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.