27 November 2022

Homily - "I need Advent to teach me to slow down and to wait for the Lord. But this is not all Advent does for me."

The First Sunday of Advent (A)

Dear brothers and sisters,

In her wisdom and maternal solicitude, Mother Church gives us these days of Advent for our own good. The Church knows that” at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come” (Matthew 24:44). She knows that “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” and therefore calls us to “climb the Lord’s mountain” (Romans 13:11; Isaiah 2:3). But will we listen to the voice of our mother? Will we say, “We will go up to the house of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1)?

We have this year the tremendous blessing of celebrating the entire four full weeks of Advent. Some may say this only means Christmas is yet a long way off, but this way of looking is done with distorted glasses. While it is true that Advent “is a time of preparation for the Solemnities of Christmas, in which the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity is remembered,” it is also true that Advent is “likewise a time when, by remembrance of this, minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time.”[1]

During these Advent days, the Church looks backwards in order to look forward. Why? Looking back, we see the immensity of the Lord’s love for us so that the fear of his coming as Judge is not so severe. Indeed, the certainty of his love for us instills a longing for his return, a desire to experience the fullness of his love that can only be known when we look upon him face to Face (cf. Job 19:27). Advent, then, “is a period of devout and expectant delight.”[2] Consequently, “heartfelt watchfulness, which Christians are always called to practice in their daily life,” is the hallmark of Advent.[3]

The faithful, then, approach and journey through this particular time of waiting

in the certainty of the Lord who has already appeared on earth [as] we are preparing ourselves for a future meeting with him. We use the ancient prophecies to form our sense of expectation for him, but in the Advent Liturgy he is really bringing us closer to the threshold of his second coming. Every year that passes brings the human race closer to that final coming after which God will be all in all.[4]

Some may question whether any of this is true at all, whether the world will end or if the Lord Jesus is returning. This was true in Saint Augustine’s day, which is why he said, “How much more probable it is that the coming of the Lord is near now, when there has been such an increase of time toward the end!”[5] These words remain true today.

The Church reminds us that we simply do not know when the Lord will return, but we do know he will return; he has promised this and he cannot lie. We must, then, prepare ourselves for his coming so that he will not find us outside of his friendship.

This Season of Advent is my favorite time of the year, despite – and possibly because of – the usual cold temperatures, the meteorological gloom, and the seemingly unending darkness. Advent proclaims to us that the unending dawn is coming and, as Aragorn says in the Lord of the Rings, “dawn is ever the hope of men.”

Patience is not my strongest virtue; I don’t like to wait. Perhaps you are like me. When someone tries to remind me that patience is a virtue, I often remind them that patience is often a waste of time. I need Advent to teach me to slow down and to wait for the Lord. But this is not all Advent does for me. It proclaims a great truth about joy.

…in the all too often frenetic pace of daily life it is important to find time for rest and relaxation, but true joy is linked to our relationship with God. Those who have encountered Christ in their own lives feel a serenity and joy in their hearts that no one and no situation can take from them. St Augustine understood this very well; in his quest for truth, peace and joy, after seeking them in vain in many things he concluded with his famous words: “and our heart is restless until it rests in God” (cf. Confessions, I, 1, 1).


True joy is not merely a passing state of mind or something that can be achieved with the person’s own effort; rather it is a gift, born from the encounter with the living Person of Jesus and, making room within ourselves, from welcoming the Holy Spirit who guides our lives. It is the invitation of the Apostle Paul who says: “May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (I Thessalonians 5:23). 


In this Season of Advent let us reinforce our conviction that the Lord has come among us and ceaselessly renews his comforting, loving and joyful presence. We should trust in him; as St Augustine says further, in the light of his own experience: the Lord is closer to us than we are to ourselves: “interior intimo meo et superior summo meo” (“higher than my highest and more inward than my innermost self”) (Confessions III, 6, 11).[6]


May Advent be your favorite season, as well, as we wait for the Lord. Amen.

[1] Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the General Roman Calendar, 39.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, 11 December 2011.

[4] Aidan Nichols, Year of the Lord’s Favour: A Homiliary for the Roman Liturgy, Vol. 2: The Temporal Cycle Advent and Christmastide, Lent and Eastertide (Leominster, United Kingdom: Gracewing, 2012), 10-11.

[5] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Letter 77.

[6] Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, 11 December 2011.

26 November 2022

Homily for the Funeral Mass for Colleen Votsmier

The Funeral Mass for Colleen Votsmier

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today our hearts are heavy as we mourn the death of one we loved and whom we still love. This is why we can say with the author of the Book of Lamentations, “My soul is deprived of peace” (Lamentations 3:17). But in our grief we must remember that the mercies of the Lord “are not spent” (Lamentations 3:22).

Nearly sixty-five years of marriage is no small thing and while there must have been many difficulties and challenges along the way, I know that there were also many beautiful, enriching, and joyful moments, as well.

H. A., I know these past two and a half months have been painful for you, separated as you have been from the love of your life. But I thank you for the witness of faithful love you have shown to us all in your daily visits to Colleen. They are a testament not only of your love for her, but also of the love of Christ Jesus for his Bride, the Church. The two of you remained faithful to each other for more than six decades and fulfilled the promises you made to each other. Your marriage to Colleen is one of the ways we know “the favors of the Lord are not exhausted” (Lamentations 3:22).

Colleen, of course knew this, as well, which is what led her to prepare for death and why, at the end, she was ready, hard as it is for us who remain. She hoped in the Lord and knew that the Lord is good “to one who waits for him, to the soul that seeks him” (Lamentations 3:25).

But even with this certainty the approach of death is still difficult for us. This is why Jesus himself said, when seeing his own impending death, “I am troubled now” (John 12:27). Yet still he prayed to his Father, “glorify your name” and our Father replied, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again” (John 12:28). What does this mean? How will he glorify his name again?

Saint Augustine, our heavenly patron, proposed an answer to this question in several different ways. This is what he said, speaking, as it were, on the Father’s behalf:

“I have both glorified it,” before I created the world, “and I will glorify it again,” when he shall rise from the dead and ascend into heaven. It may also be otherwise understood. “I have both glorified it” could be understood to refer to when he was born of the Virgin; when he exercised miraculous powers; when the magi, guided by a star in the heavens, bowed in adoration before him; when he was recognized by saints filled with the Holy Spirit. It could further refer to when he was openly proclaimed by the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove and pointed out by the voice that sounded from heaven; when he was transfigured on the mount; when he performed many miracles, fed so vast a number with a very few loaves, commanded the winds and the waves, and to when he raised the dead. “And I will glorify it again” could refer to when he would rise from the dead, when death would no longer have dominion over him. It can also refer to when he would be exalted over the heavens as God and to when his glory would extend over all the earth.[1]

His glory will extend over all the earth when he will destroy death itself on the Last Day and raise the dead to life.

We have come today, then, to commend Colleen to the Lord with the confidence that everyone who belongs to Christ will be brought to life again at the resurrection of the dead (cf. I Corinthians 15:23, 22). But what does Saint Paul mean when he says that, when the Lord Jesus return in his glory, he will “be all in all” (I Corinthians 15:28)?

One way of answering this is to say that “God will be the consummation of all our desiring – the object of our unending vision, of our unlessening love, of our unwearying praise.”[2] Indeed, when the Lord at last raises us from the dust of the earth “we shall be filled, but it will be with God,” who will satisfy every longing of our hearts.[3]

For this reason, “it is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the Lord” (Lamentations3:26). Let us, then, entrust Colleen to the merciful faithfulness of God that having served him in this life, she may be with him forever (cf. John 12:26). Amen.

[1] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Tractates on the Gospel of John, 52.4.

[2] Ibid., City of God, 22.30.

[3] Ibid., Easter Sermon, 255.8.

20 November 2022

Homily - On the power, mercy, and justice of Christ the King

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (C)

Dear brothers and sisters,

It pertains to kings to be powerful, merciful, and just. If a king is a not powerful, he cannot maintain his kingdom. If a king is not merciful, he cannot maintain the loyalty of his subjects. If a king is not just, he cannot maintain his laws. In this way, we see that “supreme power, mercy, and justice are inseparable.”[1] But where do see the power, mercy, and justice of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe? We see them displayed on the Cross.

BL Arundel 60, f.12v

His power is seen in his willingness to lay down his life for us. “The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, ‘He saved others, let him save himself” (Luke 23:35). And, indeed, he could have done so; such power was within his authority, for “in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). But he chose to demonstrate his supreme power through the seeming weakness of love.

His mercy is likewise seen in his willingness to lay down his life for us. “[O]ne of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “…Save yourself and us” (Luke 23:39). He could have saved the three of them, but had he done so we would have no means of salvation. He demonstrated supreme mercy when he chose “to reconcile all things for him” (Colossians 1:20).

His justice is also seen in his willingness to lay down his life for us. Humanity infinitely offended God because of our sin, both the Original Sin and our own personal sins, an offense so great we could never find a way to atone for it. But Christ Jesus could not only make an act of atonement on our behalf because of his humanity, he could make his act of atonement have infinite value because of his divinity. In the union of his divine and human natures, supreme justice was fulfilled when he “made peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20).

Today, brothers and sisters, we confess and acknowledge that “the maximum revelation of God possible in this world occurs in Jesus Crucified, because God is love and the death of Jesus on the Cross is the greatest act of love in all of history.”[2] The universal kingship of Christ Jesus is founded in love.

We have seen his supreme power, mercy, and justice, but is this all that is necessary to be a king? The Latin word which we translate as king is rex. “Rex has its roots in the common ancestor of most European languages, associated with stretching, thus keeping straight (di-rect, cor-rect) and then governing.”[3] Clearly, Christ Jesus guides and governs us by his own example of selflessness when he says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you should also do” (John 13:34).

Even our English word “king” is itself revealing of his Jesus’ kingship. It comes from the old German kuning, a word related to kin and family, and means a leader of a people. Through its etymology, “the Anglo-Saxon "cyning" from cyn or kin, and -ing meaning "son of" evokes images of long-gone tribes choosing as leader a favoured son who is mystically representative of their common identity.”[4] He is certainly a favored son, as the Father himself testified at his Baptism (cf. Matthew 3:17).

A true king, then, is a leader who comes from among a people to guide and govern them along the straight path. Being “the head of the body, the church” and “the firstborn from the dead” Christ Jesus is, we might well say, the only true leader from among a people – indeed, from all people; he is the true law-giver and governor, not just of humanity, but of all creation.

Some may wonder why he chose to manifest his kingship on the Cross, why he chose to reveal his authority in humility. It is true that “the sinless Christ had a right, theoretically, to come as a glorious king, [but] freely surrendered that right out of love for the men he was to redeem. He voluntarily gave up that right out of love for the Father whose plan he was to fulfill.”[5]

In the kingship of Christ on the Cross, we see that what the Roman poet Virgil said is true: Omnia vincit amor; et nos cedamus amori: “Love conquers all; let us, too, yield to love.”[6] Amen.  

[1] Saint Bonaventure, Breviloquium, VII.5.2

[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 25 November 2007.

[3] “The Vocabularist: Where did the word ‘king’ come from?”, BBC, 26 March 2015. Accessed 23 November 2018. Available at https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-32010563.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Michael D. Meilach, O.F.M., The Primacy of Christ: Doctrine and Life (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1964), 33.

[6] Virgil, Bucolics, X.69.

11 November 2022

Homily - 13 November 2022 - We are in the midst of a very great story

The Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Dear brothers and sisters,

The Prophet Malachi, the Psalmist, and the Lord Jesus all speak today about the end of the world, which is to say “the idea that human history will come to an end – will have a last act – [which] puts a huge strain on our imaginations.” This idea is quintessentially Christian because “the story of man is exactly that: a story, with a beginning, a middle, a climax, and an end. Because our history is a story, it has a meaning: it has a purpose, it is going somewhere.”[1]

We can surmise this meaning, this purpose, this destination of the story of our history in something very striking that the Lord Jesus says to us today, something both unexpected and that remains passionately tender. “Not a hair on your head will be destroyed,” he says (Luke 21:18). It was unexpected because not everyone believed in the resurrection of the dead. It remains touching because it shows how very much the Lord Jesus loves us; he loves us so much that he will not allow even a hair of our heads to be lost.

Saint Augustine - our great patron who possessed a towering intellect and a heart capable of profound emotion - understood the passionate love of the Savior for each individual person, perhaps in a manner few others have experienced. Because of this understanding, he was able to say:

We should have no doubt that our mortal flesh also will rise again at the end of the world…. This is the Christian faith. This is the Catholic faith. This is the apostolic faith. Believe Christ when he says, “Not a hair of your head shall parish” (Luke 21:18). Putting aside all unbelief, consider how valuable you are… He took on a soul and body in which to die for us, which he laid down for us when he died and which he took up again that we might not fear death.[2]

In this, we see that the beginning of the story of our history is founded in the love of God which led him to create the cosmos, and especially humanity. We see that the middle of the story of our history paradoxically lies almost at the beginning of our story but also runs throughout it: our turning our backs on the love of God. We see that the climax of the story of our history is found in the Crucifixion of Christ Jesus who poured out his love for us in a rather expected – and yet complete and perfect – way. And we see that the end of the story of our history lies in our being embraced into the love of the Triune God and being brought into union with Love Itself. We need not fear death because God who is Love – who has gone to such great lengths to demonstrate his love for us – is also Life Itself and in him there is no death.

And yet, in our weakness, we still have a tendency toward fear because we have not yet fully understood that for us who are united to Christ, “there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays” (Malachi 3:20). The Church has confidence in this promise and so, in every age, she bears witness to the Lord Jesus’ caution that “it will not immediately be the end” when we see of the portents he list occur (Luke 21:9). “Keeping this admonition in mind, from the beginning the Church lives in prayerful waiting for her Lord…” with the certainty that not a hair on the head of her children will be destroyed.[3]

This certainty in the love of her Master and Teacher causes Mother Church to call her children to live in this same mindset of prayerful waiting (cf. John 13:13). Indeed, she summons us not to hasty action but to gentle patience as we await the end of the story of our history and the joyful coming of the Bridegroom. Indeed, she summons us to “stand erect and raise [our] heads because [our] redemption is at hand” (Luke 21:28).

This does not mean, of course, that the end of the world is, as it were, right around the corner. It may be, for all we know, “but of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36). There is no point in us trying to guess the precise timing of the Lord’s return, of that day “when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble” (Malachi 3:19). Rather, instead of “not keeping busy by minding the business of others,” we should take comfort in the fact that the Lord loves even the hairs on our heads – even those that have fallen out – and do all that we can to live in a way worthy of his love.

If we are living in a way worthy of his love, there is no reason whatever to fear the day of the Lord’s coming. Rather, living in his love brings peace and contentment to our hearts and allows us to live in prayerful waiting, longing for the day when, “with trumpets and the sound of the horn,” we will “sing joyfully before the King, the Lord” (Psalm 98:6).

We know that we are living “in a very great story” because it is not only our story, but also the story of Jesus Christ (the word “Gospel,” after all, comes from an Anglo-Saxon word mean “God’s story”).[4] Indeed, the Church, our Mother, tells us this story year after year in her sacred liturgy. She never grows weary of repeating it, of telling God’s story, even if we grow weary of hearing it. Children, we know, seldom grow weary of hearing the same story over and over again. Perhaps that is why Jesus tells us we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven unless we become like little children (cf. Matthew 18:3).

And while we know the ending, it behooves us not to anticipate it by casting aside our patience too hastily. Likewise, it behooves us not to stay indefinitely at the beginning of its climax – at the Birth of Love-made-flesh - as so many are wont to do in these days. In fact, it does us good to instead stay at pace with Mother Church in her retelling of this very great story.

Next Sunday we will hear of the Sovereign Kingship of Christ and what it means for us. Then, the following Sunday, we will begin to hear how God prepared the world for his coming, first at the end of time and then, strange as it might seem, in that holy manger. Only after this will Mother Church tell us of the Birth of the Babe of Bethlehem; she waits to tell us of his Incarnation with baited breath because she wants us to be ready to hear it.

Let us not seek to celebrate too soon. Let us instead be content to ponder what it means that we are loved so thoroughly that not even a hair of our heads will be allowed to be eternally destroyed. Let us, then, not live “in a disorderly way” by rearranging parts of our story (II Thessalonians 3:7). Let us instead allow the mystery of his love for us to quietly resound and reverberate within our hearts, to grow slowly within us so our understanding and appreciation of his love will deepen and burst forth in a joyful harmony because by our perseverance we will have secured our lives (cf. Luke 21:19). Amen.

[1] Aidan Nichols, Year of the Lord’s Favour – A Homilary for the Roman Liturgy, Vol. 3: The Temporal Cycle: Sundays through the Year (Leominster, United Kingdom: Gracewing, 2012), 169.

[2] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 214.11-12.

[3] Joseph Ratzinger, The Joy of Knowing Christ: Meditations on the Gospels (Ijamsville, Maryland: The Word Among Us Press, 2009), 115.

[4] J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 66 to Christopher Tolkien, 6 May 1944. In Humphrey Carpenter, ed., T Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981), 78.

01 November 2022

Homily - Why are there so few American saints?

The Solemnity of All Saints

Dear brothers and sisters,

In a recent news article, a Catholic journalist asked an important question: “Where are the American saints?”[1] He lists a few practical reasons and he encourages us to pray for the canonization of those Americans whose causes are underway, but never really suggests adequate reason.

Detail, Hours of Louis de Laval, BnF, Latin 920, f. 180r

As we commemorate today all of the Saints who enjoy the vision of God, we are aware that

holiness is always the refutation of the idea that time plays an essential role in Christianity; strangely enough, the reverse is true: our temporal distance allows us to come more directly to the source: namely, to the revelation of Christ.[2]

What does it mean to say that time is not essential in Christianity?

We can get an idea of what this means by considering Saint Francis of Assisi. Without question, he

was a new light on the Gospel; perhaps, as the distance [of time since his life] increases, he will be understood more and more as the summit of the middle ages in his relationship to revelation. The true peak rises as the distance grows; we must take care not to consider our own age as an age without salvation or saints. Everything depends on the awareness that we have of our Christianity. For Francis, to be a Christian was something just as intense, certain and startlingly glorious as to be a human being, a youth, a man. And because being a Christian is eternal being and eternal youth, without danger of withering and resignation, his immediate joy was deeper. Not one single year separated him from Christ, the one who had become flesh; from the manger; from the Cross. For him, not one speck of dust had settled on the freshness of the wonder in the passage of time. The hodie [today] of the liturgy on the great feasts was the hodie of his life. Is there a saint who has had any other Christian consciousness of time?[3]

Too few of us think like Saint Francis; too few of us think like any of the saints.

If we are to consider why there are so few American saints, this must be the answer: we think of Christ Jesus as having lived two thousand years ago, and not as someone who accompanies us and whom we can accompany. The recognition of the closeness of the Lord is what made them saints. They did not consider him as someone distant from them, but as someone right next to them.

We see something of us this in artistic depictions of centuries gone by. The great painters showed Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and the Apostles, in the clothing of their own time. We look at their artworks and think the artists were being anachronistic or that they lacked knowledge of history and the way in which sartorial fashions changed. However, they were showing something completely different, that irrelevancy of time in relation to holiness.

The saints drew close to Jesus because they knew that no passage of time could separate them from him. If we recognize the same, there will be innumerable American saints. May we be counted among them. Amen.

[1] Charles Collins, “As we approach All Saints Day, the lack of American saints stands out,” Crux, 30 October 2022. Accessed 1 November 2022. Available at https://cruxnow.com/news-analysis/2022/10/as-we-approach-all-saints-day-the-lack-of-american-saints-stands-out.

[2] Hans Urs von Balthasar, Raising the Bastions: On the Church in this Age. Brian McNeil, trans. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 27.

[3] Hans Urs von Balthasar, Raising the Bastions: On the Church in this Age. Brian McNeil, trans. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 32.