Homily for July 5, 2020 (Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time)
Jesus the Consoler
The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in mercy.
The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all your works.
These words, from today’s Responsorial Psalm 145, point us to today’s gospel reading from Matthew, Chapter 11, for Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”
It is why I chose for our bulletin cover a painting by Carl Bloch, a Danish painter born in 1834 and died in 1890. He was noted for his paintings of Jesus from the gospels. In today’s painting, it is titled, “Christ the Consoler.” And pictures Jesus standing, with His arms lifted up, and looking out at us. And at His feet, are some men, sitting on the ground at Jesus side, leaning against His legs, their heads down as if sleepy. They look exhausted.
And there are others who are standing to Jesus’ side and behind him in His shadow. All with their faces turned toward him, their eyes looking intently at Him as if seeking something, full of hope and in need. Indeed, Jesus is truly their Consoler.
And, as He stands there looking out at you and me, the artist is perhaps putting on the lips of Jesus these words, “I am your consoler. Turn to Me in your time of trouble and let Me be your strength. You are not alone. Lean on Me. I love you even when you feel most unlovable. Never abandon this hope. Come to Me all who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Our Own Distortions.
I must confess that I fail to see Jesus, my Consoler, each day as I should. I can get so wrapped up in my own Anxiety and Fears, and yes, my Ego, that it creates a block. It’s like when I wear the mask like you’re wearing in these Pandemic days. If I go into a store, it fogs up these glasses I wear, and distorts my vision a bit. (Although I’ve gotten a bit better at learning how to adjust the mask, so it doesn’t fog them up as much.)
But this type of thinking can block me from seeing Jesus, I called it, Stinkin’ Thinkin’—a phrase I’ve heard. It distorts the Truth. It makes me live in a Fog, so to speak—a Spiritual Fog. The only remedy is for me to sit down at the feet of Jesus like those men in the picture and to lean against Him. I am burdened by my Stinkin’ Thinkin’, and if I sit like this at His feet, He frees me of it, so that I rise and see more clearly, and yes love Him and others more dearly.
I can come to Jesus through a simple prayer that a Trappist monk taught me many years ago on retreat. It goes like this: “Lord Jesus, I want to truly love you. Help me love you more and more.”
There is another saying of Jesus in our Gospel Acclamation and in the Gospel itself: “Blessed are you, Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth. You have revealed to the little ones the Mysteries of the Kingdom.”
In Memory of Father Erb
Here, I cannot help but think of our dear Father Erb, whom God called to Heaven this past Thursday, July the 2nd. Through his Priestly Ministry, Father Erb lived out Jesus’ words: Father, you have revealed to little ones the Mysteries of the Kingdom. For, Father Erb’s preaching, and his kindly, warm, friendly way with people, helped people to see the Love and the Kindness of Jesus, reaching out His arms to them through Father Erb. You could say that Father Erb was a portrait of Christ the Consoler through his own outreach to others.
I always remember Father Erb, having vested for Mass in the sacristy, leaving the sacristy, and then starting down the center aisle to go to the back of the church for Mass to begin. And he would stop along the way, and he would stop at various pews. He would greet the people with a smile, a friendly hello, perhaps ask how they were doing. Eventually, he would make his way to the back of the church where he continued to greet the people as they entered church. He will also be remembered for his homilies, which usually included a funny story to bring a smile or a chuckle.
Of course, now that you’re wearing masks, I can’t see if you’re smiling or not, but I have a little joke to tell you to hopefully to bring a smile to your face. And it’s a Cow Joke. I think I shared this with Father Erb. I don’t know if he felt it worthy of telling you but let me see if he told you this one.
So, the question is: where do cows go for entertainment?
The answer is: the M-O-O-O-vie theater! Get it? Do you remember if he told you that one? He may not have told you, but our Father Erb sure had some good stories, didn’t he?
But his favorite stories were about how much Jesus loves you and is always reaching out His arms to you.
In closing, I want to repeat the message on the front bulletin cover of Jesus the Consoler. I think it echoes Father Erb’s own message of Jesus’ love for you. And as you listen, put yourself in the picture, sitting at Jesus feet, leaning against Him. Or better yet, imagine looking into His Eyes, and seeing His open arms reaching out to you as He says (and I’m changing the phrasing from the bulletin to make it in the First Person): “In these days of isolation and pandemic, do not lose heart, come to Me, and know that My arms are reaching out to embrace you in your Pain, your Anxiety and your Fear. I know what it’s like to be in your skin. Trust Me in your time of need to be your Shepherd, your Refuge, and your Hope, even when all others fail, even if you feel forsaken, I am always by your side to guide and protect you”.
Dear Father Erb, may you behold the face of God and rest in His peace. Pray for us! We will always love you and never forget you.
Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord. Let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace, Amen. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Homily for June 28, 2020- (Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A Cycle)
[So that] Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life!
The Meaning of Discipleship
These words from today’s Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans speak to us about our dignity…the gift we have received through baptism in which we died and rose with Christ, and in which we share in His Risen Life, a Life that has conquered Sin, where we were washed clean of Original Sin, and also given the Promise that even though our bodies would die, someday they would be raised up, and united to our souls, and share in the glory of Eternal Life, should we be judged worthy, having lived our lives by loving Jesus above all things, even our most beloved loved ones.
We hear about discipleship in today’s Gospel and making this choice for Jesus even over and above family relationships. That may shock us and make us question if Jesus was telling us to not love our families, for example. The answer is No! Certainly Jesus wants us to love our families. They are God’s Gift to you.
But Jesus wants you to love Him with a love that is even stronger, and with a commitment that is even deeper. This is what it means to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus. It doesn’t mean loving our families less but recognizing that in loving and serving them, we see Jesus in them, and we serve and love Him through them. We see His Presence in them instead of putting Him as an outsider.
When we can live in this frame of mind and heart, suddenly the world takes on a whole new meaning. In the world of Jesus, the family came first. They determined choices and even one’s direction in life. As a young boy, Jesus was expected to become like Joseph and become a carpenter by trade.
When he went off as a wandering preacher, Jesus was choosing His disciples over His family, creating a type of family in His apostles. But Jesus never stopped loving His family or seeing they were cared for.
Jesus also tells in the Gospel the cost of discipleship, and that it’s not easy and has risks and even dangers. He talks about the cross. Crucifixion was common in His day. This type of torture and execution went back to fourth-century b.c. Persia. It was punishment for runaway slaves and those revolting against the government. The preaching of the Gospel could be seen as a threat against the government, especially if it was oppressive like the Romans occupying the land of the Jews and suppressing them in the time of Jesus.
Dying to Self’
Jesus talks about discipleship and following Him as losing one’s life. This sense of loss could be seen as a ‘dying to self’, of learning to put God’s Will above one’s own will, of learning to pray Jesus’ prayer, Father, not My Will, but Thy Will be done!
This is what it means to die to one’s self, to constantly pray and live out this prayer, Thy Will be done! How often do we pray this throughout the day? How many situations do we face when we have decisions to make and choices? It is then when we should pause, take a deep breath, and in a moment of silence say this prayer, Father, Thy Will Be Done. Then, make the best decision we can, trusting in God’s guidance, and accepting the outcome.
Jesus also said in today’s Gospel. “Whoever loses his life for my sake, will find it!” So, we just are not a bunch of losers! We have a promise from God Himself that in our dying to self-will, we will find something. We will find life! Not just here, in terms of peace of mind and soul, but eternal life, where we will share in that final victory.
The Call to Commitment
My friends, today’s Gospel reminds us that we have a gift from God—the call to discipleship, and with this call a commitment. This means that in terms of the gift we receive in Holy Communion, we cannot just keep it to ourselves, like leaving it here in church’s tabernacle as we leave Mass. Or keeping Jesus’ graces to ourselves as we go forth from church.
No, Jesus who has come into our hearts in Holy Communion, gives us His Halo to wear. He expects us to be His disciples, to go forth and be His Hands and His Heart to all in need, and to be His Witnesses to those who are living lives opposed to life, justice and the dignity of the human person God created in love.
We must stand with our bishops in opposing leaders to enact laws that are opposed to God’s law and the teachings of Jesus in the Gospel.
We must be faithful to the teachings of the Church and strive to learn about our Faith expressed in the Catechism, and various Catholic literature and also to try to learn more and more about God’s Holy Word through studying the Bible prayerfully and when possible, sharing in study groups with others. The homily at Mass is another way of learning and growing in our Faith, and not to be considered unimportant.
Personally, I am discouraged at the unkind remarks I sometimes hear Catholics make in reference to homilies. For me, I put my heart and soul into a homily, seeing it as a way for me, your shepherd, to reach out to you, my sheep, and bring the love, hope and peace of God to you, through His Word. I try not to overburden you with making it long.
There is a happy medium. Pope Francis said to keep homilies not too long and not to talk over people’s heads! I would say, “Amen to that!” (You can smile here or even chuckle! J )
Love is the Root
These days of the Corona Virus make it hard for us to gather in groups. But, God-Willing, the days will soon come when we can once again gather. In the meantime, let us have faith that the power of Jesus is greater than any pandemic, and His Caring Hands are reaching beyond the confines of this church to any of you unable to be present with us at Mass as yet. I encourage you all to continue to pray the Act of Spiritual Communion even as a Daily Prayer when you cannot make Mass, for its’ wonderful grounding in the Love of Jesus, and His Love for you.
After all, love is the root of discipleship. That is what Jesus seeks in His disciples. That is what gave the Apostles strength to see in Jesus that He truly was the Son of God, and that after His Ascension into Heaven, when they went to preach, even in the midst of their persecutions, and tortures as they were being martyred, they never stopped loving Jesus. Now, in Heaven’s glory, they never stop saying, Jesus, I love You. Help me love You more and more.
I pray that we all make that our constant, daily prayer, to help us be faithful disciples on this earth, and someday find our heavenly reward. with the Apostles and all the disciples.
Lord, make me and Instrument of Your Peace.
Jesus, I love You. Help me love You more and more.
Homily for June 14, 2020 – The Body and Blood of Christ
Here beneath these signs are hidden
Priceless things to sense forbidden;
Signs, not things are all we see.
Blood is poured and flesh is broken,
Yet in either wondrous token
Christ entire we know to be
These words from today’s Sequence on this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, also known as Corpus Christi, speak to us of the Mystery of this Sacrament. The bread and wine are signs. The dictionary defines a sign as “something material that stands for or signifies something spiritual.” But the bread and wine stand for Jesus as our Food who nourishes us with His very own Body and Blood, which the bread and wine become by the power of the Holy Spirit through the gift of Holy Orders and by the invocation of the priest of the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine.
The Eucharistic Prayers
In the First Eucharistic Prayer, the Holy Spirit is invoked in these words: Be pleased, O God, we pray, to bless, acknowledge and approve this offering in every respect; make it spiritual and acceptable, so that it may become for us the Body and Blood of your Most Beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Second Eucharistic Prayer prays: Make holy, therefore, these gifts we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Third Eucharistic Prayer prays: Therefore, O Lord, we humbly implore You: by the same Spirit graciously make holy these gifts we have brought to You for consecration, that they may become the Body and Blood of Your Son Our Lord Jesus Christ , at whose command we celebrate these mysteries.
The Fourth Eucharistic Prayer prays: Therefore, O Lord, we pray: may this same Holy Spirit graciously sanctify these offerings, that they may become the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ for the celebration of this great mystery, which He Himself left us as an eternal covenant.
Note how in each of these four Eucharistic Prayers is the phrase “may become for us the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” As the Sequence said: Signs are all we see . . . Christ entire we know to be. This is what our Amen means when we come up to receive Holy Communion . . . that in essence we are saying, “I believe I am receiving Christ entire in this Holy Bread, His Body, in this Holy Wine, His Blood.”
Christ in the Eucharist
Another phrase I heard in reference to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is that we receive Him Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. This is what might be meant by Christ entire as the Sequence says.
In the Gospel, Jesus says how receiving His Body and Blood will affect us: Whoever eats this bread will live forever . . . Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day . . . Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.
Live forever? People who receive Holy Communion still die. What does Jesus mean, then, when He says that they shall live forever? It doesn’t mean that Holy Communion shelters you from physical death. Even Jesus experienced physical death. But He conquered death, and rose to New Life . . . the Resurrection, and we are called to share in this Risen Life of Our Lord in His Glory. This is the promise given to those who eat My Body and drink My Blood. We share in an intimacy with Him, not just in this life, but one that extends beyond death into Eternal Life. This Promise never dies . . . and our soul never dies. In essence, Jesus was addressing our soul, and even though our body will die, it will be raised up again on the Last Day, and body and soul will be reunited, and both will share in the Glory of the Kingdom of Heaven forever and ever.
Have you ever thought about this future glory as you walk up the aisle to take the Sacred Host or drink from the Precious Blood? Have you ever thought about this as you go past a cemetery and look at all the gravestones and think about these departed souls and how these bodies will rise again? Do you offer a prayer for these souls? (I think someday it will be me in a cemetery and I would want someone to pray for me, perhaps). But how little we reflect upon this great promise of Resurrection and the Hope it brings for us and our world.
Yet, while this Resurrection is on the Last Day, we never know when the Lord will call us from this life. So we need to live so as to be ready to meet the Lord today. How do we do this?
Saints In The Making
Jesus says in today’s Gospel: Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood remains in Me and I in him. Reflect on this. I often like to say to you after you Holy Communion that I see all of you in the church who have just received Holy Communion now having a Halo around your head.
One time after Mass, a person said to me with a smile that it couldn’t be so, they considered themselves too much of a sinner with their faults and failings and sins. They were no saint, they said, shaking their head with a smile! I agreed saying I wasn’t either, with my sins and failings and such, but that I had a Halo since I just received Holy Communion . . . but the Halo was not mine but Our Lord’s since He now dwelt in my heart. So too with all who just received Him in Holy Communion. It was His Halo I saw around their heads . . . in other words, His Holiness fills our hearts and souls after Communion, and He calls us to go forth and be His Hands and His Heart to all we meet, especially the poor and suffering, in whom Jesus dwells in a special way.
If we see the Face of Jesus in them and show mercy and love to them, then someday we shall see the Face of Jesus in His Glory, and He shall show His Mercy and Love to us, even though we are unworthy.
In other words, we are SAINTS IN THE MAKING. Just like the Apostles, and just like those saints we see in church windows and on pedestals with statues shown with halos. This is how we prepare ourselves to face our own Death . . . by letting the Light of Jesus shine forth from us. It all boils down for me to that opening line of the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi: Lord, make me an Instrument of Your Peace.
The Opening Prayer of today’s Mass said: May we always experience in ourselves the fruits of your redemption. What does that say to you? Fruits of your redemption? Jesus has redeemed us from Sin and Death. We are a people called to live in Hope and Freedom and Joy. These days of the Corona Virus that have imposed Isolation and Fear and yes, Death, have created an atmosphere of Anxiety and Hopelessness. We need Saints to Evangelize and carry the Gospel message . . . or at least Saints In The Making, people like you who aren’t perfect, who are sinners, but put their faith and trust in our Merciful Savior.
Don’t be fooled.
Another phrase in the Opening Prayer was Experience in ourselves.
You and I are not here as mere observers. We are participants in a profound Mystery, which reaches deep into our very soul. Yes, you cannot be here in the church physically to experience the Mystery and receive Holy Communion, but God who parted the Red Sea and fed His starving people Manna in the desert, and Jesus who rose from the Dead after three days in the tomb, will reach beyond the walls of this empty church across the miles that separate us and enter your home and your heart and soul, and work a miracle there, because you have faith and you have love. Don’t be fooled. A miracle is taking place . . . not just here on this altar when the bread and wine will become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, but your very Heart and Soul will become His Tabernacle because of your deep desire that He sees and is pleased by. A miracle of grace will take place in you as well as here.
So with all the Angels and Saints in Heaven who wear those Halos, we, who are Saints In The Making, give our God thanks and praise for the beautiful Mystery of His Body and Blood.
O Jesus, we adore Thee,
Who in The Love Divine,
Conceal Thy Mighty Godhead,
In forms of bread and wine.
O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine,
all praise and all thanksgiving,
be every moment Thine!
Homily for May 31, 2020 (Pentecost Sunday) Father Pat
Heal our wounds, Our strength renew; On our dryness, Pour Your dew; Wash the stains of guilt away. Bend the stubborn heart and will; melt the frozen, warm the chill; guide the steps that go astray.
These words from today’s Sequence beautifully describe the journey of the soul and our struggles in following the Lord. They may also describe the struggles we have faced these days during the Corona Virus pandemic and the isolation from one another it has created, particularly the suspension of Public Masses and our empty churches.
Heal our wounds, Our strength renew. In today’s Gospel, the Risen Christ appears to the Apostles who are behind locked doors for fear for their lives. They are afraid the same thing will happen to them that happened to Jesus, so they are hiding.
But Jesus, now in His glorified Body, walks through the closed door, and the first things He says is, “Peace be with you!” He shows them His Hands and His side. They rejoiced, and He again says to them, “Peace be with you!” Two times the Risen Christ speaks words of Peace to His Apostles gathered in fear.
Fear has a way of wounding us within. It divides us, and fractures us, and paralyzes us. We fail to become who God has called us to be. Ironically, the very next thing Jesus says to His Apostles is, “As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.”
He cannot send them if they are full of fear. He then breathes the Holy Spirit on them and gives them power to forgive sins. I am reminded of the next lines from today’s Sequence: On our dryness, pour Your dew; wash the stains of guilt away.
Dryness and the stains of guilt are what wound the soul and paralyze and make us not live up to our full potential. One of the patron saints of our parish, St. Catherine of Siena, wrote, “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire!” Apply this to yourself. You were
created by God with a purpose. In Confirmation, you received a special gift for the up building of the Body of Christ, the Church, your Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and for the people God called you to meet, even the stranger. He calls you to be Christ to others, to be His Hands and His Heart.
You and I may often feel inadequate for this task, as we look into ourselves and are conscious of our weaknesses, our failings and our sins.
But even with all this, God sees potential, just as Jesus did with the Apostles when He called them. He sees in us saints in the making through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, especially in this phrase we just heard: On our dryness pour your dew. Wash the stains of guilt away.
Then the Sequence goes on the say: Melt the frozen. Warm the chill; guide the steps that go astray. This reveals another Spiritual sickness we can have: a cold heart in our relationship with Jesus. In focusing on ourselves, and getting discouraged with our shortcomings and failings, and turning in ourselves to the point of becoming selfish and self-centered and even feeling sorry for ourselves, we turn a cold shoulder to God, as it were. We no longer have hearts that are warm with a love for God and others. We are cold because we do not love the only one we are looking at . . . ourselves.
God loves what He sees in us, even with all our shortcoming and yes, even our sins. As has been said, God hates the sin, but loves the sinner! We often fail to follow that. We both hate the sin and hate the sinner. We hate ourselves, and in that, we are listening to an inner voice who is not the voice of God, but of the Father of Lies, the Devil. He is ever ready to plant seeds of doubt in us to turn us from the Love of God and our readiness to follow the Lord. We must resist him, solid in our Faith. The Devil is the one we must turn the cold shoulder to and reject in the name of Jesus. When we do this our hearts will experience the warmth of God’s love, and in this we begin to grow in love for God and for others. This becomes the source of becoming saints . . . not our efforts alone, but our cooperation with the grace of God.
As God to St. Paul, My Power is made perfect in weakness. So whenever we experience our weakness or fall in our sins, do not despair. Reject those lies of the devil. Turn instead to the Power of the Lord, who calls us to Himself to bring us Forgiveness, Healing and Growth. Jesus used the occasions of the failings of His Apostles as Teachable Moments. He did not ever reject them, or tell them He no longer loved them. So with us. Jesus is ever ready through the Holy Spirit to teach us, as the Sequence says; Guide the steps that go astray.
So you and I can be confident and full of peace that the next step we take is under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the next step after that, and the next step after that . . . if we are open to the Holy Spirit. This is the important point. God gave us a free will and will not force Himself upon us. The Holy Spirit is a gift–not some sort of yoke put on us against our will.
So each day and all through the day we must echo that beautiful phrase, “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful.”
It would be nice to make today’s entire Sequence committed to memory and say it as a daily Morning Prayer. Or even to copy it if you find it written so you can have it as a handy reference in your Bible or prayer book. It is so full of meaning. I will publish it in a future bulletin and on
the Parish website.
The bottom line is: You and I are saints in the making, called to set our own personal world on fire. We do this by letting the Light of Jesus within us and shine forth–burn forth–by being His Hands and His Heart to all we meet. It is summed up best for me in the opening line of the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi: Lord, make me and Instrument of Your Peace. To me that is a saint in the making: someone who is living out the words we have quoted from today’s Sequence.
I pray that the Holy Spirit who came down on the Apostles in tongues of fire may fire us all up with the Light of Christ’s love–love for God and love for others, so that someday, having loved Jesus in our suffering brothers and sisters here on earth, we shall love Him in the glory of Heaven when He calls us to His side forever and ever and share the happiness of the saints in making . . . who made it!