Homily for Wednesday, April 29, 29015

In today’s Gospel, Our Lord teaches us an important lesson about obedience. Christ tells us He does not speak on His own. He speaks what the Father commanded. The Son is obedient to the Father.

To whom are we obedient? Some like to believe they are obedient to no one. They are their own authority. They answer to no one and take direction from no one. This is a popular attitude among children, atheists, and fools, but most people grow out of it about the time they learn to distinguish fantasy from reality.

Are we obedient to the state? To some degree, yes. We obey laws; we pay our taxes. In so doing we participate in the common good. This isn’t the same sort of obedience, though. Doing something for our own good and for the good of others is different from pledging loyalty to the state no matter what.

I remember once seeing a sign that said, “My country, right or wrong.” That sort of blind allegiance to the state is dangerous and foolish. The state is a human institution and a human creation. As such, it can be wrong. It frequently is. Blindly and slavishly following the state can easily lead to disaster. It has in the past; it will again.

Are we obedient to our employer or our commanding officer? Again, there is a proper obedience owed to such an authority figure, but this is very different from holy obedience. We should all be very aware that the excuse “I was just following orders” does not absolve us of the guilt of our own actions.

Are we obedient within our families? This rises much closer to the sort of obedience that Christ exhibits. In the family, ideally at least, each should be working for the good of the other without consideration for his own gain. This can, of course, go astray – we are all fallen human beings. But the ideal is that those within the family show holy obedience and love as is appropriate to his or her position within the family.

Are we obedient to God as Christ is obedient to God? We should be, but we are not. If we were, we would be saints. Let us pray always for the grace to be perfectly obedient to God according to the model Christ gives us, for only then will we truly know perfect love.

Homily for Wednesday, April 22, 2015

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For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.

There is great comfort in these words for we who believe. We are offered eternal life through the resurrection on the last day. One could reasonably ask, “When is the last day?” Well, we know two things: the first is that we don’t know when the last day will be. The second is that it may well be sooner than we think.

In addition to those two things we know, there is a third I suspect: it doesn’t matter when Judgment Day comes – what matters is the state of our soul at the moment of our own death. Psychology tells us that the vast majority of people believe – at least at some level – that the end of the world will come in their lifetime. If that is so, then the cemeteries are full of people who were wrong on that one.

Still, in a very practical way, the Last Day for any one of us comes the day we die, because on that day we face the Four Last Things: death, judgment, heaven, and hell. All of us will see three of them; whether we see heaven or hell depends on the life we have lived. God desires to send no one to hell; those who go there go because of the choices they have made and the actions they have taken. God is infinitely merciful; He is also perfectly just.

For those of us who do believe in Jesus Christ, our belief must be transformative. It must influence the way we think… the way we speak… the way we act. It must be central to our lives, and not merely something that is done for an hour-or-so on Sunday. Belief must be nurtured and allowed to grow and flourish.

When we die, we are judged. Let us pray always for a transformative faith that influences and informs every aspect of our lives, so that at the moment of our death and the time of our judgment, we can be found worthy of everlasting life in the Kingdom of Heaven. True belief is not merely a one-time statement; it is a way of life.

From the Desk of Deacon Richard… April 26, 2015

Please see Page 5 of the expanded online edition of this week’s OLL Parish Bulletin at http://bulletin.ollraytown.com for a “Letter to the People of the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph on the Occasion of my Appointment as Apostolic Administrator, by Archbishop Joseph F Naumann.”

411px-Roman_Catholic_Diocese_of_Kansas_City_St_Joseph.svgBy now I am sure everyone is aware that Bishop Finn has resigned from the pastoral care of our diocese and that Kansas City in Kansas Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann has been appointed Apostolic Administrator of the diocese until such time as a new bishop is appointed. This is a time of change for our diocese.

I have seen a number of opinions expressed online in the 24 hours since the announcement of Bishop Finn’s resignation; some of those opinions have been downright shocking. Regardless of any individual’s feelings regarding Robert Finn as a bishop or as a man or what anyone believes he may have done or has failed to do, I would encourage everyone to practice the charity to which every one of us is called by virtue of our Christian dignity.

It would also be most wise to remember that very few know the entire story; certainly I myself am not one who does, yet I do know that the measure by which I judge is the measure by which I will be judged. This is a time for kindness and compassion… a time to be the best versions of ourselves and to put aside bickering and fault-finding.

This is also a time when much prayer is needed in our diocese. There are those who have been injured by the actions of others and there are many deep divisions that need to be repaired. However, we should all be united by our deep love of Christ, our love of Holy Mother Church, and our desire to move forward in Christian unity in the coming weeks and months.

I ask everyone to join me in praying for our diocese, for Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann in his role as our Apostolic Administrator, for Bishop Robert Finn, for the Holy Father’s wisdom in naming a new bishop for our diocese, and for those whose words and actions may have caused others pain during these difficult days.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

Homily for Sunday, April 19, 2015

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Understanding that the Bible is the word of God is key to understanding the Bible. It’s not a bad thing to look at Biblical texts in their historical context or their literary context — one can learn a lot that is valuable to the spiritual life in doing that. However, we must never in doing that lose sight of the fact that the word of God is living and effective. It is addressed as much to us in our time and place as it was to the ancient citizens of Jerusalem shortly after the passion, death, and resurrection of Our Lord.

I point this out because it is far too common for well-meaning people to dismiss a difficult teaching of the Bible as merely a relic of another time that does not in any way apply to us. This simply is not the case, and in today’s first reading when Peter addresses the people, he is addressing you and me just as surely as he was addressing the residents of Jerusalem some two millennia ago.I0419000116S0388AA_peter_apostle

““The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence when he had decided to release him. You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life you put to death.”

Well, that stings just a little bit. It doesn’t soften the blow much that Peter goes on to say that this was done out of ignorance. But sometimes the truth is the hard truth; softening it makes it not the truth anymore. Peter speaks to us this way not to reassure us or to make us feel better, but to make us realize the cold, hard truth: when we sin, we deny Christ. We hand Him over to death. We choose a murderer over the author of life. We – every one of us – is responsible for the death of Christ every time we sin; it is precisely because of those sins that Christ had to die.

This is the cold, hard truth that was true 2000 years ago as certainly as it is true today. It will continue to be true until the end of time and the Final Judgment. We can, however, find great reassurance in the fact that while it is true, it is not the totality of the story.

7838106752_4b8e9dcc9b_zIn today’s second reading, we encounter a passage from the first letter of John. First he exhorts us not to sin – and, really, this should be the goal for all of us. Though we may not fully reach our goal, if day by day, week by week, and year by year, we cooperate with the grace God gives us and detach ourselves more and more from sin, we can become like the saints. We can become what John calls us to be; we can become saints ourselves.

But until that time, John reassures us that “if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.”

The same Righteous One who Peter reminds us we handed over to death is the Righteous One who John assures us will intercede on our behalf. What wondrous love that is! What perfect and amazing love it takes to intervene on behalf of creatures so undeserving as we are — and not just for you and me, but for the whole world. We should never lose sight of the fact that Christ sees every man, woman, and child on this planet as being every bit as worthy as you or I am of receiving His love and grace.

So, if our sins are the reason Christ had to suffer and die and if our salvation is the reason He rose from the dead, where does that leave us? It ought to leave us crying out with the Psalmist: “When I call, answer me, O my just God, you who relieve me when I am in distress; have pity on me, and hear my prayer!”

The fact that He had to open their minds to the correct understanding of Scripture clearly indicates that there is a wrong — or, at least, incomplete — understanding of Scripture that they previously held. It tells us there is a right way and a wrong way to understand what is written in the Bible.

It ought to leave us understanding that we are called to repentance for our sins. It ought to leave us with the certain knowledge that we are called to turn from wrong paths and follow the Lord. When we repent, we are forgiven. When we amend our lives, we grow in relationship with Our God.

Jesus is not a ghost. Jesus is not an idea. Jesus is not a memory. Jesus is a man: flesh and bone. Jesus is God. Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to His disciples, asking them “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?” He told them, “Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”

He ate with them. He taught them. He commissioned them to go forth and to spread the Good News to all cities and nations. He commanded them to tell the Gospel to all people and to train others to follow after them, so that the Gospel would always be proclaimed.

He also did something else amazing. As Luke tells us in today’s Gospel reading, He “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” He enabled them to see everything in the Old Testament that prefigured the coming of the Christ… that prepared the people for their savior. The fact that He had to open their minds to the correct understanding of Scripture clearly indicates that there is a wrong — or, at least, incomplete — understanding of Scripture that they previously held. It tells us there is a right way and a wrong way to understand what is written in the Bible.

And it tells us very clearly that we need an authoritative interpretation of the Scriptures if we are to understand them. Christ gives that authority to His Church – the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. This is why Sacred Tradition is so important; this is why Holy Scripture alone is not enough. Without the Tradition that Christ began with His apostles and that continues in an unbroken line to us today, we would surely misunderstand the Scriptures. Our reading of them would be fragmented. Partial. We need an authority to open our minds to Scripture just as surely as Christ’s disciples needed an authority to open their minds.

For us, the authority is the Church. It is our Tradition that goes all the way back to the moment that Christ stood among His disciples and said, “Peace be with you.”

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We live in the age of the Church. The Church today is doing what it has done since the time of Christ: it is bringing His name to all peoples and nations. It is proclaiming repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Let us pray always for the grace to hear that which the Church proclaims and for the wisdom to answer the call of Christ – a call made in peace from His perfect love… a call that desires nothing more than that which is our greatest good.

Homily for Wednesday, April 15, 2015

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For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not have to be bothered with going to Mass on Sunday, but might go fishing instead… because it is better to sit at a lake thinking about God than it is to sit in church thinking about fish.

If I ever write a book entitled Things the Gospel Never Said, I’m going to lead with that quote. People have actually said that to me — at least, the part about sitting at the lake thinking about God being better than sitting in a church thinking about fish — and have, I honestly believe, in their own minds full of modernism and mush thought they have made a profound statement. Let’s think about it intelligently.

There are 168 hours in a week. God gives us plenty of time to fish and plenty of time to worship. If we give God ten percent, we should be in church or doing things that actively promote our good relationship with the Lord for 17 hours each week. Sixteen point eight if you want to be exact, but let’s round up for the Lord.

God doesn’t ask us for seventeen hours, though. He asks us for one. Or maybe an hour-and-ten-minutes if the homily is a long one. Giving the full seventeen hours is wonderful; giving more is delightful. Going to Mass on Sunday is the bare minimum.

No. It is not better to sit at a lake thinking of God than to sit in a church thinking of fish. It is better to give to God what is God’s due and to remain always in communion with the Lord, for God so loves us that He gave His only begotten Son so that we might have eternal life. It is — and I am speaking as one who loves to fish — very unwise to squander our chance at eternal life pursuing fish — or anything else of the world — during those hours we ought to be pursuing an actual relationship with the Lord. No one wants to spend eternity sitting by a lake of fire lamenting how we spent our time on earth.

Everything that we have comes from God. Truthfully, He asks very little in return. Let us pray always for the grace to live in the light and come to the truth, so that our works may clearly be seen as being done in God.

From the Desk of Deacon Richard… Chesterton’s Café

From the Parish Bulletin for
Sunday, April 19, 2015
The Third Sunday of Easter

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I have had this idea — or maybe you could call it a dream — for awhile of opening a restaurant that would feature gourmet soups, stews, and chili, plus fresh-baked bread. What would make it different is that when a person stops in and purchases lunch for him- or herself, the cost of the meal they buy also covers a bowl of the same soup and bread for a person who is homeless or hungry… essentially a buy-two-get-one plus the knowledge that you have just fed another human being.

Now, I have no idea if something like this could ever be able to generate sufficient income to keep its doors open and keep feeding people, which would be, I would think, the basic definition of success for a restaurant like this. Also, I should probably point out that I have no idea how to run a restaurant and am in no way qualified to do so. Aside from a short stint working in a fast food burger joint years ago when I was in high school, I have no experience in running a restaurant at all.

Still, I keep thinking about it and praying about it. And I feel like maybe the Holy Spirit is guiding me in it as the idea comes into more and more focus and takes on more shape. Father and I have discussed it and batted a few ideas around. We’ve even named it: Chesterton’s Café. It might be something that would be based at the parish, or it might not. It might involve a food truck, or with the regulations Kansas City puts in place it probably won’t — I found out this week it would take a total of 11 license to operate under such a model. And that’s not counting anything additional Raytown might add.

Will it ever happen and if it does, what form will it take? I have no idea. But I do know if it is truly inspired by the Holy Spirit that it will happen and it will happen in its own time and in the way it is suppose to happen… as long as I am open to the workings of the Spirit.

And this is true for all of us: if we are open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, then we will find ourselves guided to the path God intends for us. Our shortcomings won’t matter; what we don’t know won’t matter. When we are doing the work God intends, we will, as the psalm says, be guided in right paths. It has been rightly observed that God does not call the qualified, He qualifies those He has called.

Let us pray always for the grace to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit and to answer God’s call.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

Homily for Wednesday of Holy Week

Our opinions are prejudiced by what we know. We know that Christ is truly the Son of God; we know that Christ was crucified and rose from the dead. We know that the only path to salvation is Jesus Christ. We know these things, and they color the way we think.

Judas, however, did not know these things… not in the sure and certain sense that we know them. Judas doubted. He questioned. He was tempted away from the truth and into falsehood — and a terrible falsehood at that. Christ tells us that it would have been better for Judas if he had never been born.

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Now — 2000 years later — no one names his son Judas. The name Judas is synonymous with “betrayer.” To call someone a Judas is to state that that person cannot be trusted. He’s a backstabber. Underhanded. Dishonest. Today — Wednesday of Holy Week — is known traditionally as Spy Wednesday in commemoration of Judas selling out Our Lord.

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Selling out Our Lord. Those words should send chills down your spine. With 2000 years of Christian witness informing us that Jesus is Lord, no one wants to be a Judas. But remember: Judas had been one of the Twelve… one of Christ’s closest followers. Before he turned from the path of Truth, Judas was a part of Our Lord’s inner circle of disciples.

This should serve as a warning to all of us. We should not assume that the path we are on now is the one we will always follow. We should not assume that we will never stray. The same forces that tempted Judas are at work on us. We must be diligent in resisting those temptations.

Let us pray always for the grace to remain Christ’s true disciples, for the difference between disciple and betrayer can be as little as one single sin. Thankfully, Christ offers us His forgiveness… and if we do find ourselves straying from the path, we must never despair of Christ’s mercy.

Judas despaired of Christ’s mercy; this was his true betrayal, for this is the one betrayal that it is impossible for Christ to forgive. In order to be forgiven, we must ask for it. So let us never forget that Crist’s mercy knows no bounds and that to be forgiven, we need only to return to Our Lord and trust completely in His love.