OLPH Pedaling Padres

Please contribute to my benefit ride for the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home here in Atlanta! Every dollar counts!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Homily for the 5th Sunday of Easter, Year C

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.  Enkindle in them the fire of your love.  Send forth your spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.

St. John paints a gorgeous picture for us of what Heaven is like in our second reading today.  He describes it as beautiful as a bride to meet her groom, a place where there is no pain, where every tear is wiped from every eye, where God chooses to dwell with his people forever.

Yet our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells us that the attainment of such blessedness is not a given; St. Peter and St. Paul tell the brothers “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.”  Being a Christian ain’t easy.

One of the hardest things I do as a priest is to preach the truth with every word and with every action of my life.  And I know that’s a primary struggle for every Christian.

We live in a world that constantly changes its values and morals but we worship a God who does not change.  We worship a God who says his truths are eternal.  Yet how often, and how easily, the Church is dismissed as antiquated and out-of-touch. 

The problem is compounded by the fact, yes the fact, that the Church doesn’t love as it ought.  If the Church loved as it ought, there would be no question of her authority.  Jesus promised that through his new commandment to love, “all will know that [we] are his disciples.”  We would know the truth and the truth would set us free.

Now, when I say “Church,” I’m not talking about just the Vatican or the bishops; I’m talking about you and me.  Each of us, if we are to call ourselves Christian, is responsible for making it clear in our own lives how important God is.

Whenever a Christian chooses something other than love, we make it all the harder to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and we make ourselves and the whole Church less credible.

It follows logically that if we have not been won over by love in the deepest recesses of our hearts, we will not only not be a true disciple of Jesus Christ, we will also be dead weight slowing down the mission of the Lord to proclaim salvation through the forgiveness of sins.  And we certainly won’t win over anyone’s hearts.  We cannot give what we do not have.

Everything the Church teaches about faith and morals is 100% free from error; yes, emphatically yes: the Church speaks to us the will of God.  These are the teachings that we can and must live our lives by.

They are teachings that guarantee the promotion of true justice, giving to each person what is due to them as human persons.  They are teachings that ensure that the dignity that every person deserves is always upheld.  They each are a marble step on the real stairway to Heaven.  In living them out, we are assured of joy and blessedness in this life and the life to come.

Yet how hard it is to follow without love.

Do we have any fans of the now-old show 24, where Jack Bauer saves the world 8 times over?  Or Indiana Jones, or any other movie, really.  In so many films, one character, who sees a bigger plan and wants or needs the cooperation of another character who doesn’t see the bigger plan always uses the line: “I just need you to trust me!”

How many times did Jack tell his reserved and afraid-of-punishment techie coworker Chloe “I need you to trust me!”

Or another character in some other film says “We’re going to jump off this moving train while it’s crossing this huge ravine!”

The lady he’s with says “WHAT?  Are you crazy??”

He responds with “I need you to trust me!” and because she has a love for him that leads to an implicit trust, they jump and land on big puffy airbag and are safe.

Or Arnold’s famous line “Come with me if you want to live.” Because of Sarah’s love for her son John who tells her everything’s ok, she trusts this particular T-101 and follows.

You get the point: Fr. Michael watches lots of TV.

No, it’s that we are capable of doing just about anything if we love the person who is asking us to do it.  Do we love the Lord enough to do what he asks us?  Does our love for him lead to an implicit trust?

But it’s time for a serious question: what is love? (Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more).

For real, though…what is love?  Jesus said “this is my commandment, love one another.”  What does that mean?

Do we love one another with the same love that we love a pancake breakfast? Are we to love every single person with the same love by which we love a spouse?  Are we supposed to love each other with the love we have for our country or our favorite TV show?

Of course not.  But how do we define and (more importantly) live the love the Lord has called us to?

He told us himself: “Love one another as I have loved you.” (Repeat)

Do you know what the most important word in the command is?  …  “As.”

Love one another as Christ loves us.  And how exactly did Christ love us?  (Point to the Cross)

That’s how we are to love.  That’s what true love looks like.  True love can hurt.  True love gets us out of ourselves and hones us in on the true good of the other person.

The whole of our Christian life revolves around, starts in and finishes in love.  It’s not a warm fuzzie love, and certainly not a false love that says “You’re OK, I’m OK,” but a love that says I will die for you.

Think of it this way.  As you come forward to receive communion today, you’ll hear the words “The Body of Christ” but hear also the Lord saying “He I am for you.  Will you take my hand?  I need you to trust me.  Preaching my truth is hard in this changing world, but I am with you.”

When the host goes into your mouth, you’re jumping off the train of worldly values and into the Heart of God.  You’ll find no softer landing spot. 

Being a Christian, particularly a Catholic, isn’t easy.  It never has been and it never will be.  But the more we forget about ourselves and focus on loving one another as Christ loves us, the sweeter the task becomes. 

Praised be Jesus Christ, Now and Forever.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Keep the party rollin'...it's still Easter!

So, it's still the Easter Season...don't slack off on rejoicing in the Resurrection!

Here's a post I wrote for the Domini Sumus blog over at St. Pius X Catholic High School.  

The parish church in Diriamba, Nicaragua.  I was there with a mission group from the high school.

One of the myriad reasons I love being Catholic is that we really know how to party. 
G.K. Chesterton once quipped that “In Catholicism, the pint, the pipe, and the cross can all fit together.”  We love life as we strive to live love. 
Think about it.  We created St. Paddy’s Day, Christmas, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day to name a few.  Top that off with the fact that monks in monasteries are to thank for most of the exceptional potent potables that are enjoyed by responsible adults (Belgian Trappist monks in particular, see above).
Yet out of all the celebrations throughout the Catholic year, there is no greater party than the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  The Lord’s victory over sin and death is so foundationally important to our faith that St. Paul minces no words when he tells the Corinthians that “if Jesus did not rise from the dead, your faith is pointless” (1 Cor 15:17).
 The joy and glory of Easter can hardly be contained in one 24-hour period, so the Church decided early on that it would celebrate Easter Sunday for a solid week.  The musically inclined among our readers will comprehend why we call such a celebration an “octave”. 
While Easter Sunday is celebrated over 8 Masses, the Easter Season grants the party even more longevity; just as were bid to take on penances for 40 days prior to Easter, the whole Church rejoices and celebrates for the 50 days after Easter leading to Pentecost.
The most recognizable symbols of our celebration are found in the liturgy, in the Mass.
·         You’ll find that the altar is bedecked with white everything: white cloths, white chalice veils, white stoles and chasubles for the priest and white dalmatics for the deacons.
·         You’ll notice the Easter Candle taking pride of place in the sanctuary and staying lit for all liturgies, reminding us that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World.
·         You’ll hear exclaimed over and over again the joyous word “Alleluia!” which literally means “Praise God!”  We fasted from it for 40 days, now we cry it out more and more because Jesus Christ has saved us from our sin.
·         You’ll experience the stories of the growth of the nascent Church as the first reading will always be proclaimed from the Acts of the Apostles.  The Gospels focus on the Sacraments, particularly Jesus’ own teachings on Baptism and Eucharist.
The climax of the celebration will be our celebration of Pentecost.  Just as the Lord walked the earth for some time after the Resurrection, confirming the Apostles in their faith before ascending back to the right hand of the Father and sending the promised gift of the Spirit, the Easter Season, too, prepares us to receive a special dose of the Holy Ghost.
Pentecost celebrates that day when the power of God in the Holy Spirit came to the Apostles in the upper room, giving them wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, piety, and awe in the presence of the Lord.  It was the moment when a bunch of cowardly lions were transformed into the most powerful band of brothers the world has ever seen; men convicted of the love they received from God to the point that they would die rather than betray him.  At Pentecost, they received the strength they needed to be fearless witnesses of Jesus Christ, to preach his message of salvation through the forgiveness of sins, to show us the very heart of God. 
The Church exists today because of these two great moments in history: the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead and sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. 
There is indeed cause for rejoicing here! 
The Risen Lord is still at work in his Church and in his world through the continuous outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  With every Sacrament celebrated, the Kingdom of God furthers, the message of Jesus Christ gains more traction in our hearts.  The Lord tells us that when one sinner returns, a party is thrown in Heaven (Luke 15:7).  The Book of Revelation at the end of the Bible continually speaks of Heaven as an eternal wedding banquet. 
Let’s get this party started.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Story You Haven't Heard

Just watch the video.  Yes, it's long, yes it's graphic.  Let the Truth change your heart.