Pentecost Sunday Homily, Sunday, May 20, 2018:
This Pentecost Sunday is real for you and me. This is not a commemoration of something that happened two-thousand-years ago. This Pentecost Sunday happens here and now for you and me, who are members of this Church. We receive the Holy Spirit right now, today, because Jesus has promised the Holy Spirit to be always with this Church. We receive the Holy Spirit’s gifts and yield its fruits. That is the context. Keeping that in mind, here are three things we can ask the Holy Spirit to do for us.
The first is to forgive sins. Jesus sends the apostles on the same mission that the Father sent Him on. Then Jesus breathes on them, tells them to receive the Holy Spirit, and says “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained. This clearly shows Jesus giving His apostles and disciples authority to forgive sins in a sacramental act. Holy Mother Church, in her wisdom, sees in this the Sacrament of Confession. Jesus’s mission is to forgive sins. That mission continues today and the sacrament He has established to do so is confession. His forgiveness, His Mercy, and His Love flow through this sacrament. Jesus Christ, by His Cross, undoes all evil and gives all good things, including forgiveness of sins. We priests receive it from the Holy Spirit, that authority which Jesus gave to the apostles and disciples and which comes down to priests today.
Second, the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith. We are in Christ by grace. Jesus has ascended into heaven so that His Father will send the Holy Spirit at Pentecost upon His apostles and disciples. Pope St. Leo the Great wrote that, “It is upon this ordered structure of divine acts that we have been firmly established, so that the grace of God may show itself still more marvelous.” The miracle of Pentecost is speaking. These devout Jews hear these Galilean apostles and disciples speaking in their own native language. The apostles locked themselves into the Upper Room because of their fear. The apostles and disciples receive the Holy Spirit, go out, and speak of Jesus’s salvation to everyone, because they can speak in other languages, without fear. Pope St. Leo the Great wrote that this faith, “…would remain unshaken by fetters and imprisonment, exile and hunger, fire and ravening beasts, and the most refined tortures ever devised….” He continues: “Throughout the world, women no less than men, tender girls as well as boys, have given their life’s blood in the struggle for this faith.” The Holy Spirit strengthens our faith by strengthening one man’s self-control, another man’s willingness to help the poor, another person’s fasting. The Holy Spirit saves, heals, enlightens the mind, teaches, counsels, strengthens, and consoles. The Holy Spirit pours forth his grace in full measure.
Third, the Holy Spirit unifies the Church. The author of the first reading in Acts emphasizes unity. It says that the Holy Spirit filled the entire house in which they were. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues to bring the Good News of Jesus’s salvation to all. The Holy Spirit enlivens the apostles and begins to form a new, universal worship society, the Church. Jesus’s salvation is for everyone. There are no exceptions. The proclamation of Jesus’s Lordship and Salvation always unites, in the Church, this Church, the one Jesus formed on the rock of St. Peter.
Today, Jesus Christ is present in this Church’s sacraments. In Baptism, we die and rise just like Jesus. In the Eucharist, we join Christ’s Body and each other. All natural distinctions which divide us are eliminated. So, if you want to be like LeBron James, sin. If you want to be like LeBron James, go to confession and have your sins forgiven. If you want to be like LeBron James, get in line to receive Jesus in Eucharist, at Sunday Mass. (I’m just using his name as an example).
The final era is now. So that makes this actual, real Pentecost Sunday very important for us and for this beautiful Catholic faith in which we worship Jesus Christ. We need forgiveness of sins. We need to strengthen our faith. And we need to be more unified to this beautiful Catholic faith. If you listen closely, enemies always attack the unity of this Church. They will not accept and obey. They will disobey and reject. With the Holy Spirit in us, we can be sources of grace, holiness, acceptance, and obedience for others and bring others into the folds of this Church. We can become citizens of heaven.
by: Fr. Scott Karnik
Ascension Homily, Sunday, May 13, 2018:
Jesus gives His Apostles and disciples, and us today, our marching orders. This is Ascension Sunday. Today’s readings narrate Jesus’s final post-resurrection appearance. Then, He ascends into heaven. The theme of the readings is the growth of the Church beyond Jerusalem. That’s where the Apostles, disciples, and we get to work.
First, Jesus has given His Apostles and disciples convincing proof of His resurrection. The Apostles and disciples will be genuine witnesses of Him. They saw and heard Jesus. To “witness” means to testify, “to make a solemn statement of what is personally known or believed to be true.” We witness Jesus Christ in that way by our faith in this Church’s teachings, in this Church’s sacraments, in Sacred Scripture, and in Eucharist. We cannot do this ourselves. The Holy Spirit will strengthen us for this mission, to “witness” Jesus to the entire world, wherever we are.
Second, in Ephesians, St. Paul summarizes what we are to witness to: God has shown His great power by raising His Son, Jesus Christ, from the dead and by seating Jesus at His right hand in heaven. It is there that Jesus reigns over all cosmic forces and His name is glorified and praised over all others. God places everything under Christ’s control. God makes Christ the Head of the Church, which is Christ’s Body. This completes Christ’s being. Christ’s glorification reaches its zenith when He becomes head over all the church. The church is united to Christ’s Body. The Head, Jesus, and the Body, the Church, are one. They have a common nature. So therefore Jesus is bound most intimately with His Faithful. Jesus’s One Body is His One Church. Jesus is not cut up into 40-thousand denominational churches. His one church and body is this one, the one He established on the rock of St. Peter, two thousand years ago. We are to witness to all of this today, here and now.
Third, we need not fear. Jesus will be with us in our preaching and witnessing. Jesus promises that He will affirm their gospel message with special signs of His Own Power and Protection. These miraculous signs will guarantee the truth and the divine origin of their message. Jesus commands His Apostles and disciples to preach the gospel of salvation to all people throughout the world. The Gospel message of Jesus and the salvation He brings are for everyone. There are no exceptions. Our fear and silence will be replaced by courage, faith, and witness to Jesus Christ in this church, His Church.
We were graced to have such a witness in our midst last week. Immaculee Illabagiza is a holy, faithful Catholic woman. Her family was slaughtered in the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Her witness is the forgiveness she bore to those who killed her parents and her brothers. God’s miraculous sign was the protection He gave her for several months while she hid in a bathroom in a minster’s house. There were killers outside, numerous times, looking for her, to kill her too. God shielded her. Now He uses her to witness the Gospel message of mercy, forgiveness, and salvation. She humbly obeys and faithfully witnesses. She is an example for us to follow. And Jesus is with her as she gives witness to Him.
The Easter season culminates in Jesus’s Ascension into Heaven. The Catholic Church wisely celebrates Jesus’s Ascension. Holy Mother Church commemorates Jesus’s Ascension because His marching orders apply today to us, just as they did to His Apostles and disciples two-thousand-years ago. Jesus lives. His message lives. His commission to us to witness lives too. We have witnesses like Immaculee Illabagiza to model our witness after. And we have a beautiful Christian message in our beautiful Roman Catholic faith to witness to.
So what must we know? That Jesus rose from the dead, reigns in heaven over all cosmic forces and is head of this Church. What must we do? Proclaim that. Give witness to that. Why should we care? Because Jesus loves us so much that He is united with us in a common nature, His being, our being, His Church and our Church. Jesus is so close to us that He unites Himself to us so we needn’t fear and be silenced. Jesus needs us to witness to Him today in the teachings and traditions of This Roman Catholic Church for the salvation of all. He is with us. We have our orders. Let’s march.
by: Fr. Scott Karnik
Sixth Sunday of Easter Homily, May 6, 2018
Easter Season 2018 concludes with today’s readings. Next Sunday we will celebrate Jesus Christ’s Ascension into Heaven. It is important to know what God has done for our salvation and what we are commanded to do to embrace His Salvation.
One: God loves us and has taken the initiative to express His love for us. In the first reading from Acts 10, St. Peter, the first pope of the church Jesus established, our church, visits the home of a Gentile believer, Cornelius. St. Peter says “…in every nation whoever fears Him (God) and acts uprightly is acceptable to Him.” Then God pours out the Holy Spirit on Cornelius and the other Gentile believers. This is the only time in the Bible when the Holy Spirit is poured out on believers before baptism. After St. Peter hears them glorify God and speak in tongues, he orders them to be baptized in Jesus’s name. God loves us. God acts first to save us. God takes the initiative. It is the same in the first letter of John, where he says God loved us first, “…and sent His Son, Jesus, as expiation for our sins.”
Two, this is the love with which God loves us. God’s love is universal. It is for Jew and Gentile alike. It is impartial. St. Peter orders Cornelius’s household to be baptized with these words: “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?” He refers to the first Pentecost, in the upper room in Jerusalem, when God poured the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, disciples, and Jesus’s own Mother, who was there praying with them. God’s love for us is merciful. God sent His Son Jesus Christ to us to atone for our sins with the sacrifice of His Own Body and Blood, His Own Life. Jesus’s loving sacrifice of Himself satisfies God’s requirement for reconciliation between us and Him. God is so loving and merciful that He sent His Son to die on the Cross and rise again, “to restore fallen mankind to his original supernatural state (sanctifying grace).” That is the state of grace Adam and Eve were in before they sinned.
Three, God requires us to reciprocate. We must give God the very same love He gives us and we must give that very same love to each other, to include our friends and our enemies. That is the love with which Jesus has loved us. The model of love for all true discipleship is extreme, infinite, and universal. It is Jesus who lays down His Life for His friends, as does the Good Shepherd. Jesus compares His love for His disciples with the Father’s love for Him. The disciples, including you and me, must insure that Jesus’s love continues. We do that by obeying Jesus’s commandments. That authenticates our love for Jesus and God the Father and their love for us because it is the same love. It is a universal love, which is extreme and infinite. Jesus coaxes, encourages, and invites us to embrace that love by obeying His Commandments. And when we sin, we confess our sins, attend Holy Mass, and receive Jesus Himself in Eucharist to restore sanctifying grace in our souls. Being a branch of the True Vine gives us kinship with Jesus Christ and God His Father. We unite with Jesus by faith and by our determination to do His Will in all things.
God loves us and has taken the initiative to love us. He gives us the identical love He gives to His Son, Jesus Christ, the True Vine. We return that very same love to Jesus and God His Father by loving one another through the observance of Jesus’s commandments.
That’s the big picture of Easter. We should care because this is our pathway to being in the same state of love with God that Adam and Eve had before the Fall. That is what God’s Love and Jesus’s Love does for you and me here, today.
by: Fr. Scott Karnik
Fifth Sunday of Easter, April 29, 2018
Jesus tells His disciples that He is the great “I AM.” That is the name God calls Himself when Moses asks God to identify Himself to the Israelites in Exodus. In this Easter season, Holy Mother Church gives us gospel readings in which Jesus expresses Himself as the great “I AM”. Jesus then attaches an image, an allegory to His “I AM” name. In this gospel, Jesus identifies Himself by saying, “I AM the vine.”
The central point of this allegory is that if the disciples remain in Jesus through love, they will bear much fruit. If they don’t, they will become dry, withered branches who will be good for nothing except fuel for a fire.
To remain in Jesus as fruitful branches, there are three words that are very useful to live by. They are “connect,” “in,” and “remain.”
To “connect” means to join or link together. It also means to attach by personal relationship and association. So, a connection is a relationship in which a person is connected to others. We are connected to the true vine of Jesus by relationship and association. That relationship and association is our obedience to Jesus’s graces and teachings. We become likenesses of Jesus, as taught to us in Sacred Scripture and in the teachings of Holy Mother Church. We configure ourselves to Him.
“In” means to be in its proper place and in a position of assured success. To “remain” means to be a part that is not destroyed, taken, or used up. It continues. In this case, the disciples bear fruit and operate as designed by Jesus.
Jesus also calls the Church His vine. As members of His Church, we are part of Jesus and He is part of us. We are branches of Jesus, the True Vine. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ.
A fruitless vine, like Judas Iscariot, is pruned, lopped off the vine, and burned in fire.
The disciples, and you and I, must keep vital immanence with Jesus Christ. Immanence is to dwell in nature and in the soul. We must allow Jesus to dwell in our very being and our very soul. It is there that Jesus gives us the vital sap of His life, eternal life. We remain connected to Jesus through faith, hope, charity, and Eucharist. There is no fruit in our lives without our immanent adhesion to Jesus. Union with Jesus secures fruitfulness in us. What is required in us is actual grace, the grace that we act out in our lives.
Jesus assures us of His connection to us. To be vital branches of Him, we must be connected to Jesus. If you remember last Sunday, when Jesus told us that He is the Good Shepherd, Jesus said His Sheep know His Voice, and they follow Him. They know His Voice because they actively listen to it. They/we attune ourselves to His Voice. We have to do our part to be connected to the True Vine, Jesus Christ.
“Connect,” “remain”, “in”: those three words help us to be the vital, fruitful branches of Jesus Christ, who is part of us through His Church, this Church. In doing so, we become part of a church that is at peace, that is being built up, walks in the fear of the Lord, receives the consolation of the Holy Spirit, and experiences growth.
February 12, 2017
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