HOMILY FOR THE SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, ©, MAY 26TH, 2019:
The Holy Spirit faithfully and truly guides this church, Holy Mother Church. God’s Holy Spirit has done so since this church’s birth, two-thousand-years ago at Pentecost. That fact is critical to the authenticity of this church and for her survival until Jesus Christ’s second coming. Jesus promises to send another, the Paraclete, to be with the apostles always, forever, if they keep Jesus’s commands. The important point is that these apostles are Jesus’s first priests and bishops in His Church, which He will establish when He sends them the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This Church will be led by these apostles after Jesus ascends into heaven and sends them the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit. Always remember this. The scriptural basis for this is in John 16:13: “When he comes however, being the Spirit of truth he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but will speak only what he hears, and will announce to you the things to come. Another scriptural basis for this is in John 14:16: “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Paraclete-to be with you ALWAYS: the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, since it neither sees him nor recognizes him; but you can recognize him because he remains with you and will be within you. I will not leave you orphaned….”(John 14:16). The Holy Spirit guides this church always. The Holy Spirit discloses the fullest and truest meaning of the gospel truth. It is Satan who spreads confusion, deception, doubt, error, and falsehood. The Holy Spirit defeats that. This magisterial infallibility means that the pope and/or the pope and bishops united with him are divinely protected from teaching error on matters of faith and morals. The Holy Spirit’s guidance is Jesus Christ’s guarantee that the gospel truth will not be corrupted, distorted, or misunderstood by the ordained shepherds of this Church during her earthly pilgrimage.
St. Luke refers to this in the reading from Acts. Some Jewish Christians who are or were Pharisees have come to the Antioch, Syria church. They begin to teach that there is no salvation in Jesus Christ without circumcision into the old, Abraham covenant. They oppose the baptism of uncircumcised Gentile pagans into the Christian Church. Sts. Paul and Barnabas disagree vehemently. So, the Antioch, Syria church leaders and Sts. Paul and Barnabas decide wisely to go to the Mother Church in Jerusalem to decide this. The Antioch, Syria church is accountable to the mother church in Jerusalem and her teaching authority. This question must be answered accurately and authoritatively by the Jerusalem church teaching magisterium. “Finally it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some others should go up to see the apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem about this question”(Acts 15:2). This is a question of faith and the composition of the Church. It cannot be answered independently.
From verses 1-2, the reading skips to verses 22-29. Read the inbetween verses. Read Acts 15:1-29 to get the entire story. Today’s reading resumes with the Jerusalem Council’s letter to the church at Antioch, Syria in verse 22. “It was resolved by the apostles and the presbyters, in agreement with the whole Jerusalem church, that representatives be chosen from among their number and sent to Antioch along with Paul and Barnabas”(Acts 15:22). The Church apostles and presbyters/elders/priests of the entire Jerusalem church send two representatives to reinforce authoritatively what they have written in this letter to answer what the Gentile Christian converts must do to be admitted/included in this Catholic Church. These two, Judas and Silas, will speak and teach with the approval of the mother church’s teaching magisterium.
Listen to verse 24: “We have heard that some of our number WITHOUT ANY INSTRUCTIONS FROM US have upset you with their discussions and disturbed your peace of mind”(Acts 15:24). These Jewish Pharisee Christians have taught on their own, without the permission and approval of the teaching magisterium, that without circumcision there is no salvation in Jesus Christ. They teach that “without any instructions from us”(Acts 15:24). There is a legitimate and an ultimate teaching authority. It is located in the mother church, the Vatican. In this reading from Acts, it’s in Jerusalem.
Then, in verse 28, the letter says something profoundly shocking, POSITIVELY, for our church: “It is the decision OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND OURS TOO, not to lay on you any burden beyond that which is strictly necessary,….”(Acts 15:28). This teaching authority-magisterium, is not simply a bureaucratic office operating independently. GOD’S OWN HOLY SPIRIT DIRECTS IT. The deliberations and decisions of the Jerusalem Council were guided by God’s own hands. This is precisely what Jesus promised to do for the ordained leadership of the Church through the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit discloses the fullest and truest meaning of the gospel truth. It is Satan who spreads confusion, deception, doubt, error, and falsehood. The Holy Spirit defeats and reverses that. So magisterial infallibility means that the pope and/or the pope with the bishops united with him are divinely protected from teaching error when they define matters of faith and morals. The Holy Spirit’s guidance is Jesus Christ’s guarantee that the gospel will not be corrupted, distorted, or misunderstood by the ordained shepherds of the Church during her earthly pilgrimage.
So what should we know? We should know that this church has genuine teaching authority and has exercised it in exactly the way Jesus intended it to be used from this church’s infancy. Today’s reading from Acts confirms that. We should also know that God’s Holy Spirit guides this church’s teaching magisterium. What should we do? We should have faith in that. We should trust and comply with this Church’s teachings. They are established for our benefit, not our detriment. We should also pray for our Church’s leadership, from the pope on down, to be open faithfully and sensitively to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. It’s easy to criticize the pope. It’s harder to have faith and carry it out. Why should we care? Because in this instance, from today’s reading from Acts, if the Holy Spirit didn’t lead this Church’s teaching magisterium, we would not be here today. We who are Gentiles would have to comply with the added obstacle or burden of Jewish circumcision to receive Jesus’s salvation. We would not be here and have the opportunity and privilege of holding onto salvation and of clinging to Jesus. Remember, in this Church, only Jesus saves, no one else.
Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Easter ©, May 19th, 2019:
Today’s gospel gives us a vignette of Jesus’s Passion and Death. It is another short story within the larger story. This vignette gives us Jesus’s essential command to His disciples and to us today: “I give you a new commandment: Love one another. Such as my love has been for you, so must your love be for each other”(John 13:34). This is a new commandment because it is modeled on something new-Jesus’s love for His disciples. Earlier in this chapter Jesus has washed the feet of His disciples, including Judas. Jesus tells His disciples that He is their teacher and as a teacher He has washed their feet. Jesus did so to be an example that they must follow. Jesus tells His disciples that mutual love must be the hallmark, the indispensable sign of their own discipleship after Jesus leaves this world. Jesus tells this to His disciples after Judas has left and entered into darkness. Jesus speaks this to His own disciples, minus the one who would betray Him. Jesus delivers this lesson to His Own, His dearest, most trusted friends.
What does that indispensable, mutual love look like? One answer is in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles. The Holy Spirit grows this church, the Catholic Church, which is in its infancy in today’s reading. God’s Holy Spirit has opened the doors of faith to the Gentiles, as well as the Jews. God sends down benefits and fills our souls. Listen to these phrases from today’s reading: “After Paul and Barnabas had PROCLAIMED THE GOOD NEWS in that city (Derbe)”(Acts 14:21). “…and MADE NUMEROUS DISCIPLES….”(Acts 14:21). “…they retraced their steps to Lystra and Iconium first, then to Antioch”(Acts 14:21). It is in Antioch of Pisidia that they were expelled due to the jealousy of the Jews. Sts. Paul and Barnabas had been persecuted in Antioch of Pisidia. They return to danger. In Antioch of Pisidia, “They GAVE THEIR DISCIPLES REASSURANCES, AND ENCOURAGED THEM TO PERSEVERE IN THE FAITH….”(Acts 14:22). So, this love Jesus tells His disciples to practice would have us proclaim the good news to others, to make more disciples. This love would have us face danger courageously and reassure those who already have this beautiful Roman Catholic faith to persevere in it. Jesus wants our practice of this love of His to strengthen our faith and the faith of others. Sts. Paul and Barnabas preach.
Here is another important point: The two establish teaching authority and priests in every church they establish. The tasks of those priests would be to lead their respective churches and to perform liturgical rites in them. Those priests have teaching authority.
Then, Sts. Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch of Syria. It was in that church that the Holy Spirit designated Paul and Barnabas for this (dangerous) mission. They will return and give a full report to the church authorities there. Sts. Paul and Barnabas know that they are responsible to the Antioch, Syria church authorities for they’ve done. They report to the authority structure that is established in THIS CHURCH, in its infancy. There is an authority structure, teaching authority, and a liturgical function present in this church, from the time it was born on Pentecost. So, we are witnesses to God’s love by carrying it out by strengthening other people’s faith in Christ. That is a hallmark of our love for Jesus Christ in this Roman Catholic Church/faith of ours. And yes, contrary to the messages you might hear from this sinful world, this church does have authority to teach, to love, and to strengthen others’ faith.
So what should we know? We should know that Jesus requires us to love others with the same love that He has for His disciples, and for us. It is a love that serves. What should we do? We should carry out that love by encouraging, reassuring, and strengthening other people’s Catholic faith. We do that by living out our faith and speaking out about it. Why should we care? We should care because Jesus will return to His Father soon after His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Jesus will ascend into Heaven and leave His disciples with that mission. We will celebrate Jesus’s Ascension on May 30th. Jesus will return. We don’t know when. When He does, may He find us working in His vineyard, carrying out this love, which He commands His disciples, and us, to perform.
Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, ©, May 12, 2019:
Jesus emphasizes that He is the Good Shepherd in today’s gospel reading. The central theme and main message from today’s gospel is Jesus’s act of loving, total, self-offering, and self-sacrifice. This is Jesus’s central mission. A good shepherd who will leave His flock to search for the one stray is unheard of. A good shepherd who will die for His flock is unprecedented. Today’s gospel is the money quote from a larger conversation Jesus has with His enemies. They approach Him and ask if He’s the Messiah. They say, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly”(John 10:24). Jesus answers them by saying He has told them and they don’t believe. They also don’t believe even though He does many works in His Father’s name. Those miracles testify to Jesus being the anointed one. But Jesus also says in verse 26 that “you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep”(John 10:26). Then verse 27 begins our gospel reading. The Jews, the Jewish religious leaders, refuse to believe that Jesus’s divine miracles are done through God His Father. They will not believe that Jesus Christ and God His Father are one. When the Jews hear Jesus say that, they intend to stone Him to death for blasphemy. That is point number one: Jesus Christ is the Messiah and His divine, miraculous works show that. But as the Messiah, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who will die for His sheep. Point number two is that the people who believe Jesus listen to His voice and follow Him. Jesus tells the Jewish religious leaders that they will not listen, will not believe, so therefore they are not of His sheep. They reject Jesus. Point number three is in verse 28. Jesus says: “I give them (my sheep) eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand”(John 10:28). Jesus’s protection for His sheep is equivalent to God His Father’s divine protection. Jesus has God’s sovereign power to shield the righteous from the threats of Satan. That is what verse 29 says. Then Jesus follows with verse 30: “The Father and I are one”(John 10:30). God the Father and God the Son, Jesus, are united in the loving embrace of the Holy Spirit. So therefore, we cannot divide the essential unity of the Holy Trinity. We can distinguish between the three persons of the one, triune God. But they are the same nature and the same substance.
There is a fourth point: “No one can take them out of my hand”(John 10:28). Jesus loves His sheep/followers so much that no one and nothing will come along and snatch them from Him. Those sheep can leave His hand, His flock, by their choice. But Jesus won’t lose them by Himself. So therefore, may we encourage the lost sheep in our families and in other faiths to return or to come to the Catholic Church, the Church Jesus established on the rock of St. Peter. May we encourage and invite those sheep who are way out on the periphery to come to this church, which will lead us all to Jesus, the Light of the World. Jesus has assistant shepherds, His priests. They help, just like His first priests did, His Apostles. But Jesus also has one incredible assistant who is a constant help to Him and to His Church. She is the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is Jesus’s mother. She is God’s mother, by God’s choice, not her own. The Blessed Virgin Mary is a humble, obedient, loyal handmaid of the Lord and of Her Son, Jesus Christ. She is not like Danerys Targareon or Cerci the Wight, from Game of Thrones. Jesus made the Blessed Virgin Mary our spiritual mother. We can and ought to pray to her. We can ask her to pray for us and for Jesus’ Roman Catholic Church. It is Mother’s Day. It is the month of Mary. May we pray the most powerful prayer of the Rosary to bring everyone back into the fold of one flock and one shepherd. St. Monica is a great, motherly example too.
So remember, one, Jesus Christ is the Messiah; His works testify to His unity with God the Father, and He will die for His sheep. Two: those who listen to Jesus and believe in Him, follow Him. Three: Jesus will give His sheep eternal life and He will faithfully protect them. And four: go out to the peripheries and encourage and invite people to repent and join this church or return to her. The greatest mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus’s mother and ours, will help. Pray the Rosary everyday. I wish all mothers a very Happy Mother’s Day.
jesus appoints st. peter as his first pope, chief earthly shepherd of his mystical body, the (roman catholic) church
Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter, May 5th, 2019:
One Scripture commentary I studied for this homily said this about today’s gospel: “The disciples bring this catch of fish (they are fishers of men) to a meal (Eucharist) prepared by the Risen Jesus.” What does that remind you of? How about this quote: “Jesus’s image is that of a servant and a giver of bread to His disciples.” What does that remind you of? These two quotes should remind us of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the sacrament of Holy Eucharist. Here is another story from this same gospel: Jesus’s challenge to St. Peter to profess his love for Jesus three times. Jesus gives St. Peter a public opportunity to “profess repentance through love, surely a striking example of what it is that reestablishes our relationship with Jesus Christ after sin.” That is a picture-perfect illustration of the sacrament of confession. Remember, last Sunday, Jesus breathed on the Apostles and gave them the priestly power to forgive sins. Jesus’s mission becomes their own.
All of these illustrations show sacraments, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and this Roman Catholic Church of ours in action. That is important to remember from this gospel.
Jesus requires St. Peter to make a triple profession of faith and love to Jesus. Of course, this reverses St. Peter’s triple denial of knowing Jesus early Good Friday morning. Jesus’s requirement of St. Peter to do this atones for St. Peter’s denial. Jesus and St. Peter are at-one again with each other. That’s important because St. Peter is the rock upon which Jesus says He will build His Church, this one. No other church can say that. No other church can prove that. Only this one can. The reason this church can assert this is because Jesus makes St. Peter the leader upon which this church is built. This is not just making St. Peter an evangelist who confesses faith. If that were so, then Jesus would have to ask the other Apostles there at that fire if they love Jesus too. He doesn’t. He only does that to the leader of the first Apostolic College, St. Peter. St. Peter has authority and primacy as an earthly shepherd of Jesus’s Church, this one. That is an important point to remember.
A second point to remember is that Jesus converts St. Peter’s love for Him into loving care for Jesus’s sheep. The entire flock (all the sheep possessed by the Good Shepherd) is committed to the loving, personal care of this chief shepherd of this church, St. Peter. So therefore, this act of reversal of St. Peter’s earlier denial is of utmost importance to the future of Jesus’s Church, this one. Jesus restores the Rock of St. Peter to its/his proper strength.
Remember that Jesus is going to ascend into heaven soon. So that brings us to the third important point from today’s gospel: There is a changing of the guard, so to speak. In Ezekiel 34, Yahweh Himself will shepherd His sheep. God passes that role of shepherd to the Good Shepherd, His Own Son, Jesus Christ. In today’s gospel, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, passes on the care of His flock to His first earthly chief shepherd, His first pope in this Church, St. Peter. The gospel shows that St. Peter’s shepherd-role is tied to love. Jesus tells St. Peter to “feed my lambs…tend my sheep.” To “feed” means “to furnish something essential to the growth, maintenance, operation, or sustenance” of something, or in this case, someone, us. To “tend” means “to develop, direct, or move one’s course in a particular direction.” Shepherds do these two things and the good ones do them very well. How well? St. Peter, the chief shepherd will have to reflect Jesus the Good Shepherd and be willing to give his life for his sheep. Jesus says that St. Peter will l be martyred. St. Peter will also glorify God by his death because life-giving, selfless love is God’s very own nature. Notice Jesus is lovingly helpful to a group of hungry fishermen. He sets a fire with one roasted fish and bread on the shore for them. That’s another reminder of Mass and Eucharist.
There is one more important point. It is the 153 large fish. I thought it was just St. John’s eye for detail. And notice the net was not torn. The Scripture commentary I studied says 153 fish symbolically show the catholicity or universality of Jesus’s Roman Catholic Church. The untorn net symbolically shows integrity and the unity of this Church. Jesus meant there to be one church, not 20-some-odd thousand ones.
So what should we know? We should know that St. Peter is established with primacy as the earthly representative and leader of Jesus’s Church, this one. Second, we should know that Jesus converts St. Peter’s love for Him into loving care for Jesus’s sheep, His flock, the people in His Church. We should know that God the Father and Jesus, His Son, intended to pass on the shepherd-role of this Church to an earthly representative, in this case, St. Peter. And fourth, the church St. Peter and today, St. Francis, leads, is this one. It has the integrity of salvation and it has the integrity of history, unity, universality, and teaching authority from the shore of the Sea of Tiberias to the Vatican in Rome, and to the church of St. Anthony of Padua here today in Fargo.
What should we do? We should remain faithful to this church and this faith for our benefit and for the benefit of others whom we must evangelize. Evangelize this church, this faith, to others. To share this is a critical requirement of us by Jesus Himself. Why should I care? Because Jesus is still present in this church through the sacraments which we need to be fed and to be tended properly for the salvation which Jesus Christ offers faithfully and lovingly to us until the end of time. That is important.
February 12, 2017
October 23, 2016
October 2, 2016