Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Homily Twenty-Fifth Sunday of the Year 24 September 2006

A few years ago…
The United Nations sponsored a project called "The Peace Poem."
Students from every elementary, middle school, and high school in the world were invited to submit a few lines of poetry about peace.
Students in schools in 38 countries participated.
Once all the entries were collected
they were compiled into one long poem of peace.
The poem is available online…simply Google "peace poem."

Some of the submissions from the school children are cute…
some are simple…
and others are quite inspiring.
A child in Rhode Island wrote:
"As I look around the world, I sigh,
and think, We could at least give peace a try."
A student in Perth, Australia, wrote:
"Toys and green goblins, and big yellow ice creams,
not bombs that extinguish our hopes and dreams."
A girl in south Africa wrote:
"Peace is like an African jungle –
it takes years to grow and seconds to destroy."

The different lines of poetry come from children throughout the world…
children of every race and state in life…
and they together proclaim a beautiful message of peace and hope
for our troubled world.

Today, we know all too well the pain of war…
There is sorrow in the hearts of many
who mourn the loss of their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters…
who gave their lives valiantly in service to our country.
Our world suffers because people have turned to violence
as the answer to their problems.

There are also those people, in our world today,
who…sadly…have embraced violence in the name of religion.
As I am sure you all have heard…
at a speech last week at the University of Regensburg, in Germany,
the Holy Father used a quote from a medieval Byzantine Emperor,
which offended many followers of Islam throughout the world.
As the Pope himself, and Vatican officials, have explained several times…
this quote was used to illustrate one point in his speech,
and it did not reflect the Pope’s personal beliefs.

The essential argument of the Pope, which was missed by most people…
is found in the following paragraph:
"Violence is incompatible with the nature of God, and the nature of the soul. God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably…is contrary to God’s nature… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind…"
In other words, violence has no place in religion.
Faith is not spread by the sword but by words spoken eloquently…in love.
Those who profess faith in the one God are called to be peacemakers,
not lovers of violence.

The Pope has said that he is "deeply saddened"
by the reaction to the misunderstood quote in his speech.
The reaction has truly been heartbreaking.
The Pope is burned in effigy.
A nun was killed in Somalia…over what the Pope was accused of saying.

Violence and war have sadly become all too commonplace.
It is routine now to hear on the news
a few stories about roadside bombs…insurgents…and extremists.
And the effects are no longer felt only by those in far away places.
Violence is real for us.
Our children are growing up in a time of fear…
when shoes and shampoo bottles can be used as weapons.

The violence of this war on terror is often linked to the Muslim religion.
We must remember that there are in fact many people who practice Islam,
who are law-abiding, peaceful people.
They should not be caught up in all the hatred…
and unfairly treated because of their peaceful life and their faith.

This morning, the Apostle James speaks to us a very clear message:
Disordered passion, jealousy, envy and selfish interests…
lead to disorder, violence, and war between people.
This is true in the wars between nations…
and in the battles in our own homes.
Whenever we look out only for ourselves…
whenever a leader or a nation seeks only to serve selfish interests…
evil results are soon to follow.

God calls us to a much higher way of living.
He calls us to seek the wisdom from above…which is
"pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy
and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity."
God calls us to seek peace.

Of course, we are not diplomats or military strategists.
We cannot solve all the world’s problems and bring peace to every land.
But that doesn’t mean there is nothing we can do.
Our task is twofold:
to pray for peace in the world…
and to work for peace in our own homes and hearts.

Don’t think for a moment that prayer is not enough
in the face of all the trouble we see in the world.
Prayer is in face the most powerful weapon we have…
for in prayer we are filled with the strength of God’s grace…
which is far more powerful than and merely human efforts.
We must pray for peace in the world and an end to war…
for all our service men and women…
for the safety of the Pope and all who work for peace.

And peace must begin with us…
with the way we live…
and the lessons we pass on to others, especially our children.
We must live in peace, love, and charity, if we expect others to live that way.
This means seeking the interests of others, and not only our own.

The children who together wrote the Peace Poem understood peace…
even if it was in a very simple…innocent way.
May we embrace their message of peace…
as Jesus embraced the little innocent child in today’s Gospel.

This morning we approach to receive the Eucharist…
the Body and Blood of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
The Fathers of the early Church referred to the Eucharist as "peace."
When we give the sign of peace at Mass…we anticipate the Eucharist…
the true peace.
Peace is a person…Jesus Christ…whom we receive in the Eucharist.
With that peace within us…
we can go forth to live lives of peace, to extend peace to the world…
and commit ourselves to constant prayer for peace.

May peace reign in our hearts…
and in the hearts of all people…
now and always.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Homily Twenty-Fourth Sunday of the Year 17 September 2006

For priests and deacons…
our breviaries are dear to our hearts…
because we pray with them every day.

And different people keep all kinds of things in their breviaries…
pictures of loved ones
holy cards of special occasions
reminder notes and papers we don’t want to lose.

I keep a scrap of paper with scripture verses or quotes I want to remember.
One of these is a quote about the meaning of love.
I don’t know anything about the man who said it…
but it is a powerful insight…
and I want to share it with you.

"Love asks no questions.
Its natural state is one of extension and expansion,
Not comparison and measurement."

In the Gospel today, we encounter head-on the essence of what Jesus is all about…
and what we are called to be as Christians.

God is our heavenly Father,
who freely gives even His only Son out of love for the world.

Jesus is the obedient Son,
who freely sacrifices His life on the Cross for the salvation of the world.

We, who are created in the image of God, and who profess the name Christian,
are called to accept our own crosses,
to lay down our own lives,
and to deny ourselves for the sake of Christ, whom we serve.

In the First Reading today, we hear of the words of Isaiah,
which look forward to the sufferings of Christ,
and also describe the trials endured by faithful prophets
and servants of the Lord:
the beatings, the buffets, and the spitting.
And Isaiah says, "I did not turn back;" "My face I did not hide."
Jesus endured ridicule, scourging, the crown of thorns, and the horror of the Cross,
without complaint.

So many times, fidelity to Jesus and to our Catholic faith,
means laying down our lives.
For us in the modern world it does not mean actual crucifixion or physical death.
The buffets and scourging come in different forms in every age…
but they are still there.
Similarly, the need for self-denial
on the part of each one of us who belongs to Christ
remains essential to our Catholic Christian way of life.

Denying ourselves…in today’s world…
means being willing to be unpopular…
willing to set aside our own need for fame, glory, and success…
willing to sacrifice our own good name,
and our own needs and desires,
for the sake of Christ and the Gospel.

In our lives and relationships…
at home, in school, and at work…
denying ourselves means that we will not always be number one.
Jesus calls us to take ourselves out of the picture…
for the good of those we are called to love and serve.
Being parents, teachers, bosses…
means first of all being servants.

Husbands and wives…
parents and children…
teachers and students…
clergy and parishioners…
we are all called…each day…to ask what is best…not for us…
but for the ones whom God has placed in our lives…
and ask how we can sacrifice of ourselves for them.

When the Father sent Jesus to become man,
to live among us,
and to go to His death for us…
Jesus did not ask "Why?" or "Do I really have to?"
His love did not ask questions…He did not compare or measure.
Rather, He expanded Himself in love…
embraced the whole world…
and drew all people to Himself on the Cross.

Our world suffers today
because far too many people have never learned to deny themselves…
because too many people do not love without comparing, measuring,
and asking questions.
We see it in all those in foreign nations…and in our own communities…
who turn to violence instead of love to solve their problems.
We see it in all those who look at human life and human sexuality
as things to be manipulated at the service of their own needs or fears…
rather than beautiful gifts to be cherished.

There is no doubt that this teaching of Jesus is hard.
Even Peter questioned Jesus
because he did not understand the truth of Jesus’ message:
that those who wish to follow Jesus
must deny themselves and accept their crosses.

Life is not without sorrow and suffering…
difficult situations…and difficult relationships.
We are called to bear these crosses in love for Jesus Christ,
who bore His Cross for the sake of our salvation.

Jesus promises that the one who denies himself in love for God and others…
who stands up for the Gospel even when it seems too difficult to do…
and who bears life’s crosses patiently…
will share the joy and glory of eternal life.

As we approach with humble fear
to receive the Body of our Crucified and Risen Lord…
may we commit ourselves ever more fully to laying down our lives
and bearing our crosses…
for the sake of Jesus and for those we love.

In so doing…
we will find ourselves in the midst of trials,
and we will also find ourselves in the midst of good company…
both the many holy men and women who now serve the Church…
and…we pray…one day…
among those whose service has brought them everlasting reward.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Homily O. L. Sorrows 15 September 2006

It seems to me no mere coincidence
that today’s celebration of Our Lady of Sorrows
should follow the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

For the Cross we honor and venerate
was at once the instrument of our salvation
and the sword of sorrow which pierced Mary’s heart.

The Seven Sorrows of Mary…
The Presentation of Jesus
The Flight into Egypt
Jesus being lost in Jerusalem
Meeting Jesus on the Way to Calvary
The Crucifixion
The Deposition of Jesus’ Body from the Cross
And His Burial
…were at one time commemorated by two feasts.

The other was celebrated on the Friday of Passion Week,
the week before Holy Week in the liturgical calendar before 1969.

That feast…
which particularly commemorated the sorrow of Mary
at the foot of the Cross…
was also known as the Feast of the Compassion of Mary.
How fitting a name…
since Mary surely suffered with her Son…
compassio of course meaning to “suffer with.”

As the Stabat Mater proclaims…
Mary not only beheld His pangs…
she was wounded with His every wound.

As Mary saw her only son being ridiculed…tortured…and crucified…
in the midst of unimaginable sorrow for a mother to bear…
and terrible pain for her only Son…
Mary trusted in the promise of the Resurrection.

The Gospel tells us that Mary stood at the foot of the Cross…
Stabat mater juxta crucem.
Mary stood firm.

She trusted through it all…
and now she stands for us as an model of trust and fidelity
in times of sorrow.

As she trusted that the Cross would not end in death…
but in the glory of the Resurrection…
so we can have faith that the sorrows of this life are not the final word.

The sorrow and the suffering of the Cross was the cause of our salvation…
so the sorrow we endure in this life is not without meaning.

Though we may not see the value of our sorrows…
and of uniting them with the sufferings of Christ… as we are called to do… in this life… we trust that we shall see it in heaven,
where we shall be in sorrow no more.

Each of us has experienced sorrow in one way or another.
The death of parents, grandparents, relatives or friends.
People we know and love moving away.
Our lives changing as we move from seminary into a life of ministry.
Separation…transition…different kinds of “goodbyes.”
Great sorrows and little ones…
all of which are a natural part of life.
As the scene of Mary at the foot of the Cross shows us so clearly…
real love often means enduring sorrow.
When we really give ourselves in love…
and then experience loss or change or grief…
it can really…deeply…hurt.

Mary speaks to us: hold on, stand firm…
God’s unending love will triumph even over sin and death.
Meditating on Mary’s sorrows can help us more fully understand our own.

As we approach to receive the Body of Jesus, the Son of our Sorrowful Mother…
may our prayer this day be a heartfelt plea
for the grace and the courage to endure our sorrows as Mary did…
with trust in God’s power to heal and save…
and with hope in the heavenly reward promised to good and faithful servants.

Reflection #7: Saturday

Padre Pio
23 September 2006

Luke 8:4-15

Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of Pio of Pietrelcina, known to the world as “Padre Pio.” Padre Pio was born in Italy in 1887. He entered the Capuchin Friars at the age of 15 and was ordained a priest at 22. For fifty years, he lived at the monastery of Saint Stephen, where his miraculous abilities as spiritual director and confessor attracted the attention of people all over the world. He was a man of remarkable humility and great devotion to the Eucharist. He was given the grace of the stigmata – he bore the wounds of Christ’s passion on his own body.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the sower. In the story, the man goes out to sow some seed. Some of the seed does not fall in the good soil but lands on the path, on rocky ground, and among thorns. Some of it is trampled and some is eaten by birds. The seed symbolizes the Word of God. Each of the places where the seed lands symbolizes a circumstance in the lives of believers. The good soil, of course, represents those who have heard the Word of God, have embraced it, and have borne good fruit.
Padre Pio is a living example of good soil. He heard the Lord call him to the priesthood, and call him to give his life in service to the Church. He embraced his vocation, answered the call of the Lord with generosity, and bore great fruit in the lives of many people. In his own day, he attracted many people, who came to him to hear the great spiritual wisdom he was able to share with them. Today, he is numbered among the saints, and stands as an example to the Church and to the whole world of what it means to be a humble servant of Christ.
Despite his great gifts, and despite the tremendous graces God bestowed upon him, Padre Pio never focused on himself. He was a humble priest. He never wished to be famous for his spiritual knowledge. He often remarked, “I only want to be a friar who prays.” Yet, the Lord used his life to bring His love and mercy and healing to many people. And now, his powerful intercession before the throne of God in heaven remains a source of grace for many.
There is tremendous power in the Communion of Saints, the invisible bond that unites the Church on earth with the suffering souls in purgatory, and the saints in heaven. The saints were good soil. They heard the Word of God and embraced it. They continue to bear fruit as they provide for us an example of holy living, and intercede for us in our own journey of faith.
Today we ought to pray for the strength to live as Padre Pio did, as a humble servant who gave his life over to the Lord. For if we embrace God’s Word and His will for us; if we allow our lives to be used by the Lord for His good purpose, we too shall bear much fruit.

Reflection #6: Friday

Friday of the Nineteenth Week of the Year
22 September 2006

Luke 8: 1-3

Today’s Gospel story is one of several examples, which illustrate the role of women in the life and teachings of Jesus. For Jesus, women were valued highly and had an essential place in His ministry. In contrast to the customs of the Jewish world, and those of Roman society, which often regarded women as second-class citizens, Jesus embraced them as God’s beloved creatures. While He presents a challenge to the culture of His time, Jesus reminds us that God has never embraced the customs of men but has loved unconditionally every person He has created.
Jesus shows how valuable women are to him by recognizing and affirming their dignity as persons. He does not judge as humans do. He sees in women the same dignity present in every person. He spoke to women freely in public, and did so in a caring, thoughtful way. Yet, He also loved them enough to challenge them, and to hold them responsible for their sins, as He does with every person.
Jesus also demonstrates the value He places on women by not hesitating to minister to them. He meets their physical needs, as well as their spiritual longings. He healed them, forgave their sins, and listened to them with compassion. This is seen in several examples, including the story of the Samaritan woman at the well.
Finally, Jesus shows how He values women by giving them a place in His ministry. We see this in today’s reading from Luke’s Gospel. In addition to their place in the work of Jesus and the Apostles, Jesus employed women as illustrations in His teachings, and in many of the parables. He did not hesitate to teach the Gospel to women, and to include them in his great mission of salvation. They not only provided essential services as part of the work of the early Church but undoubtedly offered a wisdom that only women can, because of the unique way in which God created them.
In addition to all this, it is important to recall that, when all the Disciples except John fled in fear, it was the faithful women who stood at the foot of the Cross. And it was women who first witnessed the empty tomb and the risen Christ, and brought the joyful news of the Resurrection to the Apostles. They began the mission of the Church to proclaim the salvation won by Christ to all the nations.
And most importantly of all, we must remember Mary, whose love and trust made it possible for the Son of God to become incarnate among men.
The Gospel writers clearly proclaim that, while Jesus did not chose women to be Apostles, He opened His life to women, loved them, responded to their needs, and gave them an essential role in the life of His Church. So it is in the Church today. I am continually inspired by the heroic witness of many Christian wives and mothers, by holy and dedicated women religious, and by the valuable service and wisdom women offer to the Church in numerous ways. Just as Jesus’ ministry would not have been the same without the women who accompanied Him, so the Church depends on their contributions today.
Authentic discipleship knows no human bounds. Men and women alike are called to proclaim Christ’s truth and His love to the whole world. The women of the Church today can find the same fulfillment in serving Christ as did Martha and Johanna and Susanna of old.

Reflection #5: Thursday

Saint Matthew, Apostle
21 September 2006

Matthew 9: 9-13

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Apostle and Evangelist, Saint Matthew. He was a disciple of Jesus and the author of one of the four Gospels. Today’s reading is from Saint Matthew’s Gospel, and tells the story of Matthew’s call to serve Jesus in his own words. It is a rather simple vocation story. Matthew is sitting at his post, fulfilling his duty as a tax collector. Jesus simply says to him, “follow me.” And, as Matthew writes, he gets up and follows Him. Notice there is no hesitation. If there was any question in Matthew’s mind about the man calling him or what he was getting into, he certainly does not tell us about it. There is no argument. Matthew abandons his life as a tax collector for a new way of life with Jesus. He had no idea what might lie ahead. He does not second-guess the Lord but trusts that what lies before him will by God’s grace prove to be best for him.
Today, we too are called to reflect on how the Lord is calling us to make a change in our lives. Every human person has a unique vocation, a unique plan from God to live in a particular way: to marry a particular person, to become a priest and serve a particular parish, to become a religious sister or brother and live in a particular community. The life God calls us to is not always easy, yet He fills our lives with the grace to strengthen us as we fulfill what He asks of us. The challenge is to trust in God’s plan.
This is the example of Saint Matthew we are called to follow. This is what we are asked to pray about today. We need to pray for the grace and the strength to trust that what God has in store for us is best for us. We need to pray for the grace to follow the call of the Lord without hesitation, and not follow our own desires. A dear friend of mine, who lives this very well, reminds me in my impatience to trust in the will of the Lord. “If it’s meant to be, it will happen,” she says. Matthew didn’t know where Jesus would lead Him but he was moved by grace to trust and to submit to the will of the Lord.
Today, and every day, let us turn to the Lord in prayer and ask: “Lord, what is it you want me to do?” “How am I to follow you?” Place your cares in the hand of God, trust in His plan, and respond to His call without turning back. When the Lord says “follow me,” He says it knowing what is best for us. May we have the courage of Saint Matthew to get up and follow after the Lord every moment of our lives, and to trust that where He leads us is nowhere other than the throne of glory in His heavenly kingdom.

Reflection #4: Wednesday

Korean Martyrs: Andrew Kim, et. al.
20 September 2006

I Cor 12: 31-13: 13

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict, surprised many people when he wrote his first encyclical on the meaning of love. He took the title from the First Letter of Saint John: Deus Caritas Est, “God is Love.” The mystery of love is at the center of our lives as Catholic Christians. For God, love is not simply something He does; He is Love itself. We, who are made in the very image and likeness of God, are called to follow the great commandment: to love God with all our hearts, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. To love is an essential part of what it means to be human, to be a creature of our loving God.
Today’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians gives us an opportunity to reflect on the mystery of love. Saint Paul teaches us three great truths about love, which help us to understand how we are to live as followers of Jesus, whose love for us knows no limits.
First, it does not matter what we do, how talented we are, or even how well we live out the demands of our faith, if loving is not at the heart of our living. If we do not love those with whom we live and work, if we do not love what we do, than we are a “clashing gong,” as Saint Paul describes. We can even preach the truth, and even be 1000% right, but unless we love those to whom we speak, all our preaching is in vain. I recall the words of Saint Augustine, “Give nothing of truth without love, and nothing of love without truth.” In witnessing to the Gospel of Christ, love and truth go hand-in-hand.
Secondly, love means taking ourselves out of the picture. Love is not jealous, rude, inflated, or self-seeking. Love means doing whatever is good for the ones we love, and giving of ourselves for the glory of God and the good of others. It means remembering that life is not always about us.
Third, no matter what, though everything else may pass away, love remains constant. Through the trials and difficulties of life, through loss and suffering, the love of God for each one of us will never fail. The love of family and friends sustains us. And the invisible bond of love we share with our brothers and sisters who, though scattered throughout the world, are united as one body in Christ, strengthens us. The prayers of Christians for each other is a powerful sign of the love we share, a love that transcends time and space, and reaches the hearts of people we cannot see. Though we cannot be present with them physically, we can connect with them in an even deeper, spiritual, way through prayer. Together, as a family of faith, we stand strong in professing what we believe and in bringing the love and truth of Christ to the world.
Today, the Church celebrates the Memorial of the Korean Martyrs, men and women who died professing their love for Jesus. Though we live in the United States, where the persecution they endured does not threaten us in the same way, this feast keeps us in touch with the universal Church and reminds us of what others have suffered for the sake of the Gospel. The Church is more than our parish, our diocese. The very word catholic means “universal.”
This feast also reminds us that the ultimate sacrifice of the martyrs was rewarded in heaven.
Being a Christian is demanding. May we have their courage to love even until death. If we empty ourselves in love for Christ, and for those in need in the world around us, our love will conquer. Love will not fail!

Reflection #3: Tuesday

Januarius, Bishop and Martyr
19 September 2006

I recently read an article about William F. Buckley, which in part explored a question posed by a reader and admirer: why are you a Roman Catholic? What has kept you faithful to the Catholic faith? The answer came in a book Buckley had recently written: because of all the people he has loved and who have loved him.
The example of faithful Christians is powerful in drawing people closer to Christ. Because of many people who had a deep love for the Church, the faith has been passed down throughout the centuries. For many people, because of others they have loved and who have loved them, the faith has been handed on to them.
There is of course no scientific proof or absolute historical evidence for some of what we believe as Catholic Christians. We have not seen Jesus in the flesh. We did not witness the Resurrection, and there were no camcorders at the time. The Eucharist cannot be “proven” by scientific investigation. We believe in many things we cannot see, in the physical sense of “seeing.” Being Catholic requires real faith and trust.
Guided by the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent to the Church at Pentecost, the Church has never failed to proclaim the truth. The Holy Spirit’s guidance, and the promise of Jesus, “Behold I am with you always, until the end of the world,” is the foundation of our assurance that what we believe and what we do as Catholics is real, and true, and worth embracing.
We look to the example of the martyrs as a sign that, in fact, our faith is worth not only living for, but is worth dying for. The martyrs show us that our Catholic faith is not a casual part of life, not something we do occasionally, not just a Sunday obligation. It is in fact a way of life that permeates everything we do.
The martyrs of the early Church were real believers. They truly were convinced that Jesus is the Son of God made man. They were sure of their faith. So sure were they, that life itself was secondary to professing faith in Jesus.
Today the Church celebrates the memory of Saint Januarius, a bishop who was martyred in Naples, Italy, in the year 305, under the persecution of Diocletian. Januarius gave his life for Christ. He would rather die than deny the most important person in his life, his beloved Jesus.
No scientific explanation has been found for a miracle attributed to Saint Januarius. Several times a year, including on his feast day, his dried blood, which is kept in a glass container, liquifies and re-coagulates. No one understands why. The miracle of his blood is a sign that God is at work, even after Januarius’ death, because of the faithfulness and love he showed toward Jesus.
As Saint Augustine said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” The witness of their fidelity to the faith, even unto death, is a source of strength and a sign of hope for the whole Church. Their love, and their sacrifice, has insured that the faith lives on. The witness of Januarius’ life, and the lives of all the martyrs, shows us that our Catholic faith is of great and lasting value. It is worth believing, worth living, and worth even dying for.

Reflection #2: Monday

18 September 2006
Monday of the Twenty-Fourth Week of the Year

Luke 7: 1-10

Earlier this summer, the bishops of the United States approved a new translation of the Order of Mass, which is now under review by the Vatican. This is a new English translation of the original Latin texts of the prayers that are the same in every Mass. These new texts, which are more literal translations of the Latin, will prove to be very good for the Church, because they will in many ways bring out more of the richness and beauty of the prayers, which are a celebration and expression of our faith.
Today’s Gospel offers us an opportunity to reflect on one example of a prayer that is being newly translated. Currently, when the priest elevates the Host before Communion, saying “Behold the Lamb of God…” the people respond “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and I shall be healed.” The original Latin text is inspired by the words of the Centurion in today’s Gospel, and more accurately says: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. But say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
Our minds turn to the Eucharist. Who are we that the Lord should come to us, should enter under our roofs? Who are we that the Body and Blood of the Lord should become one with us? And yet He does come to us!
In humility and in awesome wonder, we join with the Centurion in every Mass, crying out “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.” And, seeing our humility, Jesus comes to us, full of love and mercy. In the Eucharist, we meet Christ face to face. We are nourished and healed.
Jesus was impressed with the faith of the Centurion, who trusted in His power to heal his servant. If Jesus came to earth today, would he be impressed with our faith? Would He see us celebrating the Mass with reverence and care? Would He find us willing to profess our faith in the Eucharist? Our faith is not only our own. It is meant to make an impression on the world around us, in order that we may draw others closer to Christ.
The Centurion, we recall, was spoken of very highly by the elders, who said that “he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.” Despite the great things we may have done in this life, our very existence depends on the grace of God. We are not worthy of the Eucharist. Yet, that is how much Jesus loves us. Despite our imperfections, He comes to us anyway. May we never take this tremendous gift for granted. Instead, may we thank God always that He has come under our roof.

Reflection #1: Sunday

Twenty-Fourth Sunday of the Year
17 September 2006

Mark 8: 27-35

In the Gospel for this Sunday we encounter head-on the essence of what Jesus is all about, and what we are called to be as Christians. God is our heavenly Father, who freely gives even His only Son out of love for the world. Jesus is the obedient Son, who freely sacrifices His life on the Cross for the salvation of the whole world. We, who are created in the image of God, and who profess the name Christian, are called to accept our own crosses, to lay down our own lives, and to deny ourselves for the sake of Christ, whom we serve.
In the First Reading today, we hear of the words of Isaiah, which look forward to the sufferings of Christ, and also describe the trials endured by faithful prophets and servants of the Lord: the beatings, the buffets, and the spitting. And Isaiah says, “I did not turn back;” “My face I did not hide.” Jesus endured ridicule, scourging, the crown of thorns, and the horror of the Cross, without complaint.
So many times, fidelity to Jesus and our Catholic faith, means laying down our lives for Christ. While for us in the modern world it does not mean actual crucifixion or even physical death, the buffeting comes in different ways. While the effects can be emotional rather than physical, they are often no less painful.
As we strive to follow Jesus, to maintain fidelity to the truth of the Gospel, we often find ourselves in an unpopular position in the world today. If we are living our faith well, we find that many do not appreciate what we believe, criticize us, even attack us. The buffets come in different forms in every age but they are still there. Similarly, the need for self-denial on the part of each one of us who belongs to Christ remains essential to our Catholic Christian way of life.
Denying ourselves – in today’s world – means being willing to be unpopular, willing to set aside our own need for fame, glory, and success, willing to sacrifice our own good name, and our own needs and desires, for the sake of Christ and the Gospel.
The hard truth of the Gospel, which Jesus came to bring, is not always easy to bear. Yet, the suffering of the Cross ended, not in death, but in the glory of the Resurrection. So it is for us: the struggles we endure in remaining faithful to Christ will not go unrewarded.
If we stand up for the truth, we will find ourselves in the midst of trials. If we remain faithful to Christ, we will also find ourselves in the midst of good company, both the many holy men and women who now serve the Church, and, we pray, one day among those whose service has brought them everlasting reward.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Homily Twenty-Third Sunday of the Year 10 September 2006

Among the happiest moments of ministry
in the short four and a half months since my Ordination to the Diaconate
was the Sunday morning in the summer
when I celebrated my first Baptism.
The child I baptized was an adorable little girl named Molly Ann.
She behaved very well during the ceremony.
When I was just about to pour the water…
she turned her head and it ran in her eyes…
and she didn’t even cry…she just giggled!

At one point in the ritual of Baptism…
after the actual pouring of water…
the minister says the prayer known as the Ephphetha
over the ears and mouth of the child.
So, as I made the sign of the cross over little Molly’s ears and mouth…
I prayed:
“The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak.
May He soon touch your ears to receive His word,
and your mouth to proclaim His faith,
to the praise and glory of God the Father.”

This prayer has continually been part of the Baptism ritual of our Church
since the fourteenth century…
and it is even spoken of by the early fathers of the Church.
The name of this prayer is the same word Jesus spoke
to the man who was deaf and mute in today’s Gospel…
Ephphetha…be opened!

Each one of us who have been baptized
has experienced the same touch of Jesus through the ministry of the Church.
We may or may not ever have been physically deaf or mute…
yet Jesus has touched our ears and our mouths…
so that we may hear His word and proclaim His faith in a unique way.

Saint Ambrose wrote beautifully about this Baptism prayer…
and about today’s Gospel.
He says that each time we gather like this on the Lord’s Day…
to celebrate the Mass together…
“we witness the opening up of a mystery,”
and we recall the moment of opening…
when the minister touched our ears and mouth at Baptism.
And your ears are touched again by the Word of God, and by the Homily.

In the grace of Baptism, the Lord Jesus opened our ears to hear the Good News…
and opened our mouths to proclaim His faith and to praise Him.
In the Mass, we again encounter the living Word of God,
and enter into communion with the person of Jesus Christ.

Once again, Jesus opens our ears to hear His Word…
and send us forth with mouths open and ready to sing His praise.

And yet, as we are well aware…
we do not always hear Jesus clearly…
and we do not always proclaim Him as we should.

And what is more…
there are so many in our world today
who have never heard Jesus speak to them…
and who will never learn to sing His praises.

Those of you who, like me, suffer from allergies and sinus problems,
know the feeling of being all plugged up in your ears and nose and throat.
The question today is: what has us all plugged up?
What is in the way of allowing us to hear Jesus’ Word and proclaim His faith?

There is no doubt something in many of our lives
that is plugging our ears from hearing Jesus clearly…
and keeping us mute so that we cannot proclaim Christ to the world.
Perhaps it is an addiction…a difficult relationship…
a fear of being unpopular as a Catholic…
a teaching of Christ or of the Church that is difficult to accept…
Something that keeps us separated
from the intimate relationship with Jesus we so desperately need.

Our Baptismal call is to hear the Word of God…
and not just some of God’s Word but all of it…every teaching of the Church…
no matter how difficult they may be to understand and to live.
Our call is also to proclaim the faith we have embraced…
and not just when it is easy.
Sometimes we are called upon
to introduce to another the beautiful faith and the traditions of our Church
or to challenge another who is wrong.
This takes great courage…
and it requires an openness to hear what Jesus has to say to us.

There are many in the world today who have not heard of the heavenly realities
that we are so privileged to celebrate this evening/morning…
and every day we gather for the Sacred Liturgy.
So many people are lost in sin…
and muted by the passing things of this world…
that they do not experience Christ as we do.
It is our task to open our ears to hear Jesus…
to allow His word to really sink in and to nourish our entire lives…
and then to courageously bring the love and truth of Christ to others.

So, today, as we approach to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist,
may we pause to reflect on whatever in our lives
might be keeping us from hearing and proclaiming Jesus Christ.
May we then take whatever that is to prayer…
asking Jesus to truly open up our ears…
and even more than that…our whole being…
to His love and truth.
Then, with joy and amazement…
we can live as we are meant to live…
in constant praise of God who has loved us.