Homily for the Solemnity of St. John the Baptist (B), Sunday, June 24, 2018:
By Father Scott Karnik, Associate Pastor @ St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church.
Holy Mother Church celebrates three births as solemnities. The first is the birth of Jesus Christ, with the Solemnity of Christmas. The second is the Solemnity of the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The third is this one, the Solemnity of the birth of St. John the Baptist. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons is in today’s gospel: “For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.” John the Baptist went about preaching a baptism of repentance. John was the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord. He was the precursor of Jesus Christ and the last of the prophets.
St. Luke’s Gospel sets the scene at John’s circumcision. The baby is circumcised and Elizabeth says he will be named John, not Zechariah. Zechariah confirms this and then his speech is restored. “Then fear came upon all their neighbors,…” Fear means an awesome reverence for God’s wonderful deeds. Elizabeth’s neighbors rejoiced with her because “the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her.” The Jews are aware of a deeper meaning in this. They don’t know what but they understand God is doing something special. “All who heard these things took them to heart saying, ‘What, then, will this child be?’ For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.” The Jews celebrated a boy’s circumcision with great religious joy. Circumcision admitted the boy to spiritual communion with Israel and gives him a share in the promises of the patriarchs. It was a deed of contract between the boy and God.
The parallel in the Christian church is what John did, he baptized. So this is a good opportunity to discuss baptism in the Roman Catholic Church. Baptism is called a “gateway sacrament.” It is the first sacrament Holy Mother Church administers to a person. Baptism is necessary for salvation. It must be actually received or there must be a sincere desire for it. Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3:5 "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." A priest administers baptism by a washing of water with the proper form of words. It is through baptism that men and women are: freed from sin, reborn as children of God, and, configured to Christ by an indelible character, are incorporated into the Church, this Church, Jesus’s Church, the one He established on the rock of St. Peter. Our souls are dead in original sin. Baptism gives the new life of sanctifying grace. Baptism frees us from Satan’s power. By baptism we enter into Jesus. We unite with Him in His Mystical Body and live with His life. Baptism is the door to other sacraments. One must first be baptized before receiving any other sacrament. Baptism washes away original sin and actual sins, and all the punishment due to them. A valid baptism requires a Trinitarian form. The priest prays, “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”, while pouring water on the person’s head. The person administering baptism must have the deliberate intention of doing so.
What is impressive and stunning about baptism is this: Every other sacrament we receive returns us to the state of grace and life we were in when we first were baptized. That is huge. Baptism is the first sacrament in which we receive God’s Holy Spirit into our souls.
Returning to the gospel, John the Baptist was Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s first child, a son. John should’ve been a priest, like Zechariah his father. But he wasn’t. He gave that up and went into the desert to be prepared for his mission. The passing of the Temple and the Law are foreshadowed in John the Baptist. Baptism and Jesus Christ replace them. In the Roman Catholic Church we baptize infants. In Acts, Chapter Two, Peter tells the Jews at Pentecost that they must “repent and be baptized, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, that your sins may be forgiven; then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It was to you and your children that the promise was made, and to all those still far off whom the Lord our God calls” (Acts 2:38-39). There is no verse anywhere in the Bible that restricts baptism to adults only.
It is breath-taking how important baptism is. It is breath-taking how much God graciously loves us, to restore His Life in us through this gateway sacrament. By the way, it is at baptism that we give a child his or her name, just like at circumcision. The name “John” means “Yahweh is gracious.” He is and baptism proves it.
Homily for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), June 17th, 2018:
By Father Scott Karnik
If you read closely this Sunday’s readings, you’ll get an impression of the importance of growth, gradual growth. You will also clearly see who governs that growth, God Himself. Those are important points.
In Ezekiel, this reading is at the end of the chapter. God promises Israel, through Ezekiel, His prophet, to plant a “tender shoot” from a high cedar. God Himself will care for it and grow it. God is all-powerful and sovereign. God can and will do this. This refers to the Messiah, the messianic king and His universal reign. This messianic king is a “tender shoot” from the royal house or royal lineage of King David. God will plant and grow this “tender shoot” when it appears that David’s royal lineage has dried up. This “tender shoot,” this messianic king, is, of course, God’s own Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus was born when Rome had conquered the known world to include Israel. St. Joseph is the last man is David’s royal lineage. He adopts God’s Son. Jesus is in David’s lineage. He is king. This king, Jesus, will become a magnificent cedar. That is a way to describe His kingdom. It will be universal and will shelter all nations, including the Gentiles. All kings will welcome this messianic king and acknowledge His divine origin. Under this majestic tree, the Messiah, holy men will experience spiritual growth. It will be so because these holy men faithfully worship in the Temple.
In St. Mark’s Gospel, Jesus describes God’s Kingdom. It is like a seed that is sown. It grows to maturity. The seed develops in the soil itself, with its own energies, until it is ready for harvest. God’s kingdom, which Christ has established, will grow gradually, consistently, to final maturity. God is all-powerful. God is sovereign. God will grow His Kingdom without violent revolution and without dramatic theater. Jesus says this to correct the religious error of His time. That false idea was that the Messianic kingdom would be inaugurated dramatically, politically, and suddenly.
So, what must we know? We must know that we cannot control the coming of God’s Kingdom. God is sovereign. God Himself will do this. The kingdom will be fully mature when all are brought to the kingdom.
What must we do? St. Mark wants his readers to be open to Jesus’s word and to draw deeper in a faith relationship with Him. We can’t grow the kingdom. But we can plant the seeds of faith, hope, love, mercy, holiness, obey the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Holy Mother Church. We can attend Holy Mass every Sunday and weekdays too, if possible. We can encounter Jesus in this Church’s sacraments. We can pray, individually and as a family, and attend Eucharistic adoration. We can actively oppose the sins of this world, like abortion, and many others. God bless those who go before the abortion clinic here in Fargo to pray, to give counsel, and to point out the immorality of abortion. Doing these tasks is sowing the seeds, even small mustard seeds. We plant them. God grows them.
Why should we care? Because we can’t stop God’s Kingdom from growing to final maturity. We can’t alter God’s Kingdom to what we think it should be and when we think it should appear and under what circumstances. God is all-powerful. God transforms. God grows. We care to walk in the dynamic life of faith. We care to sow the seedlings of virtues. We care to repent and be converted. We care to fix our souls on salvation, which St. Paul says is unseen but hoped for. God the Father and Jesus Christ His Son will do the rest.
By: Fr. Scott Karnik
Homily for the 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday, June 10th, 2018:
Today’s readings give us two ways to react to our own sinfulness. In Genesis, Adam and Eve have disobeyed God because they want to be like God. When God finds out that they have disobeyed the one command He gave them, He interrogates them, to get them to admit their sin. Adam and Eve respond by blaming someone else. Adam goes so far as to blame God. Adam says “The woman, whom you put here with me, she gave me the fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.” Eve said, “the serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.” Adam and Eve’s response is blame, pride, and “I did it anyway.” They express no contrition. But God expresses mercy and love anyway. God will care for humanity in spite of sin. It is God who takes the initiative to restore His relationship with man, after man (Adam and Eve) has disrupted it.
In St. Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’s relatives see Him serve God His Father. Jesus dismisses personal security (a good job as an excellent carpenter), safety (he decided to roam the countryside as a travelling rabbi), and personal reputation (he did not care what people thought of Him). He would serve God His Father. The scribes accuse Jesus of demonic possession when He exorcises demons. The Scribes and Pharisees hate Jesus so much that when they see God’s Incarnate love for mankind in Jesus Christ, they believe they are seeing the incarnate power of Satan instead. Jesus warns them that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgiveable. If someone refuses consistently the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit, they will end up being incapable of recognizing truth, right before their eyes. In their minds, evil will become good and good will become evil. A condition for forgiveness of sins is penitence, a feeling of pain or sorrow for sins. To refuse the promptings of the Holy Spirit will eventually destroy all sense of sin. If there is no sense of sin, there is no penitence, and there is no forgiveness because in our prideful souls, we haven’t sinned. “The woman, whom you put here with me”…she’s at fault, not me. The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.” It’s not my fault. But I disobeyed anyway. The scribes and Pharisees will end up being so hateful that they will plan and carry out Jesus’s crucifixion.
St. Paul writes that we are nomads in an earthly tent. We are to fix our gaze on what is unseen and hoped for, eternal love for God and unity with Him in heaven. We are to prepare for the eternal dwelling God is preparing for us. So therefore, our response to our sinfulness is shown in Psalm 130. It is a penitential psalm. The author pleads with God from “out of the depths.” The depth is that state of alienation and pain because he has sinned. He makes a supplication to God. A supplication is “a humble request in prayer.” He asks God for forgiveness of his iniquities, his wickedness. He declares that he will trust in the Lord and trust in His word. He will place his confidence in God’s forgiveness. The author believes the Lord is “kind,” the Lord is affectionate, gentle, and loving.” He believes the Lord has “plenteous redemption,” a willingness to buy back, to liberate one from sin by payment, by atonement for one’s sins. It is God’s own Son who will do that. This psalm contains a priestly assurance of salvation because of the psalmist’s penitence.
If we put these responses side-by-side, we see clearly how we are to respond to our sinfulness. We are to be humble penitents whom God will respond to with forgiveness, love, and mercy.
One more thing: Pray the Rosary. The first Sorrowful Mystery is Jesus’s Agony in the Garden. One of the purposes of praying that decade is to sharpen our contrition for our sinfulness. God’s response will be mercy and forgiveness, which is exactly what we need.
By: Fr. Scott Karnik
Corpus Christi Sunday Homily, Sunday, June 3, 2018:
The center of this Solemnity of Corpus Christi is sacrifice. Sacrifice brings about covenant. The common denominator in sacrifice and covenant is the shedding of blood. In the first reading from Exodus, the Israelites are willing to accept God’s will. So Moses writes the stipulations of the covenant, reads them to the people, and the people accept. Moses sacrifices bulls as peace offerings with God. Moses splashes half of the sacrificial blood on the altar. The altar symbolizes God. Moses sprinkles the rest of the sacrificial blood on the people. The sprinkled blood joins them to the blood splashed on the altar, God. There is now a covenant, a union between God and His Chosen People, the Israelites. The Israelites must keep the covenant in order to keep their union with God. To make a long story short, the Israelites fail. So God promises them a new covenant. The law will be written in their hearts.
In St. Mark’s Gospel, the Christian Eucharist is established as the new Passover. It is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is God’s perfect way to save all mankind. St. Mark’s Christians shared in the new covenant of Christ’s Body and Blood by sharing the Eucharistic bread and cup. But St. Mark also tells his readers that if they wish to share in Christ’s Eucharistic cup, they must also choose to share fully in Jesus’s way of suffering service. Imitating Jesus the Suffering Servant is essential to keeping this new covenant of grace. They, and we, must participate actively in Jesus’s mission on earth and keep His Commandments. We are to pour out our lives “for many.”
The Gospel scene is the Lord’s Supper. Notice the verbs St. Mark uses to describe this. “…he took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to them” (Mark 14:22). “…he took the cup, gave thanks and passed it to them, and they all drank from it” (Mark 14:23). You hear this repeated at every Mass. All of this emphasizes fellowship and covenant. Jesus transforms this bread into His Body. His Body is connected to a special event, His Death. We are to eat it. This is a new covenant sealed by Jesus’s Blood for His Community, His Church. Jesus’s saving power is applied to His disciples and to us to forgive our sins. We are to enact this new covenant by a legal and authoritative act, the Mass. We do this in memory of Jesus’s saving act. This memory unites us to Jesus’s one and only saving sacrifice. Remember in Exodus, the blood was splashed on the altar and sprinkled on the people, to unite them in a covenant. This memory is not a simple recall and acknowledgement of an act two thousand years ago. Anyone can do that. This is a memorial by which we today faithfully, willingly, and lovingly unite ourselves to Jesus’s one and only sacrifice of Himself on the Cross. Remember, a covenant unites us with Jesus and with God His Father. Christ offers the single sacrifice of Himself as a final annulment of sin, sins past, sins present, and sins future. Jesus sheds His Blood and dies. Jesus’s blood petitions God to forgive sins, purify us, and seal a covenant with God. In all of these respects, Jesus one sacrifice unto death replaces the old Israelite rituals. It fulfills them. Jesus Christ has accomplished the eternal forgiveness of sins in His sacrificial death. Therefore, it is Jesus who is mediator of this new covenant of grace. Jesus’s Passion and Death are His priestly offerings of Himself to atone for our sins. We consume His Flesh and Blood to unite ourselves to His Sacrifice and be saved in this new covenant of grace.
All that Jesus has done, and said, and taught, we will heed and do. Jesus forgives our sins and unites us to Himself and His Father in Jesus’s Mystical Body. That is the effect of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ, which we receive here. We must come here to receive Jesus’s Body and Blood in Eucharist. We must receive Him in this Sacrifice of the Mass. We unite ourselves with Jesus’s one and only sacrifice in this Sacrifice of the Mass, which is done in memory of Him. This Church is correct to teach that the Eucharist is the real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, not a symbol. No symbol can do this. Only Jesus saves. Jesus saves us through the Sacrifice of His Body and Blood, Corpus Christi. We ought to be very thankful to be Roman Catholics for this incredible fact alone. Here is what we must do. We must pray for a greater faith in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in Eucharist, the host and the wine, changed really and truly into Jesus’s saving Body and Blood. May we rejoice in the sacrament of Eucharist on this day, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.
February 12, 2017
October 23, 2016
October 2, 2016