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, February 24, 2008

Homily Third Sunday of Lent 24 February 2008

This week’s news includes a fascinating story about man’s search for God.

Two scholars at Oxford University in England are conducting research
to determine why human persons believe in God.
They plan to investigate whether religious faith is in human genes…
whether faith is inherently part of the human being…whether it is natural.

Amazingly enough, these scholars are receiving 2 million dollars for their project.

I thought to myself as I heard this story:
“If that’s what answers to questions about God are worth these days…
I think I deserve a raise!”
[PAUSE for laughter]

Seriously, though, this story sheds some light on what people in the world today are thinking about God and our relationship to Him.
God is at least interesting enough to be the subject of research!

I will certainly be interested to hear what…if anything…the scholars discover.
I have a suspicion, though, that the findings will ultimately not be very satisfying.

Spirituality cannot be researched or examined in terms of mere human categories.

Man’s search for God and for meaning in life is a search for the living water
that only God can give…
that is beyond the “natural”…
and that only flows from a supernatural relationship with the Lord of Life!

We are all searching for something outside ourselves
to give meaning to our human existence…
something that will give us lasting peace and happiness.

Each of us searches and thirsts for answers to life’s deep questions in some way…
and each of us struggles daily to understand God
and to “do the right thing” in order to make our lives pleasing to Him.

Wherever we are, we are all on a journey…the journey of life…the journey of faith.

Sometimes on our journey we search for happiness and fulfillment
in mere human realities or in …
in places and things which ultimately will not satisfy our thirst.

People in every age have searched unsuccessfully for the “fountain of youth.”
Men and women are forever searching for love in all the wrong places.
Modern scholars are trying to answer age-old questions with their genetic research.

The Israelites of old grumbled against Moses
and begged for water to quench their thirst.
They were never satisfied in their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land.

God gave them the 10 Commandments to guide them…
manna for their food…meat when the manna wasn’t good enough…
water pouring out of rocks…
and none of it ever made them happy.
The people God had freed from slavery continued to grumble and complain
and even to doubt God’s presence in their midst.

They had not yet known God intimately and completely…
and the depth of His love for them had not yet been revealed.

Such is the lot of those who…in our own day…have not known Jesus Christ
and have not been enlivened by His living water.
They continue to wander…to grumble…and to doubt.

Those who have not been nourished by the living water of Jesus
are like the woman in today’s Gospel…when we first meet her.

She comes for water, in order to quench her thirst.
Jesus tells her “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again.”

She has obviously been thirsting with no satisfaction for some time.
She has been married to five husbands,
and is now having relations with a man to whom she is not married.

She has wandered, and indulged in pleasure with several men,
in search of happiness, which none of them have brought to her life.

There is also a deeper symbolism here.
“Gods” in the ancient world were seen as “husbands” of the people.
Jesus is saying that the Samaritan people, whom the woman represents,
have worshipped several false gods
and wandered from one empty deity to another.

Now before the woman sits Jesus Christ…the one true God…
the “husband” not of any one person or one nation…
but the bridegroom of His people…the Church…and He speaks to her:
“…whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst again;
the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water
welling up to eternal life.”

The poor woman doesn’t quite grasp the meaning of Jesus’ words.
In ancient languages, the word for “living” is the same as the word for “flowing.”
She thinks he means flowing water…from a spring in the ground!
She asks for flowing water,
so she doesn’t have to come with her bucket to the well any more.

Jesus has come to give living water!

He comes to release a living and flowing spring of grace within us…
a torrent of love and truth which will inebriate us and truly satisfy us!

Wherever we search for meaning, for love, or for peace and joy…
if we do not long for the living water of Christ…
we will always find ourselves empty and unsatisfied.
license, for pleasure, , alcohol, ography, and other vices
lack what is necessary to quench our thirst and satisfy our emptiness.
We will always find ourselves coming back to the well
for more of the wrong kind of water.

We pray in the Psalms…
As the deer yearns for flowing streams…so our souls are yearning for God!
And as Saint Augustine wrote…
“Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O God!”

Jesus Christ has come to give us “living water”…
a spring of divine life welling up within us…
a spring of truth that outlasts and outshines the false gods the world worships
a spring of love that brings us real happiness…and even more…holiness!

Truly, as Saint Paul tells us…the love of God has been poured into our hearts,
in the person of the Holy Spirit, given to us at our Baptism.

A spring of living water…the living Holy Spirit…has been made to flow within us.

We shall find the meaning of faith and the fulfillment of life…
only when we allow the fountain of grace which is within us from Baptism…
to well up and transform us and those whom God had placed in our lives.

We shall find truth only in the teaching of Christ and His Church.
We shall find happiness only when we draw close to God in daily, constant prayer.
We shall find true love only when we can see Christ in others.

Embrace the living water of Jesus Christ…settle for nothing less…
and you shall never...ever...thirst again!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Homily NOTES Second Sunday of Lent 17 February 2008

Yesterday’s news gave all of us…as people of faith…
something very significant to ponder.

Yesterday Bobby Cutts, a former Canton police officer.
was found guilty in the of two individuals.

He was found guilty on the charge of of his friend Jessie Davis.
He was found guilty also on the charge of aggravated of her unborn child.

It is striking that received the higher charge for the of the baby.

At one point on the radio broadcast I heard the judge describe the charge as
“the purposeful of an unborn child.”

What should come instantly to mind for all of us is that
doctors in abortion clinics
purposefully take the lives of thousands of unborn children every day.

We conveniently call it a “medical procedure” and suddenly it is legal.
There is something very wrong with this picture.

Ponder very seriously what has gone wrong in our world…
and consider how you might allow your faith in Jesus Christ
and the truth of the dignity of human life
to guide you in making a difference for the lives of all human persons.


Today’s Gospel is among the most intimate scenes of the whole Bible.

Jesus takes with Him Peter James and John
and they go up the mountain by themselves.

These are the three closest friends and disciples of Jesus.

Peter: Rock…chosen successor…spiritual shepherd of the Church…Pope…

James: the one who responded with great zeal...the zeal of a new young priest...
that he was ready to serve the Lord
and ready to drink of the cup of suffering from which Jesus would drink..

John: the beloved disciple…the one who remained at the foot of the Cross…

These three are with Jesus in the most significant moments of His life…
Easter morning…
Here at His Transfiguration…

72 disciples in pairs…
12 apostles…
3 closest friends…
Among them Peter…the 1 pope…
These three share a unique preeminence and intimacy with Jesus.

Saint Luke’s version of the story tells us why they go up the mountain alone:
to pray.
Jesus: truly God and truly man…
As true man He prays to the Heavenly Father…

In the midst of their communion in prayer…
He is transfigured before them and the fullness of His divine nature is revealed.

Jesus desire to share with these three closest friends the fullness of who He is
and how He wants to share His life with us!

The disciples are so enthralled in their experience with Jesus
and the splendor of his glory
that they want to build tents and remain on the mountain.

Of course they must come down from the mountain…
to face the reality of their own vocations.
As they come down they know they will never be the same…
they are changed forever by their experience of God’s wondrous presence.

For each of us…human persons created in the image of God who is Love itself…
God who is essentially a communion of person…
we know we cannot live entirely on our own.
Truly we are meant to be people of self-giving love
and people who share life with one another.

What is more, life is totally meaningless
without a deep and abiding relationship with God.
We cannot expect our relationship with God to remain strong
if we are distant from Him
if we never talk to Him.

We cannot live without going up the mountain with Jesus to pray.

There are many ways to pray…

Most of all…the best kind of prayer…is whatever brings us closest to God.
We know Jesus is closest to us…truly present to us…in the Eucharist.
Jesus is really present in the Host reserved in the Tabernacle
or displayed in the Monstrance for Adoration.

When we come into the church and make a visit to the tabernacle
or come to Eucharistic Adoration
we rest in the living presence of Jesus.

We desperately need this kind of prayer.
We cannot live…or maybe we can survive…but not truly live and thrive…without it.
We need Jesus.
We need to go up the mountain with Him.

We need to rest in His presence and talk to him…
Allow Him to fill our hearts with His love and peace…
Allow Him to show us His glory as He did to the apostles…
Allow Him to make us one of His chosen beloved friends…
Allow Him to be with us in the most significant moments of our lives…

What will happen to us?
We will be transfigured!

What will happen to our lives?
We will become more loving people!
We will become closer to Christ!
We will become happier, healthier, and holier people!
Everything will change...for the better!

Adoration on Thursday nights…please come…
Perhaps you are afraid? Unsure of what this is all about? Come anyway.

Come to Jesus…be transfigured…
You will come down form the mountain of your prayer to face your vocation in life
and you will never be the same.

You will never be so happy and blessed as when you sit in the presence of God
and delight in the communion of your heart with His.

Nothing less than the greatest experience of intimate love awaits you!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Living Bread Radio Reflections 10-16 February 2008

Living Bread Radio
First Sunday of Lent
10 February 2008

At some time or another, temptation afflicts us all. During Lent we might be tempted to fail in our Lenten observances: to sneak a piece of pie or a beer even through we have given those things up. The various media in our modern, technologically advanced world offer temptations amid the benefits they provide. Images on television, advertising gimmicks, and computer pop-up ads all try to lure us toward a particular agenda or product. Sometimes, the images we are flooded with or the music we hear on the radio are more than just deceitful advertising. They are a subtle – or not so subtle – temptation to sin.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus goes out into the desert to pray for forty days, where He is tempted by the Devil. He is tempted toward three sins: gluttony, vanity, and greed. These are ly root sins which most of us, in our weak humanity, struggle to over come. We can find great comfort in the realization that Jesus Himself, in His sinless humanity, knew these temptations, and did overcome them. What is more, He took upon Himself the sins of us all and washed them clean in His own . His love, which is more powerful than any human sin, was manifest in the agony of the Cross for the salvation of the whole world.
When we are tempted – taunted by what we know is wrong but what feels good to us at the moment – we ought to turn to Jesus in prayer and find comfort and strength in His love and mercy. Strengthened by God’s grace, and fortified by His Word, we can answer the temptations of the Devil as Jesus did: “I shall worship the Lord, my God, and Him alone shall I serve!”

Living Bread Radio
Our Lady of Lourdes
Monday 11 February 2008

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes. On this day in 1858, Mary first appeared to a named Bernadette, who has since been canonized a saint of the Church, in the countryside outside of Lourdes, France. To this day, thousands of pilgrims travel each year to Lourdes, to pray to Jesus through Mary at the place where she appeared. Many sick and suffering people are brought to Lourdes to bathe in the waters that flow from a miraculous spring in the hillside, which Mary showed to Bernadette. Countless men and women have been healed after washing in the spring at Lourdes.
Pope John Paul II dedicated the 11th of February as World Day of the Sick: a special day of prayer, of offering one’s suffering for the good of the Church, and of seeing in our sick and suffering brothers and sisters the face of Christ, whose own suffering achieved salvation for all mankind.
Today’s Gospel reminds us of our Christian obligation to care for and visit the sick, and to see in them the face of Christ. What we do in love for one another, or what we fail to do out of the hardness four hearts, we do or fail to do for Jesus. In this Lenten season, may we strengthen our resolve to pray and sacrifice for those in need in our midst, and so draw ever closer to the Heart of Christ. Now is the acceptable time to deepen our love. O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Living Bread Radio
Tuesday of the First Week of Lent
12 February 2008

If we pause for a moment to reflect on the first meetings we had with the people we now love dearly, perhaps a first date or a first day at school or at work where we met someone who is now a life-long friend, we can gain a valuable insight. Surely, we all will recognize that the relationships we treasure began with long conversations of getting to know the other person, and visible displays of our affection. Building a relationship is exciting.
After a time, though, relationships often change from intense contact into quiet devotion. Once we know the person fairly well, there is less exploration into who they are. We love the other person no less but we might begin to show our devotion less often. However, it is crucial for our human relationships that we continue to listen to others, and strive to discover more and more the nuances of their character.
Our relationship with God begins very intensely with Baptism, deepens later on at First Communion, and eventually Confirmation. In the early years of our formation in the faith, we begin to know God well and we show Him our love through the celebration of the Sacraments.
As we grow older it becomes possible to take our relationship with God for granted. We may love Him no less but we can easily show our affection less often. We may go to Mass less often and let our prayer life slip away. Just as with our human relationships, our relationship with God must be constantly deepened and intensified through prayer and celebration of the Sacraments.
Today in the Gospel, Jesus teaches His Disciples – and us – the perfect prayer, His prayer. When we take time every day to pray in the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer – calling on God as our Father, promising to fulfill our obligations, and trusting the God will meet our needs – we deepen our intimacy with the Lord. In this holy season of Lent, may we increase our devotion and be surprised at the wonderful things we discover about our loving God.

Living Bread Radio
Wednesday of the First Week of Lent
13 February 2008

Often when we are in need, and especially when we are enduring a difficult situation, we turn to the Lord in prayer. Our prayer may go on for weeks with no apparent answer and so we cry out: “Give me a sign, Lord, so I know you hear me.” We look for a visible, tangible sign to show us that the Lord in fact hears us. We want to know that our prayer is worthwhile. We long to experience God’s presence in a real way.
In today’s Gospel we see that the people of Jesus’ time also sought a sign. Jesus says to them: “No sign will be given to this generation except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.”
In the first reading today, we hear how Jonah was inspired by God to journey through the city of Nineveh for three days proclaiming that God’s wrath was soon to come upon the people because of their wickedness. Upon hearing Jonah’s preaching, the people believed in God and repented of their sins. They fasted and turned their hearts away from evil and back to God.
Jesus is so much greater than Jonah, as Jesus Himself says. When He was lifted high on the Cross and pierced for our sins, He became a living sign of the Father’s love for all men and women. The image of His passion remains a sign for us of the infinite love and mercy of God, a sign which speaks boldly to us, calling us to true and lasting repentance and conversion of our hearts.
Through the sacramental life of the Church, born in the saving tide of and water that flowed from the pierced side of Jesus on the Cross, we continue to have visible signs of God’s grace. In the Eucharist, where Christ is truly present, and in all the sacraments instituted by Christ, we find the fountain of grace to strengthen us in our own journey of repentance and conversion. May we continually make recourse to the Sacraments, that the abundant life of God may forever flow within us.

Living Bread Radio
Thursday of the First Week of Lent
14 February 2008

From the first moments of His public ministry, when He was baptized by John in the Jordan River, and His teaching the Disciples how to pray, through His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and the final moments of His Passion, Jesus always reveals God to us as our Heavenly Father. God is the Father of infinite mercy and justice, who welcomes back even His prodigal children if they but repent and run to Him. He is Our Father, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer. God is the Father who sees our secret prayer, knows every hair on our heads, and gives good gifts to those who ask Him. Because God is revealed to us in Scripture in His Fatherhood, any human attempts to make inclusive or sterilize the language we use for Him fall flat and fail to express the reality of God.
God’s fatherhood is not the same as the human biological sense of the word, for there is no gender in God. Yet, He is the source of divine life, the one who begets the Son, and creator of all human life. The fatherhood of God is a comforting divine reality to which we can turn in our need and find solace. Even if one has never known a father in this world, everyone has a father in God, just as everyone has a mother in Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
This marvelous God cares for us as His very own children. If you who are parents, Jesus says, know how to give the best to your children – and certainly every parent wants the best for their children – how much more does God desire to give the very best – in this life and in eternal life to us, His sons and daughters. All we need to do is ask Him, seek Him, and knock at His door, and we will be blessed beyond measure with every good gift.

Living Bread Radio
Friday of the First Week of Lent
15 February 2008

In the Gospel today, Jesus tells His Disciples, and us: “if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother.”
We turn to the wisdom of Saint John Chrysostom to more deeply understand this teaching of Jesus. Notice that Jesus does not say to be reconciled with your brother “before making your offering” or “after your offering,” Chrysostom points out. Rather, “precisely while the very gift is lying there, when the sacrifice is already beginning, he sends you at that precise time to be reconciled with your brother.” God “desires to show how highly he values love and considers it to be the greatest sacrifice. So he does not even receive the sacrifice of worship without the sacrifice of love.”
Our religious observance, our offering gifts of prayer and tithes, is not acceptable to God if we at the same time harbor hatred in our hearts for our brothers and sisters. We cannot buy God’s love while remaining mired in sin and separated from others. Our religious devotion must be lived together with a commitment to be reconciled with, and loving toward, our brothers and sisters.
What is more, it is unacceptable to offer God our worship if we are at the same time separated from our brethren in the Church. Full communion in the Church means sharing in the sacraments and also sharing a common faith and discipline. If we have not lived up to the Church’s teachings, which are ultimately the teachings of Christ, our worship is not offered in spirit and in truth, and our reception of Holy Communion is not authentic.
God our Heavenly Father offers us a unique moment of grace in the Sacrament of Penance: an opportunity to repent of our sins and be completely reconciled with Him, with the Church, and with one another. May we seize this opportunity. In this Season of Lent, may we all be people of truth, who at the same time offer fitting worship and are reconciled to one another.

Living Bread Radio
Saturday of the First Week of Lent
16 February 2008

Instead of black and white answers, modern political and moral questions often leave plenty of gray area to sort through. Issues of economics, the environment, homeland security, and education are not easily solved. Even where the inviolable right to life is concerned, there are nuances to be considered: between different kinds of stem-cell research; or between actions which are always and in every case evil, and those which are subject to other considerations.
Today’s readings do not speak to any particular issue. Rather, they are about the attitude we ought to have as Catholic Christian people toward every issue. The attitude of the faithful disciple of Jesus is very clear. Moses offered to the Israelites a clear choice: to obey the covenant with God or to break it. There was no room to be holy some of the time or to follow only part of the Law. Jesus calls His disciples to nothing less than perfection: “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” There is no place for picking and choosing what to believe or when to believe it. Jesus leaves no room for loving some people or loving some of the time.
The attitude to which we all are called is complete fidelity to the Gospel and the teachings of the Church, which includes allowing our faith to form our consciences and guide our decisions. If we are to be authentic disciples, we cannot choose to be faithful on some issues and not on others; to love when it is convenient and not when it is difficult. Whatever the issue we face, the answer lies in the person of Jesus Christ, who is the perfect of love and life for us all. For the disciple of Jesus, there is no room for anything less than striving every day for perfection: perfect holiness, and perfect living out of the Gospel in every situation.

Homily First Sunday of Lent Year A 10 February 2008

At some time or another, temptation afflicts us all.

During Lent we might be tempted to fail in our Lenten observances:
to sneak a piece of pie or a beer even through we have given those things up.

The media offer plenty of temptations amid the benefits they provide.
Images on television, advertising gimmicks, and computer pop-up ads
all try to lure us toward a particular agenda or product.

Sometimes, the images we are flooded with or the music we hear on the radio
are more than just deceitful advertising.
They can be a subtle – or not so subtle – temptation to sin.

Sometimes co-workers, friends from school, and the people we socialize with
can offer tempting situations.

Other people can be a negative influence on us…
to have “just one more drink”
to cheat just a little…just this one time…
to do what we know is wrong “because everyone else is doing it.”

Temptation comes to us as people of faith and as a Church.
When the faith is unpopular and when ancient traditions loose their flavor
we are tempted to change of water down the faith
in order to give it greater appeal.
Instead, God calls us to put zest and zeal back into the life of the Church
by enriching one another with the beautiful masterpieces of Catholic life.

In the end, the truth, while perhaps less popular, is more effective for our salvation.

In a myriad of ways…some great and some seemingly small…
we are enticed to slip a little in our Christian commitments
and sneak a little taste of sinful pleasure.

Resisting the temptations the world around us presents
in order to remain committed to the Gospel message in its entirety
requires a constant effort to discipline ourselves
and continual deepening of our prayer life.

Deepening our prayer life and our spiritual discipline
is precisely what we are about in this Lenten season.

In this journey, it is most comforting to know
that Jesus Himself shared our struggle against sin.

Today’s Gospel portrays Jesus afflicted with temptations…
in particular temptations to three root sins with which we all struggle:
gluttony, vanity, and greed.

The temptations of Jesus are much like our own…
they arise because of some human need or emptiness in us
which we perceive we must fill on our own with some earthly pleasure.
First, the Devil recognizes that Jesus is hungry
and entices Him to use His divine power
to make bread out of stones in order to feed Himself.

Jesus replies that one does not live on earthly nourishment alone…
but on the nourishment that comes from the Word of God.

Second, playing on the natural human tendency to think highly of our selves…
the Devil takes Jesus up to the top of the temple
and entices Him to throw Himself to the ground…
knowing that He will be taken care of by none less than angels.

So often we come to believe we are invincible…that nothing will hurt us…
especially when we are a young person behind the wheel of our first car!

Jesus replies that the person of faith does not put God to the test
by presuming that He will take care of us even in our sin and recklessness.

Finally, the Devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in their splendor…
and knowing that weak humans will never be satisfied and always want more
he tempts Jesus to worship him in exchange for all the world’s power.

Jesus replies,
“The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”

It is of great comfort to all of us to know
that Jesus endured the temptations that we…in our weak humanity…endure
and that Jesus…in His sinless humanity…resisted and overcame them.

We know what is right and what is wrong…
we know the good we should be doing…
and yet the voices of temptation attack our will and erode our resolve.

He knows well what we go through in our daily lives…
striving to die to self and resist sin…in order to live for Christ.
trying to be good kids…good parents who raise your children well…
struggling to make good out of the imperfections of human life.

Even more than offering a source of comfort…
today’s Gospel also teaches us very important lessons.

Jesus reminds us that there is in fact a tempter
who tries to lure us away from our loyalty to Christ.

It is dangerous to de-personalize sin and speak only of general concepts of “evil.”
“The Devil’s greatest trick”…one famous person wrote…
“is to make us believe he doesn’t exist.”

Our own parish patron, Saint Michael, is our defender against Satan and evil.
Praying the Prayer to Saint Michael is a good and holy way
to beg God for help in the fight against sin.
Jesus also teaches us a lesson about our human needs and emptiness.
Our self-concern is an easy target for temptations.
We are tempted to sin because we think we have to fill up our emptiness ourselves.

The voices of temptation tell us that worldly pleasure will bring us lasting happiness.
The truth is that we cannot possibly find fulfillment except in God.

In our spiritual lives, we must know ourselves well,
and know what circumstances offer temptation…
or what we call “near occasions of sin.”

Then we must strive to find good and holy ways
of responding to those moments of weakness.

In times of temptation, we must turn to the Lord in prayer
and ask Him to fill our hearts with love only for Him.

Temptation is real.
Sin is real.
But the love of God…
which is more powerful than any human sin
and which alone can fulfill every human need
will conquer darkness and bring us to the joy of eternal light.

Praise to you, O Word of God, Lord Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Homily Ash Wednesday 6 February 2008

Those who do not understand the authentic Tradition and teachings of the Church
often set up false dichotomies between apparently disparate realities.

In Church news right now, our Holy Father has been harshly criticized
by some poorly informed commentators
who view his approach to the Liturgy as a rejection of Vatican II.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
What we are seeing in the papacy of Benedict XVI
is the recovery of beautiful aspects of our Catholic heritage – your heritage
which have been lost
and the re-orientation of worship in the direction it belongs:
toward God, and not toward ourselves.

This recovery and re-orientation is in no way in opposition to Vatican II…
but is in every way in continuity with the whole Catholic Tradition.

Today’s readings give us an opportunity to reflect on this theme…
and the beautiful Catholic world view…
which sees things not as “either/or” but as “both/and”
so long as both are reflective of the ultimate truth of Christ.

In the Gospel, Jesus gives His famous admonitions
about the danger of making a spectacle of our religious observances.
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them.”
Do not blow a trumpet to announce your almsgiving.
Do not pray publicly on street corners.
Do not soil your face so as to make your fasting obvious.

Instead, pray, fast, and give alms in secret…
and your Father, who sees in secret, will repay you.

However, just moments before we heard these words from Jesus,
we heard the prophet Joel declare:
“Blow the trumpet in Zion!
Proclaim a fast, call an assembly!
Gather the people…assemble the elders!”

Not only that…but here we are…
praying in a very public way in this huge church building
and smearing ashes on our foreheads
to make our Lenten observance very obvious!

One might find in all this an inherent contradiction.

Instead, we who have faith in Jesus find in this celebration and in these readings
the core reality of our Lenten observance:
the outward symbols of our faith are absolutely necessary
but they are without value
if they do not flow from a deep, inner conversion of our hearts and reorientation of our lives toward the Lord.

Outward symbols and rituals are of great significance to us…
as is public celebration of the Church’s liturgical prayer
and public witness to the Faith and to what God has wrought in our lives.

Sometimes, too, when words are not enough,
we have to show to others what is important.

In the seminary, we heard many talks about our role as public leaders and witnesses.
Our rector would say:
“Do not pray to be seen; but it’s good to be seen praying.”

Outward signs…on our bodies, in our worship, and in our church buildings…
do matter a great deal.

They help us better understand and teach to others
the mysteries of the faith and the themes of our liturgical seasons.

But outward signs are at least pointless, if not destructive,
if they do not flow from hearts united to the Lord
and if they do not express the authentic faith of the Church.

Outward signs are significant.
But inner conversion of our hearts is of eternal significance
and must lie at the foundation of all we do and say.

Lent affords us the opportunity to recognize that we are sinners in need of mercy,
and to embrace the inner conversion which the Lord desires.
We undertake this process of conversion anew each Lent …
this process of turning of hearts and lives back to God…
by uniting our hearts to God in prayer
by disciplining our bodies and spirits through fasting
and by giving alms…sacrificing our own treasures for those in need.

Now is the acceptable time of which Saint Paul speaks…
now is the day of salvation!

Now is the time for conversion and deeper holiness…
and so may we all make this Lent our best Lent ever…
for we know not if we shall see another one.
May we turn our hearts ever more toward the Lord…
in all we do…this Lent and every day…
and so draw ever closer to the heart of Christ,
which was bruised for our offenses, and pierced for our sins.

Praise to you, O Lord Jesus Christ, king of endless glory!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Homily Fourth Sunday of the Year 3 February 2008

In the late 1800s, Cardinal Rafael Merry del Valle…
Secretary of State under Saint Pope Pius X…
wrote this prayer…which he often said before the celebration of Mass:

O Jesus meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver, me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver, me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
That in the opinion of the world, others may increase, and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I become as holy as I should,Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

This exquisite prayer…called the “Litany of Humility”…
perhaps sounds strange to our ears…perhaps “old-fashioned”
in a world that has “progressed” beyond humility.

However, surely the problem lies not in the prayer…
but in those who forget its lesson.

The lesson of this prayer…
as well as today’s readings from Sacred Scripture…
is, quite simply: “the world does not revolve around us!”

God calls His faithful people to practice humility.

God chooses the humble to carry out His mission…
the foolish in the eyes of the world to shame the wise…
the weak of this world to shame those who are strong
according to their own designs.

In God’s eyes, the poor in spirit, the humble,
are blessed and shall receive eternal life in the kingdom of heaven.

Humility is that virtue which causes us
to recognize our natural weakness and sins…
to understand ourselves and our relationship with God…
and thus restrain within us any temptation
to exalt ourselves above God, the Church, or one another.

For if we know our weakness and sins…
we surely know that none of us is in a position
to make ourselves the center of the world.

Of course, humility does not mean that we reject our talents and abilities.
We simply recognize that they are not of our own creation.
They are from God…and we use them in His service.

Only when we have become humble in spirit before God…
then He can use us to teach the wise and shame the strong.

It is interesting that Cardinal del Valle prayed the litany he wrote before Mass.
For truly, humility is most necessary whenever priests or the faithful
approach the sacred mysteries of the Altar.
We ought not ever consecrate or receive the Eucharist
without a profound sense of humility
before the living and abiding presence of Jesus Christ in our midst.

Celebrating the Sacred Liturgy is not about being intelligent or artistic enough
to create a beautiful celebration…
but about being humble enough to accept what the Church gives us
which is infinitely more beautiful and holy than our own designs.
For the Church’s Liturgy is the work of God in our midst.

He who humbled Himself to become man
and to suffer the agony of the Cross for our sins…
now humbles Himself to come into our midst
under the forms of bread and wine.

May we receive Him with profound humility…
and live His humility in our lives…
that the joy of His kingdom…now and in eternity…may be ours!