in increased prayer, we prepare ourselves interiorly for his coming so that, as St. Anthony teaches us, the Lord may enter into our souls. We must worthily prepare ourselves for the coming of the King who “places his servants in charge, each with his own work” (Mark 13:34).

What work has the Lord given to us? To parents, the Lord entrusts their children commanding them to raise their children according to the laws of Christ and his Church. To children, the Lord commands us to honor our parents and to develop our skills that he has given us and to use them to serve him. To those who work, he entrusts the mission of transforming the world by faithfully living out the Gospel life each day. To spouses, the Lord entrusts you to each other, commanding you to bring each other into the everlasting life of his kingdom. To those who do not work or have retired, the Lord entrusts a life of prayer for the needs of the Church and for the needs of the world. To his priests the Lord entrusts the mission of bringing all people to salvation through the administration of the sacraments. To those who serve in public office, the Lord entrusts the duty of seeing to the honest and genuine common good of all people. Each of us has a task that Christ the King has given to us and by fulfilling this duty we faithfully wait for the Lord, for “blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so” (Matthew 24:46).

As we wait with great and ardent longing for the return of the King, let us cry out with Isaiah, “Return for the sake of your servants… Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you, while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for, such as they had not heard of from of old” (Isaiah 63:17; 19). Come, Lord Jesus!

19 November 2005

Homily - 20 November 2005

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King (A)

Every king carries with him certain symbols of his authority and of his office: the crown, the scepter and the orb, and the royal cloak. Christ the King is no different from earthly kings in this respect; he also wears a crown and robes and he holds in his hands a scepter and an orb.

To this day, the coronation ritual has changed very little over the centuries; kings are made today much as they were fifteen hundred years ago. The ritual consists of four parts:

1. the entry of the Sovereign
2. the formal recognition of the Sovereign
3. the investiture of the Sovereign, and
4. the enthronement of the Sovereign.

This being the case then, how is Jesus our King?

The entry of the Sovereign occurs when the one to be anointed King enters into the church. Jesus Christ entered the church of Creation when “he leaps to his feet and abandons the glory of heaven, in order to go in search of the sheep and pursue it, all the way to the cross” (Pope Benedict XVI, Inaugural Homily, 24 April 2005). Being born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem Jesus entered into our world and lived among us. Of this magnificent birth, St. Clare of Assisi exclaims, “O marvelous humility, O astonishing poverty! The King of the angels, the Lord of heaven and earth, is laid in a manger!” (The Fourth Letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague, 20-21).

But this is not the only time that Jesus comes to us. He enters into us when the Scriptures are proclaimed and when we read them. He enters into us, also, in the celebration of the Sacraments, most especially when we receive his sacred Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist.

The second aspect of the coronation ceremony is the formal recognition of the Sovereign by the people. Jesus, too, was recognized in this way. The Magi came from the East and inquired, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage” (Matthew 2:2). The shepherds, too, went to pay homage to the newborn king saying, “Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us” (Luke 2:15). When also recognize Jesus as our King when we genuflect and kneel before both in the tabernacle and upon the altar.

The birth of Jesus, though, was not the only time that he was acclaimed as King. At the beginning of Holy Week when he entered into Jerusalem for the Passover celebrations, he was welcomed with the shouts of the people, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest” (Luke 19:38). We make this proclamation at every Mass when we join in the hymn of the choirs of heaven.

Another aspect of the recognition is the anointing of the Sovereign as King. Jesus was anointed on several occasions. When Jesus was eating in the house of a Pharisee, “a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head” (Mark 14:3-4). Every King is anointed on the crown of the head. The morning after the Resurrection, “Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices so that they might go and anoint [the body of Jesus]” (Mark 16:1).

The third part of the coronation ritual is the Investiture with the royal robes. It is here that the Sovereign is given the robes – the royal purple that today is more red than purple – as well as the insignia of his office and the crown. St. Anthony of Padua said of the royal robes of Jesus,

The swaddling clothes are his garment… At Nazareth he was crowned with flesh as with a diadem; at Bethlehem he was wrapped in swaddling clothes as his purple. These were the first insignia of his reign (Palm Sunday, 8).

But Jesus was clothed another time by Herod at the same time he was given his crown. “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak, and they came to him and said, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’” (John 19:2-3). The soldiers did not know him whom they mocked even though they addressed him rightly.

Next the Sovereign is given the insignia of his office: the orb and the scepter. The orb represents the new King’s dominion over the earth and while the dominion of earthly kings is only fleeting and temporal, the dominion of Jesus Christ is eternal and without end. He is the only true King of all the earth and this we proclaim whenever we pray the Creed. It is Jesus “whose hand holds the depths of the earth; who owns the tops of the mountains. The sea and dry land belong to God, who made them, formed them by his hand” (Psalm 95:4-5).

But what of Jesus’ scepter? Says St. Anthony of Padua,

In his Passion he was stripped by them of his garments, and pierced with nails. There his kingdom was completely fulfilled, for after crown and purple he lacked only a scepter; and this he took when he went out, bearing his cross, to the place called Calvary (Palm Sunday, 8).

It is, then, on the cross that Christ most fully becomes our King, for on the cross he wears the royal purple, bears his crown, carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, and holds his scepter in both of hands. What a glorious scepter that saved us from sin and death!

But there is still the fourth part of the coronation ritual: the enthronement when the Sovereign receives the homage of his subjects. In one sense, Jesus has a number of thrones. His first throne being Blessed Mary, then the manger, then the lap of Joseph, then the wood of the cross. After the ascension Jesus sits now at the right hand of God the Father. His throne now is in heaven, but it is also here on earth when Jesus takes his throne upon the altar in the hands of the priest.

As we come before Our Lord Jesus Christ the King, let us approach him in humility to offer him homage and to listen to his will for our lives. Let us offer ourselves to him who has given us himself. Let us listen to his will and follow his commands, and as St. Francis of Assisi urges us,

“Let every creature
in heaven, on earth,
in the sea and in the depths,
give praise,
glory, honor, and blessing
to Him
Who suffered so much for us,
Who has given so many good things,
and [Who] will [continue to] do so for the future.
For He is our power and strength,
He Who alone is good
[Who] is most high,
[Who is] all-powerful, admirable, [and] glorious;
[Who] alone is holy, praiseworthy, and blessed
throughout endless ages. Amen.”

(The Second Version of the Letter to the Faithful, 61-62).

16 November 2005

Homily - 13 November 2005

The Thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)

What has the Lord given us? To the men in his parable he gives various numbers of talents, but what does he give to us? Certainly not some monetary figure to be invested to earn simply more wealth, for he tells us that it “is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:24).

The gift, which the Lord gives to us, is faith. And like the parable of the talents, he gives to each of us a differing degree or level of faith, but he calls each of us to grow in our faith, to come to an ever-deeper and ever-greater love and knowledge of him. The Lord gives faith “to each according to his ability” (Matthew 25:15).

This gift of faith, which the Lord gives to us, is not something that we can “put under a bushel basket” (Matthew 5:15). It cannot be something that we bury in a hole in the ground that we have dug (see Matthew 25:18). Like every gift that comes to us from the Lord, faith is given to us to be used, to be cherished, and to be grown.

Surely none of us wants to hear the Lord say to us, “You wicked, lazy servant!” (Mathew 25:26). With the Apostles, then, we must cry out to him, “increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5). Just as the servants of the master were required to invest and increase the monies they were given, so, too, must we strive always to increase the faith that we have been given.

Certainly we cannot increase our faith on our own. It is the Lord who gives faith in the first place and it is the Lord who increases faith. This is why the Apostles asked Jesus to increase their faith and did not simply take greater faith for themselves. All faith comes from the Lord and he gives it and increases it to those who ask him in all sincerity and to those who are willing to receive it.

The Lord will increase the faith of those who call upon him in honesty and trust. He says to us, “Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

But to call upon the Lord and to ask him to increase our faith means that we must already be humble enough of heart to acknowledge that we are not in control of our lives. It means that we already honestly recognize that he sustains our every breath, simply out of love. It is to feel, in the depths of our heart, the Lord calling us to an ever-deeper relationship with himself and it is to desire this relationship above all else. The one who has faith and yearns for a deeper faith, as Pope Benedict says, “lifts his eyes to the Lord and waits for a divine reaction, to perceive a gesture of love, a look of benevolence” (General Audience, 15 June 2005).

The faith, then, which we have, regardless of the size, must be safeguarded and protected and certainly not wasted. It must be used because when we live out our faith and rely upon our faith and recognize the one one from whom it comes, our faith will grow, “For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich” in faith (Matthew 25:29).

When in faith we call upon the rich mercy and tender love of Jesus we will not be thrown “into the darkness outside,” but we will stand before him one day and he will judge the way that we have used and received our faith (Matthew 25:30). And if we have grown our faith he will say to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant … Come, share your master’s joy” (Matthew 25:23). Then we shall be with the Lord forever.

07 November 2005

Homily - 6 November 2005

As the leaves continue to change colors and the brilliance of autumn unfolds, we know well that the death of winter will soon be upon us. The leaves, now so stunning in their gorgeous array of reds, oranges, and yellows, will soon lose their brilliance and turn brown and then slowly fall from their branches onto the ground below. The skies, once illuminated for long and pleasant hours by the light of the sun and filled with a bluish hue, will soon be dominated by clouds even as the darkness of night settles over us.

We see this happen each year we each have our methods and ways of coping with this change of the seasons; we have our rituals and so we adjust to the seeming gloom of winter. The manifold life of summer gives way to the death of winter and as we experience again the change of the seasons - and as the liturgical year draws to an end - Holy Mother Church calls us to reflect upon our deaths as we see nature die around us. And even as we know that the suffocating grip of winter will lose its hold and be overpowered by the bright dawning of spring, so, too, do we know that our own death is not the end of all things. The Church calls us to reflect not only upon our deaths at this time, but also upon the ever-lasting life of heaven, especially on Sunday as we celebrate the great day of the Resurrection of the One who died for us.

November is, and has been for many centuries now, a fitting time to reflect upon our death and to seek to prepare ourselves for this inevitable moment, whenever it may be. Jesus commands us today, “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13). These sobering words can light a spark of fear within us, but they are not meant to inspire terror and dread at the thought of our death. Rather, Jesus reminds us that we do not know the time when we will die. None of us knows how many years or months or days we have left and because of this we must always be prepared for the moment when our “life will be demanded of [us]” (Luke 12:20). When we, at long last, finally come to the kingdom of heaven, we do not want to cry out, “Lord, Lord, open the door for us” only to hear him reply, “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you” (Matthew 25:11-12).

From this chilling response with which our Lord warns us today we can learn how we should prepare for our death: we must know the Lord Jesus. The foolish virgins who did not bother to plan ahead so as to bring a sufficient supply of oil, were not turned away because there was something they had not done; they were turned away because they did not know the groom. They had not spent time with him, they had not learned from him, they had not rested in his presence.

But how do we come to know the Lord? He says to us, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Finding Jesus is not a difficult task for those who seek him with sincerity and trust, for he “is readily perceived by those who love [him], and found by those who seek [him]” (Wisdom 6:12). Indeed, Jesus “hastens to make [him]self known to” us (Wisdom 6:13).

When we find the Lord, when we find the God whom we seek and for whom our “flesh pines and [our] soul thirsts,” we will come to know him by being with him (Psalm 63:2). As we read the Scriptures we will know him. As we spend time with him in other forms of prayer – the rosary, the Stations of the Cross, novenas, meditation and adoration – when we receive the Sacraments, we will daily come to know him more and more. When we receive him in the Most Holy Eucharist, not only will we come to know him better but we will be changed into him. This is our ultimate goal: to know him and to be united with him forever.

The more we come to know the mercy and love of Jesus, the more we come to know his tender compassion, the more we will also come to know his will for us. The more we know his will the more we will want to be with him and the easier it will be for us to follow his will.

The great spiritual classic of the Middle Ages, The Imitation of Christ reminds us that

“Every action of yours, every thought, should be those of one who expects to die before the day is out. Death would have no great terrors for you if you had a quiet conscience . . . . Then why not keep it clear of sin instead of running away from death? If you aren’t fit to face death today, it’s very unlikely you will be tomorrow” (1.23.1).

In truth, we who have been baptized have already died once and the second death that we will experience is not something to be feared. It is not to be feared for those who know the Lord, “For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise” (I Thessalonians 4:16). Indeed, St. Paul asks us,

“are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).

When we, like those wise virgins who prepared themselves for a long night as they watched for the coming of the groom, prepare ourselves well for the coming of Christ, cooperating with his grace, will stand before the Lord and cry out to him, “Lord, lord, open the door for us.” When he hears our voice and sees us calling out to him, he will not say to us, “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.” Rather, “we shall always be with the Lord” (I Thessalonians 4:17) because we have known him. St. Francis of Assisi concludes his great Canticle of the Creatures with these lines:

“Praised are you, my Lord, for our sister Bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.
Woe on those who will die in mortal sin!
Blessed are they who will be found
in your most holy will,
for the second death will not harm them.”

31 October 2005

Homily - 1 November 2005

On this Solemnity of All Saints, we “rejoice in the Lord and keep a festival in honor of all the saints,” both those known to us and unknown (Introit). Today we “join the angels in joyful praise to the Son of God” as we give thanks for their heroic lives (Introit).

We know that Jesus calls each of us to follow after him. We know, too, that the demands of the Gospel are real and are difficult to follow because we are sinful. Still, though, he calls us to grow daily in holiness so that we might live with him forever and has given us the Sacraments to strengthen us in holiness.

But how do we grow in holiness? How can we come to know Jesus better? How can we better love God and those around us? We can look to the example and witness of the saints of God who gloriously followed after Christ. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has said of the saints:

“In their lives, as if in a great picture-book, the riches of the Gospel are revealed. They are the shining path which God himself has traced throughout history and is still tracing today” (Youth Vigil, 20 August 2005).

When we look at the lives of the saints we can see the many ways in which we can follow the Gospel and grow in holiness. When we look at the lives of the great saints of God we realize that no two saints are the same. This is so because God calls each of us to holiness as we are; he calls each of us personally to follow after him. Just as God has called men and women throughout the centuries to be saints, he continues to call men and women to be saints today. He calls each and everyone one of us to be saints, and if we trust in his mercy and love and sincerely ask him for the grace to do so, we will be saints.

But we will not become saints if we focus our lives on ourselves. The saints show us how to live and they show us where to find true and lasting peace and joy. So often we try to find our happiness and satisfaction in our own desires, but the saints show us another way. Pope Benedict has said of the saints,

The saints and the blesseds did not doggedly seek their own happiness, but simply wanted to give themselves, because the light of Christ had shone upon them. They show us the way to attain happiness, they show us how to be truly human (Youth Vigil, 20 August 2005).

We will never come to true happiness and fulfillment by seeking our own desires, by focusing on ourselves at all times. No, only in directing our lives toward God and our neighbor will we ever find peace. True joy is found in saying “no” to ourselves and “yes” to Christ.

There cannot be a sad saint. A saint suffers, certainly, but by uniting his suffering to Christ, the saint finds joy, a joy that surpasses all understanding. The joy of a saint is found by directing her life and attention to the pursuit of God and holiness. "The saint is he who is so fascinated by the beauty of God and by his perfect truth to be progressively transformed by it,” Pope Benedict reminded us last week. He continued,

“Because of this beauty and truth, he is ready to renounce everything, even himself. The love of God is enough, which he experiences in the humble and disinterested service to the neighbor, especially to those who cannot give back in return" (Homily, 23 October 2005).

St. Anthony of Padua says, “We celebrate their feasts, so as to receive from their lives a pattern of living” (Fourth Sunday After Easter, 11). Let us, then, take the saints as our models for life and know that the love of God is enough for us; we need northing more than the love of God.

We should read and learn the lives of the saints and read what they have written for us. In learning more about the saints we cannot fail to learn more about God. And by learning the lives of the saints, we will learn how to grow in holiness and love and, with the saints, we will one day stand before the throne of God cry out with them, “Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 7:12).

Homily - 30 October 2005

It is a stern and disturbing message that we hear today from the Prophet Malachi and from Jesus himself. Both today focus on living out our faith not only in our words but also, and perhaps more importantly, by what we do. Malachi and Jesus both issue strong warnings to us today. Jesus tells the disciples to do as the Pharisees tell them because they teach properly and correctly by their words, but they do not do themselves as they order others to do. Malachi condemns them saying that they have broken the covenant God made with Levi.

The Lord himself says of this covenant with Levi:

“My covenant with him was one of life and peace; fear I put in him, and he feared me, and stood in awe of my name. True doctrine was in his mouth, and no dishonesty was found upon his lips; He walked with me in integrity and uprightness, and turned many away from evil” (Malachi 2:4-7).

Levi served the Lord well and because of his service the Lord blessed him greatly. He was able to serve the Lord well because he knew also who the Lord is and Levi knew who he himself was. Levi feared the Lord and stood in awe of him; he walked in the ways of the Lord and led others in lives of holiness.

Is this not what each of us is called to do? Are we not all called to fear the Lord and to stand in awe before him? Are we not all called to follow after the Lord and to keep his commandments? Are we not all called to help those around us grow in holiness? Of course we are.

It is because of these reasons that Jesus says to us today:

“As for you, do not be called be “Rabbi.” You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called “Master;” you have but one Master, the Christ” (Matthew 23:8-10).

The title ‘rabbi’ means “great one” and Christ alone is the Great One. The Father in heaven is the one who truly cares for us. Jesus himself is the only true Master that we have and he says to us “Follow me,” (Luke 5:27) and, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 8:23).

This fear, though, that Levi felt before the Lord and which is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, is not a simple terror or horror when standing before the throne of God. No, it is much more than this cowardice. The fear of the Lord comes from a proper understanding of who we are in God’s eyes. This fear is much more of a quiet and profound reverence and submission before God than it is a feeling of terror and dread. Looking upon the face of God we realize his greatness, his majesty, and his beauty and with the Psalmist we, too, can say, “I have stilled and quieted my soul like a weaned child. Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap, so is my soul within me” (Psalm 131:2).

The ancient Fathers of the desert would leave their caves or huts in the hours of night and they would look up to heaven. While looking up they would first point upward and exclaim, “You are God; I am not. You are God; I am not. You are God; I am not.” Then they would return to their caves or huts and spend hours in prayer, reflection, and meditation, by resting in the abiding peace of God.

By praying in this way many of them came to know God as Father, Great One, and Master. The more they came to know God’s power and splendor, the more they came to realize their own finitude and how very small and tiny they were in comparison to the Lord. This is a lesson we would do well to learn because as they learned this, they came to understand in a deep and powerful way the love that God has for each us.

Knowing how small and frail we are, and our absolute powerlessness, the Son of God looked upon us and saw the weight of our “heavy burdens hard to carry” (Matthew 23:4). He saw the chains of sin and death, of sickness and pain, and he abandoned the glory of heaven and - rather than laying more burdens upon us - he took all of our burdens upon himself; he lifted much more than his “finger to move them” even though just one joint of his finger would certainly have been strong enough to remove them (Matthew 23:4). So great is his love and his tender mercy that he humbled himself and became our servant, dying upon the cross that we might live in true and lasting peace and joy.

Very often we tell ourselves about the mercy and love of Jesus but we do not always feel his love. We do not spend enough time with him to know him better. We forget, as the Opening Prayer today reminds us: “only with your help can we offer you fitting service and praise” and we try to do it alone. When this happens, when we forget that we need the Lord, the words that the Lord spoke through Malachi are then addressed to us as well: “You have turned aside from the way, and have caused many to falter by your instruction; you have made void the covenant with Levi” (Malachi 2:8).

Let us then remember, this day and every day, that “whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). With all God’s holy ones, let us daily cry out to him, “Do not abandon me, Lord. My God, do not go away from me! Hurry to help me, Lord, my Savior” (Introit). With his help and grace we will “live the faith we profess and trust [his] promise of eternal life” (Collect).

We have a duty to ensure that our actions match, as closely as possible, what we say. The faith which we claim must be evident from the life that we live. People should be able to do nothing more than look at the way we live and listen to what we say and know without question or doubt that we are followers of Christ. In our lives they should see the presence of Jesus radiating through us, but this can only happen when we are humble and remember, “You are God; I am not.”

When we humble ourselves before him and recognize our true stance before the Most High, then we will follow after our “Master” and “Teacher” (John 13:13). And bearing our crosses and following after him, we will come to share in a portion of the covenant made with Levi. The Lord will then say to each of us:

“My covenant with him was one of life and peace; fear I put in him, and he feared me, and stood in awe of my name. True doctrine was in his mouth, and no dishonesty was found upon his lips; He walked with me in integrity and uprightness, and turned many away from evil” (Malachi 2:4-7).

When we, just as Levi did, recognize our true relationship with God and stop trying make ourselves more important than we really are, then we will truly sing with the Psalmist, “In you, Lord, I have found my peace.”

27 October 2005

Homily - 23 October 2005

Today the Universal Church celebrates World Mission Sunday. The Church sets this Sunday aside in every parish to reflect upon the work and necessity of the missions in all parts of the world. Too often we think of the missions as something that “other” people do in the distant reaches of Africa and Asia, and maybe even South America. We do not often see the missions as something that we can and must do, even here in central Illinois. This is most unfortunate because, as Francis Cardinal George, the metropolitan Archbishop of Chicago, is fond of saying, “The Church does not have a mission; the mission has a Church.”

The Church exists because of the mission given to the Apostles by Christ and for no other reason. Just before he ascended to the Father, he said:

All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).

As members of the Church, each of us shares in this most important mission. And unlike 007, this mission is ours whether we choose to accept it or not. It is a mission that comes with our baptism when we are anointed as priest, prophet, and king.

The readings from the sacred Scriptures this morning focus on love and love, of course, is at the heart of the Church’s mission.

True and authentic love cannot be bottled up; it cannot be kept quiet or secret. Love, when it is genuine and true, must be shared; there is simply no way around it. True love wells up inside of us and if we do not share this love, much like a volcano, the pressure builds up and this love explodes around us. This is, in all truthfulness, the purpose of love. Love is meant to be shared with all. Love is supposed to well up inside of us and flow out of us, much like a fountain feeds a pool of water.

Love is the focus of World Mission Sunday because when we love someone we want everyone we know to know this person so that they, too, can love him or love her. We look for ways to introduce people to those we love, whether we invite them to dinner, to weddings, to a birthday party; we help people get to know those whom we love and we like to know those whom our friends love. It is always a joy to meet someone who is loved and who shares love with others. If we know Jesus, if we love him, we will want everyone to know him as well. This is, as it were, the lithmus test of our faith: do we want others to know Jesus? Do we want to help others know Jesus?

Genuine love helps and enables us to know the plight and suffering of those around us, because love is always concerned with others and never with ourselves. Love allows us to see the face of Jesus in the poor and in the suffering of the world and so we want to love them as Jesus has first loved us.

Most of us have good and holy commitments here that legitimately keep us from physically sharing the Gospel with the four corners of the world. We are married and must be with our spouse; we have children to care for and raise and maybe even parents to support and look after; we have duties and within the community we must see to. Each of these responsibilities certainly comes first in our lives because they come from God.

Some among us, however, do not have these commitments and should prayerfully discern the call of the Lord for them. These questions must seriously be considered by each of us: What brings me the greatest joy? What will bring me fulfillment? Where do I feel at peace? Where these answers coincide we will find the will of God, and only there will we find true and lasting peace and joy. It may well be that some among us here this morning are called to serve the Lord and his people as priests or religious brothers or sisters. This is particular calling to share the love of Christ Jesus with a hurting world in a unique way. It is not, however, the only way to spread the message of the Gospel to all the nations.

Roughly one-fifth of the world’s population belongs to the fold of the Roman Catholic Church while some two-fifths of the world do not know Christ Jesus. This is much work to be done in the mission fields of the world. Jesus has commanded us to “teach all nations” and as yet we have not done this. This is a responsibility that each of us has as baptized members of the Body of Christ. We must do our part; we cannot sit idly by.

This weekend, Holy Mother Church urgently calls us to reflect upon the mission of the Church and begs our assistance, both prayerful and financial. Those who toil in the vineyard of the Lord need our prayers to sustain them and assist them as they share the faith of the Church with the world. At the same time, our prayers will help us to find the ways here in our local community we can reach out with love of Jesus to those around us. The laborers in the Lord’s vineyard need, also, the assistance of our finances as they seek to meet the physical needs of the world so that their souls can then be tended.

Just as the love we have for those around us cannot be kept to ourselves but must be shared, so too the love we have for Christ Jesus. If truly we love we will want others to know him, too, and we will do what we can to help others know him and love him as we do. This can be done in any number of ways: praying a rosary for the work of the missions; making the Stations of the Cross for those we love; holding a door for someone behind us; smiling at someone who seems to need some encouragement; listening to someone who hurts. We often hear it said that we can spread the Gospel without words; that our actions enough will spread the Gospel. While we certainly can show and must show our faith in the Lord by what we do, this is not enough. Sometimes people see in these acts nothing more than nice people; faith does not always enter the picture, but it must.

Our very lives are to be directed toward the work of the missions, so that the whole world may know, by what we say and do, of the love of Christ Jesus crucified and risen for us.

15 October 2005

Homily - 15 October 2005

“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Matthew 22:21). Very often when we read or hear this passage, we focus on the first half of Jesus’ response: “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.” No doubt each of us does this already and without a great deal of effort. We pay our taxes in the many different areas they are imposed upon us. “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,” Jesus tells us; this we do, we say, and we happily go about our lives, usually quiet content to forget that Jesus has said more than this.

Repay “to God what belongs to God,” he says. How often do we give this saying of Jesus any thought? What do we have that belongs to God? In reflecting on the first reading today from the prophet Isaiah, we can learn something about these questions. The Lord speaks through Isaiah to Cyrus, King of Persia. To understand the importance of King Cyrus, we must know something first of the history of the Jewish people.

In 586 B.C., the Babylonian armies destroyed all of Israel and Judah. They sacked Jerusalem and even destroyed the great Temple on Mt. Zion. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon then forced the Jewish people to leave Palestine and put then in exile in Babylon. The Jews then lived in exile in Babylon until the rise of the empire of Persia, which grew in power under the reign of King Cyrus.

When Cyrus conquered Babylon he allowed the Jews to return to their homeland in 537 B.C. and even sent with them money from the royal coffers with the explicit order to rebuild their Temple on Mt. Zion. With the Temple holding the central place in the Jewish faith, the Jews quickly hailed Cyrus as the “anointed” (Isaiah 45:1) and knew that God had used the Persians to conquer the Babylonians.

Cyrus had become, in just a few short years, the most powerful king in the land, powerful enough to tear down the mighty Babylonian Empire and inaugurate his own Persian Empire. With so much power and authority in his possession, with so many great victories and territories, it would be easy for Cyrus to assume and claim that he himself had done all of this, that he himself had won the battles with his own strength and power, but the Lord clearly says to him that this is not the case. We are not so very different than Cyrus in this matter.

“Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus, whose right hand I grasp, subduing nations before him, and making kings run in his service, opening doors before him and leaving the gates unbarred: For the sake of Jacob, my servant, of Israel, my chosen one, I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew me not” (Isaiah 45:). It is the Lord himself who guided Cyrus’ armies and arranged for his victories; it was the Lord who gave to Cyrus the idea to wage war with Babylon and not Cyrus himself. The hand of the Lord guided each of Cyrus’ great achievements and accomplishements. None of this belonged to the King of Persia but to the Lord God.

Today, then, the Psalmist sings to Cyrus even as he sings to us, “Give the Lord glory and honor. Tell his glory among the nations; among all peoples, his wondrous deeds” (Psalm 96:1, 3). Everything that Cyrus owns, everything that he has done, belongs to Lord and so Jesus says to him, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

We have now our answer to the question: What do we have that belongs to God? The answer is the same for us as it was for Cyrus: everything. Everything that we have belongs to God, our homes, our cars, our food, our clothing, our children, our parents, our toys, our businesses, our spouses, and even our very lives. All that we have done also belongs to him because he allows us to do everything we do. Everything that exists has come from his hand and so it all belongs to him.

This being the case, then, when Jesus says to us, “repay ‘to God what belongs to God,’” must we then sacrifice everything that we have and bring it here to the altar of God? Must we, like Abraham, who was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, also be willing to sacrifice our children, our parents, and our spouses? Yes, and no.

Yes, we should be willing to offer our children, our parents, and our spouses, even our very selves, to the Lord, because we all belong to him. But no, we do not offer them physically to the Lord, but spiritually. In offering those around us to the Lord we show the depth of our faith and our trust in the Lord. We know that God desires only our good and that “all things work for the good of those who love” him and so we ask the Lord to do with those around us and ourselves as he wishes and as he sees fit (Romans 8:28). We place our will and those around us at his disposal for his purposes. In this way we repay to God what belongs to God.

Sometimes the Lord will ask us to give difficult things back to him. At times he tugs at our hearts to forgive someone who has harmed us; he tugs at our hearts to help a person in need when we do not think we have the time; he tugs at our hearts to be kind and sociable with those society sees as outcasts.

Every aspect of our lives should, in some way, be directed to the service of God and neighbor. St. Paul says to us, “whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). The Lord has given us all things, he has made us stewards over his creation to use the things he has made for our benefit. We should often give thanks to him for his fatherly care for us.

The Psalmist today sings, “Worship the LORD, in holy attire; tremble before him all the earth; say among the nations: the LORD is king” (Psalm 96:9-10). I encourage each of us, then, in the words of St. Francis of Assisi to “Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks to him and serve him with great humility.”

08 October 2005

Homily - 9 October 2005

Where are we going? Are we there yet?

Each of us has heard this question any number of times. We have responded to it and we have even asked the question surely at least on one occasion. These questions are sometimes asked in jest and laden with sarcasm but they are real questions nonetheless and we would do well to ponder them.

Where are we going? Are we ambling along without any real direction or purpose? Do we know our destination? What is our goal? Our lives are either filled with meaning and purpose, or else we simply live each day void of significance. Where are we going?

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council remind us that we, having been baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, are members of “the pilgrim Church” (Lumen Gentium 48). As members of the Church we are all pilgrims, and no pilgrim stands still. To be a pilgrim is to be a person on the move, a person on his or her way, together with a multitude of other persons, to a particular and special destination. A pilgrim knows where he or she is going and so do we.

Each year the Jewish people went on pilgrimage to the mountain of the Lord in Jerusalem and each Sunday we go on pilgrimage to the same mountain of the Lord, only our route is much shorter than theirs.

This church in which we now pray represents well our pilgrim life on earth on our way to the new and heavenly Jersualem. We enter at first through the main doors of the church, as if passing through the waters of baptism into new life. Passing through the doors, we enter a new surrounding and a place unlike any other.

We process down the aisles of the Church as if walking the journey of our life. The aisles lead to the sanctuary, to the mountain of the Lord, to heaven itself. The aisles of the church, just as life, are filled with other people; none of us walks alone, but we journey together toward heaven, toward the mountain of the Lord.

“On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines” (Isaiah 25:6). Here in this church, at this altar, we receive the richest of foods and the choicest of wines, the very Body and Blood of Christ Jesus himself. There is no greater food in all of the earth than what he gives us here. He says to us here on this mountain, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (John 6:35). Here on this mountain “he will destroy death forever” because he feeds us here with his own Body and Blood (Isaiah 25:7).

We have each been invited here to the wedding banquet of the Lamb of God where our “cup overflows” (Psalm 23:5) by the “King of kings and the Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16). And just as in the parable Jesus tells us today, we must all come to this great feast properly dressed.

“But he was reduced to silence” (Matthew 22:12). Why was this man reduced to silence? What made him so uncomfortable? Why could he not speak to the kindly king?

Everything had been prepared for the banquet. The invitation was sent out: “everything is ready; come to the feast” (Matthew 22:4). The man was invited to the very mountain of the Lord, where “the LORD God will wipe away the tears from all faces” (Isaiah 25:8).

The man seemingly had nothing to fear; he had no reason to be ashamed. When the king spoke to him, he addressed him as an equal: “My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?” (Matthew 22:12). At this simple and unassuming question, he was reduced to silence, even though the king did not accuse him of any wrongdoing, nor did he threaten him. Why, then, could the man not speak to him.

The man came to the wedding feast not fully aware of where he was going. He heard the invitation, he saw others going, he heard tell of the savory food to be served, and he went to the feast, even though he did not know those for whom it was held.
The man did not expect that he would speak with the host and so he came as he was, without making any preparations to attend such a great feast. And now, standing before the king, the man realized in whose presence he stood and there was nothing he could say.

The man suddenly knew the great generosity of the king, he knew his love and his mercy; he knew that everything had been prepared for him. The man knew as well that he had come unworthily to the feast; he did not even bother to bring his wedding garment with him to celebrate properly.

Each of us has just such a wedding garment; it is our baptismal garment. On the day of our baptism, we were each given a new garment and the priest said to us, “You have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven” (Rite of Baptism of Children 99).

We must take care that we keep this garment unstained by living a life of virtue and of holiness so that when we come at last to the heavenly feast the Lord does not say to us, “My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?” If this happens to us it will not be the Lord who accuses us of our sins, but standing before his mercy and love we will accuse ourselves and will then be cast outside for we did not come prepared.

How do we prepare for the wedding feast? Through prayer, through the Eucharist, through Reconciliation, through fasting and almsgiving and good works, but most of all through humility. It is humility that will allow us to seek the Lord in all of this and will help us to keep our garment clean and pure.

We know our destination at the end of our pilgrimage on earth; it is the wedding feast of the Lamb and here in this church we share in the foretaste of that heavenly banquet. Here on this mountain in this church, on this altar, Isaiah says to us, “Behold our God for whom we looked to save us! This is the LORD for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”

As we journey on our pilgrimage of faith, let us take comfort from the words of St. Paul: “My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). Trusting in the Lord, we will come to “live in the house of the Lord all the days of [our] life” for he himself says to us: “everything is ready; come to the feast (Psalm 23:6).

20 September 2005

Homily - 18 September 2005

“For to me Christ is life and death is gain” (Philippians 1:). Paul must know something that we do not know. “Death is gain,” he says. How can this be? What can we possibly gain in death? Our life is ended; it is over and we return to the dust from which we came. As we die it seems we lose our ability to function; we lose our control; and we seem to lose even our freedom. Oftentimes projects are left unfinished and relationships are left strained and broken. Children are devastated; parents’ hearts break, and strangers take no notice. “We pass swiftly and then we are gone” (Psalm ). In all of this, what do we gain?

We are utterly powerless in the pangs of death but, says Paul, “for to me Christ is life and death is gain.” In death, we gain Christ and in gaining Christ we gain life, for he himself is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Death yields to life for Christ has conquered it and destroyed it!

“I am caught between the two,” says St. Paul. “I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit” (Philippians 1:23-24). Paul found himself longing for death so that he might live with Christ but at the same time he knew that he was needed to teach and support the early Church and to spread the message of the Gospel. Many of us find ourselves in this same place. We desperately long to leave this life to be forever with the Lord Jesus but we also know that our life is not yet over and there is still work assigned by the Lord for us to do. It is a difficult place to be, being caught in the middle.

What is it, we might ask, that made Paul so ready to die? What did he know that we do not? Says the prophet Isaiah: “Seek the LORD while he may be found, call to him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6). Paul sought the Lord night and day, and day and night he wrestled with the Lord, always seeking to learn his ways. For the sake of Christ, Paul suffered greatly but he heard the Lord Jesus say to him, “My friend, I am not cheating you,” “for my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways your ways” (Matthew 20:13 and Isaiah 55:8).

When we hear the Lord to say us, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” we may feel cheated by the Lord (Luke 9:23). It may seem as though the Lord takes away our freedom, our own desires, and even the beauty of life. But this is not the case. It is only through the cross that we truly become free; it is through the cross that our deeply held desires are at long last finally fulfilled; it is through the cross that we see the tremendous beauty of the Lord. As he struggled with the Lord, Paul learned the secret of the cross that leads to lasting joy and peace and eternal life. He knew the great beauty to be found in this life but he also knew that this beauty is nothing to be compared with that to be revealed. Paul surrendered himself to the Lord so that Christ would be magnified in his body (see Philippians 1:20). As we struggle with the Lord and doubt the purpose of the cross, the Lord says to us, “My friend, I am not cheating you. I have walked this road before you. It is difficult but it gives life and freedom and beauty; it is necessary.”

If we, like Paul and the saints, surrender our own desires to the Lord we, too, will magnify the Lord in our bodies, “whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20). But, I wonder, are we willing to surrender to the Lord? We know that doing so will bring about a tremendous flood of grace, a grace that brings peace and joy, but also a grace that brings about the sufferings of Christ. Can we allow ourselves to surrender completely to his will? Our Holy Father Benedict, in his first homily as the Bishop of Rome, asked us:

"If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? And once again the Pope [John Paul II] said: No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation.

"And so, today, with great strength and conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ - and you will find true life. Amen.” [Inaugural Homily, 24 April 2005]

This is why Paul was able to say, “death is gain.” He was not afraid of Christ and he knew that in death he would “receive a hundredfold in return.” He knew that through the cross he would come to share in the glory of the Lord and to look upon the One who is Beauty itself. He saw the hints of that beauty in life and longed to see if fully revealed. He opened wide the doors of his heart to the Lord; will we not do the same?

“The Lord is [truly] near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth” (Psalm 145:18). The Lord is very near to us; he is about to come to us in a most profound and awesome way upon this altar through the hands of his minister. “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near.”

10 September 2005

Homily - 11 September 2005

Forgiveness is a difficult topic to discuss today. Too few of us want to admit that we are wrong or that we have sinned or that we have harmed another person by what we have done, said, or even and especially failed to do or say. Yet at the same time, we do not want anyone else to hold our faults against us. We do not want others to hold grudges against us, even though we are often more than willing to hold grudges against them. It is a strange situation in which we place ourselves, that of wanting forgiveness, yet not be willing to ask for it and also not being willing to forgive others.

When somebody does us wrong, we are sometimes willing to forgive them, but only if they come to us first and explicitly ask for our forgiveness. Forgiveness is something that we like to hold over someone until they have done just what we want them to do and then we may consider forgiving them. In our own minds, the ability to forgive gives us some sort of power or control over other people and we gladly wield it, never fully aware of what we do.

Before we forgive someone, we want to know why we should forgive them in the first place. If they have caused us harm once already, will they not just hurt us again in the not too distant future? Why should we forgive them only to open ourselves up to more pain? Forgiveness, in this way, seems risky and foolish to us and perhaps it even seems silly and so we hesitate to grant it.

When we do finally bring ourselves to forgive someone, after they have demonstrated their sincerity, we feel good about ourselves. “See how loving and humble I am,” we may think to ourselves; worse yet, we may even say it.

My brothers and sisters, this cannot be our notion of forgiveness, nor can it be our reason to forgive. To the question we all ask at some point, “Why should I forgive you?” there is but one answer: because the Lord has first forgiven us. As the Psalmist sings today, “He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills, redeems your life from destruction, he crowns you with kindness and compassion” (Psalm 102:3-4). Indeed, the Lord went so far as to say, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). The forgiveness of Jesus is without end and he gives no consideration to the reality that we will sin again when he freely offers his forgiveness.

Consider the parable the Lord tells us today. The king who condemned the one who would not forgive did so, saying, “You wicked servant! I forgave your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?” (Matthew 18:32-33). The servant was not condemned because of the debt he owed, but because he refused to share the mercy he had been granted, keeping it all to himself and thinking only of himself.

The grandfather of Joseph, the son Sirach, puts it this way: “Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself?” (Sirach 28:4). Put more simply, Can one forgiven sinner refuse forgiveness to another sinner? No. We cannot refuse forgiveness to another person, because we are all sinners and the Lord, in his infinite goodness and love, extends his mercy and forgiveness to everyone. We must do the same because he has first forgiven us and he says to us, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (John 13:15).

Indeed, several times each day we pray, “…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Do we take seriously these words? Very often we do not comprehend what we are saying. These are powerful and dangerous words to speak. Sirach tells us today, “Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven” (Sirach 28:2). Jesus says to us, “Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart” (Matthew 28:34-35). My brothers and sisters, we can never pay back the debt we owe to the Father; only Jesus can do this on our behalf. He makes this sacrifice and ransom available to us each and every day, if only we forgive others as he forgives us.

We often associate forgiveness with reconciliation. Jesus calls us to forgive and to reconcile whenever possible, but he does not demand reconciliation with everyone from us. The difference is this: when we forgive someone we dismiss the grudge we hold against them and we love them by desiring only their good. When we forgive someone we do not wish any harm upon them and we do not take delight in their misfortunes and faults. On the other hand, when we reconcile with each other, we see “eye to eye” with each other. This is what reconciliation means, “seeing eye to eye.” It means that there is nothing between us, that we are again the best of friends and we get along well at all times. We know that sometimes this is, most regretfully, not possible to do. We certainly should always to seek reconciliation, but it takes two parties to reconcile; it only takes one to forgive.

My brothers and sisters, “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself” (Romans 14:7). “Remember [then] your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin! Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults” (Sirach 28:6-7). Then, when we at last stand before the Lord, his parable will be fulfilled: “Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him” his debt (Matthew 18:27).

17 August 2005

Classes Begin

I am very happy to say that I have now been in my suite for almost two full weeks. The oak floors in the rooms are beautiful and, when combined with my area rug, couch, and two Queen Anne style chairs, together with a little music from Handel, provide a very peaceful and relaxing place to read and enjoy life.

Parish life continues to go very well. I am still rather amazed at how very different each and every day can be. I am also still learning that most of what I plan to do on a given day somehow never quite seems to get accomplished that day. Regardless, though, priestly life is great!

With the first week of classes just next week, I am hard at work trying to put together at least the first few lessons of my class with the juniors at the high school. Throughout the course of the year I will be teaching them Church history - all two thousand years - and the seven Sacraments. It will be a great challenge but one that I am think I am up to.

While I am teaching at the high school I will be visiting the grade school and seeing what sorts of mischieve I can cause there. One of my duties - as I am quickly learning from the grade school students themselves - is to play at recess. Apparently they can only play kickball if an adult pitches and few of the moms and dads want to pitch, so I guess it is up to me.

I think that's long enough for a post - especially since it's been so long since I've posted. It's time to run off anyway and prepare for a high school faculty meeting.

Peace and Joy,

Fr. Daren

17 June 2005

I Live in My Car . . .

The Lord give you peace!

It has been quite some time since last I posted a blog and the time has now come. As I write this blog, I sit in the parish office of my new home, St. Anthony of Padua parish in Effingham, Illinois. You can take a look at the parish's web site at www.stanthony.com.

After a two-week tour of the midwest through Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, and back to Illinois attending the ordinations and first Masses of a number of classmates, I have now begun to move into my first assignment, claiming some office space in the rectory and my former suite (this was my internship parish). I cannot finish the move until the current parochial vicar leaves for his first pastorate in Calhoun County.

Life as a priest these first few weeks has been amazing! They have been filled with much tedious and boring driving, but also with many inspirational and profound moments, together with very good times spent with dear friends.

This weekend I will celebrate the weekend Masses at my deacon parish, Sacred Heart parish in Effingham, to give my thanks to God and to the parishioners for their support and prayers. Early next week I will make one more return to Quincy for about a week. I will be visiting with family and friends and baptizing a cousin. The final week of June I will part of Christian Leadership Institude with high school students and will return to St. Anthony's the evening before my assignment takes effect.

I am very happy to return to Effingham and look forward with great joy to serving the Lord God and his people at St. Anthony of Padua.

Peace and Joy,

Fr. Daren

18 May 2005

The Big Move

With ordination now - God willing - just ten short days away the grace of the Holy Spirit must surely be working for only real pressing concerns and worries at the present are the issues surrounding my move out of Mundelein Seminary.

From the beginning of the planned move out of my move most all of my plans have fallen fall through. Now I have rented a U-Haul and will move most everything out of my room tomorrow morning and store my things - including some thirty boxes of books - with friends in Springfield until I learn of my first assignment and can move in.

It is a very frustrating and aggravating process, packing. I cannot say that I really would recommend it to anybody as an activity for pleasure but only as one for penance and for those in Purgatory.

After Mass this afternoon in a little more than two hours I will - hopefully - load the majority of the remainder of my belongings - expecting a few books, clothes, toiletries, shoes, vestments, and my computer - into the U-Haul for the journey tomorrow morning.

Once I have packed up the truck I will be able to take up my carpet and turn over a couple of chairs and tables to other seminarians who will inherit them as did I. I must say that I feel very strange sitting in my room across from the wall my large bookcase once stood. The room seems so very empty without my books . . .

I think now I will go for a walk around the lake before Mass and then prepare myself to serve as deacon this afternoon. After supper I will then begin tedious packing venture and then go for a swim and then probably watch the behind the scenes footage from the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Perhaps - if I can arrange it - I may see Star Wars Episode IV: The Return of the Sith, but only if we do not leave for Springfield in the morning until 10:00 or so.

Peace and Joy!

11 May 2005

A Midafternoons Walk

Yesterday, in the middle of the afternoon, being some eighty degrees and sunny outside, the time had come for a walk around the lake. The day thus far had been one filled with paperwork and frustration and I needed to get away from it all and enjoy some peace and quiet.

As I set out on my little journey around the lake, I all but immediately stumbled upon a sight I had not yet seen in my years on campus: two adult geese bookending, as it were, four small, newly hatched goslings. It was a charming sight to see the six of them waddle across the road and go gently into the water under the shade of an evergreen tree. I stood on the bridge going over the lake and watched the family for several minutes just taking it in. I was reminded of the many encounters St. Francis of Assisi had with geese in the fields and how he encouraged them to sing praise to Lord. After urging them to do the same, I continued on my venture.

About halfway around the lake I noticed a van approaching that slowed down and rolled down its window as it neared me. There were two marines inside who lived and worked on a base not far from the seminary. They were recruiters who saw the sign for the University of St. Mary of the Lake who wondered what kind of university it was. I spent several good minutes talking with them and had a delightful conversation with them. When we parted ways, I spent the rest of my walk praying for them and for the members of the military throughout the world.

These two experiences during the course of my walk filled me with peace and with joy and brought great relief to what was becoming a stressful day. Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks to him and serve him with great humility!

07 May 2005

The End of the Year

I now have completed my Reconciliation and Mass practicum courses and so the last of my preparations for the priesthood here at the seminary come to a close. It is a time both of sadness and of great joy. I will truly miss my brother classmates whom I have been privileged these past few years. They are men of great faith of zeal and will serve the Lord in love and devotion. I am honored to be numbered among them.

In just a few hours the University of St. Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary will hold its Convocation and will award certificates and diplomas. I am to be granted both a Bachelors of Sacred Theology (S.T.B) and a Masters of Divinity (M.Div.) today. This will be the last time that I will see a number of my classmates until we return to the seminary in the Fall for a brief visit. I pray the Lord will grant us the perseverence to keep in close contact with each other.

Pray for us in these final days before priestly ordination.

01 May 2005

It's May!

Happy May Day and Feast of St. Joseph!

It was my hope today, as has become a sort of little custom for me, to celebrate May Day in my own fashion by watching the musical Camelot, paying careful attention for the song, "It's May." The song has been a favorite of mine for some years now, as have all of the songs of the musical, but today May Day just was not the same.

In part, because I had to settle with only listening to the musical rather than watching it because my movies are currently packed up in boxes and sitting in the hallway outside of my room, and in part because the temperature here in Mundelein did not rise above a very cool and dismal forty-five degrees. Hardly a proper way to begun the pleasant and splendid month of frolicking and rejoicing in the joys of a full-blown Spring!

19 April 2005

Habemus Papam!

When the smoke begin issuing forth from the Sistine Chapel I was sitting in my room talking with a couple of friends. As we watched the smoke rise it looked white enough but there were no bells accompanying the ringing so I assumed a Pope had not been elected.

Being a bit disappointed, I went to the mailroom to drop some things off and returned to my floor to find a couple of guys intently watching the television to determine the actual color of the smoke since it continued to come forth for some time.

I joined them and grabbed a priest to ask his opinion. All of this was taking place just before 11:00 a.m. And then, the bells of St. Peter's began to ring and we could not figure out if they were tolling the hour or tolling an election since the smoke looked white and had been rising for some time. Then, a few minutes later, with great excitement, we heard the bells very clearly tolling the election of the new Pope.

We then ran down to the recreation hall to watch the announcement on a big screen television. When we arrived, there were probably thirty other people in the room all filled with excited and wonder at who the Holy Father was.

We watched the balcony of St. Peters, waiting and waiting to see the Cardinal archdeacon emerge to say those wonderful words: "Annuntio vobis guadium magnum; habemus Papam: Eminetissium ac Reverendissium Dominum, Dominum Josephum Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Ratzinger, qui sibi nomen imposuit Benedictum XVI."

Waiting for the announcement, tears filled my eyes and I was filled with a wonderful joy knowning we had another shepherd to lead us. Pope Benedict XVI will provide excellent leadership to the Church and to the world.

We can get a glimpse of his thought in the homily he gave before the opening of the Conclave. He said:

"Truth and charity coincide in Christ. In the measure that we come close to Christ, also in our life, truth and charity are fused. Charity without truth is blind; truth without charity would be like 'a clanging cymbal'."

"There are no secrets between friends: Christ tells us everything he hears from the Father; he gives us his full confidence and, with confidence, also knowledge. He reveals his face to us, his heart. He shows his tenderness for us, his passionate love that goes to the folly of the cross."

"The more we love Jesus, the more we know him, and the more our genuine freedom grows, as well as the joy of being redeemed. Thank you, Jesus, for your friendship!"

Pray for Pope Benedict, that he may be a good and faithful shepherd of the Church, that God may fill him with the courage and strength needed to carry out his ministry.

Thank you, Jesus, for giving us a Pope! Viva il Papa!

05 April 2005

On the Death of the Pope

Like so very many people throughout the world, I sat with my eyes practically glued to the television these past several days watching and praying with and for Pope John Paul II.

Saturday afternoon I was sitting at the kitchen table at my parish in Effingham inserting reply cards into my ordination invitations, watching the news the all the while. I had been sitting there for a good two or three hours. I had heard the speculation throughout the morning and afternoon that perhaps the His Holiness had already died or perhaps slipped into a coma. When the scheduled bulletin on the Holy Father's condition was pushed back some forty-five minutes by the Vatican late in the morning I knew his condition must have become worse.

Somehow, even though I had watched the television for nearly two solid days waiting for the death of the Bishop of Rome, when he did die the news still came to my ears with great surprise and shock, as well as much sadness. I heard the news just as it was announced in Rome that the Pope was dead and my heart and spirit were deeply grieved.

I spent the next day and a half or so in a state of shock, confusion, and grief, never quite knowing what to do or to mourn the passing of so great a man, a man who has inspired my brother seminarians and I in ways that we do not even fully know.

I always imagined the death of the Pope would be an exciting time, one filled with the pomp and ceremony of the Church that I so much enjoy. A time to witness the great processions and prayers of the people of God. And, yes, a time to wait anxiously for the announcement of the new Supreme Pontiff.

The death of the Pope, though, was none of this, really. His death is one that fills me still today with deep sorrow and loss. I have come to realize that my love and affection for this man runs deeper than ever I knew.

On Monday morning I watched the ending of the private viewing and the transfer of his body in Basilica of St. Peter with fascination, recalling the month I spent in Rome last year and remembering speding much time in the Basilica. I recalled with great fondness the general audience in which we partook and sang "Ad multos annos, gloriosquae annos, vivas, vivas, vivas!" to the Holy Father and how he smiled at us with genuine appreciation and love as we sang. I remembered being in St. Peter's square three Sundays in a row for the Angelus. I recalled processing through St. Peter's Basilica on Sunday evenings for Solemn Evening Prayer with Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, Deacons, and seminarians from throughout the world.

As they brought John Paul's body through the doors of the basilica I wept for quite a long time, truly grieving the loss of a man who was a sort of father figure, a man who was a source of inspiration and comfort and encouragement.

His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, truly served the Church well. May he always be remembered for the father that he was and will continue to be to the Church.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen!

John Paul II, the Great, pray for us!