Sunday, December 25, 2011

A King Who Lives With His People

Homily from the Nativity of the Lord - Year A

I asked our young children at the 4PM Mass on Christmas Eve to imagine they were a great king or queen of a powerful nation. 

"If you were a king, where would you live?"  "A castle!" they responded. 

"If you were a king, what would you wear?"  "A crown!" one boy shouted.  "Robes." another child answered.  "Fancy shoes" said another.

"If you were a king, who would be your friends?"  "Rich people!" shouted one kid.

"If you were a king, what would you eat?"  "Anything I wanted" said one child.

When Jesus was born, there was a king who lived just like that.  We heard his name in the beginning of today's Gospel: Augustus Caesar.  Augustus Caesar was the king of the Roman Empire and he was the most powerful man in the world.  He lived in the best house.  He wore the best clothes.  His friends were the richest and most powerful men in the world.  And he ate whatever he wanted with just a snap of his fingers.

Then I asked the kids the following question: "But was Caesar the true king?"  "No!" they shouted.  "Who is the true king" I asked.  "Jesus!" they responded in enthusiastic unison.  (By the way, every young child answers "Jesus" to every religious question: "Who's the Son of God?"  "Jesus!"  "Who's the mother of God?"  "Jesus!")

However, Jesus did not have any of the things we say belong to a king.  He didn't live in a palace; he was born in a stable.  He didn't wear fancy robes: he wore swaddling clothes, strips of rags.  He wasn't surrounded by the rich and powerful; he was surrounded by poor shepherds. 

"So," I asked the children, "If Jesus is the true king, why was he born in such a poor way?  And one child answered, "Because he's humble."

Perfect answer.

Jesus was born in humble means so that we might know that we have a king who does not merely rule over us.  We have a king who loves us and wants us to know that no matter who we are or what conditions we're born in, we have a God who loves us, who cares about us, and who wants to live with us.

A long time ago, there was a king in Europe who use to put on a disguise, sneak out of the palace at night, and walked around with the poor people of his kingdom without their knowing it.  His servants warned him not to do this because it was unsafe for him, he wouldn't be protected by the palace walls.  The king responded, "I cannot rule my people unless I know how they live."

That's the kind of king we have in Christ Jesus.  

Jesus "humiliates" himself for our sake.  And I don't mean "humiliate" in the negative sense of the word as in "to put down," but in the true sense of the word, as in "to come down to earth."  That's where we get the words "humiliate" and "humble" from.  They both come from the same Latin root "humus" which means earth or dirt.  If you've ever eaten pitas and humus, you know that humus kind of looks like a sandy, wet mud.

God humiliates Himself, comes down to earth, as a small child so that we might know that we have a king who knows everything we're going through.  Like the good king mentioned above, He, who is God; He who is fully divine, put on the "disguise" of humanity, if you will.  And, while never losing any of his divinity, lowered himself to share fully in our humanity. Jesus didn't stay locked up in a palace.  He left his palace, the Kingdom of Heaven, so that he could live here on earth among us.  The only thing he ever owned was the simple robe he wore.  He befriended sinners so they could become Saints.

And he didn't eat fancy food.  Instead, he came to feed us; by giving us his Body and Blood in the Eucharist.  That's why Jesus was born in a manger, a feeding trough for animals, so that he could become food for us so that we might have eternal life.

That's the kind of king we have.  A king who loves us so much, he chooses to live among us, his subjects.  "Emmanuel" - "God with us."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Home! The Lord is With You!

Homily from the 4th Sunday of Advent - Year B

During the first three weeks of Advent, we have heard very definitive themes in our readings.  The theme of the First Sunday of Advent was “watch.” Jesus said three times in the Gospel to “watch” for we do not know the hour when the Son of Man will come.  In week two, our theme was “prepare” as John the Baptist called us to “prepare the way of the Lord” through repentance.  Last week, on Gaudete Sunday, the theme was “rejoice” for the coming of the Lord grows near.  This week, the prominent theme in our readings is “home.”

You could say that this week’s readings talk about God building a home for Himself.  In the first reading, David, the great King of Israel laments that fact that God is basically living in a tent.  God’s presence at that time was represented by the ark of the covenant which held the tablets of the Ten Commandments.  The ark was kept in a tent while King David lived in a luxurious house of cedar.  So David has it in mind to build the Lord God a more worthy dwelling place.

However, God has other plans.  God tells David’s servant Nathan to ask David, “Should you build me a house to dwell in?”  And then God goes on to present a litany of everything He has done for David and the people of Israel, pointing out that it was by God’s power, not David’s that these things were done: “It was I who took you from the pasture... I have been with you wherever you went… I have destroyed all your enemies before you… I will make you famous… I will fix a place for my people Israel… I will give you rest from all your enemies… I will raise up your heir after you… and I will make his kingdom firm.”

Basically, God is telling David, “All this has happened to you because of Me. You can’t build Me a house to dwell in, only I can.”

Now, jump ahead 1,000 years, to today’s Gospel and we hear the story of God building the house for Him to dwell in.  The angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will conceive and bear the Son of God.  Then, Mary, asks an interesting question: “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”  In a sense, Mary is asking, “How can I bear this child? How can I provide a place for him to be conceived and to grow? How can I build a house for him to dwell in? I’m a virgin!”

And the angel’s response to Mary is just like God’s response to David.  “Should you build me a house to dwell in?  No. It’s not by human powers that this house will be built. It’s not by human conception that this house will be built. I will build the house.”  The angel says to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you… nothing will be impossible for God.”

So in Mary, we see the House of God.  Built and prepared by God, she is the first place the Son of God calls home.  In her person, she and Jesus dwell together.  She is the first Church, the first House of God.

That’s what the Church is.  It's where God dwells.  It’s where God dwells with His people.

And if you are here today, perhaps after an absence of some time; if you’re here because you’ve accepted the invitation of a friend, or perhaps you’ve seen the “Catholics Come Home” commercials on TV, I want to say, “Welcome Home!”  On behalf of Monsignor John, Father Polycarp, and our entire parish family, welcome back to your home, the Catholic Church.  Our parish family is incomplete without out you. We want you here. We need you here. And we are overjoyed that you are here.

This is your truest home on earth for in this place where the Son of God dwells.  Jesus literally lives here. He is present in the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion, which is reserved in the tabernacle in our Blessed Sacrament chapel and there he dwells 24/7.  Just as he tabernacled himself in Mary.  And just as he tabernacles himself in you through the Eucharist.  Think about that. Whenever you receive Jesus in the Eucharist, He finds a dwelling place, a home, in you.

Now, maybe you’re saying to yourself, “I’m not worthy to receive him.”  Well, none of us are, that’s why we say each time before we receive the Eucharist, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  You’re not worthy, I’m not worthy, none of us are worthy. But Jesus chooses to enter under our roofs, to dwell within us.

But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that we make ourselves worthy.  Just like King David and Mary, we are powerless to build in ourselves a worthy dwelling place for Jesus to dwell. Only God can build the house.

So maybe there’s some cleaning up to do under our roofs.  Let God do the cleaning. Come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Come to our parish Advent Penance Service Monday night at 7.  Let Jesus say those words through the priest: “I absolve you from your sins.”   Let Jesus only say the word, and your soul shall be healed.

Then, just as Nathan said to David and as the angel Gabriel said to Mary, “The Lord is with you.”  Then, the Lord will find a place to dwell within you.  He will find a home in you and you will find a home in Him.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rejoice! In All Circumstance Give Thanks!

Homily from the 3rd Sunday of Advent ("Gaudete Sunday") - Year B

Today, the Church celebrates “Gaudete” Sunday, which means “Rejoice” in Latin.  Called so, because “gaudete” is the first word in the introit, the entrance chant, to this Mass.  “Gaudete in Domino semper.” “Rejoice in the Lord always.”

When the season of Advent was first celebrated in the Church, it was seen as a kind of “little Lent” marked by acts of penance, prayer and fasting.  And in both seasons, Advent and Lent, one of the Sundays is set apart to lighten the mood a bit and encourage us in our prayerful preparation for Christmas and Easter.

The fourth Sunday of Lent is called “Laetare” Sunday. The third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete” Sunday and one of the subtle ways we rejoice and lighten the mood a bit is by wearing rose colored vestments and lighting the rose colored candle.

And for many, this time of year is one for lightening the mood a bit and rejoicing.  There’s a dusting of beautiful white snow on the ground – and it’s always beautiful when it remains just a dusting isn’t it?  We gather in each other’s homes for Advent and Christmas parties.  Cookies and candies start showing up in our homes and workplace.  We hear the beautiful sound of Nat King Cole singing “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” Johnny Mathis’ “Sleigh Ride,” and of course, Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas.”  And the cards and letters fill our mailboxes.

So, I thought I’d lighten the mood a bit by sharing something with you that made me rejoice this past week.  The 2nd graders wrote me letters.

Grace wrote: “Dear Father Andrew, Did you watch the Notre Dame game on November 26 on Saturday? I did. It was pretty good. I thought of you when we were watching it. They lost! I bet you were mad.”

Jacob wrote: “Dear Father Andrew, Hi. I have a question for you. What is it like being a priest in Church? This year I am going to have First Communion and Reconciliation. That is going to be fun. Do you like Notre Dame? I do too. I want to be a priest. Bye.”

Lucas wrote: “Dear Father Andrew, How is Mass going? Do you like being a priest? Is your day going good? Every Sunday or Saturday I see my friends at Mass! I pray every day. Praying is good, even if you don’t want to. Maybe I can pray more.”

And finally, Will wrote: “Dear Father Andrew, How do you remember all those words in Mass? We are making two sacraments this year. It’s a big year. Don’t eat the yellow snow.”

It’s the little things right? The little things that make us rejoice.  It's letters from our kids.  The coloring pages they give us that we display proudly on the refrigerator.  Our friends that bring us joy simply by their presence.  Because the littlest things make the biggest difference.

Like a tiny baby, born in an animal’s stable, sleeping in an animal’s food trough, who would grow up to do nothing less than save the world.

This little thing, this child is the source of all our rejoicing.  As Isaiah says in today’s first reading: “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul.”  As Mary says in today’s psalm: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”  And as St. Paul says in today’s second reading: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstance give thanks.”

So I want you to do something before you go to bed tonight: follow St. Paul’s advice: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks.”  Before you go to bed, mentally walk through your entire day, and rejoice, give thanks to God for everything He has given you today, big or small.

Thanks for the warm bed you woke up from.

Thanks for the alarm clock that kept you from sleeping too late.

Thanks for the hot water in your shower.

Thanks for soap, shampoo, toothpaste and deodorant.

Thanks for everyone else’s soap, shampoo, toothpaste and deodorant!

Thanks for a family that brought you joy or tested your patience and in either instance gave you the opportunity to grow in holiness.

Thanks for hot meals.

Thanks for warm clothing.

Thanks for Nat, Johnny and Bing.

Thanks for a vehicle that brought you to Mass this morning.

Thanks for the gift of God’s Son, Jesus, who gave Himself completely to you in the Eucharist so that you might have nothing less than eternal life.

Thanks for letters from your 2nd grader.

Thanks for friends.

Thanks for laughter.

And if it’s the case, give thanks to Him for being there always and especially when there aren’t things like hot meals, warm clothing, or laughter.

Yes, it’s true, sometimes we have good reason for not feeling like rejoicing. But remember that there’s always a cause for rejoicing: a baby born in a manger.

“In all circumstances give thanks” and rejoice.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Remember How Good You Are - True, Authentic Human Nature

Homily from the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

You've all heard the phrase: “Boys will be boys."  It's often used when boys are misbehaving.  Similar phrases are: “They’re only human.” “It’s just human nature.”  Which are often used when describing human failings.

Both of these statements imply a human nature that is often viewed as inherently flawed or failed.  However, truth to be told, our true, authentic human nature is not flawed or failed.  True, authentic human nature is good.

To understand true, authentic human nature, we have to go back to the beginning to see human nature as God originally created it.

In today’s first reading, we hear about a flawed and failed human nature.  After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree, the Lord God called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?” 

The very question itself, “Where are you?”, suggests that mankind is lost.  Adam has no direction. He is disoriented; because he is no longer oriented towards God.

Adam answers: “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid because I was naked so I hid myself.”  Listen to how Adam describes himself: “I was afraid,” “I was naked,” “I hid myself.”  Language riddled with shame and guilt.

God points out, “You have eaten, then, from the tree.”  And Adam immediately responds, “The woman whom you put here with me, she gave me the fruit from the tree.”  Shame turns into blame.  "Boys will be boys" right?

So God asks Eve, “Why did you do such a thing?”  Eve follows the example of her husband, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”  “The devil made me do it!”  “They’re only human” right? “Just human nature” right?

No. This isn’t true, authentic human nature.  To find it, we have to go back even further. 

Listen to the first words of today’s reading, “After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree” things went terribly wrong.  Which means before the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree, things were very good.  Before the fall, Genesis says, “The man and the wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame.”  They live in harmony with one another.  They live in friendship with God.  They are free from sin; or, another way of putting it: they are full of grace, immaculately conceived.

Sound like someone you know?

This is Mary.  Living in harmony with mankind.  Living in friendship with God.  Free from sin; or, as the angel Gabriel puts it: full of grace, immaculately conceived.

Mary reveals to us God’s original design for true, authentic human nature.

Here’s the point: who we really are, who God created us to be more closely resembles the immaculately conceived Virgin Mary than it does fallen Adam and Eve.

“Boys will be boys” or “They’re only human”, and the negative aspects those phrases imply, present a false view of human nature.

Here’s the further and ultimate point: we are good. You are good!  That’s how God created you. 

When God created everything, Genesis says that He saw how good it was.   He creates the water and the sky. God saw how good it was.  God creates the plants and vegetation. God saw how good it was.  God creates the sun, the moon and the stars; the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the animals on land. God saw how good it was.

But then God creates mankind, male and female. You know what He saw. Not just how good it was. But how very good it was.  In Genesis we read, “God looked at everything He had made, and he found it very good.”

Everything He had made.  That includes you.  We are not just good. We are very good.

A friend of mine shared with me something his priest would always tell teenagers at the end of their youth group meetings, and I want to share it with you today: "Remember how good you are."

I will frequently tell people that: "Remember how good you are."  And I will get looks sometimes as if I’m crazy.  Many times people cannot accept it: that you are good.  Because we’ve bought into the false notion of human nature: that we’re fallen and failures.  We’ve forgotten who we are.

That’s why we have to remember how good we are.  We have to remember how God made us, before the fall.  That we’re very good – that’s true, authentic human nature.

Now, do we sin? Of course. We’re even inclined to sin.  But at the core of our being, we are good.  Because God made us that way and God doesn’t make mistakes.

Listen to St. Paul’s words to the Ephesians from our second reading: “He [God] chose us in Him [Jesus], before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.”  You were chosen by God to be holy and without blemish.

Sound like someone you know?

“You were chosen by the Father, you were chosen for the Son.”

Who you really are, more closely resembles the immaculately conceived Virgin Mary than the fallen Adam & Eve.  Become who you were meant to be by imitating the live of Mary, the Immaculate Conception.  Let the Holy Spirit come upon you. Let the power of the Most High overshadow you.  Let the new life of Jesus Christ be conceived in you.  Become a handmaid, a servant, of the Lord through obedience to Him as Mary was obedient.  In the simple, everyday tasks and challenges of life; follow the will of God always.  And let it be done to you according to His word.

Then, you will know lasting happiness and peace even in difficult times.

Then you will discover your true, authentic human nature.

Then, you will remember how good you are.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Prepare! What Sort of Persons Ought We to Be?

Homily from the 2nd Sunday of Advent - Year B

Last week’s Gospel had a very clear theme of watching for the Lord.  This week’s readings also have a very clear theme: one of preparing for the Lord’s coming.

The prophet Isaiah says “In the desert prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”  And then, in today’s Gospel, the prophecy is fulfilled: John the Baptist comes out of the desert preaching repentance for one mightier than he is coming.

Isaiah and John the Baptist are talking about preparing a way for Jesus to enter into our hearts.  It’s very simple really. There is no greater joy in life than the life of Christ in us.

Jesus is coming. Not just at Christmas; but at the end of our days.  Are we ready to meet him?  If he were to walk through that door right now, would we be ready?

St. Peter asks us a very loaded question in today’s second reading: “What sort of persons ought you to be? Waiting for and hastening for the coming of the day of God.”

What should we be doing to make ourselves ready for the coming of the Lord?  How should we prepare a way for him to enter our hearts?  I would like to suggest to you four ways for you to truly come to know Jesus more intimately.

The first one is easy because you’re already doing it right now.  Receive Jesus in the Eucharist.  There is no greater way to enter into intimacy with Jesus than by receiving his Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity within our very persons.  Receive him as often as you can.  Prayerfully consider coming to additional Masses throughout the week.  Take a look at the Mass schedule in the bulletin.

Second, come to our parish Advent Penance service Monday, December 19th.  Prepare a way for the Lord by allowing Him to lower the mountains of sin and fill in your valleys with grace.  Let the Sacrament of Reconciliation make a straight path for Jesus to enter into your heart.

Buy "Catholicism" here.
Third; maybe some of you saw a television series lately on PBS or EWTN called “Catholicism.”  It’s hosted by a very powerful preacher Fr. Robert Barron.  He explains with clarity the beauty of our Catholic faith.  Everything from the Trinity, to Jesus Christ, Mary and the Saints, the Church, the Mass and Sacraments, Prayer, Heaven, Hell and everything in between.  And it’s done beautifully; Fr. Robert explains the mysteries of the faith, showing amazing locations such as Bethlehem, Jerusalem, St. Peter’s in Rome, the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, Lourdes, and so on.  It’s ten episodes long and guess what? We’re going to give you the opportunity to see all ten.  Beginning Monday, January 16th, we’re going to show this series for ten straight Monday nights in the Spiritual Center.  The first episode is about who the person of Jesus Christ is and the the second episode focuses on his teachings.

And lastly, come to know Jesus Christ through your daily personal prayer.  Every year in the Church, we hear from a particular Gospel writer.  Today we began the Gospel of Mark and we’ll be hearing it throughout the year.  I want to suggest that you pray the entire Gospel of Mark this year.  Pray a small passage from Mark every day.  Begin today with today’s Gospel.  Spend a few minutes, reading the Gospel slowly and prayerfully.  Then think about what God is saying to you in the passage.  Then offer Him a prayer in return. It’s that simple.  And each day, pray through the next passage until you reach the end.

If you want to know Jesus more, come to know him by praying the Gospels.  Especially the Gospel of Mark in which people are continually asking, “Who is this Jesus?”  When Jesus calms the storm at sea the disciples ask, “Who is this whom even wind and sea obey?”  This Gospel answers the question in the very first verse. “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.”  It answers it again right in the middle. When Jesus asks the Apostles who they say he is, Peter responds firmly, “You are the Messiah.”  And it answers it a third time at the end, when Jesus breathes his last on the cross, the centurion standing there says, “Truly, this man was the Son of God!”

Everyone I know wants to know Jesus more.  It’s the greatest desire of the human heart: union with the divine.  That’s why we’re drawn to enter into union here on earth; to get ready for divine union.  Come to know Jesus more this Advent through his Word and Sacraments.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Watch! It's here! It's here!

Homily from the 1st Sunday of Advent - Year B

I went to South Bend to spend Thanksgiving with my dad and my brother and his family.  We ate great.  I slept a lot.  And I watched a lot of TV.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I watched more TV on Thursday and Friday than I have in the entire month prior.

And if you watched any TV at all over the Thanksgiving holiday, you saw non-stop commercials for this and that sale.  One in particular, was exceptionally ridiculous.  It was for Target. 

It showed this lady with platinum blonde hair, ruby red lipstick, and a red jogging suit opening her mail.  Apparently she opens a flyer saying that the Target Thanksgiving sale has begun.  Because she starts hyperventilating, and crying uncontrollably and then she screams, “It’s here!”  That’s all it was. Someone got paid a lot of money for coming up with that idea.

As it turns out, this lady was the main character of Target’s commercials over the last several weeks.  And the commercials have been about her getting ready for the big sale.  I watched a slew of them this afternoon on YouTube.  They show her lifting weights, running through the aisles with a shopping cart, making lists and maps of the store.

As I watched each commercial, my celibacy was confirmed more and more.

Today, we’re entering a season in which we get ready for the big day.  We enter the season of Advent, a season of preparation, a season of anticipation, and a season of waiting and watching.  But not for the Black Friday sale at Target.  And not even, I would dare to say for Christmas.  Instead, Advent gives us the opportunity to prepare and watch not for the day of Christ’s first coming in Bethlehem, but for his second at the end of time.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says three times: to watch.  But Jesus is a grown man when he says this.  He’s not talking about his birth. How could he, right? He’s already been born of course.  Instead, this passage comes from near the end of the Gospel of Mark, as Jesus is awaiting his death.  So, he warns his listeners to be watchful for the day when they will leave this world as well.

It’s ironic actually. Here at the beginning of a new liturgical year, we’re not talking about beginnings.  Rather, we’re talking about endings.  The end times. Both the end of our time here on earth and the end of time itself.

I think if we all had to admit the truth, we’d have to admit that for the most part, we spend a lot more time thinking about today rather than tomorrow.  We think about the things of this world rather than the things of heaven.  We think more about the 2-day sale than the second coming.

However, as Christians, we need to be mindful of the fact that we’re only on this earth for a time.  That’s why we call ourselves a pilgrim Church.  Because we’re not here forever. We’re only on a journey through this earth.  In fact, how we begin each and every Mass signifies this pilgrim journey.  In the procession, the priest walks through you the people which symbolizes our pilgrim journey through earth on our way to our true home, which is heaven, symbolized by this sanctuary.

Every time we come to Mass, we get to prepare for our heavenly destination.   In fact, so much of what we do and say in the Mass, especially with the new translation we begin today, is directed towards preparing us for the next life, our ultimate life.

We begin every Mass with a penitential rite in which we “prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.”

In our opening prayer, we pray for “the resolve to run forth to meet… Christ with righteous deeds at his coming.”

In the Creed, we say “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”

In the prayer over the gifts we pray for “the prize of eternal redemption.”

In the preface before the Eucharistic Prayer, we hear about how Jesus will come “again in glory and majesty” and pray that “we who watch for that may inherit the great promise in which we now dare to hope.”

In the Memorial Acclamation we sing to Jesus himself, “When we eat the Bead and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.”

In the Eucharistic Prayer we remember Jesus’ Passion, Death, Resurrection, his Ascension into heaven and that “we look forward to his second coming.”

As we pray the Our Father, we pray “thy kingdom come.” 

“We await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

And right before receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, we are invited to the “supper of the Lamb” which is not only the supper of this Eucharist, but the supper of the Lamb, Jesus, in the heavenly kingdom.

In this Mass and in our life, we live, as one biblical commentator stated, in the shadow of eternity.  Think about that for a moment: we live in the shadow of eternity.  We’re not there yet, but it’s definitely in our future.

And the good news is, we don’t have to live in fearful or hysterical expectation.  Instead, we live in day-to-day readiness for the Lord.  Grateful to him for the gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation which cleanses us for his coming and the gift of the Eucharist which gives us strength for the journey.

So, as our closing prayer today will say, may this Mass, “may these mysteries… profit us… even now as we walk amid passing things” as we walk amid the Black Friday sales, may we “love the things of heaven and hold fast to what endures.”  So that when the day of our meeting the Lord comes, we can say with joy, "It's here!  It's here!"

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New Roman Missal Part 4 - Concluding Rites and Dismissal

Homily from the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King - Year A

"Behold the Lamb of God"

Beginning next week, when the priest shows you the host and the chalice he’ll say, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”

The first part of the phrase is the words of St. John the Baptist from the Gospel of John. When John the Baptist first saw Jesus coming toward him he said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

The second part of the phrase is also words recorded by St. John the Evangelist, this time from the Book of Revelation. An angel said to John the Evangelist: “Write this, Blessed are those who are called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”  Referring not only to the feast we celebrate in this Eucharist, but also to the heavenly banquet; the wedding feast of the Lamb when we will be gathered as one around Jesus, the Lamb of God.

Jesus is the Lamb of God because like the sacrificial Lamb of Passover which saved the ancient Jews from death, Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb of God who gives his life for us to save us from death and sin.

"Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof."

This is perhaps my favorite change in the new translation.  Beginning next week, as you look upon the host and chalice, Jesus, the Lamb of God, you’ll say to him, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

This is from the story of the centurion who had a sick servant and came to Jesus asking him to heal his servant.  Jesus said, “I will come and cure him.”  But the centurion immediately responds, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.”  The centurion knew Jesus was a man of power and authority and he trusted that although he was not worthy to receive Jesus into his house, that Jesus’ love would nevertheless heal his servant.

Likewise, when we say these words, we acknowledge the power and authority of Christ and that we are not worthy to have Jesus enter “under our roof” and that we trust him to heal us through the gift of himself in the Eucharist.

New Dismissals

Two will sound somewhat familiar: “Go forth, the Mass is ended” and “Go in peace.”

However, there are two new dismissals which will sound quite new.  “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.”  And “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”

These two new dismissals have actually been chosen by Pope Benedict XVI himself.  In choosing them, the Holy Father wanted us to see more clearly our responsibility as Christians to evangelize the world.

The dismissal isn’t just bringing the Mass to end.  It’s a “sending forth.” That’s what dismissal means: to be sent on mission.  In fact, that’s why the Eucharistic celebration is called the “Mass.”  It comes from the final words of the Mass in Latin: “Ite Missa est.”  Which literally means “It is sent.”

The Mass is a sending of you and I to be witnesses of Jesus Christ to the world by our words: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” and our actions: “Go in peace glorifying the Lord by your life.”

Sunday, November 13, 2011

New Roman Missal Part 3 - The Liturgy of the Eucharist

Homily from the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A

"My sacrifice and your sacrifice."

When the priest says “my sacrifice” he’s referring to the sacrifice of Christ being made by the priest who acts in the person of Christ, in persona Christi.  The “your” part of the sacrifice refers to the sacrifice of all the people; the sacrifice of your lives: your prayers, works, joys, sufferings, your entire lives are being joined to Christ’s sacrifice on the altar and offered up to the Father.  Often a family will bring up the gifts of bread and wine. This is a significant gesture for it represents you offering back to God the gifts of creation and the fruits of your labor.

Also, the fact that the family brings the gifts up in procession through the people signifies the bringing up of the spiritual offerings of all the people. When you watch the family bring up the gifts, think about the joys and sufferings of your life that you wish to place on God’s altar.

"Lord, God of hosts."

For a few weeks now, we’ve been singing the new translation of the Sanctus which now begins, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts”  The new translation is from Scripture. The prophet Isaiah saw a vision of angels worshipping God, “‘Holy holy, holy is the Lord of hosts! they cried out one to the other, ‘All the earth is filled with his glory!’” (Isa 6:3)

Now by “hosts” we don’t mean the little white hosts of Holy Communion. The heavenly hosts are the army of angels.  This is the great hymn of the angels as they praise God. St. John wrote of it in Revelation. The angels sing “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.” (Rev 4:8)  The angels are worshipping God at this moment and at all times.

You’ll notice that immediately before we sing these words with the Angels and Saints, the priest will say something like this: “And so, with the Angels and all the Saints we declare your glory as with one voice we acclaim.”  At this point of the Mass, we are joining the Angels in their praise of God. We are uniting the liturgy here on earth with the liturgy of Heaven.

The Eucharistic Prayer

“Like the dewfall”

You’re familiar with Eucharistic Prayer II. It’s probably the most commonly used of the Eucharistic Prayers and it’s the shortest.  It’s an ancient prayer of the liturgy, written by St. Hippolytus around the year 215 AD.

You’ve heard it thousands of times before. It begins, “Lord, you are holy indeed, the fountain of all holiness. Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”  The new translation will read like this: “You are indeed Holy, O Lord, the fount of all holiness. Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall.”

Dewfall? What’s that all about?

Well, you remember when Moses was leading the Israelites through the desert and they were hungry, so God fed them bread from heaven or, manna? We read in the book of Exodus, “In the morning a dew lay all about the camp, and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert were fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground… Moses told them, ‘This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.’”  Similarly, the Lord is about to give us bread to eat, the Bread of Heaven, the Body of Christ.


First of all, these are words from Scripture. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke and St. Paul’s account of the Last Supper in First Corinthians, the original Latin says that Jesus took a “chalice.”

Plus, “cup” is too generic of a term. A cup is any vessel that holds a liquid (i.e.: a coffee cup or a Solo cup.) What we use at Mass however is a very specific type of cup, a chalice, which holds the Blood of Christ.

Virtually every item we use in the Mass has a special name, specific only to the liturgy. For example, this is not a napkin, it’s a purificator. This isn’t a placemat, it’s a corporal. What happens in the Mass is unlike anything that happens on earth, so our language is very special too.

"For you and for many."

This particular translation is the one which has probably drawn the most questions  Some people have raised concerns, saying that the new words give the impression that Jesus did not die on the cross for everyone – that he offered his blood on Calvary not “for all” but only for a select group of people (“for many”).

Well, don’t worry. This isn’t what the translation means. Jesus did die for every single one of us. After all, Jesus begins his words saying, “Take this, all of you, and drink from it,”  What the new translation means is that while Jesus died for all, not everyone chooses to accept this gift. All of us have a choice to make, to accept the gift of salvation and be among “the many” described.  Moreover, these are the words Jesus himself uses at the Last Supper as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.

Simply more beautiful language for a beautiful event.

In Eucharistic Prayer III, the priest used to say, “From age to age you gather a people to yourself, so that from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name.”   Now, the priest will say, “You never cease to gather a people to yourself, so that from the rising of the sun to its setting a pure sacrifice may be offered to your name.”

In Eucharistic Prayer I, the priest used to say, “from the many gifts you have given us, we offer to you, God of glory and majesty this holy and perfect sacrifice”  Now, the priest will say, “we, your servants and your holy people offer to your glorious majesty from the gift you have given us, this pure victim, this holy victim, this spotless victim”  Certainly a more elevated and worthy manner of speaking about Christ, the pure, holy and spotless victim, offered in sacrifice for our sins.  But you’ll probably notice that the language is more poetic, more exalted, and quite frankly, in my opinion, more beautiful.

A few weeks ago, a number of the teens and I gathered together to listen to the new words of the EPs and I asked them what they thought. One of them said, “Father, that’s legit!” They said it gave God greater praise. That it was holier. The teen who said “that’s legit” said the new words sound “more formal.” But then they immediately added, “Maybe we need that.”

Read New Roman Missal Part 4 - Concluding Rites and Dismissal.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

New Roman Missal Part 2 - The Liturgy of the Word

Homily from the 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A

The Readings

As far as the readings are concerned, virtually nothing is changing.  The only change is before the Gospel, when the priest says “The Lord be with you” your response is “And with your spirit.”

The Creed

"I Believe"

With virtually all the changes in this new translation there’s a short answer and a longer answer.  The short answer is that it’s a correct translation of the original Latin. In Latin, the Creed begins with the word “Credo” which literally means “I believe” not “We believe.”  Secondly, “I believe” is what the rest of the world has already been saying. We’re just joining them.

Now, the longer answer to the changes deal with the spiritual meaning of the words.  I asked our 7th and 8th graders on Friday why they thought “I believe” might be a better translation.  Some said, “I can’t speak for someone else, I can only speak for myself.”  Others said, “Maybe everyone doesn’t believe what we say in the creed.”  Still others said, “It makes me take personal responsibility to say what I believe.”  These were all excellent answers and they were correct.

To say “I believe” takes guts, conviction and it requires more responsibility.

Here’s an example of what I mean: if I were to ask all of you to say with one voice “Monsignor, we love you.” You could do it easily. In fact, let’s do that now: “Monsignor, we love you.”  However, if I were to ask one of you to stand in the midst of all of us and say “Monsignor, I love you” that requires more strength.

When you hear a group of people say to you, “We love you” sure, that is something special.  But when we hear one person say, “I love you” that’s personal, that’s intense, that’s intimate.

When we profess our faith we are professing something very personal, very intense and very intimate.

Another reason is we are the one Body of Christ. And the Body of Christ speaks with one voice. So in this case, to say “I believe” as one person is actually a greater sign of our unity than saying “We believe” as a collection of individuals.

"Visible and Invisible"

Standing here in the sanctuary, you can see me right?  Yes, of course.  But if I were to go back into the sacristy would you be able to see me?  No, of course not.  But I wouldn't be invisible would I?  No, I would just be unseen to you at the present moment.

However, the new translation of the Creed is saying that God is the maker not just of that which is seen and unseen, but also that which is invisible.

God has created many things that are invisible to our eyes: how many people are in this Church? 1,000? How many angels? 1,000!   “Visible and invisible” includes everything that God created.

"Born of the Father"

To say that Jesus is “born of the Father” does not refer to a birth like ours which marks the beginning of our life.  The Father, Son and Holy Spirit exist for all eternity without beginning or end.

Rather, to be “born of the Father” means that the Son is sent to us by the Father.  Kind of like how sunrays are sent to us by the sun.  The sun sends its rays to descend upon us, yet the rays have existed as long as the sun has existed.  Likewise, the Father sends His Son to descend upon us. “Born” in this case is a way of saying Jesus is sent on mission by the Father to us.


Yes, this is a dense word. And the explanation might seem a little dense too. However, we don’t want to just dump new words on you without trying to explain their meaning.

We used to say: “one in being with the Father."  The Latin word for "one in being with" is "consubstantialem."  The Creed comes from the Creeds of the Council of Nicea and Constantinople, two 4th century councils that were called to address heresies about Jesus.  At that time, theologians were speculating about the nature of Jesus. Some said he wasn’t God. They said he was only like God.

We know that Jesus is both fully divine and fully human. But we only know this today because the Church clarified such questions and said that God the Father and Jesus the Son were of the same substance. Or as its said in Latin “consubstantialem.” Jesus and God the Father share the same substance or the same nature.

So why isn’t “one in being with the Father” a good enough way to express this?  Well, it’s still too vague.

For example, since God has created all that exists and sustains all that exists, everything in some sense can be said to be one in being with God, or like God.

Jesus’ sameness that he shares with the Father isn’t like that.  Jesus’ sameness with the Father is that they truly share the same substance or nature. Jesus possesses fully the Godliness of the Father.

Perhaps you’re saying to yourself, “Why are we using words in the liturgy we literally do not use anywhere else? These words seem strange, almost foreign.”

Well, we already use words in the liturgy we don’t use anywhere else. Let me give you an example: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name.”

Here we use three words: "art," "hallowed," and "thy" that we don’t use anywhere else.  But we wouldn’t dream of changing the words of the Our Father.  Why? Because those words are special, sacred, and specific to the liturgy because they speak about special, sacred, and specific things.

“Incarnate of the Virgin Mary”

Again, here’s an example of a word that may sound foreign to us but is very specific and significant.  We use to say “born of the Virgin Mary”  But Jesus wasn’t just born of the Virgin Mary

He existed for all eternity as the Eternal Word of God  But at a particular time in history, the Eternal Word took flesh  The Gospel of John states, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”  That’s the incarnation. Becoming flesh.  This word indicates not just another ordinary birth but the enfleshment of God Himself.

Bowing during the Creed

Finally, it’s during these words, “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man” that we all bow.  Why do we bow?  When a king would enter a room, his subjects would bow to him.  We don’t bow to earthly kings, but to the King of Kings, Jesus Christ.  These words are about Jesus’ “entering the room” if you will, his entering the world.  Plus, Jesus lowered Himself to take the form of a slave and being nailed to a Cross. We merely bow to Him in response to His having bowed to us when he became man.

Read New Roman Missal Part 3 - The Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

New Roman Missal Part I - The Introductory Rites

Homily from the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A

Why this change?

Why, beginning on November 27th, the First Sunday of Advent, will we begin using a new translation of the Roman Missal?  All the parts of the Mass come out of Scripture or ancient texts that have been part of our Church for hundreds and hundreds of years.  Those texts are originally written in Latin.  The Church wants to make sure the words we pray in English every week is the best possible translation we can get.

In the late 1980’s, Blessed Pope John Paul II recognized that the English translation of the Roman Missal should be better.  As you know, John Paul II spoke several languages and traveled the world.  So, the first reason why we’re using a new translation is so we can use a more exact translation of the Latin into English.

Another reason we’re using a new translation is so that we here in the United States and other English speaking countries will be saying the same thing the rest of the world has already been saying in the Mass for over 40 years.  With this new translation, we’ll, in a sense, be catching up with what everyone else in the world is already doing.

"And with your spirit."

Let’s look at one of the first things you, the people say at Mass.  Today, when the priest says, “The Lord be with you” you respond, “And also with you.  However, in the new translation, your response will be “And with your spirit.”  Why?

Well, the original text in Latin is “Et cum spiritu tuo” which literally means, “And with your spirit.”  For the last 40 years or so, when we’ve said “And also with you” we’ve been saying an interpretation of the Latin instead of the best translation possible.

When I was in the seminary, we would have Mass in Spanish every Wednesday, and this response was “Y con tu Espiritu” which literally means “And with your Spirit.”  So, we’re merely joining what the rest of the world is already saying and thereby, will be more unified in our prayer with the rest of the world.

But there’s another reason why this translation is better. Not just because it’s the correct translation, but also because it brings out deep spiritual meaning that’s been lost for the last 40 years.  The reason why you’ll say “And with your spirit” is because you are acknowledging the unique activity of the Holy Spirit working through the priest during Mass.

Now, perhaps “And with your spirit” sounds like you’re putting the priest on a pedestal.  Actually, it’s quite the contrary.  “And with your spirit” is a humbling reminder to Monsignor and I that what we are about to do is not about us, but about the Holy Spirit working through us.  We can do nothing on our own.  So, unlike “And also with you” which puts the emphasis on Monsignor and I, “And with your spirit” put the emphasis where it belongs: on the Holy Spirit working through us.

"Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault."

The words of the “I confess” also known as the “Confiteor” are changing somewhat.  Today, we say, “I have sinned through my own fault.”  In the new translation, we’ll say, “I have greatly sinned… through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.”  First, it’s a literal translation of the Latin: "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa." 

Perhaps your thinking, “Why such an emphasis on our fault?” Do we have to say it three times?  Well, just think about how you already say your sorry when you’ve offended someone.  Let’s say I took this book and hit Monsignor over the head with it. Then let’s say I wanted to apologize and let him know I was truly sorry. If I said, “Hey, sorry” and then walked away would you believe me?  No, when we’re really sorry for something, we always apologize more than once. We say something like, “Monsignor, I’m so sorry I did that. I don’t know what came over me. Please forgive me.”

Plus, we’re not only going to use new words, but we’re also going to add new gestures. When we say “through my fault” three times, we’ll tap our breast with our fist.

Why? A couple of reasons.

First, it’s an action we find in Scripture. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the parable of two people who went to the temple to pray. One was arrogant and blind to his sins and said, “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity: greed, dishonest, adulterous.” But the other man who was truly repentant, “beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”

Second, we’re sacramental people. In the sacraments, we use all our senses in our worship of God: we use sight to look upon beautiful art, we use hearing to listen to the Word of God, we use our sense of smell when we smell incense, we use our sense of taste when we receive the Body and Blood of Christ. We also worship through the gestures we make. We make the Sign of the Cross... we also trace the Cross on our foreheads, our lips and our hearts before we hear the words of the Gospel… we kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer… we bow right before we receive the Eucharist. We associate physical actions and make use of our senses with our words to give our worship fuller meaning.

And lastly, we sin in bodily ways don’t ways don’t we? Ever wave high to someone and use only one finger instead of all five? Well, were showing ourselves and one another that as we sin in a bodily way, we repent in a bodily way too.

The Gloria

We used to sing, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth.”  Today we sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.”

Those words come from the Gospel of Luke. They’re the hymn the angels sang on Christmas morning when angels announced to shepherds the birth of Jesus: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people on whom his favor rests.”

Why wouldn’t we want to use the most precise translation of Scripture, the inspired Word of God?  If we, as Catholics, take this seriously, the new translation can lead us to a new understanding of the Mass and Scripture than we’ve ever had before.

Read New Roman Missal Part 2 - The Liturgy of the Word.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Homily from the 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A

Before entering the seminary, I worked for a radio station.  And every year, our radio station hosted a week-long telethon to raise money for child abuse prevention.  It was hosted by our morning show djs from the roof of a local supermarket.  Up they went Monday morning, and from the roof of this supermarket they broadcast their show from 6AM until 10PM everyday until they finally came down from the roof on Friday evening.  They lived and worked up there. They ate their meals up there. They slept in sleeping bags and tents up there. They even had a port-a-potty up there and a hose to take a shower with.

All week long, our morning show would interview people who were brought up to the roof on a cherry picker.  They interviewed victims of child abuse who had the courage to share gut-wrenching stories of suffering, and torment as well as stories of healing, recovery and triumph.  They also spoke with counselors and case workers.

They also interviewed owners of local businesses would be brought up to the roof on a cherry picker and they’d present giant cardboard checks.  Huge amounts of money: $5,000, $10,000, $20,000.  Over the course of the week, the radio station would raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for child abuse prevention.

One day, as we were sitting on the roof, we saw the cherry picker rise up over the crest of the roof, and on the cherry picker was Lou, the director of South Bend’s Center for the Homeless.  And in his hands he held not a giant cardboard check but a coffee can.

Lou stepped up the mic and said that the guests at the South Bend Center for the Homeless, the homeless themselves, had been listening to the broadcast, they had heard the stories of abuse and how other people were donating money; and they wanted to make a donation too.  So they passed the coffee can around the homeless shelter and they gave what they had and Lou said, “The guests at the South Bend Center for the Homeless are pleased to make this donation of $12.41.”

It was the biggest donation of all.

Do you remember the story of Jesus and the disciples sitting outside the temple treasury watching wealthy people make their offerings? Jesus is unphased by their generosity until He sees a widow give two small coins.  And He says, “this poor woman put in more than all the rest; for these others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”

That’s what the guests of the South Bend Center from the Homeless did.  These people, who had no job, no place to call home, no possessions except the clothes on their back, gave what little they had.  But the little they had was everything they had.  They gave their whole livelihood.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment in the law is “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.”  We cannot love God with half a heart, half a soul and half a mind.  We must love Him completely, holding nothing back, with a love that knows no limits.

Why?  Is God greedy?  No.  God has no need for our love or praise.

Is it because we owe God complete and total love?  We certainly do but I think there’s an even more satisfying answer.

We must love God completely, because we need to.  Unless we love God completely, with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind, we will never know true happiness; we will never truly be satisfied.

The guests at the South Bend Center for the Homeless gave all they had because they needed to.  They could not stand to stand by while injustice and violence was committed against innocent children.  To give any less than they had would have left them unhappy and unsatisfied.

We need to give God all our love, not just our leftover love that’s remaining after we’ve loved our possessions, our houses, our wealth, our trips, our families or ourselves.  Indeed, we can only love one another if we love God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind.

We can love God in this way because He loves us in this way.  Jesus loves us with all his heart, with all his soul and with all his mind.  All we need to do is look to the cross to see this love.  Jesus kept nothing for Himself.  He gives Himself completely to us.

This is the love that we need to imitate.  Loving God in this way is the only love that will satisfy us. Anything less, will leave us frustrated, incomplete and indeed, inhuman.  All our time, all our energy, all our wealth, all our possessions, all of us must be given back to God in one way or another.

Now I’m not saying that we have to drop our whole paycheck into the collection basket.  But we do have to ask ourselves if we use our time, our money, our hearts, our minds, our souls for God or for less than Him.

So, let us ask ourselves these questions:

Is God my first thought of each day? Do I give Him thanks for the gift of my life and the gift of another day?

Do I give God thanks for the gift of the spouse I wake up next to, and my children; my family and my friends?

Do I thank God for the blessings He has poured out upon my life?

Do I recognize my good fortune as blessings from God?

And when I experience misfortune or tragedy in my life do I blame God? Or do I sincerely ask Him for help and trust Him?

Do I share the good gifts I’ve been given with others and especially with the poor?

Do I put the needs of others first or do I think of them only after I’ve satisfied my own needs?

Do I love God with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my mind? And do I love my neighbor as myself?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Natural Family Planning - A Love That Knows No Limits

Homily from the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A (Respect Life Sunday)

One of the great joys I get to share in is helping couples prepare for marriage.  If you’re a married couple, think back to how excited you were as you prepared to begin your life together.  And even if you’re not married, surely you’ve seen the joy of your family and friends as they get ready for marriage.

Now I won’t be coy and pretend as though the days leading up to marriage are completely free from all anxiety.  There’s all the details of the ceremony: invitations, dresses, tuxes, who to stick your weird Uncle Bill with at the reception and so on.  And that’s just the small stuff!  There’s also stuff like putting together a financial plan, buying a house, whose parents you’ll spend Thanksgiving with, living the life of faith, getting each other to Heaven, and so on.

But on the whole, helping couples prepare for marriage can be a real joy.  Especially when they talk about their hopes and dreams.  When they talk about how they want to make a life together… how they want to give their lives to one another… and how much they love one another.  Conversations about invitations and cake cease as soon as the wedding day is done (or at least as soon as the bills are paid!).  But hopefully conversations about your hopes, dreams, expectations and love for one another continue through the years.

Just about every couple mentions the following things they want from their marriage and their spouse: they want good communication.  They want complete and total commitment from their spouse.  They want healthy and happy children.  They are ready and willing to sacrifice for one another.  They want to be faithful to one another their entire lives.  They don’t want to hold anything back from one another.

In other words, they want a love that knows no limits

Which is great because this is precisely the love Christ has for us: a love that knows no limits.  Christ’s love for us is so great, He, who is God, became one like us.  He lived and worked like us.  He grew up in a family like us.  He suffered hardship like us.  He also suffered his passion and death on the Cross for us.  He gave his entire life for us and held nothing back.  His love for us is a love that knows no limits.

Christ tells us to follow His example of love.  “As I have loved you,” Jesus says, “so you should love one another.”   We are to love one another, and most especially our spouse by giving our entire lives to them and holding nothing back.  These are the dreams that were born the day you fell in love with your spouse.  This is the type of love you hoped and prayed for as you got ready for marriage.  This is the love you pledged yourselves to when you said your wedding vows.  And this is the type of love you choose to live everyday of your marriage: a love that knows no limits.

However, as we all well know, multiple forces attack this love that knows no limits.  Arguments about money… jealousy… inattentiveness… lack of communication.  All these can lead to breakdowns in our marriages.  They pile up barriers between husbands and wives.  They prevent us from giving ourselves completely and unselfishly to our spouses.

And there’s another force that attacks this love we all yearn for, this love that knows no limits, and that’s contraception.  Although we may not realize it or intend it, marriages are under attack by contraception because contraception prevents us from giving our entire lives to our spouse.

Now, I’m not saying that a couple who uses contraception doesn’t love each other.  I am absolutely certain that couples who use birth control love each other in so many authentic ways.  However, the act of contracepted love itself can never be an act of authentic love.  Because, when we use contraception, whether we’re aware of it or not, whether we intend it or not, we say to our spouse with our bodies, “You can have all of me… except for this one part of me: my fertility. I’m keeping that part of me to myself and you can’t have it at the present moment.”  And, when we use contraception, we say to God, whether we’re aware of it or not, whether we intend it or not, “I’m sorry God, but I’m not going to let you completely into this union at the present moment.”

Because there aren’t just two in a marriage, there are three: a husband, a wife, and God who unites them and gives them the gift of children.

When couples contracept, they close themselves off from the two things God designed the marital embrace for: a two in one flesh union and children.  Or, as I like to say, the two things God made the marital embrace for: bonding and babies.

Now don’t get me wrong, God is not saying that you must conceive a child with every single marital embrace.  There are many good reasons why couples need to regulate the number of children they have.  The ability to provide financially for a bigger family for instance.  Or the health of the mother.  God is not saying you have to have as many babies as your bodies can tolerate.

However, He is saying that husbands and wives must cooperate with His design for the marital embrace: husbands and wives must be truly be bonded to one another, holding nothing back and they must be open to the possibility of children.

There is however, a way husbands and wives can regulate how many children they have and when they have them without saying “no” to God’s design for bonding and babies.  It’s called Natural Family Planning.

Natural Family Planning, or NFP, is a method by which spouses may achieve or avoid pregnancy by observing naturally occurring signs in the woman’s body.  Unlike contraception which invades and sterilizes the body, NFP looks at you the individual person and tells you when you are fertile and ready to conceive and when you’re infertile and unable to conceive.

Now, if you’re thinking that the NFP I’m talking about is the old calendar rhythm method that was developed in the 1930’s, I’m not.  The old rhythm method was often inaccurate because it did not take into account the uniqueness of each woman’s fertility cycle.  Today, NFP reveals the fertility cycles of every single individual person, even if their cycles are irregular.  And NFP today, used correctly, is over 98% successful in spacing or limiting births which is as good, if not better, than any form of contraception.

Now maybe you’re saying to yourself, “If a couple using contraception and a couple using NFP are both trying to avoid pregnancy, what difference does it make if I use contraception?”  The answer is, “A huge difference.”

First, contraception is the choice to sterilize the marital embrace.  For example, a contracepting couple chooses to engage in the marital embrace, and knowing it may result in a new life, willfully suppresses their fertility.

However, an NFP couple never contracepts.  With NFP, you abstain from the marital embrace during the fertile period rather than sterilize and frustrate what it was created for.  The difference between sterilizing the marital embrace ourselves or working with our God-given infertile times is very big indeed.

And if you’re thinking you don’t have the will power to abstain from the marital embrace from time to time, you do and I can prove it; you’re all abstaining right now.  Besides, NFP is not about constant abstinence.  If you’re using NFP, and engage in the marital embrace on all the days of the month when abstinence is not required, you’d be enjoying the marital embrace almost twice as much as the national average.  Yes, there are statistics for such things. I’ve looked them up!

Speaking of statistics, we’re all familiar with the fact that 50% of all marriages end in divorce.  You know what the divorce rate is for NFP couples? Less than 5%.  That’s a category we all want to be in.

Why is NFP so powerful for strengthening marriages?  It’s because NFP respects the bodies of spouses.  It encourages tenderness between them.  It fosters really, really good communication, cooperation and commitment.  Yes, it requires some sacrifice. But that’s a good thing. A real good thing. Show me anything good in this world that doesn’t require sacrifice.  It doesn’t put up barriers between spouses the way contraception does. Rather, it allows spouses to give themselves completely to one another.  Finally, it helps us love our spouse the way Christ loves us: completely and fruitfully with a love that knows no limits.

There are a number of ways you can learn about Natural Family Planning:

Here is the contact information for three area Creighton Model NFP teachers:

Jackie Oberhausen
Trinity FertilityCare Services
Fort Wayne, IN 46835
Phone: 260-414-1634

Theresa Schortgen
FertilityCare Specialist of Northeast Indiana
New Haven, IN 46774
Phone: 260-494-6444 Fax: 240-749-6706

Leah Oberhausen 260-418-9404

More Creighton Model NFP teachers can be found at

Dr. Patrick Holly, a St. Vincent's parishoner, is a Creighton Model NFP physician.  His contact information is:

Dr. Patrick Holly
6400 Rothman Rd
Fort Wayne, IN 46835
(260) 486-6197

An introductory class on Natural Family Planning will be offered at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Fort Wayne on October 29th.  St. Elizabeth's phone number is (260) 432-0268.

A complete list of Natural Family Planning classes offered by the Diocese of Fort Wayne - South Bend may be found here.

Information about Natural Family Planning may also be found on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website.

The USCCB has also put together a great website,, to help married couples and those preparing and discerning marriage strengthen the marriage covenant.

And as your spiritual father and bridegroom I am always available and ready to help. I understand that this is a very misuderstood issue.  I want to help you understand it.  Call me anytime at our parish office at (260) 489-3537.

If you want to strengthen your marriage with all the benefits NFP has to offer, and if you want to experience a love that knows no limits, please take one of these steps to learn about NFP.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Kenosis: Let Go & Let God

Homily from the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A

This weekend, twenty-five women from our parish and beyond are on a “Christ Renews His Parish” weekend.  This is the 50th women’s “Christ Renews” weekend at St. Vincent’s.  A couple of weeks ago, the 50th “Christ Renews” weekend for men was held.  It’s a kind of milestone.

Every team selects a theme and has a banner made depicting this theme and those banners are hung throughout the various rooms used during the weekend: in the cafeteria, the Spiritual Center and so on.  A couple of past “Christ Renews” teams selected the theme “Let Go and Let God.”  It’s a great theme and you could say it’s the theme St. Paul speaks so beautifully about in his letter to the Church in Phillipi – our second reading today.

Today, St. Paul tells us about the attitude of Jesus; the same attitude he wants us all to have.  Paul says, that though Jesus “was in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave.”  It’s a beautiful description of Jesus’ attitude: “he emptied himself”  The Greeks have a word for this we heard all the time in the seminary: “kenosis” – the emptying of one’s self.   And the fullness of Jesus’ kenosis is the gift He makes of Himself for us on His Cross.

Although He is fully divine; He let’s go of His divinity.  The night before He died, He begged His Father that if it were possible, to let the cup of His passion and death to pass Him by.  But then He immediately submitted Himself to the Father’s will: “Not as I will, but as You will.”

Jesus let’s go: He let’s go of His own will.  And Jesus let’s God: He defers to the Father’s will completely.  It’s ironic isn’t it? Jesus, who is God, is the epitome of letting go of Godliness.

One of my favorite depictions of Christ on the Cross is this one: this was the type Crucifix, Blessed Pope John Paul II carried as his crozier during his pontificate.  One of the unique and beautiful features of this Cross is Jesus’ hands.  You see, in this Cross, Jesus’ hands are not only pierced by the nails.  Jesus actually grabs the nails, he embraces them, he grasps them.

The Original Sin of Adam and Eve was that they regarded equality with God something to be grasped.  They weren’t satisfied with gratefully accepting all that God had to offer.  Instead, they grasped for themselves the gift of God when they grasped the fruit from the tree;  like children who won’t let you simply hand them a cookie. Even though you are going to give it to them, as soon as they see it, they lose sight of the fact that you are offering it to them and they reach for it saying “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!”

Unlike Adam however, Jesus, the New Adam, grasps not the fruit from the wood of the tree.  Rather, he grasps the nails from the wood of the tree.  He grasps, and firmly holds onto, our salvation until His dying breath. 

This is the attitude of Jesus Christ.  This is the attitude St. Paul urges us to adopt for ourselves.  “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out for his own interests, but also for those of others.

If we insist on continuing to grasp our own selfish interests, we will be unable to grasp God and our loved ones.  If we fail to undergo our own kenosis; if we fail to empty ourselves, we will have no room for God, for our spouse, for our family and friends.  We need to let go, and let God.

I’d like to close by sharing with you the words of another preacher, Dr. James Allen Francis – a Baptist preacher who, in 1926, spoke immortal words about Jesus Christ. The following is an adaptation of his sermon. And as you listen to his words, I invite you to look upon Him. Look at Jesus on this magnificent Cross in our sanctuary and listen to these words:

“Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked as a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.

He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put his foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself…

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trail. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.

I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.”

My friends, Christians throughout the world, regard Jesus Christ the way they do not because He elevated Himself, but rather because He allowed Himself to be elevated on the cross.

We love Him not because He climbed the corporate ladder or the political world or a popularity contest, but rather because He climbed the mountain of Calvary.

We worship Him as our God not because He grasped Godliness, but rather because He grasped God-forsakenness by grasping the nails which pierced His hands.

We give our lives to Him because in Him, and in Him alone, we find a place to live for all eternity.

We find it in Him, in His Sacred Heart because He emptied His Heart to give us a place to live.

We love Him because He let go and let God.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The New Roman Missal

On November 27th 2011, the First Sunday of Advent, we at St. Vincent's and, in fact, all Roman Catholic parishes throughout the United States will begin to use a new translation of the Roman Missal.

The Roman Missal contains all the ritual text for the celebration of the Mass.  So, since we'll be using a new translation, that means that a number of the words both you and the priests have been saying in Mass will change.

You might ask, "Why this change?" and "What are the changes?"  Last week, the 7th and 8th graders at St. Vincent's and I watched the following video about the new translation.  It does a great job of explaining why the changes are coming.  The students enjoyed the video and they seem to be looking forward to the changes.  I invite you to watch the video as well.

If you would like to see the forthcoming changes, you can read the entire text of the new translation of the Mass here.  Additionally, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has an entire website of information, including Frequently Asked Questions and more.

Here at St. Vincent's, Monsignor John and I will give a series of catechetical homilies on the new translation at all weekend Masses beginning late October.  These homilies will focus not only on the new translation but also give us the opportunity to examine the Mass anew!  The 7th and 8th graders will be studying the Mass on "Father Fridays" throughout the semester.  And I'll be giving what's called a "Dry Mass" at Catholicism Revealed in November.  "Dry Masses" were "practice Masses" we'd say in the seminary as we were getting ready for ordination.  They're not actual Masses but rather "practices."  During this Catholicism Revealed "Dry Mass" we will literally walk through the Mass, step by step, teaching as we go; not only the new words, but also the "what" and "why" of everything we do at Mass from what the priest wears when he says Mass to the meaning of the final dismissal.

The Mass is the most important prayer of the Catholic Church.  What a great opportunity to dive more deeply into the richness of this most sacred of our faith and our lives!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why Bargain With God When He Will Give You More Than You Ask For?

Homily from the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A

Every true, red-blooded American knows that one of the greatest movie genres is baseball movies.  I love baseball movies.  I think because many of them are not really about baseball. They’re about humanity and use baseball merely as the backdrop.

One of my favorite baseball movies is “Field of Dreams.”  A handful of us in Life Teen got together this past summer and watched it.  It’s a real touching movie and I’m a huge sap.  So it gets to this one part when Kevin Costner’s character, Ray, asks his dad a question.  And it’s this awesome moment between a father and son.  Ray asks his dad, “Dad, you wanna have a catch?”  And Ray’s voice cracks.  And the waterworks start to flow.  And I’m sitting there in a chair and all the teens are there. And I’ve got my hand leaned up against my head so they don’t see me weeping like a six-year old girl with a skinned knee.

If you haven’t seen “Field of Dreams” go rent it tonight and watch it.  You shouldn’t be allowed to vote in the next election without seeing it.

Ray is a farmer and one day he hears a magical voice say, “Build it and he will come.”  Well, Ray is a huge baseball fan, so he concludes that if he rips up half of his corn crop and builds a baseball field there, that the long dead Chicago White Sox outfielder, Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was banned from baseball for throwing the World Series, will get to come back to life and play the game again.

So he builds the field and Shoeless Joe Jackson comes and plays baseball.  And Shoeless Joe brings other long gone players with him.  And at the close of each day, when the baseball game is over, the players leave the field by walking into the corn beyond the outfield, where they disappear into some mysterious world beyond our own which we do not see.

Then the voice tells Ray to do more crazy things like drive halfway across the country to bring his favorite childhood author to the park. And he does so. He is blindly obedient to the voice and does whatever it says.

Then, one day, as Shoeless Joe Jackson and other long gone baseball players are getting ready to leave and disappear into the world beyond the corn, Shoeless Joe asks the question, “Hey, do you want to come with us?”  Except Joe isn’t asking Ray. He’s asking Ray’s favorite author instead who had only arrived a few days ago.

Ray is outraged and blurts out, “Him? Wait a second, why Him? I have done everything I have been asked to do and not once have I asked what’s in it for me?”  Shoeless Joe asks Ray, “What are you saying Ray?”  Ray responds, “I’m saying, what’s in it for me?”  And Joe asks Ray, “Is that why you did this? For you?”

Today, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner who goes out to hire laborers to work in his vineyard.  And as it turns out, everyone gets the same pay, regardless if they started at the beginning of the workday or at the end.  And those who worked all day long are outraged that they are being paid the same amount as those who show up at day’s end.  It doesn’t seem fair. Why are the latecomers being paid the same and furthermore why are the latecomers being paid first?

Well, consider what the various laborers agreed to and what they were promised by the landowner: to the laborers hired at dawn, the landowner promises, “the usual daily wage.” They will be paid the amount due for a full day of work.  And they agree and go work.

To the laborers hired in the middle of the day, the landowner promises to pay them “what is just.”  So, they anticipate a half-day’s wage for a half-day’s work. And they agree and go work.

Finally, to the laborers hired near day’s end, the landowner promises nothing. He simply tells them to go to the vineyard.  No payment terms have been negotiated. These laborers are merely given the opportunity to work in the vineyard with no promise of a payback. And with great trust and no concern for “what’s in it for them” they agree and go to work.

So, it’s the latecomers who are the most selfless and trusting and thus, they are paid first.  And they are paid the full amount not based on the work they have done.  But rather because they accepted the Master’s invitation – His will.

Have you ever prayed like this: “God, if you will just do “x” for me, I promise that I will do “y.”  I distinctly remember at least one occasion in which I prayed that way. It was at a baseball game: game six of the National League Championship Series between the Cubs and the Marlins.  And I said, “God, if you will just let the Cubs go to the World Series, I promise I will become a priest.”

Then, on the very next play, a fan interfered with a routine pop fly that would have been an easy out to help the Cubs retire the side. Instead the inning was prolonged for the Marlins and they took the lead, won the game and went to the World Series instead of the Cubs.

We can’t get what we want by making a bargain with God.  Instead, if we place our trust in God, He will give us so much more than we could ever bargain for.  He will give you His Kingdom. He will give you His love. And love never counts the cost.

You are loved by God not because of the good things you do.  You are loved by God just because.

We cannot earn God’s love.  We cannot earn God’s love just because; just because He already loves us and always will and He’ll never stop loving us.

Now obviously, we can reject His love. He has given each of us a free will. And we can choose to accept His invitation to work in the vineyard or not.  And we agree or disagree to work in His vineyard, to enter or not enter into His Kingdom by the choices we make.

But He always keeps the door open.  And it doesn’t matter when we enter, be it at the beginning of the day or at the end; at our baptism or on our deathbed, so long as we accept His invitation.

And we don’t need to worry about “What’s in it for me?”  Because we have a Father who knows our needs more than we do and offers all of us more than we could ever ask for.