25 June 2023

Homily on fear and the long defeat

The Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Dear brothers and sisters,

The Lord Jesus tells us plainly, “do not be afraid,” and, particularly, not to “fear” human beings (Matthew 10:31, 26). At the same time, however, he – at the very least – implies we are to have a certain fear of the Son of God who will “deny” us before the Father if we deny him before others (Matthew 10:33).

We are thus encouraged to reflect on the difference that exists between human fears and the fear of God. Fear is a natural dimension of life. In childhood we experience forms of fear that subsequently are revealed to be imaginary and disappear; other fears emerge later which are indeed founded in reality: these must be faced and overcome with human determination and trust in God. However, especially today, there is a deeper form of fear of an existential type and which sometimes borders on anguish: it is born from a sense of emptiness, linked to a certain culture permeated with widespread theoretical and practical nihilism.


In the face of the broad and diversified panorama of human fears, the Word of God is clear: those who "fear" God "are not afraid". Fear of God, which the Scriptures define as "the beginning of knowledge" coincides with faith in him, with sacred respect for his authority over life and the world.[1]

What are we to make of us?

The fears of adulthood are often – and rightly – felt more keenly than the fears of childhood. Indeed, sometimes it seems that, with the prophet Jeremiah, we “we hear the whisperings of many, ‘…Denounce! Let us denounce him’” (Jeremiah 20:10). Sometimes, as I said, these fears are real and sometimes only imagined. What are we to do so as not to be overwhelmed by fear?

We must take an honest assessment of the situation and view it with a proper perspective. Some battles we fight – whether physical or metaphorical – will be lost. Pope Francis reminds us that “Jesus says not to fear, not because everything will be all right in this world, but because we are precious to his Father and nothing that is good will be lost.”[2] J.R.R. Tolkien put it this way: “Actually I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’ – though it contains … some samples or glimpses of final victory.”[3]

Such a sentiment may seem pessimistic, but it is nonetheless true; in the end, all things of this world will come to nothing; only authentic love will remain. We now await the new heavens and new earth and new life is always fraught with tribulations (cf. Revelation 21:1). This is the way of things, it is the way of the Cross; death must come before new life, the grain of wheat must fall into the ground before it produces many grains (cf. John 12:24).

The long defeat, with its little victories here and there, is easily detectable in our present society because too many people live without a proper fear, without a respect for, and submission to, the authority of God.

To be without "fear of God" is equivalent to putting ourselves in his place, to feeling we ourselves are lords of good and evil, of life and death. Instead, those who fear God feel within them the safety that an infant in his mother's arms feels (cf. Psalm 130:2). Those who fear God are tranquil even in the midst of storms for, as Jesus revealed to us, God is a Father full of mercy and goodness. Those who love him are not afraid: "There is no fear in love," the Apostle John wrote, "but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love" (I John 4:18). Believers, therefore, are not afraid of anything because they know they are in the hands of God, they know that it is not evil and the irrational which have the last word, but rather that the one Lord of the world and of love is Christ, the Word of God Incarnate, who loved us to the point of sacrificing himself for us, dying on the Cross for our salvation.[4]

We will indeed suffer a final defeat, not everything in this world be all right, but Christ Jesus will, at the end of all things, bring about the final victory (cf. Revelation 20:7; 5:6).

To keep this perspective, to look upon the world through a truly Christian lens and keep the final victory of Christ before us despite numerous losses along the way, we must draw near to the heart of the Paschal Mystery - and there remain. To this end, it is necessary for us not only to attend the Holy Mass, but also to spend time in the presence of the Eucharistic Lord, to be with him, to speak with him, to learn from, and to become more like him.

Referring to his abiding presence in the Church in the Eucharist, the Lord Jesus said to Saint Augustine, “I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall eat me. You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me.”[5] Friends become like friends; they do so by spending time with each other. We have already been incorporated into the Body of Christ through Baptism; now it remains for us to say with Saint Paul, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

If we do so, we will survive the long defeat and be with the victorious Christ. If we become like Christ, we will not give in to despair, we will not fear men who cannot truly harm us, but we will have a proper fear of God born of love. Then, in the end, having been acknowledged by Jesus before the Father, we will “sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for he [will have] rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked” (cf. Matthew 10:32; Jeremiah 20:13)! Amen.

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, 22 June 2008.

[2] Pope Francis, Angelus Address, 25 June 2023.

[3] J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 195 to Amy Ronald, 15 December 1956.

[4] Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, 22 June 2023.

[5] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Confessions VII.10.18.

10 June 2023

Homily - The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord - 11 June 2023

The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord

Dear brothers and sisters,

Moses directs us today to “remember how for forty years now the LORD, your God, has directed all your journeying in the desert” (Deuteronomy 8:2). Although we do not now live in a physical desert, we are not without various deserts of a metaphorical kind.

And there are so many kinds of desert. There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love. There is the desert of God’s darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life. The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast.[1]

It is a great tragedy that so many people today live in one kind or desert or another, or even multiple deserts at the same time. What can we do to help lead them to water, to a place of refreshment?

So many today are thirsting even without realizing it. We must lead them to the source of true water. The Lord Jesus is, of course, the source of this water; he turns deserts into oases. Of him the Scriptures proclaimed, “Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water” (Isaiah 44:3; 55:1; 58:11; John 7:38). Indeed, before Jesus’ body was taken down from the Cross, “one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (John 19:34).

The Fathers of the Church, including our own Saint Augustine, saw this blood and water as a foreshadowing and source of the Sacraments and of the Church. The Greek word we translate as pierced more literally means opened, which led our heavenly patron to say:

A suggestive word was made use of by the evangelist, in not saying pierced, or wounded His side, or anything else, but opened; that thereby, in a sense, the gate of life might be thrown open, from whence have flowed forth the sacraments of the Church, without which there is no entrance to the life which is the true life. That blood was shed for the remission of sins; that water it is that makes up the health-giving cup, and supplies at once the laver of baptism and water for drinking.[2]

Baptism is for us the gateway to eternal life and the Holy Eucharist nourishes this life within us until its final consummation.

At the end of the Holy Mass today we will take the Blessed Sacrament, the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus, into the streets because “the Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.”[3] We will follow the Eucharistic King out into the deserts of life inviting all people to know him; we will follow him back to this church where he nourishes us each day.

It is not enough only for us to be here; everyone in our communities should be with us here each Sunday! We must bring Jesus to them; we must bring them to Jesus! We must lead others out of the deserts of their lives to where they can be fed with the best of wheat and receive water from the heart of Christ that we will well up within them to eternal life (cf. Psalm 147:14; John 4:14). This is the very purpose and meaning of the Corpus Christi procession. It reminds us that Christ Jesus desires to be involved in every aspect of our lives, that no part of our lives is to be kept from him.

As we walk the streets with Christ Jesus, our presence may well spark the curiosity of those who see us. This is as it should be, for our presence with the Lord will ask with Saint John Chrysostom: “How many of you say: I should like to see his face, his garments, his shoes. You do see him, you touch him, you eat him. He gives himself to you, not only that you may see him, but also to be your food and nourishment.”

At the end of Mass, our procession will form after the processional crucifix and the candles that accompany. The Cross lifted high before us as a sort of standard, calling us to spiritual combat and inviting all who see it to join us before this banner of the King of heaven and earth (cf. John 12:32). The candles will not only light the way before us, but also honor the Cross of Our Lord, of him who is the “Light of the World” and who calls us to be light in a darkened world (John 8:12; cf. Matthew 5:14).

Incense will be carried after the Cross, not in the usual way but with the thurifer walking backwards, incensing the Blessed Sacrament as he does so. The incense will serve as a mark of honor of Christ the King as well as symbolizing our prayers being presented before him (cf. Malachi 1:11; Psalm 141:2; Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4).

A canopy will be held aloft above the Blessed Sacrament as we walk. From ancient times, the canopy was seen as a symbol of authority and royalty, both of which belong to the Lord Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of David. The canopy also serves to draw attention to where the Blessed Sacrament is and to protect it from anything that might drop upon it.

The Blessed Sacrament will be carried in a monstrance, the name of which comes from the Latin monstrare, meaning “to show.” The monstrance invites all people to look upon their Lord, to love him and worship him and adore him.

You will join the procession following after the Blessed Sacrament. We will become a great jumble of people, members of the one Body of Christ, some walking in an orderly way, some stumbling here and there as they attempt to sing and walk (cf. I Corinthians 10:17). This is as it should be. Jesus does not only come into perfect, neat, and tidy lives; he comes into all of our lives. He is not ashamed to walk among us; neither should we be ashamed to walk with him.

Having received the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ in a few moments, may we go forth from this Mass with joy, praising him who never leaves us and inviting those who are not yet with him to follow him out of the deserts of lives into eternal pastures and still waters (cf. Psalm 23:2). Amen.

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 24 April 2005.

[2] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Tractates on the Gospel of John, 120.2.

[3] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 24 April 2005.

04 June 2023

Homily - The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity - 5 June 2023

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 of our being, a beggar for love, one who searches for 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; cf. II Corinthians 13:11). 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 he allows and to the extent he reveals himself.

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, because 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 those 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 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 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). Saint Augustine teaches us that 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 useful 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 – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - 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.