Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Homily 24th Sunday of the Year 13 September 2009

When I was a college seminarian,
not even half-way through my seminary formation,
I was approached abruptly in the lunch line by a priest professor,
who blurted out a line of Latin and demanded: “Translate!”

The line he spoke was “O Crux ave, spes unica!”
The translation I gave,
which thankfully turned out to be correct, and which I will never forget,
was “Hail, O Cross, our only hope!”

This particular priest was fond of teaching us ancient liturgical hymns
and the text is the first line of the ninth verse of the Vexilla Regis,
a hymn written by the 6th century Roman poet Fortunatus

In the tradition of the Church, it is sung on Palm Sunday, Good Friday,
and the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, which is Monday/tomorrow.

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross commemorates the 4th Century pilgrimage
of the Empress Helena to the Holy Land,
where she searched for and discovered the relics of the Passion,
including the true Cross on which Jesus was crucified.

The Cross of Jesus is the symbol and the instrument of our eternal salvation,
our only hope for true and abundant life,
and we celebrate the Cross with great love, joy, and devotion!
In today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals to His disciples
the purpose of His coming into the world: His Passion,
the same reality which is at the heart of discipleship.

First we witness the famous scene of Peter’s confession of faith.
The disciples recount for Jesus the various gossips among the people
who have been astonished by Jesus’ teaching ands healing:
“[Some say] John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.”

Then Jesus confronts them personally, and touches their hearts,
posing the same question that we have pondered for over 2 millennia:
“Who do you say that I am?”
Peter answers with confidence on behalf of the Twelve: “You are the Christ!”

Jesus follows Peter’s profession of faith with the revelation of His ultimate mission,
for to profess faith in Jesus Christ means to accept
the totality of who He is and what He has come to accomplish.

Peter has rightly and boldly professed: “You are the Christ!”
Now Jesus reveals to the disciples who the Messiah is
and the full extent of what He must do to show mankind the love of God
and bring salvation to the world.

He teaches them that
“the Son of Man must suffer greatly, and be rejected…and be killed,
and rise after three days.”

Jesus dismisses Peter’s rebukes, for He knows who He is and what He must do –
not for Himself but that the world might have life.

The suffering of the Passion Jesus predicts would be horrific.
The Cross is shocking, to say the least.
From a merely human point of view, a suffering messiah is pathetic
and the world expects so much more from a savior.
But to believe in Jesus demands that we also accept the reality of His Cross,
which is nothing less than the fullest revelation
of the meaning and power of love.

Embracing of the mystery of the passion places demands on every disciple.
Jesus follows the revelation of His own Passion
by explaining what it means for the crowds of His followers:
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.”

Being a Christian means imitating Christ.
Imitating Christ means incorporating and imaging in our own lives
the reality of who Christ is, which is revealed to us most fully on the Cross.

We who seek to be Jesus’ followers must live as He lived,
by laying down our lives that others might have life.

We are called to despise and put to all that binds us to this earthly life,
all concerns about material wealth, popularity, pleasure and comfort,
and live instead with our gaze fixed on our eternal home in Heaven.
We do this each day as we put our faith into action, as Saint James teaches us.
Faith is more than a Sunday obligation.
It is a daily commitment to sacrificing our own desires and expectations
in order to meet the needs of others
and invite them to taste the beauty of the truth and love of Jesus.

We do this as we set aside our personal agendas and accept the truth of the Gospel.

“Hail, O Cross, our only hope!”
Who could have predicted that these words,
the heart of a blunt question by a teasing professor,
would mean so much to a young priest.

The Cross is for me the image of my priesthood.
Jesus, who is both the author of my vocation and the inspiration of my ministry,
has called me to be a priest
in order that I might lay down my life for the sake of the Gospel.
He has sent me to St. Michael to place my life, at whatever cost necessary to myself,
at the service of His work within our community of faith, the Church.
He has called me to find the meaning of my life, not in this world’s goods,
but in meeting the needs of others
and in bringing them to experience His love and truth.

For you I am a priest.
With you I am a sinner.
Surely I have failed at times in this solemn responsibility
to love you with the love of Jesus Christ.
I have even at times allowed myself to stand in the way of Christ's truth and love,
as my human weakness and impatience overshadowed the Gospel
and my personality clouded the brilliance of the light of Jesus.

I will likely not ever be free of sin,
or without the need to go at least monthly to confession.
At 28 years old, there is much I have yet to experience and much I hope to learn.

What I do know, with the same certainty that Peter knew Jesus is the Christ, is this:
from the earliest morning Mass through the latest night-time hospital call,
my heart burns with a desire to love and to bring you closer to Jesus.

The Eucharist is where I encounter Jesus Christ.
I spend time with Him in prayer each day,
asking Him to draw all of you closer to His Heart.
The moment of the Consecration at Mass is the pinnacle of my existence
and the principal opportunity God gives me to literally show Jesus to the world
and there are times when I am overwhelmed
at the honored place my hands and lips have
in the saving drama between God and His Church.

I sincerely believe in Holy Scripture and in every doctrine of the Church’s teaching
and I accept with gratitude the serious responsibility God has given me
to speak His truth to a starving world.

It is love for the Church, founded on the rock of Saint Peter’s faith,
that drives me to pray constantly, speak boldly, and love passionately.
I am aware that some of you have written in protest about me to Bishop Murry.

For the Gospel, the Catechism, and the traditions of the Church, I make no apology.

But where your words have helped me to understand the impact of my humanity
in clouding the proclamation of the Gospel, I thank you.
I regret that you were not able to share your thoughts with me personally,
and I take this opportunity to invite you to do so.
As I said when I first arrived at St. Michael,
my office is always open to anyone who wishes to speak with me.
I am open to hearing you, learning from you, and working with you.

Please pray with me that I will learn to love Jesus and you even more.

“Hail, O Cross, our only hope!”
To lay down my life more and more each day for the sake of Jesus, and for you,
is my only hope – for this my vocation, my path to eternal life.
To strive to imitate the love of Jesus on the Cross is the only hope of every disciple.

May we together find our life, our hope, and our fulfillment in the Lord’s Cross.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Homily 23rd Sunday of the Year 6 September 2009

One of my favorite moments in the ritual of Baptism for children
is a prayer that follows the actual pouring of water,
in which the priest prays that the ears and mouth of the child
will be opened so that he or she might hear God’s word
and proclaim His faith to the praise and glory of God our Father.

Quite often this prayer happens in a moment of comic relief
in what is otherwise a solemn ritual.

As I pray that the child’s mouth be opened to praise God,
he or she is sometimes screaming louder than I am praying!
No doubt the Lord hears the beautiful sounds of an child,
which in their own way give praise to God!

As we grow in the grace of our Baptism, our faith matures.
From our childhood through to old age,
each of hears God and understand His word more and more
and each of us discovers new ways of proclaiming His praise.

Yet, the prayer of the Baptism ritual remains in some way unfulfilled
for we are constantly pursuing a more complete opening of our senses
and of our hearts and minds
that we might perceive more clearly, and proclaim more eloquently
the Word God desires to reveal to us
and through us to the world.
Each new chapter in our lives affords another blessed opportunity
to grow in grace
by opening ourselves to the Word, the will, and the love of God.

We are always learning, hearing, absorbing and growing in faith.

Every day presents a chance to evangelize – to proclaim our faith in Jesus –
by the witness of a holy life and the love of a caring heart
to the praise and glory of God our Father!

Our God became incarnate, that is, He took on flesh – a human body.
Our God who cannot be grasped or known in His fullness
came down among us in order that we might touch God.

The Lord became palatable to us that we might truly come to know Him.

The deaf mute in today’s Gospel was healed by Jesus in a unique way.
Jesus took him off by Himself…put His fingers into the man’s ears…
spat into His face…looked up to Heaven and groaned in prayer…
and finally exclaimed “Be opened!”

This is one of the most intimate, earthy, passionate encounters
that anyone has with Jesus in the record of the Gospels.

This poor deaf and mute man…pathetic in the eyes of the world…
literally feels the touch of the finger of God…
and is instantly and permanently healed!
The prayer I mentioned from the Baptism ritual
takes its name from the same ancient Hebrew word
that Jesus speaks to the man in the Gospel:
“Ephphatha!” “Be opened!”

It is this same powerful word that Jesus speaks to us today: “Be opened!”
Jesus invites us to a greater openness of our senses to the perception of His presence
and a greater openness of our hearts to the absorption of His Word.

Every one of us is at times not open to God.
We make our decisions without consulting Him in prayer,
we live at times by worldly standards and not by divine law,
we allow our weak selves to get in the way of His saving grace.

Jesus calls us today to something more…to a way of living beyond the mundane…
in which perceptible realities becomes moments of grace.

This openness to God begins in prayer…and in intimacy.

The healing Jesus performs begins with a prayer…
with the sick man himself…apart from the crowd.
Jesus looks up to His Father in Heaven and groans…
and only then does He act to heal the sickness of the man.

In the same way, our daily prayer is our retreat from the world…from the crowd…
wherein we sigh and groan with longing for the divine
and enter into intimate conversation with our God.
In our private moments of contemplation we hear God’s Word,
resounding in the deepest recesses of our hearts.

Through the sacramental life of the Church, celebrated as a family of faith,
we breathe deeply of the sweet odor of eternal life.

Our senses, our minds and our hearts, are opened ever more fully
to the presence of God
and the promptings of His Holy Spirit.

Jesus touches us with the finger of His grace and heals our spiritual impediments,
removing the barriers that prevent God’s Word from penetrating us deeply.

If we take this leap of faith…
entering into prayer and begging God to command our hearts: “Be opened!”
we will understand and come to love God’s truths
in ways never before imaginable.

Then our lives become enveloped in grace
and our tongues loosened for the praise of God our Father.

In this is our eternal joy!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Homily 22nd Sunday of the Year 30 August 2009

Most of us at least…adults and children alike…
have witnessed the clever cover-ups of young children
when they try to evade responsibility and punishment
for something they sense will get them into trouble.

We can relate to the scene of a little boy
who retrieves two cookies from the jar, carefully pours a glass of grape juice
and tip-toes gingerly into the living room,
across the family’s brand new white carpet,
the juice sloshing from side-to-side in the glass the whole way.

The moment he reaches his favorite spot on the couch
and prepares to set his juice and cookies on the end table,
the sloshing has reached its highest pace
and juice cascades over the edge into a small pool on the floor.

Panicking, the little boy sets his treats aside on another table
and begins to rub the spot as best he can with the tail of his shirt.

When this proves unsuccessful,
he struggles to slide the end table over the spot to cover his mess.

At last, he sits down with his juice and cookies, thinking all is well,
until of course dad comes in,
wondering why the end table is out in front of the couch!
Such attempts at evasion are adorable…but rarely successful!

Ironically, some of us try the same tactics as adults.
Sometimes we think that we can cover up our messes,
and hide our weaknesses from others, even from God,
by making everything look good on the outside.

Our clever attempts to cover up our stains and evade God’s detection
are of no use,
for God sees through them to our inward thoughts.

The hypocritical Pharisees receive a precise reprimand from Jesus
because they criticize the disciples
for not observing the many rituals of external purification
while they themselves harbor evil thoughts in their hearts.

They honor God with externals but their hearts are far from the Lord, Jesus says,
and they replace the doctrines of God with human precepts.

The try to cover up their interior mess
by making everything look good on the outside.

God calls us to purity of heart, as the 6th Beatitude declares:
“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”

Purity of heart means that the outward actions of our lives
and the inward thoughts of our hearts are in sync with one another.
The person who is pure of heart has attuned his mind and will
to the promoting of the Holy Spirit
and the demands of God’s holiness.

Instead of attempting to evade God’s detection,
the person who is pure of heart
stands honestly before the Lord
and hands even the most vulnerable part of his being to God,
that it too may be purified, in His service and for His glory.

Rather than making worship and prayer a cover for inward stain,
the pure of heart knows that God sees through to his inward thoughts
and desires his whole life to be a consistent living sacrifice of praise.

We become ever more pure of heart
as we strive for purity of mind and body,
fervent love of neighbor,
and complete acceptance of the faith of Jesus Christ.

When our hearts are open to being purified, we come before the Lord in truth
and our worship has tremendous value
because it is then an outward reflection of an inward love.

What is more, when we strive for purity of heart,
our visible service to God and neighbor
takes on a whole new level of meaning and effectiveness.

If we are purified inside,
we can then be truly effective in fulfilling the call of St. James
to be “doers of the word”
for we bring not ourselves but Christ to others!

When our inward thoughts are in union with our outward actions,
and when all is in union with the love of God,
the value of our living worship is beyond compare.

There is no doubt that we are weak, that we falter and fail.

God calls us not to pull the table over the spill,
not to hide our faults or cover our inconsistencies with a pleasant fa├žade.

Instead, He invites us to admit our weaknesses and purify our desires,
to hand over our inward selves to His purifying love.

Our Heavenly Father will put to use the cleansing power of His mercy
to scrub away the stains
and make us by His grace pure servants of His truth.

Freed from the burden of trying to cover up our stains,
filled with the peace that comes from living in union with God,
we will stand as radiant lights,
calling all people to the truth and love of Jesus Christ!