19 June 2022

Homily - The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ - 19 June 2022

 The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (C)

Dear brothers and sisters,

It should come as no surprise that “at the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ’s Body and Blood.”[1] The bread and wine are brought to the altar from the offerings of our lives, all in keeping with the Lord Jesus’ command to “do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19).

Jesus, of course, did not create his offering of bread and wine from whole cloth, as he it were, which he transformed through the power of his words, into his own Body and Blood. We find a foreshadowing, a prefiguration, of this offering of bread and wine in the Old Testament, beginning with the offering of Melchizedek, who was both priest and king of Salem. Saint Augustine recognized this when he called Melchizedek “a type of Christ.”[2] Indeed, Augustine went so far as to say that Melchizedek offered “the sacrifice which is now offered to God by Christians in the whole wide world…”[3]


Melchizedek is a most mysterious figure. His name means “King of Righteousness,” and, although at that time God had only called Abraham, Melchizedek was not a pagan priest, but a priest of God Most High. In fact, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews describes him as being “without father, mother, or ancestry, without beginning of days or end of life, thus made to resemble the Son of God, he remains a priest forever” (Hebrews 7:3). For this reason, the author goes on to say that Jesus is a “priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 7:17; cf. Psalm 110:4).

What does it mean, though, to say that Melchizedek is without father, mother or ancestry, without beginning of days or end of life? This seems most strange, unless we remember that Melchizedek is a type, a foreshadowing of Christ. Saint John Chrysostom explains what this means, saying,

Just as Melchizedek is said to have no father or mother on account of there being no mention of his parents and to have no family history on account of there being no history for him, so too Christ, on account of his having no mother in heaven or father on earth, is said to have no family history and in fact has none.[4]

Both of these are marvels for us, but it is good for us to marvel at the ways of God.

What does it mean when the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of Jesus, quoting the Psalm, as being a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek? Saint Augustine explains that Jesus is a priest forever, “not after the order of Aaron, for that order was to be taken away when the things shone forth that intimated beforehand by these shadows,” which is to say that the priesthood of Aaron was brought to its fulfillment in the self-offering of Jesus to the Father on the Cross.[5]

Through his offering of bread wine, Melchizedek blessed God on behalf of Abraham and blessed Abraham on behalf of God. His offering of bread and wine presage the Eucharist, by which God blesses us through his priests and we bless God through his priests.[6]

The Old Testament roots of the Eucharist, however, do not end with Melchizedek. Bread and wine

…received a new significance in the context of the Exodus: the unleavened bread that Israel eats every year at Passover commemorates the haste of the departure that liberated them from Egypt; the remembrance of the manna in the desert will always recall to Israel that it lives by the bread of the Word of God; their daily bread is the fruit of the promised land, the pledge of God's faithfulness to his promises


The "cup of blessing" at the end of the Jewish Passover meal adds to the festive joy of wine an eschatological dimension: the messianic expectation of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he gave a new and definitive meaning to the blessing of the bread and the cup.[7]

The Lord Jesus himself foreshadowed his institution of the Eucharist, as we see in the Gospel proclaimed today. His multiplication of the loaves demonstrates the superabundance of the tremendous gift he gave us and entrusted to his Church at the Last Supper.

From these foreshadowings we see that the Eucharist is given to us as a blessing, as a liberation, as sustenance, and as a promise of the life that is to come. Is it any wonder, then, that the saints have so loved the Eucharist, received such solace from the Eucharist, and spoke so movingly about the Eucharist?

Saint Damien of Moloka‘i, for example, who spent so many years among the lepers of Hawai‘i, said,

I find my consolation in the one and only companion who will never leave me, that is, our Divine Savior in the Holy Eucharist. . . .It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength necessary in this isolation of ours. Without the Blessed Sacrament a position like mine would be unbearable. But, having Our Lord at my side, I continue always to be happy and content. . . . Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the most tender of friends with souls who seek to please Him. His goodness knows how to proportion itself to the smallest of His creatures as to the greatest of them. Be not afraid then in your solitary conversations, to tell Him of your miseries, your fears, your worries, of those who are dear to you, of your projects, and of your hopes. Do so with confidence and with an open heart.


These are deeply moving words that I pray each of us will come to understand and imitate through our own deepening love of the Eucharistic Lord.


Today, the Church in these United States of America embarks upon a three year Eucharistic Revival, promoted by the Bishops. This first year is the Diocesan phase, followed next year by the parish phase, and followed the year after by the national phase. Our own Diocese of Springfield in Illinois had already been planning a Year of the Eucharist, beginning with the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th. In these days of revival, let us beg the Lord Jesus to help us deepen our love for him in the Eucharist so that we, too, with the Saints, may be satisfied by him of earthly and heavenly desires. Amen.

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1333.

[2] Saint Augustine of Hippo, On Christian Doctrine, 21.45.

[3] Ibid., City of God, 16.22.

[4] Saint John Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis, 35.16.

[5] Saint Augustine of Hippo, City of God, 16.22.

[6] cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1333.

[7] Ibid., 1334.

12 June 2022

Homily - 12 June 2021 - The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

 The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Dear brothers and sisters,

Holy Mother Church proposes for our reflection and meditation today the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. This central tenet of the Christian faith knows that God is one God in three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who exist in “perfect Trinity and simple Unity.”[1] It goes without saying that this is a difficult reality for our minds to grasp. What, then, can we say about the Trinity?

It sometimes seems that the more we try to understand the mystery of the Trinity the more confused we become and the less we understand God. Saint Augustine once described this reality, saying, Si comprehendis, non est Deus (“If you understand it, it is not God”). Indeed, this realization brings us to the heart of what a mystery is. Our word for mystery comes from the Greek muo, meaning “to close the mouth.” When we consider the inner reality of God, we can only say a few words and then we must simply be silent and marvel at his beauty. Why, then, does the Church give us this Solemnity? What are we to say of this unspeakable mystery?

Firstly, this must be acknowledged: the Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God. Secondly, this must also be acknowledged: the Father is not the Son, nor is the Son the Father; the Father is not the Spirit, nor is the Spirit the Father; the Son is not the Spirit nor is the Spirit the Son. We see in this that the Blessed Trinity is a community of divine Persons, not three gods, but One God because the three Persons are of the same substance; they are consubstantial, as we say in the Creed. Beyond this, it is difficult to say anything more.

Because we are made in the image and likeness of God, we should be able to discern something of his image within us (cf. Genesis 1:26). If we truly examine ourselves, we will all slowly come to admit that “in the heart of every man – a beggar for love – is a thirst for love.”[2] What do we desire more than love itself?

Each of us is, at the core our being, a beggar for love, one who searches and longs for authentic love. We too often seek love in the things of this world, in the things that will pass away and come to nothing. This love that we seek can only be found in God, in him who is without beginning or end, for “God is love, and he who remains in love remains in God and God in him” (I John 4:16). God reveals himself to us as Triune – as three in one - so that we might come to know him more deeply through love, which “is of God,” and so grow in union with him (I John 4:7). Even so, what can we say about the Most Holy Trinity? Is it possible to truly know God?

It is true that we cannot fully comprehend the mystery of God with our finite minds weakened, as they are, by sin; nevertheless, we can know something of him whom we are to love, to the extent that he allows and to the extent that he reveals himself to us.

If we do not know him whom we love, we run the risk of loving a false notion of God, a shadow of God, as it were; we run the risk of loving a god made in our own image. Far too many people today love God as they imagine him to be rather than as he truly is because they do not know him, they do not keep his commandments (cf. Deuteronomy 4:40). These are those who love a god who – so they say - does not care what we do but simply accepts us as we are. These love a mistaken notion of God whom they say wants nothing more of us than that we be good people; that it doesn’t matter what we think, believe, wear, listen to, speak, or buy. These also are they who believe God to be somehow distant and lonely, aloof from the cares of the world, the Creator of all who has since distanced himself from his creation.

None of these imaginings are truly what God is like, as even a cursory reading of the Scriptures will show. God is not lonely and aloof, but is a union of three, who passionately watches over his flock and draws us to himself by placing within us the longing for his love. Saint Augustine knew this well and so he began his Confessions with these remarkably profound words: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”[3]

Why does this matter? Is all of this not mere philosophical and theological argument? No! For what we believe about God affects every aspect of our life, and, more importantly, our eternal salvation. It matters because “our happiness resides in our enjoyment of the Trinity, and if our belief about it is false, our hope will be vain, our love not pure.”[4] Those with false images of God place their “hope and love in a lie” for they do not yet know the source of love.[5]

Recall again that Saint John says, “God is love” (I John 4:16). Wherever there is love three things are always necessarily present: the one who loves, the one who is loved, and the love itself because of itself love requires both someone to be loved and someone to do the loving. Love cannot exist singularly and alone. Here, then, we find a good analogy to help us understand, so far as we can, the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

There are three divine Persons in the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Using the analogy of love, the Father is the Lover, the Son is the Beloved, and the Holy Spirit is the Love shared between them. It is, as it were, as though the Father eternally gazes upon the Son, and the Son gazes eternally upon the Father, and their shared gaze is the Holy Spirit, their love, one for the other.

Now, love of itself must be shared and communicated. If it is kept to or for itself it is not truly love, but rather a mere sentiment, a weak and fading shadow of love, something more akin to self-absorption. The tremendous and overflowing love of God was revealed to us, communicated to us, shared with us in Jesus Christ, in God made man. So great is this unifying love of the Trinity that God chose to unite himself with man so that man might be united with God!

In the waters of Baptism we are ushered into the life of the Trinity; we are given a share in God’s own life. In the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation we are given God’s own spirit and power to follow faithfully after Christ Jesus. In the Eucharistic sacrifice we are nourished by God himself; we receive his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, so as to remain united to the Trinity, to share forever in this divine love. In the forgiveness of sins given in the sacrament of Penance, our unity with the Trinity, damaged by our sin, is restored by God’s merciful love. In the sacrament of marriage, husband and wife are given to the world as a mirror of the love of God. Bishops, priests, and deacons, through the laying on of hands in the sacrament of Holy Orders, make this unifying love known to the world through their preaching and the worthy administration of the sacraments. Through the healing grace of the Anointing of the Sick, we are united to the suffering Christ and, if it is good for our salvation, the love of God restores us to health. All of the sacraments foster our union with God for those who are well disposed to receive them.

Such is the tremendous love of the Triune God! Mother Church gives us this feast today to ponder the glorious union to which we are called. Let us today, then, gaze in wondrous love upon the mystery of the Trinity so that we might enjoy the blessed vision of God forever in heaven. Amen.

[1] Saint Francis of Assisi, A Letter to the Entire Order, 52 in The Classics of Western Spirituality: Francis and Clare: The Complete Works.  Regis J. Armstrong and Ignatius C. Brady, trans. and ed.  (Mahwah, New York: Paulist Press, 1982), 61.

[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 29 March 2007.

[3] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, 1.1.

[4] Ibid., On the Trinity 5.8, 320.

[5] Ibid, 319.

05 June 2022

Homily - The Solemnity of Pentecost - 5 June 2022

 The Solemnity of Pentecost (C)

Dear brothers and sisters,

“When the time for Pentecost had fulfilled” - that is, today, fifty days after the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus – “they were all in one place together” (Acts 2:1).” There is an important lesson for us in this. Those first disciples were not simply scattered about, each in their own home or on the lake or in the woods; no, they gathered because they knew the importance of being together. This is something we need to rediscover today if we ever hope to live out the call of the Second Vatican Council which urged us to strive “to encourage a sense of community within the parish, above all in the common celebration of the Sunday Mass.”[1]

It goes without saying that fostering this sense of community – of being in union with one another – is made more difficult, if not impossible, if each member of the parish does not come together for the celebration of the Holy Mass. It is within the celebration of the Holy Mass, through the invocation of the Holy Spirit and the words of Institution spoken by the Lord that we receive the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus. Whenever a Christian receives the Eucharist, we can rightly address to him or her the words of Saint Paul: “Christ is in you” (Romans 8:10)! Christ is not simply in me or in you, or you, or you, but in each one of us together; being united to Jesus we are united to one another.

Our coming together, our union with one another, is not brought about simply for sheer force our will; it is brought about by the action of the Holy Spirit. As we celebrate this great Solemnity of Pentecost, it is a good opportunity for us to consider who the Holy spirit is, who it is that unites us.

A few days ago, I stumbled upon a description of the Holy Spirit that immediately struck me as true, even though I could not adequately explain what it meant. The author described the Holy Spirit as “the light and fire of the Face of God” and said that his work is “to sanctify our souls, shining upon us the radiance of His light, transforming us into His own likeness.”[2]

As I struggled and searched to discover just what it meant to call the Holy Spirit the “light and fire of the Face of God” -  a captivating phrase, to be sure - I stumbled upon these words of Pope Saint John Paul II: “The Holy Spirit left the mark of his own divine personality on the face of Christ.”[3] I knew they, too, were true, but they did not help a great deal in my understanding.

Then, finally, while pouring over the writings of Saint Augustine, I found a reference to a verse I had not noticed before from Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians: “For it is God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6). This, in turn, led me to the writings of Saint Ambrose, whose words and example converted Saint Augustine. (At this point, I felt like Gandalf scouring the ancient texts in the archives of Gondor.)

When he reflected on the notion of “the glory of God in the face of Christ,” he asked, “Who is it, then, who shined that we might know God in the face of Jesus Christ? Who else do we think but the Spirit who was made manifest? …For whose glory is said to give light but that of the Spirit?”[4] Finally, I understood! The Holy Spirit is the light and fire of the face of Christ because it is the Holy Spirit who reveals the glory of the God in Jesus. When the face of Jesus shone like the sun on Mount Tabor, it was because of the Holy Spirit who revealed the fullness of Jesus’ divine glory and power.

While most people at the time of the Apostles looked on Jesus and saw just another man, some looked upon him and saw him for who he truly is: God made flesh. They saw his divinity because their eyes had been opened by the Holy Spirit who revealed his glory to them. This is why we need the light of the Holy Spirit even today; we, too, need to look upon the Face of Jesus and see not just another man, but God himself.

The more we look upon the Face of Christ the more we become like him. The more we look upon the Face of Jesus, upon the Face of Mercy and of Love, the more the Holy Spirit can make us holy. And as we become holy, the light of the Holy Spirit will radiate out from us into a darkened world to give the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Christ in us. “May the Holy Spirit,” then, “who guides the steps of believers in cooperating with the work of salvation wrought by Christ, lead the way and support the People of God so that [we] may contemplate the face of mercy.”[5] Amen.

[1] Sacrosanctum Concilium, 42.

[2] Patricia Enk, “Restoring the Divine Likeness – Come Holy Spirit,” Illumina Domini, 27 May 2022. Accessed 23 May 2022. Available at https://illuminadomine.com/2022/05/27/restoring-the-divine-likeness-come-holy-spirit/.

[3] Pope Saint John Paul II, Wednesday General Audience, 28 March 1990.

[4] Saint Ambrose of Milan, The Holy Spirit, 3.12.86, 89.

[5] Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, 4.