Homily for Wednesday, July 29, 2015 – Feast of St. Martha

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Today is the Feast of St. Martha, a memorial on the Church’s calendar, and the day we commemorate Martha, the sister of Mary and of Lazarus, and who is remembered for being a bit of a worry-wart. The Bible tells us that when Christ visited their home, Martha busied herself with cooking, and serving, and doing all of the things that a person has to do when hosting a party. Mary, on the other hand, sat and listened to Jesus. Martha, understandably, was a smidge put out and thought that her sister should be helping with the housework. However, when she appealed to Jesus in hopes that He would send Mary to help, she was told “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Harold_Copping_Jesus_at_the_home_of_Martha_and_Mary_400This seems like a good time to remind that at Our Lady of Lourdes, we are learning to get over ourselves.

Yes; Martha was anxious and worried about many things. But that is not all of her story. She was also a woman of profound faith and insight. When her brother Lazarus died, understood that if Jesus had been there, He could have healed her brother. She tells this to Jesus, and He tells her that her brother will rise. Then she speaks words of profound insight: “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” This is a statement of faith; it is one that would not have been as universally accepted then as it is now. There were sects of Judaism that did not believe in life after death.

Recognizing her faith, Christ tells her something amazing: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

I am the resurrection and the life, Church of St Lazarus, Bethany

Then Christ asks her simply if she believes Him, and she says, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

We should all pray for the faith of Martha, who believed in the Christ and was rewarded for her faith. We should all pray for the grace to see Our Lord as He truly is: the Christ, the Son of the Living God, who came into the world for our salvation.

Mary-Martha-Lazarus

From the Desk of Deacon Richard… July 26, 2015

Dear Parish Family,

2010-04-09-JRomaine-Apostle-Paul-in-PrisonI, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.

Paul, writing from prison, is speaking to each one of us. Jailed and suffering, Paul’s first concern isn’t for himself; it is for each one of us who follow the call of Christ and that we live in a manner worthy of that call. It is easy to bicker, to backbite, and to find fault, but such actions are not worthy of our Christian dignity. It is easy to resent and to foster discord, but we are called to something far greater.

Humility and gentleness are acts of great courage. It takes firm resolve and self-mastery to be humble and gentle with others. Any fool can shout and call names, and there are plenty of fools in the world. We, though, are called to something far greater. We are called to brotherhood not only with those who love us, but with all of mankind. We are called to be the example — to show the way to Christ.

Early Christians weren’t called Christians; they were called Followers of The Way. Today, although that language has, sadly, largely been lost, we are still followers of The Way. It’s not one way; it’s not a valid way among a collection of equally valid ways. It is The Way — the one and only Way, and it leads us to Christ.

We cannot approach Christ through discord or violence; we cannot come to Christ bearing anger. We cannot be true followers of Christ unless we embrace peace and allow it to live in us and be at the very core of our being. In a world full of violence, it is our Christian duty to show to the world that there is another way — a better way — and that way is one of peace, wisdom, love, mutual respect, and upbuilding.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

Homily for the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene

July 22, 2015

Appearance of Jesus Christ to Mary of Magdala  by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov, 1860

After Christ is crucified and laid in the tomb, Mary Magdalene goes in search of Him. She finds Our Lord’s body is not in the tomb, and so she does what any good Catholic would do in this situation – she goes to the Church and asks. Peter and John – the leader of the Church and the apostle with the deepest theological insight – are not able to help her, and she returns to the empty tomb.

At the tomb as she is weeping for her lost Lord, she encounters two angels – emissaries of heaven itself. Even these cannot console her; her one concern is that they have taken her Lord and she cannot find Him.

Then Jesus Himself comes to her, but at first she does not recognize Him. She thinks He is a man charged with maintaining the grounds; she offers to take away Christ’s body, even though she has no real plan for what she will do after that. Not that it matters; the only thing that matters to her is Our Lord’s body, and that it be given the respect it deserves.

Finally, at Christ’s call, she recognizes Him. She is called; she rejoices; she is given a mission and sent. This is the Christian life in its entirety. This is what happens to each and every one of us. We long for the Lord, but we do not know where to find Him. Until we do find Him, nothing on earth or in heaven can console us or take His place. Once we do find Him, we have cause to rejoice.

But rejoicing is not enough; there is a step beyond that, and in that step we take up the mission our God gives us and we go forth, carrying His message and helping others to find Him. Let us pray always for the grace to find Jesus and to let Him be active in our lives, so that we may go forth proclaiming, like the Magdalene, that we have found the Lord and are sharing His gospel message.

Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 12, 2015

In today’s Gospel, Jesus sends His disciples forth on a mission; they go with nothing but a walking stick and they go to preach repentance. They carry no money; they carry no food or provisions. They don’t even take a change of clothes.

Now, I ask you: If I were to come to your house and ask food, lodging, and laundry service and what you get in return is being told you need to change your ways and come closer to Jesus, would you welcome me? Some would. Some would not. The message of repentance is sometimes not an easy one to hear.

It’s not an easy one to deliver, either. We all want to be liked; I’m no exception. If I tell you to repent… to change your ways… well, you might decide you don’t want to hear that. You might become angry at me for telling you that. Sometimes a message is a hard one to hear and accept, and it is easy to blame the messenger. It takes nothing on the part of the one casting the blame beyond an easy mustering of indignation and an overdeveloped love of self. On the other hand, it takes real humility and wisdom to hear a hard message – one that maybe hits uncomfortably close to home – and if not welcome that message, at least give it consideration and perhaps allow it to work a change for the good in your life.

I have kept my mouth largely shut, at least in the public sphere, over the last several weeks, but I have listened very carefully as a debate has raged in our nation over a recent Supreme Court decision. I imagine you probably know the one I mean. Now, however, I would like to take a few minutes to remind all of us what Holy Mother Church teaches regarding marriage.

Catechism_210x318The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us a very clear, simple definition of what marriage is: “MARRIAGE: A covenant or partnership of life between a man and woman, which is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children. When validly contracted between two baptized people, marriage is a sacrament.”

The important points here are these four: first, marriage is sacramental. Second, the purpose of marriage is twofold: the good of the spouses and the procreation and raising of children. Third, marriage is a lifelong commitment. And fourth, marriage is between a man and a woman. Our society has challenged and, to one degree or another, rejected every one of these four points. Acceptance of divorce as a means to dissolve marriage rejects the notion of a lifelong commitment. Legal recognition of invalidly contracted unions rejects the sacramentality of marriage. Acceptance of cohabitation rejects the well-being of the spouses as an end of marriage. Acceptance of contraception and abortion rejects the procreation and raising of children as an end of marriage. And, of course, the recent Supreme Court decision and the acceptance of that decision by the public-at-large rejects the fact that true marriage is between a man and a woman. Rejection of a truth does not make that truth any less true; it simply makes the one doing the rejecting wrong.

Canon-lawThe Church’s Code of Canon Law, the set of rules and canons by which our Catholic Church is governed, states in canon 1055, paragraphs 1 and 2 that, “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized. For this reason, a valid matrimonial contract cannot exist between the baptized without it being by that fact a sacrament.”

Notice that the Code restates (although in slightly more technical language) everything that the Catechism teaches, but it stresses even more the sacramentality of marriage. It goes so far as to state that if a marriage is valid, it is by its nature sacramental. Invalid marriages are not truly marriages, and a marriage is invalid if it does not meet the criteria presented in both the Catechism and the Code.

Now, it would be a mistake at this point to conclude that the Catholic Church has its understanding of marriage and civil society has its understanding of marriage and that the root of the problem is nothing more than using the same word to refer to two vastly different institutions. Listen to what the Church’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World adds to the Church’s teaching on marriage: “The intimate partnership of married life and love has been established by the Creator and qualified by His laws, and is rooted in the conjugal covenant of irrevocable personal consent. Hence by that human act whereby spouses mutually bestow and accept each other a relationship arises which by divine will and in the eyes of society too is a lasting one. For the good of the spouses and their off-springs as well as of society, the existence of the sacred bond no longer depends on human decisions alone. For, God Himself is the author of matrimony, endowed as it is with various benefits and purposes. All of these have a very decisive bearing on the continuation of the human race, on the personal development and eternal destiny of the individual members of a family, and on the dignity, stability, peace and prosperity of the family itself and of human society as a whole.”

matrimony

In this, the Church is going beyond the ends and purpose of marriage as they relate to the individual man and woman and emphasizing the importance of marriage to our society as a whole. Marriage is not the result of humans willing it; marriage is entirely the domain of God. Proper marriage brings dignity, stability, and peace not just to the married couple but to society as a whole. On the other hand, perversions of God’s plan for matrimony damage the dignity, stability, and peace not just of those in the invalid marriage but of society as a whole.

The family is the foundation of society. Strong families result in a strong society. Marriage is the foundation of the family. The family can only be strong and in its turn, society can only be strong when the society’s understanding of marriage is strong. There are many, many factors today eroding our society’s understanding of what makes a strong marriage: cohabitation, contraception, abortion, divorce and remarriage, and, of course, so-called marriages between anyone but one man and one woman. Every one of these contributes to the problem. Every one of these erodes the family and damages society.

The path we are on as a society is not a healthy one, and this should be a concern to each one of us who claims the role of follower of Christ. We are not called to be right all of the time; we are called to uphold in love the Church’s teaching and to work in charity for what is right. By doing that, we work for our own good and that of our neighbor.

There is one last very important point I want to absolutely stress: Maybe you have close friends who are divorced and remarried. Maybe you have a child who uses contraception. Maybe you know someone who is hurting from an abortion who has confided in you. Maybe you or your children cohabitated before marriage or continue to do so. I, myself, have a very dear friend whose marriage is now recognized as legal in the state in which she lives where only a few weeks ago it was not. What do we do about these people?

We love them, of course. Nothing more. Certainly nothing less. People are not the problem. People are the solution. Attitudes are the problem. Acceptance of wrong behavior is as damaging as the wrong behavior itself because both allow the wrong behavior to flourish. In the weeks leading up to the wedding of a very dear friend of mine, Katei and I were discussing the fact that we though he was rushing into things. That he was not ready for the commitment he was making. That the marriage would end sadly. One of our nieces, then in her early 20s, overheard us and commented in all earnesty, “Well, at least it’s only his first marriage.”

Changing wrong attitudes and changing wrong understandings is a work of charity and it cannot be approached successfully in any other way. Let us pray always for the grace to love all people and to realize that no person’s sins are unforgivable and that no person’s sins are worse than our own, for this is the wisdom and humility that we will all need if we want to draw others to the fullness of Truth, Christ Himself, as we also recognize our own need for repentance and ongoing conversion of heart and life.

From the Desk of Deacon Richard… July 12, 2015

olivyaz-jesus-Christ-sending-His-Apostles

Dear Parish Family,

….So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

When Christ sent the Twelve out to preach repentance, He knew that not all would listen. He knew that some — perhaps many — would reject His messengers and their message. Repentance is rarely a popular message to bring.

Sure, it’s popular enough when the message is, “repent and behave like that guy over there” if you happen to be that guy and you’re over there.

Sure, it’s popular enough when the message is, “repent and behave like that guy over there” if you happen to be that guy and you’re over there. However, when the message is: stop what you’re doing and change… well, the message suddenly becomes much less popular. Who are you to tell ME what to do?!

How different the world would be if our need to be right was tempered by humility and the realization that we are sometimes wrong… sometimes we are in need of not just repentance but of being called to repentance. It is one thing for us to realize personally that we need to change; it is quite another to accept (much less welcome) being told that is the case.

Let us all pray for the grace of humility and wisdom, so that when we are confronted with our own failings and our own need for repentance, we can welcome that message in the spirit that it is intended: as coming from God and meant for our eternal happiness. We never know when the messenger might arrive bringing a message we need desperately to hear.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

Homily for Wednesday, July 8, 2015

19 SHNORR JESUS SENDING HIS DISCIPLES

Christ sends the Twelve out. He sends them with the power to drive out demons and to cure every sort of disease. And, interestingly, He tells them not to go to the pagans or the Samaritans, but to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. They are to go, proclaiming that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

The first goal is the conversion of the Israelites. This should not be a surprise. These are God’s chosen people; these are the people that God wants to lead all nations to Him. Of course we know, that ultimately doesn’t happen.

If Christ were to send a messenger to Our Lady of Lourdes parish proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is at hand, would we believe him? What proof would we need? What miracles would our messenger have to work? In the end, would we reject him and would we reject Christ who sent him because the wonderful message we had waited a lifetime to receive turned out to be just too wonderful to believe?

The truth is, Christ is calling us – each and every one of us, and not just here at Our Lady of Lourdes, but everywhere. Christ wants every person alive to come to Him. He uses many messengers to make His call and sends abundant proof, and yet for so many the call is just too wonderful to believe.

Let us pray for the grace to not just hear Christ’s call ourselves, but to help others hear the call of Our Lord. Let us pray that through our thoughts, actions, and prayers we can be the messengers who lead others to Jesus and not be the barriers that stand in the way of His call being heard.

Homily for Wednesday, July 01, 2015

"The Miracle of the Gaderene Swine," 1883 oil on canvas, by Briton Riviere, 1840–1920

“The Miracle of the Gaderene Swine,” 1883 oil on canvas, by Briton Riviere, 1840–1920

Today’s Gospel passage is one that has always struck me as perhaps saying more than is immediately visible on the surface. Christ drives demons out of people and into a herd of swine, which are then drown. The swineherds run to town and tell of the drowned pigs — an animal unclean to the Jews, indicating that the people of this town are Gentiles — and of the rescue of the violent demoniacs. And then the people of Gadarenes come out not to thank Jesus… not to welcome Him into their town… but to beg Him to leave the area.

Now, I could understand the owners of the herd being upset, at least initially, at the loss of their valuable property. But why would the entire town come out and ask Jesus to leave? What did they have in their town that they didn’t want Jesus to see? Were they afraid of what they must have considered to be a Jewish miracle-worker? Or did they perhaps understand that Christ was more than a mere worker of miracles and that His very presence called them to conversion of heart and of life?

Perhaps more importantly, how alike are we today to the people of Gadarenes? If the Lord comes to us, is our society more likely to embrace Him or to ask Him to move along and not make a scene?

We are all called to conversion, both individually and as a society, because our faith has both a personal and a social element. It is a very good thing to have a personal relationship with Christ; however, it would be a mistake to conclude that is all we are called to have. We are also called to work for the transformation of our society — we are called to be the leaven that leavens the whole loaf.

Even when society seems to have lost its way and we see our friends and perhaps even family members celebrating that in society which is counter to the Gospel, we are called to be the voices of reason in an age of unreason. Let us pray for the grace to speak the truth and speak it with kindness and courage, and to live the truth so that by our example others may come to know the source of all truth, Christ Himself… for that is how Christ desires that we transform the world.