From the Desk of Deacon Richard…

Christ in the House of His Parents (1850)...

Dear Parish Family:
Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ. This is the last line from today’s second reading; it comes from Paul’s letter to the Philippians and it is very good advice for all people at all times and in all places.

All human persons from the instant of conception possess a certain dignity by virtue of the fact of being created in the likeness and image of God. This dignity in itself calls us to love our neighbor and to actively seek his good because we share with him the same nature, which is a reflection of God’s nature. Just as we desire God to be good to us, we, too, are obligated to be good to others.

In addition to that, we also possess a baptismal dignity — a uniquely Christian dignity — that is infused into our souls through the Sacrament of Baptism. This dignity does not make us better than our non-Christian brothers; however, it does make us different and it means that more is required of us. After all, to those to whom more is given, more will be expected.

Our baptismal dignity calls us to an excellence of behavior above even our innate human dignity. We are called to be vessels of the Gospel of Our Lord and to conduct ourselves always and everywhere in a way, as Paul writes, that is worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Let us pray that we may always live in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ and that our deeds may always reflect the Good News that we are called to live.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

Prayers of the Faithful – September 17th, 2014 — Confirmation

  1. For Holy Mother Church, that she may unite all people of good will who honestly desire to know, to love, and to serve God, let us pray to the Lord.
  2. For our political leaders, that the understanding that what is good for the family is good for the country may be a pillar of their work, let us pray to the Lord.
  3. For the sojourner and stranger, for the immigrant, for the poor and the marginalized, and for the homeless, that they may be met with hands and hearts open in friendship, let us pray to the Lord.
  4. For these sons and daughters of God and His Church, that they give witness to Christ through lives built on faith, hope, and charity, let us pray to the Lord.
  5. For the parents and godparents, that they may be models of faith and that by word and example they may encourage the confirmands always to live lives that are a witness to the Holy Gospel and worthy of their Christian dignity, let us pray to the Lord.
  6. And for a respect for all human persons from conception until a natural death, and for an increased awareness of the dignity of the human person, created in the likeness and image of God, let us pray to the Lord.

Saints Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr

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Today is the Feast of Saints Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr. Saint Cornelius was elected Pope in 251 during the persecutions of the Emperor Decius. In 253 Cornelius was exiled by Gallus and died shortly after. He is venerated as a martyr.

Saint Cyprian of Carthage, one of the great fathers of the Church in Africa, was a close friend of Pope Cornelius and was his ardent supporter against the antipope Novatian and in support of Cornelius’ teaching concerning the re-admittance into the Church of those who had committed apostasy in the face of Roman persecution.

Cyprian is the author of “The Unity of the Catholic Church,” written in the mid-200s, in which he argues that Christian unity is grounded in the authority of the bishop and in the primacy of the See of Rome.

“You cannot have God for your Father if you do not have the Church for your mother…. God is one and Christ is one, and his Church is one; one is the faith, and one is the people cemented together by harmony into the strong unity of a body…. If we are the heirs of Christ, let us abide in the peace of Christ; if we are the sons of God, let us be lovers of peace.” — from “The Unity of the Catholic Church” by St. Cyprian.

Cyprian was exiled and then martyred on the fourteenth of September, 258, during the persecution of Emperor Valerian.

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows – September 15

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“And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed,’” (Lk. 2:34-35).

Today, the day after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, we are asked to contemplate Mary’s role at the foot of the Cross, as she shared with Her Son in His compassion for sinners

Homily for the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September 14, 2014

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Today we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Why? Why would we exalt the cross? To exalt something means to hold it in very high regard. Why would we exalt the instrument of Christ’s death? The beginnings of the answer is found with Moses and the Hebrew people in the sojourn in the desert.

“With their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!’”

This wasn’t the first complaint the people lodged against God and Moses. It wasn’t their first act of rebellion, or their first sin. But this one caused God to send venomous serpents as a punishment. After all, the Hebrews were complaining —and, in effect, rejecting — God’s great gift of Manna and discounting the Almighty’s act of sustaining them by supernatural means.

Remember that the so-called “wretched food” that “disgusted” the people is a prefigurement of Holy Eucharist. If you or I were to reject God’s gift of the Eucharist like this — if we were to do something so terrible as to call the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, which is the source and summit of our spiritual life and is the most holy and perfect gift of God “wretched” and say that we were “disgusted” by it — we would be lucky to be punished by being bitten by a poisonous snake and dying.

Lucky? Am I being overly dramatic? Hardly! Such a death —intensely agonizing though it may be — would be a very lenient punishment indeed compared to the intensely agonizing eternity in hell we would merit for such a transgression.

So, between the beauty and the horror we stand, facing Christ crucified on the Cross.

But even though the Hebrews may have merited such a punishment, God — in His great mercy — sent the remedy. He gave them a way to repent of their sin and to avoid not the entire effect of the punishment — they still suffered the fact of being bitten by a snake — but the finality of death as a result of the punishment. Moses, at God’s command, made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, so that whoever looked on it would live. Consider, for a moment, Christ nailed to the Cross and lifted up, “so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

We all sin. We all are in need of repentance. We are all in need of salvation. No one can save himself; we are all totally dependent upon God for our salvation. And yet, sinners though we are, God — in His infinite mercy — “did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”

The bronze serpent was given to save the physical lives of the Hebrews. The result of their sin was immediate, proximate, and final: they were bitten by serpents and died.

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Our sins generally do not result in our immediate physical death (though some might). But they always contribute to our spiritual death. Every little sin we commit moves us a little bit closer to a spiritual death; every great sin we commit moves us a great deal closer to a spiritual death. Some sins are so grave and so mortal that such a sin committed one time is enough to completely sever our spiritual bond of love with God — to separate us from God, possibly for eternity.

If we die physically while in such a state of spiritual death, we die separated from God. God doesn’t send anyone to hell; people choose hell by committing sinful acts that separate them from the true source of love and light and by not repenting of those sins and returning to spiritual life. Christ was lifted up on the Cross to save us from a spiritual death and to make possible our eternal life.

I have a friend who is a pastor at a very liberal nondenominational church in Olathe. She told me before last Easter that she was not going to mention Judas in the Easter celebrations and was in fact considering taking out any mention of the Crucifixion, because that focused on the negatives and was a downer. I felt terrible for her. Though well meaning, she was making a tragic mistake. The Crucifixion of Christ isn’t a downer. It is horrible. And it is beautiful.

It is horrible in that Christ, fully God and fully human, experienced a great horror. He was scourged, beaten, and nailed to a cross. I think it’s horrible if I hit my thumb with the hammer. Imagine the horror of having nails purposefully driven through your hands and feet. How many hammer blows does it take to drive a nail through flesh and bone? I hope there is no one who can contemplate that and not feel horror.

It is beautiful because Christ, the perfect high priest, offered the perfect sacrifice on our behalf. He gave Himself. Moreover, He gave Himself for us. There is a depth of beauty in that act of love that is breathtaking. What an act of mercy it is to take the burden upon Himself so that we do not have to bear that which is too great for us to bear.

So, between the beauty and the horror we stand, facing Christ crucified on the Cross. The Hebrews looked on the physical bronze serpent with their physical eyes for the salvation of their physical lives; we are called to look upon the spiritual reality of Christ’s crucifixion with our spiritual eyes for the salvation of our souls. Yes; we can certainly look upon the physical representation of the crucifix to begin our contemplation but our gaze must transcend the physical; it is not the image of the crucifix that saves, but the sacrificial act of Christ that saves. The physical representation is simply a window to the spiritual truth.

When we truly see in a spiritual way the beauty of the Cross and of Christ’s sacrifice for us, we can begin to grasp that which can never be fully understood: the infinite depth of God’s love for us and the terrible price He paid for us, His unworthy children. Authentically seeing in a spiritual sense the beauty and the mystery, the majesty and the horror of the Crucifixion is the beginning of a true exultation of the Holy Cross.

Christ’s perfect sacrifice transformed the cross from an instrument of death to an instrument of life. Christ makes all things new. “Brothers and sisters: Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.”

But this is not the end. The Resurrection follows the Crucifixion just as surely as life follows death, because Christ makes it so. And this is why we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, because “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

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Prayers of the Faithful – September 14th, 2014

  1. For Holy Mother Church, that she may unite all people of good will who honestly desire to love and to serve the Lord, let us pray to the Lord.
  2. For our political leaders, that the understanding that what is good for the family is good for the country may be a pillar of their work, let us pray to the Lord.
  3. For the sojourner and stranger, for the immigrant, for the poor and the marginalized, and for the homeless, that they may be met with hands and hearts open in friendship, let us pray to the Lord.
  4. For an increase in Adorers at the Pope John Paul the Great Perpetual Adoration Chapel and for a worldwide increase in the recognition of Christ present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament, which is the source and summit of our spiritual life, let us pray to the Lord.
  5. For our soldiers, sailors, and airmen – especially those who are entering basic training – that God may protect them and watch over them always, let us pray to the Lord.
  6. And for a respect for all human persons from conception until a natural death, and for an increased awareness of the dignity of the human person, created in the likeness and image of God, let us pray to the Lord.

From the Desk of Deacon Richard. . .

Dear Parish Family:

The Holy Gospel according to John, chapter 3 verse 16 and following… This is perhaps the best known pair of verses in the whole of Scripture: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”

Slightly less well known are the verses immediately preceding these… verses that speak of the crucifixion of Christ: “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

Moses lifted up the bronze serpent on a pole at the command of God as a remedy for the punishment they were receiving for having turned against God and Moses; they were despairing of their deliverance and rejecting the gifts of God.

Just as the saraph was a remedy for sin that saved the physical lives of the Hebrews, so, too, is the crucifixion of Our Lord and Savior a remedy for sin that saves the soul. And just as the use of the saraph was made necessary because the Hebrews sinned, so, too, is the Crucifixion necessary because all people are sinners. God so loved the world that he gave His only Son. Jesus was given as a remedy for our sinful nature.

And just as the Hebrews looked upon the saraph with their physical eyes for the physical healing, so, too, must we look on Our Lord crucified with our spiritual eyes for the healing of our souls. I invite you to look on the Crucifix during Mass and see it not merely with your physical eyes, but with your spiritual eyes, also. See the spiritual mystery that it contains.

When we truly see in a spiritual way the beauty of the Cross and of Christ’s sacrifice for us, we can begin to grasp that which can never be fully understood: the infinite depth of God’s love for us and the terrible price He paid for us, His unworthy children. Authentically seeing in a spiritual sense the beauty and the mystery, the majesty and the horror of the Crucifixion is the beginning of a true exultation of the Holy Cross.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

Prayers of the Faithful – September 7th, 2014 YOUTH MASS

  1. For the Shepherds of Christ’s holy Church, especially Francis, our pope; Robert, our bishop; and Father Angelo, our pastor, that these men may always be effective witnesses to the love of God and to the dignity of an authentically Christian life, let us pray to the Lord.
  2. For the youth of our parish, for their friends, and for all young people throughout the world, that all may grow in the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, and in the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude, let us pray to the Lord.
  3. For an increase in Adorers at the Pope John Paul the Great Perpetual Adoration Chapel and for a worldwide increase in the recognition of Christ present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament, which is the source and summit of our spiritual life, let us pray to the Lord.
  4. For an increase of vocations to the ministerial priesthood, the permanent diaconate, and to religious life, let us pray to the Lord.
  5. For our service men and women in the armed forces, that God may protect them and watch over them always, let us pray to the Lord.
  6. And for a respect for all human persons from conception until a natural death, and for an increased awareness of the dignity of the human person, created in the likeness and image of God, let us pray to the Lord.

Prayers of the Faithful – September 7th, 2014

  1. For Holy Mother Church, that she may unite all people of good will who honestly desire to love and to serve the Lord, let us pray to the Lord.
  2. For our political leaders, that a dedication to the common good and to the advancement of all may be a pillar of their work, let us pray to the Lord.
  3. For those suffering from sickness, injury, or infirmity – especially those who are a part of our parish family, that they may find both healing and comfort in their time of need, let us pray to the Lord.
  4. For an increase of vocations to marriage and for a deep respect for the Sacrament of Matrimony, let us pray to the Lord.
  5. For our soldiers, sailors, and airmen – especially those who are entering basic training – that God may protect them and watch over them always, let us pray to the Lord.
  6. And that Missouri legislators will have the courage to protect and defend the lives of those who cannot speak for themselves, let us pray to the Lord.