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.
Homily for Divine Mercy Sunday, April 28th, 2019:
Today, we celebrate “Divine Mercy Sunday” in the Roman Catholic Church. Holy Mother Church has wisely placed this special Sunday one week after the celebration of Easter. Why? Because of what is happening to the infant church after Jesus has lived, died, and rose from the dead. Acts of mercy break out.
“Mercy” is defined as: “compassion or forbearance shown to an offender, clemency”; “a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion”; and “compassion shown to victims of misfortune.” In the first reading from Acts, “compassion shown to victims of misfortune” applies very well. The reason is that the Twelve had a charismatic power to heal the sick. In Jesus’s name, the Apostles demonstrate extraordinary power over death, demons, and disease. The response of the Jews in verses 15 and 16 prove it. Healing is an act of mercy.
In Psalm 118, the stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. Jesus Christ uses this prophecy to refer to Himself. The Jewish nation and religious authorities reject Him as Messiah but God exalts Him. Quite frankly, it is the same with Jesus’s Apostles. They were selfish and self-seeking. Jesus could not have chosen a more uninspiring group of men as His Apostles. But after Jesus ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit on them to begin this church, that same Holy Spirit that Jesus sends to them elevates them and gives them this charismatic gift of healing. They become living, Spirit-filled stones attached to the cornerstone of Jesus’s Mystical Body, the Church.
In the gospel reading from John 20:19-31, Jesus appears to the Eleven. Thomas is not there. Jesus “…breathed on them and said: Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound”(John 20:22-23). Holy Mother Church points to those verses as proof that the sacrament of Penance, Reconciliation, or Confession is scripturally based. Jesus also recreates God’s people in this believing community of His Apostles. Then, Jesus makes His Mission their Mission too. The apostles’ mission is to reveal God, who is love, in their words and their deeds.
In the readings from Acts and John’s gospel, the deeds that the Apostles perform are works of mercy. The Catholic Church, in her wisdom, classifies these works, which we can and must do. The healing acts of mercy are called the corporal works of mercy. They include: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick, shelter the homeless, visit prisoners, bury the dead. Those are corporal acts of mercy. In John’s gospel, forgiving sins is a spiritual act of mercy. Holy Mother Church, in her Spirit-filled wisdom has identified these acts as spiritual works of mercy: counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish the sinner, comfort the sorrowful, forgive injuries, bear wrongs patiently, and pray for the living and the dead. Those are spiritual works of mercy that we, in this same church that the Apostles led two-thousand years ago, can perform. We will now ask Jesus Christ to send us His Holy Spirit to sharpen our efforts to perform these merciful works. We will now pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Please take out your rosaries and kneel down….
Easter Sunday Homily ©, April 21st, 2019:
The Easter Sunday readings today all speak “past tense” about Jesus Christ’s life, passion, death, and resurrection. Their effect is unification of all peoples to the cornerstone, which was first rejected by the builders.
In Psalm 118, the author writes a thanksgiving hymn after a victory. This psalm was recited or sung upon entry into the Temple. The key is verse 22: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. Then verse 23 continues: “By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes.” What is insignificant has become great through divine election. Some bible commentators say the stone is the Hebrew nation, which the Gentiles scorned. But God raised Israel to conspicuous glory, during King Solomon’s reign. The queen of Sheba came to Israel to listen to Solomon’s wisdom. The temple was built through the help of King Hiram of Tyre. He was an ally of Solomon and Solomon’s father, David. Hiram supplied money, materials, and masons to help build the temple that would house God’s presence. So Gentiles had their fingerprints on God’s House in Jerusalem by helping the Jews build it. That is important. Jesus Christ Himself uses this psalm to describe Himself. Jesus Christ is the Jewish Messiah. He applies this verse to His own rejection by the Jews and His exaltation by God His Father. The victory has been won. Jesus Christ has lived, died, and has risen from the dead. Jesus is our Savior.
St. Paul tells the Colossians that they have been resurrected too with Christ at baptism. In their baptism, they died a mystical death and have been raised to new life. They are free but St. Paul tells them to use their newfound freedoms responsibly. To live in Christ means to act, to love, and to think and not to be enslaved to worldly, material matters. You are free of them. St. Paul tells the Colossian church that they will be revealed in glory when Christ is revealed in glory at the judgment. St. Paul says that the Christian church hopes for Jesus’s return in glory. This is part of Christian belief. St. Paul writes all of this past tense because Jesus has already lived, died, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and has sent the Holy Spirit on His Church. St. Paul says the Colossians’ new life should be one long lifting up of their hearts to the Lord, until they are united with Christ at His revelation in glory.
St. Peter preaches the Christian message to Cornelius. Cornelius is a Roman centurion, a Gentile. St. Peter preaches to this Gentile and his household that Jesus Christ is lord of all, both Jews and Gentiles alike. St. Peter tells Cornelius about Jesus’s ministry, death, resurrection, His commissioning of His Apostles. St. Peter finishes his speech by recalling the Old Testament prophets who proclaim that all (Jews and Gentiles) who believe in Jesus Christ will have their sins forgiven in His name.
St. Peter tells Cornelius that God is impartial. God’s choice of Israel as His chosen nation does not mean that God has withheld divine favor from other men. St. Peter says that God’s plan for mankind’s destiny is wrapped up in Jesus Christ. Jesus’s ministry is integral to our salvation. Jesus’s ministry is so important that we bear Jesus Christ’s presence in the seven sacraments that He has revealed in our church, for the salvation of each and every one of us, Jew and Gentile alike. That is the important message. We are all unified in the person of Jesus Christ, who has risen from the dead, seated at God’s right hand, from there He shall come in glory to judge the living and the dead. His mystical body is the new temple, not made by human hands. He is the cornerstone and on this Easter Sunday, we are to be living stones in faithful contact with Jesus’s Temple, His mystical Body, the Church. This is the new life we lead, thanks to Jesus Christ’s personhood, mission, and ministry. Jesus unifies us, Jew and Gentile alike in love. Now sin will not reign in our hearts. Jesus will, if we let Him. Praised by the risen Savior, Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.
Today the primary human problem, the core issue that defeats human history, is both revealed and resolved. It is indeed a “good” Friday. The central issue at work is the human inclination to kill others, in any multitude of ways, instead of dying ourselves—to our own illusions, pretenses, narcissism, and self-defeating behaviors. Jesus dies “for” us not in the sense of “in place of ” but “in solidarity with.” The first is merely a heavenly transaction of sorts; the second is a transformation of our very soul and the trajectory of history.
Cain has forever been killing Abel, the pattern is revealed from the very first children of Adam and Eve. Yet, thank God, and usually unnoticed, even Cain is “marked” for protection as he wanders East of Eden (Genesis 4:16). That marking became for Christians “the sign of the cross,” our vaccination against killing—and being killed by our killing! But our vaccination did not always take; we who “worshiped” the Scapegoat usually became scapegoaters too. Always the problem was “elsewhere” than in ourselves, or merely outside instead of inside.
The soul needed one it could “gaze upon” long enough to know that it was we who were doing the “piercing” (John 19:37) and we who were being pierced in doing it. Jesus’ body is a standing icon of what humanity is doing and what God suffers “with,” “in,” and “through” us. It is an icon of utter divine solidarity with our pain and our problems. It is both an external exposing and an eternal holding of the Great Mystery. It is our central transformative image for the soul. Whenever you see an image of the crucified Jesus, know that it is the clear and central message unveiled. It reveals what humanity is doing to itself and to one another. Don’t lessen its meaning by making it merely into a mechanical transaction whereby Jesus pays some “price” to God or the devil. The only price paid is to the intransigent human soul—so it can see!
Humanity hates and attacks what it has every good reason to love—itself, God, and the rest of creation. It cannot say with Jesus, “Father, forgive them all, they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). None of us really knows what we are doing until the outer crucifix becomes the inner revelation of every act of human barbarism, war, torture, starvation, disease, abuse, oppression, injustice, early death, and absurd lives “from the blood of Abel the Holy to the blood of Zechariah whom you killed” (Matthew 23:35)! These are the first and last murders in the Jewish Bible of Jesus’ time, and Jesus seems to see them as one collective. It is the same and consistent human blindness since the beginning of time.
On the cross, the veil between the Holy and the unholy is “torn from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51), the “curtain of his body” becomes a “living opening” (Hebrews 10:20) through which we all can now walk into the Holy of Holies, which on different levels is both our own soul and the very heart of God. Nothing changed in heaven on Good Friday, but everything potentially changed on earth. Some learned how to see and to trust the contract between God and humanity. God has always and forever loved what God created, “It was good, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). It was we who could not love and see the omnipresent goodness. We were trapped outside the veil.
But now, as our Second Reading says today, we can “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and favor” (Hebrews 4:16). The curtain is, and always has been, wide open, as we see dramatized in the naked body and bleeding heart of Jesus, which we Catholics call “the Sacred Heart.” It seems we needed an image that shocking, dramatic, and compelling or we just could not get the point, see ourselves, or trust the Great Love.
Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured. . . He was pierced for our offenses, and crushed for our sins, upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole.” [Now do not think of this as an act of suffering for nearly as much as an act of suffering with. It makes a major difference.] —Isaiah 53:4–5
“‘Now it is finished.’ [The lie is over.] And he bowed his head and gave up His Spirit.’” [The truth was handed on to history.] —John 19:30
“Crucified Jesus, you are not a stranger to my soul, you are not foreign to our history. You have revealed, resolved, and forgiven it all on the cross. I join the whole world today in thanking you. This is indeed a good Friday.”
it is the holy sacrifice of jesus christ on the cross and in the mass that will unify the world in one faith
Homily for Holy Thursday, April 18th, 2019:
If you want to be united in a strong, Catholic faith, attend Holy Mass faithfully. It is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which will unite all of us and bring all of us, regardless of our faith, back into the fold of one faith, one church, one union, just as Jesus and God His Father are one (John 17:22).
St. Paul explains this in his first letter to the Corinthians. St. Paul has seen the Corinthians abuse the celebration of the liturgy/mass. So he informs them how to celebrate it. St. Paul inserts in these instructions the institution of the Eucharist. He emphasizes Jesus’s repetition over the bread and the cup the words “Do this in remembrance of me”(Luke 22:19;1 Cor 11:24). St. Paul argues that Jesus’s self-offering and His death are proclaimed in the liturgy and they are antidotes to the splits and factions that plague the Christian church in Corinth. He argues that Jesus’s life and death are more than simple memories. They are unifiers! The Eucharistic celebration is significant and timeless. St. Paul writes that when Christians share Jesus’s Body and Blood, they recall Jesus’s command to do this “in remembrance of me”(Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24). They also recall Jesus’s death and look forward to His Second Coming in glory. In this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, three stages of time unite: the past (the original Last Supper), the present (our celebration here today), and the future (Jesus’s Second Coming in glory). This is a life-changing event that only Jesus Christ can do, and He does, in His Real Presence in Eucharist. St. Paul also says something else that is very important: “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me’”(1 Cor 11:23-24). It is those words “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you,…(1 Cor 11:23) that are important. St. Paul celebrates the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because it has been handed on to him in his ordination to the priesthood. This was handed on to him, indirectly by the Apostles. He did not take this upon himself. He was commissioned/ordained for it. St. Paul tells the Corinthians the new covenant is ratified in Jesus’s blood, shed for sinners.
St. John’s gospel reading places Jesus and His disciples at the Last Supper before Passover. But St. John doesn’t describe the Eucharistic dimension as the other gospel writers do. St. John emphasizes union. He emphasizes the union of Jesus Christ with God His Father and the Holy Spirit, Jesus’s union with His disciples, and the disciples’ union with each other. The uniting force is love, love for each other and love for Jesus Christ. Jesus washes His disciples’ feet. He washes Judas’s feet too, even though Judas is the unclean one. Jesus then tells them to wash each others’ feet too. St. John emphasizes Jesus’s and our humility in order to perform this menial task, on our knees, for God’s people. It is a lesson in humility. Humility is needed to perform a service of charity. They do this after eating and drinking at the liturgical celebration of Eucharist. Jesus promises that they will be happy if they perform these menial duties for others.
Union is the result of all of this: liturgy, service. These acts unify because of love. And it is love that Jesus demonstrates through this incredible self-offering of Himself on the Cross, in His Real Presence of His Body and Blood in Eucharist, and in performing the menial tasks of humble Christian service.
Palm Sunday Homily ©, April 14th, 2019:
Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, described Jesus Christ as “a mighty savior, born of the house of His Servant, David”(Luke 1:69). Jesus is also a humble and loving Savior, who offers Himself to His Father to reverse everything Adam did in disobedience.
St. Paul tells us that Jesus “…did not regard equality with God something to be grasped”(Phil 2:6). It was Adam (and Eve) who submitted to Satan’s assertion that “…you will be like gods, who know good and evil”(Gen 3:5). To make things right between us and God, Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, rejects pride and self-exaltation. Instead, Jesus “…emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,…(Phil 2:7). Jesus empties Himself of His equality with God. Jesus then took on Himself Adam’s slavery to corruption and sin. Jesus then “humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross”(Phil 2:8). St. Paul writes to the Philippian church that Jesus embraces humility and selflessness and those two qualities led to His Passion and death. St. Paul then writes that God the Father (of Jesus Christ) then “greatly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name,…”(Phil 2:9). Jesus stooped down to pick us up so we could live. Now, those who suffer and die for the faith can expect resurrection and new life when Jesus returns.
In today’s gospel, Jesus offers Himself as the new Paschal Lamb when He declared the bread and the wine as His Own Body and Blood (Luke 22:19-20). The Church understands this as Eucharist. It signifies a new covenant which signifies union between God and man. Once Jesus has done this, He then tells His apostles, His first priests, to do what He has just done in remembrance of Him. To “do this in memory of me”(Luke 22:20), means the priests are to conduct the ritual and the self-gift of Jesus’s Body and Blood which the ritual makes into a sacrament. This is to be done until the end of time to keep us in this new covenant which Jesus so humbly, lovingly, and obediently enacted for us and for God His Father.
Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent ©, April 7th, 2019:
The newness of life in God’s kingdom includes this incredible portrayal of Jesus’s mercy. In that way, this gospel reading is as beautiful as last Sunday’s gospel of “The Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:1-3,11-32).
The important point from today’s gospel is that Jesus is introducing a new covenant to the Scribes and Pharisees. This “new covenant” is what God promised through the prophet Jeremiah: “See, the days are coming…when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors the day I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke my covenant, though I was their master….But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days….I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people”(Jeremiah 31:31-33). Jesus doesn’t answer their question directly. He refers their question to their own hearts and souls. Jesus turned on the judgmental Scribes and Pharisees the discomfort of their own hypocrisy. They can neither judge nor punish because they know that they are sinners. Their own consciences accuse them. Jesus sets aside the Law, which the Scribes and Pharisees hold up as the ultimate code of conduct. When He asks her “Has no one condemned you?”(John 8:10), she answers, “No one, sir”(John 8:11). Then, Jesus will not condemn her either. But Jesus does condemn the sin and forgives her of it. He tells her to “Go, and from now on do not sin any more”(John 8:11). This story illustrates forgiveness of sins for baptized Christians.
This is the importance of living in Christ by faith. Our values change completely. Righteousness comes from God through His Son, Jesus Christ. So therefore, placing our faith in Jesus Christ gives us salvation, not a self-gained righteousness by observing the Mosaic Law. Remember that the Scribes and Pharisees want to destroy Jesus’s credibility with the people. They want to sever the people’s allegiance to Jesus. So they sense an opportunity by placing this adulterous woman before Him, in front of a crowd. They hope Jesus will treat her leniently and scandalize Himself in their eyes. They would think Jesus would disobey the Mosaic Law. Instead, Jesus ignores their trap and goes deeper, into their souls. Then the Scribes and Pharisees expose their own hypocrisy by dropping their stones on a pile, and walking away. They won’t stone her because they morally cannot.
The Scribes and Pharisees, and the people who listen to and follow Jesus, are asking themselves this question: Is Jesus the completely unique Son of the Father, with a relationship so close that He and the Father become identical in will, word, and work? And, can and should Jesus be referred to as the divine “I am”? Is Jesus God? Jesus is telling the Scribes and Pharisees and the people following Him that the Father has sent Him. Jesus indicates His divine origin and His obedience and subservience to God, His Father. The Pharisees, Scribes, and religious leaders cannot accept that. This will cost Jesus His life. He knows it too. But the price of this degree of forgiveness and mercy from God will be His death to be followed by His resurrection. St. Paul writes that salvation means participation in the power of Christ’s resurrection and a sharing in Christ’s suffering and becoming like Him in death. This means death to our sinfulness. This too, is part of the newness of life offered to us in Christ’s kingdom.
February 12, 2017
October 23, 2016
October 2, 2016