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Friday, March 6, 2015

True Meaning of Life (3rd Sunday of Lent - Year B)

Homily: True Meaning in Life
Third Sunday of Lent – Year B

It’s common to think of Jesus as a gentle and peace-loving man, but in today’s gospel we also see a different side of him. We see him make a whip out of cords, over-turn tables throwing coins everywhere, and attempting to drive evil-doers out of the temple area. Surely many were shocked by what they saw and witnessed…. but was there a point to his actions?

Do you think the merchants in the temple area thought of themselves as “evil-doers”? Probably not! Do you think there were always merchants in the temple area? No, probably not. I would assume that one day a man set-up shop, and entrepreneur, and then another, then another, and overtime a large market developed. There might have been some initial dissatisfaction over the selling of goods in the temple area, but overtime the gradual process of adding more and more merchants probably went unnoticed and after a few years it not only became normal but was expected.

Can you begin to see some similarity between this example and what has happened in our society? Just the other day I was visiting with a man who described a recent event that left him troubled. He told me that more than 10 years ago he removed the television from his home because he and his wife were fearful of what was being shown, fearful of the influential power of TV, and fearful of how it could negatively affect them and their children. He stated that since that time, 10 years ago, he hadn’t really seen much Television.

He then informed me that he had recently returned from a family visit in which he watched a variety of TV shows with his relatives. He reported that he was shocked at what appeared to be in almost every show: varying levels of nudeness, pre-marital sex, same sex relationships, affairs, and ramped immorality.  And what bothered him the most was that his relatives, who he believed were good Catholics, who attended mass every week, who adhered to all the catholic rules, and who also saw nothing wrong with the content of the shows.

He stated that in response to his relative’s apparent non-reaction, He initially questioned himself? Is Pre-Marital sex ok? Is looking at Naked and Half-Naked people ok? Is having an Affair ok?

Then he stated that he snapped out of it, recalling that all those behaviors were not only wrong, but actually sinful…. and that they ultimately separated people from God. He realized that his relatives had become “Desensitized”!  Might I ask, How many of us have also been desensitized through a gradual process, and now find little to no objection to what is so prevalent in society?

If Jesus were here today, do you think he would find our current culture Acceptable?  Holy?  And Just? I don’t think so, at least not much of it. As we begin to look at the world around us through Christ’s eyes, we begin to see a much different world. We can begin to see how certain behaviors and attitudes have evolved and have led many away from God and his ways.

Yet, it is more than just being desensitized that has caused this problem, we are still missing something important. I recall a story of a priest who was coming back to his parish house one evening in the dark only to be accosted by a robber who pulled a gun at him and demanded, “Your money or your life!”  As the priest reached his hand into his coat pocket the robber saw his Roman collar and said, “You’re a priest? You can go.”  The priest was rather surprised at this unexpected show of piety and so tried to reciprocate by offering the robber his pack of cigarettes, to which the robber replied, “No, Father, I don’t smoke during Lent.”  On the surface this sounds like a funny joke, but can you see how this robber is trying to keep the pious observance of not smoking during Lent while forgetting the more fundamental commandment of God, “Thou shalt not steal.” He is acting but not understanding the why of the action.

Maybe we are doing the same in our own lives, at least on some level.

Recently Pope Francis said that we are to ensure that on Fridays we aren’t avoiding meat to only feast and gorge ourselves on seafood. If so, what sacrifice would that be?

Our actions and behaviors as Catholics are to have a deeper meaning, and it is that meaning that is always more important than the action. Our lives are to have that deeper meaning also, the meaning that originates our actions, and that meaning that sustains us through difficult times, trying times, and through temptations.

As Catholics we should know the meaning of life, our unique meaning. Is it clear what that meaning is in your life? Is that meaning actually the thing that directs your actions, or are your actions just something you do, a pious gesture? These are good and important questions that we need to ask of ourselves.

This time of Lent is a time to slow down, quiet down, and to seriously reflect upon our lives and upon our true meaning and purpose here on earth. It is a time to identify our shortcomings, our inequities, to repent, to turn away from sin, to reunite ourselves to Christ, and to prepare ourselves in a special and meaningful way for the coming of Lord and Savior.

Take some time today and prayerfully ask God to open your hearts and minds, to allow you the ability to see where change is needed, and for God to help you in humble way to understand your true meaning in life.
Praise be Jesus Christ, Now and Forever.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Baptism of our Lord in the Jordan River

Homily – Deacon Pat Kearns
The Baptism of our Lord (Year B) Mark 1:7-11

Today we celebrate the Lord’s baptism by John in the Jordan River. This celebration marks a turning point in the Church’s liturgical calendar. This weekend the Christmas season ends and we will once again return to ordinary time. Although today’s Gospel message is short in length, having only 6 sentences, it contains an abundance of meaning for us as followers of Christ. We are presented with an example of Faith, Humility, and also the revelation of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Gospel begins with John proclaiming that one greater than himself will be coming, that he is not worthy to be compared to one that is to come, and that there will be a new type on baptism of much greater importance than what he can administer. John is quick to direct attention away from himself and onto the awaited messiah. He exhibits sincere and true humility. He also clarifies that there will be a notable and profound difference between his baptism of water and that of a baptism with the Holy Spirit. In John’s baptism, as with the other rites of the Old Testament, grace was only signified or symbolized. In his baptism the external act of cleansing was just that, an outward gesture of a desire for repentance. However, the new baptism, the one instituted by Christ not only signifies grace, but is the effective cause of grace, it actually confers grace.

Saint Pius X explained, “Baptism confers the first sanctifying grace and the supernatural virtues, taking away Original Sin and any other personal sins [as with an adult baptism], as well as the entire debt of punishment which the baptized person owes for sin. In addition, baptism impresses the Christian Character in the soul and makes it able to receive the other Sacraments.” Powerful, isn’t it? It all starts with baptism.

I think it is also pertinent to point out that this act of baptism by Jesus is also his initial act of becoming public and beginning his public ministry. Until then, his life was mostly hidden. 

Often the question is asked, “Why did Jesus need to be baptized?” especially if his was without sin? The answer is, “He didn’t,” at least not in the same sense as to why we must be baptized. Yet, His baptismal act not only connected him with all of humanity it also set a precedent for others to follow. He in essence was leading the way and teaching by example. And it was through His baptism that sanctified the waters of baptism for all who were to follow for all of eternity, and also revealed to us the Holy Trinity. On coming up and out of the water the heavens were torn open and the Spirit descended upon Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven claiming Jesus as God’s son. There it is! The Trinity revealed.
  • Jesus as the Son of God
  • The Holy Spirit expressed as a dove
  • And God speaking from heaven
This baptism was the public manifestation of Jesus as Son of God and as Messiah, ratified by the presence of the Blessed Trinity.

Saint Thomas Aquinas described the event as follows: “The Holy Spirit descended visibly in bodily form upon Christ when he was baptized so that we may believe Him to descend invisibly upon all those who are baptized afterwards.” Yes, we must have faith to believe, yet Christ and God knew that, and that is why they gave us a sign to help us believe.

And there are a few more things for us to consider from this short Gospel reading. In Christ’s baptism He laid the foundation for a new dispensation of grace. From that moment the baptized received remission from sin, became a child of God, a member of His church, and a citizen of heaven. This baptism becomes the gateway to the life of grace and the door which gives access to the other Sacraments. It is a necessary act for a life in Christ. It also defines our rights and responsibilities as a Christian, our privileges, and our mission. It is through our baptism, and living out of our baptismal promises that unites us with Christ and in this union we can find the strength to go about doing good and living as beloved sons and daughters by faith in the Son of God who lives in us. It is the duty of the baptized then to make a life of grace, a daily life of avoiding sin.

Now knowing this, let us take a moment and reflect upon our lives, our actions, our habits, and our interests, especially in light of who were are called to be as sons and daughters of God. We are called to be holy, disciplined, charitable, forgiving, compassionate, and most of all, loving. Well, do we hit the mark? Or is there room for improvement? Probably some room for improvement, at least in my case, maybe in yours as well.

So where do we beginAll it takes is one visit with the priest for confession to purify our souls, remove the barriers of God’s grace, and to return our souls to the state of our baptism, sinless.

In closing, and following the example of John the Baptist, let us today respond in faith and humility, opening ourselves to the effects of the Holy Trinity, and commit to living profoundly deeper and meaningful lives as Christians.

All this from just six short sentences from the Gospel of Mark! :)

Praise be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Mary's Magnificat

Luke 1: 46-56 (The Magnificat)

When the angel Gabriel told the young Virgin Mary that she was going to have a child who would be the Son of God and reign over the house of Jacob forever, she said, "How can this be?"

He answered her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her so that the child's conception would be divine.

And then He gave Mary the added confirmation that nothing is impossible with God by telling her that her relative Elizabeth who was old and barren was also pregnant. Mary then went with haste into the hill country, to the city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby, that is, John the Baptist, leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed,

"Blessed are tho among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord!"

That's all the confirmation Mary needed. She clearly sees a most remarkable thing about God: He is about to change the course of all human history; the most important three decades in all of time are about to begin.

And where is God?

Occupying himself with two obscure, humble women—one old and barren, one young and virginal.
And Mary is so moved by this vision of God, the lover of the lowly, that she breaks out in song—a song that has come to be known as the Magnificat.

Mary and Elizabeth are wonderful heroines in Luke's account. He loves the faith of these women. The thing that impresses him most is the lowliness and cheerful humility of Elizabeth and Mary.

Elizabeth says (1:43): "And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord would come to me?" And Mary says in delight (1:48): "For He has looked favorable upon His lowly servant." The only people whose soul can truly magnify the Lord are people like Elizabeth and Mary—people who acknowledge their lowly estate and are overwhelmed by the love of God.

Let's take a moment and look briefly at what she actually said in her praise to God.  In the Magnificat Mary makes the general statement that God's name is holy. That is, God's nature, His essence is holiness. He is completely free from sin, and his ways are not our ways. He is separate from and exalted above all creation. All his attributes are perfect, and they all cohere in a perfect harmony called holiness. But what Mary stresses is the way this holiness expresses itself. Her words grant us deep insight are a warning to us not to make the common mistake that because God is great, he is partial to great men, or because God is exalted, he favors what is exalted among men. Just the opposite is the case. God's holiness has expressed itself and will express itself by exalting the lowly and abasing the proud and mighty.

What fills Mary's heart with joy is that God loves to help the underdog, those in need, those who call upon his mercy.

She mentions this three times:

  • "He has mercy on those who fear Him";
  •  "He has lifted up the lowly";
  • "He has filled the hungry with good things."

That's one side of God's holiness.

The other side is that God opposes and abases the proud and mighty. Mary mentions this three times also:
  •   "He has scattered the proud in their conceit"
  •  "He has cast down the mighty from their thrones";
  •  "The rich He has sent away empty."

It is clear from Mary's words that God is not partial to the rich, the powerful, or the proud. How could God be partial to the things which in our world are, more often than not, substitutes for God rather than pointers to God?

Mary also simply sees in her own experience an example of the way God is. He responds to Mary's lowliness and does a great thing for her: he makes her the mother of God! It is such a singular and unimaginable blessing that all generations from that time on have acknowledged Mary's blessedness.
And finally, Mary's soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. 

But, how does a soul do such a thing?

I pondered this question for some time. Eventually I began to realize that as God’s grace allows us to slowly comprehend who He actually is, the magnitude and magnificence of who He is, who God actually is, and then realizing how precious and loved we are by him, we can’t help but be infused with such overwhelming Joy, Appreciation, Humility, and Love, that our soul and spirit bursts in response and reflects and radiates that love, His love, out and into the world.

Isn’t that our Magnifcat as well?

He has and continues to do great things for us, and holy is his name. He has remembered His promise of mercy, the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham, and to His children forever. He is our Savior, and the Savior of the world. Knowing this, all of this, our souls also burst in Love, and love we can’t help but proclaim to the world.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Guadete Sunday - "Rejoice" - 3rd Sunday of Advent (Year B)

Advent is a time in which we prepare for the coming of the Lord:

• His coming to us Sacramentally at Christmas,

• His coming to us individually at the end of our lives,

• and His coming to us collectively at the end of time.

And today, within the season of Advent, it is the 3rd Sunday of Advent known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is Latin for “Rejoice”. It is a reminder that as Christians, we are to be joyful people.

The joyfulness seen in Catholics, and in their relationships with others should be a witness to the world of the Love of God and the transforming power of His grace to those who embrace Him. This radiating Joy should inspire others to seek the source of such peace. Yet, in our current culture, for many, this joy seems to be lost.

• Why?

I think for many, it is due to the lack of establishing and maintaining a close relationship with Christ. And also, for some, it is due to their inability to see Christ in those around them.

What if we were told that the Christ whom we have heard so much about, and whom we are waiting for, is already here in our midst as one of us? What possible difference would that make?

I recall a story that can help us understand this question a little better. A certain monastery discoverered that it was going through a crisis. Some of the monks had left, there were no new candidates joining, and people were no longer coming for prayer and spiritual direction as they used to. The few monks that remained were becoming old, bitter, and depressed. Even the relationships between the monks were becoming stressed and unkind. The Abbot had heard about a holy man, a hermit, living alone in the woods and decided to consult with him regarding their problem. The Abbot told the hermit how the monastery had dwindled and diminished and now looked like a skeleton of what it used to be. Only seven old monks remained. The hermit told the Abbott that he had a secret for him. He informed the Abbott that one of the monks now living in his monastery was actually the messiah, but he was living in such a way that no one could recognize him. With this revelation, the Abbott went back to his monastery, summand a community meeting and recounted what the holy hermit had told him. The aging monks looked at each other in unbelief, trying to discern who among them could be the Christ.

• Could it be Brother Mark who prays all the time! But has a “Holier-than-thou” attitude?

• Could it be Brother Joseph who is always willing to help? But who is always eating and drinking and can’t fast.

The Abbott reminded them that the messiah had adopted some bad habits as a way of camouflaging his real identity. This only made them more confused and they could not make any headway figuring out who was the Christ amongst them. At the end of the meeting what each of the monks knew for sure was that any of the monks, excluding himself, could be the Christ. From that day, the monks began to treat one another with greater respect and humility, knowing that the person they were speaking to could be the very Christ. They began to show more love for one another, their community life became more brotherly, and their prayers more fervent. Slowly people began to take notice of the new spirit in the monastery and began coming back for retreats and spiritual direction. Word began to spread and before long candidates began to show up and the monastery began to grow again in numbers as the monks grew in zeal and holiness. All this because a man of God drew their attention to the truth that Christ was living in their midst as one of them, actually, that Christ was present in all of them.

As Catholics, baptized and confirmed, we have the spirit of Christ within us. And through the Holy Eucharist, we have the true body and blood of Christ physically united with our bodies. The source of all Love and Joy resides within each and every one of us.

How can we Not be joyful knowing this! (Pause)

But to rejoice, it also takes Faith.

Many of us are experiencing tough times, have lost jobs, are enduring hardships, personal losses, and what appears as insurmountable obstacles. We are even feeling the pain associated with the separation from our Priest, Father Uriel, and all the emotions surrounding the recent occurrence. And yet we are to shine as Joyful witnesses.

Almost seems impossible doesn’t it?

Yet, this is where Faith comes into play. Haven’t we all heard the scripture that “God will not give us more than we can handle.” And that He will give us all that we really need to life. So hearing this...just how do we approach life when so much around us seems troubled?

We are to have faith!

Faith that everything in life, good and bad, has a purpose, and that purpose will be used to help us grow in virtue and holiness. Faith also directs our attitudes.

I can recall from years ago, the power that a mother had on her family at a time of trial and when all seemed lost. One day the father of the family came home from work and announced that he lost all his money because his business partner tricked him and ran away with the companies funds. The likelihood of poverty seemed eminent and despair just around the corner. Yet, that same evening, the mother of the family went out, sold some of her expensive jewelry, and bought food for a family feast. People criticized her for recklessly spending at a time when poverty was staring the family right in their face.

But she told them "the time for joy was now, when we needed it the most, not next week. And that God would provide." Her courageous act, and deep faith, rallied the family and gave them the hope they needed to face the future with confidence and to trust that God was still in control.
• Do you believe that God is in control of your life?

If so, what do we really have to fear?

Even the severe hardships and trials have a purpose and are used by God for what really is important in life.... Our preparation for eternal life in heaven.

We really do have much to be joyful about! As Catholics, we have gained access into a holy family and a relationship with God. We have been given this family here at Church and in our community. We have been given the opportunity for everlasting life and the assurance that we are loved and will be eternally cared for. Let us look for and see the holiness in each other. Let us honor and respect each other knowing that Christ lives within all of us. Through our example, let us be that voice crying out in the desert and show the world the Joy that radiates through us. Let our faith radiate the truth, that no matter what trial, obstacle, or discomfort comes upon us, we deeply know that Christ is present, and that he will come again offering an eternal life of joy, love, and peace for those who truly embrace him. This is the source of our Joy and our focus here today, on Gaudete Sunday!