Love God, Love Others, Make Disciples

Fr. Jerry's Homilies

January 22

Do you ever wonder where God is when you really need Him? Last week I mentioned that I had been looking at mud, snow and below zero temperatures. But then, I noticed daffodils coming up. Do you feel like God is not around sometimes?  Without seeing God, it causes us to doubt. However, God is always with us and His promises are always kept.

In the Gospel today, Jesus leaves the southern district to go North to Galilee. The Baptist was working in the South and had baptized Jesus. But the climate was difficult in that area. John is beheaded and Jesus knew it wasn’t the right place to start His ministry.  So, Jesus heads North to Galilee (Capernaum). Matthew says this is done to fulfill the prophecy of Isiah,” Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen”.  Now to us, Zebulun and Naphtali probably mean very little or perhaps, nothing. But this movement of Jesus is the beginning of a fulfilled promise of God.

Jacob, renamed Israel, meaning “people of God” had many sons. 12 of his sons are given land and their families grow. Each area is now possessed by the tribe of each brother. Just like our large families, there was great difficulty in getting everyone together. David is anointed the king of the Israelites and he gathers all of the 12 tribes into one, a United Kingdom. Around 1000 BC God promises David that the 12 tribes of that this Kingdom will last forever. However, under the leadership of David’s son, Solomon, by 922 BC the tribes are split; ten tribes went North, now called Israel, and two tribes stayed in the South, called Judah. Between the northern and southern tribes, strife, division and wars break out. In their disunity, farther North is the country of Assyria sees an opportunity.  They are known for their aggression and ruthlessness. The weakened Israelites easily lose the entire northern Kingdom of Israel to the Assyrians in 722 BC, they occupied the land and sent many into exile.  For us, consider the original 13 American colonies loosing ten colonies to the British. Our new country would have been destroyed.

The Babylonians take over the entirety of the destroyed north and the remaining southern kingdoms in 587B.C. and take more Jews into exile. Then, in, in 539 B.C., the Persians put a nail in the coffin. Alexander the Great takes over in 331B.C. and finally, the Romans gain control. Although divided, the Kingdom that God said would last forever, didn’t even last 500 years.

Now, in God’s own time, (remember, for God a day is as a thousand years; a thousand years as a day), Jesus heads to the Northern Kingdom, but first to the land of Zebulun and Naphtali. Zebulun and Naphtali were two of the twelve sons of Jacob, and this was their tribal land.

The first two tribes to be conquered by the Assyrians were: Zebulun and Naphtali. When Jesus gets there, He proclaims a new motto, “repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand.”  He begins to call his Apostles and He picks 12. Believing Jews see what is happening.  He is going to fulfill the promise made to David and reunite the Kingdom. But what about all of the scattered Jews sent into exile by the Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians? It becomes obvious that Jesus will have to reach out to the Gentiles to complete His mission. Jesus first came to save the lost children of the Jews, and then we know He reached out to the Gentiles.  

But this unified Kingdom will be different. How is He going to unite everyone into the Kingdom of God?  We find out the answer at the Last Supper: This is My Body; this is My Blood. All who eat and drink are one.

God shows up on His time, not ours. And, He works in an unexpected way.  Remember, that He may not move your mountain, but He’ll help you get over.  I prayed for strength from God and he gave me challenges. When I overcame the challenges, I became stronger in my faith. We don’t lose weight because we will it. We don’t gain muscle mass because we will it. We have to put in the work to complete the mission.

January 15

Deacon Phil Moore

         "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”  This phrase that John the Baptist uses is so familiar that we may not even grasp the importance of what it means.  We hear it said at every Mass we attend.  “Behold, the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.  Blessed are those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb.”  Have you ever stopped to contemplate what this really means?  

         There are several thoughts on what John was thinking when he said this.  It may well have been that he was thinking of the Passover Lamb.  The Passover Feast was not very far away.  Remember the story of the Passover, the blood of a slain lamb was placed over the doorpost of the home of the Israelites that were to leave Egypt.  On that night when the Angel of Death came for the firstborn, the homes with the blood of the slain lamb would be spared from destruction.  It may be that John was saying, “There is the one true sacrifice who can deliver you from death.”  

         John the Baptist was the son of a priest.  He would know all the rituals of the Temple and its sacrifices.  Every morning and every evening a lamb was sacrificed in the Temple for the sins of the people.  This sacrifice continued until the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.  It may be that John was saying: “In the Temple a lamb is offered every night and every morning for the sins of the people; but in Jesus, He is the only sacrifice which can deliver us from sin.”  

         Could John have been thinking about the words from Genesis 22:7-13.  You know the story, when Abraham took Isaac up the mountain to offer a sacrifice to God.  “Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, Father, the fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?  Abraham answered, God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.”  Was this the answer to Isaac’s question? 

         There is sheer wonder in this phrase, the Lamb of God.  It haunted the writer of Revelation so much that he used this phrase twenty-nine times in this book.  This phrase has become one of the most precious titles of Christ.  In one word it sums up the love, the sacrifice, the suffering and the triumph of Christ.  

         John makes the statement that he did not know him.  This was his cousin, he surely knew who Jesus was, but did he know what Jesus was.  It had suddenly been revealed to him that Jesus was, none other, then the Son of God.  

         Once again John makes clear what his only function was.  It was to point us to Christ.  He was nothing and Christ was everything.  He claimed no greatness and no place of honor for himself; he was only the man who, as it were, drew back the curtain and left Jesus occupying the lonely center of the stage.  Something happened at the baptism of Jesus which had convinced John beyond all doubt that Jesus was the Son of God.  What was it?

         In Palestine the dove was a sacred bird.  It was not hunted and it was not eaten.  In Genesis 1:2 we read of the creative Spirit of God moving upon the face of the waters.  The Rabbis used to say that the Spirit of God moved and fluttered like a dove over the ancient chaos breathing order and beauty into it.  The picture of the dove was one which the Jews knew and loved.  It was at Jesus’ baptism that the Spirit came down upon him with power.  Remember at this time the Christian doctrine of the Spirit had not yet come into being.  We have to wait for the last chapters of John’s gospel and for Pentecost for that to emerge.   When John the Baptist spoke of the Spirit coming upon Jesus, he must have been thinking in Jewish terms.  What then was the Jewish idea of the Spirit?  

         The Jewish word for Spirit is ruach, the word which means wind.  To the Jew, there were three basic ideas of the Spirit.  The Spirit of power, like the mighty wind, the Spirit of life, the very existence of man; and the Spirit was God, the power and the life of the Spirit were beyond mere human achievement and attainment.  The coming of the Spirit into a man’s life was the coming of God.  The Spirit inspired the prophets.  John says, the Spirit remained on Jesus.  This was no momentary inspiration.  In Jesus the Spirit took up his permanent abode.  The mind and the power of God were uniquely in Jesus.  So when John heard, “On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.”    This means that Jesus can bring God’s Spirit to us in such a way that we are saturated and our life and being are flooded with that Spirit.  

         This same Spirit came to us, through our baptism.  We are armed with the Spirit of Christ to go out into the world and proclaim as John did, Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.  We have received this Spirit.  Can we say, as John did?   Now I have seen and testify that he is the Son of God.  

 

Deacon Tim Conley

At the heart of the mass, we hear the priest repeat the words of John the Baptist, “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”, and we add:” Have mercy on us.” –Jesus is referred to as the lamb of God 29 times in the bible, 27 times in the book of Revelations alone.

In the Old Testament, every 1st born male lamb was set aside as a sacrifice. New- born lambs were wrapped tightly (swaddled), and laid in a manager until closely inspected to make sure the lamb was free of any defects.  During Jesus’ day, on Passover, each family brought a lamb for sacrifice. It is estimated that 250,000 lambs were needed. In 150 AD, Justin Martyr describes how the lambs were prepared. They were skewered with two sticks, one went through the lamb’s body lengthwise and the other went through the body’s width, taking on the shape of a cross. The lamb was roasted and completely consumed. No bones were to be broken. In the mass, when we consume the body and blood of Jesus, we Catholics are walking in the ancient way.

In the sacrifices under Mosaic law, believers were looking forward to the cross. In the Mass, as we represent Jesus’ sacrifice, we take a backward look. Why was it necessary for Jesus to die the brutal death of the cross? As God, He could have simply willed our salvation.  The author of Hebrews explains: “It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats take sin away. For this reason, when he came into the world, he said: Sacrifice and offerings you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me. In holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight. Then I said: "As it is written of me in the scroll, behold I come to do your will, oh God.”

Today, we hear Father say the words: “Behold the lamb of God…”, may God grant that we will hear them in a new way and take in their power. There is much to be considered. Scripture says: “By one offering, he perfected for all time, those who have been made holy. Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no longer.”

January 8

The Magi were a combination of astrologers and astronomers. They relentlessly searched the night skies to determine what was happening in the world.  Even though the Jews were given the prophecy of a star directing people to the Messiah, the prophecy was widely known among the pagans.  On that night when an extremely bright star appeared, they took to heart the prophecy and followed. Now, was it a star?  The early writers equate angels with stars and refer to angels as stars. It would be very difficult to follow a star in the sky, but an angel could deliver an inquirer to the specific town and spot.

The trip undertaken was extremely difficult and one would be faced with unmarked paths, robbers, kidnappers; all sorts of opposition. When the kings arrive they present precious gifts in abundance. Gold, because they knew it would be a king, frankincense because they knew the child would be divine and myrrh (used in funerals) because the prophecy said the child would suffer. After their “audience” with the new King of the Jews, an angel warned the Magi to go home by another route to avoid the shiftless plans of Herod. 

What can we learn from this moment of epiphany, this moment of realization, presentation and understanding?

First, the Magi were always looking and searching. We are compelled to look for Christ constantly in ourselves and others. We should never stop and never give up.

Secondly, we have to get up and act on the knowledge we have. We know what we are to do to. We must be Christ for each other and it takes action to accommodate the activities. We must remember that we want our journey to also end in the presence of Christ in Paradise.

Third, we will always find opposition to the road of a Christian. The world hated Jesus; the world hates us. We are not meant for this world, but to get to the Paradise promised as the culmination of our work. Expect opposition and be ready for it. Build up your resistance to opposition by frequency of the sacraments while remembering that Jesus always tells us to respond to the negative with the positive of love.  We also can help others align their paths by our actions. There is always someone watching to see how a Christian truly acts. That living out a Christian life can bring others to Christ.

Then finally, transformation. Anyone who has encountered Christ will go another direction. The Magi went another way home. Our way needs to be aligned to the way of Christ. And by aligning to Christ rather than the world, we will transform ourselves from children of the world to children of the light of God by loving God, others and making disciples.

January 1

The Importance of Mary

We grow up with Mary in or Catholic life, perform our Marian devotions. We have the Rosary, the Devine Mercy Chaplet, even the Hail Mary as one of our basic prayers along with the Glory Be and the Our Father.  But a lot of us do not know how to explain our relationship with Mary in a biblical sense.

You look for the Immaculate Conception in Scripture, it’s not there. If you look for Mary’s perpetual virginity, there are even passages that seem to contradict the teaching. For our Non-Catholic brothers and sisters, many times, Mary is the great stumbling block of agreement. All Christians can come to an understanding of the Body and Blood of Christ, which some may think is the deepest issue, but the Marry thing is a puzzlement.  I dare say many of us Catholics don’t really understand the scriptural basis of Mary. When we can understand this, we can offer a strong explanation for our resolve to honor Mary.

We already know that the Old Testament hides the New Testament, while the New Testament reveals the Old. Putting these two sources together, there is a very Catholic read on Mary. If we know where to look, Mary is right there.  The earliest Christians, recognized the connection between the Old Testament and Mary.

I think that most Christians would agree that we have to read the Old Testament in light of Jesus. There is, right off the bat the concept of Jesus being the new Adam. St John’s Gospel is actually a New Testament Genesis, “In the beginning……. There was the Word and the Word was God.” There is a new beginning. Adam, the first man is the beginning and now with Jesus, we have a new beginning. Jesus is bringing about something new; a new creation; a fulfillment of the Law.  Jesus is the new Isaac. Remember Abraham was to sacrifice his Son but God will provide the lamb? Here is Jesus, the Lamb, the New Isaac. Isaac carried the wood for the sacrifice up the mountain; Jesus, carries the wood of the cross up to Mt. Calvary. Moses led the Jews out of Slavery. Moses receives the Law. Jesus is the new Moses leading us to another Exodus from this earth, now back to Heaven, and fullfilling the Law. He is a new David, born from the family of David to establish a new kingdom greater than David’s. He is a new Solomon, the wisest of all, now Jesus is the new Solomon with the wisdom of the universe. Jesus is the new manna, the Bread of Life from Heaven. 

But Jesus isn’t the only One prefigured in the Old Testament. Let’s look at Mary.

Mary is the new Eve. Now every time we see something out of place or unusual in the New Testament, we can usually find the explanation in the Old Testament. In John’s Gospel, at the Wedding Feast of Cana and the Crucifixion, Jesus does not refer to Mary by her name nor by her title of mother. Rather, over and over Jesus refers to Mary as “woman”. As an English speaker, we may see this as rather rude. But refer to Genesis chapter 1 and 2. Eve is referred to multiple times as “woman”. In fact, the name Eve isn’t applied until the 3rd chapter.  At the Wedding feast, Mary says, they have no wine and Jesus replies, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”  Mary actually invites her Son to bring forth the first miracle.  And at the crucifixion Jesus says to St. John, “Woman, behold, your son.” The woman Eve is to bring about humanity, the woman, Mary is to bring for the New Creation by the birth of her son. Through sin, the first woman brings forth death, by her great yes, Mary brings forth the One to offer remission of sin. There is a fallen angel enticing the woman Eve. There is a holy Angel inviting the woman, Mary to participate in salvation history. Our Fall comes, there is a man, a woman and a tree. At the crucifixion, there is a man, (St. John), a woman and a tree (the cross, standing as the “tree of life”.

Jesus is also the new Joseph, the son of Jacob. Sold for silver, placed into a pit but rises up to lead and to feed his own family with wheat. Jesus, sold for silver descends into the pit of death and rises to feed us with the Bread of Life.

Mary as the new Eve is also seen as the new Rachel. Rachel is the mother of Jews, the wife of Jacob, the Matriarch of the Jews and is also seen as a mother of sorrows. There is the rabbinical tradition of Rachel being an intercessor for the Jews. Rachel suffers with her children and intercedes to God for them. Even on the outskirts of Bethlehem, the Jews have a shrine to Rachel, the Mother of the Jews with evidence of intercessory prayers made to God through Rachel. Matthew tells us of the massacre of the Holy Innocents and he quotes Jeremiah 31; Rachel weeping over her children at the time of the Assyrian Exile. Jewish scholars see Mary as a new Rachel in her sorrows and intercessory prayer for us. So it makes sense that very early on, Christians would see Mary as an intercessor, not to the Father, but to Jesus. Christians see Mary, who is alive in Heaven to pray for us. After all, it is everlasting life; not everlasting death.

So why do Protestants reject Mary? At the reformation, Luther did not view the Old Testament in a positive light, nor the tradition of the Church Fathers. When you only see the negativity of the Old Testament, it is especially easy to overlook the importance of Mary.  

Immaculate Conception of Mary? The argument is that no human is born without sin except Christ. Well, there were 2 others: Adam and Eve. God can bring forth humanity without sin.   No human is without sin except Christ? NO. Adam and Eve were without sin. Many see a human, born without sin as divine.   If Adam and Eve could be created without sin and be fully human, then also Mary could be born without sin and be fully human. If Mary were born with sin, then Eve would be greater than Mary.  Adam and Eve now prefigure Christ, the new Adam, without sin; Mary, the new Eve, also without sin.

In Luke, we hear, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” to which Jesus replies, “blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Some see this as a minimization of Mary’s contribution of the birth. But the answer is that Mary is THE faithful Christian present at the birth and the death of the Savior, the exemplar we all can immolate.

Perpetual virginity? How do we see the Gospels mentioning Jesus’ His brothers and sisters?  Well, many Catholics respond correctly, the Jews use the word for brother also in the case of cousins. But sometimes that seems like begging the point, especially when St. Mark in Chapter 6 refer to the brothers or Jesus; “Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” However, the Gospel itself answers the question in chapter 15 when Mark describe James and Joses as the sons of the other Mary, not the Blessed Mother. John in chapter 19 identifies the other Mary as the wife of Clopas. The early Christians all knew that Jesus was an only child. This was public knowledge that Semitic wording for brother is also for cousins.

You, know, if we, as Catholics can’t articulate these arguments, then why should we expect other Christians to get it?  Mary is a very big point of division. We can’t just say we believe and forget it, we have to be able to explain what is going on. 

Finally, in Rev 12-17 we see the woman with the crown of 12 stars who gives birth to the Messiah, we read that the devil went off to persecute her children (Mary’s children) or rather all Christians.

Mary is seen as not having free will, but she did. We all have the dignity of free will. Even in Heaven, that dignity will not be withdrawn however, in Heaven we will have our free but in our glorified state, our free will is perfected to always choose to do what we ought, not what we want.

Mary is not a dogma, she is a human person, she is our spiritual mother. Devotion to Mary is really devotion to Jesus.  The Catechism tells us that everything the Church professes and teachers about Mary is based on the teachings of Jesus.  Mary, the Mother of God, pray for us to your Son, the King of Heaven and Earth.

December 25 (Christmas)

It is tradition that we give gifts for Christmas; a toy, a gift card, a game. And in the reception of these material items, we can forget the reality of the reason we actually give presents in the first place. Some see the process as an obligation, others as a responsibility. But the basic reality is we are having a celebration of greatest gift ever given to us; Jesus; true God and true Man. God gives His only Son to come and show us how to love, how to give, how to share; not out of responsibility or guilt, but because of love; willing the good of the other for the sake of the other.

The greatest joy of Christmas for me is that gift given to all of us; a baby who makes it possible for all of us to return to Paradise; by His sacrifice, the gates once locked are opened.  This is a gift to which there is truly nothing we can equal in return other than to obey the words of the Gift, the lessons of Jesus to love God and others as our selves. Although, it is a treat to see the eyes of our children as they receive presents at this time of year. Their smiles, their joy and finally the reality, that in many cases, it’s not really about the gift but the most fun is the box the gift came in!

As we mature, we don’t see the need for these material gifts. We hear our elders saw they don’t want or need anything other than the wellbeing of their families. The perfect human gift is to give of one’s self. It really costs nothing and is a powerful fulfillment of Christ’s commands. Here is the reflection of the gift of THE child, Jesus; the Word made flesh to become like us; to demonstrate just one simple fact. Love one another as He has loves us.  

Yet, the holidays bring about the opposite for many of us. Families ripped apart by misunderstandings, separated by distances too costly or too far to travel, the loss of a loved one. How can I react to that sorrow?  There is one simple gift that we can always give to others and ourselves that can support and bring peace: the ministry of prayer. Someone has left the family? Pray for them. A death? Pray for consolation, if we believe, that attitude can bring us peace. Perhaps there are memories of bad times, bad Christmases. Forgive those who have hurt you then literally give Jesus the bad and do something positive; something that brings you joy. Jesus, in His humanity suffered everything we suffer. He may not remove the issue, but He will help you through the situation. And keep in mind that Jesus, God, is suffering with you to support you.

The greatest gift of all; Jesus, a baby who came to teach us to love God and others. And do not forget to love yourself! You can’t love others if you don’t love yourself!

As a continuation of Jesus’ life on earth, we have the Holy Eucharist constantly renewing His incarnation on earth.

I do not know of any person that I have ever met who is not comforted, consoled and humbled by holding a baby. A little child shall lead them. And because of their innocence, a little child loves regardless. They accept everyone. Jesus, Who came as a child, loves every one of us.

 

December 18

Salvation comes to us from Jesus Christ. Jesus, Who Saves, Christ, “the Anointed One”. But just as every one of us, Jesus entered the world by way of a mother. Now, even though Jesus was God, there would still be a lot of work to do. An unwed mother at the time would be stoned. Joseph is troubled to find his fiancé pregnant. Who wouldn’t? But he is divinely assured that the arrangement with Mary should go forward. Joseph and Mary enter into the original sacrament; marriage. And with the birth of the Holy child, we have the Holy Family.

But we have mentioned that the Sacrament of Marriage is the reflection of the Trinity. We see the Trinity as a community of love. The lover, the beloved and the love that ties them together. And in love, we cooperate with God to create a human that reflects the mother and father. Love can even include the reception of the adopted child in the Trinity of the family. Just as the Holy Trinity is a family, so is every family. So the Holy Family is a model for every family.

Jesus grows and learns for  30 years within the Holy Family in the town of Nazareth. It is no coincidence that the word Nazareth means “she who keeps.” Recall Mary who “kept all those things in her heart”

Even in the story of the Annunciation, the announcement of the angel Gabriel to Mary, there is a Trinitarian aspect. The Father, through the angel, announces his power and headship. Mary’s fiat brings about the reception of the Father’s love and thus the child Jesus is conceived.  The Lover (God), the beloved (Mary) and the Love connecting them (Jesus, who is Love itself)

With the Holy Family, becomes the expansion of the family in a universal manner. Jesus is our brother, God is our Father and since Mary is the Mother of God, she is now the spiritual mother of all of us; a universal “Holy Family”. As St. John Paull II tells us the family is the very cell of society. As the family goes, so goes the world.

Strong families create healthy growth for the next generation. The structure of the family is assisted, just as marriage is empowered, by the Sacrament of Marriage. Pray together, Mass, love and sacrifice hold a family together. Patience, love and concern build strong relationships. The family is fundamental because that is where the first awareness of the meaning of life begins in the soul. In relationship with the mother and with the father, who are not the masters of their children's lives, the transmission of faith begins. Mother and fathers are God's primary collaborators in the transmission of life and faith

But who among us is God. Who among us is a living Saint? The Holy Family is a wonder pattern, but. But there is one very distinct issue: in our families, no one is married to the Blessed Mother, no one is married to St. Joseph and none of our children are Jesus and none of us are God. In our humanity, things don’t always go the way we want; divorce, death of a spouse, errant children, and disease. Still, we try to represent to the best of our human abilities, a family. We accomplish this by the example of Mary and Joseph. Every family strengthens itself by the reception of Jesus in their midst. Again, removal of God from our lives equals failure.

But even in separation, either by divorce or death, prayer, respect, sacrifice and love can continue to foster the human. In divorce, respect for the other person is needed. We are not compelled to like anyone in the world, but we are compelled to love. Love everyone. And while forgiveness is an act of the will, we humans have trouble forgetting.  The most difficult person to forgive is yourself. The memories of hurt stay with us. I invite you to give the hurt to Jesus. We don’t think we have forgiven, because the memories of pain continue to hurt us.  And this is difficult. Give the anger and frustration to Jesus. Many in confession tell me that don’t feel forgiven. They are forgiven, the sacraments do what they say they do, but the memories hurt them. Now is the time to tell the devil to leave you alone, lean on Jesus and give Him the memories.

In a broken home, although it is difficult, a child will realize the Christian love for the other in your words and actions. The child, realizing that both parents still love them is empowering.

Jesus, suffered and so will we, but although He may not remove the mountain in front of us, He will help you get over or around the obstacle.

 In the family, a child becomes the best gift to the husband and wife. Parents realize that now, life is different and we do not exist just for ourselves but for the other. Remember St. Aquinas’ definition of love: “willing the good of the other, for the sake of the other”.  Then children become gifts to their brothers and sisters. They too realize there is more to this life than their own needs, but others need them.

Children are the essential gift to the family and to the world because they alone hold the primordial credentials to enter Heaven. Jesus said we all must become like children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven meaning to love without desire for return, to forgive and overcome grudges, to be kind and accepting.  The child is the desire of ourselves giving to the other, not for our sakes, but for theirs.

We are now waiting to recall the gift of the ultimate child; Jesus, the One who saves. A child changed everything for humanity. The Christ child loves for the sake of the other and in following Him, we can also change the world, work together, love God, love others and build up the Kingdom of God on earth.

December 11

Fathers are the protectors of their families and the head of the Domestic Church.  God is a Father who never abandons his children, a loving Father who supports, and saves with a faithfulness that surpasses that of humans. The love of God the Father never fails. We do not earn love from God the Father; He loves us regardless of where we are and what we have done. Our earthly fathers step into the same pattern. Children should not earn the love of a parent. We should see children as the perfect example of St. Thomas’ definition of love: “…. willing the good of the other for the sake of the other.” There is no quid pro quo. And when our babies misbehave, we correct them, but still love them. There is nothing that can make God stop loving us and that is the pattern we fathers should exemplify.

Just as in motherhood, also in fatherhood, substance abuse, illness and abandonment may have provided you with a bad father. If that is the case, again, I challenge you to forgive your father and become the father that God wants you to be.  And also, again, you do not have to have a biological child to be a father. Every man is designed to be a father. St. Jose Escriva tells us, “Don’t let your life be sterile.” Men must be fruitful with spiritual or biological children! Men are called to be fathers to the fatherless. Fatherhood is a part of God’s essence; it is also the essence of masculinity. There have been father figures in our lives that cause us to reach higher than ever thought. A teacher, a priest, a scout leader. Little boys will instinctively jump in to protect their younger siblings. We are born to be fathers. Any sacrifice or hardship becomes worthwhile for the sake of that child who has captured your heart, although painful at times.

But, again Diablos, Satan, the Divider wants to pit us against one another. The culprits for fatherhood are the degradation of marriage and the designs of our culture.  

There are many ways marriage is denied in this culture. It’s too hard, it’s just a piece of paper or most marriages fail anyway, so why bother?  But with the Sacrament of Marriage, praying together as a couple and regular attendance at church, it is no longer a 50/50 chance but a 93% success story. If God is not in the mix, everything fails. Remove God from your relationship; from your marriage, and you will fail. Without the support of God, the family breaks up leaving single parent families. At least in our country, that usually means the mother stays. The father is not providing protection, example, leadership or guidance, at least, not consistently. The effect of a male role model is lessened and our children suffer a lack of purpose, low self-esteem, direction or ambition. Children then tend to fail setting themselves into motion or purpose which brings yet another failure in their relationships with more single parent families, more directionless children.

Human fatherhood gives us an anticipation of Who God is. But when this fatherhood role is lessened, when it is experienced only as a biological phenomenon, with a reduced affect in its human and spiritual dimension, all statements about God the Father can lose their impact.  The crisis of fatherhood we are living today is an element threatening man in his humanity. The dissolution of fatherhood and motherhood is linked to the dissolution of our being sons and daughters of God

Culture teaches us many ideas contrary to fatherhood: men are taught to be tough, don’t show your emotions. We are taught that as young men, the more sexual accomplishments, the more notches on our bedposts, raise us up to the eyes of the world, the concept of the non-committance to a single woman, don’t tie yourself down, the glamor of the “playboy” mentality. The insidious and now easy access to pornography is tearing at the fiber of masculinity. It is emotional infidelity to a spouse and a black hole for all men. Pornography leads us to view all people not as images and likenesses of God, but objects for seeking gratification.

Culture tells us that a “successful” father provides not just the basics or needs, but to constantly provide the wants to keep up with other families, and often, a father’s worth is his financial ability. And this stuff doesn’t work. Unemployment is a reality, and the negative cultural illusions are just that, illusions that are contrary to the faith.

But a true man cares with responsibility. By the virtue of our Baptism, we are all members of the Royal Priesthood; priest, prophet and king.  To be that example for your family or your spiritual children to praise God, spread the kingdom and care for those entrusted to you.   Poverty should never be a barrier to these concerns. Your biological and spiritual children do not need the best of everything the world can provide to feel loved, protected and supported.  It’s never about how much you have, but rather, how much you give.

Then, there is the reality that if a father is a strong spiritual leader of his family, his children are more likely to take up the same notion of faith. In the Church, when the father is the strong leader of the Domestic Church, the reality of the children remaining in the Church is greatly increased.  “The father who participates in the Mass regularly gives to his children a far more convincing statement as to the importance of the Mass than all his words do.

The Church...calls all men to imitate Christ. We see in such figures as St. Joseph, and John the Baptist, various ways for a man to live out his oftentimes silent but chivalrous care of others. In Christ, such solicitude is available today in the routine day-to-day labors of the father, in enduring daily routines with Christian joy and patient sacrifice. Fathers build up children, society and the Kingdom of Heaven.

December 4

The Most Important Person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She doesn’t have to. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral; a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby's body. The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. They cannot share in God's creative miracle to bring new saints to Heaven. Only a human mother can. Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creature; God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation. What on God's earth is more glorious than this: to be a mother? Motherhood is not only biological maternity. It is spiritual maternity. A mother is the very essence of femininity. [Women are designed] to be mothers! It’s interesting that sometimes even little girls already understand this in the way they help their little sister or brother. I totally reject the idea that you are not a mother unless you have children of your own... Perhaps a good prayer would be, “God, send me spiritual children and I will never turn any one of them down. The more the better.” Society’s strength actually lies in the attitude of motherhood.  The more spiritually elevated the woman, the more spiritually elevated the man must become to be worthy of the woman. And thus the elevation of the morals of society.

Even though every woman is designed to be a mother, either physically or spiritually, substance abuse, mental issues or health often leads them from the ability to mother.  If you had a mother who could not, or did not care for you, find now, the opportunity to forgive and unleash the mother in you to care for, pray for, and love all children, physically or spiritually. The love of a mother always extends beyond whether she has biological children or not. Motherhood extends to every human.

But the power of Satan is constantly trying to divide us; diabolos (to divide). When we are fighting each other, we are less than we can be. The element of division for this talk is the denigration of motherhood and abortion.

A “stay at home mom” is often looked down upon by society. Contributing to the caring for children, one of the most difficult jobs in the world, is not even considered “work”; they are not in the labor force, earning money. On the other side of the coin, working outside the home is often a necessity. This does not lessen the dignity of motherhood, but they must be supported to know their children are being cared for. We must provide time for mothers to care for their children alongside a career/job. 

In the readings for today, St. Paul encourages us to welcome one another. The basic start of that welcoming is the child in the womb of their mother. In a world that cries out for a so called “right” to choose whether or not a woman wants to be a physical mother, there is the undeniable truth that from the moment of conception, a human being, made in the image and likeness of God is now present. But will it interfere with the career or make life difficult? Mary was unwed, Jesus was an unexpected pregnancy Who could have been seen as a roadblock yet, Mary’s “fiat” delivers us our Savior.

The ultimate argument against abortion is the great Bible story of the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. Jesus, in utero, was taken on His first evangelical mission by His mother. And, in the womb, John acknowledges the presence of the Christ. Elizabeth, thought to be barren, conceives a child in extreme old age. An inconvenience?  A hardship? Perhaps, but St. John the Baptist is born to precede the Savior and announce the “Lamb of God” to the world.

Eve was the earthly mother of us all, that’s why she was named “Eve”. Now, spiritually, if Mary is the mother of God, and we are brothers and sisters of God, then Mary is also our Mother. Again, listen: we do not worship Mary, but we ask her to pray for us to her Son, Jesus. Does Jesus really listen to her?

At Cana in Galilee there is shown only one concrete aspect of human need, apparently a small one of little importance ("They have no wine"). But it has a symbolic value: this coming to the aid of human needs means {Mary is] bringing those needs within the radius of Christ's messianic mission and salvific power. Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and sufferings. She puts herself "in the middle," that is to say she acts as a mediatrix not as an outsider, but in her position as mother.

The mother’s physical and emotional presence provides so much for an infant and for the world. In this most splendid of ways, mothers are offering themselves up for their children, sacrificing for them as Christ did for all of us. Mothers build up children and in their most blessed manner are truly building up the Kingdom of God.

November 27

In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. In Genesis, we read that God created them; male and female. The two were helpmates for each other. We can see Adam and Eve as the first marriage. In fact, marriage in Paradise, before the Original Sin, we have the institution of the Original Sacrament: marriage. This is the only sacrament to not be destroyed by the Fall, nor was it washed away by the flood. It has endured since the very creation of humanity. Let’s step back and see what makes marriage so powerful in its sacramental offering:

First, no one knows what God looks like. We do know that we are made in the “image and likeness” of God. That would be or souls. If we could see our souls, we would be close to seeing God. When God decided to come to earth, the Word was sent. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. So, when the Word, Jesus came to earth, He took on our “image and likeness” of humanity. God took on our image and likeness and we possess God’s image and likeness.

Everything Jesus touched, was redeemed, so our flesh was redeemed. We are now true representations of the Word. Each of us is Jesus to each other. That’s our main job; to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world; to be priests, prophets and kings (or queens) in the world carrying out the work of Christ in the world for each other. Marriage expands that role. 

Christians believe in a Triune God, the Trinity. We explain the Trinity as a community of love. The Father looks at the Son and the two realize the depths of the love they share and in a great, cosmic sigh, their love (the Spirit) spirates out. The Spirit, the love of God permeates creation. God is love. God is everywhere. God’s love is everywhere.

In marriage, there are two who love each other. The lover, the beloved who receives the love and the love between the two which binds them together. The role of lover and beloved vacillates from husband to wife, wife to husband, but the love between the two is tying them together.  Marriage is a trinity.

From the love of the man and woman, an expression of that love can participate with God in the creation of an image of themselves; a child. Another way of looking at the Trinitarian relationship of marriage; mother, father, and child. Whether one or several children, it is still a reflection of the love community of the Trinitarian God.

The most distressing of all things I face as a pastor, is the inability for a couple to conceive. It can be devastating. We encourage fertility assistance but also adoption to complete the trinity of marriage.

When we celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage, we often see the focus on the bride and groom, and that’s true, but we must also remember, every marriage empowers the couple with sanctifying grace but also strengthens society with the building block of the community. Every Marriage is building up the Kingdom of God with the expansion of those “Domestic Churches” we mention so often.  

In our day, marriage seems to be an aloof aspect. It’s “just a piece of paper”, or the odds are so against us, we won’t bet married. But living together without the benefit of marriage, children outside the boundaries of the sacrament break down our society.  There is nothing to keep either partner from leaving creating a society of fatherless, or motherless homes and children without the benefit of both the feminine and masculine formation.

This not-sanctifying relationship reflects upon our talk last week on the Solemnity of Christ the King. If humans decide the constructs and remove God from the equation, we most often find failure.

Divorce in this country stands at 50%. If couples marry in the Church with the benefit of the Sacrament, the percentage reverses. The couple enter in to the Sacrament, the percentage rises. The couple prays together, the percentage rises; attends Mass, the percentage rises. With the benefit of the Sacrament and doing what the Church asks us to do, the percentage of divorce rises to a 93% success rate. So the benefits of marriage strengthen couples and most importantly benefit the child who has the best opportunity to remain in a life time commitment of father and mother.

Still, humans fail. Things don’t go the way we want them to go. This is not a condemnation of those who are divorced. Our humanity is frail. For those living without the grace of marriage, this is an invitation for those to participate.

Going forward, the opportunities which the Sacrament offers along with Mass, prayer and choice, because love is a choice, can strengthen the union of husband and wife. Society benefits, couples benefit, the child benefits. The Kingdom of God becomes more potent and a stronger witness for Christ in the world.

 

November 20

We are entering the season of holidays; Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. This is the time to bring families together. But our children may be grown, married, relocated to other cities, others states, or even other countries and now raising their own families. Each family has its own way of doing things. Each family, a little different.

We know how difficult it can be to bring everyone together. But still, many succeed in bringing one family; one tribe into solidarity with each other in some level of peace. The kingdom of the Smith family or the Jones family. Everyone, eventually agreeing on time, menus and places until finally, and sometimes thankfully, everyone returns to their mutual corners.

Even before there was a Christmas, gather families together was tough.

Jacob had twelve sons. Each son headed up a particular land inheritance and under each son’s direction, the tribes, or families of the twelve sons grew. Each tribe; each family had its own way of doing things. Each spread out from each other, each tribe a little different from the others. No phone, internet, or overnight mail. Think how difficult it would be to unite all these families; all these tribes. Still, everyone agrees on one leader; one king. David is anointed King of Israel.  David rules over a peaceful and prosperous kingdom. It works…. for a while. David dies and Solomon assumes the thrown…then another king, another king, and another king. The Kingdom of Israel eventually separates. Led by humans, the Kingdom weakens and it falls apart.

Many kingdoms come and go. The Jews are overrun by the Assyrians. The Persians overrun them. The Greeks move in and then the Romans. Humans trying to hold people together. If not by peace, by force, power, fear and threats. But, led by human frailty and whimsy, kingdoms come and go. Man’s folly leads to failure.

Pope Pius XI looks over the world at hand in the 1920’s. The first World War has ended, lives needlessly lost, and Europe devastated. The peril of yet another earthly kingdom is revealed as man seeks to overwhelm and control each other. Tribes, families of the modern era unable to come together and unite. 

The Pope sees that God has been removed from public and private lives. God no longer reigns over countries, governments or families. Pius implements the Solemnity of Christ the King in 1925 to remind everyone that Jesus is the Eternal King with a rule that outlasts any domain of man. Losing sight of Christ as the ultimate King, we have lowered ourselves into disrepute, destruction and loss.

Christ, the King establishes a Kingdom held together not with power, intimidation or force, but by love. The Kingdom is to unite everyone, every tribe, all people and this Kingdom will outlast anything man has tried.

His message hasn’t changed. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. That’s how we build up the Kingdom of God and live in peace. This kingdom will stand against anything, even the great Enemy; Death.

Humanity has refused to implement the teachings of this new Kingdom and so…. World War I; the Great War that was supposedly to end all wars once and for all sets up a situation that broods into World War II. Love of neighbor is ignored so Korea, Viet Nam, the Middle East…. Earthly kingdoms fall.

 

Jesus’ efforts are contrary to the ways of the world. He confronts this in his opposition to the dominance by Rome. A kingdom gathered by power and controlled by fear and intimidation.

And so, today, we find our King on a cross. Not triumphant by earthly standards but by his heavenly standards. Christ, our King shows us that if we live by the world’s standards, only a crown of thorns awaits us. But by following him, we triumph over the world, the pains of this world and even death itself.

So it is up to us. Love unites us. Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is at hand and so, we are that kingdom when we live as he taught us.

But Jesus tells Pontius Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world and he tells Dismas, the Good Thief on the cross with Him that they would both be together in Paradise. The Kingdom of God does extend throughout his people; it is with us on earth, but our reward is the eternity with Christ in Heaven; Paradise; a tangible and physical place… the court of the King from which he rules over the entirety of his Kingdom day and night, forever and ever, world without end.

Christ is not a name; it is a title. Christus means the anointed one. As presidents or governors are inaugurated into office, a king was anointed into his position. Jesus is the anointed king, the Christ, the anointed one of God.

 As we live out our participation in the Kingdom of God everyone has a part to play. Everyone is a member of this Body of Christ. Each one of us anointed at our Baptism; as Priest, Prophet and King or Queen. A Priest to worship God. A Prophet to spread the word of God and a King or Queen to rule over those in our care. These are our jobs in the Kingdom of God on earth.

Humanity has tried to forge kingdom after kingdom into existence and attempted to hold them together: none seem to last because they are established and maintained by intimidation, threats, dominance or human will. We fail to put Christ as the ultimate King over us and to implement the simple mantra of love … love above everything else.

Who can belong to this Kingdom? On the cross, Jesus, the King opens his arms to invite everyone.  Everyone. The glue that holds  the Kingdom of God together is love. Love God, Love Others and build up the Kingdom by making disciples.

 

November 13

Deacon Tim Conley

The minute you hear someone tell you they know the exact date of the end of the world and Christ’s coming, go the other way!  Beginning with 500 AD, through 2021, major Christian and scientific leaders have predicted the end of the world forty-five times!  Was the end times Jesus spoke about what happened in 70 AD, when the Romans sacked Jerusalem, as some theologians believe, or is the end yet to come?  Either way, Jesus’ words still apply today; if you live out the Gospel, you’re going to experience some kind of persecution.

In the U.S. today, rather than being physical, our persecution comes from a political and cultural hostility toward Christian values, especially toward the Catholic Church’s teachings on abortion and sexual morality.  In the public square, every opinion is welcome except the Christian opinion.

As far back as 2004, 3 months after Bishop Henry in Canada  stated that politicians should not support abortion and same sex marriage, the government threatened to take away the Church’s charitable tax status.  In 2005, he was brought up on charges of civil rights violations for making similar comments.  In Sweden and the UK, ministers can and have been arrested for stating that some lifestyles are immoral.  The new weapons against the Church are trials and lawsuits. The organization, Open Doors World Watch, reported that between 2019 and 2021, 13 Christians were killed every day.  Where and when was that reported on the news?

Today, there are some powerful groups lobbying to muzzle the Church all over the world.  How are we going to handle that? Paul gives us a clue in our second reading where he says: “Use me as a model,…”.  What he modeled, among other things, was calmness under fire.  Here’s a man who, for his faith, was beaten 5 times with rods, hauled into court and imprisoned unjustly, all while refusing to compromise the teachings of the Church.

Attacks from outside the Church have never brought it down.  It’s what comes from inside the Church that has done the greatest damage.  The greatest threat to the Church today is moral relativism.  The mantra is: “If it feels like me, it must be me. If it feels good, it must be good.”. 

People’s reasons for rejecting our faith are varied.  We must try to understand the “why” behind it.  When meeting resistance, pray within yourself and give yourself time to respond. Before you speak, ask them why they think and feel the way they do.  Could it have been the untimely and unexpected death of a loved one?  Were they raised in a church in which they never felt loved and accepted for who they were?  Is their “dog in the fight” the fact that their lifestyle conflicts with the teachings of the Church and they need to make the church bad over it rather than them having to change?

Jesus tells us to speak our truth without going into a defensive mode.  The minute defenses go up, all communication shuts down.  Our most powerful and irrefutable truth lies in our own experience with God.  We cannot prove God’s existence but neither can they disprove it.  What can they say?  No you don’t feel fulfilled when receiving the Eucharist?  You don’t have peace when you pray?  It’s not your faith that has kept your marriage together all of these years?

Today, let us pray for grace to keep our cool under fire and not be ashamed of the Gospel.  Don't let the culture guilt you over your faith and your values.  We need to lift up our heads and speak our truth, always studying to make it relevant.  Be as kind and respectful as possible then let the chips fall where they may.  We would do well to remember the words of Jesus in another gospel: “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”.   The Holy Spirit will bring to us what to say and to do when that happens.

 

Deacon Philip Moore

         We have all seen beautiful cathedral’s in both the US and in Europe.  They are adorned with beautiful works of art and elaborate appointments.  These are all intended to honor God and give Him praise.  We want Jesus to have the best, yet what Jesus saw happening in the Gospel today, is that people were more interested in seeing how beautiful they could make the Temple, rather than attending services and honoring God.                                                            

         Then he told the people how the Temple would be destroyed.  They were frightened because they knew “The day of the Lord” was coming, from Isaiah 13:9 they were told, “Indeed, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and burning anger; To lay waste the land and destroy the sinners within it!”  and from the book of Joel 2:1-2; “Blow the horn in Zion, sound the alarm on my holy mountain!  Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming!  Yes, it approaches, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of thick clouds!  Like dawn spreading over the mountains, a vast and mighty army! Nothing like it has ever happened in ages past, nor will the future hold anything like it, even to the most distant generations.”   They were concerned and of course, they wanted to know when this would happen and what would the sign be that it’s about to happen.  Jesus speaks of terrible things happening, wars, insurrections, nations rising against nation, powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place and mighty signs coming from the sky.

         We have seen all this happening in the last several years.  War, people in need of food, wildfires, earthquakes, and many viruses.   The most important statement by Jesus in this Gospel reading is, “Do not be terrified.”  Another way to say this is, do not be afraid.  Jesus keeps reminding us, no matter how bad things get, He’s got this!  Jesus has a plan and it’s bigger than just what our minds can comprehend. 

          What he wants us to do is pray and honor Him.  We must come to Him every hour of every day, for help and consolation.  He will make everything alright.  It’s our job to trust in his goodness and mercy.  Jesus tells us in the Gospel, when I was hungry you gave me food, when I was thirsty you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed Me, naked and you clothed Me.   It’s more important now than ever, to be kind to each other.  Jesus told us, when we do these things to the least brothers of Mine, you did them for Me.  

Now, Jesus tells them before all this happens, you will be seized and persecuted.    Jesus would not have gotten a thumbs up for his sales pitch.  Anyone in advertising would tell you that a soft sales pitch is better than a hard sell.  Yet, Jesus was not concerned with holding back the truth.  He told crowds in several places in the Bible, that to follow Him met, picking up your cross and bearing insults and even death.  

         We have seen evidence of this.  People who profess to be Catholic do not follow their faith, either because they want to use it to their advantage or they were really never Catholic to start with.  I am by no means judging anyone, I am a sinner and would not presume to know God’s mind.  But we have to ask ourselves, are we willing to stand up for our faith in the threat of death?

          I have a friend who was in the hospital almost three weeks with Covid.  He had to be put on a ventilator.  Before the nurses did it, they explained it to him and his wife told me, he and the nurse prayed together.  My friend had been ministering to other people in the hospital before this; praying for them when they came into his room to provide nursing care.  He prayed for people that were in the ICU with him.  He is without a doubt, a strong Catholic and loves his faith.  What a great example to me and all who know him

        But we know the promise Jesus gave us, He said “you would be hated by all because of My name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.  By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”  The life Jesus promises is with Him