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Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Homily Ascension 2014

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At all Masses this coming weekend, Pentecost, June 7/8, we will host a chalice used by Saint Padre Pio and welcome Father Lester Knoll, O.F.M. Cap. as guest homilist.  The chalice is made available to us through the generosity of the Saint Padre Pio Prayer Group of Cleveland.  Masses Saturday at 4:00 and Sunday 7:00 and 9:00 at Our Lady of Victory and 11:00 at Saint Patrick. This is a great honor for our parishes and a sure sign of God's blessings. 
www.andoverkinsmanparishes.org for more information. 

Divine Mercy Sunday Homily 2014

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We apologize for the technical difficulties that caused the delay in updating the blog. 

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Homily: expanded version of Third Sunday of Easter for Knights of Columbus Exemplification Mass May 3, 2014


I am delighted to introduce you to the many Knights of Columbus who are here with us today after our exemplification ceremony for the Fourth Degree in Aurora.  You the faithful of Saint Joseph parish are so kind to welcome all of us here as guests today. 

 

In return, I offer a brief explanation of who we are as Knights of Columbus and what being a Knight in the Church in the 21st Century really means. 

 

The best framework for sharing the vision of the Knights is to explore the four virtues of the Order: charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism. 

 

Charity

The Knights of Columbus was founded in the late 1800s in New Haven CT by Father Michael McGivney, a parish priest, to be an organization of Catholic men dedicated to the service of the Church and of widows and the sick who were without husbands and fathers or other family to care for them. 

 

The Knights continue to exemplify charity through service to the poor and needy of our world.  In our Catholic parishes and on the streets of our communities, where the Knights of Columbus thrives, there exists a living image of the love of Jesus in the midst of a hungering world. 

 

 

 

 

Unity

Knights are joined together from across the country and across the world as a global force for good in the name of the Lord.  The Knights are the most active and visible defenders of the truth of our Catholic faith and of the supreme right to life for all human persons from conception to natural death.  They are furthermore loyal supporters of our parishes, the Church’s bishops and priests and of prayer for vocations.  They understand so well how the Church cannot long endure without the guidance of holy shepherds. 

 

Fraternity

Brother Knights support each other in achieving their goals and attaining the holiness and virtue to which God calls them.  It is a good reminder for us as Knights to foster fraternity in all we do, to help fellow Knights to excel and rejoice in the success and blessings of others, remembering that all glory ultimately belongs to God.  As men of Catholic values, Knights are called to support each other as husbands and fathers and give example to all of the meaning of married love and family life. 

 

Patriotism

As members of the Fourth Degree, the new Knights who underwent their exemplification ceremony today commit themselves to being authentic patriots and faithful citizens.  Our country was founded by men who trusted in Divine Providence as they conceived a nation in liberty, a nation dedicated to belief in the equality of all and to the freedom of all men and women.  In this time of crisis and concern for all people of faith, we Christians and Americans need to look to the devotion of the Knights to God and country as a clarion call to rediscover the purpose of our nation’s founding.

These United States of America need leaders of integrity, who respect the rule of law, who honor above all the law of God, who defend the right to life, the freedom of religion and the protection of conscience. 

 

The Knights of Columbus is an organization with a purpose – to stand for truth in a radically counter-cultural way; to form and encourage gentlemen of faith, hope and love.  These are the kinds of husbands and father our world so desperately needs.  These are the kinds of priests our Church cannot live without out.  

 

For all these reasons and more, this is why we are Knights.

 

We are men on our journey to discover who God desires us to be for His sake, a journey of love for others, a journey of faith in Christ and Holy Mother Church, a journey of hope in His promise of eternal union with Himself. 

 

In January 2012, Dutch teenager Laura Decker completed a year-long, 27000 nautical-mile round-the-world solo voyage in a sailboat.  It was the journey of a lifetime and the realization of a dream for this young girl.  Along the way, she stopped to surf, scuba dive, go cliff diving and watch whales for the first time.  In an interview, Laura described how she learned a lot about herself.  It was a journey of encounter – with her deepest self, with interesting people and with God’s creation – and a journey of discovery.  It was a journey of hope and hopelessness, of fear and excitement. 

 

Every one of us here is on a journey of discovery – struggling at times to follow the Lord and yearning for the ultimate goal of Heaven – and a journey of encounters, with God and others, encounters that daily form and shape who we are.

Today’s Gospel is the story of a famous journey that leads to a life-changing encounter.  Saint Paul reminds us in the second reading that our Christian life is an experience of sojourning. 

 

The disciples on the road to Emmaus learn through their mysterious meeting with the Lord that the Cross and grave, which have been a source of scandal and sorrow, are in reality the instruments of their salvation. 

 

The two men are despondent, for all their hopes and dreams have been shattered.  Jesus wasn’t the Messiah after all, they conclude after witnessing His suffering and death. 

 

All the disciples are filled with confusion and fear, they hide for a while in the upper room and eventually return to fishing.  Jesus appears to them in several different times and places – the upper room, along the road, by the sea – and yet they struggle to understand Him.

 

The sadness of the Crucifixion erased form the disciples’ minds and memories the teaching of Jesus that He must suffer, die…and RISE on the third day!

 

Saint Augustine goes so far as to say that the disciples could learn a lesson from the good thief who was sentenced to die alongside the Lord.  Even though he was a convicted criminal, he had enough of a sense of faith to perceive that Jesus, the crucified Lord, the dying Messiah, the immolated High Priest, would be His ultimate salvation and freedom.  What the thief, at rock bottom in his life and searching for hope, grasped, the disciples in their fear and self-preservation could not understand.  It must happen this way!

Once it is revealed to the two men in Emmaus that it has been Jesus whom they have been conversing with, they realize that He is alive and thus come to understand what He had taught them before – He must first die and then rise in order to save them from sin.  Everything in Scripture points to Him and to His dying as the purpose of His incarnate life. 

 

It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and so enter into His glory, having won for all mankind the glorious liberation for which the prophets of old had longed. 

 

Through our encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist, we too are made sharers in His Word and in His Flesh and Blood with the members of the Body of Christ throughout the world.  Jesus transforms our hopeless hearts…our hearts full of fear and confusion at times… into hearts burning with love and zeal for Him and for our faith.  As the Church established by Christ on the foundation of the Apostles and redeemed by His sacrifice, we become a global community of missionaries sent to proclaim the Gospel by teaching the faith and by the witness of our lives. 

 

It is for this that we are Catholics, baptized and redeemed, nourished and sent forth to share with the world the good news that we have seen the Lord and He is alive!

 

This is the good news that gives us hope when we are tossed about by the waters of the storms of life, when we are afraid and confused.  We have seen the Lord and He is alive and His suffering and rising have set us free!

 

And so, rise up o men of God!  Rise up, O Church!  Be done with the lesser things of the world and proclaim the goodness of the Lord!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Seek what is ABOVE! Easter 2014


Easter Sunday 2014

 

Christ is risen!  Indeed He is risen! 

 

This simple prayer is an ancient form of greeting used primarily by Eastern Christians for centuries.  It is a call and response used in the Easter season among Christians passing one another on the street or welcoming one another into their homes.  Saying these words replaces saying “hello” or how are you?” at the time of Easter. 

 

It might seem foreign to us but the Paschal Greeting is an ancient form of integrating prayer and faith into everyday life.  So often today we are afraid to mention the name of the Lord in public but centuries ago the name of Christ was on the lips of His servants all the time.  His resurrection was professed in greeting others because of its singular significance in our faith experience. 

 

Why the resurrection as a greeting?  Why that aspect of our faith?  The resurrection proves the power of Christ’s saving work.  As Saint Paul teaches, “If Christ has not been raised, our faith is in vain.”  Without the resurrection from the dead, Jesus would be just another prophet, another crucified criminal, another itinerant preacher.  Instead, He is our victorious Lord, who has triumphed over sin and death. 

 

His Paschal Mystery is all about Jesus giving His life away on the Cross for our salvation and then being raised to new life.  He reveals to us the good news that we who give our lives away for others are promised the joy of rising to new life with Him. 

 

Christ has raised His mortal body and promised the raising of our mortal bodies, if we believe in Him.  Believing means integrating what we profess into the routine of our daily experience – much like the ancient greeting – so that faith becomes a living and effective part of us.  So that the name of Jesus flows from our lips. 

 

Therefore, Paul exhorts us in today’s second reading to “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Think of what is above, not what is on earth.”  This was a formative passage for me in seminary.  It comes up every year in the Liturgy of the Hours and the Mass all through the Easter Season.  But one year, the Lord put this passage in front of me over and over.  He wanted to tell me that He was calling me to something “more,” to a deeper experience of Himself, to a life-long vocation of service and not a mundane life at all.  I was to seek the things of God and share them with the people of the Church.  And, now here I am!  No one can say I am not passionate about my faith. 

 

Being a Christian means living like Christ and practicing the virtues that will form us into Christ-like men and women.  It is not for us to get bogged down in the allurements of this world, which promise happiness but end in dissatisfaction.  The world around us is all about serving our selfishness.  For the Christian, the great calling is to look upward to the glory of God and outward to the needs of others. 

 

Sometimes we look askance at people who quote Scripture, who have a repertoire of quaint spiritual sayings, who live life with joy in sorrow and the praise of God on their lips.  Deep down we yearn for some of their peace but it’s too “old fashioned” to be visibly religious.  Why are we so hardened of heart?  Why do we call passionate Christians “Jesus freaks?”

I had a similar experience in first year seminary.  I came from a good Catholic home but we were quiet people and weren’t used to talking openly about the spiritual life.  So, I was surprised when I first heard the older men praising and thanking God all the time for everything.  I didn’t understand.  Now of course, God has led me to a deeper spiritual life and I know that He is a part of everything I am and all I do.  I need to seek the presence of God in every detail of life.  But at first I was uncertain, afraid. 

 

Saint Augustine fled from religion at first as well.  As a young man, He wanted nothing to do with faith and everything to do with women, partying and his own designs.  He resisted the encouragement of his mother and the yearning of his heart until the Lord broke in and spoke to his heart and inspired him to take up the scriptures, where he found the passage where Saint Paul beckons the reader to leave behind the darkness and walk in the light.

 

Saint Hubert, the patron of hunters, was out one day in the 8th Century, Good Friday no less, while everyone was in church, on the chase with his famous hounds.  He turned around to see a deer with a crucifix in its antlers and heard Jesus speak to him: "Hubert, unless you turn to the Lord, and lead a holy life, you shall quickly fall into the abyss of Hell!"

 

These were real men, learned men, men of stature.  They were not accustomed to prayer, rituals and the weakness of surrendering before God.  They did manly things – hunting animals and racking up concubines.  But when Jesus touched their hearts, everything that held them back crumbled like dust.  They surrendered to God and, though they weren’t perfect immediately, they remained seekers of His will for their entire life. 

God gives us such a blessed opportunity to seek and discover the greater realities of His plan for us through the life of the Church.

 

Why do we humans keep eating fast food, when God is offering us a banquet of rich delights through our Christian life?  Why settle for idle pursuits when God is inviting us to study His Word and live by it?  Seek the things that are above: the joy of heaven, the love of God, the life of the angels who are forever praising God.  This is how we are to live: in faith, hope and love, with prudence, moderation, justice and courage.  These are the greater realities that signify the Christian soul. 

 

Today we celebrate the confirmation of Dr. Karen Holen and welcome her into our parish…

However, because we are afraid and uncertain and even worldly at times, we had no one for Baptism last night at the Easter Vigil. 

 

I gave a challenge at the beginning of the year for each family to bring one person to Church this year to experience our parish.  We prayed all through Lent for those names we put in the baskets at the Altar, for those who are away from the Lord.  So, I hope to see at least five Baptisms next year at the Easter Vigil.  Andover is fertile ground, waiting for us to plant the seeds of faith that the Lord will nurture into fruitful conversions. 

 

We’re afraid – afraid to speak boldly in the name of Jesus, afraid to listen to His voice amid the noise of the world, afraid to trust in what is from above and leave all else behind.  But the Good News is that fear, sin, death and evil are trampled by the Risen Christ.  When we live for the greater things of God, only goodness awaits us!

 

Once we prioritize God and the needs of those around us, our human existence will be drawn upward and we will be blessed with the fruits of life lived in communion with the Spirit of God: joy, peace, patience, gentleness and goodness.  Seek the things of God and not the follies of the world, for God is our maker and the source of our salvation.  He is risen!  Seek to live with Him forever! 

 

Praise and glory, honor and adoration be to Jesus Christ now and forever!  Alleluia! 

 

Friday, April 18, 2014

When no one cares for your life, you are united to the Heart of Jesus: Homily Good Friday 2014


As we gather on this sacred day, we contemplate the sorrowful and tragic scene

on the hill of Calvary.

 

Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, has been delivered into the hands

          of hateful, violent, lawless men.

They have ridiculed Him by dressing Him in a crown made from thorns

a purple cloak and a scepter made from a reed

and then blindfolding Him and demanding He display His alleged divinity

by prophesying who struck Him.

 

They treated our Lord with the worst kind of cruel violence:

          beating Him to the point his face is no longer recognizable

          lashing Him and tearing off His skin with whips of cords

with sharp pieces of bone and metal fastened to the end

kicking Him and making His sacred body a mass of blood and bruises.

 

The body of Jesus is like a rag doll, tossed about as a sport for the soldiers

          and so exhausted and limp He can barely move another step. 

 

Finally, the miserable cohort arrives at the place of the skull

          and Jesus is fastened with nails to the Cross and left hanging to die in agony.

The great High Priest mounts the gibbet of the Cross

          to make of it by His sacrifice the supreme Altar

          and to present Himself as the spotless Victim,

whose death brings new life to all humanity!

Thus He embraces His Cross with tenderness,

          knowing its pain will be our deliverance.

This instrument of torture and death becomes the instrument of our salvation. 

 

For those three long hours, while He writhes and whimpers in pain

and is further mocked by the soldiers who await His last breath

so they can complete their duty and be on their way…

 

Jesus is utterly alone. 

 

When circumstances turned against them and fear of arrest came over them,

          the Apostles ran away from the garden.

 

The crowds who days before has celebrated Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city

          with cries of “Hosanna!”

          now have been cajoled into turning against Him

          and demanded His crucifixion.

 

Mary, His sorrowful Mother, and John, His closest disciple and friend

          stand unwavering in their devotion at the foot of the Cross

          but His happiness at seeing them is tempered.

 

He longs for an embrace, a touch, the warmth of another’s love

          but His hands are fastened and He cannot reach out to them.

 

In His humanity, He even questions the providence of the Father:

          “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

The words of the prophetic psalms become the agonizing thoughts of the Lord:

 

Insult has broken my heart and I empty

I looked for consolers but there were none

I searched for comfort but there was none to be found

 

They put gall in my food and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink

 

Look to the right and see; for there is no one who regards me

There is no escape for me; there is no one who cares for my life.

 

Consider the stark emptiness and desolate yearning of the Lord Jesus.

He is regarded as a worm and no man.

He is hated and despised by the people He came to save.

By all accounts of the world, His life is a failure and is about to end in darkness.

 

And yet, it was for this agony that He was born

and in this suffering that His true glory is revealed.

For THIS…Christ came into the world!

 

Call to mind your own experiences of being alone.

The times when you did your best and worked hard and your efforts were ignored.

The times when people misunderstood and rejected you.

The times when insult has broken your heart.

The times when your closest friends have betrayed you.

The times when it seemed like enemies were trying to undermine you,

          putting vinegar in your drink…souring your joy.

The times when you were mocked and ridiculed for just being yourself.

The times when you were surrounded by people

and it still felt that no one cares for you.

The times when there was no means of escape from the oppression of life

          and no comfort could be found.

 

You were utterly alone.

There was no one who cared for your life. 
We have all been there. 

In the moments of your loneliness,

you were united to Christ in His suffering, from Gethsemane to Calvary.

 

The loneliness of Jesus confirms our faith in His eternal love –

          He is the High Priest knows our weaknesses and endured them without sin.

          He is close to us in our needs is our supreme comfort.

          His love will never abandon us even in our most painful emptiness.

 

There is no better place to be than close to Jesus and united to His life.

Just as His emptiness was our salvation,

          so our emptiness is an encounter with Christ’s suffering

          that leads us from darkness into life

          as we feel the loving embrace of Jesus.

 

Feel the weight of Jesus’ loneliness as you walk this way of the Cross tonight.

Then feel the relief of His loving embrace in your own emptiness

          as you walk the journey of your life arm in arm with the Lord.

See…how He loves you!

Observe what is set before you and imitate it: Holy Thursday Homily 2014


The great 4th Century bishop and father of the Church, Saint Augustine,

in one of his commentaries on the Sacred Scriptures,

directs our attention to the Proverbs of Solomon

where there is a verse that aids us in opening up

the meaning of this evening’s sacred liturgy…

 

If you sit down to eat at the table of a ruler,

observe carefully what is set before you;

then stretch out your hand,

knowing that you must provide the same kind of meal yourself.

 

Our commemoration of the Lord’s Supper is an annual reminder

          of the kind of Eucharistic life we are called to live as disciples of Jesus.

 

Jesus is the ruler of all creation, the eternal priest and universal king.

As He did long ago in the upper room,

He prepares a table before us

and invites us to join with Him in a banquet of intimate communion.

 

This is no ordinary table and no ordinary ruler who extends to us the invitation.

It is the Altar of the Lord. 

Augustine continues, saying,

What is this ruler’s table

if not the one at which we receive the body and blood

of Him who laid down His life for us?

This sacred banquet of the Holy Mass

is also the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary.

As the Last Supper anticipated the passion of the following day,

          so now our Eucharistic memorial takes us back to the foot of the Cross.

The Cross stands forever as the great sign of the love of God

poured out upon our world.

 

In the Mass, we commune with the Lord.

We receive the same broken body and poured out blood

that was immolated for love of us on the Cross.

In the Eucharist worthily received,

our hearts and souls are fused together with the Heart of Jesus.

 

The Holy Mass is the source of grace to sustain the life of the Church

          and the summit of all her teaching, pastoral and sacramental activity. 

To taste a glimpse of the love and splendor we will experience in Heaven,

          we need only to come to Mass.

This Eucharist is the pinnacle of all we do on earth. 

 

And so, as we come to the table of our ruler

and the Altar of Sacrifice of our great High Priest

let us follow the Proverb and carefully observe what He has set before us.

 

 

 

 

 

Scriptures…

 

First Reading

Mass is the fulfillment of the Lord’s command

for the Passover to be celebrated as a perpetual institution,

Where the Passover of old celebrated the deliverance of Israel

from slavery in Egypt

now the Mass commemorates the freedom of God’s people

from slavery to sin through the blood of Jesus.

Christ is true Lamb of God, whose blood can truly and completely take away sins.

 

Second Reading

Paul teaches that our celebration of the Mass

is a sharing in the tradition of the Apostles

who heard the words of the Lord at the Last Supper

and handed on the mysteries of the Lord in obedience to His command.

 

Gospel

Hear the familiar story of Jesus stooping to wash the feet of the disciples,

          which we will commemorate in ritual form here tonight.

 

Thus we can see clearly the two commands of the Lord on this night:

          “As I have washed your feet, so you must do for one another.”

          And, having given them His Body and Blood,

          “Do this in memory of me.”

 

         

Having observed carefully what this night is about

and what the Lord has set before us, again following Augustine’s words,

we stretch out our hands to prepare such a meal ourselves.

 

At the end of tonight’s Mass, we will solemnly carry

Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to the place of repose

where we will spend time in adoration until midnight.

We will obey His pleading to stay awake and keep watch with Him.

 

Honoring Jesus Christ in the Eucharist by preparing ourselves well

with observance of the Communion fast and regular confession

for a worthy reception of His Body and Blood

and by spending time in prayer with our Lord

is the core of learning to prepare the same kind of meal

the Lord prepared for us.

 

Our hearts having communed with the Lord in the Eucharist, then,

          we stretch out our hands and lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters,

          just as Jesus laid down His life for us.

 

Christ left us an example, an example of self-sacrificing love,

          so that we night follow in His footsteps.

 

That example includes the washing of the Apostles’ feet –

          the Christian must be always ready to stoop low, to get his hands dirty,

          to serve without counting the cost to oneself,

          in order to follow Christ’s example of loving service. 

Recently, on the news, there was a story of a young man

who was touched by the sight of a schoolmate who had no lunch.

He began to collect money from his friends in order to buy lunch for him.

This got the boy thinking…his thinking blossomed into action…

          by this month he has raised $10,000 through different projects

          to make sure every child in his school always has a lunch. 

 

That is the kind of spontaneous and dedicated service,

resulting from our being moved with compassion for others,

that is the hallmark of a godly, Christian life.

 

How often we pretend not to see, or see and ignore, the needs of the marginalized.

To do so is to neglect the real meaning of the Eucharist –

          a sacramental encounter with Jesus that He gave us

          to change us from within into imitators of His love. 

 

The Holy Eucharist is a communion with the Lord’s own life and sacrifice

          that prepares and enlivens us to turn to those in need,

stretch out our hand and lay down our life for them.

 

This is the Eucharistic life: honoring Christ

by reverently receiving Him in Communion

and by serving Him in lifting up the lowly and binding their wounds. 

 

As Christians, we carefully observe all that is before us tonight

and we commit ourselves to living what we celebrate.

These are the Lord’s commands.  This is the way to eternal life. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

And so it begins once again...

...my favorite of year.  Prayer, sacred celebrations with soul-stirring chants and rituals, the dawn of Spring and the excitement of preparing the churches for the festivities make Holy Week the best time of year!  Do not let these days go by lightly but celebrate them passionately with your loved ones.  Live not for yourselves but for Christ who died to set you free.