The ‘Fathers’ know best.

Yesterday, I was talking to Fr. David about the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.  I mentioned, jokingly, that it seemed to me to be hard to write a homily on this feast day. Those I had read or heard had always been about just one of these saints, maybe with a slight mention to the other.

When you take a look at these two saints it is very easy understand why this happens.  They are very, very different.  They represent different aspects of our faith history.  Peter was a poor fisherman, whose brother introduced him to Christ.  Paul was from a Tarsus family, making him a Roman citizen, and was an educated Pharisee. Peter was impetuous in actions and hasty in thought.  He could answer Christ, as in today’s Gospel, with God-inspired wisdom “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.[1]; only to have Christ answer his next statement with: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.[2]  St. Paul was intelligent and intense in thought and action, he was zealous in his living the Jewish faith and fanatical in fulfilling his duties.  St. Peter was to bumble at times in his leadership, where St. Paul was constant and in control.  They had two different paths; St. Peter kept mostly to the Jews and St. Paul would interact and evangelize the Gentiles.  Yes, when we look at these two foundational saints of our faith, they are two very different men.  Indeed, Holy Mother Church, in her liturgy today highlights this. In the preface we hear:

‘For by your providence
the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul bring us joy;
Peter, foremost in confessing the faith,
Paul, its outstanding preacher,
Peter, who established the early Church from the remnant of Israel,
Paul, master and teacher of the Gentiles that you call,
and so, each in a different way> gathered together the one family of Christ
and revered together throughout the world,
they share one Martyr’s crown…’[3]

Martyrdom, both in Rome, is one connection.  But, for me, there is a more foundational connection.  Both men in their own way met Christ.  Both men had a relationship with Jesus. Both men fell in love with the God who came among them.  They didn’t come together because they shared a philosophy; they loved the same best friend.  And when they went into the world their whole method of evangelization was bringing their beloved brother and Lord to those they met.  It is this simple; the nascent church grew because those who loved Jesus introduced Him to those who didn’t know Him.

Dr. Scott Hahn, in his new book Evangelizing Catholics writes: ‘…our task in the New Evangelization, first and foremost, is to proclaim a Person… Our task is proclaim Jesus. The man. His life. His words, even his manners and idiosyncrasies…That was goal of the first evangelization, and it needs to remain the goal of the New Evangelization.[4]

With Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular bearing a brutal assault by society in this country and around the world we need to be reintroduced with our mission, our reason for existing.  Our reason is to proclaim our best, and most loved, friend; a person named Jesus – and to proclaim Him crucified, died and risen.  Let’s remember that the early church was also under brutal assault by the societies they were part of and if this method worked for St. Peter, St. Paul and the whole of the early church, and results don’t lie, then we need to embrace it.  Nuancing our faith when dealing with society is not what we should be doing – it has no traction.  We shouldn’t waste much time in trying to justify our dogmas and structures with people who don’t know Jesus Christ.  They need to know of Him so to grow in love for Him; then all the rest, with our help, will come to complete understanding.

To some this might seem very ‘evangelical-protestant-like’, and this would be wrong.  This evangelizing method is what God intends all his followers to embrace because it is what He did for us.  He came and introduced Himself to St. Peter and St. Paul and to anyone who would open their minds and hearts.

Brothers and sisters, as I speak we are on the cusp of a definitive moment in our lives – as individuals, as a church, and as a country. Tomorrow the Supreme Court will make known their decision on the HHS mandate case; I don’t think it is hyperbole to say that freedom of religion hangs in the balance as well as our other fundamental freedoms.  The decision will be announced on the Feast of the First Roman Martyrs, ominous?  Or is it inspiring, since St. Paul and St. Peter where in that group.  And in spite of their martyrdom, Holy Mother Church continued to grow and bring Christ to people; and people to Christ.  Let’s take their courage and their Gospel message of Jesus Christ and go out and reintroduce the world to our best friend and His Sacred Heart.

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[1] Mt 16:16
[2] Mt 16:23
[3] Roman Missal – Preface for the Solemnity of the Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles
[4] Evangelizing Catholics, pg. 62 – Dr. Scott Hahn.

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Look to St. John the Baptist

Today, the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist calls us all to revisit our responsibilities as followers of Christ.  St. John leaped in his mother’s womb at the approach of his Lord. By doing so he announced to his mother something special was about to happen.  St. John entered the social consciousness by proclaiming repentance and conversion as our Lord was about to make His message known.  St. John the Baptist pointed everyone away from himself and towards who and what really mattered, Jesus and His Gospel message.  St. John the Baptist did not concern himself with how he was viewed by others; all that mattered was that his Lord’s message was made known.  He gave no regard for his physical comfort or safety in this realm because it was eternity that mattered.

We too go before the Lord as St. John did, to alert everyone about the Lord’s arrival; we herald His coming into the hearts of the people.  We will meet with resistance and hostility as we cause those we proclaim to to open their eyes, minds and hearts – we wake them from their self-centered sleep to reality.  Our love for our Lord should be like St. John the Baptist’s, where our concern for how people will react and treat us is not as important as our concern for their eternal welfare, their life with Christ. And our peace of mind should be as strong as St. John the Baptist’s. We should know in our hearts, as he did, that come what may from our proclaiming the Gospel, our Lord is with us always helping us and leading our tongues and hearts. St. John the Baptist witnessed to the words of Jeremiah:

“The word of the LORD came to me:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

“Ah, Lord GOD!” I said,
“I do not know how to speak. I am too young!”

But the LORD answered me,
Do not say, “I am too young.”
To whomever I send you, you shall go;
whatever I command you, you shall speak.

Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you—oracle of the LORD.”[1]

St. John the Baptist pray for us and Happy Birthday!

 

 

[1] Jeremiah 1:4-8

Poorest of Species

In the first two weeks after Pentecost, after the Easter season, Holy Mother Church celebrates two great mysteries of our faith. Last week we celebrated the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity and today we celebrate Corpus Christi – the Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The actual feast day is the first Thursday after the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity; however our Bishops have moved it to Sunday so more people can celebrate.  The reason for it being celebrated on a Thursday is, of course obvious, Christ instituted the Eucharist on the night before His death on Good Friday – Holy Thursday.

It is a day when we publically proclaim the source and summit of our Faith, Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.  The Sacrament of the Divine Pasch. The Sacrament of Death and Resurrection.  St. John Paul the Great said ‘The Sacrament of Bread and Wine, of the poorest of species, which become our greatest treasure and wealth.[1] He also called it the Sacrament of communion of souls with Christ in the Holy Spirit.

Today, once a year Catholics take to the street to proclaim this gift.  Processions led by our Lord are happening across the world, and each year more churches are participating.  This afternoon we followed our priests and deacons and with hymns of praise as we walked the streets with Christ held high.  We followed our shepherd; we journeyed to the people with our Lord.

Though we publically and corporately process with Christ once a year we are called to do this individually every day.  It is up to each of us to live our lives with Christ held high for all to see.  In our homes, our schools, our work, and our public spaces we are called to witness to our Lord’s great commission: ‘go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.[2]

Christ did the same while on earth.  Jesus walked the Holy land for three years witnessing to His Father’s message wherever He went.  He proclaimed the good news in the streets, the temple, the public spaces and buildings.  He challenged all people, the farmers, the townspeople, religious leaders and government officials.  He held high the way of God with no thought of His own physical welfare.

Brothers and sisters, let’s not waste today’s great public witness to God.  Let’s take this procession and continue, as Christ did, and walk through each day of our life holding God high.  As we saw Father today holding the monstrance for all to see, let’s hold our faith in same way.

It is getting tougher to do this, as each year passes society is trying marginalize our opinion of how we should live but we take heart and strength from this poorest of species, which become our greatest treasure and wealth because it is our God.

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[1] Prayers and Devotions: 365 Daily Meditations by John Paul II
[2] Matthew 28: 19-20

Heart of God

As Holy Mother Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity a lot energy is spent on reflecting on the Trinitarian makeup; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We try to come to a better understanding of the great mystery, three persons in one God, and this is a good thing; we should desire to understand better what our Lord has revealed to us.  But this year I was struck with the idea that by striving to understand the nature of our God we might be missing another and very important aspect of the Trinity – their dynamic.

Deus Caritas Est, God is Love, His nature is all about self-giving love – He offers His love – so much so that by the Father giving to His Son and the Son giving to His Father that love is made manifest in the Third person the Holy Spirit. But again I am discussing the makeup.  God is a total giving and loving God; this is His dynamic, He always shares, gives. He always loves.  We should take time to reflect on this energy and realize that since we are made in His image we too are made to give, to love.  In fact we are not whole until we embrace this part of our humanity.

God in His loving plan has given us a guide to help us fulfill this. His revealed word in scripture is a written panorama of our life – as it should be, and what happens when we fall short.  What to some might seem like rules, restrictions and impersonal dictates is in reality a beautiful plan of happiness and peace. Sacred Scripture are loving letters of a loving friend, a parent; a family member.  In turn we respond with love and build our personal relationship with God and His creation and we enter into the dynamic of the Trinity.

In his April 10th homily the Holy Father was commenting on the Pharisees trying to trick Jesus and stone him – he said: ‘the mistake of the doctors of the law who were not good, and wanted to stone Jesus…was to separate the commandments from the heart of God.’  The heart of God, the Trinitarian dynamic, is where all of our actions and words should radiate from and lead to.  We need to witness to the fullness of our God and that is love.  Those lists like the commandments and other ‘non-negotiables’ spring alive and become personally fulfilling.

And, in addition, this is the only way that we have any hope of evangelizing the people around us, where issues, words and rules are chaffed at as coercive. We need to open their eyes, minds and hearts up to the energy, the source of our life; the ‘what’ in our life that animates our self-giving; our total, joyful, offering of self to those around us – or rather we need to introduce them to who in our life makes this life worth living – the Holy Spirit who is total self-giving; reciprocal love incarnate. We open our lives up to those around us as a witness to the Holy Trinity.

 

The Correct Movement

Movement; God’s revelation is, in a very important way a lesson on movement, direction.  There is no stationary activity in our faith.  To live our faith as God intends we need to understand what is the correct movement – what direction gains us a closer relationship with God; and the readings for the Solemnity of Pentecost highlight this important understanding.

Last evening, in the vigil celebration of Pentecost we heard the story of the Tower Babel. In it we see mankind, relying on their own means to build their kingdom.  They were climbing up to God by themselves – they didn’t need His help. In this narrative we see God confusing them with language. If we remember that mankind was unaware of this change, then this story points out that mankind, in spite of their great achievements and relying on their self, comes into conflict with each other – at a certain point they don’t understand each other, can’t relate and even trust each other – society disintegrates into a collective of isolated people. For us, trying to climb to God doesn’t work.

In today’s first reading from the Acts, the movement is down, God comes down, He moves towards mankind.  And this shouldn’t surprise us, since the whole of the revealed word shows us that God, desires to come to us.  In Genesis, God comes to Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden.  God comes to Abram, to Noah, to Moses, to the prophets and the kings, he enters Mary and Joseph’s life.  Christ comes to St. John the Baptist and His disciples, He is constantly moving from village to village coming to those He desires to proclaim the good news to. He journeys to Jerusalem and offers Himself to the leadership for His passion. And today He sends His Holy Spirit down on His disciples and His mother. God’s movement is downward – God goes out to meet us.

For us this means that we must, if we desire to be faithful followers of God empty ourselves of inflated understanding of ourselves and allow God to work on our hearts.  We need to humble ourselves to allow God to meet us where we are – it is then that heaven meets earth; it is this action that allows mankind to reach their heavenly goal.  It is then that the new Jerusalem is realized, at least for now.

As we enter Ordinary Time – let’s call upon the Holy Spirit, who is within us, to open our minds and hearts to the direction God’s wants us to take.  Let’s drop down and meet those around us, those in need, where they are – after all God continues to do that for us.  Let’s empty ourselves of everything but God’s love, His Holy Spirit, and together with those we help we can reach our heart’s desire – heaven.